Sunday, September 15, 2013

WWCF: Social condemnation of hunting or human combat?

Which will come first?

Social condemnation of sport hunting
OR
Social condemnation of human combat sports

By social condemnation I mean when will we be past the point where being a hunter or being a fan of a human combat sport is acceptable in polite (general mixed) company. Yes, there is an underlying assumption here that the long-term trend is toward these ends. At some point the argument over rabbit season versus duck season will be moot--it won't ever be either. 

I think these come in degrees as they are long-term developments with stages for each. We need some ground rules on which will represent the true tipping point. First let's look at the levels we must consider.

For sport hunting I see it as a gradual outlawing by the spot an animal represents on the food/intelligence chain:
  1. Apes, monkeys, dolphins, whales, dogs, cats, . . .
  2. Elephants, lions, tigers, bears, oh my, . . . 
  3. Deer, ducks, turkeys, fish . . .
For human combat I see it as a gradual abandonment if not outlawing by the apparent brutality of the sport:
  1. Olympic-style wrestling
  2. Boxing
  3. MMA, cage fighting, etc.
We are already somewhere between 1 and 2 for sport hunting and nearly past 1 for human combat. Consider point three in this list in regard to sport hunting (this would represent a proxy as noted in the next paragraph), and consider how wrestling continues to be on the ropes. Here is my test for WWCF: when five state legislatures outside of New England pass broad legislation outlawing or highly limiting most items of the third type. We've already noted how politicians follow rather than lead. I feel it safe to say if this legislative test is passed, the overwhelming majority of voters must agree with the position. Alternatively, we might get to WWCF through other means such as the market for selling human combat evaporating. 

Note that sport hunting does not include harvesting of fish, lobster, elk, or other game for mass consumption on a secondary market. Hunting a deer and eating it, though, is sport hunting still whether or not the deer's head ends up on the wall. 

I think the key here is considering when does general public opinion pass what I will term a social acceptability threshold. At some point activities that were once common (e.g., smoking cigarettes, chewing tobacco, sexual harassment in the workplace, etc.) become beyond the pale. In the other direction eventually behavior once thought uncouth (e.g., interracial marriage, tattoos, etc.) become acceptable. I believe a large driver of this is the number of people engaging in the particular activity. 

In 1955 about 55% of men and 28% of women smoked. By 1990 the rate for men was equal to the 1955 rate for women while the rate for women had fallen about a fifth to about 23%.

For sexual harassment in the workplace note that female labor force participation may be the critical driver. Positively correlated with the LFPR trend would be female advancement in the workplace--probably with a lag due to the time it takes for the greater numbers of women to be experience-eligible for advanced positions as well as both active and institutional discrimination factors. When Don Draper was running things, the female portion of the labor force was about 33%. By 1990 it was nearly half (45%). 

Perhaps at some point I will have to awkwardly admit I do not have a tattoo. 

As for my prediction, I say that human combat has a shorter shelf life than sport hunting. This despite the fact that in the former behavior the participants are willing and compensated whereas in the latter behavior this is the case only on one side--and the other side doesn't just lose but dies. Alternative methods for population control of pest animals such as deer might accelerate the trend for outlawing sport hunting. But as we get wealthier and healthier, dangerous activities like human combat sports become more costly. This trend I believe dominates.