"Referring to someone by the wrong gender pronoun (he/him, she/her) should be a criminal offense," millennials say in a new poll. Americans, particularly younger Americans, often lament that our country has such problems with policing and mass incarceration. But when it comes to decriminalizing or lessening penalties for things that put people in cops' crosshairs, few want to give an inch unless the crime in question involves cannabis. Meanwhile, way too many express enthusiasm for creating criminal prohibitions on anything they wish wouldn't happen.
Case in point: a new Newsweek poll on misgendering. In the poll—given to 1,500 eligible voters in the U.S. in early July by Redfield & Wilton Strategies—people were asked whether "referring to someone by the wrong gender pronoun (he/him, she/her) should be a criminal offense."
A shocking percentage of younger survey respondents said that it should.
Younger millennials were the most likely to support criminal penalties for misgendering, with 44 percent of 25- to 34-year-old respondents in favor and just 31 percent saying misgendering should not be a crime.
But support for criminalizing misgendering was also strong among older millennials and Gen Z, though the younger group was less gung-ho about it:
- Some 38 percent of 35- to 44-year-old respondents said it should be a crime, while 35 percent disagreed.
- Some 33 percent of 18- to 24-year-old respondents said it should be a crime, while 48 percent disagreed.
Among survey respondents overall, 19 percent said misgendering should be criminalized. Nearly two-thirds—65 percent—said it should not be criminalized, while 12 percent neither agreed nor disagreed and 4 percent said they didn't know.
Calling people by their preferred pronouns is certainly the kind thing to do, just as it is to call people by their preferred name or honorific. Conversely, deliberately misgendering someone is a jerk move.
But the purpose of criminal law isn't to punish people for being jerks, and it's a perverted society that thinks everything offensive or bad must be criminalized.
In this particular case, criminalizing misgendering would also run into First Amendment concerns. Forcing someone to use particular pronouns under threat of criminal penalty would be government-compelled speech, which our Constitution frowns upon.
The Newsweek survey results are disturbing, but we may be able to chalk some of it up to social desirability bias. People want to answer survey questions in a way that makes them look good. Asked the pronoun crime question in isolation and the abstract, some respondents may have responded affirmatively as a means to signal disapproval for misgendering people and support for transgender acceptance. Faced with a specific, real-world proposal to criminalize misgendering, perhaps (hopefully!) not quite so many people would be on board.
Iowa court halts 6-week abortion ban. Just a few days after Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds, a Republican, signed a strict abortion ban into law, a Polk County district court has put the law on hold. The suspended measure would make most abortions illegal after six weeks of pregnancy. From The New York Times:
Joseph Seidlin, a district court judge in Polk County, said that the new ban would be suspended while the larger legal case against it moved forward. He said in his ruling that the plaintiffs who filed a lawsuit against the ban, including the American Civil Liberties Union, Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers, were likely to succeed on the merits of their case.
That means that abortion in Iowa is once again legal up to around 22 weeks of pregnancy, at least for now.
In his ruling, Seidlin wrote that "there are good, honorable and intelligent people—morally, politically and legally—on both sides of this upsetting societal and constitutional dilemma."
Income inequality is shrinking. After the Great Recession, "predictions of economic decline took over," notes Yascha Mounk at The Atlantic. "America, a country long known for its inveterate optimism, came to dread the future—in which it now appeared that most people would have less and less."
American discourse was rife with concerns about stagnation and rising income inequality. Yet "the reasons for economic pessimism have started to look less convincing than they once were," notes Mounk:
The U.S. economy, [MIT economist David] Autor wrote in a highly influential paper in 2010, is bifurcating. Even as demand for high-skilled workers rose, demand for "middle-wage, middle-skill white-collar and blue-collar jobs" was contracting. America's economy, which had once provided plenty of middle-class jobs, was splitting into a highly affluent professional stratum and a large remainder that was becoming more immiserated. The overall outcome, according to Autor, was "falling real earnings for noncollege workers" and "a sharp rise in the inequality of wages."
Autor's past work on the falling wages of a major segment of the American workforce makes it all the more notable that he now sounds far more optimistic. Because companies were desperately searching for workers at the tail-end of the pandemic, Autor argues in a working paper published earlier this year, low-wage workers found themselves in a much better bargaining position. There has been a remarkable reversal in economic fortunes.
"Disproportionate wage growth at the bottom of the distribution reduced the college wage premium and reversed the rise in aggregate wage inequality since 1980 by approximately one quarter," Autor writes. The big winners of recent economic trends are precisely those groups that had been left out in preceding decades: "The rise in wages was particularly strong among workers under 40 years of age and without a college degree."
Even after accounting for inflation, Autor shows, the bottom quarter of American workers has seen a significant boost in income for the first time in years. The scholar who previously wrote about the "polarization" in the U.S. workforce now concludes that the American economy is experiencing an "unexpected compression." In other words, the wealth gap is narrowing with surprising speed.
And Autor isn't the only economist noticing this.
While many Americans hang on to beliefs that income inequality is rising, "the intellectual basis for the thesis has begun to wobble," Mounk points out. More here.
Statement of U.S. Attorney Damian Williams on intention to file for contempt and seek a court-appointed receiver to address conditions on Rikers Islandhttps://t.co/ZjG4gVy5Zc
— US Attorney SDNY (@SDNYnews) July 17, 2023
• "Georgia's Supreme Court on Monday denied Donald Trump's bid to halt the Fulton County district attorney's probe into whether the former president and his allies interfered in the state's 2020 presidential election," reports NBC News.
• "Based on his private statements to colleagues, we know that former Fox News personality Tucker Carlson did not believe Trump lawyer Sidney Powell's wild claims about systematic fraud in the 2020 presidential election," notes Reason's Jacob Sullum. Yet Carlson "was singing a different tune [Sunday] at the Turning Point Action Conference in West Palm Beach, Florida."
• Pop star John Legend, an Ohio native, is attempting to rally people against an August ballot measure that would make it harder to amend the state's constitution. The Republican-backed measure comes in response to efforts to put an abortion-supportive amendment on the ballot this fall.
• Legal scholar James Grimmelmann talks about how various content moderation proposals "might hold up under US federal communication privacy regimes including the Wiretap Act, the Stored Communications Act, and the Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act (CALEA)."