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White People Do Not Think That Black Lives Matter

We’ve got another awesome Sex and the State guest post! If you would like to submit a guest post, please fill out my contact form with an brief outline of what you want to write about.

Halfway through Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s 2013 novel, Americanah, the protagonist, Ifemelu, writes a blog post, perhaps a better one than I am able to write here. She writes with the lived experience of a non-American Black woman, one who is frequently asked whether “they eat dogs in Africa,” one who must sear her scalp with hair relaxant just so she can look “professional” enough to get a job. She writes with an unaffected wryness I can never have when writing about race.

She writes something, a piece of advice to other Black people in the United States, which breaks my whiteness in two: “If you’re telling a non-black person about something racist that happened to you, make sure you are not bitter. Don’t complain. Be forgiving. If possible, make it funny. Most of all, do not be angry. Otherwise you get no sympathy. This applies only for white liberals, by the way. Don’t even bother telling a white conservative about anything racist that happened to you. Because the conservative will tell you that YOU are the real racist and your mouth will hang open in confusion.” This survival guide for victims of racism speaks volumes, not just about Blacks’ lived experiences, but about the nature of whiteness.

I have wanted to write about white racism for a while now, but every time I do, the subject seems so daunting. It’s a slippery, burning thing, this white racism. I think I will never fully understand it. But a white friend told me recently that he was insulted by the slogan, “Black Lives Matter,” because, he said, it implied that he didn’t already agree with the statement. And when he said that, my whiteness shuddered, like when I read Adichie’s words. I thought, “Maybe I will write about this white racism. Maybe I’ll say something, and see if it makes sense.”

White people do not listen to Black people, because we do not think that Black voices speak any kind of truth. We put stock in white institutions, white publications, white celebrities – and white racists. My first impulse, when someone tells me that their grandfather has just died, is to console them. My first impulse, when a Black friend tells me that someone has said something racist, used to be (to an extent, still is) to tear down their story. To ask: “Are you sure they said that? Are you sure they meant that? Are you sure you didn’t imagine this?” At best, I think this impulse results from a desire to be certain that no one has actually done harm to another person. At worst, I know that it is a socially promoted belief that racism is dead (or gone, vanished to somewhere “else”), and that Black people overreact, fabricate, and belong to a culture which cannot be trusted to produce any kind of truth.

Why, for example, is it entirely believable, almost a matter of fact, that Darren Wilson would never have shot a Black teenager because of implicit bias against Black bodies – while it is also wholly believable that a Black teenager would, for no discernible reason, charge and beat a white police officer immediately after allegedly committing a robbery? Why is it unbelievable that a white police officer is lying, but so believable as to be automatically factual that a Black teenager would be stupid and violent enough to beat the living shit out of said cop? How has this claim been maintained, despite the fact that Darren Wilson emerged from the encounter with barely a scratch

Certain narratives are always credited from the start. The narratives of white cops are one instance. What else can explain the media reporting that twelve-year-old Tamir Rice, who was shot and killed by a white cop in Cleveland for holding a BB gun, was the product of an abusive household? What purpose could that information possibly serve, other than to further legitimize a narrative of white cops saving dumb Black people from themselves? Why is it that when a prominent Objectivist intellectual wrote a Facebook post about Michael Brown, he referred to him as “Big Mike” throughout and included the teenager’s height and weight – but called Darren Wilson “Officer Wilson,” and didn’t include any similar stats about the rather man-sized cop? How is this “objective”? How is it that the privileging of one narrative over another, despite evidence and voices to the contrary, is not only acceptable, but natural?

White people have been raised to accept some sources of knowledge more quickly than others. Because we have been represented in every major legal, political, scientific, academic, and commercial institution in this country, we have no distrust of these institutions. They have always been our institutions, speaking with voices that sound like ours, representing interests that have (sexuality, gender, class, and disability aside) always been in line with ours.

White people, since the inception of “whites” as a class of people distinct from Blacks, have by definition, been those who owned, and were not owned. Non-Jewish white people have never been experimented on en masse by scientists looking to test new medications. White people have never been sterilized for being white (forced sterilization being a practice that extended into the 70s and ended in 1981). White people have never been barred by law, as a punishment for being white, from living in certain parts of the country. In short, white people trust this country’s institutions, because we have never had a reason not to. We can easily claim that these institutions have changed, that Black people are not slaves, may own property, may go to university, may live wherever they want. We can claim that these things are true – and we do claim it, regularly, when we complain about Black people complaining about racism – but in doing so, we reject the legitimacy of Black voices.

We assume from the start that Black people who say, “I was discriminated against,” or, “The TSA let my white friends go through but strip searched me,” or, “I was fired from that job because I wore my hair in braids, instead of relaxing it” – are lying. We assume this from the beginning. Because it is not supported by white institutions. And the funny thing is that when these institutions do produce research, at long last, proving true what Black victims of racism have always said – proving that a white man fresh out of prison is likelier to get a job than a Black man who has never been to prison, proving that resumes headed by “Black-sounding” names are passed over for more “traditional” names with equal or less experience – white people denounce these findings, ignore them, call them “Marxist” or “collectivist.” And so the cycle of racism is complete: mostly-white institutions identify and discriminate against Black people as a collective, and when Black people seize on the trait which is the object of that discrimination, white people accuse them of racism, collectivism, “tribalism.”

Socially epidemic racism functions so smoothly by blaming the victims of racism, and removing from those victims the central tool of resistance: the ability to identify your oppression. In Objectivist terms, we might call this thesanction of the victim: “the willingness of the good to suffer at the hands of the evil, to accept the role of sacrificial victim for the ‘sin’ of creating values.” In feminist terms, we would call this victim-blaming. In any terms, it is unjustifiable.

My friend, the one insulted by the statement that “Black Lives Matter,” is a good man. I like him very much, he is intelligent, he strives to understand the world around him, and he’s so unlike most white people I talk with about racism in that he’s willing to accept that it might, in fact, exist. But he believes that white people already know that Black lives matter. He says that a better chant could be found, one which doesn’t seem to imply that all white people are racist. Ari Armstrong, an Objectivist writer I usually respect, has written that saying “Black Lives Matter” is collectivist, because it implies that all Black people are blameless, and all white police officers are monsters.

How do I explain what I am still learning? No, not all Black men are blameless. But this is not the point. Yes, most white people, if asked, would agree that Black lives matter. But that, too, is not the point. What does it mean to say that you believe Black lives matter, and then refuse to believe it when your Black friend says, “Something racist happened to me”? What does it mean to say, as Armstrong does, that we must value all individual lives equally, regardless of race – and then ignore the mounting evidence that police are readier to shoot darker complexioned people than lighter? What does it mean to say that, “I, as a conservative – a libertarian – a liberal, am opposed to racism,” but to accept only white narratives and white voices as the “objective” voices?

The truth is that white people do not think that Black lives matter. We have never been taught how. And our individualist ideology, though valuable, can ironically become a pernicious kind of collectivism when we ignore the persistent influence of old ideologies, old racism, and how this racism still informs our biases. A consistent objectivity, a consistent individualism, would be reflective, introspective, and always critical of assumptions. It is always astonishing to me how white individualists who claim to be critical of government institutions can suddenly become the most fervent defenders of big government when race enters into the discussion.

Anyone who lays claim to individualism and objectivity must confront where they come from, how they were raised, what sorts of narratives they were always taught to believe, and which other narratives they were taught to discredit. Objectivity is not a state of being – it is a practice. And white people have failed to keep practicing.

Brendan Moore is an undergrad studying English and French. He lives all over the place. He enjoys a good beer and subversive feminist stand-up. Both at the same time.

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Photo from VICE.

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Writing About This Is Way Scarier Than Writing About Sex

I really prayed for the first time in a long time last night. It’s been years since I’ve regularly done more than the occasional, “Thank you, God,” or “Please help me find my phone.” It’s been years since I’ve stepped foot in a church. In the meantime I’ve lost touch with all my believer friends.

A few moments led me to that prayer. The pivotal point was laying on my sister’s attic floor, tripping on acid, watching the pattern of the ceiling tiles dance beautifully. I suddenly remembered something my father said to me about the moment I was born. Years ago, he told me that at the moment I was placed in his arms, he felt an entirely new way to love another human being. Not a sappy man, he tried to explain to me that it feels like you could not possibly love another person more. And then it happened again. The product of that was tripping with her girlfriend downstairs when I thought about that conversation, and bawled.

Then her roommate walked in, and asked how we were doing. “Tripping balls,” I said, tears in my eyes. And my friend who was with me cracked up for the millionth time that afternoon.

I have exactly one non-family friend who I speak with regularly who is a Christian. A dude I was trying to get to love me described me as a “lapsed” Christian. Which is accurate, and not. I still believe in God and love Jesus, as I’ve written about before.

The thing is, I want to experience that kind of love. I’m not down with exiting this earth without loving another human being like that. Maybe it won’t happen for me, and that wouldn’t be the worst thing. It’s never been my sole mission in life. A stranger on Twitter described me as “not the wife and mother type,” which I totally own. And yet, I’m going to try.

Two questions arose out of my realization on the floor of the attic. The first is, what will my relationship with God look like? What will I teach my child (should I be lucky enough to give birth or adopt) about him? The second is: What will my partner’s relationship with God look like?

Since I broke up with the Evangelical Church, my relationship with God has been distant, guarded, “appropriate,” as I described it to my mother. The truth is that I did terrible things when I was wrapped up in God. I look back in horror at who I was. Self-righteous doesn’t begin to cover it. Sanctimonious. Ignorant. Of course I want to blame the church for my bad character. But the truth is that it doesn’t matter. I’ve avoided the church in part out of fear of again becoming what I once was. Half-assed isn’t my default setting. Hair-on-fire zealous evangelical is how I roll.

As angry as I am about all the bigotry, misogyny, sex-shaming, and narrow thinking I perpetrated and endured as a Southern Baptist zealot, I’ve never been able to deny God.

At night, the man I loved right after I left my husband and would ask me why I believed what I believed. As he slowly cracked opened my unthinking, knee-jerk morality, the sunlight of empiricism and skepticism shone in, disinfecting my brain and washing out so much superstition. He taught me how to think, and showed me that what I’d been calling thinking was feeling and believing. And that they were different.

Yet there remained a place which resisted skepticism and empiricism. He asked me recently why I believe in God despite a lack of empirical evidence. I told him that it was like measuring volume with a ruler.

I don’t know why I still believe in God. I don’t know why I ascribe certain experiences to the supernatural, and specifically to God. Why, as I violently broke away from any expectation that God has anything to say about the way I act and behave and totally rejected Christianity as a good basis for my ethics or morality, did I still pray those little prayers? Why can’t I be content believing in God as a deistic force, existing but removed from my day-to-day?

A heuristic is a mental shortcut that allows people to solve problems and make judgments quickly and efficiently. I’ve got a tendency to overthink bigger decisions. As annoying as those “God led me to…” people are, they’re not overthinking it. A bias toward action is a wonderful thing, however you accomplish it. I need to make some big decisions, namely who/whether to marry and whether/how to procreate. A shortcut sounds great right now.

The other reason was revealed in the words with which I began my prayer. “I miss you,” I said to the God I’ve spent the last three years denying could care about the minutiae of my life.

I’m afraid. I distrust my ability to practice faith responsibly. But whether God can be a heuristic for me, or just a tiny part of my life, is something I’d like to have settled. I’m not sure where to begin. I don’t know if I can silently sit through slut-shaming or bigotry in church. So far I’m reading Relevant and listening to Christian music.

Writing about this makes me feel about a million times more vulnerable than when I write about sex. I’m not sure why. Perhaps because it’s more important. Perhaps because I’m a million times more regretful about the things I’ve done because of religion than anything I’ve done in bed. Perhaps because my desire to separate myself from the things people will assume about me because I love sex is tiny and insignificant compared to my desire to separate myself from the things people will assume about me because I love Jesus.

But of course it’s my personality to lean into the discomfort. Like all writers, I want to expose exactly what people want to keep hidden. So I want to blog this journey. I hope I have the courage to take it, and document it.

Photo by Pawel Kadysz

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I’m Trying to Make My Sales Content Half as Compelling as My Political Writing

When I saw the Fast Company Create, headline, 4 COMPLETELY SCIENTIFIC WAYS TO KNOW IF YOUR CONTENT IS COMPELLING, my first thought was, “I used to know how to create compelling content.” I’ve only been in sales, and out of full-time political writing for three weeks, but I already feel like has-been city.

Now, I want to make a distinction. My political writing may or may not have been good. There are solid arguments either way. But, by God, it was compelling. Comments on my posts would appear days after I put them up on Facebook. Twitter wars over what I wrote would rage for days as well. People devoted entire Facebook pages to reacting to what I’d written. And I was memed. More than once.

The Fast Co article describes how compelling content evokes a powerful emotional response. My stances on already-fraught issues are already evocative, even when I don’t realize it. And when I do find myself agreeing with the mainstream, my immediate thought is, “How can we progress?” As a future-oriented person, I want the future to be better than the now. And I know that doing the same things we’re doing now won’t get us there. I want to innovate everything, and that often involves sacrificing some sacred cows.

But how do you do that in sales and marketing, my new field?

I learned what headlines drove clicks when I worked at Reason. “If it bleeds, it leads” holds true. And if it’s bleeding, you’d better get that across in the headline. But what’s bleeding in sales and marketing? How do you get people as riled up about sales as they are about death and taxes?

There’s probably no way. No one’s going to get as weird about internet marketing as they are about the concept of privilege. And, really, thank God for that.

But here are some things I want to try:

Making the value clear

What someone’s going to get out of the post should be clear in the headline.

Make it personal

Reading me, people should know a little about who I am, where I’m coming from, and what I’m trying to accomplish.

Make it matter

Sales and marketing make all other innovation possible. We’re creating the conditions necessary to move humanity forward toward prosperity and away from want. This stuff matters, and we have every reason to take it seriously.

Photo by Kelley Bozarth

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‘F*ck it, I quit’ Live on Air Was Excellent Marketing

KTVA reporter Charlo Greene quit her job on live TV last night, outing herself as the owner of an Alaskan cannabis club and declaring “f*ck it”.

Having grown weary of reporting the news, Greene told viewers she would instead be putting all her energy into the fight to legalise marijuana in the state, having previously reported on the Alaska Cannabis Club without mentioning her connection to it.

In a jaw-dropping twist to the end of a segment she was presenting, she said: “Now everything you heard is why I, the actual owner of the Alaska Cannabis Club, will be dedicating all of my energy toward fighting for freedom and fairness which begins with legalizing marijuana here in Alaska.

“And as for this job, well, not that I have a choice but, f**k it, I quit.”

To riff on another genius marketing campaign:
Quitting your tv reporting job live on air with an F-bomb:
Your future in television news
Thousands of media hits, including home pages of Mashable, Huffington Post and DailyMail, thousands of Facebook likes, hundreds of Twitter followers for a local cannabis shop: Priceless

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This is How You Website/Landing Page – mimiglumac.com

Friday night, on the metro going home, the woman next to me sighed. “It’s been a long day.” My phone was being weird, and she seemed normal enough. “It’s been a long week,” I replied. Soon we were talking about where we lived and worked, and when I asked her what she wanted to be doing, she told me she wanted to be a personal stylist for the everywoman. I have always thought that should be a thing. Just like I don’t necessarily want to learn to fix my own toilet, I think many women want great style but don’t want to have to learn fashion fundamentals.

Fast forward to me doing some keyword research to see whether she’d benefit from Adwords, and I ran across mimiglumac.com. And as I see a lot of small business websites, it struck me as particularly adept.

Let’s look at why.

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The headline is fantastic. “Mimi Glumac Personal Stylist.” True, it’s not complicated. That’s the point. It tells you what you need to know, which is that she’s a personal stylist. And I like that she’s using her name. It’s a bit of a trust signal. She’s not going to run away into the night with your money. You know her name. It also signals that this is a sole proprietorship. Interesting information.

Let’s look at the subhead: “Looking stylish is not about the money you spend on clothes. It’s about the time you invest in creating your own style. I’m here to help you do that.”

I’m less in love with this, but I like it. Again, it gets to the value prop. Many of her customers have likely either spent a lot of money on clothes and not felt any more stylish, or have put off doing so because they know that they don’t know what they’re doing. She’s addressing the pain point that stylishness is less about money and more about knowledge. She has the knowledge, you don’t.

I also really like the photo. This is a really hard thing to get right. Mimi looks both intimidating and approachable here. She’s clearly stylish. But she doesn’t seem snobby.

But the home page copy is where this page really sings.

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It’s so true you never get a second chance to make a first impression — at work, a social event, or when meeting someone for the first time. Great style conveys an unmistakable message for every modern woman — she’s confident, well put-together, and capable. As a woman, I understand how important it is to feel great about the way you look. And nothing feels better than stepping out in style.

I will edit and organize your wardrobe, teach you how to put together polished, sophisticated looks, shop for what you need, and understand what works best for you. You’ll leave the house looking stylish and effortlessly chic every day. What a fantastic first impression to leave in any milieu.

Don’t spend another moment staring at your closet thinking “I have nothing to wear.” You do, and I’ll help you find it. So let’s get started. Today.

She sets up the need for her services (you need to look good). She makes her value clear (you will feel good when you look good). She lays out what she does (edit wardrobe, help you complete it) and she goes for the ask (let’s get started, today.)

The one huge, glaring, unforgivable mistake here is that it’s totally unclear HOW to get started. What am I supposed to do? Fill out a contact form? Call you? What? I want your services Mimi! How do I get them?

The footer says, in tiny type “by appointment” with a phone number and email. Better than nothing, but barely.

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Her services page is great. Her about page is great. The copy and photography on this site is just fantastic. The design is also killer. It’s readable. And, most importantly, there aren’t a million elements competing for my attention, distracting me from my purpose, which is to buy from Mimi.

The buzz page is also a great idea. Testimonials are essential, and she has some great ones. I might move one or two to the home page to entice people who might not otherwise stick around. But that’s because I think of homepages as landing pages, and you need your three elements: call to action, clear and compelling headline, and trust signals.

I ended up getting the girl on the metro’s card, and emailed her this site as an example. If either want to repay my kindness with a free closet edit, I’m totally game!

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7 Process-Focused Characteristics of the Most Successful Salespeople

Lisa Rose at the Brooks Group blog has a good post called 7 Characteristics of the Most Successful Salespeople. It’s a good list, but something struck me about it. The list is basically a set of goals in and of itself, microgoals one can work toward to achieve the eventual goal of more sales.

But what I’ve read about goals, and which strikes me as incredibly insightful, is that good goals are process-oriented, not results-oriented. Sure, your end goal is to get more sales. That’s a result. But your microgoal should be implementing a process, such as making 20 sales calls per day. Results-focused goals can be demoralizing and paralyzing. How do I get more sales? What should I do? Why isn’t it working? On the other hand, how to achieve a good process-oriented microgoal is crystal clear, and is something you have tons of control over.

Some of supporting characteristics of the 7 Characteristics of the Most Successful Salespeople, such as “Maintaining focus on goals,” and “Identifying and acting on removing potential obstacles to successful goal attainment,” are so-called process-oriented goals. But many of them are results goals, such as “Effectively impact prospects’ and customers’ actions,” well, yeah, if I could do that consistently and well, I wouldn’t need to read online sales listicles, now would I?

“When you are focused on the outcome and you attach your worth to the outcome, you will find yourself very resistant to trying new things and putting forth your best effort,” wrote
Margaret Paul, Ph.D., bestselling author and relationship expert, for Huffington Post. “When you define your worth by your performance rather than your effort, you stop yourself dead at the starting gate.”

I think it’s a good lens through which to evaluate where to put your focus. Naturally, we’re going to want to focus on results. It’s how other people evaluate us. It’s where the ultimate value is. But while we’re breaking down how to get to good results, we must focus on processes, individual actions on our part, not the part of others, which will incrementally get us to where we want to go.

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Our Own Little Worlds

Sometimes I read something shockingly close to something I’ve thought about writing for months, turning it over in my mind, thinking up new arguments, gathering data points, but never writing it, because it seems like so much work.

This is such a piece. It’s written by a conservative, for a conservative audience, which is how I’d do it, were I capable of writing anything about conservatism without letting some rage and bile slip in. So there are some laugh lines, such as “Conservatives have a natural antipathy towards propping up things that don’t work.” I can’t breathe.

One big problem that the piece addresses is that men, specifically low-education, low-skill men, are adrift. Under and unemployed, but also less happy than better-educated men as primary caregivers. If they can get that job, they also have a much harder time getting married.

I’m fascinated by these men, and how outdated gender role determinism fucks them.

But I realized, thanks to a Twitter retort to the piece, that I don’t know shit about them. @markyzaguirre remarked to the contention that “many men find it difficult to adapt to modern office culture” “Yeah, air conditioning and comfy chairs are rough.” And, I mean, right?

I think the author means young men don’t realize they’ll need education and internships to get those office jobs, or feel that these things are out of reach for them. So it’s less that they don’t want the jobs and more that they can’t get them.

But I don’t know. Literally the last time I spent any real time around anyone, male or female, without a degree, white collar work, or both, was high school. At least in Alabama I had friends with professional jobs but not degrees. In dc, I run into about as many grad degreed motherfuckers as Dunkin Donuts stores.

It was hard super strange to go from plain but smart to cute but dumb.

The problems with this kind of class stratification are obvious. But it’s something we don’t really ever think about. And I think it helps explain why truly stupid ideas proliferate among the less educated. I mean, besides having less and lesser-quality information to compare new information to, I think one reason more-educated people fail when speaking to and about lesser-educated people is their clear and utter ignorance of their audience.

I mean even I, snotty and ungrateful as I am, bristle when my well-meaning but ignorant friends mock Southerners. There’s this sense of, why? Why would you beat your kids, not pay for them to go to college, get fat, etc.

It’s never a question of understanding and empathizing with an essentially alien culture. It’s more a distant and disdainful examination of some pathetic cautionary tale.

And I get it. Of course peaceful parenting, less superstition, more education and rationality and empiricism and egalitarianism are better. I left the south, after all.

But I have to remember that I left because I couldn’t make it work for me. If I could have, how much easier would it have been to concede to my culture, with its “traditional marriage,” homemaking, church, gender roles. These were all an ill-fitting garment for me. As all cultures have turned out to be for me. I’m a weirdo, and I need to be where those are well-tolerated.

But for some, those things worked. Some people were super happy in their mindless jobs, ferrying their kids to church and soccer practice, fat as fuck and fucking happy as clams. I didn’t understand them then, and I don’t get it now. But I’ve seen it. I know it’s a thing.

That’s all part of the challenge for a first-class thinker, to keep in mind that people who are different from you aren’t people you’re bumping up against on the regular. They’re living lives you can scarcely imagine. Making choices which are incomprehensible to you. And it’s your job, first, to try to understand them before making any prescriptions. It’s hard work. We all want to skip it. But it’s something humility requires.

Maybe that’s why I didn’t write the piece. Who am I to tell low-education men what’s best for them? I don’t even know any.

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Unintended Consequences: Couple Ditches Down Syndrome Baby with Thai Surrogate

Libertarianism doesn’t have a lot of slogan-ready axioms, but one one them is “incentives matter.” One corollary might be “contracts matter.” Learning that an Australian couple has abandoned their baby with Down’s Syndrome with their impoverished Thai surrogate will lead many, including Jezebel, to conclude, definitively, that these people are assholes.

But there’s more at work here than simple human horribleness. What we have here, in addition, is a lack of clear contracting, and the unintended consequence of first-world countries disallowing market-rate payments for surrogates.

First, let’s look at what happened. The couple looked to Thailand in part because there’s a massive dearth of Australian surrogates. It’s obviously preferable in every way to have a local surrogate, so there are two likely explanations here.

First, perhaps Thai women will carry children for so much less money than Australian women that this couple chose the cheaper, though less preferable option. Unfortunately, it’s difficult to know what the market price of an Australian surrogate is, because the country, like many first-world countries, caps the amount which women can earn for carrying another couple’s child. The first consequence of this legislation is that we don’t know what the market price of Australian surrogacy is.

The other possibility is that capping the amount a woman can legally earn for renting out her womb has created a shortage of women in Australia willing to do so. Perhaps the law of supply and demand and the economic consequences of price caps, namely shortages, applies to wombs as much as it does to gasoline. It may be that relying on women to open their uteruses to other couples’ kids out of the goodness of their hearts isn’t good policy, if you actually want any of them to do it.

It seems like the West has essentially decided that they don’t care whether Western women offer surrogacy. The countries’ governments are happy to see couples outsource the task to developing nations like India, where an advanced medical industry and rampant, crushing poverty has created the perfect conditions for a thriving, and poorly contracted surrogacy market.

Because the saddest thing about what happened with the Australian couple and the Thai surrogate is that it could have very easily been avoided with a well-written contract.

When the surrogate found out she was carrying twins, and that one of them had Down’s Syndrome, the couple requested that she abort. The desire to abort is hardly unusual. According to ABC News, an estimated 92% of couples choose to abort when they receive a prenatal diagnosis of Down’s Syndrome. But the surrogate refused. So the couple took the healthy kid, and left the other one with her.

An Australian group called Hands Across the Water created a GoFundMe campaign with a goal of $200,000 to provide the child, Gammy, surgery and other care. It raised over $271,000.

What should be done in the case of congenital defect should have been spelled out very clearly in the surrogacy contract. It’s a common-enough problem, that to not address it seems incredibly negligent. That way, the couple could be assured that were using a surrogate who would agree to an abortion if that’s how they chose to deal with such a diagnosis. Additionally, the surrogate could screen for couples who agreed to care for their child, regardless of how healthy the baby or babies turned out to be. Of course we should all be able to expect that a couple will take care of the kids they create, regardless of where or how. But out here in the real world, we need contracts.

Another problem with outlawing market-price surrogacies in the West is that the contracts in developing nations are often drawn up by unscrupulous agents. According to a survey by the Indian government, sometimes poor, uneducated women are signing surrogacy contracts that they do not fully understand.

Well-crafted and well-enforced contracts are essential to free exchange, regardless of the market. When you look at countries whose economies are strong, like Australia, and compare them with weaker economies, such as India and Thailand, one thing you’ll see is a positive correlation between a robust and fair system of contract enforcement and economic development.

Relying on people to be angels, whether it’s to give up use of their uteruses without sufficient payment or react appropriately when their surrogate refuses abortion, isn’t a recipe for success. It’s magical thinking, and it makes everyone poorer.

Repealing laws which cap surrogacy payments would at the very least reveal what the actual market price is for an in-country surrogacy. And it might just move surrogacy to the countries of demand, where contracts are better written, better enforced, and more clearly understood.

This post originally appeared at LibertyChat.com.

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How to Ask for a Favor So That the Person Likes You More Afterward

Some true things are counterintuitive. We’re often cautioned to not wear people out by asking for favors. No one wants to inconvenience anyone else. However, asking for something from someone can actually make them like you more. Doing so helps create in people sone of the most pleasurable feelings possible: including competence, status, and goodness.

The phenomenon is called the Ben Franklin effect.

Recently, my BFF Cynthia needed a quote for a story from a well-known blogger and serial entrepreneur. She asked me to take a look at her ask letter to offer suggestions. Using her letter as an example, I want to go through some easy tweaks from taking a request for a favor from something you hate doing to something you love doing because it’s helping you build or strengthen your relationship.

1. Make your request as specific as possible.

People hate making decisions. It’s one of the most draining mental tasks, and no one wants to do it for you.

When Cynthia wrote the letter, she literally told the author the topic and asked for a quote. This seems appropriate. Cynthia doesn’t know what she wants the author to say. And she needs a quote. But this puts the author in the position of having to think about everything she thinks about the topic, and the try to decide what Cynthia wants her to say.

I suggested that instead, Cynthia ask her a very specific question. She should still make it clear it’s for a quote for a story, but giving the quote is then as easy as responding naturally to the question, and not as hard as having to decide which aspect of the topic to address.

The biggest impediment to a specific request is not knowing yourself what you want from the other person. Do the hard work yourself, up front, in deciding what you want, so they don’t have to decide for you.

2. Stroke their ego, but don’t waste their time.

In the letter, Cynthia stated why she was asking the author for the quote. Cynthia wrote that it was because the author was a well-known figure in the space Cynthia was writing about. But the author knows that. And she knows that Cynthia knows that.  Or she should assume, because neither of them are idiots.

Instead, I suggested that Cynthia read over what the author had already written on the subject to formulate a more specific question. Not only does this not waste the author’s time with generalities, but it strokes their ego to know you’re familiar with their work, and it makes it clear what exactly you want. So Cynthia linked to the author’s previous work in the area Cynthia was covering with her piece.

When you want something from someone, let them know you’ve been paying attention to what they’re doing. But don’t waste their time with vague flattery. Nothing is more flattering than respecting someone’s time.

3. Be grateful.

If you can swing it, take them out to coffee, lunch, or dinner. The point is to build a relationship, after all. What might have been weird before a favor becomes natural afterwards. If you can’t, a nice gift or gift card is a great idea. When my friend advocated hard for me at her company, and I got the job, I got her a gift certificate to Lululemon, because she’d been posting on Facebook about getting back into working out. It can be a $10 Starbucks card.

The other part of being grateful, and building the relationship, is letting the person know how it all worked out. Cynthia will of course email the author the story when it comes out, along with her gratitude. If you got advice, or asked for a letter or recommendation, or borrowed a tent for a trip, let the person know how the advice worked out, whether you got the job, how much fun you had on the camping trip. Let the person fully enjoy the good they did for you and they’ll be excited about doing something nice again for you soon.

People love to feel powerful, important, and like they’re good people. Make it as easy and rewarding for them as possible, and it can be a great way to grow closer.