Scrolling through Facebook the other day I came across an article by The Economist (picture below), about how equal rights contribute to economic growth. On the face of it this can be seen as a positive thing, LGBT+ people are more included and that benefits everyone. But it made me deeply uncomfortable.
My issue with this is simple, it treats equal rights as a means rather than an end. Like most mainstream economists and neoliberal publications, this article treats growth as the ultimate goal. The obsession with perpetual economic growth as the way to increase living standards, and the adherence to the ideas of trickle down economics (that higher incomes for the rich will result in increased incomes for everyone), is a much broader topic I will leave for another day.
Suffice to say, this is not what LGBT+ activists have fought for. An improvement in LGBT+ rights (which despite what the article says does not begin and end with gay marriage) is not a good thing because it increases economic growth. LGBT+ rights are good in and of themselves, to treat them as a way to increase productivity (framing it as an economic rather than a social issue) is something I am uncomfortable as a queer person.
The article itself is dry and uninspiring, it’s essentially just a summary of a couple of studies looking at the effects of gay marriage on healthcare entitlements in the US. But treating this as an economic rather than a social issue is dangerous. It suggests that the existence and rights of queer people is good only where they contribute to the economy. This is the danger of neoliberalism, it treats people and their identities as commodities.