Monday, August 4, 2008

Opening the Debate

To reiterate (for those of you reading from the top down) this is a continuation of debate started on The American Spectator online. See previous post for outline and links and how to contribute to the debate.
This posting will depart from my usual theme of avoid contrast between Liberal and Conservative ideals as well as focusing on a single issue to provide illustration of the general ideas.

Mike, I must refute your assertion that I do not answer my rhetorical question of how to choose between the immorality of abortion and the immorality of using police power to force our ideals onto another. I clearly state in my original posting that we must legally allow the practice while we teach against it from a moral stance. Yes, this is 'my' suggestion, arrived at through the trying to chart a moral course through two positions I find equally abhorrent.
Tell me, Mike, would you stand before a 16-year-old rape victim, gun in hand, and demand that she not abort the child that is the result? Would you demand, on pain of violence, that she allow the child to come to term, even if she in turn gives the child up for adoption? I apologize for the use of such a crass argument, but it cuts directly to the center of my point. I know that I could not take such an action, and I have my doubts that you would. Would you instead turn such an action over to the state? We must remember that the power of the State is the power to utilize violence to achieve its ends. Behind every law is the implicit threat of violence. It is this understanding that separates the Libertarian from the Conservative. I have no doubt, Mike that you, like me, when faced with this hypothetical young rape victim that you would use every moral and reasoned argument you could find to convince her to bring the child to term, even if only to give to adoption. We can both realize that we should not take vengeance on the unborn for the actions of the immoral father. It is the understanding of this situation which makes me say we must allow the practice. This is not an argument to allow abortion for just rape victims, this is instead to help illustrate that we cannot know the whole of a situation, and therefore we cannot make blanket laws.
Please realize, Mike, the central argument of Libertarianism. It is not that societal rules be abandoned, we leave that to Liberals. We advocate that you cannot legislate morality, which is a very different stance. Because of the implicit threat of violence behind every law, we must be very careful in every law that we pass. We must ensure that the law itself is moral, not in the sense of personal morality, but in the sense of political morality. And here is where the argument of forcing your view point onto others comes into play. Once you realize and understand the power of the state is the power to police, the utilization of violence, then you must realize that some laws cannot be allowed because they are, in effect, the utilization of violence to force your ideas onto another. You may disagree with my reasoning, but I hope you can at least understand how I come to think this way.
To return to my example, I have no doubts Mike that you, as I, would stand between the rapist and his victim ready to fight, kill, or die as needed. Our willingness to accept this action as right and just is what makes the laws against rape moral in the political sense. This same argument can be used to justify the laws against murder, theft, fraud, and many others. We cannot give onto the State the power to do things that we will not do as individuals and call ourselves a just society. We trust in the State to provide for a free and just society, and to ensure that our society remains that way we must in turn carefully examine each and every law with the understanding that we are making an implicit threat of violence.
This in turn provides the reason for saying that our country was founded on Libertarian ideals. Our Founding Fathers were men of rare wisdom, and even rarer morality. They understood the power of government, and sought to limit where the government could act. This idea of limiting government is what makes someone a Libertarian. I've said it in many of my writings to the Spectator; we cannot argue against Liberals utilizing government to advance their agenda only to turn around and have Conservatives utilize government to advance their agenda. Instead, we must choose the harder road, the road of longer work and less reward. We must stand together and defend the moral traditions of our forefathers because they are right, because they represent the collective wisdom of thousands of years of human experience. But we must do this through argument and reason, and not through the implicitly violent threats of the State.Please, Mike, understand that many people claim the title of 'Libertarian.' Most of the time, they do so in error and misunderstanding. Often you have a Liberal trying to make himself look better by calling himself Libertarian. But what separates the Libertarian from both the Conservative and the Liberal is that a Libertarian is talking about the role of government, not the role of morality. It can be easy to misconstrue my arguments as a case of moral relativism. They are not. I am not saying that having an abortion, or not, is the same in moral terms. I unequivocally state that having an abortion is immoral. But I also state unequivocally that using violence to stop someone from having an abortion is also immoral. My suggested solution is the result of my reasoning on how we handle a difficult moral quandary. I also would say that this understanding, the practice is immoral but must be allowed in a legal sense, is but the first step to creating a more just society where we can see the rate of abortion start to drop to include only extreme circumstances. Finally, let me close with my thanks to Mike for both your compliment to the reasonability of my previous arguments and giving me so much practice to further hone my arguments and writing skills. And also, Mike, my apologizes. First, for your apparent dislike of Libertarians. I assure you, good sir, that on deeper reflection you may find that we do not disagree as much as you seem to think, but only on methods and means. Also, I make no claim to having a monopoly on reason, even if some Libertarians do. Most of us will argue for the sake of argument because we enjoy the debate, and it is only through constant questioning of our assumptions can we come to understand if they are correct or not. And second, my apologizes for appearing to equate abortion with lying, adultery, and other such actions. I was not trying to argue a moral equivalence, but rather a legal one. It was a poor choice in presentation and misleading. And in true closing, let me just say this: While some Libertarians may give the impression that we think we have a monopoly on reason, some Conservatives give the impression that they think they have a monopoly on morality. Let us both avoid the Liberal's mistake of painting each other with too broad a stroke, eh?

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