Category Archives: Reproductive Rights

Aren’t You Glad To Be A Gamma?

I had a really interesting philosophical discussion with Brad Warbiany, our curator at The Liberty Papers, over a Facebook status I wrote. I had just re-listened to the CBS Radio Workshop rendition of Brave New World and had commented that it seemed like a far more livable situation than 1984.

Warbiany added that California, if Prop. 19 passes and allows the modern equivalent of soma to be freely ingested, the state really will look like Brave New World. With the state already self-organized into a caste system (Listen to someone from Northern California talk about Southern California or someone from Berkeley talk about Sacramento some time), abortion and every sort of contraceptive widely available and the domination of a vapid mass culture (seen at San Diego Comic Con or Wonder Con in San Francisco) taking precedence over civic involvement for Californians, the Golden State really resembles Huxley’s “negative utopia.”

Warbiany also handed me this great cartoon:
Orwell v. Huxley

On Twitter, alot of progressive and libertarian leaning activists tend to advocate alot for issues of freedom and emancipation in countries like Iran or China. In a way, situations in so obviously repressive countries like those are much easier for the activist. They fit into the Orwell dynamic and the villains and heroes are very clear. In his opposition to the death penalty, our own Stephen Littau does take on the American equivalent to state repression. Along with questionable foreign policy and drug policy, however, those are really the only avenues for passionate American political activism.

Beyond such clear issues of state force, however, one runs into a brick wall when faced with the mass culture, dullness and vapidity of consumer society. It seems that in this society, the majority of more normal people (myself and most people reading this strongly excepted) do not become Jeffersonians but instead “turn on, tune in and cop out,” as Gil Scott Heron once said. How does one become an activist in a society in which people freely subjugate, segregate and limit themselves?

I have a funny story that relates to this, that I didn’t even remember until I read what Brad said. While living in Alameda, California, I lost my phone. A teenage girl, around college age most likely, found it and called my mom, who e-mailed me about it. When I got the phone back, I was really grateful but had no money on hand. The only possession I had literally was a copy of Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World. I offered it to her.

She literally responded, “No thanks. I don’t read.”

I know. Alameda is not a low income area where reading should be rare, either. There are several bookstores in the area, along with hip restaurants, record stores and everything else you expect in cosmopolitan society. It even has an incredible vintage movie theatre that I rank as the best in Northern California, next to Oakland’s Grand Lake Theatre. This girl was obviously more involved in other factors of modern life, all of which I can safely assume are of less consequence intellectually than the work of Huxley.

It’s especially ironic given that there is a passage in Brave New World in which infants are given books while bombarded with screeching, loud noises, in order to dissuade them from being too intellectual when they reach adulthood. With video games, television, the internet and iPhones, that seems unnecessary as modern people have been incentivized out of intellectualism.

That girl did go to extra trouble to give me my phone back, with no advantage to her, however. That means she had a decency and sense of altruism that her lack of reading hadn’t impeded. Having grown up around the hyper-educated and being on that road myself, I can also attest that we’re not the nicest group of people. Perhaps then we really are on the road to progress.

Why I Don’t Listen To Jenny McCarthy — Or the CDC

The journalist responsible for the original uproar about the MMR vaccine and autism has been shown to have produced very shoddy research, and widely discredited. He was even recently banned from the practice of medicine in the UK. This has, of course, not quieted the debate. In fact, it’s gotten even worse, with his vaccine supporters claiming the science is settled, and vaccine opponents acting as if this is all a big cover-up.

The problem with this debate, for most people, is that they don’t have the training to actually view the real research and make an informed decision. They’re trying to decide whether to listen to their usual source of information, an emotionally-charged celebrity (Jenny McCarthy) or to trust the authorities, who just naturally have that stink of “they must be hiding something” about them. Add a dash of humanity’s propensity to swallow conspiracy theories, and nobody knows what to believe.

As a parent, I decided it was my job to educate myself and make the decision for my kids, regardless of what the CDC said. Nothing is riskless. It is my job to weigh the risk of vaccinating against the risk of not vaccinating, both for specific vaccines, for the age of administration of those vaccines, even to the level of possibly discriminating against brands of vaccine based upon ingredient levels (you may laugh, but I have asked my pediatrician which brand they use).

Some anti-vaccine folks in my extended family supplied me with the crackpot books they’ve read (i.e. books where the author was denouncing the entire germ theory of disease as bogus), and it was clear reading these that the authors had an axe to grind. A book written from an ideological perspective is not necessarily a disqualification, but books where the ideology trumps the science are out of the question.

I ended up on a book published by my kid’s pediatrician. I chose it because it seemed to honestly and neutrally discuss the relative diseases guarded against, the ingredients of the vaccines in question, and the safety record of the vaccine. The author supports vaccination, but it was clear that he did his level best to offer the evidence without bias, separate from his own recommendations pro/con on each vaccine.

I ended up choosing the vaccine schedule that I put my kids through based on that information — i.e. a cost/benefit analysis of the likelihood my child might contract the disease in question, the severity of the disease if he did catch it, and the relative risks of the vaccine in relation to the above.

As an example, I chose that my children get the polio vaccine. While it’s a rare disease, it’s a particularly nasty disease, and the vaccine is one of the safest available. I also chose to get vaccines such as HiB and Rotavirus, because they’re relatively harmful diseases, particularly in infancy, and also diseases that my kids aren’t that unlikely to contract.

On the other hand, I chose against MMR. While measles, mumps, and rubella are common, they’re also typically mild diseases. The vaccine has a higher prevalence of adverse reactions than most, and there is a worry that some of the vaccines for “mild” diseases can lead to complications later in life, with a more virulent and dangerous form of a disease affecting the individual in adulthood. Thus I didn’t believe taking risks to protect my kids from diseases that seemed relatively innocuous in most kids made a lot of sense, especially since the long-term effect is unknown. I had the same rationale for the chickenpox vaccine.

I also opted for a more spread-out vaccine regimen (i.e. not necessarily later in life, but more visits and less shots per visit), because I think the likelihood of an adverse reaction may be increased when you subject a body to the stress of several vaccines at once.

This, of course, is done with the unique attributes of my family taken into account. It’s a low-risk household, with the kids breast-fed until 12 months, no day care, and not a huge amount of interaction with hordes of other youth. Further, they’re well-nourished and healthy kids, so I feel they’d be far better than “average” at weathering the storm of a disease like measles or chickenpox. This, of course, also makes them less likely to have an severe adverse reaction to a vaccine, so it affects the risk/benefit of vaccinating just as much as not vaccinating.

I know that this decision is my responsibility as a parent. I know that I am weighing some risks against others, and that there’s a chance that things could go wrong. It is because of that responsibility that I read 3 books cover-to-cover on the subject, discarding two of them as trash and settling on one that I thought trustworthy before making my decisions. At the end of the day, I feel like I made the best decision I could, given the evidence I had, and I and my family are going to be the ones who have to live with the consequences, right or wrong. That’s a heady weight, and one that most parents probably don’t want to bear. But that’s the responsibility that comes with raising a child.

The problem will come when the kids need to go to school. The schools typically demand that you’re current with all or most of the vaccines on the CDC schedule. Most public schools will allow you to let your unvaccinated child attend if you claim a philosophical objection to vaccinations. It’s a major hassle, but they do allow it. The problem for me is that I don’t have a philosophical objection to vaccination (especially as an atheist — no religious reasons for me). One of the pieces of evidence against a philosophical objection is to give your child any vaccines — i.e. my piecemeal approach is not philosophical.

I do have a philosophical objection to bureaucratic one-size fits all government mandates, though, and thus I don’t accept that the government should be the one demanding that I follow their cost-benefit analysis for “most” kids when it doesn’t fit my family’s particular situation. My philosophical objection is being forced to take risks with my children that the CDC wants me to take, when I’ve evaluated the research myself and I disagree. That objection, though, is less well accepted in California than Scientology.
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Abortion Is Not Libertarian — Or Conservative Or Liberal

In libertarian circles, the abortion issue is a thorny one, for the same reason as in the general political spectrum: it depends on a priori beliefs outside those of a political philosophy.

It comes down to two different potential mutually exclusive beliefs:

  1. The intrinsic “human-ness” of a fetus begins at conception, or viability, or wherever you define — but nonetheless prior to birth.
  2. “Human-ness” begins at birth.

It’s a near-universal belief, whether libertarian, conservative, or liberal, that humans have certain rights. Libertarians nearly always define these as “negative rights”, i.e. freedom from external restraint or infringement. Liberals typically extend this significantly to “positive rights” or the common good, i.e. everyone has a right to an education, a square meal, health care, etc, and individuals may have some liberties restrained (i.e. income taxes, etc) in order to ensure provision of those positive rights for others. Conservatives, as far as I can tell, more define such positive rights as the ability to live in a stable, moral, traditional society, and are willing to curtail liberties (such as drug use, prostitution, etc) that threaten the wider societal “stability”.

But either way, they all believe that individuals have rights and murder is wrong.

If you believe the first proposition — i.e. that a fetus prior to birth has innate “human-ness” and thus human rights, to allow for that innocent “child” to be killed is murder. While there may be needs from time to time to balance rights of one against rights of another (i.e. when health of the mother is threatened, perhaps), one might side with the mother, but that would be considered a justified moral tragedy, not a dispassionate and lightly-considered “choice”. To someone who believes proposition 1, Roe v. Wade is an abomination, as no amount of privacy justifies murder.

If you believe the second proposition — that a fetus prior to birth has no innate rights, then you have no issue with abortion. At that point the fetus can be considered an invasive and unwanted growth inside ones body, and the removal of such is entirely at the discretion of the mother, as it is her body and thus her choice. To infringe on her personal privacy is thus immoral and not the purview of government.

The belief in the first or second proposition is not covered by any moral theory of libertarianism that I’ve come across. Thus, if you define your view of abortion as a logical outgrowth of the rights the fetus does or does not have, you can impart that a priori belief into libertarianism.

As with all beliefs, there are a lot of people who have gut instincts but have never put in the hard thinking to really boil this down to proposition 1 or 2, and then accept the consequences thereof. Most tend to choose a pro-life or pro-choice position and then try to work backwards to justify it in arguments… But then that’s true of most political debates — the average layman incorporates a lot of subconscious values into his/her belief system, and then chooses the political party that “feels” right based on those subconscious values.

But I personally think that the entire debate over abortion boils down to whether one believes proposition 1 or proposition 2. That is fundamentally not a libertarian, conservative, or liberal belief — regardless of the fact that there’s significant overlap between religions who believe proposition 1 and conservatives, and many secular and liberal folks who believe proposition 2. Believing proposition 1 and allowing abortion is philosophically inconsistent, and believing proposition 2 and disallowing abortion is a violation of individual freedom of the mother.

It’s as simple as that.
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Happy Constitution Day


Two Hundred Twenty Two years ago in Philadelphia, the Constitution Convention in Philadelphia completed it’s work.

At the close of the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia on September 18, 1787, a Mrs. Powel anxiously awaited the results, and as Benjamin Franklin emerged from the long task now finished, asked him directly: “Well Doctor, what have we got, a republic or a monarchy?” “A republic if you can keep it” responded Franklin.

222 years later, Mrs. Powell’s question, and Franklin’s response, remain undecided.

Do yourself a favor — read The Constitution, and then ask whether we’re still following it the way the Founders intended, and whether we’re going to be able to keep the Republic that Franklin was talking about.

Ain’t Nobody’s Business If You Do

THIS BOOK IS BASED on a single idea: You should be allowed to do whatever you want with your own person and property, as long as you don’t physically harm the person or property of a nonconsenting other.

Thus begins a book that everyone interested in politics should read; Ain’t Nobody’s Business If You Do: The Absurdity of Consensual Crimes in a Free Country by Peter McWilliams.  Published in 1998, it is a damning survey of how the United States had become a state composed of “clergymen with billy-clubs”.  It analyzes the consequences of punishing so-called victimless crimes from numerous viewpoints, demonstrating that regardless of what you think is the most important organizing principle or purpose of society the investigation, prosecution and punishment of these non-crimes is harmful to society.

This remarkable book is now posted online, and if one can bear to wade through the awful website design, one will find lots of thought-provoking worthwhile commentary, analysis, theory and history.

His final chapter, on how to change the system, while consisting mainly of pie-in-the-sky, ineffective suggestions of working within the system, starts of with an extremely good bit of advice that I urge all our readers to try:

The single most effective form of change is one-on-one interaction with the people you come into contact with day-by-day. The next time someone condemns a consensual activity in your presence, you can ask the simple question, “Well, isn’t that their own business?” Asking this, of course, may be like hitting a beehive with a baseball bat, and it may seem—after the commotion (and emotion) has died down—that attitudes have not changed. If, however, a beehive is hit often enough, the bees move somewhere else. Of course, you don’t have to hit the same hive every time. If all the people who agree that the laws against consensual crimes should be repealed post haste would go around whacking (or at least firmly tapping) every beehive that presented itself, the bees would buzz less often.

I highly recommend this book.  Even though I have some pretty fundamental disagreements with some of his proposals, I think that this book is a fine addition to the bookshelf of any advocate of freedom and civilization.

Hat Tip: J.D. Tuccille of Disloyal Opposition.

I am an anarcho-capitalist living just west of Boston Massachussetts. I am married, have two children, and am trying to start my own computer consulting company.

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