Earth to Patricia Arquette: Individual Achievement Trumps Gender

by | Feb 23, 2015 | POLITICS

Arquette is trying to confuse two different issues here. One is equality under the law and the other is equality of outcome. She’s lumping the two together and acting as if they’re the same. But they’re not.

Patricia Arquette was awarded her first Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her performance in Boyhood.

“To every woman who gave birth, to every taxpayer of this nation. It’s our time to have wage equality once and for all in the United States of America,” she said, following her run-of-the-mill thank-yous to the film’s cast, crew and her family.”

Later on, she went on to say:

“… it is time for us. It is time for women. Equal means equal. And the truth is, the older women get, the less money they make. The more children ‑‑ the highest percentage of children living in poverty are female‑headed households. And it’s inexcusable that we go around the world and we talk about equal rights for women in other countries and we don’t ‑‑ one of those Superior Court justices said two years ago in a ‑‑ in a law speech at a university, We don’t have equal rights for women in America and we don’t because when they wrote the Constitution, they didn’t intend it for women. So, the truth is, even though we sort of feel like we have equal rights in America, right under the surface, there are huge issues that are applied that really do affect women. And it’s time for all the women in America and all the men that love women, and all the gay people, and all the people of color that we’ve all fought for to fight for us now.” [quoted at and elsewhere]

Wage equality for women? What could be wrong with that? Of course virtually everyone will applaud it. Or at least seek to be seen applauding it.

But what is actually required to achieve wage equality, in any context?

For one thing, prices will have to go up. Things that people — including women — currently buy will now be more expensive than they were. Why? Because government mandates or court decisions will require that the people working in the factories, offices and various businesses that employ women will now have to pay comparable rates according to some standard or formula.

There is no other way for “wage equality” to work out in practice. Whether you think it’s a good thing or a bad thing, there have to be consequences.

In a marketplace, prices are set by supply and demand. Ultimately, supply and demand are determined by the priorities, preferences and actions of millions of individual consumers making daily choices in the marketplace.

In Arquette’s (or any socialist’s) imagination, prices are set by external authorities. Those authorities can be fair or unfair, racist or non-racist, sexist or non-sexist.

But that’s not how a marketplace works or operates. In a marketplace, the consumer is king. There are no external kings. There are policemen to enforce contracts and protect private property; but that’s it.

It’s very easy for an actress to stand up in front of a sympathetic audience and say, “Hey, it’s time women make the same money as men.”

She might as well stand up and say, “There ought to be a law making everyone fair and nice.” Who wouldn’t applaud? Implementing or coercing morality — by any definition — cannot be done, and has failed every time it has been tried.

And understand one thing here. This is not about men versus women. It’s about socialism versus capitalism. Under socialism, government policy determines wages and rates. Under capitalism — real capitalism, not the hampered kind we know — wages and rates are determined by supply and demand.

If women — as a group — wish to make equal or greater amounts of money than men as a group, then the thing to do is enter fields where wages are higher. In unprecedented numbers, women are doing that. More women enter law and medicine — traditionally among the highest paying fields — than ever before.

Why should it matter to women — or men — how they function as a group? That’s tribalist, almost primitive. It’s certainly emotionally immature. The kind of thing to admire and respect — in oneself or others — is individualism. Great actors don’t develop by merging into the pack. They develop by standing out in some way, by breaking out of the pack. Rushing to a racial or gender group — something one never chose and that supposedly does not even matter all that much — is not the way to achievement. If Arquette cares more about equality of outcome than about achievement, then why did she even accept the Oscar in the first place?

There’s no economic or moral justification for government coming in and saying, “Women who are doctors and lawyers making money is fine. But women in low paying jobs have to make more money, too.” That’s inevitably what Arquette, Meryl Streep (who applauded her speech) and others (of both genders) are actually advocating. It’s not equality; it’s socialism. It’s not equal individual property rights under the law; it’s government-mandated equality of outcome. Use whatever label you prefer, but in the end it’s always the same: socialism, collectivism, democratically enforced communism.

The only way to attain what Arquette says she wants is to do things which will have the impact of raising prices on business. Nothing that the government does to business will fail to be passed on to the consumers. The same socialist moralists (like Arquette, and most of Hollywood) who called for this “wage reform” will then scream that businesses that raise their prices on consumers are evil and selfish. But the dead end of that road is simply to nationalize everything, and outlaw profit. Nobody is proposing that explicitly in America, and perhaps that would never happen. But so long as you have even a tiny bit of a for-profit or private sector, then you will have to punish consumers each and every time you punish a business (large or small).

Arquette is trying to confuse two different issues here. One is equality under the law and the other is equality of outcome. She’s lumping the two together and acting as if they’re the same. But they’re not.

You can be in favor of equal rights for men and women, but you cannot evade what your definition of “rights” is. To a socialist, government owns all or most property, and sees to it that everyone gets a more or less equal share of the pie. Under a system of economic and political freedom, men and women are equal under the law — but no outcome is guaranteed.

In order to agree with what Arquette is saying here, you don’t have to merely prove that you think men and women should be equal under the law. You have to make your case as to why socialism is warranted, morally justified or economically feasible. Because she and others like her are counting on you to accept one along with the other.

“Equal wages for equal work” means pretending that all work performance and achievement is essentially the same. This might be a good deal for the underachieving or the mediocre. But it’s a raw deal for the individuals — men or women — who aspire and attain above the pack.

Dr. Michael Hurd is a psychotherapist, columnist and author of "Bad Therapy, Good Therapy (And How to Tell the Difference)" and "Grow Up America!" Visit his website at:

The views expressed above represent those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the editors and publishers of Capitalism Magazine. Capitalism Magazine sometimes publishes articles we disagree with because we think the article provides information, or a contrasting point of view, that may be of value to our readers.

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