Monday, August 4, 2008

First “Operative” Principle

Mr. Campbell, when faced with your moral dilemma in choosing between allowing an evil such as abortion or using the coercive power of the State to prevent it, it appears to me there are two choices: 1.) Refrain from using the power of the State and permitting abortion or 2.) End abortions by using the law and law enforcement. Your solution is to allow abortion and then use the power of personal persuasion to curtail it—essentially choosing option #1 and then attempt to change our social ”ecology” by changing the hearts and minds of our fellow citizens1 2. But why? How did you get there? In what line of reasoning or criteria is your solution the best resolution of the dilemma?
If I may venture a guess, after reading your entire response, your argument rests on two “axioms” you may believe are obvious but for the most part are unarticulated—at least it appears so among non-Libertarians.. I don’t think you were being deceptive by any means. We all make arguments time to time assuming we share common ground and assumptions when that isn’t necessarily so.
In graduate level mathematics, one has left the realm of ordinary physics calculations into a highly theoretical analysis. The texts are extremely specialized and quite expensive as only a few hundred may sell in any particular year. Both to save money and the expectations that students in graduate school should not need to lead around by the hand, theorems and proofs are presented in an abbreviated form with the expectation that students should be able to work their way from point “A” to point “L”. In much the same way, Libertarians sometimes argue in this fashion. But there is a problem even for those exposed to a fair number of Libertarians during his lifetime. Unlike mathematics, one cannot be certain where to begin. As many Libertarians advise, they are a varied and independent bunch and so it is not safe to non-Libertarians to assume that we necessarily understand each one’s argument. The premises a particular Libertarian may be working from may not be shared by others.
Thinking through your presentation, if I may presume, I would say your first “operative” principle is to preserve and defend as much liberty and independence from the State as possible (“[the] ideal of freedom from the perspective of how little one is constrained by authority”). Libertarians have a prejudice (in the best sense of the word) against the State controlling our choices for us. I believe this in part is how you come out where you do. There seems to be another “operative” principle you involve which I will take up in a later post.
-Written by Crabby Apple Mike Lee.
1 As a side note, it is commonly said that abortion is a private matter between a woman and her physician. I can tell you it is not. I worked as a technician in surgery for fifteen years. I never participated in an abortion although I was in an uncomfortable proximity. The truth is that it takes a great deal of social cooperation and involvement by others so that abortions may take place—especially on the scale abortion takes place in our country. From the manufacture of specialized equipment, the sharing and education of technique, and the use of general medical facilities and medical personnel to support and enable abortions—not to mention the medical documentation that must be done—we are not talking about a matter which takes place between two consenting adults in a hidden cave outside of town. Without this support system, many physicians simply would not risk performing abortions.
2 It should be remembered that in the 1960’s that one of the “promises” assured by those advocating the open availability of contraceptives was that they would virtually eliminate abortions. In fact, the sea change went into the opposite direction. I am not arguing against contraception, mind you. What I am pointing out is that there is already a history of unintended consequences on the subject of abortion.

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