All Commentary
Friday, December 1, 1989

Women and the Market: Are They Made for Each Other?


3.   Robert Ll Woodson, “Building a New Base for Black Prosperity,” The Atlanta Constitution, July 31,1988.

4.   Jerry Pournelle, “Be Prepared for Government to Block Predicted Megatrends,” Infoworld, April 24,1989, p. 50.

3.   Robert Ll Woodson, “Building a New Base for Black Prosperity,” The Atlanta Constitution, July 31,1988.

4.   Jerry Pournelle, “Be Prepared for Government to Block Predicted Megatrends,” Infoworld, April 24,1989, p. 50.

2.   Milton and Rose Friedman, Free to Choose (New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1980), p. 148.

3.   Robert Ll Woodson, “Building a New Base for Black Prosperity,” The Atlanta Constitution, July 31,1988.

4.   Jerry Pournelle, “Be Prepared for Government to Block Predicted Megatrends,” Infoworld, April 24,1989, p. 50.

2.   Milton and Rose Friedman, Free to Choose (New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1980), p. 148.

3.   Robert Ll Woodson, “Building a New Base for Black Prosperity,” The Atlanta Constitution, July 31,1988.

4.   Jerry Pournelle, “Be Prepared for Government to Block Predicted Megatrends,” Infoworld, April 24,1989, p. 50.

1.   Barry R. Gross, Discrimination In Reverse: Is Turnabout Fair Play? (New York: New York University Press 1978), p. 93.

2.   Milton and Rose Friedman, Free to Choose (New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1980), p. 148.

3.   Robert Ll Woodson, “Building a New Base for Black Prosperity,” The Atlanta Constitution, July 31,1988.

4.   Jerry Pournelle, “Be Prepared for Government to Block Predicted Megatrends,” Infoworld, April 24,1989, p. 50.


1.   Barry R. Gross, Discrimination In Reverse: Is Turnabout Fair Play? (New York: New York University Press 1978), p. 93.

2.   Milton and Rose Friedman, Free to Choose (New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1980), p. 148.

3.   Robert Ll Woodson, “Building a New Base for Black Prosperity,” The Atlanta Constitution, July 31,1988.

4.   Jerry Pournelle, “Be Prepared for Government to Block Predicted Megatrends,” Infoworld, April 24,1989, p. 50.

Ms. Baker writes regularly for national and local trade, travel, and business publications based in the Chicago area.

We live in an exciting time for women. More than ever before, they are achieving their goals, from fulfillment in the home to the apex in business, the sciences, and the professions, and many successfully combine family and careers.

It is beginning to be understood why qualified women who are so inclined need to have careers instead of being confined exclusively to their traditional roles. Women whose creative impulses impel them to follow professional or business careers should have a chance to seek a place in the sun outside the home, and society needs them there.

Three general problem areas must bead-dressed if women who want that chance are to have it. These concern discrimination, the need for satisfactory maternity and child care arrangements, and our dwindling economic freedoms.

Discrimination

Discrimination is not necessarily always bad. To discriminate is to select from among many criteria, to make wise choices based on fine distinctions. It is an art that women themselves can profitably cultivate. Making choices is what freedom is all about.

However, arbitrary discrimination based on prejudice hurts, psychologically and as a barrier to progress. It yields two victims: the one who is discriminated against and the one who discriminates. In the long run, it is bad business, whether that is immediately obvious or not.

The denial of legal rights, along with the force of tradition, once made virtual slaves of women. They couldn’t own property, couldn’t enter the professions, couldn’t vote, and sometimes weren’t even accountable for their offenses against others, which were, instead, referred to their “owners.” Categorical discrimination was institutionalized by the power of law, and reflected the prejudice, if not arrogance, of the lawmakers. Through the ages, this prejudice resulted in human tragedies, injuring the self-image and mental health of those affected, and depriving the human race of almost half the available, but untapped, human creativity.

It is still believed by many diehards that women are not equipped physically, mentally, or temperamentally to be anything other than helpmates to men, whether as wives or in occupations that, worthwhile as they may be, are not always consistent with either their abilities or their ambitions.

This is not meant to disparage those women and men who voluntarily choose to be housewives and househusbands, are happy in that role, and are well suited to it. It is unfortunate that some of the rhetoric coming out of the women’s movement has made many homebody types feel they are undervalued. It can’t be emphasized too strongly that homemaking and child nurturing rank high in societal importance. But, they are not appropriate jobs for everyone.

There’s no denying that some women are unable to do some jobs that are thought of as “men’s jobs.” Some men can’t either. Humans, regardless of sex, are as varied in their capacities and their ambitions as the design patterns of snow crystals. There have always been women who dig ditches and men who knit; women who are heads of state and men who rock the cradle. Each of us has to find his or her niche, discovering and taking into account our individual abilities and limitations.

Women who defy convention and follow careers traditionally reserved for men often must either give up marriage and children altogether, or they must contend with a host of problems related to what are considered their sole responsibilities as wives and mothers. Unless they receive the help of devoted husbands, friends, or relatives, and the cooperation of their employers, they carry the burden of two full-time jobs.

Many of today’s wonder women are valiantly coping with this situation, but it takes a heavy toll. Women who work at outside jobs when they’d rather be at home, but feel their help is needed for the family to survive, are usually especially hard hit by these problems.

Economic Issues and Women

One of the avenues of advancement for victims of discrimination has been the opportunity for them to form their own businesses and institutions when they were barred from the existing ones. Negro- and Jewish-owned and operated colleges, hospitals, and businesses come to mind, such as Tuskegee Institute in Alabama, Provident Hospital in Chicago, Brandeis University in Massachusetts, and Johnson Enterprises in Chicago, to name a few. Ironically, or perhaps it would be more accurate to say “predictably,” many of these have failed even though they’ve received government help, while others have been enormously suceessful far beyond the dreams of their founders, without ever asking for or receiving state aid. In recent years, women, too have begun to take this route. The Women’s Bank in Denver, Colorado, is an example of a women-founded and operated institution, in contrast to the women’s colleges of the last century which were primarily founded and operated by men.

Opportunities still exist for entrepreneurs, and women are no longer barred from the marketplace. However, the marketplace is less accessible and less free than it once was because of government’s expanded role in the economy, and women, as well as men, are the victims. The hindrances are well known to freedom champions: oppressively high taxes, excessive regulation, and restrictive licensing, among others. Economic freedom is surely womankind’s greatest need.

Old and New Approaches

Through necessity, women have been brilliantly resourceful in the face of barriers, and their solutions have been as individual as themselves.

“Individual” is a key word, for it is as individuals that women have gained their greatest successes. History is replete with stories of women who have distinguished themselves in what were for their times unconventional endeavors. The facts of history prove what women can do, individually and in groups.

Banding and working together, and aided by men for whom the denial of woman’s genius and her humanity were anathema, women have advanced themselves by removing the most flagrant violations of their human rights. In the process, they have changed minds because while some women expend huge amounts of time and energy proclaiming their equality, others spend their time proving it. They ignore discrimination or they circumvent it, following the example of generations of ethnic group members and others who have succeeded, and continue to succeed, in spite of discrimination.

Acknowledging the premise that the innate abilities of men and women are equal, what about those women who are effectively shut out of, or denied advancement in, occupations in which they could make important contributions? Those with brains and talent do not necessarily also have the stamina, courage, and aggressive ness to forge ahead in the face of discrimination. These are the people who usually turn to political solutions. But, let’s consider a few of the reasons why legislation against discrimination creates more problems than it solves.

The very sound of the phrase “Affirmative Action” falls on the ear as a not-so-veiled threat. It’s the sound of a stern school teacher lecturing a recalcitrant student. (It happens that the phrase was coined by ex-teacher Lyndon Johnson.) Affirmative Action is also the angry stamp of impatient feet, and a brandished fist that smacks too much of revenge.

Affirmative Action stigmatizes women because it gives the sanction of law to the myths about women which have been so damaging to them. It denies that women are capable of competing on an equal basis and, therefore, they must have a “handicap,” an artificial advantage to make up for what they lack. Even those women who are indisputably highly qualified must, nevertheless, wear not one scarlet letter, like Hester, but two AAs upon their breasts proclaiming the inferiority that Affirmative Action (AA) implies.

Robbing Peter to Pay Paula

Affirmative Action focuses on results rather than on the equal right to compete. It demands that unqualified people be hired if, as in the area of our concern, they happen to be women, while highly qualified candidates for jobs are rejected. In other words, it mounts to reverse discrimination. Men have every reason to feel bitter about laws that favor women, and women should understand that bitterness very well.

Barry R. Gross, who discusses revere discrimination from a philosophical point of view, succinctly states the essence of the case against reverse discrimination as it applies to blacks. It is, he says, “an attempt to correct one sort of injustice by producing another.”[1] He rightly points out that those who are to benefit from such a policy are not the original victims, and those who will suffer from it are not the original perpetrator of the crime. In seeming contradiction, however, Gross views reverse discrimination as an abuse of an otherwise well- intentioned policy. Well-intentioned it undoubtedly is, but surely any policy that mandates a double standard is an abuse in itself.

Finally, and most important, Affirmative Action opposes our national commitment to freedom. Women’s place in the United States has seldom been consistent with the principles on which our country was founded, but that’s no excuse to continue the hypocrisy. To rectify past wrongs by turning to the quick fix of discriminatory legislation is to flirt with totalitarianism. Ultimately, that means an exploitation that is all-encompass-ing and unalterable for everyone. As Milton and Rose Friedman have so aptly put it: “A society that puts equality—in the sense of equality of outcome—ahead of freedom will end up with neither equality nor freedom. The use of force to achieve equality will destroy freedom, and the force, introduced for good purposes, will end up in the hands of people who use it to promote their own interests.”[2]

Who Needs It?

Women don’t need Affirmative Action, or set-asides, or any of the laws that demand special privileges for them. They’re not in their present straits because they’ve been denied special privileges, but because others have had special privileges over them. Victory gained at the expense of other is no victory at all. Recent gains for women have come about more from the propagation of ideas and a reasoned call for justice than from discriminatory legislation. And yet, at the first signs of progress in human affairs, a clamor arises for laws to speed the process.

In the case of women, statistics are trotted out that show there are only so many women Nobel Prize winner compared to men, or only so many women symphony conductors, lawyers, bricklayers, truck driveR, or whatever, compared to the number of men in these positions, and this becomes a justification for “action.” They miss the point. The wonder of it is that there are any women at all who fit into these categories in a world that has placed every conceivable obstacle before them. It is a wonder and a cause for optimism. Passing laws which favor women has not caused, and cannot cause fully-formed female geniuses to erupt spontaneously into being like Hydra’s heads.

How ironic, and even tragic, that women have released themselves from bondage to their fathers, brothers, husbands, and sons only to find themselves in bondage to the state. And in the latter, they find common ground with men, for the enemy that stands in the way of both sexes is Congress, and Congress’ counterparts on the lo cal scene.

Too many members of Congress are spiritual descendants of those who once gave husbands the power to control women’s lives and possessions. Today, we have thousands of state and Federal programs and regulatory agencies, and hundreds of thousands of government workers whose primary responsibility is to tell other Americans, men and women alike, what Congress and/or state and local governments have said they may or may not do. As a result, we have become polarized into self-seeking factions that, like jealous children, clamor for the attention and favor of an all-powerful parent, pushing their brothers and sisters out of the way as they grab at the apron strings of the state.

How much better to unite in a fight for freedom instead of fighting each other. Wise women, like wise men, perceive that to the extent that we have become a collectivist society with inefficient and wasteful central planning, we are less free. A look at just a few of the ways in which collectivism adversely affects us, as human beings and as men and women, should convince us that we must not wait until we hit rock bottom before we dig out the root cause of our discontent.

The State vs. the Free Market

One woman’s need for child care is another woman’s opportunity. That’s a simple truth, until government enters the picture. What could be more efficient and mutually advantageous than for the woman who elects to stay home with her offspring also to take care of the working woman’s child for a fee? It’s a proven system that is entered into voluntarily by both parties. Everyone is satisfied, or the deal’s off. Although there are no statistics available, it is believed that very large numbers of small-scale versions of this system exist. Others who need day care depend on relatives, and some couples work split schedules so that one or the other is always home to care for the children.

Licensed day care centers are another story. Restrictions vary across the country, but their grand design seems to be to put day care entrepreneurs out of business. Typically, permits are costly and complicated; one’s house and yard must be a certain size according to the number of children; health and safety rules are unreasonable, exceeding what exists in most homes; specific routines must be followed; and much more. Regulations multiply, more people are needed to enforce them, day care operators give up, and in many cases children are then left home alone in spite of the regulators’ declared concern for child welfare. The larger day care centers also find it difficult to hang on under these conditions, and their fees rise accordingly. When this happens, it is then proclaimed that there is a shortage of day care, and we end up with government filling the void. We all know what that means.

In the meantime, the unlicensed homes go underground, perhaps accepting fewer children, which deprives those who need them. There is no need to go into all the ramifications of this familiar series of events common to many of our endeavors, except to answer the frequently expressed fear that unlicensed homes are unsafe. There is no more reason to fear unlicensed homes than licensed ones. Experience has shown that sacrosanct governmental agencies cannot be relied upon to verify the safety of a day care home. Only a caring, responsible parent can do that to his or her own satisfaction, unless we are to become like children ourselves, unable to investigate and make judgments.

Resourceful women who want to start businesses in their homes—computer technicians, seamstresses, caterers, hairdressers, and others—face the same problems as day care operators. If the government finds out about that one-chair beauty shop in your basement, you’re doomed.

Robert L. Woodson, president of the National Center for Neighborhood Enterprise, concerned about the situation as it affects black Americans, says, “Home occupation ordinances are playing an increasingly significant role in keeping blacks poor.”[3] Woodson also addresses the subject of high licensing costs which in some areas keep blacks out of certain occupations. He cites the $70,000 price of a taxicab medallion in New York City, one example out of many that affect anyone who can’t afford the price of admission to the trade or vocation of his or her choice.

Humble beginnings have had a way of burgeoning into empires, as Mrs. Fields of Mrs. Fields’ Cookies can tell you. But, larger capitalists, men and women who’ve built their enterprises from the ground up, assuming all the risks and responsibilities, hard work, and long hours that are involved, discover sooner or later that they’re not operating profit-making enterprises for themselves, their employees, and stockholders so much as they have become an arm of the government, and are operating social agencies to promote the general welfare. They must serve as the government’s accountants and tax collectors, not only contributing monetarily to their employees’ social security, but also taking care of the paperwork at their own expense. They must contend with OSHA, EPA, DOE, FTC, ICC, and on and on endlessly in a veritable minefield.

Jerry Pournelle, writing in Infoworld about the effects of protectionism and regulation on the computer industry, says that FCC regulators “. . . have created a byzantine obstacle course of paperwork and delays that start-up companies must negotiate before they can do business. The result is that if Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs wanted to start Apple Computer today, they wouldn’t be able to do it.” Referring to the costs of the required testing and certification, he says, “They wouldn’t have the capital to pay the tribute demanded by the FCC.”[4] This should give uneasy pause to ambitious women everywhere.

Women and the Free Market

Economic freedom is the crux of the matter. Assure economic freedom for women, and with brains, hard work, determination, and imagination women will catch up. But, not overnight. Their victories will be the building blocks of reform, leading to a renovation in many hearts and minds that will gradually overcome the prejudices of centuries.

Women will become tough enough to face discrimination with the dignity and courage of free people who know their own worth. They will face the fact that some people will never give up their prejudices, but they will know that the power of discrimination to injure is lessened in a climate of freedom. And, they will understand that we can’t all be leaders and successful entrepreneurs no matter how smart we are. These are facts of life for men as well.

Working in a market that is free, career women will more easily find safe, dependable, affordable child care; the equal pay for equal work situation will resolve itself; and imbalances according to race, sex, and national origin will adjust automatically. Women will become captains of industry and leaders in the sciences, taking their places side by side with men, and we will no longer travel in this world like a jetliner with half its engines blown out.

Equality Begins at Home

As long as men and women freely unite in marriage or any other association, women will increasingly insist upon equality in their private lives. They will respect themselves, and they will demand respect from others. The extent of peace and harmony that is achieved in any union is determined by the qualities of character each per son, regardless of gender, brings to it, and those who achieve mutually satisfying relationships serve as an example for others to emulate.

In freedom, ideas change and conditions change. Freedom releases human creative energy. It fosters diversity and cooperation. It gives individuals the best possible chance of realizing their ambitions, and it results in greater levels of prosperity for the general population. It does all this for people, not just for men or just for women, or just for those of a particular race or ethnic background.

Making choices and assuming responsibility for our lives, while often difficult, are the privileges of a free people. The outcomes of our choices, good or bad, enable us to grow and mature. We become stronger and wiser because of them.

Women have everything to gain from focusing their efforts on reforms that emphasize freedom, rather than on legislation that restricts others. Shall they waste their energies and their resources calling upon Congress to rectify every real or imagined wrong to themselves when their precious liberty is at stake? Why not go for the grand prize instead?

At the same time, we must not presume that achieving a truly free society will bring about utopia. Utopia is unattainable because it cannot exist in this imperfect world. Tradeoffs come with freedom: some succeed and others fail; social progress is slow; disappointments are inevitable; personal sacrifices are called for at times; corruption is possible; and some exploitation can and will exist. However, these scourges of the human condition can more successfully be combatted in a free society. It is not so easy, however, to break the chains of oppressive governments, in which these conditions exist in abundance.

It is better to reaffirm and give new meaning to the traditional values of self-reliance and individualism now, asserting our willingness to accept responsibility for our destinies and resist government’s invasion into our private and public lives, than to wait until we no longer have the right even to voice our concerns.


1.   Barry R. Gross, Discrimination In Reverse: Is Turnabout Fair Play? (New York: New York University Press 1978), p. 93.

2.   Milton and Rose Friedman, Free to Choose (New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1980), p. 148.

3.   Robert Ll Woodson, “Building a New Base for Black Prosperity,” The Atlanta Constitution, July 31,1988.

4.   Jerry Pournelle, “Be Prepared for Government to Block Predicted Megatrends,” Infoworld, April 24,1989, p. 50.

Ms. Baker writes regularly for national and local trade, travel, and business publications based in the Chicago area.

We live in an exciting time for women. More than ever before, they are achieving their goals, from fulfillment in the home to the apex in business, the sciences, and the professions, and many successfully combine family and careers.

It is beginning to be understood why qualified women who are so inclined need to have careers instead of being confined exclusively to their traditional roles. Women whose creative impulses impel them to follow professional or business careers should have a chance to seek a place in the sun outside the home, and society needs them there.

Three general problem areas must bead-dressed if women who want that chance are to have it. These concern discrimination, the need for satisfactory maternity and child care arrangements, and our dwindling economic freedoms.

Discrimination

Discrimination is not necessarily always bad. To discriminate is to select from among many criteria, to make wise choices based on fine distinctions. It is an art that women themselves can profitably cultivate. Making choices is what freedom is all about.

However, arbitrary discrimination based on prejudice hurts, psychologically and as a barrier to progress. It yields two victims: the one who is discriminated against and the one who discriminates. In the long run, it is bad business, whether that is immediately obvious or not.

The denial of legal rights, along with the force of tradition, once made virtual slaves of women. They couldn’t own property, couldn’t enter the professions, couldn’t vote, and sometimes weren’t even accountable for their offenses against others, which were, instead, referred to their “owners.” Categorical discrimination was institutionalized by the power of law, and reflected the prejudice, if not arrogance, of the lawmakers. Through the ages, this prejudice resulted in human tragedies, injuring the self-image and mental health of those affected, and depriving the human race of almost half the available, but untapped, human creativity.

It is still believed by many diehards that women are not equipped physically, mentally, or temperamentally to be anything other than helpmates to men, whether as wives or in occupations that, worthwhile as they may be, are not always consistent with either their abilities or their ambitions.

This is not meant to disparage those women and men who voluntarily choose to be housewives and househusbands, are happy in that role, and are well suited to it. It is unfortunate that some of the rhetoric coming out of the women’s movement has made many homebody types feel they are undervalued. It can’t be emphasized too strongly that homemaking and child nurturing rank high in societal importance. But, they are not appropriate jobs for everyone.

There’s no denying that some women are unable to do some jobs that are thought of as “men’s jobs.” Some men can’t either. Humans, regardless of sex, are as varied in their capacities and their ambitions as the design patterns of snow crystals. There have always been women who dig ditches and men who knit; women who are heads of state and men who rock the cradle. Each of us has to find his or her niche, discovering and taking into account our individual abilities and limitations.

Women who defy convention and follow careers traditionally reserved for men often must either give up marriage and children altogether, or they must contend with a host of problems related to what are considered their sole responsibilities as wives and mothers. Unless they receive the help of devoted husbands, friends, or relatives, and the cooperation of their employers, they carry the burden of two full-time jobs.

Many of today’s wonder women are valiantly coping with this situation, but it takes a heavy toll. Women who work at outside jobs when they’d rather be at home, but feel their help is needed for the family to survive, are usually especially hard hit by these problems.

Economic Issues and Women

One of the avenues of advancement for victims of discrimination has been the opportunity for them to form their own businesses and institutions when they were barred from the existing ones. Negro- and Jewish-owned and operated colleges, hospitals, and businesses come to mind, such as Tuskegee Institute in Alabama, Provident Hospital in Chicago, Brandeis University in Massachusetts, and Johnson Enterprises in Chicago, to name a few. Ironically, or perhaps it would be more accurate to say “predictably,” many of these have failed even though they’ve received government help, while others have been enormously suceessful far beyond the dreams of their founders, without ever asking for or receiving state aid. In recent years, women, too have begun to take this route. The Women’s Bank in Denver, Colorado, is an example of a women-founded and operated institution, in contrast to the women’s colleges of the last century which were primarily founded and operated by men.

Opportunities still exist for entrepreneurs, and women are no longer barred from the marketplace. However, the marketplace is less accessible and less free than it once was because of government’s expanded role in the economy, and women, as well as men, are the victims. The hindrances are well known to freedom champions: oppressively high taxes, excessive regulation, and restrictive licensing, among others. Economic freedom is surely womankind’s greatest need.

Old and New Approaches

Through necessity, women have been brilliantly resourceful in the face of barriers, and their solutions have been as individual as themselves.

“Individual” is a key word, for it is as individuals that women have gained their greatest successes. History is replete with stories of women who have distinguished themselves in what were for their times unconventional endeavors. The facts of history prove what women can do, individually and in groups.

Banding and working together, and aided by men for whom the denial of woman’s genius and her humanity were anathema, women have advanced themselves by removing the most flagrant violations of their human rights. In the process, they have changed minds because while some women expend huge amounts of time and energy proclaiming their equality, others spend their time proving it. They ignore discrimination or they circumvent it, following the example of generations of ethnic group members and others who have succeeded, and continue to succeed, in spite of discrimination.

Acknowledging the premise that the innate abilities of men and women are equal, what about those women who are effectively shut out of, or denied advancement in, occupations in which they could make important contributions? Those with brains and talent do not necessarily also have the stamina, courage, and aggressive ness to forge ahead in the face of discrimination. These are the people who usually turn to political solutions. But, let’s consider a few of the reasons why legislation against discrimination creates more problems than it solves.

The very sound of the phrase “Affirmative Action” falls on the ear as a not-so-veiled threat. It’s the sound of a stern school teacher lecturing a recalcitrant student. (It happens that the phrase was coined by ex-teacher Lyndon Johnson.) Affirmative Action is also the angry stamp of impatient feet, and a brandished fist that smacks too much of revenge.

Affirmative Action stigmatizes women because it gives the sanction of law to the myths about women which have been so damaging to them. It denies that women are capable of competing on an equal basis and, therefore, they must have a “handicap,” an artificial advantage to make up for what they lack. Even those women who are indisputably highly qualified must, nevertheless, wear not one scarlet letter, like Hester, but two AAs upon their breasts proclaiming the inferiority that Affirmative Action (AA) implies.

Robbing Peter to Pay Paula

Affirmative Action focuses on results rather than on the equal right to compete. It demands that unqualified people be hired if, as in the area of our concern, they happen to be women, while highly qualified candidates for jobs are rejected. In other words, it mounts to reverse discrimination. Men have every reason to feel bitter about laws that favor women, and women should understand that bitterness very well.

Barry R. Gross, who discusses revere discrimination from a philosophical point of view, succinctly states the essence of the case against reverse discrimination as it applies to blacks. It is, he says, “an attempt to correct one sort of injustice by producing another.”[1] He rightly points out that those who are to benefit from such a policy are not the original victims, and those who will suffer from it are not the original perpetrator of the crime. In seeming contradiction, however, Gross views reverse discrimination as an abuse of an otherwise well- intentioned policy. Well-intentioned it undoubtedly is, but surely any policy that mandates a double standard is an abuse in itself.

Finally, and most important, Affirmative Action opposes our national commitment to freedom. Women’s place in the United States has seldom been consistent with the principles on which our country was founded, but that’s no excuse to continue the hypocrisy. To rectify past wrongs by turning to the quick fix of discriminatory legislation is to flirt with totalitarianism. Ultimately, that means an exploitation that is all-encompass-ing and unalterable for everyone. As Milton and Rose Friedman have so aptly put it: “A society that puts equality—in the sense of equality of outcome—ahead of freedom will end up with neither equality nor freedom. The use of force to achieve equality will destroy freedom, and the force, introduced for good purposes, will end up in the hands of people who use it to promote their own interests.”[2]

Who Needs It?

Women don’t need Affirmative Action, or set-asides, or any of the laws that demand special privileges for them. They’re not in their present straits because they’ve been denied special privileges, but because others have had special privileges over them. Victory gained at the expense of other is no victory at all. Recent gains for women have come about more from the propagation of ideas and a reasoned call for justice than from discriminatory legislation. And yet, at the first signs of progress in human affairs, a clamor arises for laws to speed the process.

In the case of women, statistics are trotted out that show there are only so many women Nobel Prize winner compared to men, or only so many women symphony conductors, lawyers, bricklayers, truck driveR, or whatever, compared to the number of men in these positions, and this becomes a justification for “action.” They miss the point. The wonder of it is that there are any women at all who fit into these categories in a world that has placed every conceivable obstacle before them. It is a wonder and a cause for optimism. Passing laws which favor women has not caused, and cannot cause fully-formed female geniuses to erupt spontaneously into being like Hydra’s heads.

How ironic, and even tragic, that women have released themselves from bondage to their fathers, brothers, husbands, and sons only to find themselves in bondage to the state. And in the latter, they find common ground with men, for the enemy that stands in the way of both sexes is Congress, and Congress’ counterparts on the lo cal scene.

Too many members of Congress are spiritual descendants of those who once gave husbands the power to control women’s lives and possessions. Today, we have thousands of state and Federal programs and regulatory agencies, and hundreds of thousands of government workers whose primary responsibility is to tell other Americans, men and women alike, what Congress and/or state and local governments have said they may or may not do. As a result, we have become polarized into self-seeking factions that, like jealous children, clamor for the attention and favor of an all-powerful parent, pushing their brothers and sisters out of the way as they grab at the apron strings of the state.

How much better to unite in a fight for freedom instead of fighting each other. Wise women, like wise men, perceive that to the extent that we have become a collectivist society with inefficient and wasteful central planning, we are less free. A look at just a few of the ways in which collectivism adversely affects us, as human beings and as men and women, should convince us that we must not wait until we hit rock bottom before we dig out the root cause of our discontent.

The State vs. the Free Market

One woman’s need for child care is another woman’s opportunity. That’s a simple truth, until government enters the picture. What could be more efficient and mutually advantageous than for the woman who elects to stay home with her offspring also to take care of the working woman’s child for a fee? It’s a proven system that is entered into voluntarily by both parties. Everyone is satisfied, or the deal’s off. Although there are no statistics available, it is believed that very large numbers of small-scale versions of this system exist. Others who need day care depend on relatives, and some couples work split schedules so that one or the other is always home to care for the children.

Licensed day care centers are another story. Restrictions vary across the country, but their grand design seems to be to put day care entrepreneurs out of business. Typically, permits are costly and complicated; one’s house and yard must be a certain size according to the number of children; health and safety rules are unreasonable, exceeding what exists in most homes; specific routines must be followed; and much more. Regulations multiply, more people are needed to enforce them, day care operators give up, and in many cases children are then left home alone in spite of the regulators’ declared concern for child welfare. The larger day care centers also find it difficult to hang on under these conditions, and their fees rise accordingly. When this happens, it is then proclaimed that there is a shortage of day care, and we end up with government filling the void. We all know what that means.

In the meantime, the unlicensed homes go underground, perhaps accepting fewer children, which deprives those who need them. There is no need to go into all the ramifications of this familiar series of events common to many of our endeavors, except to answer the frequently expressed fear that unlicensed homes are unsafe. There is no more reason to fear unlicensed homes than licensed ones. Experience has shown that sacrosanct governmental agencies cannot be relied upon to verify the safety of a day care home. Only a caring, responsible parent can do that to his or her own satisfaction, unless we are to become like children ourselves, unable to investigate and make judgments.

Resourceful women who want to start businesses in their homes—computer technicians, seamstresses, caterers, hairdressers, and others—face the same problems as day care operators. If the government finds out about that one-chair beauty shop in your basement, you’re doomed.

Robert L. Woodson, president of the National Center for Neighborhood Enterprise, concerned about the situation as it affects black Americans, says, “Home occupation ordinances are playing an increasingly significant role in keeping blacks poor.”[3] Woodson also addresses the subject of high licensing costs which in some areas keep blacks out of certain occupations. He cites the $70,000 price of a taxicab medallion in New York City, one example out of many that affect anyone who can’t afford the price of admission to the trade or vocation of his or her choice.

Humble beginnings have had a way of burgeoning into empires, as Mrs. Fields of Mrs. Fields’ Cookies can tell you. But, larger capitalists, men and women who’ve built their enterprises from the ground up, assuming all the risks and responsibilities, hard work, and long hours that are involved, discover sooner or later that they’re not operating profit-making enterprises for themselves, their employees, and stockholders so much as they have become an arm of the government, and are operating social agencies to promote the general welfare. They must serve as the government’s accountants and tax collectors, not only contributing monetarily to their employees’ social security, but also taking care of the paperwork at their own expense. They must contend with OSHA, EPA, DOE, FTC, ICC, and on and on endlessly in a veritable minefield.

Jerry Pournelle, writing in Infoworld about the effects of protectionism and regulation on the computer industry, says that FCC regulators “. . . have created a byzantine obstacle course of paperwork and delays that start-up companies must negotiate before they can do business. The result is that if Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs wanted to start Apple Computer today, they wouldn’t be able to do it.” Referring to the costs of the required testing and certification, he says, “They wouldn’t have the capital to pay the tribute demanded by the FCC.”[4] This should give uneasy pause to ambitious women everywhere.

Women and the Free Market

Economic freedom is the crux of the matter. Assure economic freedom for women, and with brains, hard work, determination, and imagination women will catch up. But, not overnight. Their victories will be the building blocks of reform, leading to a renovation in many hearts and minds that will gradually overcome the prejudices of centuries.

Women will become tough enough to face discrimination with the dignity and courage of free people who know their own worth. They will face the fact that some people will never give up their prejudices, but they will know that the power of discrimination to injure is lessened in a climate of freedom. And, they will understand that we can’t all be leaders and successful entrepreneurs no matter how smart we are. These are facts of life for men as well.

Working in a market that is free, career women will more easily find safe, dependable, affordable child care; the equal pay for equal work situation will resolve itself; and imbalances according to race, sex, and national origin will adjust automatically. Women will become captains of industry and leaders in the sciences, taking their places side by side with men, and we will no longer travel in this world like a jetliner with half its engines blown out.

Equality Begins at Home

As long as men and women freely unite in marriage or any other association, women will increasingly insist upon equality in their private lives. They will respect themselves, and they will demand respect from others. The extent of peace and harmony that is achieved in any union is determined by the qualities of character each per son, regardless of gender, brings to it, and those who achieve mutually satisfying relationships serve as an example for others to emulate.

In freedom, ideas change and conditions change. Freedom releases human creative energy. It fosters diversity and cooperation. It gives individuals the best possible chance of realizing their ambitions, and it results in greater levels of prosperity for the general population. It does all this for people, not just for men or just for women, or just for those of a particular race or ethnic background.

Making choices and assuming responsibility for our lives, while often difficult, are the privileges of a free people. The outcomes of our choices, good or bad, enable us to grow and mature. We become stronger and wiser because of them.

Women have everything to gain from focusing their efforts on reforms that emphasize freedom, rather than on legislation that restricts others. Shall they waste their energies and their resources calling upon Congress to rectify every real or imagined wrong to themselves when their precious liberty is at stake? Why not go for the grand prize instead?

At the same time, we must not presume that achieving a truly free society will bring about utopia. Utopia is unattainable because it cannot exist in this imperfect world. Tradeoffs come with freedom: some succeed and others fail; social progress is slow; disappointments are inevitable; personal sacrifices are called for at times; corruption is possible; and some exploitation can and will exist. However, these scourges of the human condition can more successfully be combatted in a free society. It is not so easy, however, to break the chains of oppressive governments, in which these conditions exist in abundance.

It is better to reaffirm and give new meaning to the traditional values of self-reliance and individualism now, asserting our willingness to accept responsibility for our destinies and resist government’s invasion into our private and public lives, than to wait until we no longer have the right even to voice our concerns.


1.   Barry R. Gross, Discrimination In Reverse: Is Turnabout Fair Play? (New York: New York University Press 1978), p. 93.

2.   Milton and Rose Friedman, Free to Choose (New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1980), p. 148.

3.   Robert Ll Woodson, “Building a New Base for Black Prosperity,” The Atlanta Constitution, July 31,1988.

4.   Jerry Pournelle, “Be Prepared for Government to Block Predicted Megatrends,” Infoworld, April 24,1989, p. 50.