Sunday, January 01, 2006

VP titles it "Get a Wife"

Virginia Postrel every now and again writes something that causes them who profess and call themselves feminists to wax wroth. If I can find it online, I'll post her essay pointing out the wage gap between men and women's wages can be closed by encouraging educated women to marry uneducated men. Here's another gee-I-wish-I-could-write-like-this moment courtesy of the aforementioned Virginia Postrel who (I hope) considers her blog type-c procrastination, quoting a chap named Paul Graham:
"There are three variants of procrastination, depending on what you do instead of working on something: you could work on (a) nothing, (b) something less important, or (c) something more important. That last type, I'd argue, is good procrastination.
VP then contrasts with the latest essay from David Brooks:
Graham's point cuts against the zeitgeist. In today's NYT, David Brooks argues that, at least for those not blessed with a Y chromosome, errands are what matters most. His paean to domesticity as the highest and best use of women's time, and maybe even men's, does not conclude with an announcement that he's quitting the Times and PBS to spend more time with driving the kids around. (For those who hate Times Select, the column is on p. 8 of Week in Review.)

Taken together, these arguments address several old questions: Why, as Sir Francis Bacon asked, is it that the most important contributors to human progress have often been childless? Why did the rise of the 18th-century city, with its coffeehouses and abundance of servants, promote science, philosophy, and literature? And, of course, why have relatively few women made enduring contributions to fields that require single-minded devotion?

Quite simply: Somebody's got to do the errands of life. You can either do them yourself, hire someone to do them, or get a wife. Historically, the last has been the most common option.

Let me be clear: I do not believe there is One Best Way to live. I do not believe that the gracious life created by attending to small chores (including, but not only, those necessary to raise children) is inferior to one devoted to more focused pursuits. What I believe, and what you'll almost never see suggested by an establishment pundit, is that different people are suited to different sorts of lives and that both strategies have their downsides and their risks. (I wrote about one aspect of this topic--the politicization of parenthood--here.)

My New Year's resolution: Fewer errands, less sleep (I sleep a lot), more reading, more writing. Still to be determined: Is blogging an errand? For me at least, I suspect so. But perhaps I can find a way to manage it.

Read it all.

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