The Horwitz Diaries

How do you measure happiness? If you’re Steven Horwitz, The Freeman‘s house propagandist, you don’t. You simply state that capitalism makes people happy,  and then ask your readers to take it as fact or prove you wrong.

In  a recent Freeman article, Horwitz argues that capitalism has freed women and provided them with more opportunities and options. Very well, but then he goes on to say that

Although it rarely gets the credit, capitalism liberated women from centuries of second-class citizenship.

In the comments section,  I wrote that

The author has shown that capitalism has improved women’s financial well-being and financial independence, but the conclusion that capitalism has freed women from second-class citizenship doesn’t necessarily follow. Financial well-being is not the same as well-being. Are women in capitalist societies necessarily happier than those in socialist ones? Do they feel more fulfilled? Do they feel more independent? Perhaps, but no evidence was given here.

Interestingly, the author commits the same error many leftists commit when they assume that women’s suffrage was ipso facto an improvement in women’s lives. Is there any evidence that women have more societal power when they vote? Is voting power the same as freedom, liberty, independence, or happiness?

Horwitz’s response:

Yes, with 750 words, one can only do so much.

Read some history, particularly diaries of women, from 100 or 200 years ago and you tell me if there’s any question AT ALL whether or not women today are happier, more fulfilled, more independent, etc.. in the Western world. Frankly, I can only chuckle at the suggestion that they aren’t. My apologies for not having the space to present that case, but it’s not due to a lack of evidence.

Read some history, that ignoramus commands me, but he doesn’t mention which diaries I should read. Apparently, in Freeman land stating that a reference exists is equivalent to providing evidence.

Anyway, I responded with

Let’s assume that this evidence, which you have not even attempted to reference, exists. How do we know that this difference in happiness is attributable to capitalism? Perhaps women are happier because they feel Social Security is there for them? Perhaps they feel more fulfilled because public schools allow them to have more time for themselves by serving as free daytime nannies?

The people of Norway are happier than Americans, according to a recent study. Does that prove that democratic socialism, high taxes, and big governments are more conducive to happiness than capitalism? No? Then why the double standard?

Chuckle if you wish, but chuckles aren’t substitutes for arguments or evidence.

Several other commenters requested that Horwitz provide those references, but he retreated to his ivory tower, where no one bugs with with annoying questions.

Needless to say, one may find numerous such diaries, journals, and autobiographies. That was never the point. The point was that one would expect a full professor to provide a better argument than look something up and prove me wrong, without even specifying what that something is. In addition, diaries, journals, and autobiographies are subjective and anecdotal and, as another commenter noted,  the women whose diaries were preserved and published represent a very narrow segment of pre-twentieth century American female population: white, affluent, and literate. A serious scholar would know that, but Horwitz isn’t a serious scholar; he is a libertarian propagandist.

Throwing around unsupported claims regarding happiness is not a new trick in Horwitz’s bag. In 2007, he published another piece, titled Capitalism and the family, in which he wrote that

The reality of the 1950s, as we now know, was that the women, and to a lesser extent the men, in such families were hardly as happy as their fictional counterparts made it seem.

There is no reference, of course, yet Horwitz found it necessary to add the arrogant as we now know clause. How do we know? A libertarian propagandist told us, that’s how. The reader should note that I am not arguing that Horwitz’s statement is false, but merely that he made no effort to support it, even though it is far from obvious.

Nothing ruins a nice piece of propaganda like the requirement to back up one’s arguments with facts.

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