Explaining Unequal Inequality Aversion

My post Thursday on Men’s Rights has spawned 119 comments so far, suggesting I could be clearer on my position.  So here goes.

My interests starts mainly from being puzzled by what kinds of inequality bother people, and what kinds do not.  In much of social science, gender, race/ethnicity, and class are such overwhelming issues that someone like the political scientist blogger Paul Gowder states his positions on his about page.  And most discussion of these “sensitive” categories is about various associated unequal and presumed unfair outcomes.  Policy discussions are often overwhelmed by concern for how policies may differentially effect sensitive categories.  And intellectuals face enormous social retribution should they ever be seen as speaking generally and negatively about a presumed unfairly maligned sensitive group.

Yet other “insensitive” categories are associated with huge inequalities, which few folks seem interested in talking about, much less considering how policy might influence.  There is no social pressure whatsoever against maligning these groups.  Especially striking are inequalities in attractiveness as a friend, lover, etc. not mediated by sensitive categories.  These factors include physical appearance, vigor, charisma, personality, height, etc.  Folks are well aware such inequalities exist, but have little concern about them, and no interest in policies to reduce them.

An especially striking example is inequality among men in their ability to attract women as lovers.  If you don’t like “alpha/beta” labels, then call it what you will, but there are consistent correlations among men in this regard, which are consistently correlated with insensitive categories.  While this inequality has large consequences for utility and happiness, there is no interest in reducing it, and people feel quite comfortable insulting these type of “losers”.

This is the phenomena I was struggling with in my post on Thursday.  I suggested a partial explanation:

By sympathizing with creatures who suffer in ways that kids might suffer, people signal their parental nurturing instincts.  And beta men look better by acting altruistic toward creatures that women feel sympathy for. .. But women who sympathized with sex-deprived beta males actually might give them sex, which would not exactly impress the men these women prefer.  So since women are built to have little sympathy for sex-starved betas, betas don’t gain by showing sympathy to other betas.  And since alphas gain little from showing altruism, literally no one cares.

But I’m way way open to other theories.  Got any?

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