This article was published in the Winter 1996-97 issue of Formulations
by the Free Nation Foundation
 
Men and Women Differ in Political Values:
 Theory and Implications
 
by Richard O. Hammer

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Outline
introduction
Observable Differences
More Males Than Mating Territories:  A Natural Plan
What These Theories Suggest for the Libertarian and Free Nation Movements
References
 
 


 
 

In the libertarian movement men outnumber women. I wish it were otherwise. But experience shows, again and again, men choosing to participate in libertarian events and women choosing to do something else.

Observing this, many of us react that we should try harder to attract women. I have tried this again and again. But I have had almost no success that resulted from my effort; the few women who participate probably would have participated anyhow.

We in the movement talk frequently about the disproportion between men and women, but write about it rarely if ever. For the past eight years, during which I have become increasingly involved, I do not remember reading a frank attempt to describe what is going on here. It is touchy territory. But I feel a need. We need to talk to write about this.

In this article I lay out some theories. Then, concluding, I draw from the theories to suggest how we might perceive ourselves and manage our movement.

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Observable Differences

Men and women want different things. For good reason, biology. Men and women play different roles in reproduction. As such men and women need to behave in different ways, in order to increase the likelihood of survival of their own individual offspring. Our genes, having figured this out long ago, drive us to behave in these different ways.

Before proceeding I had better repeat what anyone who ventures onto this turf needs to repeat: I do not imply that any individual man or woman must fit a stereotype, but only that on average men and women differ. As with tallness, on average men are taller than women, but many women are taller than many men.

Scientists who study such matters feel no doubt that men and women differ, in mind as well as in body.1,2,3 But popular opinion during all my formative years has tended to deny any innate difference, and has tended instead to blame differences upon training, upon the idea that children are coached from birth onward to become stereotypical boys or girls.

Prevailing opinion in the U.S. does seem ready to accept some differences between the sexes. If I say that men naturally outperform women in basketball, then probably I will not get into too much trouble. But if I mention the possibility of other differences, such as a difference in drive to notice the problems of a young child, or a difference in drive to create a predictable environment of rules, then I may find myself in a minefield of denial.

This graph shows my theory about the distribution of political values of men and women. This is not based upon a scientific survey. It shows only my guess. I invite you to consider whether it could explain observations such as these:

Men and women, while differing significantly on average, nonetheless overlap a great deal. Many men trust government more than many women, and conversely many women distrust government more than many men.

Many more men than women participate in libertarian events. Down in the minimal-government range, in the tails below 25%, men far outnumber women.

During my years of active involvement in politics in Orange County, N.C., I had numerous occasions to examine lists of registered voters, as issued by the Board of Elections. I noted with interest that most married couples, perhaps three-fourths of them, were both registered in the same political party: either both were Democratic or both were Republican. However, for those couples which split between the two parties, the split was almost always (nine-tenths of the time or more) in one direction: the wife was a Democrat and the husband a Republican. The split went the other way in only a handful of cases.

Exit polls reported on 6 November 1996 by the Raleigh News and Observer showed this pattern of votes.

                     Clinton   Dole

             Male      42       49

             Female    53       42
Some men, such as Bill Clinton, represent women as a whole better than men as a whole. And, there being more women, women often cast the votes which elect these men. Indeed, women could elect a complete legislature full of men who represent women more closely than men. The mere fact that men hold office does not mean that the government serves the interests of men better than the interests of women.

More men than women seem to be angry about the political situation in the United States.

Finally, as you must have been thinking, my graph fails to show many important things. It may be more wrong than right. But, till that happy day when I read of respectable research which shines more light on the political difference between men and women, I will maintain that there is something right about it.

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More Males Than Mating Territories: A Natural Plan

In nature I think I see parallels. Humans, animals, and even libertarians, when challenged with certain environmental limits, behave in ways for which we can concoct explanations. Here I will develop a hypothesis to explain why men and women differ in political values.

A healthy population can, and should, continuously produce a surplus of competitors for existing mating territories

As a first step along the way, I present a rationale for why a population may contain many healthy, but less-than-fully-mated adult members. But before jumping into this, let me say that when I use the term, "mating territory," I intend a broad meaning. I include the usual meaning, of a three-dimensional space in a physical environment which offers sufficient food and range, but I also include, for subtle animals such as humans, any set of circumstances in which a person finds it possible to procreate successfully. For humans these circumstances can include: establishing a prosperous career, winning a lottery, or renting a nice apartment in a skyscraper.

Now, seeking to explain the large number of unmarried libertarians, it seems to me that evolutionary pressure would favor a strategy, within a population enjoying stable circumstances, of producing a surplus of offspring in each generation, more than can hope to mate successfully within the given environmental constraints. The extra offspring are not doomed, necessarily, to starvation, but probably must live without reproducing, unless they can establish a new mating territory outside the existing range. Let me give two illustrations.

First, Richard Dawkins wrote this in The Selfish Gene:

"If the population gets too big, some individuals will not get territories, and therefore will not breed. Winning a territory is therefore, to Wynne-Edwards, like winning a ticket or license to breed. Since there is a finite number of territories available, it is as if a finite number of breeding licenses is issued. Individuals may fight over who gets these licenses, but the total number of babies that the population can have as a whole is limited by the number of territories available."4 Second, join me in recalling the institution of primogeniture. Surely this has been practiced in several societies, but let me tell what I recall from reading Trinity, a historical novel by Leon Uris. In Ireland a few centuries ago a typical farm family might have six children, but only one, the eldest son, would inherit the farm. Among the daughters we might expect that one would be lucky enough to marry the eldest son inheriting a farm in some other family. But what happens to the other four? Well, they can go to the brothel, become a priest or a nun, get on a boat and go to America, hope for a job in commerce in one of the newly-forming cities, or maybe hire on as a helper on the elder brother's farm.

I used to think, as evidently did Hobbes and Malthus, that most creatures in nature live on the edge of starvation, because they reproduce to the limit of their food supply. But now I see evidence which suggests that nature is smarter than that. I think many species limit their numbers by limiting their mating practices. If a population can limit its numbers to a level safely below the brink of starvation then it can avoid the weakness and disease which may accompany living at that brink. Such a population may spread more successfully when chance opens new terrains, as it will contain adults which are not only unmated, and therefore malcontent, but also fit to move with full vigor of health, where there is hope to establish a mating territory.

Men, more than women, need mating territories

As I understand the theory of the selfish gene, genes infuse us with motivations which maximize chances of survival of copies of those genes. And, consciously or not, we are selfish about it. It is not just anybody's genes, but our individual genes, that we arrange our lives to spread. Thus, humans of both sexes find themselves eager to invest their energies to help rear children that they know to be their own.

But, while women know without doubt who their children are, men cannot be so sure. Men can only improve the chances that they know by working to establish an environment in which they can increase confidence in the monogamy of their mates. Men need mating territories, in which they can father and then raise children.

Women, should this line of reasoning hold, do not need anything like mating territories. Instead women need secure environments with supports. What an individual woman decides to do, to get the security she needs, will depend upon the options which she sees in the society in which she lives. If a man promises security, if only she will cleave to him, then she may do that. But if a government also promises security, if only she will vote for Democrats, then she will probably choose this in preference to the man, as it gives her more flexibility.

To the extent that a woman feels threatened by infidelity on the part of her husband, this may follow chiefly from her lack of trust in marriage law: she may feel doubt about her future support from that husband. But surely she feels no threat to her confidence that she is the mother of her children.

Further speculation suggests an explanation for why men, more than women, have interest in politics, in debating the rules in society, and in developing a predictable environment of contract law. The explanation grows from men's need for mating territories. If men in a given ecology can cooperate, then many of them can establish individual mating territories for themselves. If they cannot cooperate, then no one of them can be sure that he has a secure mating territory. So the process among men of discussing rules for ordering society is a positive-sum game. Overwhelmingly, men feel that they gain by securing a set of rules which grant them certain scope, as individuals, and keep others from encroaching upon that scope.

Women however may have nothing to gain from the discourse over rules which so fascinates men. Several times, in social gatherings, I have had an experience like this: I meet a couple, a man and a woman, and after introductions reply to one of their questions about what I am reading or writing. To my reply the man responds with interest, carrying the question further. I respond. The man responds. We are interested. The woman's eyes glaze over. Women may gain from a discussion about rules only to the extent that it helps them know that their stream of support is secure.

Men, more than women, take chances

In order to reproduce, women have less time than men. Women have a shorter span of years during which they can successfully parent a child. This fact surely influences our conscious choices, along with our unconscious attitudes. Women, properly, have less patience with grand ideas that may pay off in twenty years. But a man, finding no satisfactory prospects in the present regime, may willingly take a gamble that promises a mating territory twenty years hence. So women naturally focus on today, tomorrow, and next year. Whereas men commonly find their thoughts drifting decades ahead.

Further speculation might suggest this: among the spare men and women in an established regime (those who do not succeed in mating in one of the established territories), men might feel more alienated than women. In this situation, as I have guessed the theory, the spare men have almost no chance of fathering in a way that seems natural to them, whereas the spare women can, and commonly do, rear their own children without marrying.

This leads to an explanation of why it seems that men, more than women, venture first into new and possibly dangerous frontiers. Men who do not possess a mating territory in an established regime have less to lose by gambling, even their lives, in an attempt to secure a mating territory beyond some new frontier. These men will sometimes do things that will be called crazy, by people who are comfortably established in the existing regime.

It seems natural then that women will follow men into new frontiers as those frontiers develop and promise supports better than those which the women could have expected in the already-established regime.

I suggest that the genes which drive us might have hit upon this strategy which I have sketched here, for sprinkling motivations into the members of a population. The strategy seems a plausible way to maximize survival, as it fills without overtaxing existing environmental niches, while continuously producing a force (spare men) which seeks new niches for possible expansion of the species.

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What These Theories Suggest for the Libertarian and Free Nation Movements

For decades now I have believed, or wanted to believe, a sweet lie, that men and women are equal. If this lie is true, it means I can just be myself and meet a mate who is my equal in interests and drives. It means I do not have to submit to any discipline, struggling to understand an alien operating system. But the lie has borne no fruit, and the prospects do not look good.

I think I am ready to give up the lie. But I do not know what to replace it with. I sympathize with the women's liberation of the 60s and 70s to the extent that it grew in response to repression by government. Before that time there were plenty of practices by governments which wrongly restricted and stereotyped women. So I do not believe that, if I could remember the roles assumed by adults during my boyhood, the 50s provide a useful model of sex roles which might exist in a free nation. I feel almost clueless for where to start thinking. This awareness led, in part, to my suggesting the topic "Family Structure" for our Forum in April.

But, that aside, the observations and theories which I have described above draw me most of the way toward making an unpleasant conclusion: The libertarian movement consists of mostly men for reasons which we cannot change, and which will not change. This is a man thing, for the most part. I suggest, if you agree with that conclusion, that you join me in trying to accept it without guilt or embarrassment.

For those of us who might see ourselves as surplus men, unable or unwilling to do the dance which fetches mates in the established regime, I suggest that we take heart and proceed with our task. We are pushing into a new, as yet unproved, frontier. We should not be surprised that women stay back, waiting before they follow to see evidence that we can provide supports. For them provision, not politics, is what matters. D

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References

1 Frances Kendall, The SeXY Factor: Gender Differences at Home and at Work, 1993, Amagi Books.

2 Anne Moir and David Jessel, Brain Sex: The Real Difference Between Men and Women, 1989, Carol Publishing Group.

3 Warren Farrell, Why Men Are The Way They Are: The Male-Female Dynamic, 1986, McGraw-Hill.

4 Richard Dawkins, The Selfish Gene, 1976, Oxford University Press, p 122. In this quotation Dawkins refers to V.C. Wynne-Edwards, Animal dispersion in relation to social behaviour, 1962.

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