On being Adults

I have always opposed hate crime laws on the grounds that the law should generally deal with our actions rather than our more difficult to determine motives. I am also saddened by the growing tendency of college students to turn to their in loco parentis administrators to protect them from the verbal challenges that should be part of their growing up experience. These two are related.

The ongoing discussion of transgenders’ use of bathrooms, locker rooms, and other public facilities has raised all kinds of issues. What if a “real” man pretends to be a woman and comes into the Lady’s room and molests some poor girl? Won’t laws allowing people to use the restroom that fits their sexual identity encourage such behavior, or at least open the door to it? No. Such behavior has been illegal forever without having to ask what reason or excuse was given for being in the Lady’s room. Comments from a reader of my “Public Bathrooms” blog earlier this week illustrates this sort of misguided thinking:

John Rohan: “The fear is not just transgender people attacking anyone…. The real fear is ordinary males taking advantage of the policy, which has happened on many occasions, so it’s not a “non issue”.

“This isn’t just about bathrooms with private individual stalls. It’s about locker rooms and showers, like in our schools. If the Obama administration had it’s way, biological males, with no surgery, hormone treatments, and without necessarily even informing their parents, should be allowed to use the girls locker rooms and showers.

“McCloskey goes on to ask: “How is it to be enforced? DNA testing by the TSA at every bathroom door?” Well, let’s flip that around. If you allow trans people to use their preferred facilities, how is that to be enforced? Asking for proof of hormone medication? A doctor’s note? Then what?”

It is the transgenders who have the difficult and sometimes wrenching decisions to make about what facilities to use at each stage of their transition. Common sense will and normally has prevailed on everyone’s part. When truly offensive behavior occurs (e.g., an assault) for what ever reason, the laws already exist to punish it.

There are times when we need the state to punish unacceptable behavior and to protect the weak, but the trend toward reliance on Big Brother to deal with more and more of the things we don’t like bods ill for our liberties and our society. Big Brother has a habit of having a mind of his own (or of his best placed buddies) the imposition of which we don’t always like. Of equal importance is the weakening of our personal strength to deal with the real world from turning too often to the state to deal with what we should be able to deal with ourselves.

This leads to my second concern, which is the subject of an excellent op-ed by Catherine Rampell in this morning’s Washington Post: “College Students run crying to Daddy Administrator” https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/college-students-run-crying-to-daddy-administrator/2016/05/19/61b53f54-1deb-11e6-9c81-4be1c14fb8c8_story.html

In her column Ms. Rampell says: “I applaud students who want to create a diverse, welcoming atmosphere on campus. I admire their drive to make the world around them a better, more inclusive place. What puzzles me, though, is this instinct to appeal to administrators to adjudicate any conflict.

“Rather than confronting, debating and trying to persuade those whose words or actions offend them, students demand that a paternalistic figure step in and punish offenders.

“Adult students, in other words, are demanding more of an in loco parentis role from their schools. And administrators appear ready and willing to parent.”

Political correctness, as opposed to good manners, reflects a worrying propensity to turn to and give over to authorities things we should develop the capacity to deal with ourselves. I have written about this several times before but the disease is still with us: https://wcoats.wordpress.com/2015/11/11/what-is-wrong-with-pc/

Author: Warren Coats

I specialize in advising central banks on monetary policy and the development of the capacity to formulate and implement monetary policy.  I joined the International Monetary Fund in 1975 from which I retired in 2003 as Assistant Director of the Monetary and Financial Systems Department. While at the IMF I led or participated in missions to the central banks of over twenty countries (including Afghanistan, Bosnia, Croatia, Egypt, Iraq, Israel, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Kosovo, Kyrgystan, Moldova, Serbia, Turkey, West Bank and Gaza Strip, and Zimbabwe) and was seconded as a visiting economist to the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (1979-80), and to the World Bank's World Development Report team in 1989.  After retirement from the IMF I was a member of the Board of the Cayman Islands Monetary Authority from 2003-10 and of the editorial board of the Cayman Financial Review from 2010-2017.  Prior to joining the IMF I was Assistant Prof of Economics at UVa from 1970-75.  I am currently a fellow of Johns Hopkins Krieger School of Arts and Sciences, Institute for Applied Economics, Global Health, and the Study of Business Enterprise.  In March 2019 Central Banking Journal awarded me for my “Outstanding Contribution for Capacity Building.”  My recent books are One Currency for Bosnia: Creating the Central Bank of Bosnia and Herzegovina; My Travels in the Former Soviet Union; My Travels to Afghanistan; My Travels to Jerusalem; and My Travels to Baghdad. I have a BA in Economics from the UC Berkeley and a PhD in Economics from the University of Chicago. My dissertation committee was chaired by Milton Friedman and included Robert J. Gordon.

3 thoughts on “On being Adults”

  1. I think it is the “perpetuation of childhood” into the stages where children are living away from home and pretending to be adults (age 17-24). Since many that age not in college can’t get $15/hr. jobs, they also remain childish.
    Children require “parents” as when “Susie took my cookies; wah; Mommie!.” Even the image of a judge in a courtroom is providing that “parent” role, but since lawyers are expensive and judges don’t want silly disputes, most adults discover wine or other relaxations for frustrations.
    Mostly cultural tolerance, and laissez faire is the best policy.

  2. It is not usually mentioned that the DOEd “guidance” requirement to permit transgenders to use the facility corresponding to their gender identity only applies to those individuals whom the school has formally recognized that they have changed their gender identity and whom the school treats as that gender for all other purposes. I expect that getting that recognition is a wrenching process even where the school administration is sympathetic.

    Damn few teenage boys are going to be interested in going through the process for getting recognized as girls in order to crash the girl’s john.

    The specter of men dressing up as girls in order to get into the girls bathroom is an illusion. Any who tried it are (as you point out) breaking the law and are not in any way protected by the guidance.

  3. Warren: I am getting very weary of the “lawfare” that is being waged by culture warriors on both sides of the sex and gender debates, particularly with respect to transgenderism. Given the apparent fluid nature of transgenderism, I do not see how the law can determine who is genuinely (or not) transgendered other than by self-identification. Who decides, and on what basis? This makes it very difficult to reasonably impose, on the one hand, rigid anti-discrimination principles, or, on the other hand, rigid bans as to the use of restrooms assigned to those of other than one’s own biological sex. There are genuine competing interests here both on the part of the “transgendered” who have a need for the use of bathroom facilities somewhere with assurance of safety and reasonable convenience, and the part of biological females who have a need for protection from predatory biological males. (Curiously, in the case of FTM transgendered, these interests are aligned, which is something that seems to draw very little comment.) We simply do not have the ability or experience to balance these interests in a reasonable manner for the time being. Thus, I see no reasonable solution for the foreseeable future other than for public officials and proprietors of public accommodations to use their discretion in individuals cases. Such discretion will be used mistakenly or even abusively times, but that is preferable, for now, over “lawfare” by culture warrior activists disguised as public officials.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: