Surfing the webs on a lazy Sunday I came across this piece of historic and economic illiteracy in The Washington Post by one Feminista Jones. (As you can see, she has chosen a name that says she just wants to be treated like everyone else.)
Ms. Jones takes toung-in-cheek exception to the Women On 20s (which I thought was about women cruisin’ around in lowriders) petition drive to get a woman on the $20 bill. The group did a survey of who it should be and Harriet Tubman was the winner. I happen to think it’s a decent choice. Among Jones’ objections is the lie that women still make less than men, and that women still don’t have enough representation in Congress and other leadership positions, so it would be insulting to Tubman’s memory to put her tender face on the face of legal tender.
The Women On 20s video says “There is no greater gender gap than on our paper money.” That is indeed true, and melodramatic, but that’s because there’s a vast achievement gap in American (and world) history, with men being far, far out ahead. YES YES YES I KNOW I KNOW I KNOW, women have achieved great things in history and continue to do so. Ayn Rand is a woman I admire. She was an immigrant from Russia who went on to write one of the best selling books in history and profoundly influence American ideas with all of her other writing. And she did it all in her 3rd language! How can you not take your hat off to that? There are lots of women like this, yet, men have achieved more. That’s not a knock on women, just a hatefact.
American women in the Revolutionary generation were amazing women, too. But the men of that generation created a new society organized around the greatest achievement in history – the US Constitution. Those men fundamentally altered the trajectory of world affairs for all time and for the better. That is a feat yet unmatched by women. It’s not oppressive that no women are represented on our currency, it’s just a recognition that we owe more to the men who founded the country.
Ms. Jones says “Harriet Tubman dedicated much of her life to subverting the system of forced labor and oppression that built America’s economy.” While slave labor did help the economy for a period of time, that statement is way overblown. 3 points:
– Given that the black slave population was always a minority, and that a slave’s productivity was low and inefficient compared to workers in the more industrialized North, it’s wrong to say slavery was the driver of the economy.
– The period of highest economic development came after the Civil War, when there was no slavery. Discrimination in some states yes, but that is not morally comparable to slavery.
– The South’s economy and a lot of its infrastructure was destroyed during the Civil War. The country spent all of its money and went into debt fighting it. That period of explosive development after the war all happened without slavery.
It’s so tedious we have to say this, but I’m not trying to justify slavery. Just correcting the lie that “slavery built America.” America didn’t start slavery, but it – along with Great Britain – did the most to end it.
The Women On 20s video has a part where some kids in a classroom deliver the message. While they are very cute, let’s not forget – kids don’t know anything, and we shouldn’t listen to them for big decisions. It’s an appeal to emotion and there are a few of those going on here. “It’s just time for this!” “It’s ‘an overdue change,'” or as the President might say, “it’s the right thing to do.” But is it? Do we really need this change? Is it really that important? It’s a nice gesture, but isn’t this pretty far down on the list of priorities right now?
Most of all, Feminista objects to putting Tubman on the 20 because she “did not fight for capitalism, free trade, or competitive markets.” True, Tubman never stated such, but given that she brought people out of slavery and to places where they would get paid for their labor, and her other work in the abolitionist movement, in effect she did fight for those things.
If Progressives are OK with immortalizing an entrepreneurial, gun-carrying devout Christian who associated with the Republican Party throughout her life, I’ll take it.
I am also now accepting all offensive and oppressive $20 bills.