Philosophy Hammer
Philosophy, Economics, Politics & Psychology Tested with a Hammer

102: Marilyn Waring Part VI:
The Markets for Reproduction and Life

Summary by: Jeff McLaren

Last time we looked at the economics of death by killing and found that the value of death by weapons of war is $700 million per person over the 40 years to 1986. Today we will look at the markets of reproduction and life and determine what is the value of life and relations of reproduction.

1) The technological medical market such as surrogate mothers and in vitro fertilization are examples of the mis-valuation of women and women’s labour. She points out that at the time of her writing in country after country the laws favour men’s work not women’s. “If the woman miscarries prior to the fifth month of pregnancy, does the physician who examined her not get paid? Does the physician who inseminated her not get paid? Does the psychiatrist who screened her not get paid? Does the lawyer who arranged the surrogate pregnancy lose out on his money? Not on your life. They all get their money. But there is no need to pay the woman. And most people don’t notice anything amiss in this arrangement.” (Q1) She also points out that in the literature on this subject sperm seems to be worth paying for but eggs are encouraged to be donated – this is a complete reversal of reality. Life for both the women and her “product” has a very precise contract determined value and it does not have to be paid in certain circumstances.

2) The legal and insurance market in which the men and men’s body parts are privileged over women and women’s body parts. The author gives a long list of cases demonstrating this. In one example she gives ironic praise to Quebec where payouts for legitimate work related injuries are equal for both men’s and women’s reproductive organs. However the irony is that prostitution and women’s house work are not considered legitimate work and therefore any damage suffered from rape (including marital rape) will not result in a payout. Another irony of the patriarchy in insurance is that widows more often than not receive less insurance or damages from the death of their husbands than widowers get from the death of their wife – here when it benefits men then women’s worth is valued higher.

3) In the social and cultural market relations of domination, exploitation, and virtual enslavement are reproduced through lower pay, lower status, fewer benefits, and less job security. This is the way that the reproduction of social and cultural relations is perpetuated. Again we are talking about life’s value.

4) In the labour market, at the time of writing, the higher up the pay, status, and technical level the more white men dominate. Bosses, hiring managers, and HR professionals who are mostly white men tend to hire and promote mostly men and perpetuate an inequality while sometimes pointing to a token woman or visible minority.

5) In the sexuality market there is an inside and an outside delineated by a reproduction boundary. Prepubescent people, elderly people, celibate people, heterosexual women who demand reproductive freedom, same-sex lovers (especially lesbian women) are all outside of the reproduction boundary and carry some stigma in our culture. The stigma comes from choosing to separate sexuality (especially pleasure) from reproduction and therefore challenges the patriarchal notions of women as property and the reproduction of patriarchy.

The economics of breast and breast feeding is an example of the warped sense of values in the world of economics today. Breast milk is the best thing in the world for a child (in terms of health, cost, and availability) and in many cases for the women (as breast feeding allows for uncriticized rest and the control over the resumption of ovulation). In our market society one would think there should be a market (but fortunately there isn’t) for breast milk. Since market activity is the counting standard of the UNSNA and since there are more market possibilities for the manufacturing of infant formula and for women in the work force that create economic (countable) “value” than the uncountable benefits bestowed by breast feeding the market for breast milk will not likely expand beyond subsistence. Yet breast themselves do have a market productive value in advertising, pornography, the garment industry, and in the cosmetic surgery market where they reflect (male) society’s preferences. (Q2)

6) In the social welfare market “women’s poor or poorer health or the neglect of women’s health is deliberately reproduced by the economic and political system….For many governments, a cut in health care shifts the burden from the government sector back to the household. But most health care is provided by women for women anyway and to children and men too.” Women take up a lot of the slack when funding for social welfare is cut. This helps make cuts to healthcare and education seem not too serious and rather “intelligent”. Shifting burdens on to the hidden economy legitimizes bad policy as being successful. (Q3)

7) In the propaganda market we have literally hundreds of cases in which the science says that a particular course of action or policy is the best in terms of the policy’s stated goals but which are routinely devalued. In third world countries girls’ education has been shown conclusively to contribute far more to the health and welfare of the family than male education yet it is girl’s education that is first cut in budgets during recessions. Similar science based arguments can be made for women’s access to birth control, housing, amenities and so on. The fact is that men and the system still privilege war, defense and male needs. (Q4)

The author believes that if the value of death and the value of life were understood and yet the system did not change it could only be because of an immense system of propaganda has stymied even logic and facts from being relevant in our world.

Q1 Does anyone see anything wrong with this line of questioning? The alternative is that: well the men did provide and deliver on their services. Is this convincing? Or might something be wrong with the basis of contract law?

Q2 Does this inversion of value (the diminution of use value and the exaggeration of image value) make sense to anyone? Would the world be better if life were valued and counted?

Q3 Shifting the cost and/or the effort from the market transaction to the hidden economy is a time honoured way to maximize profits in business too. It is called efficiency gains and/or cost cutting and is most effective when demanding more work with less pay per unit of realizable value. In economics this technique is called “externalizing costs” where someone is made to put in necessary work or effort without getting paid. Facebook grew rich by externalizing content generating efforts; teachers and healthcare professionals are routinely victims of externalizing costs. Does this strategy seem just or right to you?

Q4 Have you ever felt that the system is irrational? That things should not be the way they are? The system is very rational and things are just the way they should be according to the rational consequences of the rules of the UNSNA. However its values are wrong. The values of the system have not changed since their adoption by the UN. Tweaking the rules of the system without changing its values will not fix anything – the system’s values must change. Do you believe this?

© 2008 - 2018, James Jeff McLaren