Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Compromise, Cooperation and Competition

The Senate, purportedly, preserved their bi-partisan, collegial spirit today by averting the "nuclear option." The center, it seems, did hold after all (despite predictions to the opposite by the David Brooks). From what I did catch of the news, the "ends of the spectrum" are both unhappy, but overall this compromise is a good thing. Of course, this got me to thinking. What is so great about "compromise" per se. During this Senate showdown over judicial nominees, there has been a lot of reminders of when the the filibuster was used to stall Civil Rights legislation. I started reflecting on the spirit of "compromise" here: what exactly is a compromise on extending, say, voter rights to African Americans? Do you, um, give half of the African Americans rights? Or just the middle-class men? (raised eyebrows).

Now don't get me wrong. I'm not opposed to the spirit of compromise. Moreover, I am still not sure how I feel about this particular compromise that was worked out. I have my own "end of the spectrum" interests at heart: to preserve the filibuster in the case of a frightening Supreme Court appointee. The Democrats will still be able to filibuster under "extraordinary" circumstances (language that probably everyone can agree is vague and subjective). However, at what cost have the Dems worked out this compromise? By virtually giving a pass to Priscilla Owen, Janice Rogers and William Pryor, the Dems may have compromised, cooperated even, but left us with three new, extremely conservative life-time appointment judges. Owen commends Bush for appointing judges who "follow the law." My, oh my. Since when is it that easy to follow the law? I mean, don't we have Supreme Court and Appeals Court judges precisely because we need to interpret the law? I just spent an hour today reading a fascinating article on the difficulties in determining if patients with Multiple Personality Disorders (MPD) are criminally responsible for actions they undertake by one "self," when another self has no recollection or memory of it. Can we consider MPD patients as even possessing "personal identity"? If you think that is an easy question to answer, you are definitely living in a different universe from me.

But let's leave aside the issue of interpreting the law. William Pryor has stated that he finds the ruling in Roe v. Wade "the worst abomination of constitutional law in our history." He even opposes abortions for rape and incest victims. Right, so, can we count on this chap to "follow the law"?

So, compromise doesn't appear to always be the right thing to do (and yes, I am making a normative judgment here).

Now, let's talk about cooperation and competition. Op-ed columnist John Tierney today argued that women have different appetites for competition than men do, which accounts for why women not only are less likely to be CEOs and therefore not paid as much as men (because we know the CEOS make the big bucks). Tierney's argument was interesting and puzzling. He admitted to his suspicion that women have evolved in such a way to avoid risky and regular winner-takes-all competition (so its nature after all), yet he reports women are probably a boon for buisness since they will nurture corporate environments.

I gotta say, this op-ed really makes me shake my head. I had an argument with a Cato analyst very similar to this two years ago. He argued that the gospel-truth-economists point out that women are risk-averse, which explained why few women were CEOs. I asked him to explain what was so valuable about risk-loving folks. I mean, afterall, it may be hard to distinguish foolish and dangerous people from good CEOs on that logic. For, if you are willing to take frightening risks with your company, and by a stroke of luck you make money, then this merits your unfathomable salary.

I also question the logic that women are risk averse. Afterall, how many women take the risk to marry and have children with competition-crazed men each year, only to find themselves divorced and destitute single moms? Shit, marriage itself seems like a pretty risky endeavor.

But of course, this whole "women-are-cooperative-and-men-are-competitive" crap comes from a belief that because women can have children, they must, by nature, be nurturing. Boy, oh boy, is Tierney a bit off. I have seen some pretty nasty, backbiting, and competitive women, who will glady stab their best friend in the back for a cute "frat guy" who is woefully less capable or intelligent as they are. Doesn't Tierney ever watch Joe Millionaire or The Bachelor?