A Libertarian position

Right Winger Rant

2013-04-08 a libertarian position

For reasons described in my previous post I could not make up my mind about the subject for most of my life. I would expect myself to come to a position that is not influenced by my personal feelings or history. What I feel and think about it has changed several times. Most of the time I considered myself to be on the pro-choice side, then I espoused the Libertarian position best articulated by Walter Block (de facto pro-choice) but I think that it is possible to present a perfectly valid libertarian argument for the pro-life side as well. 

Let’s start the exploration of the subject with a joke:

When does life begin?
For Christians:    at conception
For atheists:         at birth
For Jews:               when he brings his first paycheck home

While the debate in the political arena is about when life begins, the real question is when RIGHTS begin. At what point will that new life have the autonomy to claim his rights? I sympathize with the Jewish approach above.

The focus on the wrong question constantly derails the debate. The pro-lifers keep talking about the eternal soul and other religious concepts that make no sense to the mostly atheist, secular-rights-espousing pro-choicers. They talk science; they look down on what they see as retarded anti-science dummies who cannot even understand what a zygote is; convincing themselves about their own superiority at any encounter with the subject.

But public policy discussions should be neither about spirituality nor science, they should be about rights and responsibilities, about laws and policies.

The Pro-lifers’ position is centered on the sanctity of life.
The pro-choicers’ position is focused on the rights of the individual.

The libertarian position – Evictionism is an interesting one. I find it perfectly logical and consistent with libertarian philosophy. You do not hear much about it, because it is not very nice. It sounds heartless.
The notion of property rights is one of the foundational ideas of libertarians. Our most basic property is our own body. Until birth, a fetus can be seen as a parasite on the mother’s body who should therefore have the right to evict.  Strictly on logic, the libertarians got it right. If humans have the right to their bodies, then the woman’s right trumps that of the fetus.

The other side if the libertarian position is pro-life. The moment a woman allows a sperm to enter into her vagina, she enters into an implicit contract with the newly formed life to rent her body for the term of gestation. This would leave rape as the only justification for abortion and even that could be subject to special interpretation indemnifying the fetus from responsibility for its condition. It is after all, the rapist’s responsibility.

The question, the problem, is the ability to ‘subcontract’ the parental responsibilities. It is easy once the child is born but rather difficult while it is inseparable from the mother. In the end, the Libertarian position is a wishy-washy non-position saying that the mother has the right to evict but not to kill. But where does this leave us? How do I vote on the referendum when I am asked about the right to choose or the right to life?

What we have to remember is that rights are social constructs. A right that you cannot claim, does not exist. That is why the notion of “animal rights” is nonsense as well. There is no sense to talk about the rights of the rabbit versus those of the fox.
When people talk about such rights, the rights of the unborn or the rights of animals, they claim stewardship over the supposed holders of such rights and claim the right to exercise those rights on behalf of their claimed charges to themselves.
That is where the pro-lifers fail in my eyes. They claim that the fetus has the right to live but they will not take responsibility for that right. They simply want to control the ‘morality’ of the mother, they simply want to advance their ideology, they want the pregnant mother to do what they consider the right, the moral, the Christian thing to do, give birth to and raise the child.
I could stand with the pro-lifers if they said: that is a human life inside you and I wish to claim it. I am willing to compensate you for the hardship of the pregnancy and I will take the child off your hands once it is born. At that point, the child will be mine and you’ll have no claim to it.

Political fantasy

While I think that my position is reasonable, I realize that it is pure fantasy, that it will never happen. Why? Because neither side would budge, because both sides love the war. It makes them feel good and righteous. It is an easy position to take either side.

Can you picture them compromising?
The pro choicers to agree to a framework that would give the adoptive parents absolutely irreversible parental rights to the child over the rights of the birth mother?
The pro-lifers to accept the idea that in extreme cases (such as rape) the mother should still have the final say and that they should persuade every single pregnant woman to do the right thing by offering them the incentives to carry on with the pregnancy?

I cannot. Ideology always trumps reason and common sense. Righteousness is gratifying and using the power of the state to force your morality on the rest of the world is too great a temptation to resist.
Nobody cares about the children or the women.

For a truly comprehensive answer, we also must realize that the issue cannot be separated from a whole slew of others. We would need to look at family laws, laws regulating adoption and surrogate motherhood and so on.

As a Libertarian, I believe that most of those laws should exist on a free market of civil laws and not the way they exist today under the heavy-handed control of the state, but that is a whole new subject already.

The position

  • Abortion does end life. We should not have the kind of casual attitude about it that is advocated by the pro-choice movement.
  • If there is anyone willing to claim the right of the unborn to life (with the associated responsibilities of raising the child) while also offering reasonable compensation to the mother for enduring the pregnancy, the mother should NOT have the right to terminate it. In other words, turn unwanted pregnancies into surrogate motherhood.
  • Such agreement should also stipulate whether the mother should have any rights concerning the child in the future.
  • If nobody is willing to claim the life of the unborn, the mother should have the right to abort it.
  • All contraception, including the morning after pill should be legal.
  • Under no circumstances should the state subsidize murder through paying for abortion.

The position is quite simple.
Would you consider this position a reasonable libertarian compromise?
Could you see the two sides of the debate agree to it?
Can you? Can you make your position to be non-ideological?

7 replies on “A Libertarian position”

  1. Oresztesz says:
    It is way too late for me to think about taking a position, but I can always add to the confusion!
    It has happened frequently enough to be noted during hypnotherapy that a patien find themselves with memories or even conversations bubbling up from the whomb (“mommy is sad/tired=I’m guilty”, “mom/dad/grandparents don’t want me”, “daddy is beating mommy” and “mommy wanta a boy/girl and I’m just the opposite of that”) usually without me directly suggesting it or on occasion even without the person consciously being aware of it.
    Something else to think about…
  2. Bill says:
    I would have to disagree with your charge that pro-lifers “will not take responsibility for that right [to life]” … every pro-life organization with which I have been involved explicitly supports adoption, and is concerned also for the health and welfare of the mother. Irrespective of that, the consistency of the holders of a position has no logical bearing on the truth or falsehood of the position. I am not certain, though, that it is possible to have a position that is not influenced somewhere by a worldview or other axiomatic belief. It is because I believe that the zygote is a unique human life that I support its right to live; it is because I believe it to be a person that I would insist that the available choices be restricted to those that do not kill or injure it. And it is because I believe that humans are created in the image of God that I believe them to be of infinite value, even when society does not deem them attractive or useful. I am not interested in maintaining a war of ideas; only in making sure that the weakest and most vulnerable of society are still protected.
  3. If we understand the golden rule (GR) as “treat others only as you consent to being treated in the same situation” it forbids the inconsistent combination–I do something to anotherI’m unwilling that this be done to me in the same situation. In other words, I condemn how I treat another, if I condemn the same act when I imagine it done to me in the same situation. It is this understanding that moves GR from being a vague platitude to a precise consistency test.

    So, “switching places” is globally and beautifully simple. It promotes justice, consideration, cooperation, and unity. To be consistent we must be impartial (in the sense of making similar evaluations about similar actions, regardless about the individuals involved) and conscientious (in the sense of living in harmony with our moral beliefs). Although simple, it is a difficult argument to make especially in the more abstract (i.e. considering someone or something else we care about on the receiving end of an action). Thus, if we can agree on consistency conditions for “doing” something, then perhaps we can agree on consistency conditions for “wanting” something and “holding a moral belief”. GR then is a family of related ideas. GR is a point of unity in a diverse world.

    (for more on an understanding of GR see Harry Gensler’s new book “Ethics and the Golden Rule”)

    • zorkthehun says:
      I see the golden rule somewhat differently and I consider relying on it potentially suicidal.
      Did you read my post on it? “Islam and the Golden Rule”
      Please do and tell me where am I wrong if you think I am.
      • If you rely on a fallacy interpretation of GR then, yes, it could be suicidal. Your post “Islam and the Golden Rule” reminds me of the “Soft GR Fallacy” which erroneously is interpreted that we should not act against what others want. Sometimes we have to forcibly defend ouselves against an attacker, or jail a dangerous criminal. So, GR interpreted correctly lets us act against what others want as long as we’re now willing that if we were in their situation then we be treated similarly. So, if you were about to kill someone, would you be willing that if you were that person about to be killed in their situation that you defend yourself? Yes, you would of course. And therefore, if you were killed in defense by the person you were going to kill then it meets the consistency test.

        Applying GR wisely means we must memorize “Am I now willing that if I were in the same situation then this be done to me?” And “situation” includes the experiences that make up the person, which you seem to acknowledge in your post on Abortion.

        Applying GR wisely also means more than just sitting down in ignorance and asking how we want to be treated. To lead reliably to “right” action, GR must build on knowledge and imagination. Again, in your post on Abortion I imagined being you in your situation, which I suppose was your intent and well done.

        Lastly, even if we are misinformed, GR doesn’t command specific acts. Instead, GR forbids inconsistent combinations such as: I do something to another – I’m unwilling this be done to me in the same situation.

        I hope this helps but reading Harry Gensler’s book “Ethics and the Golden Rule, will, I think, will help you navigate the “slippery slopes” that you seem to enjoy traversing.

  4. Dani says:
    No, this would not be an acceptable compromise and here is why. Not all women who don’t want a child are young, unmarried, irresponsible floozies.

    I am a 38 year old legally married mother of two small kids. Both of my pregnancies were high risk.

    Tubal Ligations are not 100% effective, nor are vasectomies or any birth control for that matter.

    Should I happen to get pregnant again, in spite of taking every precaution, aside from abstinence which would be ludicrous to expect from a married couple, my husband and I are in no position to care for another child. Not financially, not emotionally, and not physically.

    It is even more ludicrous to expect that I must carry that child, in front of the 2 children that I already have, and then just hand off their brother/or sister to be raised by someone else.

    This doesn’t even begin to address the prospect of them meeting same said brother or sister at some future point in life, and without realizing they are related, possibly engaging in a sexual relationship themselves.


    There are several other mammals in the animal kingdom that can self-terminate, or even ‘put on hold’ a pregnancy, if their environment is hostile.

    We may be the Apex predator of all of the animal species on Earth, but we are still animals of the mammal class and we have the same rights to our abilities as the animals do.

    Abortion is a personal choice, and it should not be ‘illegal.’

    When Libertarian Gary Johnson was asked- “Should abortion be outlawed,” he replied, “Let each state decide.”

    The interview proceeded…
    Q: You have unorthodox takes, for a member of the GOP, on abortion.
    A: I support women’s rights to choose up until viability of the fetus. I’ve supported the notion of parental notification. I’ve supported counseling and I’ve supported the notion that public funds not be used for abortions. But I don’t want for a second to pretend that I have a better idea of how a woman should choose when it comes to this situation. Fundamentally this is a choice that a woman should have.

    If it is ‘fundamentally a choice that a woman should have,’ then states government should have no more say than federal government should.

    It simply should be ‘fundamentally a choice that a woman should have.’

    This hypocrisy is what is wrong with the Liberal Democrats and the Tea Party Republicans, and every Libertarian candidate.

    So what makes Libertarians any different from the rest of them that will just pander to their bases?

    • zorkthehun says:
      Did you actually read my posts? I mean both of them, my personal story as well. Can you have no sympathy for my position? Can you not imagine a genuinely ambivalent position?
      Do you consider all opposition to your ideas hypocrisy? To repeat my last question:
      Can you make your position to be non-ideological? It sure seems that you cannot.
      The essence of my libertarian position is simply that the state has already too much to do with it. I do not think that it is right to force someone to pay for something that they fundamentally disagree with. Tax dollars should not pay for abortion. Can we meet at least on that point?

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