Listen, Learn, and Empathize

Two of Tyler Cowen’s six insights from the Kavanaugh saga.

1) Alcohol is an underrated factor.

I am struck by how many of the accusations — from various women, not just Ford — suggest a role for alcohol in tales of abuse. Whether or not you believe any particular story, few can argue that alcohol is never connected to this kind of behavior. In the 1980s the U.S. had a major crisis with teen binge drinking and alcoholism, and many of those problems persist today, albeit at lower levels.

You might think the hearings would lead to a new consideration of alcohol as a major social crisis. If so, I haven’t seen it. Just a few weeks ago the World Health Organization released a report suggesting that 3 million deaths annually could be attributed to alcohol, or 1 of every 20 deaths worldwide. That barely made a splash in the news.

Closely related.

2) There is an asymmetry between male and female perceptions.

Most men are not abusers, yet very large numbers of women have been abused. So if a man is an abuser, there is a good chance he has abused a fair number of women.

That means many well-meaning men experience sexual abuse as a relatively rare phenomenon. They haven’t done it, and most of their male friends haven’t either. At the same time, most women have abuse, rape or #MeToo stories, and they experience these phenomena as relatively common and often life-altering. Probably they also have heard multiple such stories from their female friends. This structural asymmetry of perspectives is crucial to understanding the discourse and the often fundamental differences in opinion.

I would go further. This structural asymmetry of perspectives is why it’s crucial out-of-touch men get with the program and listen, learn, and empathize.

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