Saturday, September 09, 2006

The Looming Lactation-Station Crisis and How to Solve It

A new crisis may be brewing, even though until very recently it appears to have been known only to very few people, possibly just to a single New York Times reporter and her editors. But on September 1, it was made public knowledge, when the Times published the story on its front page. Here is the gist of the Times’ report:

On the Job, Nursing Mothers Find a 2-Class System

When a new mother returns to Starbucks’ corporate headquarters in Seattle after maternity leave, she learns what is behind the doors mysteriously marked “Lactation Room.”

Whenever she likes, she can slip away from her desk and behind those doors, sit in a plush recliner and behind curtains, and leaf through InStyle magazine as she holds a company-supplied pump to her chest, depositing her breast milk in bottles to be toted home later.

But if the mothers who staff the chain’s counters want to do the same, they must barricade themselves in small restrooms intended for customers, counting the minutes left in their breaks. . . .

. . . as pressure to breast-feed increases, a two-class system is emerging for working mothers. . . . It is a particularly literal case of how well-being tends to beget further well-being, and disadvantage tends to create disadvantage — passed down in a mother’s milk, or lack thereof.

This should be enough to give everyone the idea.

I don’t want to say how much sleep I’ve lost in my efforts to find a solution for this newest crisis of what the left describes as “social injustice.” But I have come up with a solution, in fact, three solutions. Here they are:

1. The government should immediately order the closing of all corporate-financed lactation stations. That way, there will be no 2-class system. There will be only one class: the class of those who do not have access to such stations.

2. Legislation should be enacted compelling the installation of lactation stations in all of Starbucks’ coffee shops and within a convenient walking distance of every nursing mother wherever she may be, such stations to afford the same degree of comfort and convenience as the one the Times reporter observed at Starbucks’ headquarters.

3. The Times should stop publishing stupid articles whose sum and substance is a pathetic metaphysical whine at the fact that some people are better off than others. It and the rest of the left should finally learn to live with the fact that if everyone is free to pursue his (or her) own happiness, virtually everyone will succeed, and do so to an ever greater extent, though never equally. They should learn that there is absolutely no injustice in this, “social” or otherwise, but that there is profound injustice in the only other alternatives that they leave open, namely, preventing the success of the more successful (as in 1, above) and in forcing some people to provide for others at the point of a gun (as in 2, above).

In fact, there’s a further lesson for the Times and the rest of the left to learn here. Namely, they need to apply their alleged support of “gun control,” which they trumpet ad nauseam, to themselves and the programs they advocate. Those programs invariably come down to having the government point its guns at innocent people. About half the time it’s in order to compel them, against their will, to do something they do not want to do but which the Times and the rest of the left want them to do nonetheless. The rest of the time, it’s a case of forcibly preventing people from doing something they do want to do but which the Times and the rest of the left don’t want them to do. The Times et al. need to stop calling for the use of guns against people, whether in connection with lactation or anything else.

This article is copyright © 2006, by George Reisman. Permission is hereby granted to reproduce and distribute it electronically and in print, other than as part of a book and provided that mention of the author’s web site is included. (Email notification is requested.) All other rights reserved. George Reisman is the author of Capitalism: A Treatise on Economics (Ottawa, Illinois: Jameson Books, 1996) and is Pepperdine University Professor Emeritus of Economics.