on economic arguments for human rights
May 11, 2013
I was originally going to post this at GirlsLikeUs News.
but. it just feels… off.
Not necessarily because of the content (I haven’t read the whole report) but because of the method.
I really hate economic arguments for moral good.
Like, this report basically boils down to
“lack of rights costs money! therefore, trans people should gain protection from discrimination”
First, reports like this are shit because even though it is argued via economics that trans discrimination costs the state money, very little attention is actually given to the economic disparities that produce a situation where people can be homeless in the first place.
Second, I fear for what it means that one of the most viable ways to convince oppressors to, well, stop oppressing is by convincing them that it is in their own interest (either via savings gained, or some other incentive). Because this is what capitalism does, it gets us to worship capital over and above the value of a human being’s life and quality of life.
Third, because it reifies the place of the economy in our conceptual landscape without understanding that, as important as it is, it actually plays a far smaller role than most economists would like us to believe.
How do we know this?
Because economists usually operate on a model of perfect rationality in economic behaviour. That people will make the most profitable decisions for themselves all of the time.
Except. We know that this is demonstrably false, something ironically highlighted by this report. Because, ultimately, the problem isn’t that oppressors don’t understand that their discrimination can hurt the bottom line, but that they don’t care if it does or doesn’t.
Because the point of oppression isn’t about how much money is saved or spent. Because while money is part of power, it isn’t the only power. The point of discrimination and institutionalized oppression is to ensure that those in power, stay in power. And, as we can see, sometimes there is a trade off. What cis people loose in money via discrimination is compensated by what they gain in social/political power.