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November 21, 2008

Comments

Perhaps it would be more accurate to say that the right wants the government to decide whenever they don't like the decisions individuals might make. In contrast, the left wants the government to decide whenever they don't like the decisions that individuals might make (think gun control). In short, both sides want to force others to do things their way -- they just differ drasticly as to which decisions they want to constrain.


Take, for instance, the granddaddy issue of them all – abortion. The Christian Right position would require every single person in a given jurisdiction to give birth. (Yes, some would argue that it’s simply about letting the states decide – but still, they prefer this position because many states, and virtually the entire South, would ban abortion). Thus, the decision-making power here would belong to the government. Individuals would no longer be free to decide.

I wish you would leave abortion out of this argument. Not only because including it makes the subsequent conversation more likely to be the sort which generates more heat than light, but also because it seems to me that the core argument over abortion is not one over the competing claims of state power vs. freedom of the individual, but rather an argument over how many individuals are involved, i.e. does the fetus count as an interested party.

Which means that there are other issues here orthogonal to the one which is central to your argument. It would be better if you were to stick to issues that can be confined to the frame you are trying to work within, IMHO.

Thanks for this, I like your point. All the prayer in school advocates need to be confronted with Jesus' own words on the subject from the Gospel according to Matthew, chapter 6, verses 5 and 6:

"When you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, who love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on street corners so that others may see them. Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward.

But when you pray, go to your inner room, close the door, and pray to your Father in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will repay you.

Personally I think the First amendment should be enough of an argument on this, but it's always fun to confront the "bible-believing 'Christians'" with their own fetish totems.

but even if u think abortion is about the fetus, there's still the question of who gets to ultimately the answer to that admittedly difficult question

gets to decide I meant - I'm on my phone

@WJ: The difference is that the arguments surrounding gun control don't really have any root in religion, whereas Publius's examples all do. That's not to say yours is a bad example for the larger argument, I think it's just not quite on point here.

ThatLeftTurnInABQ: but also because it seems to me that the core argument over abortion is not one over the competing claims of state power vs. freedom of the individual, but rather an argument over how many individuals are involved, i.e. does the fetus count as an interested party.

Not at all. Even if you suppose that an 17-day fetus has identical legal status to an 17-year-old minor, the issue is not whether the fetus is human: the issue is always whether you think the pregnant woman is human.

If the pregnant woman's human, with full human rights, it's up to her, no one else, to decide if she will provide the use of her body to sustain the fetus for the nine months necessary to make a fertilised egg into a baby.

Even dead humans are given the final right to decide (in my country, and I think in yours) if they'll permit their bodies to be made use of to save lives. The only organ that there is ever any debate about is the uterus - the pro-lifers argue that that a woman ought not to be allowed to decide for herself whether or not to use her uterus to save a human life, arguing this in terms of "Are you saying that a human fetus isn't human?" without ever (apparently) noticing that their argument rests on the presumption that a woman isn't.

I wish you would leave abortion out of this argument.

*raises eyebrow* Yeah, that's gonna work so well.

"The social conservatives’ positions tend to empower government over individuals."

I think this is largely accidental.

Someone on the other thread expressed puzzlement that Christian conservatives would push issues (abortion, gay marriage, stem cell research) that are not central to their religion. I'd argue that these issues are very much central to Christianity, if looked at from the viewpoint of the conservative Christian. From that perspective the issues are the legalization of murder, the legal recognition of behavior that doesn't adhere to traditional codes, and the legalization of murder.

So I think that the government/individual thing is a faulty framework for looking at it.

But allowing public prayer, by contrast, would force non-Christians to sit through prayer sessions in a publicly funded school.

Non-theists at least, as I believe the issue is usually presented as a religion-neutral prayer.

Though I would add that it would even force theists that don't pray as part of their faith to sit through the prayer session as well.

be gone Italix!

I said gone!

what wj said.

the courts are just another tool people use to implement their political agenda.

For example, gay marriage doesn’t require anyone to do anything.

the standard response is that legalizing gay marriage requires people to "recognize" such marriages the same way people recognize straight marriages. it means Joe and Jane Bigot would have to look at two married men and acknowledge that those two men are living a life not unlike their own. and that, my friends is an abomination unto The Lard.

italics! away!

now look what you people went and did to my beautiful text!

david kilmer: From that perspective the issues are the legalization of murder, the legal recognition of behavior that doesn't adhere to traditional codes, and the legalization of murder.

Not at all. If social conservatives genuinely believed that abortion is murder, and that murder is bad, they'd be the most active group in the US in pushing all the possible methods of reducing abortion to below the rate in the Netherlands. They don't: in fact, they actively support policies that tend to drive up the abortion rate. Clearly, then, their motivation to make safe legal abortion expensive/inaccessible is not that they believe abortion is murder/murder is bad.

If they believed that stem cell research is murder and that murder is bad, they would be the most active group in the US in pushing for an absolute ban on in-vitro fertilisation, which inevitably leads to destruction of mass numbers of fetuses - far larger than the lines used for stem cell research. They're not: I've never seen or heard of any concerted active movement against IV fertilisation.

That they believe they ought not to allow "legal recognition of behavior that doesn't adhere to traditional codes" is perfectly true, but they usually claim a Biblical justification for doing this that just isn't there...


but even if u think abortion is about the fetus, there's still the question of who gets to [decide] ultimately the answer to that admittedly difficult question

Yes, but the intense controversy over this question derives I think from the personhood part of the problem. If you had agreement over that then it would still be a contentious issue, but more along the lines of say gun control - which you might notice has been more ammenable to the two political parties finding a rough equilibrium over so that it does not dominate our political discourse the way that the topic of abortion does.

David, I find the argument that part of the divide is government vs individual convincing. Let's line up the hot-button issues on right and left:

Right:
pro-life
school prayer
gay marriage

Left:
torture
war
pro-choice

In each of these cases the left is defending the individual against the government, while the right wants to use the government to impinge upon the individual. I'm sure we could muddy the waters by making these lists longer, but I think we'd still have a notable distinction.

I'd argue that these issues are very much central to Christianity, if looked at from the viewpoint of the conservative Christian

And yet there are other positions where the Bible seems definitive (eg divorce, usury, the eating of shellfish) yet the Christian right is basically silent.

So it still leaves us with the question: why these issues, and not others? The Bible can be used to justify any number of positions- many of which are incompatible- so it's not sufficient as a reason for supporting this particular suite of political positions.

//The more liberal position, by contrast, allocates power to individuals – no one is forced to do anything.//

Snort.
Oh...excuse me...i blew my drink out my nose when I read that.

Economically, the liberals take all the money and use it to create big programs with one size fits all central planning. How does that allocate power to individuals?

Oh, wait, you're all free to pray to your own god while you wait in the bread line. But pray silently in a way that no one notices because it might be offensive to someone else and therefore offensive to the collective. So there! You are empowered aren't you.

ThatLeftTurnInABQ: Yes, but the intense controversy over this question derives I think from the personhood part of the problem.

I agree: it's sad that in the 21st century there should still be intense controversy over whether women really are human - but that's why we need feminism.

but more along the lines of say gun control - which you might notice has been more ammenable to the two political parties finding a rough equilibrium over so that it does not dominate our political discourse the way that the topic of abortion does.

The feminist analysis of this would be that controlling women is absolutely central to social conservatism - that keeping women subjugated and regarded as less than human is vitally important. Hence all of the big social conservative drives against safe legal abortion, access to contraception (especially methods that can be used by a woman without her male partner knowing she's using them), state support for mothers/child care, mandatory maternity leave, universal health care, etc - and same-sex marriage fits into this very neatly: if the partners in marriage are equal, then (a) same-sex marriage becomes an obvious option (b) you don't have "the man is the head of the family" supported by law anymore.

Jes,

FYI, I'm not arguing against your position, rather I'm pointing out that there exists a not inconsiderable number of people who feel the opposite, intensely so, and thus there is an argument. Just because you feel that you are on the right side of an argument does not disprove the existence of said argument.

I was pointing out that Publius's argument could benefit from not dragging this other matter in to muddy the waters.

I'm sure we could muddy the waters by making these lists longer, but I think we'd still have a notable distinction.

the standard conservative positions on guns, taxes and affirmative action are all more pro-individual than the liberal positions. (and i say that as a liberal)

i don't think you can honestly say that muddies the water, since those are among the central issues of the day. instead i think that demonstrates that both sides have some positions that are more pro-individual than the other side, and that neither side has a better claim to be on the side of the individual.

, rather I'm pointing out that there exists a not inconsiderable number of people who feel the opposite, intensely so

Yes, I know. A lot of people do feel intensely that women are not human and so shouldn't be allowed to make decisions about abortion.

This is why we call what we live in a patriarchy.

I think wj said it well:
//Perhaps it would be more accurate to say that the right wants the government to decide whenever they don't like the decisions individuals might make. In contrast, the left wants the government to decide whenever they don't like the decisions that individuals might make (think gun control). In short, both sides want to force others to do things their way -- they just differ drasticly as to which decisions they want to constrain.//

My point of view is: I don't care what other individuals do [given certain safety parameters] just don't make me pay for it.

Traditionally, one hasn't been able to vote for social liberalism AND limited government at the same time. Voting democrat gave you social liberalism but not limited government. Voting republican gave one limited government (except the Bush years) but not social liberalism.

I think the issues where conservatives can be said to be more pro-individual than liberals (e.g. guns, taxes and affirmative action) are such that liberals can better make the argument that they are protecting individuals from one another than can conservatives on liberal pro-individual issues (e.g. gay marriage, school prayer) with the exception of abortion. Not that I agree with the conservative position on abortion, but since they feel fetuses are individuals, they can make that argument, though it may be meaningless to people who disagree about the fetus' status.


i don't think you can honestly say that muddies the water, since those are among the central issues of the day. instead i think that demonstrates that both sides have some positions that are more pro-individual than the other side, and that neither side has a better claim to be on the side of the individual.

I agree with cleek. Rather than chalk up one side or the other as pro-individual or pro-state, I'd say that the collective good as expressed via the state (with the caveat that said expression is bound to be highly imperfect at best) and the freedom of the individual are competing interests and neither end point is an absolute good or can be judged outside of a specific context. The answer as to how best to balance these interests is "it depends" and then we have to get into the details of each specific issue.

So trying to tag one side or the other as more "pro-individual" strikes me as a statement with a pretty low value content. I'm more interested in which side is better on each specific issue on a case by case basis.


Traditionally, one hasn't been able to vote for social liberalism AND limited government at the same time. Voting democrat gave you social liberalism but not limited government. Voting republican gave one limited government (except the Bush years) but not social liberalism.

Perhaps that is for the best, since the alternative duality which would be orthogonal to this would be (social liberalism + limited govt. libertarianism) vs. Fascism (or something very much like it), and I can't think of too many historical examples where the Fascists were crushed beneath the bootheel of libertarianism, but quite a few where it was the other way around.

Chris: what cleek said.

Jes:

"Not at all. If social conservatives genuinely believed that abortion is murder, and that murder is bad, they'd be the most active group in the US in pushing all the possible methods of reducing abortion to below the rate in the Netherlands."

I was long puzzled by this. If abortion is evil, why not try to stop as many abortions as possible? The most convincing answer I've heard is the slavery argument: "If I think slavery is evil, should I support anything that reduces slavery, or should I support only the total abolition of slavery?" This question is even more complicated when the thing that reduces slavery is likely to make absolute prohibition less probable in the long run.

So I think it's possible to genuinely believe it's murder and yet not wish to work for anything but absolute prohibition.

publius:

As I wrote at home:

I think this is largely true. But at the same time, if you expand beyond the so-called “social conservative” issues, there are plenty of places where it’s the liberals who would be doing the forcing. Environmental issues, for example, or gun control.

That said, I think the fact that compliance is somehow enforced is not, in and of itself, necessarily a bad thing. It depends upon your view of the thing being enforced.

"Not at all. If social conservatives genuinely believed that abortion is murder, and that murder is bad, they'd be the most active group in the US in pushing all the possible methods of reducing abortion to below the rate in the Netherlands."

I agree, but that's not entirely fair to the Christian Right's perspective. If you accept that abortion=murder, then you treat them the same way. It is understood in our society that murder is illegal, but murders still happen. We actively try to prevent murder from occuring, but AFTER murder has been deemed illegal. They would argue you have to establish the legality of the issue first, then enact preventive policies.

Of course, one would respond that there is general agreement as to the immorality of murder, not so in the case of abortion. I have yet to hear accusations that the illegality of murder violates a constitutional right.

"The social conservatives’ positions tend to empower government over individuals. If they got their way, the public would be forced to submit to the government’s decision-making. The more liberal position, by contrast, allocates power to individuals – no one is forced to do anything."

I don't think so.

Where do liberals tend to line up on home schooling again?

Gun Control?

Charity (individual) vs. government handouts (compulsory government spending of your money?

Drugs? (both sides nasty on this one, see especially Obama's new Attorney General nominee).

Hiring/firing rules?

These aren't just side-grade exceptions.

Voting republican gave one limited government

When was that, exactly? And limited in what way?

Thanks -

And I'm so not getting deep into the abortion thicket this time, but the idea that the only plausible position is a pure individual choice issue that comes out in favor of liberals, is junk.

And really, leftist ideology in general is largely about socializing the choices--precisely the opposite of individualizing the choices.

david kilmer:
So I think it's possible to genuinely believe it's murder and yet not wish to work for anything but absolute prohibition.

This argument seems to me to assume that working for the absolute prohibition of X and working for a short-term, practically achievable reduction in X, must somehow be mutually-exclusive propositions. I don't share that assumption.

To my knowledge, the abolitionists didn't often turn down marginal gains on the rationale that doing so weakened their chances at outright abolition...

Jes
I support most of the feminist positions you outlined above but think that this reason:// A lot of people do feel intensely that women are not human and so shouldn't be allowed to make decisions about abortion.// is more the exception and than the rule. I think more of the anti-abortion voters just think the fetus is human and should have rights and the baby/no-baby decision point is at conception. i.e. whether to use birth control. That's why rape exemptions are often carved out.

I am entirely baffled by the 'no contraception' crowd.

i think you have to distinguish the social from teh economic. in the social realm, i'm extremely libertarian -- and i think liberal jurisprudence tends to lead to those types of results in practice.

however, on economic issues, i'm not libertarian at all. there (such as environmental rules/taxation) you have collective action problems and races to the bottoms and externalities -- basically, lots of the type of stuff that requires governments to intervene.

none of this really applies in the social realm

russell
//When was that, exactly? And limited in what way?//

Good point - in a way.

No one has ever delivered smaller government - except perhaps reagan in some areas. Clearly he boosted the military - but in other areas he generally tended towards decreasing it.

All the institutional, big government programs were from democrats: new deal, great society.

Republicans tend to run on a less taxes and less spending platform than democrats. It's not to say they deliver on their promises.

This is an old, tired point, but what do those who bleat, "abortion is murder" contend is the appropriate criminal penalty for a woman who aborts her pregnancy? An abortion is by its very nature intentional, premeditated and deliberate--the traditional elements which elevate murder to first degree. In several states, murder for hire, or the murder of a victim who is particularly vulnerable because of age, qualify as aggravating circumstances which would support imposition of a death sentence.

Do the self-styled "pro-lifers" contend that abortion should carry the death penalty?

"This argument seems to me to assume that working for the absolute prohibition of X and working for a short-term, practically achievable reduction in X, must somehow be mutually-exclusive propositions."

I don't think it's mutual exclusivity so much as the idea that large reductions in abortion rates will decrease the chances for abolition. As for small reductions, adoption and abstinence education programs are supposed to be pointed toward that.

It might seem inconsistent that someone would not support contraception education in order to "save a life". But many deny its efficacy, and others make a "gain the whole world at the cost of one's soul" argument.

Even if it's a case of believing what one wants to believe, I don't think there's any strong evidence that people who purport to believe that abortion is murder aren't being genuine.

Cleek and LeftTurnInABQ, you've convinced me. Thanks for changing my mind!

I don't think there's any strong evidence that people who purport to believe that abortion is murder aren't being genuine.

I think the evidence is that you don't see such people arguing that the mother or doctor should get life in prison or the death penalty for undergoing/performing abortion.

That would be kind of silly, Ugh. After all, abortion isn't even a crime, now.

However, we do get people arguing murder penalties for someone who shoots a mother and kills the fetus.

However, we do get people arguing murder penalties for someone who shoots a mother and kills the fetus.

True, but we don't (or very rarely) get people who argue that once abortion is illegal the punishment for it should be = murder. In fact it seems when you ask people about it, it becomes pretty clear that they haven't even considered the question at all. Almost as if they think that by the mere act of making it illegal there would no longer be abortions.

turningleft
//[rarely if ever] Fascists were crushed beneath the bootheel of libertarianism//

Sadly so.

Republicans tend to run on a less taxes and less spending platform than democrats. It's not to say they deliver on their promises.

As Russel pointed out, and you conceded, the GOP doesn't deliver in terms of spending. Reagan sure didn't, ditto Bush.

Further, the GOP is the champion of big government when it comes to police powers and executive authority (when you carve out gun control issues).

Ugh: google "abortionists should be".

publius:

Agreed. That's why I self-identify as a "civil libertarian" even more than as a "liberal" or "Democrat."

Eric

//Further, the GOP is the champion of big government when it comes to police powers and executive authority (when you carve out gun control issues).//

Again, sadly so. It's as if the GOP is a coalition of Social conservatives, Imperialists (the police power/executive authority/big military crowd)/ and Libertarians.

But then there are so many missionaries on the left too: marxists, environmentalists...

Is there any place on earth for 'live and let live' people like me? Maybe an island somewhere?

It seems obvious to me that the difference between liberal issues which ask for more government control and social conservative issues that ask for more government control is that the liberal issues all have real negative consequences for those who do NOT choose to practice whatever the behavior is. On the other hand, the socially conservative issues don't have any real negative consequences for those who don't practice the behavior. ( I say real consequences, because I realize that they will say anyone not doing it their way somehow causes them harm, but it is not physical or economic harm, or anything that can be verified except by faith.)

Abortions by one family do not actually harm those of another family who do not practice abortion. Gays getting married do not really harm straight couples. Johnny, not praying or even listening to someone else's prayer, does not harm Susie, who prays every ten minutes at her desk.

But, when Johnny gets an automatic rifle,
susie's level of safety at least might be compromised. Even when lots of Johnnys leave the public schools, it affects negatively the Susies who are left with a decreased suppot base. Likewise, when a racist employer hires only people who look like him, ethnic minorities suffer real consequences.

I'm not arguing the validity of any of these positions, but when you say that the liberals and social conservatives are alike on wanting government control over our decisions, I think you are giving the social conservatives way more credit than they deserve.

Ugh: google "abortionists should be".

Ooops, yeah, forgot about them. But those folks seem to be on the extreme side, no? And even those folks aren't saying "women who have abortions should be", are they (didn't google the first phrase, I'm at work)?

It seems to me that the critical question here has less to do with the role of the courts, and more to do with the question of what counts as individual and what counts as collective. I suspect the objections of conservatives have less to do with the principle of judicial review, and more to do with the specific issues.

For example, I believe everyone experiences sexuality and relationships in our own way, and therefore should have the freedom to explore and express that nature. At least some social conservatives, on the other hand, value the preset package of definitions and assumptions which tell (or used to tell) us what it meant to "be a man". Since same sex marriage denies those assumptions, it means that two men who get married have damaged what they see as valuable social capital.

Social conservatives who feel themselves to hold a part of that capital may well take double offence at court rulings that undermine somethin they value while refusing in principle to allow them a say in it.

Fetal homicide was not a crime at common law; however, many states do criminalize it by statute. These states exempt the performance/procurement of an otherwise lawful abortion, in order to avoid constitutional infirmity.

If abortion were criminalized, what penalt(ies) would the "pro-life" advocates suggest for the woman and for the service provider?

"Further, the GOP is the champion of big government when it comes to police powers and executive authority (when you carve out gun control issues)."

It might look that way on the federal side since you all have been out of power for a while, but how about any of the big cities? New York Democrats are plenty about police powers, executive authority, and restricting personal choice in food options. ;)

"Abortion is murder" isn't the only case against abortion. There are wrong things in the world that are less than murder. You could think that a fetus had the moral status level of a chimp or a dog, easing into full human level protections as birth approached for instance.

Furthermore "abortion is murder" could be appropriate at some stages of pregnancy but not others. What might be a good argument at 8 months would be stupid at 1 month.

So sweeping statements about what people who 'oppose abortion' believe that fail to distinguish between stages of pregnancy tend not to be helpful.


Is there any place on earth for 'live and let live' people like me? Maybe an island somewhere?

Sadly, no, or so it appears to me. At least not anywhere with a significant population density and a post-Neolithic economy.

It seems like anywhere humans congregate in large enough numbers and with a sufficient degree of labor specialization and social stratification, power centers emerge. They can be public (the govt.) or private (e.g. corporations), but somebody will become powerful. I think the best we can do is to try to balance the various power centers against each other so that they tend to cancel out, and from my standpoint small-l liberal democracy is the best system yet invented for attempting to do this.

YMMV and if you find that island, be sure to send us some postcards.

;-)

"Voting republican gave one limited government (except the Bush years) but not social liberalism."

Leaving aside some of your more trollish remarks (you're perfectly free to pray in public all you like; you just don't have a right to demand that the government lead your prayer), would you really argue that George H. W. Bush, Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, and Dwight D. Eisenhower -- I'll set Reagan aside for another argument -- shrank or limited government? Could you show your work on that, please?

As a separate point, I'll note that under Reagan, the national debt doubled, the federal budget went past $1 trillion, and the deficit hit 6.3 percent in 1983. Some limited growth!

What you got from Republicans on limited growth is largely a lot of hot air. But that's clearly enough for lots of Republican voters over the years.

Seems to me, publius made a very simple point which has gotten all wound up in side issues.

Simply restated: the conservative view on the three issues he mentioned derives from religious belief. You may feel put upon by other government activities, like gun control or taxes, and the liberal views may go against the libertarian grain, but no-one is suggesting that some deity is going to punish me for having a different view of the second amendment than you do - or that the same deity wants guns confiscated.

Of course false moral equivalence has been a lazy journalist's trick for decades...

New York Democrats are plenty about police powers, executive authority, and restricting personal choice in food options.

I dunno, I thought that was more of a Giuliani and Bloomberg phenomenon.

But NY is kind of strange, and the Democratic Party is a bit dysfunctional due to its monopoly on power in most areas.

For the record: I voted for Bloomy, and would consider it again depending on his challenger.

"...but no-one is suggesting that some deity is going to punish me for having a different view of the second amendment than you do - or that the same deity wants guns confiscated."

There seem to be a few Ares worshippers around; perhaps we should check with them before being sure? :-)

David K: "Someone on the other thread expressed puzzlement that Christian conservatives would push issues (abortion, gay marriage, stem cell research) that are not central to their religion. I'd argue that these issues are very much central to Christianity, if looked at from the viewpoint of the conservative Christian."

It was me, and I stand by it. That murder is wrong is agreed on by all sides. Our difference comes from the question whether abortion is murder. I do not see that the Bible takes a position on that, let alone that it is central to Christian doctrine. Had it been, abortion would not have been permitted throughout most of Christian history. Likewise, that things that diverge from accepted social practice should be illegal is no part of Christianity.

Oyster Tea, from the left, has resorted to an economic claim:

// Even when lots of Johnnys leave the public schools, it affects negatively the Susies who are left with a decreased support base. Likewise, when a racist employer hires only people who look like him, ethnic minorities suffer real consequences.//

He says the Social Left has a right to the financial support of the Social Right. He says it is a real and harmful consequence for the Left is the Social Right declines to participate.

How fair is that?

He forgets that the public schools will also have a lower demand base to go along with the lower support base.

He also assumes that the racist employer is the non-ethnic minority. He never seems to notice that the korean owned laundry has mostly korean employees; the Cambodian owned donut shop has mostly cambodian employees, the Vietnamese owned nail salon has mostly vietnamese employees, and the black owned Chicken and Waffles restaurant has mostly black employees.

Mr Farber
In the case of Reagan, I believe you'll find the bulk of spending growth was in the military budget. I specifically excepted that in my inititial argument.

Mr Farber
As for Hot Air from republicans in regard to spending cuts. It's true. Which I also said in my initial comment.

But with democrats you get neither spending cuts nor hot air about them.

But with democrats you get neither spending cuts nor hot air about them.

Bill Clinton balanced the budget and created a surplus.

Dave,

I tried to make clear that my point was that there are actual effects upon the non-participants in issues that Liberals want more government control over. There are no comensurate effects on the non participants in abortion, gay marriage, or school prayer.

I was not arguing the issues themselves. I put in the Liberal argument for those issues only to show that there is an effect on the non-participants, not to ask anyone to accept the validity of the specific argument. That could be done, but would be beyond the scope of this post.

//Bill Clinton balanced the budget and created a surplus.//

Yes, dear.

I prefer: the budget was balanced and a surplus was created when Bill Clinton was president.

A point that is always ignored is the contribution of reduced military expenditures. The military base closing initiative begun under Reagan and implemented during Bush 1 and Clinton contributed a huge amount to the budget balancing and surplus generation. It is too simple to say Clinton balanced the budget.

Sadly, no, or so it appears to me. At least not anywhere with a significant population density and a post-Neolithic economy. --TLTIA

The "significant population" is a lot more important than the post-Neolithic economy. ISTR that murder and inter-tribal warfare are the leading cause of death in the few remaining neolithic societies. That doesn't sound like "live and let live" to me. Rates of inter-personal violence have tended to go down as government has gotten bigger, even when you include government organized violence like large scale warfare.

This is actually a pretty good point in the more government/less government argument. An important part of what government does is to keep your neighbor from interfering in your affairs. That entails both a gain in freedom- your neighbor can't interfere with you- and a loss of freedom- you can't interfere with your neighbor. The only way of having complete freedom is to have no neighbors.

Oyster Tea
OK. Fair enough.

Dave,

I tried to make clear that I wasn't arguing any of the Liberal positions, only to show that there are, at least perceived, real effects on the non-participants in virtually all of the Liberal issues where more government is asked for. There are no comensurate effects for non participants in the Social Conservative issues.

I was not trying to argue the issues, but had to list some arguments to show how people, at least perceive, that they are affected when there are no gun ownership restrictions, no universal public school funding, or no affirmative action. And that there are no effects on non participants if some are allowed to abort or not pray publicly or to have a non traditional legal family.

We could argue the issues, but it is beyond the scope of this post.

Woops! double post. Sorry.

A point that is always ignored is the contribution of reduced military expenditures.

Yes, honey, but I didn't ignore it. But to the extent that you argue that the Dems are hopelessly profligate, Clinton's tenure argues against it.

Reducing military expenditures is a legitimate way to limit governmental...well, expenditures.

We could use some of that over coming decades so as to bring our spending initiatives into better balance.

Dear 007

//Rates of inter-personal violence have tended to go down as government has gotten bigger, even when you include government organized violence like large scale warfare.//

You're using a 'Post Hoc Ergo Proctor Hoc' fallacy to make your point. It's not going to work. I.e: government brings peace v peace brings government. For that matter, perhaps a third thing brings both. Or even nothing is causative of either.

But besides that, I accept that larger societies need rules with more scope as there are more interests that need to be considered. But acknowledging that is a far cry from approving state managed cradle to grave 'quality of life enhancement' financed by confiscation of private property probably from the richest, blah blah blah.

"But allowing public prayer, by contrast, would force non-Christians to sit through prayer sessions in a publicly funded school."

Speaking as an atheist from my teens, having sat through many a prayer session, "Cry me a river." Just how thin skinned ARE you clowns?

You're going to listen to a lot of stuff you don't agree with, and don't like, whether or not you're an atheist. I get tired of atheism getting a bad name from idiots who are so allergic to religion they break out in lawsuits if they hear a prayer.

"He also assumes that the racist employer is the non-ethnic minority. He never seems to notice that the korean owned laundry has mostly korean employees; the Cambodian owned donut shop has mostly cambodian employees, the Vietnamese owned nail salon has mostly vietnamese employees, and the black owned Chicken and Waffles restaurant has mostly black employees."

What if they do? For the bazillionth time, the dominant ethnicity in our country isn't any of these golks, and it's dominant groups keeping down minority/powerless groups that does harm. Not vice versa. By definition, powerless minorities have little power to harm the powerful majority. It ain't a mirror, it's not a symmetry.

"Speaking as an atheist from my teens, having sat through many a prayer session, 'Cry me a river.' Just how thin skinned ARE you clowns?"

Get back to me when your people have a history of being put through forced conversions, pogroms, slaughters, and then talk to me about how "thin-skinned" you and yours are.

But I do take this as welcome sign you look forward with no objection to your coming dhimmitude, Brett. Obama's bringing it, you know!

Oh, for crying out loud, Brett. As Quaker child and atheist teenager in the UK, where religious study and daily assembly is required by law, I undoubtedly had to sit through way more compulsory prayer sessions that had nothing to do with my religion when I had one, than you ever did, and it's got nothing to do with being "thin skinned", or "having allergies".

It's just crap, that's all: real craploads of crappy crap that's dumped in front of children who are then forced to eat the damn stuff, and it's no better for those who are sincerely religious (me, before I was 10) or agnostic-heading-for-atheism (me, by the time I was 14 or so). While it's good for anyone to learn to listen politely without sharing their disbelief, there is no particular reason why children should be forced to eat crap on a regular basis just because some adult somewhere deemed it good for kids to have a regular dose of religion, as if it were a kind of holy allergy shot.

"It was me, and I stand by it. That murder is wrong is agreed on by all sides. Our difference comes from the question whether abortion is murder. I do not see that the Bible takes a position on that, let alone that it is central to Christian doctrine. Had it been, abortion would not have been permitted throughout most of Christian history. Likewise, that things that diverge from accepted social practice should be illegal is no part of Christianity."

The Bible doesn't really have to take a position on the specific issue of whether abortion is murder for it to be part of Christian doctrine. Strictures on abortion go the whole way back to the Didache.

The Bible doesn't take a stance on when a human being acquires a soul, so that question has been mostly left to theologians. Assuming that the answer is "at conception", abortion could reasonably be considered murder by Christian standards.

And even if there were no Christian doctrine on abortion itself, a Christian who considered abortion to be murder for whatever reason would be seeing the issue as a central one to his or her religion -- as an issue of murder.

Maybe I'm not understanding you properly, but it seems like you're saying that an issue can't be central to Christianity if it wasn't a concern in the early days of Christianity.

david: And even if there were no Christian doctrine on abortion itself, a Christian who considered abortion to be murder for whatever reason would be seeing the issue as a central one to his or her religion -- as an issue of murder.

But as I noted upthread, and have expanded on posts on my own blog, there is no evidence for Christian conservatives regarding abortion as murder - unless they simply regard murder as a very minor thing. They show no interest in reducing the number of abortions - indeed, they actively fight against all of the methods proven to work (comprehensive sex education, free access to contraception, economic support for mothers): what they do show interest in is penalizing women for having sex, with unwanted pregnancy and either forced childbirth or illegal abortion as a penalty.

//I get tired of atheism getting a bad name from idiots who are so allergic to religion they break out in lawsuits if they hear a prayer.//

Amen brother.

Mr. Farber

// it's dominant groups keeping down minority/powerless groups that does harm. Not vice versa. By definition, powerless minorities have little power to harm the powerful majority. It ain't a mirror, it's not a symmetry.//

BULLSHIT! I don't have a font large enough.

And shouldn't you be working on getting a job instead of blogging?

And shouldn't you be working on getting a job instead of blogging?

Who cares what a little troll like you thinks?

"there is no evidence for Christian conservatives regarding abortion as murder - unless they simply regard murder as a very minor thing."

My understanding is that they consider a fetus to have a soul. They don't consider parting a soul from its body to be a minor thing.

"They show no interest in reducing the number of abortions - indeed, they actively fight against all of the methods proven to work"

I answered that point upthread. It's the slavery thing. I don't know if you consider that convincing, but it's the most convincing argument I've heard.

{{carefully shuffles away from d'd'd'dave, glancing nervously up at the sky}}

Publius,

By preaching to the choir, you are attracting the choir. Like,

"The pro-choice position, by contrast, ensures that individuals – not the government – will ultimately make these private decisions."

I know that you know that your assertion that abortion is a "private decision" is exactly what pro-life positions disagree with.

BTW, Jes, I enjoyed your blog posts, and I very much like your framing of anti-abortion views as not seeing women as human beings. I'm not sure it's persuasive, but it's a thought-provoking perspective. And maybe the best counter to the slavery argument that Christians make is the idea that forcing women to do anything with their bodies is slavery in that "less-than-human" sense.

But then there are so many missionaries on the left too: marxists, environmentalists...

Is there any place on earth for 'live and let live' people like me? Maybe an island somewhere?

Find a mountain peak. If we continue ignoring the environmentalists, it'll be an island soon enough.

Furthermore, get with the new program - the name of the game is not prolife vs prochoice, its reducing unwanted pregnancies.

Jes, I feel like there's an option you've left out: people may believe that abortion is murder, but not understand or support the actions that would reduce abortion out of ignorance, conformity, or simple bad science. ("Comprehensive sex education and access contraception will make our teenagers MORE at risk!")

I don't think that anti-abortion folks believe that abortion is murder. The use of the word "murder" is deliberate hyperbole, designed to up the emotional ante, like claiming to be "pro-life".

Here's why: they don't act like they think it is murder. If I believed that someone was being murdered and I knew when and where that meurder was taking place my responsibility would be to intervene. If it was a real murder--someone sticking a knife in someone else--I'd be forgiven if I tried to stop the murder without getting hurt myself. I could, for example, scream that the police were on the way. However, the expectation in our society is that I would be morally obligated to do something right then and there to stop the murder. Writing a letter to the editor the next day just wouldn't cut it. Nor would standing on a corner with a sign. Nor would bragging on myself as being a pro-life person because I don't approve of murder.

Abortion protesters claim that abortion is murder and then they stand outside the clinics while the so-called murders are taking place and do nothing but hold signs. Stopping the "murder" would not be dangerous for them, only inconvenient (get arrested). However they can't be bothered to do that! As matter of fact most anti-abortion people can't even be bothered to stand around holding sign to stop the so-called murders.

So either anti-abortion people really truly believe that abortion is murder and are themselves complict in the murders because they are not willing to inconvenience themselves to stop them, or they don't really believe it is murder.

Besides most anti-abortion people think that abortion is OK sometimes: rape or incest, for example. How can abortion be murder if the intercourse was voluntary but not murder if it was forced?

//it's dominant groups keeping down minority/powerless groups that does harm.//

No. What causes harm is when someone of any group is excluded from any opportunity for any reason except the skill set necessary for performing the task/event. Period. Your use of the words 'dominant' and 'powerless' are pejorative and misleading.

//Not vice versa.//

There is no 'vice versa' possible in ANY group, Any Opportunity and ANY reason.

//By definition, powerless minorities have little power to harm the powerful majority.//

Only because you've inserted the misleading and pejorative words 'powerless' and 'powerful' in your definition. There is no automatic reason to assume that any group, whether more numerous or not, or whether in authority or not, has or will misuse their authority simply because they are more numerous or in a position of authority.

//It ain't a mirror, it's not a symmetry.//

It is a mirror. It is a symmetry. No amount of compensating beatdowns by the formerly disadvantaged against the formerly advantaged will ever bring peace or justice. The only justice occurs when each person moves forward sinning no more.

And if you've rehearsed your mantra on the subject //For the bazillionth time// then I won't be surprised if it will be a hard habit for you to see and break.

and Jes: if you don't care then don't write back.

the standard conservative positions on guns, taxes and affirmative action are all more pro-individual than the liberal positions. (and i say that as a liberal)

I buy this about guns, not necessarily about taxes or affirmative action.

The standard conservative position on taxes is that most people should pay (comparatively) more taxes and the rich should pay (comparatively) less, ostensibly to broaden the base so that some sort of political pressure to shrink government will occur that results in everyone paying less taxes. That fanciful end state may be pro-individual in theory but it's all enforced by the stick.

Of course that's not what conservative campaign rhetoric says about taxes. Conservative campaign rhetoric is that conservatives lower your taxes, whether they actually do in the long run or not. So part of this is the question of what constitutes a position.

The conservative position on affirmative action is that if minorities are being hired or admitted less often, but the discrimination is not overt or de jure, that's not the state's business. That's a coherent position, but it strikes me as being basically pro-some individuals and anti-some others. If you're the individual being discriminated against by an entrenched old-boy network I don't imagine you'd see it as pro-individual.

In fact, I guess what both of these cases have in common is that a position in what is basically a struggle between some individuals and some other individuals, with the government as a potential mediator, gets phrased in terms of individuals vs. the government.

Rhetorically, one consequence of discussing abortion as though fetal rights/life/soul is the central issue is to erase the woman, to make her invisible. Even in publius' post above, he writes:

The Christian Right position would require every single person in a given jurisdiction to give birth.

Um, no, not unless you guys are hiding some special skills. It's not about what every *person* is required to do (or not), it's what every *woman* must do. Jesurgislac (as is her wont) phrases it pretty strongly, but I (as is my wont) agree with her: the core issue here is whether women are 100% people, just as much as men.

And this is why anti-abortion so often goes along with anti-same-sex-marriage. As Francis' comments revealed in the Psychology of OB thread, opposition to SSM is *also*, at bottom, about the patriarchy.

d'd'dave:

Cool it. You're over the line in terms of violating the commenting rules.

I'm still stuck on the assertion that anti-abortion folks really believe that abortion is murder.

Not infrequently anti-abortion speakers will use the Holocaust as a metaphor, the idea being I suppose tha the millions of aborted babies are just as much victims as the millions of Jews, Gypsies, and gay people who died in concentration camps.

If the compaison is vaild, thhen doesn't that make anti-abortion people the equivalent of the people who lived next to concentration camps and did nothing about them? Or watched the trains go by?

Except that those people had an excuse; overt oposition was very, very dangerous.

What excuse do anit-abortion people have for standing by doing nothing but talk as a holocaust of murders are cimmitted right out in the open? After all the worst that would happen if they ran donw and threw themselves between the patient and the doctor is a jail erm. That's not much to sacrifice in order to serve God and stop murder.

In fact, I guess what both of these cases have in common is that a position in what is basically a struggle between some individuals and some other individuals, with the government as a potential mediator, gets phrased in terms of individuals vs. the government.

Here's another example of the same rhetorical trick: In 1992 the voters in Portland, Maine, passed a gay rights ordinance. In 1995 there was a similar referendum statewide. (The first of several.)

In both cases, one of the themes of the opponents of gay rights was the idea that "the government should stay out of people's bedrooms." In fact, the point of the referenda was in part to enlist the government's help in keeping them out our bedrooms. Metaphorically speaking, of course.

One facet that I'm not sure I agree with Jes about 100% (though I might) is whether people say "abortion is murder! life begins at conception" can be said to believe it.

On the one hand, no-one -- *no one* -- acts as though they've thought it through and still believe it. For instance, no-one argues that maybe identical twins don't have more than one soul between them. No-one says that every early miscarriage should be recorded, investigated, and mourned as a human death. And most important, people who say they believe this aren't generally pushing contraception like there's no tomorrow, and only a subgroup are devoted to getting all born children health care, food, and education.

However, they *believe* they believe it. It's a story they tell each other and themselves, that they repeat and embellish and make an important part of their psychic lives. Does it count as believing it, even if they clearly never think it through? Contrariwise, does the explanation that actually *explains* their attitudes -- it's the patriarchy, stupid -- count as "what they really believe", even if they've never put the ideas together in their heads?

eric martin

I guess I rang two and a half bells here. 1. No profanity. [BS]. 2. Reasonably civil. [Suggesting a job hunt]. 2.5. Consistent abuse of another. I think this is the first abuse I've dished out. So consistent is not applicable.

I will desist.

Mr Farber.

I heartily apologize for suggesting that the world would be better served by you seeking employment instead of blogging. I for one admire your thoughtful and exceedingly articulate posts - even when I most strenuously disagree with the content.

In addition, allow me to substitute "I disagree sir." for Bu&%*@it.

ObWi rule #1:

a single mention of abortion any where in a thread guarantees that the rest of the thread will be about abortion, to the exclusion of any other topic.

@wonkie

What excuse do anit-abortion people have for standing by doing nothing but talk as a holocaust of murders are cimmitted right out in the open? After all the worst that would happen if they ran donw and threw themselves between the patient and the doctor is a jail erm. That's not much to sacrifice in order to serve God and stop murder.

I am not one of those people, but on a casual basis I do know a few of them, and I'd say that they don't do any of those things for the same basic reason that opponents of the death penalty don't try to storm prisons to prevent executions and anti-war activists don't try to block the Pentagon or local military bases (and no, it isn't just because there are more guns to face in the latter cases):

because they have a fundamental commitment to using the political process in a non-violent manner to effect change (rather than via direct action), and they realize that melodramatic direct action is unlikely to stop the activity they object to for very long and undercuts their chances of making progress in the political arena.

Just because one feels strongly on a matter of great moral import, doesn't mean that one have to go vigilante. The abolitionist movement wasn't all John Brown either. Also, unfortunately there are some who have stepped over the line by bombing clinics and threatening doctors.

So while personally I don't agree with the anti-abortion protestors, it seems to me that "do something now, or it must mean you don't care" is a false dichotomy in a democratic society governed by the rule of law.

On the other hand I have no idea what is going on inside the heads of people who object to using better access to contraception and sexual education to reduce the number of unwanted pregnancies, as a more effective path for reducing the number of abortions.

@cleek:

ObWi rule #1:

a single mention of abortion any where in a thread guarantees that the rest of the thread will be about abortion, to the exclusion of any other topic.

This is why at the top of the thread I said to publius "It would be better if you were to stick to issues that can be confined to the frame you are trying to work within, IMHO."

I feel like Tim the Enchanter after warning the Knights of the Round Table about the little bunny rabbit hopping around in front of the cave. In my best John Cleese fake-Scottish brogue:

Ahhhhh Warrrrrrn'd Uuuu

"Your use of the words 'dominant' and 'powerless' are pejorative and misleading."

Sure, because whether you're a slave master, or a slave, you suffer identically. Discrimination either way is equally wrong!

"It is a mirror. It is a symmetry."

Keep repeating that: it'll make it come true. Slaves and slavemasters: symmetry. Male privilege and female privilege: symmetry. Jews and "Aryans" in Nazi Germany: symmetry. Gays and heterosexuals in our society: symmetry. Ayup.

"BULLSHIT! I don't have a font large enough."

Truth stings if you try to ignore it.

"And shouldn't you be working on getting a job instead of blogging?"

What a nice person you are.

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