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Saudi Arabia Agrees to Let Women Drive (nytimes.com)
352 points by fmihaila on Sept 26, 2017 | hide | past | web | favorite | 205 comments

"Low oil prices have limited the government jobs that many Saudis have long relied on, and the kingdom is trying to push more citizens, including women, into gainful employment. But some working Saudi women say hiring private drivers to get them to and from work eats up much of their pay, diminishing the incentive to work."

I'm guessing that this is the biggest driver - Saudi Arabia just cannot afford to not allow this anymore.

The dual income household had an unbelievable impact on Western and Asian economies, buoying incredible growth.

How the KSA handles the coming social liberalization will be interesting, Chinese women still grapple with social conservative attitudes regarding working women (ie: leftover women). It is inevitable that the people of the KSA will encounter similar difficulties.

Actually, the "leftover women" phrase refers to the relationship / marital status of some women, not their job status. Many of these women (including people I know personally) have reclaimed the term as a compliment -- there's a pun where they substitute a word that roughly means god-like or badass.

My mom and both of my grandmothers lived in a world where the dual income household is the norm, and has been the norm since the 50's, but since the 80's and 90's, there has been a retrograde shift because for a while, being a stay-at-home-mom became a status symbol. However, all of my cousins, male or female, are part of dual-income households. (They all live in Shanghai.) But that's a much longer rant and off-topic to the current discussion.

But +1 to your initial point, re: effect of dual income households on the economy.

Knowing more than a handful of 20s-30s ladies in SH through my Toastmasters club, although there is selection bias, they are some of the most capable, driven, hard working, talented young people I have ever met. And I am almost 50 so have seen a bit over the years. If they were unleashed by the system and cultural expectations, norms, and restrictions, there is nothing they could not accomplish.

" buoying incredible growth."

That only depends on how you measure value.

A parent leaves their kids with their grandparents during the day = $0 GDP.

A parent drops of them off at daycare = +$X GDP.

Just because people were not working in the economic system does not mean there was not real value creation.

My mother sometimes worked, sometimes did not. The difference in the quality of our lives was quite noticeably more negative when she worked. That 'negative value' is not measured in the GDP - only the 'positive value' of her income.

I'm not saying that she shouldn't have, and certainly not that there should not have been mass reforms - but it's important to remember that much of 'real consumer surplus' is simply not measured in the GDP.

Policies that focus on the GDP tend to overweight measurable economic activity - while other elements are externalized and suffer.

The environment, community, social cohesion - they all have value to us but because we don't put numbers behind them, they don't fit into the equations very well.

I also question the benefits of dual income families. For the economy, it might benefit certain people in society, typically the wealthy. At the household level, it can actually be detrimental (though obviously not always). Do we really need many cars, large homes, all this stuff filling our large homes?

>> buoying incredible growth

Then why not much deviation from historical trend lines:


denial of liberty is expensive.

If a country thinks it's okay to throw half of its brain power down the sinkhole, sure, why not, go ahead and do it. Just don't start crying afterwards that other countries are zooming past you on the highway to progress.

And renewables/EVs are just getting started. It will be interesting to see what other freedoms Saudis will allow once EVs and renewables are a significant portion of the global market.

Perhaps freedoms will be taken by force by the Saudi citizens... when the petrol money runs out, the economic situation will worsen while the ability of the ruling elite to use money to keep the regime's stability will be greatly reduced. Looks like Prince Mohammed bin Salman understands this, and that is why he's trying to reduce his country's reliance on petrol money.

Ugg, unfortunately the problem is the opposite.

If you look at what the average person believes in that area, you will see that "allowing women to drive" is a very progressive opinion that makes the Saudi government/royalty a shining beacon of liberty, when you compare them to the opinions of the average person there.

In actuality, a populous democracy revolution would probably end the same way that the Iranian or MB Egyptian revolution ended.

I don't think "freedom" being seized by the Saudi citizens would have the result you seem to imagine it would.

In my country the ability to build a family on a single average income closed decades ago.

It's a strange statement because low oil prices are caused by Saudi Arabia's own policies.

That is overly simplistic indeed.

Macro forces leave them a certain percentage wiggle room in production to affect price but US oil and the world wide reduction in demand rule even over OPEC at its strongest and OPEC is practically dead really.

While US producers price their projects in the $25-35 cost per boe produced and the Fed keeps rates low the US can keep on trucking and Saudi can do very little about it. There are billions of barrels of oil sitting offshore in ships waiting for better prices.

There are hundreds of fracked fields that can be turned on and off like a faucet.

Sure offshore deep water is slow due to cost and cannot respond to swings readily but the fundamentals changed years ago.

::slow clap::

It is absolutely appalling that this type of backwardness is still a reality in the 21st century.

The faster we can transition to clean, renewable energy, the better for everyone in the world.

My favorite example is the South Carolina law that was finally rescinded a few years back, where bars had to serve their mixed alcoholic drinks with liquor poured from single-serving 'airline' style bottles. A colossal waste of time and resources, but the kicker was the arguments against rescinding the law-- some folks arguing that DUI rates would go through the roof and The Children (TM) would all die, and others arguing that bartenders would rip off patrons with 'short pours'.

All without a single thought to stop and consider the example of the other 49 states, not to mention other countries...

Laws related to firearms are often similar.

The current example is the effort to make suppressors more available. Those opposed are already pushing tales of dramatically increasing crime rates and poaching instead of acknowledging that even suppressed firearms are still very loud or that many other OECD countries (which have more strict regulation) allow or even encourage the use of suppressors.

The sad part about using fear to support or oppose change is that you rarely end up with solutions that actually solve the underlying societal problem via a sensible compromise.

> many other OECD countries (which have more strict regulation) allow or even encourage the use of suppressors.

Now this piques my curiosity. Could you perchance name some examples?

New Zealand is one.

A few years ago, a friend took me to a firing range near Dunedin, and I watched someone fit a suppressor to an AR15 style weapon.

New Zealand firearms regulations are incredibly tight. I never verified this, but I'm told that this particular AR15 was licensed and restricted to be used by him alone. His wife was also a shooter, and if she wanted to shoot an AR15, she would have to buy her own otherwise she would be committing a firearms offense.

On the other hand, I was also told that if I wanted a firearms license and the endorsement to allow me to own pistols, I would need to be a member of the pistol club, shooting regularly for six months, before I could apply for the endorsement. However, I could also apply for my firearms license AND the P endorsement on the same day, having been a regular shooter at the range beforehand.

One reason behind the strict regulation of firearms in New Zealand is the Aramoana massacre from November 1990. David Gray, who owned several military-style firearms, used these weapons to murder a number of people over the course of two days before finally being killed by police.

Kiwi here. I'd like to add that to own a pistol you'd have to also leave it locked up at the gun club.

Our laws are based around the idea that a gun can be owned for hunting or collection but not self defence. So restrictions are in place to restrict pistols and automatic weapons to gun clubs and hunting weapons still require a license. The license requires you to pass a gun safety test and a background check. Then a police officer will inspect you have a secure cabinet to store the gun in.

Some European countries where, if you can buy a gun, you can buy a suppressor: UK, Norway, Finland, and France (rimfire only).

EDIT: Removed Germany from list

I think that's not correct about Germany: buying a suppressor is treated similar to the gun it's for. So for an air rifle that doesn't require a permit, you can get the suppressor just as easily. But if it's for a weapon you need a permit for (any real gun), you also need an extra permit to buy the suppressor, just because you can own the gun doesn't mean you can own a matching suppressor. And only a few states allow them at all, and if they do generally only for some hunters.

Thanks for the correction. I misinterpreted the wikipedia article and assumed that if you had a hunting license you could buy a suppressor, when in fact a hunting license is (in Bavaria at least) one step towards getting a license for a suppressor.

Why do some countries encourage the use of suppressors?

Think about it.

The threshold for potential instant noise-induced hearing loss is 120 dB SPL at the ear. A rifle can exceed 170 dB SPL at a distance of one meter[1]. When you're shooting a rifle, it's going to be cradled firmly against the shoulder -- a lot closer than 1 meter. Even the lowly .22lr fired from a handgun can exceed 160 dB SPL[2]. A suppressor can knock that down about 30 dB. 130 dB is still a lot, but it's out of the 'will-immedately-and-permanently-damage-your-hearing' range at least, and makes further hearing protection (earmuffs, earplugs) that much more effective.

tl;dr - A suppressor is safety equipment.

1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sound_pressure#Examples_of_sou... 2. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Suppressor#Effectiveness

Maybe it should be a thing for the gun range then. Require people to attach them there and require that they leave them there.

In general, if people are shooting outside in my neighborhood, I'd rather be woken up. That's not the type of thing that should go unnoticed. And I live in the middle of San Franciso where I've watched people get shot and killed.

As someone living in a rural area, near a nature preserve, I'd prefer the opposite.

I'm tired of being woken up way too early in the morning by gunshots. Waterfowl season started last weekend, so it was shotguns going off a mile away. Rifle season for deer starts soon (it's bowhunting season now), and that will bring its own set of loud noises from even closer.

I'm all for suppressors, if only so I can sleep past 5AM without having to keep my windows closed.

Honestly, if suppressors were widely available to the general public, I'd love it for people to be using them on the range. Even if he's on the far opposite lane of the range, the guy shooting a .300 Winchester Magnum is still damn loud. But I don't think they should be limited to the gun range.

Out in the suburbs, or further out on the edge of the city where things start to get rural, if someone has a big enough backyard that they can safely fire a .22, I'd rather they use a suppressor. It's not a case of not being woken or not by the danger of violence in the neighborhood, it's a case of neighborly manners. It's more similar to me not running a guitar amplifier after 9pm. Nobody likes to be disrupted by loud noises when they don't need to be.

It's a safety issue. Suppressors do not work like the purely fictional "silencers" of the movies. They take a deafening, hearing-injury-inducing bang and turn it merely into a loud noise. Modern suppressors actually aid accuracy too, making collateral damage less likely.

Maybe so that, unlike in the U. S., if one lives within five miles of a gun range, one won’t be awakened on Sunday morning by gunfire. Me, I don’t mind it all that much, but there’s a gun range I can hear from the house. I haven’t mapped it, but it is at least three miles away. Here’s the kicker: I live smack in the middle of Redmond, WA. You know, where Microsoft is at? In case you were thinking I live in the sticks. But the gun range was here long before Microsoft showed up. (That one up by Willows Road in the middle of a subdivision, if you’re local.)

Haha! Those were gun shots? TIL!

I can't speak for those countries, but I wish my state would encourage or even require them as a matter of politeness, quality of life and public health. Suppressed guns are less of a noise nuisance to neighbors/other land users, disturb wildlife to a lesser degree, and are much safer for hearing. In the case of small calibers they can eliminate the need for separate hearing protection which increases situational awareness and thus safety. They also increase accuracy of course (longer barrel).

They are expensive, but not prohibitively so imo. It's unfortunate the movie/TV industry really seems to have poisoned the well a bit there.

Neighborliness and hearing protection are the reasons I've heard.

True, we should work on the true underlying societal problem -- a society flooded with guns, a society viewing guns as a reasonable way to solve problems.

You should take a look at Utah's liquor laws some time. Perfect example of what happens when people who don't drink decide to legislate alcohol.

>...and The Children (TM) would all die...

All the people from CA who chucked when they read this should consider the pot and kettle relationship.

There are still groups of humans living relatively or completely unconnected from the world that wouldn't seem out of place 10,000 years ago. It's not exactly appalling that societies that don't respect basic freedoms exist, it's appalling that they're allowed to participate at all in the global economy and society.

<< insert picture of Saudi prince and president shaking hands >>

Not "less and less"?


Just wait until the 22nd century. People will wonder how crazy we were to allow humans full control of a two tonne chunk of steel, where a lapse of concentration for a few seconds could easily kill themselves and others. And let’s not even begin to think about it being propelled by controlled ignition of highly flammable fluids...

We don't look back harshly at steam trains. They did the best they could with what they had. (If anything, there's strong nostalgia!)

Why do you think petrol will be different? Electric is only marginally viable now, more than a century after internal combustion's invention.

This is a REALLY big deal. I was born and raised there. Glad to see some progress.

is it the first time or, like lebannon or iran, there was a time when women could drive before ?

First time in Saudi. Women were never banned from driving in Lebanon, not sure about Iran, but I don't think so

Sorry I didn't mean driving per se, but in the 70s women had more freedom and it regressed since.

That's not exactly true. People tout those photographs of "liberated" women in Iran in the 70's but that was a tiny slice of a female urban lifestyle restricted to a small number of elite women. That was not representative of the lives of the overwhelming majority of Iranian women.

Iran was still far more liberal in general before the cultural revolution, no? Women don't have to be in nice clothes in urban areas to not be repressed by clerical rule backed by state rule... There may have been societal pressure but it's significantly different when it's backed by government security services and religious police.

Yes, the Shah of Iran pushed a massive modernisation program [aka liberal agenda] to westernise Iran. The pushback from conservative elements was one of the driving forces of the revolution.

The interference from western powers to prop up the Shah did not help matters.

At least this was the impression I got from my time in Iran and visiting the tourist sites.

Actually, and this is forgotten by most non Iranians, the revolution against the shah was NOT Islamic.

It was a coalition of factions that took him down including socialists and communists. The ayatollah and his followers seized the country within a few years though and turned it into an Islamic republic.

I'm aware of that. Everyone from socialists to islamists banded together to overthrow the shah, and the from this chaos the ayatollah and his followers seized the country.

> The pushback from conservative elements was one of the driving forces of the revolution.

The other driving force being the CIA.

I thought CIA installed the Shah? They didn't also depose him, did they? I mean I know they have always been really short-sighted about this sort of thing, but that would take the cake...

You are right. I had my history mixed up and was thinking of the coup, not the revolution.

Oh ok, thanks for the correction.

Women have been driving in Iran for decades.

Women can drive in Iran.

The use of "Agrees" in the headline reveals societal bias. "Decides" would have been better.

Well, I believe that they were the last country in the world to prohibit it, so even if you look at it from a societal bias perspective, Saudi Arabia's policy is now in agreement with everyone else.

Is there something wrong with societal bias? Especially towards ideals like personal liberty?

In journalism, yes.

The word "bias" probably should have tipped you off

Or not? One can be biased toward life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness, or any number of generally-agreeable things.

I'm biased against death, and toward life. I don't generally feel a need to disclose that, since it's a widely-shared bias.

No, the use of the word “agrees” conveys the fact that there was a party other than the one making the decision requesting the outcome, while “decides" is less specific. There is no “bias” revealed except one toward communicating facts.

Now, if there was editorializing about the desirability of the decision, e.g., “finally agrees”, you'd have a point about bias (though the would be bias of those involved in the headline, not necessarily societal bias.)

Of course, there is a widespread (though not universal) societal bias toward treating women at least as human beings with the basic right to participate indepebdently in society, and I don't have any problem with that. But nothing in the headline points to that bias.

I'm totally in support of this. Strangely, the second thought after "wow" that I had was: I wonder what the backlash will be. I think my big, pessimistic lesson from the Obama years was that moves that I see as progress will probably be met with an equal and opposite antithesis.

But do they have to be accompanied on that drive by a male relative?

It's not mentioned anywhere in the article that a male relative is required to be in the car. Also, it sounds like their police will need some training to interact with female drivers, as by my understanding Saudi women don't normally interact with people who aren't family members.

The police will need to be trained to interact with women in a way that they rarely do in a society where men and women who are not related rarely interact.

I suppose that women driving alone would also extend new interactions with gas stations, shops, etc. Perhaps that won't open up all at once, but this does seem to open more than one door.

> I suppose that women driving alone would also extend new interactions with gas stations, shops, etc.

It could work out quite well for them if they're open to hiring women to work in businesses that support female drivers. e.g. female driving instructors, female gas station attendants, etc.

Low oil prices have limited the government jobs that many Saudis have long relied on, and the kingdom is trying to push more citizens, including women, into gainful employment.

Time to start recruiting female police officers!

It's pretty messed up how this mirrors similar questions that come up when discussing autonomous vehicles- While we in the West try to come to grips with the agency of computer systems, other places are still trying to come to grips with agency for adult humans.

It's crazy to think that women will only have been driving in Saudi Arabia for at most 20 years before the autonomous vehicles are required and no one drives anymore.

We in the West are still struggling to come to grips with agency for adult humans.

Sorry if I didn't couch my argument with enough disclaimers to satisfy every variant of moral relativism- Yes, both the US and Saudi Arabia struggle with human rights, in some fashion.

Doesn't look like it. "I am my own guardian" gives the context. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-41411799

That detail seems conspicuously absent. I would be curious to know if they will be allowed to buy and own their own car as well.

Serious question: how safe is it to drive with a burqa?

Germany has recently banned burqas while driving[1], but not because they were considered unsafe. Instead, the ban forbids having anything that makes you impossible to identify in camera.

So my guess is that they are not really unsafe, or they would have been banned earlier for that specific reason.

[1] http://www.dw.com/en/german-bundesrat-approves-burqa-ban-for...

Burqas are not terribly popular in Saudi Arabia. It is generally a niqab or chador country.

I wonder to what extent private families/society at large will accept women driving?

Posting as anon because I don't want to be condemned, honestly, you can't marginalize half of your population and be successful and you don't need a degree in econ to understand that. It's simple math.

But a degree in history would show you that yes, indeed you can marginalize half your population and be quite successful for a very long time.

When money bubbles out of the ground or grows on trees, yes, yes you can.

The window of time in which a majority of the members of a society have been franchised in the history of human societies is fleetingly short, totaling the last 50-100 years.

How is this helpful if they cannot be outside alone without a male relative?

It is helpful because women can be outside alone without male relatives. You realize that most women go around with personal drivers rather than male relatives.

Isn't the male relative's guardianship considered to pass to the 'servant' that accompanies them?

Would they still need permission of the male in their household to drive?

When do they stop executing gays?

When climate change makes the Middle East too hot to be habitable by humans (http://money.cnn.com/2015/10/27/news/climate-change-middle-e...).


Except for: 1. Jordan (Decriminalised) 2. Turkey (Legal) 3. Lebanon (Allowable) 4. Oman (Illegal but tolerated) 5. Bahrain (Legal) 6. Iraq North (Kurdistan) 7. Palestine

Capital punishment is "only" carried out in: Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Iran, Afghanistan, Mauritania, Sudan, and northern Nigeria.

It's often better to not make assumptions, or quietly inform yourself first on subjects that you're not familiar with.

Homosexuality is legal in Bahrain and Turkey? wow you just came up with something completely untrue and misleading. Regardless what you categorize as Allowable? what does it mean? Do something in secret behind the government eyes!

Way to make broad generalizations. Homosexuality is not illegal in Jordan or Bahrain, and socially tolerated in many other places.

Those countries are constitutional monarchies. Saudi Arabia is an Islamic monarchy. Very unlikely that an Islamic state will ever condone homosexuality.

Not even sex without marriage in all arab-islamic countries.

When do we stop tying religion to geography?

Probably when geographic boundaries no longer determine whether one will be subjected to religious law: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Legal_system_of_Saudi_Arabia

Probably the better question is when we stop tying it to politics. These two can be either related or not. But some countries are practically single-religion based, so it's fair to describe them in that context.

It's fair indeed. For now. What I'd like to know is how we can get the situation to evolve.

Anyway that doesn't mean they can actually drive in real life, i am sure there will be more strict regulations about this issue beside the masculine religious community opposition.

I had to just check, yep it is the 21st century.

The 21st century is not as homogeneous as you think. Not every country will have the same cultural timeline as the USA, and it's odd to me that comments like yours are so prevalent. The world is bigger than america. Comments like this just seem incredibly self-centered, and a bit culturally supremacist.

Why is the OP automatically deemed an American for expressing cynicism? Its amazing that you yourself see no hypocrisy in making such discriminatory remarks based on what you perceive another's nationality to be.

The 21st century might not be homogenous but please name me one other place on the planet where women can't drive, where women can't open a banking account[1], or where women can't enter a Starbucks[2] or where there are public beheadings on Fridays[3]

Actually name one other place that even comes close to that level of chauvinism and barbarism. That cynicism is not without merit.

[1] http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/five-thi...

[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deera_Square

[3] https://www.eater.com/2016/2/1/10885722/saudi-arabia-starbuc...

To your first point, I could/should have replaced "America" with "western culture", but it originally made the sentence less clear. I noticed the hypocrisy =)

To your second point, I was not talking about the specifics of Saudia Arabia, but rather the common idom of going "what centry is this" with respect to judging other cultures. People forget that western history is distinct from world history. And it feels a bit supremacist too - "Western culture is at X point, so everyone should be at X point"

Saudi's polity is as modern (as '21st century' if you like) as that of the US. Wahhabism and the 'Western Enlightenment' were each 18C movements, distinctly 'modern'.

The notion that history is a linear, unidirectional & inevitable march of progress is highly contestable (to say the least).

Not in Saudi Arabia.

Don't know whether to be happy this happened or sad that it took so long!

Welcome to the twentieth century, Saudi Arabia.

Yeah, someone needs to buy their oil.

Just today I had someone casually mention that he thought women should not be allowed to vote. This is the Netherlands, the person is Dutch, not muslim or some other culture that I might not be used to, we're master's students... nothing out of the ordinary. And the third person in the conversation apparently agreed, calling it bad to prohibit it in principle but "seeing the effects of allowing women to vote" he agreed.

What the hell. Don't let women vote because they tend to vote "left" and "emotionally" (allegedly). What if the women of this planet decide that male votes are shit, what then? Are we just going to have to fight it out? (I didn't really get a response to that.)

I just don't have words for this, it's so alien. Am I weird for rejecting the notion out of hand?

Edit: two downvotes, please explain? I am honestly interested in opinions; I just found it very weird to hear someone say this.

A lot of philisophical points like this took a long time to develop (universal suffrage). Even if it seems "obvious" today, most people are just parroting what they've been taught and don't give it much consideration.

Why don't you use the opportunity to address the points intellectually rather than silently thinking they are wrong?

First of all, the statements are very different. One of your acquaintences advocated prohibition, while the other merely opined that the overall results were negative without supporting prohibition.

What are the dangers in each position? How do the arguments apply to other questions, like voting age? How do the arguments apply to other groups, like citizens/noncitizens or felons/nonfelons?

I'm not an expert here, but I know there are some tough questions here that you might find difficult to answer. And then you might better understand how someone might hold a misguided position.

Really, most peoples' thinking is muddled on these issues because they haven't studied them. The only thing that keeps most people from saying such things is politocal correctness.

>"most people are just parroting what they've been taught and don't give it much consideration"

Careful here. This can be said about the other side as well to parrot news stations, media outlets and propaganda. This is surely no way to address such a situation - it is one-sided and judgmental. You need to open-minded if you want to hold such a difficult conversation.

I include myself in the group "most people". I believe in a lot of modern liberal (in the freedom sense) ideas, but I don't think I could win a debate about them.

Basically I just believe the modern liberal ideas because they sound right to me and I haven't heard any serious rebuttal. "Parroting" might be a bit harsh, but only a bit.

I think the key to what we call political correctness is having the common assumption or axiom that all humans are just as human and not fundamentally different in any significant way.

As an individual you may not hold this belief in your heart, you may feel that some types of people are more or less qualified for certain tasks but when you start having a political discussion it is pragmatic for all parties to accept the previously mentioned axiom.

Some individuals are so firm in their beliefs that they refuse to accept the 'politically correct' viewpoint and so they devolve the discussion with arguments based on assumptions that make discrimination a foregone conclusion. Thankfully most people differ in the way they are politically incorrect so they feel that other peoples discriminatory assumptions are faulty, however, echo chambers...

I am confused. Why are you defining "political correctness" in that way?

it was just a placeholder phrase for the concept I wanted to point out.

I just don't have words for this, it's so alien.

I think a lot of historical precedent for keeping women out of certain things is rooted in the reality that women are the weakest link: If you go to war and lose too many women, you cannot recover. It takes nine months to gestate a baby, no matter how many men she sleeps with. But, one man can potentially impregnate multiple women and your people are not doomed to extinction.

Those biological limitations drive a lot of social norms. But, many people don't really understand that. Instead, they kind of have certain instincts or habits or thought patterns, but they are divorced from the reasons the human race developed certain social norms.

We forget that women are the weakest biological link and conclude they are the weaker sex. And it goes bad places.

Sort of like a programming bug. You inject instructions without context into an environment they were not intended for and things go sideways.

That is probably not true in all cases. But, it is a framing that I find useful.

Yeah you're right that is weird especially that both agreed, are you sure they weren't trolling you? But I do agree with voting irrationally being a problem in democracy. I just don't think it's only women that do that.

I'd love it if, in order to vote, you had to name one policy position that the party you are voting for holds. I know we want everyone to vote so we can say participation is high but I'd rather only those interested enough to know what's going on voted.

We already had these, known as poll literacy tests. They were intended to weed out undesirable votes known to vote emotionally and irrationally.

I hope the dark sarcasm isn't lost on readers of my comments.

Literacy tests are not what the person above you is talking about.

Historically, literacy tests had nothing to do with literacy, they were exclusively for racist purposes, and to subjugate 'undesireables'. They were handed out at the (almost certainly racist) poller's discretion, and the tests themselves were worded so poorly that most of the questions had no single, correct answer. They were not real tests. Comparing literacy tests to the above poster's suggestion is like comparing aspirin to cyanide because they can both be put into a pill and swallowed.

Over the past few years, we've seen numerous examples of the destruction that voters can create in democratic societies. Turkey is probably not a democracy any more, Russia definitely isn't. Brexit is probably due to a campaign that was based on out right lies. The notion that universal suffrage may not be the best system is no longer unreasonable. We certainly have lots of examples by now.

What does it mean in a democracy if people are voting for options that they literally know nothing about?

Here's an example of a voting test that I think would be totally fair. 3-6 months before the election, 20 multiple choice questions, and their answers, are released. The questions are all simple statement of facts. "What is the name of the person currently in such and such position." "What number amendment is quoted here". "If the president and vice president die, what is the name of the person who would assume the role of president." Then, when someone submits a ballot, they're handed 5 of these questions chosen at random, and they have to answer 4 correctly. The questions are all known ahead of time, so if there's a problem with one of them, everyone will know. If someone gets into the polling booth and can't answer these questions, then they don't know the most basic facts of our political system, and they didn't even bother to look them up even though they were explicitly told that they should know them.

Universal suffrage was a huge improvement on the political systems that came before, but that doesn't mean there isn't a better way.

"Any adult can vote" is the best rule. Any restriction, no matter how innocuous it sounds, can and will be abused to disenfranchise voting blocs those in power don't like.

Lol, this is so incredible. You've essentially suggested the reintroduction of a voter literacy test... now consider the context of that suggestion.

To be honest I'd never heard about voter literacy tests. I'm not in the states so the context is not something I'm aware of.

I know it creates more problems than it solves, I just wish people would take the time and effort to have an informed opinion before voting. Even if that informed opinion is opposed to mine.

To split hairs you don't have to be literate to name a policy.

I know it creates more problems than it solves

It also strikes at the heart of what "citizen" means. See, here I thought just being a "citizen" was good enough to have the privilege to vote. But now I have to know how to read. Or name a policy. Or come up with the money to pay the poll tax. Or be a man. Or agree with you.

No, the only requirement (in the U. S.) is to be a citizen and to be registered on the list of eligible voters. Anything else, history has taught us, is an attempt at voter suppression, i. e., keeping people we don't like from voting. And citizens come in all shapes, sizes, colors, and sometimes they're ignorant as fuck, but we let 'em vote anyway. Because the alternative is to eventually devolve back to only white guys voting, and only privileged ones at that.

I just wish people would take the time and effort to have an informed opinion before voting. Even if that informed opinion is opposed to mine.

That's not to say that I'm not in full-on agreement with you. But kind of like the ol' "better a 1000 guilty men go free than..." I'd rather a populace of ignorant voters cast their votes than suppress the vote of a single eligible person, no matter how ignorant, female, or brown they might be.

Why can't we just... force everyone to attain this "privilege", then?

Like, you've already got a requirement in the US that everyone attend (public or private or home) school until they're ~16, right? So, what's wrong with requiring a civics curriculum as part of that, and then tying voting rights to a test of that civics curriculum? If people aren't passing, then they'd be temporarily disenfranchised, yes, but that'd be the government's fault/failing, not their own—and it would be up to the government to hunt them down and keep educating them until they do pass. Dragging people back (with compensation for their time) to get them qualified. Sort of like... jury duty.

Admittedly, that sounds a bit dystopian. Don't imagine cops showing up at your doorstep; just imagine it like an unpaid parking ticket. Can't get your driver's license renewed until you re-take the course; get frequent calls hounding you; etc.

The difference is that driving on public roads isn't a right, it's a privilege the state gives you when you've established N level of responsibility and competency (can afford insurance, has a working car, passes a driver's license test), so if you show yourself to fail that standard, it can be taken away.

On the other hand, we as a society have decided that citizens have a right to participate in our government through this selection mechanism. It thus needs to have a lower barrier of entry (over N age) and a higher barrier of exclusion (committed a felony).

I used the example of "can't renew driver's license" because it's already something the government uses to punish people for failing to pay various fines or file various pieces of paperwork that have nothing to do with driving. You can't renew your license if you owe on your taxes and fail to file; you can't renew your license if you get caught riding the MTA without a transfer (until you pay the fine for that); etc. It's a general "the government won't do anything for you until you do something for it" manipulation tactic. (They'd probably stop your mail, too, if building the whitelist to let them keep mailing you wasn't a Sisyphean task.)

But I'm not really suggesting exclusion. I'm more suggesting a sort of... hold? A delay. Because, under this model, you will inevitably be able to vote; it'll just take time.

For example. Imagine attempting to register to vote, one day before the polls open, and finding yourself redirected to attending a two-week full-time paid-attendance civics course (that you can't get out of, just like you can't get out of jury duty; but that your employer legally can't fault you for attending, just like they legally can't fault you for attending jury duty.)

Now imagine you pass the course. The polling date went by while you were still in the course. But you still get to vote! Two weeks late! And the votes aren't actually counted, until the people who were delayed by the government's failure to educate them, get to vote.

Of course, that's a silly implementation; it's easier to just open and close registration two weeks earlier, such that you can't register on a date such that that date + 2wks would overlap the polling day. But I think it gets the point across the best: you're not punishing these people. You're sequestering them, like a hung jury—and you're not letting the mechanism of democracy move forward until you have heard their very important voices.

Wait a minute, if there's a segment of people that can't vote, then the politicians that win won't care about them and won't be very popular with them. Why would those politicians then turn right around and help the rouge votes enter the next election? They'd be motivated to keep them out.

People graduate all the time who lack "basic" critical thinking. Is the outcome really that different than we have now?

That would solve no existing problems, and also create some additional problems that don't yet exist.

To mend hairs, literacy isn't the point - it is the fact that those who can't read (or name a policy) are ruled by those who can... they are disenfranchised. So let us shortcut all the bolt on solutions for ensuring a 100% informed voting body while avoiding disenfranchisement: you can't, it would be an attempt to maximize individual freedom within a collectivist system. If you aren't thrilled with the idea of idiots voting and having a negative influence on your life - get upset with the concept underlying voting, not the actual implementation details.

There is a real issue these days (any days really) that involve a lack of awareness of history and our place in it. From the reason votes are private to the voting rights act to keynesian economics to why Nazism is actually bad, a lot of these "edgy" /pol/-tier ideas are crop up in an environment without input from history and why the systems we have are the way they are.

There's already a self-selecting mechanism to eliminate most voters. It's called partisanship. Those people who vote for their favorite party no matter what cancel out each other's vote so they don't count. That leaves only the people who're making a decision each election that matter.

This is a good joke, but please don't believe it's actually true.

In application it's based on the false assumption that there are an equal amount of partisans on both sides.

Considering that neither major party consistently dominates in the US, I have a feeling they do cancel out. That, or the deciding-each-election voters apply pressure against any long-lasting incumbent.

They cancel out because the parties move towards the political positions that cause them to approach 50%.

I had this realization after meeting a political strategist through a mutual friend and having a conversation with him about what he does, and then I felt stupid for not having realized it before. His job is, at a high level, to find areas where polling indicates that his party's support in a particular election is a little under 50%, and then find ways to get a few more people to vote. If they reach 50% + epsilon, he's succeeded. If they reach significantly over 50%, that effort is wasted; you win an election equally well with 51% or 90% of the vote, so as long as you have 50% + a comfortable margin of error, you might as well spend your time trying to win other districts. And then, of course, the other party is trying to do same thing.

So a roughly 50/50 split in votes in a district, or in senators in Congress, or whatever, isn't indicative of an equal number of the voters being partisans of each party. You might have 10% partisans of one and 40% partisans of the other, which would cause the first party to run a centrist campaign/candidate to attract a lot of undecided voters and the second party to be willing to run a much less centrist/candidate.

Essentially, as long as you have two political parties, you're basically never going to lose the partisans (they certainly won't vote for the other party, and an extremist third party will always sound like a spoiler), so once you've settled on two major parties, they'll end up getting about 50% of the vote, even as their actual political positions move.

One way to avoid this problem would be to move to a non-first-past-the-post voting system, so a centrist third party (or one with orthogonal ideas) can successfully beat them both by attracting the non-partisans. Or, at the congressional level, move to a parliamentary system that requires forming coalition governments, which would enable something similar. But the US has neither of these.

Not sure if you’re familiar with Hotelling’s law, but you’ve basically described it here. I always like the beach shop analogy: if two vendors are selling beach chairs along a strip of sand, the optimum location is right next to each other in the middle of the strip. That way each vendor gets 50% of the customers.

It's the latter. The politics of the parties have moved over the decades, usually further left.

> That leaves only the people who're making a decision each election that matter.

But what those people are making their decision on could be as arbitrary as "would I like to have a beer with this person?" or "what was the last article I read before election day". There isn't any inherent virtue in it.

Why necessarily trolling? Here's Peter Thiel publicly saying the same thing:


Remember in ancient Greece only rich landowners could vote.

A creepily common idea among certain libertarians.

"Since 1920, the vast increase in welfare beneficiaries and the extension of the franchise to women — two constituencies that are notoriously tough for libertarians — have rendered the notion of 'capitalist democracy' into an oxymoron."

– the inimitable Peter Thiel

Anecdata, but i have never heard a self-described libertarian suggest that women should have their voting rights rescinded. At the risk of proclaiming No True Scottsman, the entire premise is so antithetical to a libertarian philosophy that i struggle to grasp how someone could embody such competing ideals.

That being said, giving women the [due] right to vote effectively doubled the eligible voting pool in america. To think this wouldn't functionally alter the results is nonsense. Whether or not someone approves of those results should not, and indeed does not, get to change the underlying rights of those women.

To be fair, if you are a libertarian, many people claim the libertarian moniker but then say very illiberal things; check any comment section of Reason when there is a black person killed by a cop. It is getting very hard for people outside your group to identify what libertarian means anymore because of that.

A similar thing is happening on the left I think, but since it is my group, I might not be as mindful of it. The same might follow for you.

> check any comment section of Reason when there is a black person killed by a cop. It is getting very hard for people outside your group to identify what libertarian means anymore because of that.

Care to elaborate? I don't read Reason, but am curious as to an example of what you mean?

(I do agree the liberal moniker is losing value; most folks I interact w/ seem to take extreme characters as if they're the norm, and won't hardly discuss whether the values have any merit.)

Libertarian != liberal

Also, it is unfortunate that people continue to politicize police killings and attribute them to race. Such treatment is ignorant of stastics.

I think these glaring inconsistencies are just starting to tear the left apart. The right have their own problems, but they dont tend to be so obscenely inconsistent as to divide the base along racial and gender lines.

What are the statistics they are ignorant of?

I agree, I've always thought his comments were meaning that due to changing voter demographics there no longer exists enough supporters of his ideal form of government to achieve his utopia, within the western world.

This is not stating that women and beneficiaries don't have a right to vote, but that they'll probably never side with him so if he want's to see a libertarian government they'll probably have to start their own society. I think they were looking at starting some sort of offshore man made island that they could govern themselves.

I have. In fact, I heard it about ten times in the 30 seconds I was googling this.



...but Mr. Thiel has never said women shouldn't have the right to vote.

That comment was in the context of his doubts that libertarianism would ever become mainstream.

I agree that "capitalist democracy" is an oxymoron, but I come from the exact opposite side from Thiel; I believe that a democracy cannot function within capitalism when politicians can be bought off, and there is no democratic control over the economy, the economy being half of the societal coin; we accept democracy in matters of politics, but not in matters of economy, the economy having just as much if not more effect on our lives.

It can and does function. It's just that buying off a politician means they use the money to buy off or fool voters. Voters still make the ultimate decision about who's in power. American voters have a tradition of refusing to vote for any candidate that isn't enormously wealthy. They somehow equate advertising spending with "will do what I want". That's their own mistake though, and they experience the consequences themselves. That's the attractiveness of democracy, people get what they ask for so they won't be angry when it doesn't go their way.

Quite often people don't get what they ask for; if they did then my point about politicians taking money would be completely moot; this is why direct democracy is gaining traction; having a direct democracy with rotating or random delegates seems to be a much better plan for democracy as it helps to rid ourselves of this problem.

Voters rarely make decisions as to who is in power; they are forced to select from a small group of candidates which have come so far already, and then a committee choses which candidate is best and makes them compete for election. I do not think that a system based on the agency of people rather than the agency of ideas is a good system.

Sometimes the voters don't actually get their say; a national organisation overrides their will. Sometimes the democratic pathways are blocked by media misinformation. These are problems of the situation in which democracy is placed, and they have been recognised at least as far back as Marcuse wrote in the 1960s. The problem is less to do with whether people get candidates in power, it's more to do with how well people are informed as to the true nature of their reality. It may sound as though I'm saying "people don't know what they want", but my intention is to advance to the super-democratic status of "people must obtain the information they need".

Marcuse puts it better than I ever could:

>The liberating force of democracy was the chance it gave to effective dissent, on the individual as well as social scale, its openness to qualitatively different forms of government, of culture, education, work--of the human existence in general. The toleration of free discussion and the equal right of opposites was to define and clarify the different forms of dissent: their direction, content, prospect. But with the concentration of economic and political power and the integration of opposites in a society which uses technology as an instrument of domination, effective dissent is blocked where it could freely emerge; in the formation of opinion, in information and communication, in speech and assembly. Under the rule of monopolistic media--themselves the mere instruments of economic and political power--a mentality is created for which right and wrong, true and false are predefined wherever they affect the vital interests of the society.

Interesting - to be pedantic (and this is the site for it) - it makes sense - in capitalism, those with capital will have the most power, which is undemocratic.

> What if the women of this planet decide that male votes are shit, what then? Are we just going to have to fight it out?

Democracy is a technology for simulating civil wars without going through the formality of fighting them. So it's desirable that the side that wins the election be the side that would have won the civil war. If this is chronically untrue, then the side that would have won the civil war has little incentive to accept the election as legitimate.

Desirable for whom?

If I am interpreting the parents position correctly: desirable for the majority of interested parties on both sides of the particular issue(s). Certainly in the situations where "the side that wins the election be the side that would have won the civil war.", resolving the conflict in a civil, structured, non-violent and non-destructive fashion is desirable to most.

Typically when the side that would have won the civil war is unclear, it's also desirable to most.

Even when the (civil war favorite) party loses the political battle (election), usually the issue is not deemed important enough to accept the consequences of civil war, and a structured political/governmental/legestative resolution is the desirable outcome (for most) when weighed against engaging in a violent community/nation-wide conflict.

> Am I weird for rejecting the notion out of hand?

Every idea needs to be inspected, no matter how bad it is. If you can't understand someone's POV then you can't defend against it.

> "seeing the effects of allowing women to vote"

What effects are these, did he say? I hope you engaged with your classmates instead of just rejecting it out of hand. They may be wrong but it's always good exercise to explain why they are wrong. All ideas should be up for discussion, even if only as a thought experiment.

There's an unhealthy trend of 'just because' replacing 'why' in our culture. Ideas, no matter how taboo or 'self-evident', occasionally need to be taken off the shelf and tested for integrity.

The opinions of 1 powerless individual in a liberal democracy cannot be equated to the systematic oppression by the government and majority of the population in countries such as SA. Comments like yours seek to further a false equivalence.

Ha actually these arguments had already been disproven in the 1920 elections, the first time women were allowed to vote.

Women pretty much vote the same as men. Which actually disappointed the Suffragettes to some degree.

I downvoted you because your post is anecdotic and doesn’t really bring anything to the conversation

Thank you for clarifying. I see your point, it was just something related that never happened before (I've never heard someone seriously suggesting something like this), but it's indeed not really relevant for the discussion.

Down votes may be because your post is a bit tangential.

That said, I think you were right to call them out on that. It's an idea that shouldn't even be entertained as an option.


It's not whataboutism, it's bringing up a similar sentiment in a different context and despairing about the attitude.

A critical component of whataboutism is the part where you say "you are not in a position to criticize," which this person did not do.

> bringing up a similar sentiment

Killing women by throwing rocks at them because they dishonored the family is totally in the same direction of thoughts as accusing women of voting with their hearts over rationalism.


I don't like conservatives either but it's an entirely different category of messed up we're talking about.

The subject here is women not being allowed to drive, which I submit is quite similar to women not being allowed to vote.

Conservative here, I don't think taking the vote away from women is on the conservative agenda.

Take a few deep breaths.

Weird that someone has different opinion?

> One cleric claimed — with no evidence — that driving harmed women’s ovaries.

Wait. What?

I know it's oh so tempting, but please don't post unsubstantive comments to HN about stupid shit—especially not on inflammatory topics. There's no surer way to degrade an internet discussion, and we're trying for better than that here (trying and failing, no doubt, but we can always fail better).


Sorry, didn't mean to offend you. My apologies.

Not at all, you're so far from having offended me that I'm sorry for having left you with that impression!

But we can see from this subthread how quickly these comments grow like weeds and choke out more thoughtful conversation. It's not the starting comment itself, but what it precipitates, that we all need to guard against.

Obviously a judgement call, but I thought there were some useful comments in reply to the OP (e.g. fmihaila's comment).

While the OP's comment was unsubstantive, it highlighted an interesting quotation from the article to discuss, that a lot of people had opinions on and also wanted to discuss. Maybe the only appropriate response to a quotation like that is ridicule, which serves an important purpose in its own right.

I do appreciate this is a very difficult topic to moderate however(!) To be honest, I'm surprised the article itself was even allowed on HN and wasn't flagged for being too political.

> One cleric claimed — with no evidence — that driving harmed women’s ovaries.

Cycling can cause sexual impotence in men, yet we don't see anyone claiming men should be banned from cycling.

Arguments like this are toxic; even if true (which they obviously aren't), they expose an ugly underlying sexism with the implicit assumption that somehow it's okay for men to make these decisions for women as long as it's for a 'good reason.'

It would be surprising if someone hadn't made such a ridiculous claim. But in an article on gay marriage in the US, would the NY Times really have felt the need to observe that "one preacher even claimed - with no evidence - that homosexuality caused earthquakes"?

Of course. It may be ridiculous, but it's nonetheless the kind of myth that spreads quickly among certain conservative communities. I wouldn't be surprised if plenty of conservative Saudi Arabians believed such a myth. Just like plenty of American conservatives believed Todd Akin's infamous claim regarding "legitimate rape": https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Todd_Akin#Controversial_commen...

If enough people are credulous, it's absolutely newsworthy, as it reflects how deeply wedded some people are to a particular perspective. Confirmation bias is a powerful thing.

I'm fairly certain I've read numerous articles to that effect; for instance, here's an oped discussing Lesbians being blamed for Irma.[0] It was a trivial to find.

0: https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/did-lesbians-cause-h...

> But in an article on gay marriage in the US, would the NY Times really have felt the need to observe that "one preacher even claimed - with no evidence - that homosexuality caused earthquakes"?


http://abcnews.go.com/Politics/story?id=121322&page=1 ; "Falwell Suggests Gays to Blame for Attacks" [on WTC]

Pat Robertson was doing this 20 years ago, and I don't think he's really stopped: https://www.au.org/media/press-releases/tv-preacher-pat-robe...

> in an article on gay marriage in the US, would the NY Times really have felt the need to observe that "one preacher even claimed - with no evidence - that homosexuality caused earthquakes"?

From what I know about NYT - definitely yes. Probably not in every article on the topic, but at least in some. It is a sensational claim which generates outrage - bread and butter of modern journalism.

Can you find one example? I can't.

There's an example right in this thread from WaPo and hurricanes. I don't have specific example about gay marriage (I must admit, I do not study NYT that closely to have cross-reference of every article years back, though I do occasionally read their articles) right now, but as a general principle, it is completely normal for their style to do something like that and the example of Saudi cleric is not something that is out of the normal modus operandi. I think that was the original point.

It depends on how much political influence that specific preacher wielded. In Saudi, clerics wield a LOT of political influence. They're not just religious advisers, they get to set and interpret law based on their understanding of the Quran and the Hadiths.

No, mainly depends on how much outrage can be mined out of it. Influence is largely the byproduct of the press attention, at least in the scales we have in the US, and the press wants to have people engaged (clicks, views, ads) and also preferably show their political opponents are crazy evil idiots. Emphasizing outrageously stupid claims by some obscure personality serves both goals - people get outraged, share the links, ad impressions follow, discussion follows, etc. etc.

>Influence is largely the byproduct of the press attention

That's not how it works with clerics in Saudi. They have official standing with the government, have their own police force with the authority to enforce morality laws (the mutaween), and even get to decide who the next king will be.

They have - often this is used to portray the other side as kooks, and delegitimize them (not that they were very legitimate to start out with).

What people say crazy stuff?

Unrelated but ran across the following story: woman gets rare and slow developing cancer at 22, decides against surgery, gets on "Gerson therapy", runs lifestyle blog for years, credible (and credulous) media eat up claim she cured cancer. Mother gets breast cancer, uses Gerson therapy, dies in 2013 (horrible now removed blog posts where they discuss "flare ups" as symptoms of the therapy working, was actually symptoms of growing cancer). Down to her last days was hiding growing cancer and deceiving rabid fanbase, criticizing "bullies" who were pointing out her cancer was back. Of course after she died, her fans and Gerson therapy advocates now leave crazy comments about how she didn't do it right.



Gerson therapy vids are all over YouTube even today with the implication it is effective. I mean people are basically committing suicide because YouTube is making money.


If that's possible in open and connected societies, what's unscientific bullshit but the norm? We all believe delusional stuff, the question is, what seemingly accepted and reasonable views in our own societies are are actually delusional and harmful?

There are many such opinions, apparently, but there is push-back.

[Saad al-Hijri, head of fatwas (legal opinions) in Saudi Arabia’s Assir governorate], who said women should not drive because their brains shrink to a quarter the size of a man’s when they go shopping has been banned from preaching. [...] In a video this week, Hijri asked what the traffic department would do it if it discovered a man with only half a brain. “Would it give him a licence or not? It would not. So how can it give it to a woman when she has only half?” he said.

“If she goes to the market she loses another half. What is left? A quarter ... We demand the traffic department check because she is not suitable to drive and she has only a quarter.”


I listen to Sawbones podcast and this reminds me of how primitive North American and European cultures were too. "Hysteria" being my favourite example of "I can't believe we thought that..."

You can't believe that we thought some women had mood swings that relate to their having wombs ... I might have news for you! Sure they got the level wrong, but it was basically an early endocrine based explanation for human behavioural changes?

My favourite "I can't believe" is probably homuncular theory, that ejaculate contained a tiny little man [men?], fully formed, who grew to be a baby. Presumably it was homuncula all the way down?? [Not sure of the historical verity of that theory.]

Yes good point. I guess it's too easy to look at those before us and laugh. I'm applying my framework of existence and being to a fact from the past. This should throw a Type error but my interpreter simply coerced the types and returned valid looking garbage.

Given men's anatomy, you would think the opposite.

Why the surprise? Clerics are not known as rational thinkers.

So it should be okay after menopause anyway

Oh you missing lots of entertainment buddy. They even ruled that Mickey Mouse is "haram". These Clerics are fun to watch (except for the populace affected by its arbitrary decisions)

This sort of thing is not unusual in misogyny. Similar arguments were used not just against women's sports but all sorts of things in the West over the past century.

There have been all sorts of totally bonkers beliefs held by uninformed and/or misogynistic people in the past. Little surprises me in that regard anymore.

I've always thought the risk of too hot "balls" in the car was greater in that area of the world ...

You seem surprised

In 2017 ...

Actually, 2018. June of next year.

Simultaneously they are banning all non-autonomous cars.

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