abortion

Let’s Make a Deal

Let's make a deal

The last deal negates all of the concessions made in the other deals — for those of us who will choose to live in Free States.

Utilitarianism and Torture

While I was going through my collection of links worth revisiting, I came upon a piece by Daniel McInerney, ” ‘Quantitative Judgments Don’t Apply': Foyle’s War, Series Seven” (The Imaginative Conservative, October 2013). McInerny opens with this:

At the beginning of the third volume of Evelyn Waugh’s masterful World War II trilogy, Sword of Honor, Guy Crouchback, a British Catholic officer entering a disillusioned middle age, has a conversation with his elderly father in which he disparages the Lateran Treaty. Gervase Crouchback rebukes his son’s irascibility. ““My dear boy,” he said, “you’re really making the most terrible nonsense, you know. That isn’t at all what the Church is like. It isn’t what she’s for.”

Later, Gervase Crouchback writes Guy a letter trying to explain more clearly what prompted his rebuke:

When you spoke of the Lateran Treaty did you consider how many souls may have been reconciled and have died at peace as the result of it? How many children may have been brought up in the faith who might have lived in ignorance? Quantitative judgments don’t apply. If only one soul was saved, that is full compensation for any amount of loss of “face.”

His father’s anti-utilitarian phrase, Quantitative judgments don’t apply, hangs in Guy’s mind, and through his interior monologues it becomes the leitmotif of this third volume. Quantitative judgments don’t apply: when it comes to evaluating the pearl of great price, one doesn’t weigh it against purely material considerations.

I have elsewhere criticized utilitarianism: here, here, and here. In the post at the third link (“Utilitarianism vs. Liberty”), I say that

strict utilitarianism requires that all decisions — not just governmental ones — must yield “the greatest amount of happiness altogether.” For example, if I fail to take your happiness into account when I buy a new car, I might make you less happy by my acquisition (because it makes you envious). And, in the utilitarian calculus, your unhappiness might outweigh my happiness. Ergo, less happiness altogether.

The foregoing example make it easy to see how modern “liberalism,” with its strong appeal to envy (among other unattractive traits), is an outgrowth of utilitarianism. (For more in that vein, see “Inventing Liberalism.”) . . . .

. . . [U]tilitarianism compromises liberty because it accords no value to individual decisions about preferred courses of action. Decisions, to a utilitarian, are valid only if they comply with the views of the utilitarian, who feigns omniscience about the (incommensurable) happiness of individuals. Agreement among various utilitarians about the desirability of a particular course of action signifies nothing more than a shared prejudice about the way the world ought to be.

As a critic of utilitarianism, can I properly defend torture? Is it not utilitarian to suggest that a supposed wrong (torture) can be weighed against an unquestionable good (saving innocent lives)? It might seem so, given the statements that I  (and others) have made with respect to torture; to wit:

In sum, torture is moral — and therefore justified — when it becomes necessary for the purpose of eliciting information that could save innocent lives and the lives of those whose job it is to defend innocent lives. I do not mean that torture must be used, but that it may be used. I do not mean that torture will not have repulsive consequences for its targets, but that the thought of those consequences should not cause the American government to renounce torture as an option.

Such a statement could be taken as a utilitarian response to the trolley problem:

There is a runaway trolley barreling down the railway tracks. Ahead, on the tracks, there are five people tied up and unable to move. The trolley is headed straight for them. You are standing some distance off in the train yard, next to a lever. If you pull this lever, the trolley will switch to a different set of tracks. Unfortunately, you notice that there is one person on the side track. You have two options: (1) Do nothing, and the trolley kills the five people on the main track. (2) Pull the lever, diverting the trolley onto the side track where it will kill one person . . . .

. . . A utilitarian view asserts that it is obligatory to steer to the track with one man on it. According to simple utilitarianism, such a decision would be not only permissible, but, morally speaking, the better option (the other option being no action at all).

Whatever the merits or defects of the trolley problem, it isn’t analogous to the terrorist-victim problem. To make it analogous, it would be rewritten as follows:

A trolley driver who is in full control of his vehicle sees, ahead of him on the tracks, five persons who are tied up and unable to move. The trolley is headed straight for them. You are standing some distance off in the train yard, next to a lever. If you pull this lever, the trolley will switch to a different set of tracks: (1) Do nothing, and the trolley kills the five persons on the main track. (2) Pull the lever, diverting the trolley onto the side track where it may derail because of its speed, thus injuring or killing the homicidal trolley driver . . . .

The problem, in other words, isn’t a choice between killing one innocent or five innocents. The choice is between harming a killer or allowing the killer (and his compatriots) to take many innocent lives. To put it another way, it’s a choice between faux morality and self-defense.

Faux moralists of the “liberal” ilk often criticize the execution of murderers and the torture of terrorists because capital punishment and torture aren’t “civilized.” And yet most of those same faux moralists defend abortion, which is nothing better than the torture and execution of innocents. What could be less civilized?

*    *     *

Related posts:
Modern Utilitarianism
Does Capital Punishment Deter Homicide?
Crime and Punishment
The Left, Abortion, and Adolescence
Saving the Innocent?
Saving the Innocent?: Part II
Abortion and the Slippery Slope
Privacy, Autonomy, and Responsibility
Peter Singer’s Agenda
More Punishment Means Less Crime
More About Crime and Punishment
More Punishment Means Less Crime: A Footnote
Clear Thinking about the Death Penalty
Let the Punishment Fit the Crime
Less Punishment Means More Crime
Another Argument for the Death Penalty
Singer Said It
A “Person” or a “Life”?
Utilitarianism, “Liberalism,” and Omniscience
Utilitarianism vs. Liberty
Torture
Clear Thinking about the Death Penalty
Saving the Innocent
Crimes against Humanity
Abortion and Logic
Why Stop at the Death Penalty?
Utilitarianism and Psychopathy
Lock ‘Em Up
Legislating Morality
Legislating Morality (II)
Free Will, Crime, and Punishment
Abortion, Doublethink, and Left-Wing Blather
Abortion, “Gay Rights,” and Liberty

The View from Here

You know what happens when a law is enacted to protect a “minority,” don’t you? The minority acquires privileged status in the eyes of the law. Any action that is claimed to deprive the “minority” of its rights brings the wrath of the state down on the purported offender. And the same law enables members of the “minority” to attain jobs, promotions, and university admissions for which they are otherwise unqualified.

My opening paragraph is prompted by the likely passage of a “gay rights in workplace” bill by the U.S. Senate. The bill is unlikely to be approved soon by the U.S. House of Representatives, but I won’t say “never.” Many members of the GOP are eager to seem “nice,” and enough of them might vote with Democrats to pass the bill and send it to B.O. for signature. Such an act of appeasement will, of course, go unrewarded by voters of the left. But panicked lawmakers are immune to logic, and devoid of principles.

The “gay rights” issue is only a symptom of America’s decay. The official elevation of gays to privileged status is of a piece with several other developments: the very possible failure of efforts to derail death-dealing Obamacare, the equally likely failure of efforts to curb murderous abortion (the gateway to involuntary euthanasia), the ever-growing dependence of Americans on an unaffordable welfare state, an unchecked regulatory apparatus, feminized and gutted defenses, groveling before enemies, and the suppression of dissent in the name of “rights,” “social justice,” “equal protection,” and other Orwellian catch-phrases.

It is altogether evident that America soon will be an irreversibly effete, statist, inhumane, and appeasing realm. In it, every truly beneficial impulse — like those that energized America’s revolution against Britain, the framing of a Constitution that promised the preservation of liberty, the defeat of oppressive regimes in wars hot and cold, and the creation of the world’s most dynamic and productive economy — will be squelched.

The barbarians within, and their willing dupes, are in the saddle. It can happen here, and it is happening here. America is about to become the land of the unfree and the home of the weak-kneed.

*     *     *

Related reading: Joe Herring, “I Am Now a Dissident (and You Should Be Too!),” American Thinker, November 6, 2013

Related posts:
Diversity
Putting Hate Crimes in Perspective
The Cost of Affirmative Action
Why Not Just Use SAT Scores?
The Face of America
Affirmative Action: A Modest Proposal
Race, Intelligence, and Affirmative Action
Affirmative Action: Two Views from the Academy
Affirmative Action, One More Time
Libertarianism, Marriage, and the True Meaning of Family Values
Same-Sex Marriage
“Equal Protection” and Homosexual Marriage
The Course of the Mainstream
A Contrarian View of Segregation
Much Food for Thought
Guilty Until Proven Innocent
After the Bell Curve
A Footnote . . .
Schelling and Segregation
Law, Liberty, and Abortion
Black Terrorists and “White Flight”
Positive Rights and Cosmic Justice: Part IV (with links to earlier parts of the series)
Timely Material
Affirmative Action: Two Views from the Academy, Revisited
It’s the Little Things That Count
A Footnote to a Footnote
Let Me Be Perfectly Clear…
FDR and Fascism
An FDR Reader
“Family Values,” Liberty, and the State
Is There Such a Thing as Society
The People’s Romance
Intellectuals and Capitalism
Fascism
Conspicuous Consumption and Race
An Honest Woman Speaks Out
Fascism with a “Friendly” Face
The Interest-Group Paradox
Parsing Political Philosophy
Is Statism Inevitable?
Inventing “Liberalism”
Civil Society and Homosexual “Marriage”
A New, New Constitution
Fascism and the Future of America
The Indivisibility of Economic and Social Liberty
Rights, Liberty, the Golden Rule, and the Legitimate State
The Perils of Nannyism: The Case of Obamacare
More about the Perils of Obamacare
Health-Care Reform: The Short of It
The Real Constitution and Civil Disobedience
The Near-Victory of Communism
Tocqueville’s Prescience
First Principles
The Shape of Things to Come
Accountants of the Soul
Invoking Hitler
Is Liberty Possible?
The Left
Perry v. Schwarzenegger, Due Process, and Equal Protection
The Constitution: Original Meaning, Corruption, and Restoration
Rationalism, Social Norms, and Same-Sex “Marriage”
A Moral Dilemma
A Conversation with Uncle Sam
Society and the State
I Want My Country Back
The “Forthcoming Financial Collapse”
Undermining the Free Society
Our Enemy, the State
Pseudo-Libertarian Sophistry vs. True Libertarianism
“Intellectuals and Society”: A Review
Government vs. Community
The Evil That Is Done with Good Intentions
The Destruction of Society in the Name of “Society”
About Democracy
Externalities and Statism
Taxes: Theft or Duty?
Bounded Liberty: A Thought Experiment
More Pseudo-Libertarianism
The Meaning of Liberty
The Left’s Agenda
Substantive Due Process and the Limits of Privacy
In Defense of Marriage
The Left and Its Delusions
The Destruction of Society in the Name of “Society”
A Declaration of Civil Disobedience
Crimes against Humanity
Abortion and Logic
The Myth That Same-Sex “Marriage” Causes No Harm
The Spoiled Children of Capitalism
Politics, Sophistry, and the Academy
Subsidizing the Enemies of Liberty
Society and the State
Are You in the Bubble?
Defense as an Investment in Liberty and Prosperity
Our Perfect, Perfect Constitution
Abortion, Doublethink, and Left-Wing Blather
Race and Reason: The Derbyshire Debacle
Race and Reason: The Victims of Affirmative Action
Not-So-Random Thoughts (III)
Race and Reason: The Achievement Gap — Causes and Implications
Don’t Use the “S” Word When the “F” Word Will Do
Liberty and Society
Tolerance on the Left
The Eclipse of “Old America”
The Capitalist Paradox Meets the Interest-Group Paradox
Genetic Kinship and Society
How Not to Cope with Government Failure
Riots, Culture, and the Final Showdown (revisited)
Where We Are, Economically
The Economic Outlook in Brief
Is Taxation Slavery?
Obamanomics: A Report Card
Well-Founded Pessimism
A Declaration of Independence
The 80-20 Rule, Illustrated
America: Past, Present, and Future
Defending Liberty against (Pseudo) Libertarians
America: Past, Present, and Future
Restoring Constitutional Government: The Way Ahead
Economic Horror Stories: The Great “Demancipation” and Economic Stagnation
The Fallacy of the Reverse-Mussolini Fallacy
“Conversing” about Race
Economics: A Survey
IQ, Political Correctness, and America’s Present Condition
The Barbarians Within and the State of the Union
Why Are Interest Rates So Low?
Estimating the Rahn Curve: Or, How Government Spending Inhibits Economic Growth
America’s Financial Crisis Is Now
The World Turned Upside Down
“We the People” and Big Government: Part I
“We the People” and Big Government: Part I (continued)
“We the People” and Big Government: Part II (first installment)

Intellectual Courage in Austin

Ken Herman’s columns in the Austin American-Statesman are among the paper’s few bright spots. I don’t always agree with Herman, whose brand of modern-style liberalism usually shines through. But he’s intelligent, analytical, witty, and fair.

I cringed inwardly this morning when I read this in Herman’s column (“Judgment on constitutionality, not on abortion,” behind a paywall):

Local U.S. District Judge Lee Yeakel showed a keen understanding of both sides of that equation this week in his decision striking down portions of Texas’ new abortion restrictions law. And, though a federal appeals court on Thursday lifted Yeakel’s injunction against enforcement of portions of the new law, he offered solid logic in throwing out the provision requiring abortion providers to have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles.

“The court expresses grave reservations about allowing a hodgepodge of diverse medical committees and boards to determine, based solely on admitting privileges, which physicians may perform abortions,” he wrote, adding that the provision “places an undue burden on a woman seeking an abortion.”

What did the appeals court — a three-judge panel of the Fifth Circuit — have to say? This:

We first consider the hospital-admitting-privileges provision of H.B. 2 [the Texas law] and whether the State has made a strong showing that it is likely to succeed on the merits. We conclude that it has….

… The district court focused primarily on emergency room treatment of women experiencing complications following an abortion. This overlooks substantial interests of the State in regulating the medical profession and the State’s interest in “‘protecting the integrity and ethics of the medical profession.’” As the Supreme Court has noted, “the State has ‘legitimate concern for maintaining high standards of professional conduct’ in the practice of medicine.’” The Supreme Court has also consistently recognized that “[r]egulations designed to foster the health of a woman seeking an abortion are valid if they do not constitute an undue burden.”

The State offered more than a “conceivable state of facts that could provide a rational basis” for requiring abortion physicians to have hospital admission privileges. The State offered evidence that such a requirement fosters a woman’s ability to seek consultation and treatment for complications directly from her physician, not from an emergency room provider. There was evidence that such a requirement would assist in preventing patient abandonment by the physician who performed the abortion and then left the patient to her own devices to obtain care if complications developed. The district court’s finding to the contrary is not supported by the evidence, and in any event, “a legislative choice is not subject to courtroom factfinding and may be based on rational speculation unsupported by evidence or empirical data.”

The requirement that physicians performing abortions must have hospital admitting privileges helps to ensure that credentialing of physicians beyond initial licensing and periodic license renewal occurs….

The district court’s conclusion that a State has no rational basis for requiring physicians who perform abortions to have admitting privileges at a hospital is but one step removed from repudiating the longstanding recognition by the Supreme Court that a State may constitutionally require that only a physician may perform an abortion….

We similarly [to the U.S. Supreme Court's opinion in Gonzales v. Carhart] conclude that the provisions of H.B. 2 requiring a physician who performs an abortion to have admitting privileges at a hospital, “measured by [their] text,” do not impose a substantial obstacle to abortions. Just as the Supreme Court concluded in Gonzales with regard to the federal Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act of 200335 that “[t]here can be no doubt the government ‘has an interest in protecting the integrity and ethics of the medical profession,’”36 there can be no doubt that the State of Texas has this same interest, as well as an interest in protecting the health of women who undergo abortion procedures.

There is the possibility, if not the probability, however, that requiring all physicians who perform abortions to have admitting privileges at a hospital may increase the cost of accessing an abortion provider and decrease the number of physicians available to perform abortions. As the district court correctly recognized, the Supreme Court has nevertheless held that “‘[t]he fact that a law which serves a valid purpose, one not designed to strike at the right itself, has the incidental effect of making it more difficult or more expensive to procure an abortion cannot be enough to invalidate it.’”

There’s much more, but that’s enough to make this point: It should have been evident to Herman that Judge Yeakel’s “solid logic” wasn’t really solid.

I will give Herman the benefit of the doubt by suggesting that he didn’t have time to digest the Fifth Circuit’s opinion before he wrote his column. (The opinion was issued in the morning of October 31, and Herman’s column was posted at 7:28 p.m. on the same day.)

But I come to praise Herman, not to vilify him. What’s praiseworthy in his column are two paragraphs near the end:

In addition to being a most-divisive issue, abortion is one with little to no middle ground. And it’s marked by close to a total inability for one side to understand the other side.

One of the blindest spots in the argument is held by abortion rights supporters who believe the other side is driven by opposition to women’s rights. Abortion rights foes are motivated by a sincere belief that an unborn child or fetus, or whatever term you choose, is a form of life entitled to constitutional protection. You might agree, you might not. But if you don’t, it’s important that you understand that [anti-abortion] side isn’t driven by a desire to curtail woman’s rights. (Emphasis added.)

It’s hard to say it any plainer than that. Kudos to Herman for saying it, and for figuratively confronting the pro-abortion forces, which — in leftish Austin — must vastly outnumber the anti-abortion forces.

I expect Herman’s candor to be “rewarded” with irate and hateful messages from many abortion advocates. Herman must have anticipated such messages — and perhaps worse — before he published his column. I therefore admire not only his candor but also his intellectual courage.

The Most Disgusting Thing I’ve Read Today

UPDATED 07/01/14 (below)

It’s a post at a blog called Lion of the Blogosphere, the proprietor of which evidently has delusions of grandeur. The post is “Abortion and the just-world fallacy.” (No, I won’t link to the blog or the post.) The author, one Mr. Lion (of the Blogosphere), seems to be an unabashed proponent of abortion for the “underclass.”

Mr. Lion’s latest abomination begins with this:

To quote Wikipedia, “the just-world hypothesis or just-world fallacy is the cognitive bias (or assumption) that a person’s actions always bring morally fair and fitting consequences to that person, so that all noble actions are eventually rewarded and all evil actions are eventually punished. “

I see this cognitive bias in many of the comments to anything I post about abortion. Anti-abortion people have this bias that they believe that banning abortion (which is supposed to be evil) will bring better outcomes. But the reality, as I keep pointing out, is that abortion is effective at reducing the birthrate of poor women.

Until I was enlightened by Mr. Lion, I had no idea that opposition to abortion arises from the just-world fallacy. I had thought, all along, that those of us who oppose abortion do so because it is a eugenic practice that involves the state-condoned taking of innocent lives. Or, because it is a sin — as some opponents prefer to say.

Superior beings like Mr. Lion (and Mr. Hitler) have no qualms about eugenic practices. Well, they don’t if they’re not on the receiving end of those practices. I wonder how Mr. Lion will enjoy the eugenic program known as Obamacare, with its inevitable death panels (though they won’t be called that) — a program that he implores Republicans to accept as the law of the land.

Mr. Lion justifies his pro-abortion position on cost-effectiveness grounds:

[A]ccording to the Guttmacher Institute “Forty-two percent of women obtaining abortions have incomes below 100% of the federal poverty level ($10,830 for a single woman with no children)” and another “twenty-seven percent of women obtaining abortions have incomes between 100–199% of the federal poverty level.

So we see that the women most likely to have abortions are those who should be having abortions, women who have no way to support their children except by collecting welfare, and children raised by welfare moms are many times more likely to be criminals….

I already said “disgusting,” didn’t I? Why not just take the women out and shoot them? That would be cheaper than giving them abortions, wouldn’t it?

Mr. Lion would make a good technocrat, given his readiness to treat human beings like numbers and erase them at will. But “good” isn’t excellent; excellent technocrats are able to feign compassion and disguise their viciousness.

What about crime and abortion? I cut Mr. Lion off just as he was about to add this:

[S]o it’s not surprising at all that Steven D. Levitt, author of Freakonomics, found that abortion reduced crime. (And Levitt rigorously rebuts Steve Sailer who tried to argue that it didn’t.)

Oh, really? Well, as it happens, Levitt’s “rigorous rebuttal” isn’t very rigorous. As I point out here,

Levitt’s findings are built on statistical quicksand. From the abstract of a paper by Christopher L. Foote and Christopher F. Goetz of the Boston Fed:

[A] fascinating paper by Donohue and Levitt (2001, henceforth DL) . . . purports to show that hypothetical individuals resulting from aborted fetuses, had they been born and developed into youths, would have been more likely to commit crimes than youths resulting from fetuses carried to term. We revisit that paper, showing that the actual implementation of DL’s statistical test in their paper differed from what was described. . . .We show that when DL’s key test is run as described and augmented with state‐level population data, evidence for higher per capita criminal propensities among the youths who would have developed, had they not been aborted as fetuses, vanishes.

There’s a lot more about the Levitt-Sailer controversy here; the bottom line, in my view, favors Sailer. My own analysis (here) also refutes Levitt.

The moral of the story: If you’re going to be an excellent technocrat in the United States, you must (a) take care to disguise your viciousness, and (b) quote unimpeachable sources (i.e., not Steven Levitt).

UPDATE 07/01/14 – for readers coming here via a link in a comment at Mr. Lion’s blog

Here’s the comment:

If you haven’t read this guy’s blog, he’s disgusted with Lion’s position on pro-abortion for prole and NAM women.

http://politicsandprosperity.com/2013/10/11/the-most-disgusting-thing-ive-read-today/

He seems to think Lion’s take on it is about eugenics, but it’s more about IQ leading to poor outcomes. One needs to understand that perpetual proledom and NAMdom is a good measure of IQ. Multigenerational poverty, dysfunctionality and underachievement are a result of low IQs.

The commenter seems to think that “Lion’s take” isn’t about eugenics. A state-sponsored effort to reduce the numbers of low-IQ “proles” and “NAMs” is nothing but an exercise in eugenics.

A Human Person

A RERUN (WITH LIGHT EDITING) OF A POST AT MY OLD BLOG, FROM MAY 5, 2008

The ludicrous and (it seems) increasingly popular assertion that plants have rights should not distract us from the more serious issue of fetal rights. (My position on the issue can be found among these links.) Maverick Philosopher explains how abortion may be opposed for non-religious reasons:

It is often assumed that opposition to abortion can be based only on religious premises. This assumption is plainly false. To show that it is is false, one need merely give an anti-abortion argument that does not invoke any religious tenet, for example:1. Infanticide is morally wrong.
2. There is no morally relevant difference between abortion and infancticide.
Therefore
3. Abortion is morally wrong.

Whether one accepts this argument or not, it clearly invokes no religious premise. It is therefore manifestly incorrect to say or imply that all opposition to abortion must be religiously-based. Theists and atheists alike could make use of the above argument.

MP then links to a piece by Nat Hentoff, an atheist and Leftist. Hentoff writes, apropos Barack Obama and abortion, that

I admire much of Obama’s record, including what he wrote in “The Audacity of Hope” about the Founders’ “rejection of all forms of absolute authority, whether the king, the theocrat, the general, the oligarch, the dictator, the majority … George Washington declined the crown because of this impulse.”

But on abortion, Obama is an extremist. He has opposed the Supreme Court decision that finally upheld the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act against that form of infanticide. Most startlingly, for a professed humanist, Obama — in the Illinois Senate — also voted against the Born Alive Infant Protection Act….

Furthermore, as “National Right to Life News” (April issue) included in its account of Obama’s actual votes on abortion, he “voted to kill a bill that would have required an abortionist to notify at least one parent before performing an abortion on a minor girl from another state.”

These are conspiracies — and that’s the word — by pro-abortion extremists to transport a minor girl across state lines from where she lives, unbeknownst to her parents. This assumes that a minor fully understands the consequences of that irredeemable act. As I was researching this presidential candidate’s views on the unilateral “choice” that takes another’s life, I heard on the radio what Obama said during a Johnstown, Pa., town hall meeting on March 29 as he was discussing the continuing dangers of exposure to HIV/AIDS infections:

“When it comes specifically to HIV/AIDS, the most important prevention is education, which should include — which should include abstinence education and teaching children, you know, that sex is not something casual. But it should also include — it should also include other, you know, information about contraception because, look, I’ve got two daughters, 9 years old and 6 years old. I am going to teach them first of all about values and morals.

“But if they make a mistake,” Obama continued, “I don’t want them punished with a baby.”

Among my children and grandchildren are two daughters and three granddaughters; and when I hear anyone, including a presidential candidate, equate having a baby as punishment, I realize with particular force the impact that the millions of legal abortions in this country have had on respect for human life.

And that’s the crux of the issue: respect for human life.

Thus I turn to a Peter Lawler’s “A Human Person, Actually,” in which Lawler reviews Embryo: A Defense of Human Life, by Robert P. George and Christopher Tollefsen:

The embryo, George and Tollefsen argue, is a whole being, possessing the integrated capability to go through all the phases of human development. An embryo has what it takes to be a free, rational, deliberating, and choosing being; it is naturally fitted to develop into a being who can be an “uncaused cause,” a genuinely free agent. Some will object, of course, that the embryo is only potentially human. The more precise version of this objection is that the embryo is human—not a fish or a member of some other species—but not yet a person. A person, in this view, is conscious enough to be a free chooser right now. Rights don’t belong to members of our species but to persons, beings free enough from natural determination to be able to exercise their rights. How could someone have rights if he doesn’t even know that he has them?…

Is the embryo a “who”? It’s true enough that we usually don’t bond with embryos or grieve when they die. Doubtless, that’s partly because of our misperception of who or what an embryo is. But it’s also because we have no personal or loving contact with them. We tend to think of persons as beings with brains and hearts; an embryo has neither. But personal significance can’t be limited to those we happen to know and love ourselves; my powers of knowing and loving other persons are quite limited, and given to the distortions of prejudice. Whether an embryo is by nature a “who” can be determined only by philosophical reflection about what we really know.The evidence that George and Tollefsen present suggests that there are only two non-arbitrary ways to consider when a “what” naturally becomes a “who.” Either the embryo is incapable of being anything but a “who”; from the moment he or she comes to be, he or she is a unique and particular being capable of exhibiting all the personal attributes associated with knowing, loving, and choosing. Or a human being doesn’t become a “who” until he or she actually acquires the gift of language and starts displaying distinctively personal qualities. Any point in between these two extremes—such as the point at which a fetus starts to look like a human animal or when the baby is removed from the mother’s womb—is perfectly arbitrary. From a purely rational or scientific view, the price of being unable to regard embryos as “whos” is being unable to regard newborn babies as “whos”….

As I say here,

abortion is of a piece with selective breeding and involuntary euthanasia, wherein the state fosters eugenic practices that aren’t far removed from those of the Third Reich. And when those practices become the norm, what and who will be next? Libertarians, of all people, should be alert to such possibilities. Instead of reflexively embracing “choice” they should be asking whether “choice” will end with fetuses.

Most libertarians, alas, mimic “liberals” and “progressives” on the issue of abortion. But there are no valid libertarian arguments for abortion, just wrong-headed ones.

Political Correctness vs. Civility

Rust belt philosopher (Eli Horowitz) doesn’t care for Stella Morabito’s “Dissecting Political Correctness” (Public Discourse, August 13, 2013). Here’s Horowitz’s commentary, in full:

Stella Morabito may be on the wrong side, but she’s not wrong just because she’s on the wrong side. So to speak.

“Victory in the war of ideas often hinges more on the conditions of battle than on the quality of arguments. You know this instinctively if you’ve ever been shouted down, smeared, or ignored when you were simply trying to state a point. Truly civil public discourse becomes much harder when our dialogue is hijacked by thought policing—euphemistically referred to as ‘political correctness,’ or PC.Political correctness has cultivated an illusion of support for laws that undermine fundamental institutions of society, including marriage and family. The only way to dispel this illusion, and to reverse the damage these laws will do, is to revive true civil discourse.”

Morabito’s tiresome bigotry aside, she describes in this article the idea of “an opinion cascade,” which (loosely) is the thing that happens when an idea achieves such memetic dominance that it is protected and promoted within a given group by the sorts of mechanisms that she describes (i.e., stigma, media endorsements, etc.); in short, a cascade is a thing that shifts “the conditions of battle.” You might think, given that description and the paragraphs above, that she was opposed to such cascades altogether. After all, she says that these cascades are at least sometimes incompatible with “truly civil public discourse,” which she takes to be a good and even a necessary thing. Yet the fact of the matter is quite the opposite: she likes cascades, just so long as they benefit her side.

“If enough people come out of isolation and shed the fear of speaking their minds, a genuine cascade of truth will ensue. Then civil society can be rebuilt, and real public discourse based on reason and logic can flourish.”

Clearly, this is unforgivably stupid. She begins by claiming that civil discourse cannot happen when people are “shouted down, smeared, or ignored,” and that’s absolutely correct. She also says that opinion cascades establish those forms of stigma, and that’s also correct. Put these two facts together and you’ll easily conclude that no cascade can be compatible with civil discourse, because every cascade will include the construction of new conversational stigmas. Pretty straightforward, right? Except then, at the end, Morabito fucks it up: her cascades, she says, allow civil discourse to flourish. Alas, that’s bullshit: the right cascades are the ones that establish the proper stigmas (among other criteria), and the proper stigmas do not stop being stigmas just because they’re proper.

Morabito’s main point seems to elude Horowitz. Morabito — perhaps not clearly enough — equates “opinion cascades” with “manufactured cascades,” and these are not the same as the social norms that manufactured cascades are meant to overturn. Long-standing norms are not manufactured cascades. As Edward Feser explains in “Hayek and Tradition,”

[t]radition, being nothing other than the distillation of centuries of human experience, itself provides the surest guide to determining the most rational course of action. Far from being opposed to reason, reason is inseparable from tradition, and blind without it. The so-called enlightened mind thrusts tradition aside, hoping to find something more solid on which to make its stand, but there is nothing else, no alternative to the hard earth of human experience….

Liberty and happiness cannot be found in the abstract; they must be found in the real world, among real people. There is no escaping the fact that the attainment of something like liberty and happiness requires the acceptance of — and compliance with — some social norms that one may find personally distasteful if not oppressive.

The knee-jerk libertarian and “liberal” will say, for example, that abortion and same-sex marriage are consistent with and required by liberty. But they are not. They are steps down a slippery slope toward the further loss of liberty, just as the “progressivism” of the Roosevelts nudged and pushed us down a slippery slope toward the regulatory-welfare state in which we are now mired.

Libertarians and “liberals” seem willing to credit is the possibility that abortion is of a piece with selective breeding and involuntary euthanasia, wherein the state fosters eugenic practices that aren’t far removed from those of the Third Reich. And when those practices become the norm, what and who will be next? Libertarians, of all people, should be alert to such possibilities. Instead of reflexively embracing “choice” they should be asking whether “choice” will end with fetuses.

The same principle applies to same-sex marriage; it will have consequences that most libertarians are unwilling to consider. Although it’s true that traditional, heterosexual unions have their problems, those problems have been made worse, not better, by the intercession of the state. (The loosening of divorce laws, for example, signaled that marriage was to be taken less seriously, and so it has been.) Nevertheless, the state — in its usual perverse wisdom — may create new problems for society by legitimating same-sex marriage, thus signaling that traditional marriage is just another contractual arrangement in which any combination of persons may participate. Heterosexual marriage — as Jennifer Roback Morse explains — is a primary and irreplicable civilizing force. The recognition of homosexual marriage by the state will undermine that civilizing force. The state will be saying, in effect, “Anything goes. Do your thing. The courts, the welfare system, and the taxpayer — above all — will “pick up the pieces.” And so it will go.

In sum, Morabito doesn’t f*** it up. She defends civilizing social norms against organized and virulent campaigns to overthrow them. (For a closer look at those campaigns and their essential dishonesty, see this and the third item in this post.)

Moreover, Horowitz’s language underscores Morabito’s point about the incivility of politically correct discourse. Morabito makes a polite case against the strident language of political correctness. Horowitz not only attacks Morabito’s argument (and gets it wrong), but also resorts to “tiresome bigotry,” “unforgivably stupid,” “fucks it up,” and “bullshit.” As if to prove Morabito’s charge, Horowitz commits a written version of “shouting down” and “smearing.”

Related posts:
I Missed This One
A Century of Progress?
The Marriage Contract
Feminist Balderdash
Libertarianism, Marriage, and the True Meaning of Family Values
Consider the Children
Marriage and Children
Same-Sex Marriage
“Equal Protection” and Homosexual Marriage
Social Norms and Liberty
A Footnote about Liberty and the Social Compact
Finding Liberty
The Harm Principle
Footnotes to “The Harm Principle”
The Harm Principle, Again
Parenting, Religion, Culture, and Liberty
“Family Values,” Liberty, and the State
On Liberty
Civil Society and Homosexual “Marriage”
Perry v. Schwarzenegger, Due Process, and Equal Protection
Rationalism, Social Norms, and Same-Sex “Marriage”
Pseudo-Libertarian Sophistry vs. True Libertarianism
The Myth That Same-Sex “Marriage” Causes No Harm
Bounded Liberty: A Thought Experiment
More Pseudo-Libertarianism
The Meaning of Liberty
Positive Liberty vs. Liberty
In Defense of Marriage
Not-So-Random Thoughts (IV) (third item)
Burkean Libertarianism
What Is Libertarianism?
True Libertarianism, One More Time
Liberty and Society
Tolerance on the Left
Liberty as a Social Construct: Moral Relativism?

Defending Liberty against (Pseudo) Libertarians

(Pseudo) libertarians like to demonstrate their bogus commitment to liberty by proclaiming loudly their support for unfettered immigration, unfettered speech, unfettered abortion, unfettered same-sex coupling (and legal recognition thereof as “marriage’), and unfettered you-name-it.. In the minds of these moral relativists, liberty is a dream world where anything goes — anything of which they approve, that is.

The aim of today’s sermon is to embellish what I’ve said previously in many of the posts listed at the bottom of this one on the subject of (pseudo) libertarians and (pseudo) libertarianism. I begin with Bryan Caplan.

My disdain for Caplan’s (pseudo) libertarian, pacifistic, one-worldishness is amply documented: here, here, here, here, here, and here (second item). Caplan has been at it again, in recent posts about immigration (as in opening the floodgates thereto).

Consider this post, for example, where Caplan tries (in vain) to employ Swiftian hyperbole in defense of unfettered immigration. In the following block quotation, each of Caplan’s “witty” proposals is followed by my observations (in brackets and bold type):

Libertarians’ odd openness to using immigration restrictions to protect American freedom has me thinking.  There are many statist policies that could indirectly lead to more libertarian policy.  If you’re open to one, you should logically be open to all.

Here are just a few candidates:

1. Make public schools teach libertarianism.  Sure, public education should be abolished.  But as long as public education exists, wouldn’t it be better if the schools taught children about the value of freedom and the wonder of markets?

[Well, yes, our course it would. But public schools don't do that -- and won't do that -- because they were long ago taken over by leftist "educators." Next stupid idea...]

2. Discourage fertility of less libertarian groups.  If you really think that Muslims or Hispanics are unusually statist, their high birth rates should worry you.  Indeed, any birth rate above zero should worry you.  A moderate step would be to offer members of these groups extra subsidies for birth control.  From there, it’s just a hop, skip, and a jump to subsidized sterilization, tax penalties, or a selective One Child Policy.

[But why allow the immigration of statist-leaning groups in the first place? In fact, it would be a good idea to encourage them -- and others -- to leave. If the encouragement were financial, it would be a good investment.]

3. Censor statist ideas.  Sure, Paul Krugman has a right to free speech.  But the rest of us have a right to not be ruled by people swayed by Krugman.  It’s childish to deny the trade-off, no?

[It is childish to deny the trade-off. That's why idiots like Caplan deny it. They believe that theft is wrong, but they don't believe in preventing (or reducing) the amount of theft committed by government because statist ideas have been and are allowed to flourish. See below for more on this point.]

4. Subsidize vacations for less libertarian groups on election day.  Suppose the government gave members of unlibertarian groups free trips to Cancun that conveniently coincided with election day.  While some of the eligible would file an absentee ballot, there is little doubt that this would heavily depress turnout.  So why not?

[Better yet -- and far less expensive -- establish meaningful eligibility standards for voting; for example, being at least 30 years of age, owning one's home, and being able to read and write at the 12th-grade level. This might empower more "liberals" than conservatives, give the tendency of educated persons to adhere to statism. But their power would be constrained by the sensible prohibition of speech that advocates theft in the name of the state.]

The first link in the block quotation is to an earlier post by Caplan, in which, for practical purposes, he joins with Don Boudreaux in proclaiming (psuedo) libertarian absolutism on such other matters as freedom of speech. As Boudreaux puts it,

Freedom may well destroy itself.  That’s a risk I’m willing to take, especially if the proposed means of saving freedom is to restrict it.

This reminds me of “it was necessary to destroy the village in order to save it.” It’s a position that defies logic; thus:

  1. Freedom is not merely literal freedom from captivity; it is the enjoyment of that freedom through the peaceful pursuit of happiness. (Freedom, as a general condition, is possible only if everyone’s pursuit of happiness is peaceful with respect to other persons and their property.)
  2. It is wrong to deny any person his freedom, regardless of his demonstrated enmity toward freedom as defined in 1. (This is Boudreaux’s stated position, which — taken literally — precludes the imprisonment of convicted murderers, rapists, thieves, and others whose acts deny to others the peaceful pursuit of happiness.)
  3. Freedom, therefore, consists only of literal freedom. (This conclusion, which contradicts the full definition of freedom given in 1, is the logical consequence of Boudreaux’s position. And yet, Boudreaux would be the last person to accept this limited definition of freedom.)

It doesn’t matter whether the person whose demonstrated hostility toward freedom (properly defined) is a thief or a socialist. One is the same as the other when it comes to the defense of freedom (properly defined). Boudreaux and his ilk would be consistent (though wrong) if they were to say that thieves shouldn’t be imprisoned, but I doubt that they would say such a thing because they are staunch defenders of property rights. Why then, do they defend the right of statists to spread the gospel of government control over our lives and livelihoods, which is nothing but government-sponsored theft and demonstrably more damaging than garden-variety theft?

As I say at the end of this post,

Liberty is lost when the law allows “freedom of speech, and of the press” to undermine the civil and state institutions that enable liberty.

There is a very good case for the view that the First Amendment sought to protect only those liberties necessary for the preservation of republican government. The present statist regime is a long way from the kind of republican government envisioned by the Framers.

Another staple of (pseudo) libertarian thought is a slavish devotion to privacy — when that devotion supports a (pseudo) libertarian position. Economists like Caplan and Boudreaux are cagy about abortion. But other (pseudo) libertarians are less so; for example:

I got into a long conversation yesterday with a [Ron] Paul supporter who took me to task for my criticisms of Paul’s positions. For one thing, he insisted, Paul’s position on abortion wasn’t as bad as I made it out, because Paul just thinks abortion is a matter for the states. I pointed out that in my book, saying that states can violate the rights of women [emphasis added] is no more libertarian than saying that the federal government can violate the rights of women.

Whence the “right” to abort an unborn child? Here, according to the same writer:

I do believe that abortion is a liberty protected by the Fourteenth Amendment….

This train of “logic” is in accord with the U.S. Supreme Court’s manufactured “right” to an abortion under the Fourteenth (or was it the Ninth?) Amendment, which I have discussed in various places, including here. All in the name of “privacy.”

Here, again, we see devotion to a value for its own sake, regardless of the implications for liberty. As I say here,

if privacy were an absolute right, it would be possible to get away with murder in one’s home simply by committing murder there. In fact, if there are any absolute rights, privacy certainly isn’t one of them.

(Psuedo) libertarians choose not to characterize abortion as murder. They prefer to think of it as a form of control over one’s own body. But an unborn child is not “one’s own body” — it is its own body, created (in the overwhelming majority of cases) by consensual sex between the mother and a male person. Abortion is nothing more than a murderous flight from personal responsibility, which is a trait highly praised (in the abstract) by (pseudo) libertarians. And it is a long step down a very slippery eugenic slope.

It is no wonder that many (pseudo) libertarians like to call themselves liberaltarians. It is hard to distinguish (pseudo) libertarians from “liberals,” given their shared penchant for decrying and destroying freedom of association and evolved social norms. It is these which underlie the conditions of mutual respect, mutual trust, and forbearance that enable human beings to coexist peacefully and cooperatively. That is to say, in liberty.

Related posts:
Law, Liberty, and Abortion
Abortion and the Slippery Slope
Privacy: Variations on the Theme of Liberty
An Immigration Roundup
Illogic from the Pro-Immigration Camp
On Liberty
Illegal Immigration: A Note to Libertarian Purists
Inside-Outside
A Moralist’s Moral Blindness
Pseudo-Libertarian Sophistry vs. True Libertarianism
The Folly of Pacifism
Positivism, “Natural Rights,” and Libertarianism
What Are “Natural Rights”?
The Golden Rule and the State
Libertarian Conservative or Conservative Libertarian?
Bounded Liberty: A Thought Experiment
Evolution, Human Nature, and “Natural Rights”
More Pseudo-Libertarianism
More about Conservative Governance
The Meaning of Liberty
Positive Liberty vs. Liberty
On Self-Ownership and Desert
In Defense of Marriage
Understanding Hayek
Rethinking the Constitution: Freedom of Speech and of the Press
The Golden Rule as Beneficial Learning
Why I Am Not an Extreme Libertarian
Facets of Liberty
Burkean Libertarianism
Rights: Source, Applicability, How Held
The Folly of Pacifism, Again
What Is Libertarianism?
True Libertarianism, One More Time
Human Nature, Liberty, and Rationalism
Utilitarianism and Psychopathy
Privacy Is Not Sacred
A Declaration and Defense of My Prejudices about Governance
The Libertarian-Conservative Fusion Is Alive and Well
Libertarianism and Morality
Libertarianism and Morality: A Footnote
Merit Goods, Positive Rights, and Cosmic Justice
More about Merit Goods
What Is Bleeding-Heart Libertarianism?
Prohibition, Abortion, and “Progressivism”
Liberty, Negative Rights, and Bleeding Hearts
Cato, the Kochs, and a Fluke
Conservatives vs. “Liberals”
Not-So-Random Thoughts (II)
Why Conservatism Works
The Pool of Liberty and “Me” Libertarianism
Bleeding-Heart Libertarians = Left-Statists
Enough with the Bleeding Hearts, Already
Not Guilty of Libertarian Purism
Liberty and Society
The Eclipse of “Old America”
Genetic Kinship and Society
Liberty as a Social Construct: Moral Relativism?

Abortion, “Gay Rights,” and Liberty

Among the items that drew my attention today is “A Prime Instance of Political Correctness: The Blackballing of Nat Hentoff,” by Maverick Philosopher.

My opposition to abortion on libertarian grounds is of long standing, with this being the most recent of many posts on the subject. As it turns out, Nat Hentoff, who on many issues might be considered a leftist, holds views similar to mine. This, for example, is from his “Indivisible Fight for Life“:

I’ll begin by indicating how I became aware, very belatedly, of the “indivisibility of life.” I mention this fragment of autobiography only be cause I think it may be useful to those who are interested in bringing others like me – some people are not interested in making the ranks more heterogeneous, but others are, as I’ve been finding out – to a realization that the “slippery slope” is far more than a metaphor.

When I say “like me,” I suppose in some respects I’m regarded as a “liberal,” although I often stray from that category, and certainly a civil libertarian – though the ACLU and I are in profound disagreement on the matters of abortion, handicapped infants and euthanasia, because I think they have forsaken basic civil liberties in dealing with these issues. I’m considered a liberal except for that unaccountable heresy of recent years that has to do with pro-life matters.

It’s all the more unaccountable to a lot of people because I remain an atheist, a Jewish atheist. (That’s a special branch of the division.) I think the question I’m most often asked from both sides is, “How do you presume to have this kind of moral conception without a belief in God?” And the answer is, “It’s harder.” But it’s not impossible….

Now, I had not been thinking about abortion at all. I had not thought about it for years. I had what W. H. Auden called in another context a “rehearsed response.” You mentioned abortion and I would say, “Oh yeah, that’s a fundamental part of women’s liberation,” and that was the end of it.

But then I started hearing about “late abortion.” The simple “fact” that the infant had been born, proponents suggest, should not get in the way of mercifully saving him or her from a life hardly worth living. At the same time, the parents are saved from the financial and emotional burden of caring for an imperfect child.

And then I heard the head of the Reproductive Freedom Rights unit of the ACLU saying – this was at the same time as the Baby Jane Doe story was developing on Long Island – at a forum, “I don’t know what all this fuss is about. Dealing with these handicapped infants is really an extension of women’s reproductive freedom rights, women’s right to control their own bodies.”

That stopped me. It seemed to me we were not talking about Roe v. Wade. These infants were born. And having been born, as persons under the Constitution, they were entitled to at least the same rights as people on death row – due process, equal protection of the law. So for the first time, I began to pay attention to the “slippery slope” warnings of pro-lifers I read about or had seen on television. Because abortion had become legal and easily available, that argument ran – as you well know – infanticide would eventually become openly permissible, to be followed by euthanasia for infirm, expensive senior citizens….

Recently, I was interviewing Dr. Norman Levinsky, Chief of Medicine of Boston University Medical Center and a medical ethicist. He is one of those rare medical ethicists who really is concerned with nurturing life, as contrasted with those of his peers who see death as a form of treatment. He told me that he is much disturbed by the extent to which medical decisions are made according to the patient’s age. He says there are those physicians who believe that life is worth less if you’re over 80 than if you’re 28.

So this is capsulizing an incremental learning process. I was beginning to learn about the indivisibility of life. I began to interview people, to read, and I read Dr. Leo Alexander. Joe Stanton, who must be the greatest single resource of information, at least to beginners – and, I think, non-beginners – in this field, sent me a whole lot of stuff, including Dr. Leo Alexander’s piece in the New England Journal of Medicine in the 1940s. And then I thought of Dr. Alexander when I saw an April 1984 piece in the New England Journal of Medicine by 10 physicians defending the withdrawal of food and water from certain “hopelessly ill” patients. And I found out that Dr. Alexander was still alive then but didn’t have much longer to live. And he said to Patrick Duff, who is a professor of philosophy at Clarke University and who testified in the Brophy case, about that article, “It is much like Germany in the 20s and 30s. The barriers against killing are coming down.”…

Back to Dr. Norman Levinsky. This is all part of this learning process. It is not a huge step, he said, from stopping the feeding to giving the patient a little more morphine to speed his end. I mean it is not a big step from passive to active euthanasia.

Well, in time, a rather short period of time, I became pro-life across the board, which led to certain social problems, starting at home. My wife’s most recurrent attack begins with, “You are creating social mischief,” and there are people at my paper who do not speak to me anymore. In most cases, that’s no loss.

Which leads to “Blackballing Nat Hentoff,” by Mark Judge (writing at RealClearReligion):

Hentoff’s conversion from pro-choice to pro-life, and the fallout that resulted, is explained in an essay in the new book, The Debate Since Roe: Making the Case Against Abortion 1975-2010. It’s a compendium of essays from the journal Human Life Review….

Hentoff’s liberal friends didn’t appreciate his conversion: “They were saying, ‘What’s the big fuss about? If the parents had known she was going to come in this way, they would have had an abortion. So why don’t you consider it a late abortion and go on to something else? Here were liberals, decent people, fully convinced themselves that they were for individual rights and liberties but willing to send into eternity these infants because they were imperfect, inconvenient, costly. I saw the same attitude on the part of the same kinds of people toward abortion, and I thought it was pretty horrifying.”

The reaction from America’s corrupt fourth estate was instant. Hentoff, a Guggenheim fellow and author of dozens of books, was a pariah. Several of his colleagues at the Village Voice, which had run his column since the 1950s, stopped talking to him. When the National Press Foundation wanted to give him a lifetime achievement award, there was a bitter debate amongst members whether Hentoff should even be honored (he was). Then they stopped running his columns. You heard his name less and less. In December 2008, the Village Voice officially let him go.

The blackballing of Hentoff, reprehensible and revealing of the left’s moral bankruptcy as it may be, has one positive aspect: It seems to have been accomplished by private action; that is, the power of the state has not been wielded against Hentoff. (As far as I know.)

The power of the state has been wielded against those who dare to resist the “gay rights” movement and its ancillary activities. Here is Hentoff, writing in September 2000 (“Media Ignores Far-Ranging Gag Order“) about one such instance:

On March 30, the Boston chapter of the national Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network (GLSEN) held a conference at Tufts  University. Present, from around the state, were teen-agers and some children as young as 12, as well as teachers who received state ‘professional development credits’ for being there.

One of the sessions was titled, ‘What They Don’t Tell You About Queer Sex & Sexuality in Health Class: A Workshop for Youth Only, Ages 14-21.’ Instructing the students were two employees of the state Department of Education and a consultant from the Department of Public Health.

Scott Whiteman of the conservative Parents Rights Coalition attended  that class and secretly taped it. I have a copy of the transcript.  When a youngster asked, ‘What’s fisting?’ in gay sex, a woman from the Education Department explained how to do it. There might be some pain, she said, but it’s an ‘experience of letting somebody into your body that you want to be that close and intimate with.’

Among other lessons, there was a ‘hand diagram’ to show how lesbians have sex. Another workshop was: ‘Early Child Educators: How to Decide Whether to Come Out at Work or Not.’

Part of the tape was played on Boston talk-radio station WTKK-FM by the host, Jeanine Graf, whom I’ve known for years as a vigorous advocate for free speech.

The Parents Rights Coalition made the tape available to others, and GLSEN sued to have it and any transcripts suppressed. On May 17, Suffolk County Superior Court Judge Allan van Gestel, who moonlights as a lecturer at Harvard Law School, issued one of the most  far-ranging prior-restraint orders in American judicial history….

It included not only the Parents Rights Coalition but anyone, including  lawyers, who tried ‘to disclose or use such tape in any forum’ or its contents. That included the press, electronic and print….

The … media [other than the Boston Herald] was silent, except for WTKK’s Graf. She kept playing the tape. And, on her program, Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz and Harvey Silverglate – a civil-rights and civil-liberties lawyer as well as a national columnist – attacked the prior restraint as a violation of a series of U.S. Supreme Court decisions.

I went on Graf’s show to violate the gag order. I discussed what was on the tape and underlined the judge’s contempt for settled First Amendment law. Also criticizing the prior restraint was Jay Severin, a WTKK commentator.

The Massachusetts affiliate of the American Civil Liberties Union was silent….

On May 25, van Gestel modified his gag rule, saying, ‘Nothing in this preliminary injunction shall be deemed to apply in any way to the print or electronic news media.’ But the rest of the prior restraint continued….

Subsequently, there has been some coverage of this assault on the First Amendment and the acquiescence of most of the Boston media. Rod Dreher, a New York Post columnist, wrote an indignant ‘Banned in Boston’ article in the July 3-10 issue of The Weekly Standard….

Aside from Dreher’s piece, I’ve seen no mention in the national press of this gag order that should go into the Guinness Book of World Records. If a similar suppression of speech had been handed down by a judge against a secret taping of a David Duke-sponsored conference by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, would there have been such media silence?

Fast forward to 2012, where the leftist-statist conspiracy to advance “gay rights” (i.e., gay privileges) is alive and well. A case in point is described in “Wedding Photographer May Be Required (on Pain of Legal Liability) to Photograph Same-Sex Commitment Ceremonies,” at The Volokh Conspiracy:

So the New Mexico Court of Appeals held last week in the long-pending Elane Photography v. Willock (N.M. Ct. App. May 31, 2012). The court began by holding that the state law that bans sexual orientation discrimination in places of public accommodation applies to professional wedding photographers’ decisions not to photograph same-sex commitment ceremonies: Such photography businesses are “places of public accommodation” under the language of the law, and the discrimination between legally recognized opposite-sex marriages (New Mexico only recognizes such marriages) and same-sex commitment ceremonies constitutes discrimination based on sexual orientation.

The court then rejected the argument of the photographer (Elane Huguenin, the co-owner and principal photographer for Elane Photography) that penalizing her for not photographing such same-sex ceremonies was an unconstitutional “speech compulsion.” The First Amendment, Huguenin argued, has been repeatedly held to protect the right to speak as well as the right not to speak; and the right not to speak includes the right not to create artistic expression that one doesn’t want to create. And just as the First Amendment protects speech that is said for money (indeed, most books, newspapers, movies, and the like are created and distributed commercially), so it protects the right not to create certain artistic works for money, even if one is in that line of business. But the court disagreed….

I don’t think this [ruling] is right, for reasons that I discussed in my earlier posts about earlier stages of this case. It seems to me that the right to be free from compelled speech includes the right not to create First-Amendment-protected expression — photographs, paintings, songs, press releases, or what have you — that you disagree with, even if no-one would perceive you as endorsing that expression….

Amen to that.

Not that I am surprised by the court’s action. This is from “Civil Society and Homosexual “Marriage,” a post that I wrote three years ago:

[A]s sure as the sun sets in the west, the state will begin to apply the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment in order to protect homosexual “marriage” from its critics. Acting under the rubric of “civil rights” — and  in keeping with the way that anti-discrimination laws have been applied to date — the state will deal harshly with employers, landlords, and clergy who seem to discriminate against homosexual “marriage” and its participants.

The post concludes with this:

Many will dismiss consequential arguments against homosexual “marriage” by asserting that the state’s refusal to legitimate homosexual marriage simply isn’t “fair.” In return, I will ask this:

Unfair to whom, to the relatively small number of persons who seek to assuage their pride or avoid paying a lawyer to document the terms of their relationship, or generally unfair to members of society (of all sexual proclivities), whose well-being is bound to suffer for the sake of homosexual pride or cost-avoidance?

As a practicing minarchist, I would rather have the state stay out of “the marriage business.”  But given that the state is already in that business — and is unlikely to get out of it — the next-best outcome is for the state to uphold societal norms instead of bowing to the preferences of the gay lobby and its influential supporters.

Faced with a choice between libertarian shibboleth and libertarian substance, I have chosen substance. I now say: Ban homosexual marriage and avoid another step down the slippery slope toward incivility and bigger government.

And, while we are striking blows for liberty, let us ban abortion, too.

Related posts (abortion):
Law, Liberty, and Abortion
Substantive Due Process and the Limits of Privacy
Crimes against Humanity
Abortion and Logic
Abortion, Doublethink, and Left-Wing Blather

Related posts (homosexual “marriage”):
Libertarianism, Marriage, and the True Meaning of Family Values
Same-Sex Marriage
“Equal Protection” and Homosexual Marriage
“Family Values,” Liberty, and the State
Civil Society and Homosexual “Marriage”
Perry v. Schwarzenegger, Due Process, and Equal Protection
Rationalism, Social Norms, and Same-Sex “Marriage”
Pseudo-Libertarian Sophistry vs. True Libertarianism
Bounded Liberty: A Thought Experiment
More Pseudo-Libertarianism
The Meaning of Liberty
In Defense of Marriage
The Myth That Same-Sex “Marriage” Causes No Harm

Abortion, Doublethink, and Left-Wing Blather

I recently had the frustrating experience of reading and responding to the blatherings of a young woman who attends what used to be called a liberal-arts college, but should now be called a left-wing indoctrination and reinforcement center. I can only liken the experience to that of attempting conversation with a parrot.

The nexus of our interchange was the subject of abortion. All I need say about the young woman’s stand on the issue is that she is a scion of a “progressive” family* in a “liberal” bastion of this beleaguered republic. Having swallowed whole the leftist cant of her parents and peers, she was only able to regurgitate it. She is a living, breathing advertisement for the wisdom of forbidding a college education to anyone who has not yet worked in the real world of profit and loss.

The discussion began with the posting by my daughter-in-law of this image:

My daughter-in-law accompanied the image with this comment:

Just imagine the hoopla that would surround such a discovery if it were made on Mars. If it’s a discovery made in the womb of the next-door-neighbor, for some strange reason, it doesn’t count as life.

The young woman chimed in with this:

I think at least, the real problem is when this cell (arguably living or not) becomes more important than the life and well-being of the woman it’s inside of. If this were found on another planet it would not probably exist in another being–whereas on earth, there are so many other factors to consider. Just my two cents. I do agree at least this is a thought-provoking way to present this.

To which I responded:

There is no “not” about it, the cell is living. It is, moreover, a living human being in the earliest stage of its existence. It is “viable” even then, as long as it is not aborted. “More important than the life and well-being of the woman” means what? I do not believe that “life and well-being” is a major reason for abortion. The major reason, overwhelmingly, is convenience. The brutality of abortion cannot be justified by the small number of cases in which a woman’s life and health might actually be at risk.

There followed an exchange between the young woman and my daughter-in-law, with a few pertinent contributions from another party. Near the end of the exchange, the young woman admitted her imperviousness to facts and logic:

I personally feel that it is perpetuating violence to deny women full reproductive freedoms. In that case, I also feel we do indeed have different priorities/viewpoints and this probably isn’t a very productive discussion for either of us.

My daughter-in-law’s reply:

I should like to observe that if a woman is killed while she’s still gestating in the womb, she will never have the chance to be denied reproductive freedoms. Or put another way, women must be born to enjoy reproductive freedom. It is an irony that if reproductive freedom means abortion, then women will be denying other women their rights.

The young woman’s feeble rejoinder:

Reproductive freedom is not about abortion…it’s having the freedom to do what you want with your reproductive capacities.

My daughter-in-law’s knockout punch:

While it is true that abortion is not the only thing a woman can do with her reproductive capacities, it’s still part of what is called “reproductive freedom.” Simply being one option among many others does not exclude it from that classification. So it remains that women who choose abortion do, in fact, deny other women their reproductive rights as well as their very lives.

And that was the end of that exchange. I was drafting some comments about the young woman’s inane observations, but forbore when I saw that she had been routed and had withdrawn from the fray.

What follows are various of the young woman’s assertions (in italics), followed by the responses (in bold) that I had drafted:

And you [referring to my daughter-in-law] are correct, when a class of humanity is declared disposable [i.e., children in the womb], then no class is safe. I would argue however, in the United States, many kinds of people are already considered disposable: people of color, the less abled (mentally or physically), the elderly, the homeless, low-income, gender-queer and sexually-queer, etc. And are seen as disposable populations considering the high rate of incarceration of people of color, the refusal/ignorance of natives’ rights, the unequal access to education, the unequal access to reproductive health, the high rate of nursing homes, mental institutions, etc.

Another good example of inverted logic, where you attempt to justify abortion by asserting that “many kinds of people are already considered disposable.” So, if there are some disposable persons it is all right to add to the list? It is trite but true to say that two wrongs don’t make a right. As the author of Being Logical puts it, “What two wrongs make, in fact, is two wrongs.”

“People of color, the less abled (mentally or physically), the elderly, the homeless, low-income, gender-queer and sexually-queer, etc.” have nothing to do with the morality of abortion. By introducing them, you are changing the subject from abortion, not addressing it.

*   *   *

I personally feel that it is perpetuating violence to deny women full reproductive freedoms.

“It is perpetuating violence to deny women full reproductive freedoms” is another way of saying that to ban violence against a fetus is, somehow, an act of violence. George Orwell would have called this Doublethink.

*   *   *

[T]his probably isn’t a very productive discussion for either of us.

If you find yourself in a discussion that “isn’t very productive,” you should ask yourself why that is so. Is it because your interlocutor is being illogical or ignoring facts, or is it because you find yourself unable to respond logically and factually to your interlocutor? Until you are able to carry on a discussion without committing logical errors and resorting to left-wing clichés, you are well advised to share your opinions with like-minded persons.

My objections to abortion are moral and prudential. I cannot condone a brutal, life-taking practice for which the main justification is convenience. (See, for example, tables 2 through 5 of “Reasons U.S. Women Have Abortions: Qualitative and Quantitative Perspectives,” a publication of the Guttmacher Institute, a pro-abortion organization.) Prudentially, I do not want to live in a country where blameless life can be taken easily, with the encouragement of the state or at the state’s insistence. Abortion is a step down a slippery slope.

The history of abortion since Roe v. Wade is a case in point: First, it was abortion in the first trimester. Then it became abortion at any time during a pregnancy, up to and including murder at birth. (Let us not dress it up in fancy language.) There have been serious (academic) proposals to allow post-natal abortion (i.e., infanticide). The next step, which has been taken in some “civilized” countries (not to mention the Third Reich and Soviet Russia) is involuntary euthanasia to “rid the populace” of those deemed unfit.

Ah, but who does the “deeming”? That is always the question. Given the rate at which power is being centralized in this country, it is not unthinkable that decisions about life and death will be placed in the hands of faceless bureaucrats, accountable only to their masters in high places. And those bureaucrats will not care about a person’s politics when they render their decisions, for they will be drunk on the power that is vested in them.

If anyone thinks it cannot happen here, think again. No nation or class of people is immune from the disease of power-lust. The only way to prevent it from spreading and becoming ever more malevolent is to resist it at every turn.

__________
* The young woman’s parents are “yellow dog” Democrats, and decidedly well to the left of center. For example: The young woman’s father is the “friend” I addressed in “Taxing the Rich” and “More about Taxing the Rich“; the facts I adduced in those posts had absolutely no effect on his view that the rich do not deserve their riches, and that taxing them heavily would not in fact harm the economy and therefore harm the “poor” with whom he claims solidarity. The young woman’s mother reluctantly agreed to move to the more affluent, northwestern part of Austin, so that the young woman could attend better schools; the mother was loath to associate with what she called “northwest Nazis” — a Nazi (in her perverted view) being a person who had the gall to resist and resent the dictatorial, money-wasting, redistributionist policies of Austin’s solidly Democrat ruling class.

Related posts:
Law, Liberty, and Abortion
Substantive Due Process and the Limits of Privacy
Crimes against Humanity
Abortion and Logic

Viagra and Logic

From Steven Landsburg:

Ohio State Senator Nina Turner (along with several of her counterparts in other states) has introduced legislation requiring men to undergo a series of humiliating procedures before they can fill their Viagra prescriptions. Here I am confident that Senator Turner is following in the admirable footsteps of Rush Limbaugh, by proposing a policy she doesn’t actually support in order to highlight its symmetry with a policy she finds appalling, namely recent legislation requiring women to undergo a series of humiliating procedures before they can have an abortion….

But is Senator Turner’s analogy a good one? It depends, I think, on the intent of the Ohio abortion law.

There are two possible motivations for that law. Motivation One is paternalistic, proceeding from the assumption that women will make poor choices about abortion and that we do them a favor when we discourage them. If that’s indeed the motivation, then Senator Turner’s analogy is spot-on. If we’re going to assume (with no substantial evidence) that women make poor choices about abortion, why not assume that men make poor choices about erectile dysfunction drugs? If we’re going to arrogate the power to override women’s choices, why not do the same for men?

But Motivation Two is that the legislature believes abortion is ipso facto a bad thing and wants to discourage it in any way possible, without regard to what’s in the best interest of the pregnant woman. If that’s the motivation, then Senator Turner’s analogy becomes much weaker (unless you’re really prepared to argue that erections are ipso facto a bad thing). A perfectly consistent person might fervently oppose this legislation but still consider Senator Turner’s implicit argument a bad one….

… I have the strong impression that Motivation One has been bandied about quite a bit by the proponents of these laws. So I think Senator Turner has got this right, and I admire both her logic and her gumption.

Perhaps Landsburg is trying to atone for his fit of political incorrectness in l’affaire Fluke. In any event, Landsburg has the wrong end of the stick (so to speak).

Motivations One and Two are not, in this case, independent and mutually exclusive, as Landsburg treats them. Motivation Two precedes Motivation One.That is, the motivation for pre-abortion procedures, such as fetal sonograms, is the belief that abortion is ipso facto a bad thing. The intention of legislators who vote to require such procedures is to reduce the number of abortions. (For more about the distinction between motivation and intention, see this letter to the editor of the Orlando Sentinel and a longer discussion in an old post of mine.)

Moreover, requiring men to undergo “a series of … procedures before they can fill their Viagra prescriptions” is not analogous to requiring woment to undergo pre-abortion procedures. In the case of pre-abortion procedures, the intention is to discourage a life-taking event; in the case of pre-Viagra-prescription procedures, the obvious intention is to protest pre-abortion procedures. If you think that the latter is on a moral par with the former, you suffer from an advanced case of pseudo-feminist hysteria.

Nina Turner, call your analyst.

Related posts:
A Useful Precedent
Law, Liberty, and Abortion
Substantive Due Process and the Limits of Privacy
Crimes against Humanity
Abortion and Logic

Prohibition, Abortion, and “Progressivism”

I am belatedly watching Prohibition, a production of Ken Burns and Lynn Novick, which first aired on PBS in October. The program, in typical Burns style, delivers history in easy-to-swallow doses. I have seen only one of the three episodes, but that episode whets my appetite for the others because it added much to my sketchy knowledge of the events that led to the passage of the Eighteenth Amendment.

There is a libertarian slant to Prohibition, though perhaps not a deliberate one. For all that Prohibition says about the evils of “demon rum,” it says more about the evils and unintended consequences of governmental efforts to dictate private behavior. One of the talking heads points out that prohibition was as much a brainchild of “progressives” as it was of religious fundamentalists.

Although eugenics is not mentioned in Prohibition, it looms in the background. For eugenics — like prohibition of alcohol and, later, the near-prohibition of smoking — is symptomatic of the “progressive” mentality. That mentality is paternalistic, through and through. And “progressive” paternalism finds its way into the daily lives of Americans through the regulation of products and services — for our own good, of course. If you can think of a product or service that you use (or would like to use) that is not shaped by paternalistic regulation or taxes levied with regulatory intent, you must live in a cave.

However, the passing acknowledgement of “progressivism” as a force for the prohibition of alcohol is outweighed by the attention given to the role of “evangelicals” in the enactment of prohibition. I take this as a subtle swipe at anti-abortion stance of fundamentalist Protestants and adherents of the “traditional” strands of Catholicism and Judaism. Here is the “logic” of this implied attack on pro-lifers: Governmental interference in a personal choice is wrong with respect to the consumption of alcohol and similarly wrong with respect to abortion.

By that “logic,” it is wrong for government to interfere in or prosecute robbery, assault, rape, murder and other overtly harmful acts, which — after all — are merely the consequences of personal choices made by their perpetrators. Not even a “progressive” would claim that robbery, assault, etc., should go unpunished, though he would quail at effective punishment.

Not that “progressivism” is a thing of logic. It is, as many commentators have noted, a shifting set of attitudes. A “progressive” (or “liberal” or leftist) is simply a person who adheres to the current set of attitudes — the “progressive” program du jour — which the “progressive” seeks to impose by force, for our own good. The essential character of “progressivism” is paternalism wedded to statism.

George Will puts it this way:

….

Obama, an unfettered executive wielding a swollen state, began and ended his [state of the union] address by celebrating the armed forces. They are not “consumed with personal ambition,” they “work together” and “focus on the mission at hand” and do not “obsess over their differences.” Americans should emulate troops “marching into battle,” who “rise or fall as one unit.”

Well. The armed services’ ethos, although noble, is not a template for civilian society, unless the aspiration is to extinguish politics. People marching in serried ranks, fused into a solid mass by the heat of martial ardor, proceeding in lock step, shoulder to shoulder, obedient to orders from a commanding officer — this is a recurring dream of progressives eager to dispense with tiresome persuasion and untidy dissension in a free, tumultuous society.

Progressive presidents use martial language as a way of encouraging Americans to confuse civilian politics with military exertions, thereby circumventing an impediment to progressive aspirations — the Constitution and the patience it demands. As a young professor, Woodrow Wilson had lamented that America’s political parties “are like armies without officers.” The most theoretically inclined of progressive politicians, Wilson was the first president to criticize America’s founding. This he did thoroughly, rejecting the Madisonian system of checks and balances — the separation of powers, a crucial component of limited government — because it makes a government that cannot be wielded efficiently by a strong executive.

Franklin Roosevelt agreed. He complained about “the three-horse team of the American system”: “If one horse lies down in the traces or plunges off in another direction, the field will not be plowed.” And progressive plowing takes precedence over constitutional equipoise among the three branches of government. Hence FDR’s attempt to break the Supreme Court to his will by enlarging it.

In his first inaugural address, FDR demanded “broad executive power to wage a war against the emergency, as great as the power that would be given to me if we were in fact invaded by a foreign foe.” He said Americans must “move as a trained and loyal army” with “a unity of duty hitherto evoked only in time of armed strife.” The next day, addressing the American Legion, Roosevelt said it was “a mistake to assume that the virtues of war differ essentially from the virtues of peace.” In such a time, dissent is disloyalty….

Obama, aspiring to command civilian life, has said that in reforming health care, he would have preferred an “elegant, academically approved” plan without “legislative fingerprints on it” but “unfortunately” he had to conduct “negotiations with a lot of different people.” His campaign mantra “We can’t wait!” expresses progressivism’s impatience with our constitutional system of concurrent majorities. To enact and execute federal laws under Madison’s institutional architecture requires three, and sometimes more, such majorities. There must be majorities in the House and Senate, each body having distinctive constituencies and electoral rhythms. The law must be affirmed by the president, who has a distinctive electoral base and election schedule. Supermajorities in both houses of Congress are required to override presidential vetoes. And a Supreme Court majority is required to sustain laws against constitutional challenges.

“We can’t wait!” exclaims Obama, who makes recess appointments when the Senate is not in recess, multiplies “czars” to further nullify the Senate’s constitutional prerogative to advise and consent, and creates agencies (e.g., Obamacare’s Independent Payment Advisory Board and Dodd-Frank’s Consumer Financial Protection Bureau) untethered from legislative accountability.

Like other progressive presidents fond of military metaphors, he rejects the patience of politics required by the Constitution he has sworn to uphold. (“Obama to the Nation: Onward Civilian Soldiers,” The Washington Post, January 27, 2011)

*   *   *

Related posts:
Ten-Plus Commandments of Liberalism, er, Progressivism
The Pathology of Academic Leftism
Diagnosing the Left
Presidential Legacies
The Modern Presidency: A Tour of American History
An FDR Reader
Parsing Political Philosophy
Inventing “Liberalism”
Utilitarianism, “Liberalism,” and Omniscience
Fascism and the Future of America
Utilitarianism vs. Liberty
Selection Bias and the Road to Serfdom
Beware of Libertarian Paternalists
The Mind of a Paternalist
The State of the Union: 2010
The Shape of Things to Come
Accountants of the Soul
Rawls Meets Bentham
Is Liberty Possible?
The Left
The Left’s Agenda
The Left and Its Delusions
Save Me from Self-Appointed Saviors
In Defense of the 1%
A Nation of (Unconstitutional) Laws

Privacy Is Not Sacred

This is yet another post that begins with a quotation from Maverick Philosopher. In this instance, I am drawn to a passage in MP‘s “A Response to Asher Levy on Abortion“:

Asher thinks that laws against abortion “intrude into private life.”  He doesn’t seem to understand that some such intrusions are legitimate.  If he abuses or kills his own children he will have to answer to the state, and rightly so.  That is a legitimate intrusion into his private family life.  Conservatives, and some libertarians, maintain that there is no difference that makes a moral difference between killing born and unborn children.  If one of the legitimate functions of the state is to protect life, and it is, then that includes all human life.

In the matter of the so-called privacy right, I turn first to the late Justice Hugo L. Black, a man renowned for his defense of individual rights. This is from his dissent in Griswold v. Connecticut:

The Court talks about a constitutional “right of privacy” as though there is some constitutional provision or provisions forbidding any law ever to be passed which might abridge the “privacy” of individuals. But there is not. There are, of course, guarantees in certain specific constitutional provisions which are designed in part to protect privacy at certain times and places with respect to certain activities. Such, for example, is the Fourth Amendment’s guarantee against “unreasonable searches and seizures.” But I think it belittles that Amendment to talk about it as though it protects nothing but “privacy.” To treat it that way is to give it a niggardly interpretation, not the kind of liberal reading I think any Bill of Rights provision should be given. The average man would very likely not have his feelings soothed any more by having his property seized openly than by having it seized privately and by stealth. He simply wants his property left alone.

To put it more bluntly, as I do in “Privacy: Variations on the Theme of Liberty,”

if privacy were an absolute right, it would be possible to get away with murder in one’s home simply by committing murder there. In fact, if there are any absolute rights, privacy certainly isn’t one of them.

Further to the point (from “Law, Liberty, and Abortion“):

It is … unsurprising that the majority in Roe v. Wade could not decide whether the general privacy right is located in the Ninth Amendment or the Fourteenth Amendment. Neither amendment, of course, is the locus of a general privacy right because none is conferred by the Constitution, nor could the Constitution ever confer such a right, for it would interfere with such truly compelling state interests as the pursuit of justice. The majority simply chose to ignore that unspeakable consequence by conjuring a general right to privacy for the limited purpose of ratifying abortion.

The spuriousness of the majority’s conclusion is evident in its flinching from the logical end of its reasoning: abortion anywhere at anytime. Instead, the majority delivered this:

The privacy right involved, therefore, cannot be said to be absolute. . . . We, therefore, conclude that the right of personal privacy includes the abortion decision, but that this right is not unqualified and must be considered against important state interests in regulation.

That is, the majority simply drew an arbitrary line between life and death — but in the wrong place. It is as if the majority understood, but wished not to acknowledged, the full implications of a general right to privacy. Such a general right could be deployed by unprincipled judges to decriminalize a variety of heinous acts.

What about the morality of abortion? Once again, I am uncannily in agreement with MP. This is from one of my early posts, “I’ve Changed My Mind“:

I can no longer condone the legality of abortion. For one thing, legal abortion is a step on the path to legal euthanasia. But legal abortion stands by itself as a crime against humanity….

Once life begins it is sophistry to say that abortion doesn’t amount to the taking of an innocent life. It is also sophistry to argue that abortion is “acceptable” until such-and-such a stage of fetal development. There is no clear dividing line between the onset of life and the onset of human-ness. They are indivisible.

The state shouldn’t be in the business of authorizing the deaths of innocent humans. The state should be in the business of protecting the lives of innocent humans — from conception to grave.

When I wrote that, more than seven years ago, I considered myself a libertarian. Subsequent reflection about libertarianism and its shortcomings led me to reject mainstream libertarianism because it is inimical to liberty, for reasons I spell out in many of the posts linked below. My rejection began with the issue of abortion, and it spread.

I am, in fact, a conservative, though I prefer the more accurate designation of Burkean libertarian. Thoroughgoing libertarianism is impossible in a world of flesh-and-blood social beings whose relationships are not merely calculated and transactional — or cold-blooded, like abortion.

Related posts (abortion and privacy):
I’ve Changed My Mind
Next Stop, Legal Genocide?
It Can Happen Here: Eugenics, Abortion, Euthanasia, and Mental Screening
Creeping Euthanasia
PETA, NARAL, and Roe v. Wade
Notes on the State of Liberty in American Law
The Consequences of Roe v. Wade
The Old Eugenics in a New Guise
The Left, Abortion, and Adolescence
Law, Liberty, and Abortion
Oh, *That* Slippery Slope
Abortion and the Slippery Slope
The Cynics Debate While Babies Die
Privacy, Autonomy, and Responsibility
Oh, *That* Privacy Right
Peter Singer’s Agenda
The Slippery Slope in Holland
The Slippery Slope in England
The Slippery Slope in New Jersey
An Argument Against Abortion
The Case against Genetic Engineering
Singer Said It
Privacy: Variations on the Theme of Liberty
A “Person” or a “Life”?
How Much Jail Time?
A Wrong-Headed Take on Abortion
Crimes against Humanity
Abortion and Logic

Related posts (libertarianism):
On Liberty
What Is Conservatism?
Utilitarianism, “Liberalism,” and Omniscience
Utilitarianism vs. Liberty
The Indivisibility of Economic and Social Liberty
Law and Liberty
Negative Rights
Negative Rights, Social Norms, and the Constitution
Rights, Liberty, the Golden Rule, and the Legitimate State
Tocqueville’s Prescience
Accountants of the Soul
“Natural Rights” and Consequentialism
Rawls Meets Bentham
More about Consequentialism
Line-Drawing and Liberty
Pseudo-Libertarian Sophistry vs. True Libertarianism
Positivism, “Natural Rights,” and Libertarianism
What Are “Natural Rights”?
The Golden Rule and the State
Libertarian Conservative or Conservative Libertarian?
Liberty, Equality, Fraternity: Part I
Social Justice
Bounded Liberty: A Thought Experiment
Evolution, Human Nature, and “Natural Rights”
More Pseudo-Libertarianism
More about Conservative Governance
The Meaning of Liberty
Positive Liberty vs. Liberty
More Social Justice
On Self-Ownership and Desert
Understanding Hayek
The Golden Rule as Beneficial Learning
Why I Am Not an Extreme Libertarian
Facets of Liberty
Burkean Libertarianism
Rights: Source, Applicability, How Held
What Is Libertarianism?
True Libertarianism, One More Time

Abortion and the Fourteenth Amendment

Assessing the Presidential Candidates on Abortion, Supreme Court,” by Robert George, includes this intriguing passage:

Many believe that we need a constitutional amendment to overturn Roe v. Wade. However, Section Five of the Fourteenth Amendment expressly empowers the Congress, by appropriate legislation, to enforce the guarantees of due process and equal protection contained in the Amendment’s first section. As someone who believes in the inherent and equal dignity of all members of the human family, including the child in the womb, would you propose to Congress appropriate legislation, pursuant to the Fourteenth Amendment, to protect human life in all stages and conditions?

Political reasons aside, why not? George asked his question of Michele Bachmann, Herman Cain, Newt Gingrich, Ron Paul, and Mitt Romney at the Palmetto Freedom Forum on September 5, 2011. Ron Paul’s objection is of special interest. According to George,

Ron Paul responded to my question not by embracing judicial supremacy, but by denying that the 14th Amendment authorizes Congress to legislate to protect the unborn. Interestingly, Paul himself has a perfect pro-life voting record–in Congress. In his view, however, the abortion question is one that the Constitution leaves ultimately to the individual states, not the national government.

In his exchange with me, Congressman Paul argued that reading the 14th Amendment broadly enough to empower Congress to protect the unborn would be inconsistent with the 10th Amendment–the constitutional provision reminding us that powers not delegated by the Constitution to the federal government are reserved to the states and the people. But the Constitution, in its 14th Amendment, plainly does delegate to Congress power to enforce its guarantees of due process and equal protection. Congressman Paul, like the other Republican candidates, believes that the unborn, no less than those human beings at later developmental stages, are members of the human family–in other words, persons–entitled to the same protections as others. And he is right to believe it.

I am hard-pressed to understand Paul’s objection. If the Constitution grants a power to the central government, then the central government possesses that power. Should it be up to the States, individually, to decide the abortion issue? If it should, then why not leave slavery up to the States, individually? In other words, why should the Fourteenth Amendment any less binding than the Thirteenth Amendment? It seems to me that Paul is more enamored of “States’ rights,” than he is of liberty. And make no mistake about it, abortion is anti-libertarian.

P.S. Paul Linton, a pro-life lawyer and special counsel to the Thomas More Society, enters a dissent:

Conclusion

The Supreme Court’s abortion decisions can be overturned only by an overruling decision of the Court itself or by a federal constitutional amendment. Congress has no power under § 5 of the Fourteenth Amendment to define the unborn child as a “person” for purposes of § 1 of the Amendment, when the Court has held (in Roe) directly the opposite. Removal of the Supreme Court’s appellate jurisdiction over abortion cases would not affect the binding force of those decisions and would actually prevent a differently constituted Court from overruling Roe and Casey. The proposals made to the Republican presidential candidates at their “Tea Party” forum do not offer a realistic means of overturning Roe v. Wade and do not deserve the support of the pro-life community.

Roe can be overturned only by a decision of the Court itself overruling Roe or by a federal constitutional amendment–neither a federal statute enacted under § 5 of the Fourteenth Amendment defining the word “person” as used in § 1 of the Amendment, nor a statute removing the Supreme Court’s appellate jurisdiction over abortion cases would have that effect.

This is where “departmentalism” comes in. William J. Watkins Jr. explains departmentalism by way of example:

Departmentalist theory is perhaps best examined in the context of President Jefferson’s approach to the Sedition Act. Upon entering office, Jefferson ordered the cessation of all federal sedition prosecutions and he pardoned those who had been convicted. In 1804, Jefferson received a letter from Abigail Adams criticizing his handling of the Sedition Act controversy. Mrs. Adams argued that because the judges had upheld the Sedition Act, President Jefferson had overstepped his constitutional bounds when terminating prosecutions and pardoning offenders.In a polite response, Jefferson reminded Mrs. Adams that “nothing in the constitution has given [the judges] the right to decide for the executive, more than the Executive to decide for them.” Both branches, continued Jefferson, “are equally independent in the sphere assigned to them.” Jefferson recognized that the judges, “believing the law constitutional, had a right to pass a sentence of fine and imprisonment, because that power was placed in their hands by the constitution.” However, this did not bind him when performing his duties as chief executive. Because he believed the Sedition Act was unconstitutional, he “was bound to remit the execution of it.”

It is conceivable that a Republican-controlled Congress could pass the law suggested by Robert George, and that a Republican president would enforce the law. Perhaps even a Democrat president would enforce the law as long as he was confronted by a Republican-controlled Congress and popular opinion on the morality of abortion, which has been shifting toward the pro-life position. The Supreme Court would be well advised to make like the Three Wise Monkeys.

My main concern is that the precedent of blatant departmentalism on a salient issue would be a dangerous one. Use of the doctrine would invite a Democrat-controlled Congress to conspire with a Democrat president to ignore, say, a Supreme Court ruling that overturns Obamacare or the McCain-Feingold Act.

P.P.S. In “Human Personhood Begins at Conception.” philosopher Peter Kreeft presents the arguments commonly used to explain why the unborn child is not a human person and then shows clearly and simply why each of these arguments cannot possibly be true.

Related posts:
I’ve Changed My Mind
Next Stop, Legal Genocide?
It Can Happen Here: Eugenics, Abortion, Euthanasia, and Mental Screening
Creeping Euthanasia
PETA, NARAL, and Roe v. Wade
The Consequences of Roe v. Wade
The Old Eugenics in a New Guise
The Left, Abortion, and Adolescence
Law, Liberty, and Abortion
Don’t Just Take My Word for It
Oh, *That* Slippery Slope
Abortion and the Slippery Slope
The Cynics Debate While Babies Die
Privacy, Autonomy, and Responsibility
Peter Singer’s Agenda
The Slippery Slope in Holland
The Slippery Slope in England
The Slippery Slope in New Jersey
An Argument Against Abortion
Singer Said It
The Case against Genetic Engineering
A “Person” or a “Life”?
How Much Jail Time?
A Wrong-Headed Take on Abortion
The End of Slavery in the United States
Crimes against Humanity
Abortion and Logic

Abortion and Logic

Peter Smith, a British philosopher and proprietor of Logic Matters, offers some thoughts about abortion. Passages from Smith’s post (in italics) are followed by my comments (in bold).

As the human zygote/embryo/foetus slowly develops, its death slowly becomes a more serious matter. At the very beginning, its death is of little consequence; as time goes on, its death is a matter it becomes appropriate to be gradually more concerned about.

This statement is presumptuous and, in many cases, wrong. A couple who want to have a child can be devastated by the miscarriage of a fetus, even at an early stage of pregnancy

After all, very few of us are worried by the fact that a very high proportion of conceptions quite spontaneously abort…

Again, very few of us are scandalized if a woman who finds she is pregnant by mistake in a test one week after conception is then mightily pleased when she discovers that the pregnancy has naturally terminated some days later (and even has a drink with a girl friend to celebrate her lucky escape). Compare: we would find it morally very inappropriate, in almost all circumstances, for a woman in comfortable circumstances to celebrate the death of an unwanted young baby.

What do “we” and “worry” have to do with it? The issue is the morality of abortion, not whether many individuals are emotionally involved in the natural termination of a pregnancy.

Suppose a woman finds she is a week or two pregnant, goes horse riding, falls badly at a jump, and as a result spontaneously aborts. That might be regrettable, but we wouldn’t think she’d done something terrible by going riding and running the risk.

Speak for yourself, not “we.” There are many who would condemn the woman who knowingly risked the life of her fetus by jumping a horse or doing something similarly risky.

So: our very widely shared attitudes to the natural or accidental death of the products of conception do suggest that we do in fact regard them as of relatively lowly moral status at the beginning of their lives, and of greater moral standing as time passes. We are all (or nearly all) gradualists in these cases. [Assumptions not granted, but pray continue.]

It is then quite consistent with such a view to take a similar line about unnatural deaths. For example, it would be consistent to think that using the morning-after pill is of no moral significance, while bringing about the death of an eight month foetus is getting on for as serious as killing a neonate, with a gradual increase in the seriousness of the killing in between.

At what point, then, does it become morally significant to kill a fetus? At one week, one month, three months, three months and a day, five months, six months, seven months? If killing a eight-month fetus is “getting on for as serious as killing a neonate,” then killing a seven-month, three-week fetus is as serious as killing an eight-month fetus, and so on.

Some, at any rate, of those of us who are pro (early) choice are moved by this sort of gradualist view. The line of thought in sum is: the killing of an early foetus has a moral weight commensurate with the moral significance of the natural or accidental death of an early foetus. And on a very widely shared view, that’s not very much significance. So from this point of view, early abortion is of not very much significance either. But abortion gradually gets [sic] a more significant matter as time goes on.

The popularity-contest view of morality aside, this is asinine “logic.” By Smith’s “reasoning,” the murder of a 90-year-old white, male American (who was expected to live for another four years) has less moral weight than the death by heart attack of a seemingly healthy 70-year-old white male American (who was expected to live for another fourteen years. Only a proponent of Britain’s “death panels” would believe such a thing.

You might disagree. But then it seems that you either need (a) an argument for departing from the very widely shared view about the moral significance of the natural or accidental miscarriage of the early products of conception. Or (b) you need to have an argument for the view that while the natural death of a zygote a few days old is of little significance, the unnatural death is of major significance. Neither line is easy to argue. To put it mildly.

Smith’s “logical” sleight-of-hand is revealed. His trick is to treat unintended and intended acts having the same consequences as if they were equivalent. But they are not. The unintentional death of a fetus by wholly natural causes is not the same as the intentional death of a fetus by abortion. In the first instance, a life ended prematurely but under (presumably) unavoidable circumstances; there is no one to blame for the death of a prenatal human being. In the second instance, a prenatal human being of untold potential is deliberately murdered; blame for that murder can be readily fixed. This is an easy line to argue, to put it vehemently.

P.S. Steven Landsburg seems to endorse Smith’s position.

Related posts:
Law, Liberty, and Abortion
Substantive Due Process and the Limits of Privacy
Crimes against Humanity

Crimes against Humanity

A post by Francis Beckwith (“Thomson’s Defense of Abortion at Forty“), which takes a new look at Judith Jarvis Thomson’s “A Defense of Abortion (Philosophy & Public Affairs, 1971),” prompts me to recall my writings and warnings about abortion and other eugenic practices.

I begin with an excerpt of my first anti-abortion post, from August 2004, “I’ve Changed My Mind“:

As a libertarian — who believes that a legitimate function of the state is to protect humans from force — I can no longer condone the legality of abortion. For one thing, legal abortion is a step on the path to legal euthanasia….

Once life begins it is sophistry to say that abortion doesn’t amount to the taking of an innocent life. It is also sophistry to argue that abortion is “acceptable” until such-and-such a stage of fetal development. There is no clear dividing line between the onset of life and the onset of human-ness. They are indivisible.

The state shouldn’t be in the business of authorizing the deaths of innocent humans. The state should be in the business of protecting the lives of innocent humans — from conception to grave.

I have much more to say about eugenics. Please read on. (more…)

Invoking Hitler

Jamie Whyte is the author of Bad Thoughts – A Guide to Clear Thinking. According to the publisher, it is a

book for people who like argument. Witty, contentious, and passionate, it exposes the methods with which we avoid reasoned debate. Jamie Whyte dissects the ‘Shut up – you sound like Hitler’ and ‘You can hardly talk’ tactics, and explains why we don’t have a right to our own opinion. His writing is both laugh-out-loud funny and a serious comment on the ways in which people with power and influence avoid truth in steering public opinion.

The examples of illogical discourse used in Bad Thoughts are British. There is an Americanized version, Crimes Against Logic: Exposing the Bogus Arguments of Politicians, Priests, Journalists, and Other Serial Offenders, which the publisher describes as

a fast-paced, ruthlessly funny romp through the mulligan stew of illogic, unreason, and just plain drivel served up daily in the media by pundits, psychics, ad agencies, New Age gurus, statisticians, free trade ideologues, business “thinkers,” and, of course, politicians. Award-winning young philosopher Jamie Whyte applies his laser-like wit to dozens of timely examples in order to deconstruct the rhetoric and cut through the haze of shibboleth and doubletalk to get at the real issues.

A troubleshooting guide to both public and private discourse, Crimes Against Logic:

  • Analyzes the 12 major logical fallacies, with examples from the media and everyday life
  • Takes no prisoners as it goes up against the scientific, religious, academic, and political establishments
  • Helps you fine-tune your critical faculties and learn to skewer debaters on their own phony logic
  • Both descriptions are roughly right about Bad Thoughts (the version I own). It is witty and, for the most part, correct in its criticisms of the kinds of sloppy logic that are found routinely in politics, journalism, blogdom, and everyday conversation.

    But Whyte isn’t infallible. Perhaps, someday, I’ll offer a detailed roster of his mistakes. This post focuses on one of them, which is found under “Shut Up — You Sound Like Hitler” (pp. 46-9). Here’s the passage to which I object:

    Anyone who advocates using recent advances in genetic engineering to avoid congenital defects in humans will pretty soon be accused of adopting Nazi ideas. Never mind the fact that the Nazi goals (such as racial purity) and genetic engineering techniques (such as genocide) were quite different from those now suggested.

    Whyte seems to believe that policies should be judged by their intentions, not their consequences. Genetic engineering — which Whyte defines broadly — is acceptable to Whyte (and millions of others) — because its practitioners mean well. By that standard,

    • abortion-on-demand is acceptable because abortion is a “right” that enables a woman (and, sometimes, her partner) to escape the consequences of a procreative act;
    • judges may order the killing of (possibly) terminally ill persons who cannot communicate their own wishes; and
    • it is all right to use genetic modification techniques to breed children who are “superior” in some respects.

    I cannot find a moral distinction between such “benevolence” and Hitler’s goal of racial purity. Allow me to quote myself:

    Libertarians who applaud the outcomes of such cases as Griswold v. Connecticut and Roe v. Wade because those outcomes seem to advance personal liberty are consorting with the Devil of statism. Every time the state fails to defend innocent life it acquire a new precedent for the taking of innocent life. (“Law, Liberty, and Abortion“)

    *     *     *

    Yes, people say that they don’t want to share Terri Schiavo’s fate. What many of them mean, of course, is that they don’t want their fate decided by a judge who is willing to take the word of a relative for whom one’s accelerated death would be convenient. [Peter] Singer dishonestly seizes on reactions to the Schiavo fiasco as evidence that euthanasia will become acceptable in the United States.

    Certainly, there are many persons who would prefer voluntary euthanasia to a fate like Terri Sciavo’s. But the line between voluntary and involuntary euthasia is too easily crossed, especially by persons who, like Singer, wish to play God. If there is a case to be made for voluntary euthanasia, Peter Singer is not the person to make it.

    Singer gives away his Hitlerian game plan when he advocates killing the disabled up to 28 days after birth. Why not 28 years? Why not 98 years? Who decides — Peter Singer or an acolyte of Peter Singer? Would you trust your fate to the “moral” dictates of a person who thinks animals are as valuable as babies? (“Peter Singer’s Agenda“)

    *     *     *

    Our present world, contra [Will] Saletan, is (relative to the brave new world of genetic engineering) one of freedom and responsibility. To use the example of a baby with Down syndrome (properly Down’s syndrome), parents who choose to abort such a baby (for that is what Saletan means) have every bit as much “freedom” to make that choice (under today’s abortion laws) and are just as responsible (morally) for their decision as they would be if they were to choose bioengineering instead. Genetic engineering simply introduces different “freedoms.”

    Thus we come to the real issue, which is the wisdom (or not) of allowing genetic engineering in the first place. For, as we know from our experience with the regulatory-welfare state, once an undesirable practice gains the state’s approbation and encouragement it becomes the norm.

    And that is the broad case against allowing genetic engineering: If it gains a government-approved foothold it will become the norm. It will result in foreseeable (and unforeseeable) changes in the human condition. It will cause most of us who are alive today to wish that it had never been allowed in the first place. (“The Case against Genetic Engineering“)

    Whyte, in his eagerness to slay many dragons of illogic, sometimes stumbles on his own illogic. Not all invocations of Hitler are inapt, as Whyte seems to suggest. Genetic engineering, Whyte’s primary example, can be Hitlerian in its consequences, regardless of its proponents’ intentions.

    I say “can be Hitlerian” because genetic engineering can also be beneficial. There is, for example, negative genetic engineering to cure and treat particular disorders.

    I will continue to invoke Hitler where the invocation is apt, as it is in the cases of abortion, involuntary euthanasia, and the breeding of “superior” humans.

    What’s in a Name?

    From the Associated Press (via WaPo):

    A senior House Democrat said Tuesday that senators should fully question Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan to make sure she supports abortion rights, in light of her previous backing for limiting late-term abortions.In a letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee, Rep. Louise M. Slaughter (N.Y.) said she views as “troubling” a 1997 memo Kagan wrote urging President Bill Clinton to back a ban on all abortions of viable fetuses except when the physical health of the mother was at risk.

    Evidently, Ms. Slaughter, originally Louise McIntosh, would prefer open season on fetuses.* She chose well when she opted to take her husband’s name.

    __________

    * I eschew the term “viable fetuses” because

    [t]he argument that a fetus is “inviable” — and therefore somehow undeserving of life — until it reaches a certain stage of development is a circular argument designed to favor abortion. A fetus (except in the case of a natural miscarriage) is viable from the moment of conception until birth as long as it is not aborted. It is abortion that makes a fetus inviable. Abortion therefore cannot be excused on the basis of presumed inviability.