Two Sexes

Biologists, feminists and other curious people sometimes ask why there are two sexes. Why don’t human beings originate one from one, as some animals do, cloning themselves? The answer to this question was provided, surprisingly, by Adam Smith.  In the first chapter of his epoch-making work on the Causes of the Wealth of Nations, he explains the concept of the division of labor.  This occurs when a task previously performed by one person is split up into a number of partial actions, each of which is done full-time by a different individual.  The result, Smith points out, is typically a dramatic increase in productivity.  He compares the production of pins by the two methods. One man working alone could produce not more than twenty pins a day.  A wire is made and chopped in pieces, each piece is sharpened at one end, and flattened at the other to receive the head. The head is made by means of a number of different actions and attached to the pin, and so on. Adam Smith then describes the operation of a pin factory, where each of these tasks was the sole function of one man. Ten men working in this way could produce 12 pounds of pins in a day, about 48,000.

Charles Darwin saw that Adam Smith, though without intending to, had explained the reason why there are two sexes. “No naturalist,” he wrote, “doubts the advantage of the ‘physiological division of labour.'” (Origin, IV)  In biology as in the production of pins, the division of labor increases productivity.  Having a father as well as a mother produces more offspring, and more robust offspring more likely to survive and prosper.  The human race, consequently, has indeed prospered biologically.

Using Adam Smith’s insight, Darwin was able to explain not only the existence of the two sexes, but also why each sex has the peculiar qualities and characteristics it has which so much puzzle the other sex: namely, and paradoxically, as the result of the consistent choices of that other sex.  Men have the bizarre characteristics they have because women have chosen them by preference this way in the course of hundreds of thousands of years, and women have the mysterious qualities they do because men have preferred them this way over the same hundreds of thousands of years.  The differences between the sexes are part of the division of procreative labor.

Another powerful factor influences the strange division of qualities between men and women: the needs of children.  Each sex is the way it is also because these particular qualities on the part of each sex have been conducive to the well-being of the children.

So although men and women often complain or wax humorous about the qualities of the other sex, there are very good reasons, stemming from the demands of evolution, why each sex is precisely the way it is.

For Karl Marx, however, the chief feature of the division of labor was that it was inhumane.  Marx was unaware of Darwin at the time of writing the Communist Manifesto, which was published in 1848, since Darwin’s Origin of Species did not appear till 1859.  For Marx, the division of labor alienated workers from their work and from themselves; especially the natural division of labor.  In the Marxian world of the future, the natural division of labor would be abolished and everyone would be able to engage in whatever activities he or she liked.  “In communist society” it will be “possible for me to do one thing today and another tomorrow, to hunt in the morning, fish in the afternoon, rear cattle in the evening, criticize after dinner, just as I have a mind…” (German Ideology, 1846)  For the same reason, the distinction between the sexes would to all intents and purposes disappear.  Since the U. S. Civil Rights Act of 1964 this Marxian view, that the natural and traditional division of labor between the sexes is inhumane, has been adopted almost universally throughout the Western world.

While Marx was good at pointing out the defects of the bourgeois free market, however, he was not so good at proposing a positive alternative to it.  The consequence has been that the societies that have tried to follow his teachings have run themselves economically into the ground.  Similarly, while those who are sympathetic to the values of “social justice” and the gospel of gender equality have been good at pointing out the difficulties that result from the natural division of labor between male and female, they have not been quite so effective at proposing positive alternatives to it that would keep the human race in existence.  Consequently, wherever the attempt has been made to abolish the natural division of labor between the sexes, the number of children being born has declined below the level of replacement.  This is now the case throughout the Western world.  In Italy, for example, the average woman now gives birth to only 1.23 children, about half of what is needed to maintain the population.  The place of those children who would otherwise have been born to these prosperous couples is being filled through immigration: the immigration of peoples who produce many children, and who take a very different view of the natural division of labor between the sexes.