Mr. Chesterton’s Fence

This popped up on my Creepbook for Business timeline today;

Firstly, if anyone can explain in the comments what a “Gender Economist” is and what tangible benefit they bring to the species, I’ll be very grateful.

I’m more curious to examine Mrs/Miss/Ms Moore’s idea in more detail, however.

G. K. Chesterton famously described an imaginary fence in the middle of a field and suggested that we shouldn’t allow someone to take it down unless they could describe precisely why it was originally built. His point being that there was presumably a very good reason it was there in the first place and, although that reason may not still be valid, we should not remove it until we’ve understood the consequences.

What then, might we be giving up if we were to remove all honorifics when addressing each other? Why have honorifics been in use for all these years of human history?

Here’s a few reasons I can think of immediately;

1. A sign of respect and deference when addressing someone.

2. To add further information to a person’s name, such as gender and, in the case of females, marital status (since the 1960s, this additional item of information can be opted out of by the request to use “Ms”).

3. To assist in efficiently providing context and clarification particularly in situations when there are two people with similar names, Joe Smith and Jo Smith, for example.

4. Professional information and status, such as Doctor, Reverend, Professor, Captain, Darth, etc.

5. To provide additional information about the age of the person, particularly for males (Master), but more ambiguously for females (Miss).

There’s probably other reasons but five seems a good enough number to justify not removing them without fully planning for the consequences.

Bill’s Opinion

Susanne Moore might want to consider legally changing her name as, simply by looking at her first name, we can tell she’s female regardless of whether or not it is prefaced with an honorific.

However, it’s still not clear to me why it is a problem that people receive additional information with a person’s name.

10 Replies to “Mr. Chesterton’s Fence”

    1. I actually heard an Industrial Relations negotiator use that term for his colleague a couple of years ago. Bearing in mind they both worked for the employer not the union, it explained a lot about why we were stuck with such ridiculous collective bargaining deals.

  1. A Gender Economist is someone who studies scarcity and it’s effects in the Sexual Marketplace. Their research has led to such helpful innovations such as the Crazy/Hot scale, the 1-10 scale (used by men to evaluate women), the 8-10 scale (used by women to self-evaluate), and the the SMV By Age chart for both sexes which gives hope to awkward men and strikes terror in vapid women.

    It’s a small but dedicated group of scholars who must shed all physical attributes deemed attractive by either sex, as well as adopt particularly odious personalities in order to achieve a negative SMV and therefore ensure their research is free of bias.

    1. Thanks for clarifying that.

      I particularly appreciate the 8-10 scale, which has explained a lot of confusing situations I have found myself in previously.

      1. It explains a whole mess of things IMO. Consider, a study based on anonymous evaluations (tinder likes or something) shows rampant hypergamy:

        https://medium.com/@worstonlinedater/tinder-experiments-ii-guys-unless-you-are-really-hot-you-are-probably-better-off-not-wasting-your-2ddf370a6e9a

        However, when physically in the presence of other women the desire for social flattening is on full display:

        http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-3029777/Dove-survey-reveals-96-CENT-women-rate-average-looking.html

      2. There’s a lot to be mined from stated vs revealed preferences, right?

        For example, when tinder likes (or something) were studied it produced the expected hypergamous pareto result, ie 80% of women chasing 20% of men, implying women think pretty highly of themselves when anonymously swiping on their phones.

        However, a Dove survey where women were asked to choose between a doors marked “Beautiful” and “Average” saw 96% of women rate themselves average. It’s not super clear if the entire survey was done with physical doors but the 5 cities in which they set up the props saw nearly every women choose “Average”.

        Is it the lack of privacy and anonymity driving the difference in self-evaluation, or do self-identified average women simply believe they can snag top-tier men?

        *note: original comment with links to surveys didn’t post.

        1. Spotted the original comment in the held folder, thanks for providing the links. I’ll update the settings to allow three without being considered spam.

        2. Yep, so much of use can be mined from comparing expressed and revealed preferences.
          Perhaps the Tinder data suggests that humans like a high payout gamble especially when the stakes are low (rejection)?
          The selection of “average” is interesting; in many other tests, people over-estimate themselves and forget how averages and distributions work, the Dunning Kruger Effect being a great example of this.

  2. Hopefully, as a gender economist, she can sort out the causation for diverse companies/institutions. That is: are diverse institutions successful because of their diversity; or do successful institutions have to be wealthy before they can afford to become diverse?

    I never like to think about these things too much but I would note that most of the more profitable institutions have a “diversity problem”, which is saying that they have insufficient diversity. So they can be successful, but not diverse. Can they be diverse, and equally successful? I guess we will find out in due course. Although by the time it matters, the measures for success will likely change, such that diversity is success.

    A bit more on topic, gender is infecting the whole debate, such that it seems like we can’t have a discussion without gender being a reason, or an issue. Both sides feel it, and I suspect are all getting more outwardly bored by it. I would support any reasonable step that would remove gender from being the focus, and move it towards the desire and the qualities of the individual doing the job.

    I would be mostly supportive of this because it would put sanctimonious control freaks like Susanne Moore out of a job.

    1. Yup, utterly bored by it all too. LinkedIn is completely infected by it.

      I’m reminded of O’Sullivan’s Law: “All organizations that are not actually right-wing will over time become left-wing.”

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