Eight Pounds Lighter

August 16, 2011

From the transcript of Ron Paul’s interview with Piers Morgan last night:

On abortion, I just recognition [sic] as a physician and scientist that life does exist prior to birth. There is a legal right to it and there is a biological definition of it. And most people don’t think about it, that if you say the woman has a right to do what she wants with her body and what is in her body, that means that an eight-pound baby a month before birth can be destroyed and the doctor be paid for it.*

There is something awfully bizarre about a society that says oh, that’s OK because it’s a woman’s body. And every argument for all abortion endorses the principle that you can take that life and abort it and kill it. And I had to witness this. It’s very, very disturbing.

So I think that somebody has to speak for the meek and the small. And they do have legal rights. If you’re in a car accident and a woman’s pregnant and her baby dies, you’re — this is homicide. You’ve committed a very serious crime. You killed a life.

So, this whole thing that is simple to woman’s right to do what she wants with her own body — no, you have to deal with the fact. You have to decide is there a real life there? And there is a real life there.

I’m liable as a physician. If a woman comes in and if she’s a week pregnant or 10 months, pregnant, or was eight, nine months pregnant — if I do something wrong, rightfully, so I can be liable for injuring the fetus. So, if I give her the wrong medication, I’m liable for this.

To pretend that life doesn’t exist, that’s like putting blinders on.

And I don’t talk a whole lot about it. But I’ve made the emphasis the other day that if you truly care about liberty, you have to understand life because how can I defend a woman’s or any individual’s right to lead their own life as they choose and even do dumb things and drink raw milk or whatever they want to do, at the same time say that life is not precious?

And we can throw away a life even if it weighs eight pounds because it’s within the woman’s body.

I believe in property rights. I believe that a baby in a crib deserves protection, even though I honor property. And a house is our castle.

But nobody, nobody would say oh, a woman after the baby’s born, we can kill it. And today, we have this — all these abortions. But if a young girl is in a desperate situation and she happens to deliver her baby and kills it, she is arrested immediately. But if she had done it a day before, there was no crime and the doctor gets paid money.

That — even if you divorce this all from the law and enforcement of law, but morality. Our society has to decide whether that’s morally right or wrong in dealing with this.

I have high respect for life. Therefore I have high respect for liberty. And it’s hard to separate the two.

I’m going to defer to Paul’s experience “as a physician and scientist that life does exist prior to birth” and then I’m going to explain why that doesn’t matter at all when it comes to whether or not women have the right to abort a pregnancy on demand and without apology. In fact, I’ll even raise the stakes and say that we know for a fact that the baby (yes, ‘baby’, since we’re accepting Paul’s premise for now) will grow up to cure cancer and bring about total world peace.

[TRIGGER WARNING for descriptions of hypothetical rape.] Read the rest of this entry »

Hard-wired to Choose

August 8, 2011

Seems like “the debate” is often structured so one has to either believe in some “exception” to cause and effect, or that that our preference for a Belgian triple ale with tonight’s dinner is merely fall-out from the big bang. I’m in the “hard-wired to choose” camp.

(Shawn P. Wilbur)

(University of Texas at Austin philosophy professor David Sosa talking in his office in the movie Waking Life)

Transcript (click here if you want to skip to the rest of the post): Read the rest of this entry »

Counter Culture

May 23, 2010

Allison Kilkenny writes:

The free market can’t provide solutions to many social problems. As Oliver Willis (sarcastically) put it, “instead of boycotting [the] bus, rosa parks should have been an entrepreneur and started her own bus service. let the market decide.” Therein lies the problem with Libertarian [sic] philosophy. Social minorities aren’t in a position to start their own businesses, and they are frequently at the mercy of state and private business policies. We can’t all be the CEO of BP. Most people live on the other end of the social spectrum, like the poor fishermen, standing on the Louisiana coast, waiting for the oil to hit the shore.

First things first. Repeat after me: Rand Paul is not a libertarian (or a big-L Libertarian, for that matter).

Next, a history lesson. Rosa Parks was standing up to state laws, not the bus company per se. It was precisely the existence of the government’s laws that prevented the free market from having any chance of working in this case. Read the rest of this entry »

Charles Johnson, Gary Chartier, Steven Horwitz, Sheldon Richman, and Roderick Long at APEE's Free-Market Anti-Capitalism panel in Las Vegas, 13 April 2010

What Is Aggression?

April 27, 2010

The following essay was my submission for an ATP 101 assignment asking: What is aggression? How can we distinguish between aggression and other kinds of undesirable influence? The space in the assignment was limited so I only intend this to be a starting point for further research.

A key concept underlying aggression is that of a moral agent’s ‘boundary’. I do not mean for this term to imply a continuous, spatiotemporal boundary [1] , though it will often correspond to exactly that. Instead, the boundary is a logical entity that divides the set of all actions that can be performed by others into (a) those that treat our agent as a means [2] (“inside the boundary”) and (b) those that do not (“outside the boundary”).

Simply performing an action that treats another person as a means (i.e. is within that person’s boundary) is not sufficient to make the action one of aggression, however. That would count most, if not all, of human interaction as aggressive, making it a poor basis for a legal system [3] . Therefore, we might be tempted to separate out those ‘boundary crossings’ that occur without the consent of our agent. But that too seems a poor basis for a legal system that needs to enforce its judgment without being itself unjust.

I do think, however, that lack of consent from our agent is a necessary (but not sufficient) condition for an action committed against her to be classed as one of aggression. Either of two other conditions must obtain: (a) the action is not necessary to end an act of aggression on the moral agent’s part; or (b) the action is necessary to end an act of aggression but morally disproportionate (in the direction of excess) to the seriousness of that act. Therefore, aggression is treating someone as a means without their consent where doing so is either (a) unnecessary to end aggression or (b) disproportionate to the seriousness of that aggression [4] . (Long) We might call this, and therefore define aggression as, “treating someone as a mere means.”

Because I have given a definition that relies on the concept of “treating someone as a means,” using it to distinguish between aggression and other kinds of undesirable influence will require a method for knowing what “treating someone as a means” means. It also relies on an ability to determine the necessity of an action (to end aggression) and whether an action found so necessary is disproportionate in moral seriousness. The necessity of an action to end aggression is likely something that can be determined empirically, for the most part. The other two factors will require more complex methods of determination (e.g. critical reflection, reflective equilibrium, intuition-pumping, additional moral principles, community norms etc.)

I will say something further about “treating someone as a means.” I do not think that treating someone as a means requires intention. Nevertheless, intention can play a role in certain contexts, e.g. “threatening to invade someone’s boundary is itself an invasion of that person’s boundary (since in announcing my intention of using you as a means I am already treating you as the sort of thing it is legitimate to use as a means).” (Long) I do think it requires subjecting or subordinating someone to some condition, rather than simply taking advantage of the facts about someone.

You will notice that I do not refer to property rights nor do I specifically refer to physical force. It may be the case (and I think there are good reasons for thinking) that in the process of unpacking ‘treating someone as a means’ that it will necessitate some consideration of external property and/or a limit to actions that are physical violations of person or property. This more general definition, however, keeps the underlying moral premise in the foreground so as to prevent any question-begging formulations prior to a discussion of property rights or non-physical harm among those who share a desire to capture the spirit of non-aggression.

Works Cited

Long, Roderick T. “Abortion, Abandonment, and Positive Rights: The Limits of Compulsory Altruism.” 1993. <http://praxeology.net/RTL-Abortion.htm&gt;.


[1] Imagine a sphere in 4D space-time surrounding our moral agent.

[2] I will not be defending this notion here but it comes from (though not only from) the Aristotelian virtue-ethical normative principle that states that, “Every person has the right not to be treated as a mere means to the ends of others,” where ‘right’ is understood to mean in the sense of ‘legally enforceable’. To treat someone like a mere means is to not treat them as an end in themselves. (Long)

[3] I will only focus on aggression as it relates to legal institutions concerned with the legitimate use of force. There are many other domains concerned with correctly defining ‘aggression’, including psychology and biology, but these are not generally concerned with the normative realm implied by a non-aggression principle.

[4] The recursive nature of this definition is not problematic because (a) obtains in the case where there is simply a lack of any reciprocal boundary crossing.

Klinging to the State

February 7, 2010

Arnold Kling writes,

Does the state have necessary functions?

I believe that it does, but I am not sure. I am strongly inclined to believe that unless we agree to have an ultimate arbiter of disputes, the equilibrium is what North, Weingast, and Wallis call “the natural state,” in which a coalition of violent gangs extorts from the general public and shares the loot.

So, Arnold, you would describe our current situation as one in which there is not a coalition of violent gangs that extorts from the general public and shares the loot? I’m not so sure that it can be described as anything but that.

Our imperfect democracy, or “open-access order” in NWW’s terminology, is far from perfect, but it allows more people to have more opportunity to hold onto more of the wealth that they create.

Compared to what? Anarchy? Why?

But I want to return to the larger point Kling is making: that despite all of the other things we can somehow manage to accomplish without the state (Kling lists “education, income security, police and fire protection, etc.”), we’re likely to hit a wall when it comes to arbitration. We need a final arbiter. Read the rest of this entry »

Flowers for the Sick

January 28, 2010

Margaret Flowers, M.D. responds to the SOTU in an open letter to Barack Obama:

There was an opportunity this past year to create universal and financially-sustainable health care reform rather than expensive health insurance reform.

Flowers is talking about single-payer or as she likes to call it (in a move I suppose she intends to be an argument in its favor) “Medicare-for-All.” This was followed closely by:

This poor value for our health care dollar is due to the waste of having so many insurance companies.

So on the one hand, Flowers gets that health care and health insurance are two different things. But then she thinks that health care value is bad because of health insurance competition. Read the rest of this entry »

The Taxman Cometh

July 22, 2009

If you don’t know already, Dr. Roderick Long is in serious need of help. UPDATE. You know what to do. Your very flourishing depends on it!

Stephan Kinsella:

Even if private property owners were not prohibited from inviting whomever they wish onto their own property, the guest would have a hard time getting there, or leaving, without using, say, the public roads. So merely prohibiting non-citizens from using public property would be one means of establishing de facto immigration restrictions. It need not literally prohibit private property owners from having illegal immigrants on their property. It need only prevent them from using the roads or ports – which it owns.

Note: the above quotation and link is not intended as a claim that Stephan ultimately supports state immigration laws or closed border (see comments) but to compare the argument he describes in light of other considerations.

Roderick Long (mp3):

Suppose that you homestead an area like this [draws square] and then I come along and homestead an area like this [draw a larger, concentric square]. You want to leave your property now. And I say, “Sorry. Unless you have a helicopter or something, you’re not leaving; or at least you’re not leaving unless you pay me a heck of a lot” or whatever. Is that legitimate? I would say no, I don’t have the right to interfere with your coming and going and so I have to allow you some form of getting onto and off of your land. In law, this is known as an easement.

It seems to me that if you hold the latter to be the right position then it would be difficult to hold the former position without some creative juggling. Read the rest of this entry »

Pulp Non-Fiction

May 17, 2009

I’m a big fan of Danny Shahar’s blog. It is one of my “regular reads” and part of the charm is that his posts are both interesting and epic (in length). Recently, he has posted a series of four (so far) epic posts on metaethics. I never pass up a discussion on metaethics but there is a great deal to cover and Danny is churning out new talking points faster then I can read it all.

However, I will be raising objections to Danny’s (and his friend Vichy’s) conception of metaethics primarily from the perspective of Roderick Long’s work on a praxeological foundation for ethics. While I do find Long’s metaethical theory compelling, my primary reason for selecting this pairing in the metaethical Battle Royale is that they seem matched as nearly perfect opposites. There is, to me at least, an almost eerie correspondance between Danny’s supporting points for moral fictionalism and the aspects of ethical thought that Long seeks to criticize. It seems like the perfect case to flex Long’s theory. Read the rest of this entry »

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