Abortion: The Irrepressible Conflict
by Eric Rudolph
Copyright 2008, Eric R. Rudolph
All rights reserved.
In the 1850’s the conflict over slavery came to a head. As part of the Compromise of 1850, the Fugitive Slave Law was revamped. Among other things, the law required free-state authorities to return runaway slaves to their masters down South. In response, several Northern states passed so-called Liberty Laws, which in effect nullified the Fugitive Slave Law, and thereby challenged the authority of the federal government.
Then came the Kansas Nebraska Act (1854), a law that nullified the Missouri Compromise of 1820. In the famous Compromise, slavery was banned north of the 36° 30’ line. Now, under the new act slavery in the territories was to be contingent on “popular sovereignty”: if a majority of any new territory’s residents wanted slavery they could have it, regardless of whether the territory was north or south of the 36 degrees and 30 minutes line.
The Supreme Court’s decision in the Dred Scott (1857) case was the straw that broke the camel’s back. The decision capped off a decade of defeat for anti-slavery forces. Writing for the majority, Chief Justice Taney ruled that Congress and the territorial governments had no power to exclude slavery from the territories, popular sovereignty notwithstanding. Property in slaves was protected under the Fifth Amendment and neither Congress, nor the territorial governments could deprive any U.S. citizen of his property, said Taney. Nor could they prohibit a man carrying his property (slaves) across state lines. In effect, Dred Scott said that all Congressional action limiting the expansion of slavery in the past seventy years, including the Northwest Ordinance of 1786, were null and void. Abolitionism was no longer a viable movement.
For abolitionists, who had worked for half a century to limit the expansion of slavery, these measures were not simply temporary set backs; they were a declaration of war on the anti-slavery cause. Henry Clay’s dream of a compromise between the North and South was dead. Pro-slavery and anti-slavery folks could not live together under the same system. Abraham Lincoln captured the significance of Dred Scott: “It is merely for the Supreme Court to decide that no state under the Constitution can exclude it [slavery], just as they have already decided that. . .neither Congress nor the territorial legislatures can do it. . ..” If, therefore, the Constitution protects “the right of property in slaves,” then “nothing in the Constitution or laws of any state can destroy the right of property in slaves.” The next step, said Lincoln, was to nullify all the free-state constitutions that had outlawed slavery. Lincoln understood that the Constitution could no longer serve these two irreconcilable positions. He used a Biblical metaphor to drive home this point: “’A house divided against itself cannot stand.’ I believe this government cannot long endure permanently half slave and half free.” 1
Constitutional efforts to outlaw or limit the expansion of slavery had failed. Unless the anti-slavery folks intended to permanently back down, they would have to devise a new strategy. The slavery debate was over. The only option left was a naked struggle for power. The winner of the struggle would impose his system with respect to slavery. In a famous speech (1858) Lincoln’s future Secretary of State William H. Seward called the impending collision of the two Americas “the irrepressible conflict.”2
There are limits to diversity within one system of laws. In the 1850s, those limits were reached over slavery. In 1973 the limits of diversity were reached again, this time over abortion. There are, however, significant differences between the conflict over slavery and the present one over abortion. In the 1850s the underlying differences between the people of the North and the people of the South were slight. Although North and South developed sectional identities, both shared the same culture, both shared the same Western Christian Culture-Identity. The differences between North and South were issue-based, not identity-based. Slavery and race were those issues. Once the slave system was destroyed and Reconstruction ended, the South was easily woven back into the fabric of American society. When slavery and race were put aside, the Northern and Southern people were the same.
On the other hand, the differences between the typical San Francisco pro-choice liberal and the average Alabama pro-life conservative are vast. Every year the differences increase. Even though both are children of the West, their differences do not center on one or two issues, like slavery and race-their differences are fundamental.
Since Roe v Wade much has been written on abortion. Whether conservative or egalitarian, most arguments stick pretty close to the classical liberal concepts found in the U.S. Constitution. Classical liberalism is the name given to that body of political thought found in the writings of such philosophers as Locke and Montesquieu. Classical liberalism was a response to the religious and political upheavals in Europe during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. The Reformation pitted Protestants against Catholics; Nationalism was eroding the former connections between the kingdoms of Europe; money and the new middle class were challenging the landed nobility; science was questioning the authority of the Church. The unity of Western Christendom that had existed for 1,000 years was coming unraveled.
Using reason as their guide, classical liberals tried to redefine the individuals’ relationship to society. All the old definitions seemed uncertain and based on the arbitrary claims of the nobility and the Church. Feudal society was full of inconsistencies and unfairness. Classical liberals would try to create a formula for a rational objective society. John Locke's Second Treatise On Government is the most influential statement of classical liberalism.
First, Locke asked what was the origin of society. Before formal societies existed, so the theory goes, men were sovereign independent beings, living in a “state of perfect freedom,” and could “order their actions, and dispose of their possessions and persons as they thought fit, within the bounds of the law of Nature, without asking leave or depending upon the will of any other man.” In this “state of Nature” every man obeys the “law of Nature. . .which obliges everyone. . .that all being equal and independent, no one ought to harm another in his life, health, liberty, or possessions. . .” Man had no prior social obligations. But because this state of Nature was inherently unstable and dangerous to his interests, he entered into a voluntary social contract with other sovereign men. Society begins “by common consent,” and the only “reason why men enter into society is the preservation of their property. . .” Instead of each man acting as his own little country, “the community becomes an umpire, and by understanding in different rules and men authorized by the community for their execution, decides all the differences that may happen between any members of society. . .”3 Thus men traded a bit of their sovereignty for the protections of social organization. But a man’s most important rights-life, liberty, property-were retained as inherent, with society having limited power to infringe upon them.
Since society is man’s creature, it serves his interests. If at any time the state threatens inherent rights, especially property rights, “the people have a right to remove it by force,”4 and set up another government to their liking. Thus government receives it power from the voluntary consent of the governed. Classical liberalism influenced most educated men of that era, including the authors of the U.S. Constitution.
Classical liberalism was an idea within the Western Culture. It was a noble attempt to protect the individual from the arbitrary abuses frequently encountered in the social context. Feudal society was rife with arbitrariness based on the prerogatives of birth, wealth, and class. Classical liberals wanted to substitute the rule of laws for the rule of men. They didn’t want to destroy the organic culture and the existing inequalities that were based on birth, wealth, and class. What they wanted was a legal-political context that was free of arbitrariness, where natural abilities could allow a man to move up the social ladder-they wanted equality of opportunity. A social contract, however, can’t exist apart from a particular cultural context. And culture identity is the actual basis of the social contract, not the voluntary consent of sovereign individuals.
Classical liberals put too much faith in reason, when man is primarily irrational. Will, instinct, passion, emotion, fear, superstition, individual identity-influence a man’s behavior far more than reason. His social arrangements reflect this fact. Humans are never seen apart from a social group. From the moment of birth, man is a member of the most basic society-the family. And the basis for the social group is shared culture identity, not an abstract social contract. The outward reflections of this identity are seen in connections of blood, language, religion, race, shared history-culture. The terms “man” or “human being” are abstractions. A man is a unique individual, born at a particular time, into a particular class, into a particular culture. He has unique talents, intelligence, and will. His moral universe is unique, and is defined by these existential conditions. He will live and die in his particular world. A man’s environment conditions him, but doesn’t fully define him. He must do this himself. And ultimately the differences between individuals and groups originate from these internal defining forces unique to the individual or group.
What is identity? Ultimately it is spiritual. In so much as I am able to possess something, I am at once connected to it, and also have distance from it. I possess an attribute such as an idea, a belief, a desire, an experience-in other words, it is mine rather than yours. But I also have a distance from my attribute-it is mine, but it is not me. Even if I lose an idea, or my desires change, or I am subjected to different experiences, I am still the same “I.” The invisible “I” is my identity. Although my identity is separate from my attributes, without my attributes I am unable to define myself. Thus certain attributes become more important than others in defining my identity. As an idea, a belief, or experience becomes more central to accomplishing my aims in life, the less I posses it and the more I am possessed by it, until finally the attribute becomes indistinguishable from my identity.
Similarly, the organic social group has an identity, a culture identity. It’s a super personal identity, but an identity nonetheless. The culture identity uses attributes to define itself. But the culture identity is not the sum of its attributes and experiences. Ultimately it is a spiritual unity. Culture attributes include blood connections, religion, language, race and customs. What seems insignificant to one group is vital to another. Religion is important to some cultures. Others like the Zo’e of South America consider a tube of wood inserted in the lower lip an essential attribute of their tribal culture identity. Experiences like wars, revolutions, migrations and persecutions help define the culture identity. The Civil War, for instance, is a defining experience for the American culture identity. Six hundred years of English occupation is a defining experience for the Irish. The organic culture identity acquires or loses attributes and undergoes new experiences, but a certain continuity remains.
Only those who share this culture identity are able to feel this connection with the past, and a continuity with the future. More important than attributes or past experiences is a shared purpose. The culture identity dies when it has no plan for the future. Life is moving forward. The cliché about “living in the now” is a lot of nonsense. The only people who “live in the now” are corpses. Life is about living into the future. The culture identity is healthy and under effective leadership when its plan for the future leaves the group healthy, secure, powerful and growing. Similarly, the individual is healthy when his plans for the future fulfill his destiny. As every identity is unique, so each requires a different plan of action, one that is suited to that identity at that stage of development. Thus there is no such thing as a template for the perfect society, the perfect economy, or the perfect social contract, just as there is no such thing as a template for the perfect life. Each has a unique journey, in keeping with its unique identity. The history of the world is the history of identities in motion-defining themselves, asserting themselves, in conflict or cooperation with other identities, living, growing, declining, dying.
Man has free-will, but he is not “born free,” as Rousseau and Locke would have it. He is born a dependent to family and community. As he is raised into the society, a man earns rank and freedoms and privilege. Even the smallest of social groups-family, band-are governed from the top-down. The Marxist nonsense about primeval egalitarianism is a lie. As social groups grow into tribes, chiefdoms, and states hierarchy becomes even more pronounced, and classes develop. Minorities give form and direction to society. In every society there is internal competition between those who have power, and those who want more power. At any given time, the definition of justice is dependent on these competing interests within society. As the social group grows or declines, competing interests change the definition of justice, sometimes organically, other times artificially.
By observing the various cultures of the world one can arrive at a set of universal laws. Aristotle’s definition of justice as fairness is, as far as I can tell, a universal virtue. The problem is that every culture has a somewhat different definition of fairness. And the definition of fairness changes as the circumstances of justice change. Any concept of justice is dependent on an organic culture identity’s comprehensive moral or religious definition of the good as applied to the circumstances of justice. “The circumstances of justice are the circumstances that give rise to the virtue of justice.”5 Society is a cooperative endeavor for the mutual benefit of individuals, and is marked by the clash as well as the cooperation of interests. Persons unite their interests for the mutual benefit, but they also clash over how common assets should be distributed and on what grounds individual interests should prevail against the group’s interests. And there are conflicts between competing individual interests. There must be principles of justice in order to come up with arrangements for sorting out these competing claims. The underlying conditions that make these arrangements necessary are the circumstances of justice. What need have you of justice when there is no clash of interests? And how can you decide which claim should prevail unless you first examine the circumstances that gave rise to the clash?
Generally, states are overthrown as a result of a disjunction in identity, not because of a violation of an abstract social contract. When a culture identity disjunction becomes great enough, no abstract social contract, however “just,” will restore the former social order indefinitely. Social groups are established and grow in size under pressure from external threat, or as a result of conquest. Never in the history of the world have a bunch of similarly situated sovereign men sat down and traded rights for protections in the manner of Locke or Rousseau. Leaders of little societies, as well as big ones, are jealous of their independence and will not merge with other societies unless forced to do so.
Usually a society is in a state of crisis when faced with external threats. At such times it is the leadership that acquires more power to make decisions for the group. And thus it is the leaders, not the people, who decide the terms of the new social contract. For example, before the 1730s the Cherokee Indians were divided into 30 to 40 chiefdoms, of about four hundred people each. Then, as white settlement started to encroach upon their lands, they formed a defensive confederacy. By 1758 a Cherokee council met regularly at their capitol, Echota, to discuss issues, pass laws, and shape a concerted policy for all Cherokee. Similarly, the leaders of the American colonies banded together in response to the threat of England. And after the Revolution, disunion among the states and Shay’s Rebellion caused the American leaders to meet in secret and form a more powerful central government with their Constitution of 1787. After several failed attempts, the German states finally formed a central government in order to meet the threat of war with France (1871). In every case, these societies were coerced into becoming larger.
The other way societies grow larger is through conquest. DingisWayo united the Zulu tribe through conquest. The tiny Roman city-state gradually conquered the various tribes of Italy, and later went on to conquer the peoples of the Mediterranean. William the Conqueror established Norman rule over England through the manner his name suggests. The seceding southern states in America were reunited with the northern states through conquest. The Aztec Empire, the Inca Empire, the Persian Empire, the British Empire - were expanded through annexation and conquest.
In order for societies to merge peacefully, as in the case of the Cherokee or American colonists, the social groups must share an underlying culture identity. Groups of very different culture identities almost never merge except through naked conquest. And diverse groups are almost always held together within one political system through coercion and force. Insurrection and rebellion go hand-in-hand with empire. Contrary to myth, empires such as the Roman and the British were not diverse societies, based on a set of abstract universal principles. Both empires were the result of one culture identity-the Roman or British-holding other identities in subjection through force and coercion. As soon as the Roman or British culture identity was no longer strong enough to keep the subject identities in form, these culture identities moved for self-determination through activism, or war. Thus the real basis of society is the organic culture identity and not the abstract principles of the “Law of Nature.” And the terms of the social contract are decided by the leaders of the people.
Conservatives are the antibodies of the organic social group. They try to stave off death and sickness, maintaining those forms that have proven effective in keeping social order and ensuring cultural continuity. Conservatives are unique to a particular group. There are Jewish conservatives, Indian conservatives, and American conservatives. Each type of conservative seeks to preserve his particular culture identity to the exclusion of all others. Conservatism is a visceral emotional loyalty, an organic attachment to the culture identity. Even though all cultures make universal claims, conservatism is not a universal philosophy with utopian aspirations. Nor is it wedded to a particular economic or political doctrine. Conservatives may adopt an economic or political philosophy that seems best for the group at a particular time, but strictly speaking the free-market thinking of Adam Smith and the limited government philosophy of Locke and Jefferson, which are now associated with American conservatism, are classical liberal concepts. Cultural issues are more important to conservatives than abstract economic and political concepts. Conservatism is more of a tendency than a formal philosophy. American conservatives today are called “social conservatives.”
The egalitarian is the direct opposite of the conservative. The conservative is the partisan of a particular culture; the egalitarian wants to destroy all the existing organic societies and create an entirely artificial society, built not on culture identity but on a theory. Reacting to the French Revolution, Thomas Paine announced with excitement that “we now have the opportunity to begin the world anew.” The egalitarian Paine was not referring to a French world, or any other particular world. He was talking about the entire world. The egalitarian begins with this totalitarian approach.
Life is rough on the egalitarian. Life makes no sense in a world where the strong protect the weak and the weak obey the strong; where superior will, talent, and intelligence put some men above others, and create hierarchies that monopolized wealth and power; where social groups are based on organic culture identity, not abstract principles; where these identities exclude those outside the group (“other”); where groups compete for power causing wars. Life in this world is not worth living. So he sets out to improve the world.
Unlike the classical liberal, the egalitarian is not content with reforming a particular organic society. His ideas are not tailored to fit into a particular cultural context. In fact, cultural difference is the primary problem to him. Differences cause inequalities, and inequality causes injustice. The egalitarian believes that we are all the same; but not in the Christian sense of being children of God. The Christian believes that God made each of us unique and gave us free-will; and therefore inequality is endemic to the human condition. The egalitarian denies the unique identity and free-will and believes that we are merely meat machines programmed by our environments. If there are differences among us, it is in the environment. Level all environmental conditions and we will return to our primeval sameness, and live in perfect equality and perfect justice.
Therefore, the purpose of society should be to eliminate differences and create equality of condition. Society should smash down barriers to equality. Society should compensate you for your weaknesses, and where needed, it should curtail your strengths, so as to level the playing field for all. Culture identity is irrational and should not form the basis of the social group. Differences of culture, religion, and nation are all superstitions. They should all be smashed down too. There will then be no more divisions in humanity: no more Americans; no Mexicans; no Muslims; no Christians; no Jews. There will be only humans, living under a human government that protects human rights, and promotes human equality. In this society, there will be no masters or servants; no rich or poor; no generals or privates; no leaders or followers. As there will be no need for competition, there will be no more wars. All things will be held in common, all people will be equal, contributing according to their abilities, and receiving according to their needs. Peace and love will return to humanity, and the world will join hands and sing John Lennon’s “Imagine.”
To the egalitarian, history is the record of oppression, injustice, one big mistake. All of our elders were liars. All religion is superstition, used by the master class to keep their slaves ignorant and in subjection. For thousands of years the governments of the world were the enforcers of a vast conspiracy, designed to prevent a return to the communist paradise. But the true-believer knows that socialism is inevitable. Egalitarian thinkers had figured the whole thing out on a blackboard, and then put it in books. Comte reduced his formula and issued it in The Positive Philosophy. Karl Marx put his formula in Das Kapital. Edward Bellamy wrote his down in Looking Backward. What they all shared in common was a belief that there is a template for the just society, and all that was needed was to apply it. Egalitarians of whatever kind-Revolutionary Socialist, Maoist, Democratic Socialist, American Liberal-aim for this universal society. They only differ over how to get there.
Egalitarianism can be traced back as far as Plato’s Republic. And Christ’s preaching against the “love of money” inspired a religious strain of egalitarianism. After Christ’s crucifixion, the disciples practiced communal living, holding “everything in common” (Acts 4:35). Monasticism during the Gothic period was based on the ideals of the common life. Monks and friars took vows of poverty, chastity and obedience. But religious egalitarianism was practiced only by the initiates. It was meant to produce conditions that were conducive to the better contemplation and worship of God. There was a clear distinction between life inside the commune and life outside in the secular world. It is true that during the Reformation a few radical Protestant leaders like Thomas Müntzer tried to confiscate lands from the nobles and redistribute them to the peasants. But for the most part Christian egalitarians did not have a political program to force the common life on the secular society.
Modern egalitarianism is a different animal entirely. This type is secular, atheistic, materialistic, and it always has a definite political program. Modern egalitarianism really has its origins in the Enlightenment, especially in the writings of Jean-Jacques Rousseau. Inspired by Rousseau, Robespierre and his Jacobins tore France to pieces during the French Revolution in the 1790s- burning, destroying, murdering under the banner of Liberty, Equality, Brotherhood. Then Napoleon and the French middle class crushed the Jacobins and ended their Reign of Terror. Egalitarians regard Napoleon as the betrayer of the revolution. To them the ideals of Liberty, Equality, Brotherhood remain unfulfilled. And this is where their mission begins. They want to finally and fully actualize the ideals of the French Revolution.
In the century following the French Revolution industrialism and capitalism greatly expanded the methods of production and exchange. The resulting inequalities of wealth and property caused egalitarians to focus on economic inequalities. They called their movement socialism. Containing many different strands, socialism basically teaches that the system of private property-whether in the form of industrial capital, accumulated money, landed estates, serfs, or slaves- is wrong because it creates inequalities which lead to the unjust exploitation of one person by another. Historians call the first generation of socialist thinkers “utopian” because most advocated building small socialist communes which would serve as models for the rest of society to follow. Fourier (1772-1837) set up a few communes in Europe, and a famous one in America named Brook Farm (1841-47). Longfellow and Emerson and a procession of America’s elite visited Brook Farm. Robert Owen (1771-1858) built a commune in Indiana called New Harmony. Another utopian was Saint-Simon (1760-1825), who influenced a generation of socialists. But the most famous and influential socialist was Karl Marx (1818-1883).
Marx castigated the utopians as unrealistic dreamers. In his Communist Manifesto (1848) Marx claimed that his theory of dialectical materialism would do for “history what Darwin’s theory of evolution did for biology.” His socialism was scientific, not utopian. To distinguish his socialism from the other varieties, he labeled it communism. Briefly, Marx thought that the history of all societies “has been the history of class struggles,” between the oppressors and the oppressed, the rulers and the ruled, the exploiters and the exploited. A man’s relations to the mode of production determine everything about him, said Marx. Whether you are a hunter-gatherer, a farmer, or a manufacturer will determine what gods you worship, what beliefs you have, what values you cherish. The prevailing methods of production and exchange in any given society will determine its social, cultural and political structures. Classes take shape based on their collective relation to the modes of production and exchange. But internal contradictions develop between the exploiting class and the exploited class. Eventually the contradictions become so great that a social revolution occurs, producing another mode of production and exchange, which will in turn create new classes and new contradictions. Marx called this process dialectical materialism.
It was not always this way, though. Like most egalitarian dreamers, Marx believed that the first form of society was socialism. Once upon a time men and women lived in a communist paradise. There was no private property, so there were no classes, families or governments. Then the snake of ownership entered paradise in the form of monogamous marriage, and women and children became the first form of private property. Things went downhill from there. Men enslaved other men. Caste, rank and class followed. As property was monopolized into landed estates, the landowner class exploited the landless class of serfs in an economic system called feudalism. The oppressors invented the state to keep the oppressed in subjection. Then in the late 1400s, the growing merchant class started undermining the feudal system, producing the capitalist mode of production and exchange. Two new classes then emerged: the exploiting capitalists (bourgeoisie), and the exploited workers (proletariat). As is true of every other economic system, capitalism has internal contradictions. To improve their profit margins capitalists improve the methods of production and produce more and more goods. This in turn creates a demand for more and more workers, and the workers have to work for lower wages. With their wages depressed workers are not able to purchase the ever-increasing quantity of goods. This creates an endless cycle of booms and busts. Eventually the busts will become so great, said Marx, that the overworked, impoverished workers will revolt. Once they seize the state, the people will set up a dictatorship of the proletariat in order to purge the last remnant of the bourgeoisie. The state and the means of production will then be in the hands of the people. Class differences will disappear. Since the state was nothing more than an instrument that the exploiters used to control the exploited, with the absence of classes the state will eventually “wither away.” Citizens will finally govern society through direct democracy. Society will look much like the egalitarian paradise of old.
Dialectical materialism was supposed to be a scientific process like photosynthesis. But when it is put next to the historical record dialectical materialism becomes a pile of nonsense. Marx’s explanations of history are childish. Marx's theory had the working classes being gradually reduced to abject proverty. But the fact is that under capitalism the working classes have tended to rise in wealth and power. And almost all of his important predictions never came true. Marx's theory said that the most advanced industrial societies of Europe (France, Germany, England) would be the first to shrug off capitalism and accept communism. But in fact communism has had its greatest impact in the most backwards societies (Russia, China, Vietnam). Marx’s theory of history, however, was popular not because it was factual. Humans naturally envy those who have more money, more talent, more intelligence and so forth. It’s a story as old as Cain and Able. And people naturally resent the “unfairness” of life, where some people got this and others got that. For the envious and resentful, Marx prophesied about a great day of revenge. It was the message of victimization and the promise of revenge that inspired millions of people. Nineteenth century Europe and America were brutal places for the poor and the powerless. There was certainly a dire need for more social justice. But Marx was uninterested in mere reform. He pointed to a paradise that could only be reached after a long journey across an ocean of blood. Get rid of the mythological paradise and Marx’s message is nothing but envy, resentment and blood. He expressed this nihilism perfectly, saying “Communism abolishes eternal truths, it abolishes all religion, and all morality…it acts in contradiction to all past historical experience "(Karl Marx, Communist Manifesto, trans. Ed. Samuel Moore and Joseph Katz, New York: Pocket Books, 1964, p. 92) .
From 1869 to 1912 Marxist political parties- called either Social Democratic or Socialist- were organized in every Western nation. Socialists also gained control of all the major trade unions. They became dominant in academic, intellectual, and artistic circles. In keeping with Marx’s vision of a universal socialist movement, representatives of the various socialist organizations met in a global parliament called the International. There were four Internationals, the first two being the most important. The First International (1864-73) fell apart over squabbling between Marx and anarchist leader Bakunin. After Marx’s death the new Social Democratic parties of Europe and America formed the second and most important International (1889). Right away there were differences of opinion. Most of the socialist parties were already involved in parliamentary politics. So the question arose: should socialists prepare for revolution in keeping with Marxist doctrine, or should they drop the politics of revolution altogether and continue to work for the gradual acceptance of socialism within the democratic process? Another question concerned control of the movement: the orthodox Marxists insisted on international control, believing that the socialist parties should work to undermine their own national governments and bring about a global revolution; others wanted local control, insisting that each nation’s situation was unique, and the parties should work within their own nations to achieve limited goals. Edward Bernstein’s Evolutionary Socialism (1908) advocated the gradualist approach. In England the highly influential Fabian Essays (begun in 1889) contained a blueprint for socialist legislation and gradualist reform. Fabians such as George Bernard Shaw and Sidney and Beatrice Webb, who were members of England’s upper class, sought to change society by “wire-pulling””- influencing key politicians, civil servants, and trade union officials. Edward Bellamy’s socialist tract Looking Backward (1889) was the Bible for American gradualists such as Eugene Debs and Columbia professor John Dewey. The intellectuals who gathered in New York City’s Greenwich Village and the Lower East Side brought this form of gradualist socialism into American society. Eventually they joined the two party system, becoming a powerful part of the Democratic Party’s coalition. They dominated the Roosevelt Administration from the second and third tier posts. Today, they are the dominant voice in the Democratic Party and in American society as whole. Gradualists were thereafter known as Democratic Socialists; orthodox Marxists were called Revolutionary Socialists.
The First World War finally destroyed the international socialist movement. Revolutionary Socialists saw the war as the death knell of capitalism. The socialist parties, they said, should encourage resistance to conscription. They should organize strikes and undermine the war effort of the bourgeoisie governments. But the Democratic Socialists were caught up in the war fever. Instead of organizing resistance to the war effort, they joined it, calling on their constituents to enlist and fight for their country. The Democratic Socialists’ insistence that a worker’s loyalty to his country (nationalism) trumped his loyalty to the international workers of the world contradicted the core of Marxism. The worst blow came immediately after the war, when Marxists again called for global revolution. The Bolsheviks had just come to power in Russia (October 1917), and many socialists believed that with one final push they could easily take all of Western Europe. There were Communist uprisings in Budapest, Berlin and Bavaria. And the Red Army under Trotsky marched into Poland. But within a matter of weeks the uprisings were suppressed and the Red Army was turned back. And nowhere did the workers rise up and throw off their capitalist chains. Thereafter Democratic Socialism in the West would be a reform movement, pushing for the creation of a welfare state within their respective nations.
In the aftermath of the First World War and the failed uprisings, Marxist thinkers like Georg Lukács (1885-1971) and Antonio Gramsci (1891-1937) tried to explain why the revolution in the West had failed and the revolution in Russia had succeeded. Lukács History and Class Consciousness (1923) and Gramsci's Letters From Prison (published post humously, 1947) were scathing critiques of Revolutionary Socialism. Marx was wrong, they said. World revolution is not inevitable. Marxism is only a political instrument not a prophecy. The revolutionaries were wrong in thinking that once they had seized the structures of society the people would welcome socialism with open arms. Most societies outside the West like Russia are primitive and consist of a small elite that uses brute force to impose its will on an uneducated mass, said Lukács and Gramsci. It was relatively easy for the Bolsheviks to replace the Russian elite and impose their will because the mass had been taught through the centuries that he who holds the whip and the gun rules. But that kind of power has shallow roots. Not having the "class consciousness" of a true proletarian, the Russian peasant will come to see the Bolsheviks as the latest tyrants in a long line of tyrants. And to stay in power the Bolsheviks will have to resort to terror and coercion. Sincere belief in socialism will remain the possession of a small elite. When that elite disappears, socialism will disappear from Russia overnight. Nor will socialism come to the West in the manner Marx had predicted, said Lukács and Gramsci. The problem in the West is even more formidable than in Russia. Unlike Russia, the state in the West rests on civil society not on brute force. There is a long tradition of consent, of participation and constitutionalism that goes back as far as the Middle Ages (Magna Carta). A government's legitimacy depends on the consent of a vast educated middle class, holding certain opinions, beliefs and assumptions about proper authority. Marxism can not be imposed from the top down, they said. The people will resist. The structures of the existing societies rest upon an accepted cultural-religious-moral worldview that has taken centuries to evolve. Getting rid of it overnight will not be possible. Socialists have to first undermine and dismantle and then replace this worldview from the bottom up before the people will accept socialism. The primary enemies are the family, Christianity, nationalism, patriotism, hierarchy, and traditional morality. So instead of storming the ramparts of power with a gun in hand, said Lukács and Gramsci, cultural Marxists should infiltrate the institutions of society and gradually erode the cultural-religious-moral underpinnings of the West by promoting free love, feminism, homosexuality, atheism, pacifism and multiculturalism.
To teach this strain of cultural Marxism Lukács and the German Communist Party founded the Institute of Social Research at Frankfurt University in 1923. Its founders consciously modeled the school on the Marx-Engels Institute in Moscow. Hitler took power in 1933, and as most of the school’s leading lights were Jewish and Marxist, they took a ship for America and reconstituted the school with the help of Columbia University. By then they had dropped “Marxism” from the name of the school and started calling it simply the Frankfurt School. Through Frankfurt School thinkers like Max Horkheimer, Theodor Adorno, Wilhelm Reich and Herbert Marcuse this strain of cultural Marxism would play a prominent role in shaping the counterculture and New Left movements of the 1960s, the radical feminist and homosexual movements of the 1970s, and the environmental and multicultural movements of today. The concept of political correctness is derived from the Frankfurt School’s Studies in Prejudice program. The fact that most Americans now accept the moral authority of political correctness is a testament to the success of cultural Marxism.
Critical Theory is another invention of the Frankfurt School. Critical Theory adopts the pretense that Western Civilization is suffering from a form of mental illness, which has caused it to commit crimes against humanity. To effect a cure and pay for its crimes, the West must undergo collective psychotherapy and pay restitution to its many victims. Authority, the family, hierarchy, sexual morality, loyalty, patriotism, capitalism, nationalism, ethnocentrism, conservatism - are all symptoms of the illness. But the number one symptom is traditional Christianity. According to Theodor Adorno's book The Authoritarian Personality the traditional family and the Christian ethic are the breeding grounds of fascism. In every traditional Christian household is a potential Hitler, said Adorno. And the so-called great men of Western history - Augustine, Charlemagne, Luther, Columbus, Washington - were sexually repressed perverts and criminals, said Wilhelm Reich. Years ago we were taught that Western Culture has offered people more freedom and opportunity than any other culture. But actually the West is history's greatest repository of oppression, greed, racism, sexism, homophobia, and antisemitism, said Herbert Marcuse.
The Frankfurt School focused its efforts on introducing Critical Theory into America's education system. They were very successful. Back in the 1950s and 1960s their ideas were highly influential at the major teachers colleges. And today many history, sociology and psychology textbooks contain Critical Theory. Pick up any American history textbook and you are likely to find the theory: The European stole the land from the Indian; The European killed all the buffalo; the European enslaved the beautiful black man and invented Jim Crow; the European conquered the loving peoples of the world to create his empires; the European invented capitalism to oppress the workers; the European destroyed the environment with his industrialism; and on and on.
In keeping with Marxist dogma, Critical Theory denies individual responsibility. We are only members of classes. And there are only two classes at any given time in history: the oppressor class and the oppressed class. European Americans are all members of the oppressor class. The object of Critical Theory is to deconstruct the average Westerner's world view and induce a guilt complex. Continually bombarded with these accusations, the subject begins to believe that he shares collective responsibility for the supposed "crimes" of his ancestors. And if he is "guilty," then, of course, he must pay restitution for the sins of his class. The complex is called "White Guilt." The only remedy for it is to support all the demands of the socialist agenda.
Most Americans have a stereotypical image of a communist. He's a guy dressed in a drab uniform carrying an AK-47 in Peking or Hanoi. But the Frankfurt School Marxists were not trying to create goose-stepping revolutionaries. First, they wanted hippies. Frankfurt School thinker Herbert Marcuse articulated free-love doctrine for the counterculture. Author of Eros and Civilization (1955), Marcuse was the guy who coined the phrase "make love, not war." Ultimately the Frankfurt School thinkers wanted the children of the hippies. Because even though they were subjected to an intensive deconstruction process-which is why they called it the counterculture- the hippies still retain elements of the older value system. But their children do not. Take a look at the typical member of the MTV generation: he's amoral and lives only to satisfy his animal desires; he lacks discipline, ambition and purpose; he has no patriotism, honor or dignity; he is missing religion, culture and convictions; he has no loyalty to family, friends and country; his only heroes are Hollywood degenerates and sports stars. He is exactly what Lukács and Gramsci wanted: a person lacking identity, a talking monkey, a blank slate upon which to write the values of socialism. Their work is now paying dividends. In the recent presidential election (2008) 66 percent of those under thirty years old voted for the Marxist candidate, Barack Obama. Where Marx's revolution failed Lukács and Gramsci's has succeeded.
Meanwhile, socialists in Russia would keep their revolutionary roots and their internationalist ambitions. Political structures were supposed to follow economic conditions, according to Marx’s theory. But most Russians were peasants engaged in agriculture. Their mode of production and exchange was still feudal. Therefore, they had to first go through the capitalist phase of economic development before moving on to socialism, said Marx. Revolution was supposed to start in the most advanced capitalist societies (Germany, France, England), and spread from there. When he realized that revolution would not happen in the West, Marx became opportunistic. He turned his theory on its head. In the preface to the Russian 1882 edition of the Communist Manifesto, Marx gave Russia permission to skip the capitalist stage of economic development and move right on to socialism.
Using this interpretation of dialectical materialism, Lenin, the leader of Russia’s Social Democratic Party, developed his own brand of egalitarianism (Marxism-Leninism.) Lenin preferred Marx’s name for socialism, calling it communism. The underlying economic conditions are not necessary to achieve socialism in Russia, wrote Lenin in his book What is to be Done? (1912). A well organized group of professional revolutionaries, said Lenin, could act as a “vanguard” for the people. Relying on their unique insights, the revolutionary vanguard could propel the masses to socialism, regardless of the society’s economic stage of development. If a ruthless elite imposed it, socialism could work anywhere. Lenin called this idea democratic centralism. This meant the rule of a small party elite through terror, secrecy, and propaganda. Stalin later refined the idea to mean the rule of one man through a few handpicked lackeys. Improving party discipline through intra-party purges was another Stalinist improvement on democratic centralism. Focusing his attention on peasants and agriculture rather than workers and industry, Mao Tze-Tung later developed his own style of Marxism-Leninism called Maoism. This triumvirate - Lenin, Stalin, Mao - created the version of egalitarianism that would serve as the model for communist regimes in the non-Western world.
During the Second World War Democratic Socialists and Revolutionary Socialists joined together to defeat the Axis powers. Not since the 1890s had socialists worked so well together. Many socialists in the West were confident that the differences with their Soviet comrades could be worked out and the dream of global socialism finally realized. Franklin D. Roosevelt, for one, held out hope that after the war America and the Soviet Union could lay the foundations for a New World Order based upon the general principles of socialism, which were later embodied in the United Nations Charter and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. But after the war the dream of socialist cooperation died when Stalin held onto Eastern Europe and pursued an aggressive policy with his Democratic Socialist cousins in the West. A Cold War developed. The war in Korea and the ruthless nature of Soviet and Chinese communism caused a conservative reaction in the West. The old labels of communism and socialism became highly unpopular, as conservatives started to point out the common ideological heritage of the Soviet and Chinese communists and their American Democratic Socialist cousins. Conservatives exposed the sympathies, the collaborations, the outright treasons of figures such as Alger Hiss and Harry Dexter White, both of whom held key positions in Roosevelt’s administration. Lest they face a full fledged reaction, as happened in Spain in the1930s, egalitarians in America began to camouflage their communist sympathies, and they got rid of the socialist label entirely. Now they are known exclusively as liberal democrats, or progressives.
Since they have already laid the basis of a welfare state in Europe and America, egalitarians now concentrate their focus on cultural issues. This is Frankfurt School style of Marxism. The Marxist idea of class struggle has been expanded to include white vs. black, men vs. women, native vs. immigrant, straights vs. homosexuals. It’s the same old concept of history as a struggle between the oppressors and the oppressed, with the mirage of an egalitarian paradise somewhere up ahead. But despite the camouflage, the name change, and the new focus, the contemporary liberal is an ideological relative of Mao, Stalin, Lenin, Marx, Robespierre and Rousseau. Like them, he believes that basic inequalities cause injustices, and like them, he believes there is a template for the perfect society. Egalitarians only differ on how to get there. Just like children trying to force square blocks into round holes, egalitarians have tried for over 200 years to smash their templates down onto the existing organic societies of the earth. The result has been misery on an unprecedented scale. By attempting to erect a heaven on earth they have created a living hell.
The conservative accepts life, he builds culture on natural human dispositions. America is a Western Christian nation, therefore the conservative believes in keeping the Christian ethic at the core of his world view. The Conservative believes in the exclusive claims of Western Christian culture identity. At the other end, the egalitarian is committed to building an artificial culture, one based on theories, and not organic identity. This universal culture claims to speak for all “humanity.” The egalitarian views organic cultures as primitive, backward, and intolerant. Because the Western Culture is the most powerful organic culture in existence today, they see it as the ultimate enemy of their utopian fantasies. At this level, the conflict is existential, there can be no compromises: Western conservatives will either preserve their culture, or the egalitarians will succeed in snuffing it out forever. Their global utopia is the mirage of fools. At issue here is whether the West will die at the hands of these fools.
The fundamental difference between conservativism and egalitarianism is seen clearly in the present abortion debate. Realizing that life begins at conception, the American conservative believes abortion is murder. To the conservative motherhood is a blessing, the most significant part of a woman’s life. As the backbone of the family, the mother’s place in society is seen as essential. The family is the basic unit of society. It is the primary institution for preserving social order and ensuring cultural continuity. To the conservative abortion is a frontal assault on motherhood, the family, the culture, life itself. On the other side, the egalitarian believes that the family has traditionally been an institution of oppression for women. And although necessary for procreation, maternity has historically served as a shackle to keep women in subjection to men. Until such time as procreation can be had without the slightest possibility that it will threaten their ability to stand in relation to men as absolute equals, women need abortion as a weapon in the fight for their equality.
In the present debate over abortion, conservatives and egalitarians stick pretty close to the classical liberal concepts of the U.S. Constitution. Some who are pro-abortion like Judith Jarvis Thomson, and David Boonin-Vail argue that even if the unborn child is a person, it has no right to use the mother’s body, unless she gives her consent. Their argument is social contract theory at its extreme libertarian interpretation. This approach is largely hypocritical because the same folks who use it, demanding that the government stay out of a woman’s private life, turn right around and demand that the government intrude into its citizens lives in a number of other situations: gun control, education, environment. But most who support abortion-Michael Tooley, Mary Ann Warren-adopt a very narrow definition of personhood, which allows them to deny the unborn child’s humanity, and therefore exclude him from legal protections. Their narrow definitions don’t hold water though because they end up excluding most of mankind, both born and unborn. Of the various pro-abortion arguments, the feminist approach is the most consistent. Catherine MacKinnon, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sally Markowitz, and Naomi Wolf - all fully accept the humanity of the unborn child, but insist that women need abortion to achieve equality in a patriarchal society.
In a society that has long since driven Christian values out of the public square, conservatives use a combination of arguments against abortion. Stephen Swartz contends that a person’s life is one continuum from conception to death. Francis J. Beckwith emphasizes a mother’s parental responsibilities, and Don Marquis uses Kant’s Golden Rule to argue that abortion is wrong because it deprives a person, the unborn child, of a “future like ours.”
Hatched in the fevered brain of M.I.T. philosophy Professor Judith Jarvis Thomson, “A Defense of Abortion” is probably the most talked about pro-abortion essay. Using a series of examples, Thomson insists that a woman has an unqualified right to an abortion, even if the fetus is a human being. Her essay is a radical extrapolation of social contract theory, what is sometimes called libertarianism.
Libertarianism is classical liberalism carried to its extreme. Briefly, the individual is sovereign, and prior to society. He has absolute rights. Only he can exchange his rights for the protections of society. In exchange for the protections of society, he assumes certain obligations. But he is obligated to society only in as far as he has consented to the exchange. Society has no prior claims on him.
Libertarian liberals like Thomson get their current definition of individual liberty from John Stuart Mill. Back in 1859, Mill wrote a book entitled On Liberty. Its purpose was to expound the principle that
the sole end for which mankind are warranted, individually or collectively, in interfering with the liberty of action of any of their number, is self- protection. That the only purpose for which power can be exercised over any member of a civilized community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others. His own good, either physical or moral, is not a sufficient warrant. He cannot be compelled to do or forebear because it will be better for him to do so, because it will make him happier, because, in the opinion of others, to do so would be wise, or even right. These are good reasons for remonstrating with him, or reasoning with him, or persuading him, or entreating him, but not for compelling him, or visiting him with any evil in case he do otherwise. To justify that, the conduct from which it is desired to deter him must be bcalculated to produce evil to someone else. The only part of the conduct of anyone, for which he is amenable to society, is to which concerns others. In the part which concerns himself, his independence is, of right, absolute. Over himself, over his body and mind, the individual is sovereign.6
Personally Thomson doesn’t believe it, but for the sake of argument, she is willing to “grant that the fetus is a person from the moment of conception.” Because even if a person, the fetus has no right to use a woman’s body without her consent. To make her argument, Thomson asks you to imagine waking up in a hospital back-to-back with a famous violinist, who has a fatal kidney ailment. Because you are the only one with a matching blood type, the Society of Music Lovers has kidnapped you and hooked you up to the famous fiddler to “extract the poisons from his blood.” The hospital director tells you it will be another nine months before the violinist’s kidneys are in good shape and they can unhook you. Even though it was immoral for the Society of Music Lovers to kidnap you and put you in this predicament, unhooking you, the hospital director says, would be doubly immoral, because it would kill the violinist. 7
“Is it morally incumbent on you to accede to this situation?” asks Thomson.8 After all, every person has a right to life, and violinists are persons. What if it were longer than nine months? How about nine years? Or for the rest of your life? This example is Thomson’s argument in defense of abortion for pregnancies caused by rape.
What about cases of pregnancy that threaten the life or health of the mother? For these cases, Thomson asks whether it is moral for the hospital director, who knows the violinist is going to die anyway, to keep you hooked up to the violinist because unhooking you would prematurely cause the death of the fiddler: “‘It’s all most distressing,’ says the director, ‘and I deeply sympathize, but you see this is putting an additional strain on your kidneys, and you’ll be dead within the month. But you have to stay where you are all the same. Because unplugging you would be directly killing an innocent violinist, and that’s murder, and that’s impermissible.’” This is simply intolerable and asking too much of a person, says Thomson. You have more than enough right “to reach around your back and unplug yourself from that violinist to save your life.”9
If you think the violinist example is strange, try this one. Thomson asks you to imagine being “trapped in a tiny house with a growing child.” Not just any house or growing child, no, she means a really tiny house and a “rapidly growing child.” If you don’t get out quick, the fat kid will crush you to death. What do you do? The fat punk is safe; he’ll walk away from the rubble without a scratch. But you’re going to die unless you do something to stop Blimpy from crushing you.10
Thomson finds it understandable if a bystander responded to your cries for help, saying, “we cannot choose between your life and the child’s, we cannot be the ones to decide who is to live, we cannot intervene.” But she also insists that the woman should not have to sit “passively” waiting for the fat kid to crush her. She has the “right of self-defense.”11
Thomson then gives her justification for abortion-on-demand. Does a child’s right to life obligate the mother to give him the use of her body to keep him alive? To answer this, Thomson calls on Henry Fonda, the actor. Imagine that you are sick with a rare fever and the only thing that can save you is the “cool touch of Henry Fonda on your fevered brow.” You live on the East Coast; Henry lives on the West Coast. Are you entitled to Mister Roberts’ touch? Should Henry feel obligated to fly out and lay hands on you? No, of course not, says Thomson: “It would be frightfully nice of him to fly in from the West Coast to provide it. . . .but I have no right at all against anybody that he should do this for me.”12
Thomson is not arguing that the fevered patient in need of Henry Fonda’s touch, or the violinist, or the unborn child, have no right to life. They do. But they don’t have a right to use another person’s body to secure their life unless that person gives their voluntary consent. We are all little sovereign autonomous entities with no prior social obligation. We dole out rights on a voluntary basis. But we don’t owe anybody anything, says Thomson.
Even in cases where sex was consensual, the child’s right to use his mother’s body is still dependent on the mother’s consent. Many people engage in casual sex solely for pleasure, says Thomson. They use birth control not expecting or wanting a pregnancy. But pregnancies occur anyway. Are these women obligated to carry the child to term? Not at all. If you opened your window “to let the air in” (had sex for pleasure) and a burglar (baby) climbed in instead, are you obligated to let him stay? What if you “installed burglar bars” (contraception) on your windows and a burglar came through anyway? A mother is no more obligated to let the unwanted child stay in her womb than the homeowner is obligated to let the burglar stay in his home.13
Try this one: Suppose, says Thomson, “people-seeds drift about on the air like pollen,” and they can “take root in your carpet and upholstery” if you let them float through your window. Naturally, you don’t want any “people-seeds” taking root in your lovely new carpets, so you install screens on your windows (contraception), designed to keep out the obnoxious seeds. But despite the screens, a seed gets through. Are you obligated to let the little “people-seed” (baby) grow in your brand new Stainmaster carpet? asks Thomson. No. You can’t help it if these “people-seeds” are floating around. It’s normal for people to open their windows to breath air (sex). You even took the precaution of installing screens (contraception) to keep the “people-seeds” out, but still one got through. They are your carpets; you didn’t invite the “people-seed” to take root. Thomson believes you have every right to spray the little seedling with Roundup (abortion).14
A woman’s body is her private property, says Thomson. The unborn child is a trespasser. “Minimally Decent Samaritanism” may cause the mother to allow the trespasser to stay, but she has no obligations to a trespasser who has violated her property. Even in cases where pregnancy was intended, the unborn child’s right to life doesn’t trump the mother’s right to kick him out of her property. At best the unborn child is a guest. But if for whatever reason the mother decides that he has worn out his welcome, she is well within her right to show him the door-vacuum aspirator. It may be “indecent and self-centered” to deny the child the use of her body “for one hour,” but it’s not “unjust.”15
No one is required to be a Good Samaritan, insists Thomson. Kitty Genovese was murdered in a New York City street, while thirty-eight people watched, or heard her cries for help. Yet no one tried to intervene, or stopped to call the police. Their indifference to Kitty’s plight may have been “immoral,” but it was not illegal. Same with abortion; even in those cases that outrage the moral conscience: “It would be indecent in the woman to request an abortion, and indecent in a doctor to perform it, if a fetus is in her seventh month, and she wants the abortion just to avoid the nuisance of postponing a trip abroad.”16 Such an abortion would be immoral. The state, however, has no legal basis to interfere.
Thomson’s complete disregard for babies grates on the consciences of many liberals. So the personhood argument was invented for those liberals who are not prepared to accept the humanity of their victims. In his decision, Blackmun emphasized that fetuses were not persons in the constitutional sense. Mary Ann Warren’s essay “On the Moral and Legal Status of Abortion” takes this position as well. Warren defines personhood as,
(1) Consciousness (of objects and events, external and internal to the being, and the capacity to feel pain); (2) reasoning (the developed capacity to solve new and relatively complex problems); (3) self-motivated activity (activity that is relatively independent of either genetic or direct external control); (4) the capacity to communicate, by whatever means, messages of indefinite variety of types, that is not just with an indefinite number of possible contexts, but of many possible topics; (5) the presence of self-concepts, self-awareness, either individual or racial, or both.17
Don’t let the little buggers fool you, says Warren. The “eight-month-old fetus” may look like a human being, but he can’t “communicate messages,” can’t “reason,” can’t engage in “self-motivated activity.” The unborn child, “even a fully developed one, is considerably less person like than is the average mature mammal, indeed the average fish.” The fetus has no more “right to life than a new born guppy.” Such an insignificant claim should “never override a woman’s right to obtain an abortion, at any stage of her pregnancy.” Refusing to give her reactionary enemies the slightest traction, Warren castigates Comrade Thomson for allowing that some abortions may be “indecent,” if sought for frivolous reasons, such as a trip to Europe: “Whether or not it would be indecent (whatever that means) for a woman in her seventh month to obtain an abortion just to avoid having to postpone a trip to Europe, it would not, in itself, be immoral, and therefore it ought to be permitted.”18
Like Thomson, Warren has a penchant for bizarre examples. She asks the reader to imagine a human spaceman, who has been taken prisoner by space aliens. The aliens want to use his cells to clone “enumerable” humans. If the space traveler doesn’t try to escape, thousands of humans can be cloned using his cells. Does he have the right to escape? asks Warren. Certainly:
Regardless of how he got captured, he is not morally obligated to remain in captivity for any period of time for the sake of permitting any number of potential people to come into existence, so great is the margin by which one actual person’s right to liberty outweighs whatever right to life even a hundred thousand potential persons have. . .Consequently, a woman’s right to protect her health, happiness, freedom, even her life, by terminating an unwanted pregnancy, will always override whatever right to life it may be appropriate to ascribe to a fetus, even a fully developed one.19
Michael Tooley is just as ruthless as Warren and his examples are just as bizarre. Tooley uses the example of kittens subjected to a chemical that gives them human-like consciousness in order to set the bar up high for entry into his personhood club. He sets it so high that he unwittingly excludes himself along with the rest of mankind. According to Tooley,
An entity cannot have a right to life unless it is capable of having an interest in its own continued existence. An entity is not capable of having an interest in its own continual existence unless it possesses, at some time, the concept of a continuing self, or subject of experiences and other mental states. The fact that an entity will, if not destroyed, come to have properties that would give it a right to life does not in itself make it seriously wrong to destroy it.20
If rationality is one of his criteria, then Tooley is definitely out of the personhood clubhouse.
Tooley’s definitions of personhood are pretty narrow. He admits that “even newborn humans do not have the capacities in question.” If his conclusions are correct, “then it would seem that infanticide during a time interval shortly after birth must be viewed as morally acceptable.” Tooley has a heart, he just doesn’t have one for such dated things as children. In his opinion, at least “some members of non-human species have a right to life.” He is convinced that some animals are “capable of envisioning a future for themselves”; they have “desires”; and have an “interest in their own continued existence.” Tooley is not the only progressive who holds this opinion. Peter Singer has also suggested that higher mammals have a right to life. And if we were enlightened as Tooley and Singer, we would also come to “the conclusion that our every day treatment of members of other species is morally indefensible and that we are in fact murdering innocent persons.”21 Got that? Orangutans and Dolphins deserve the protections of the Bill of Rights, but newborn infants are medical waste.
If you look closely at these arguments for a woman’s right to her body and the personhood defense of abortion, it is easy to see that they are camouflaging polemics used by egalitarians to mask their true motives. The problem is these arguments are based on an extreme interpretation of individual rights. They are libertarian arguments. But the people making these arguments are collectivists on just about every other issue. On the one hand, liberals like Thomson, Tooley and Warren viciously oppose the state’s interfering with a woman’s “privacy” when it comes to abortion; but on the other hand, they support a whole host of social-engineering schemes that bring the state deep into the citizen’s private life. The same feminists who demand the “right to choose,” support hate crime laws, marital rape laws, sexual harassment laws, affirmative action, divorce laws tilted toward women, mandatory sex education-all of which are based on nanny-state collectivist concepts. These “pro-choicers” are libertarian on abortion, but enemies of laissez faire capitalism. These leftists don’t want the state in your bedrooms, unless, of course, it is searching for your guns. And from their perspective, public education should not only be mandatory, all parental rights over your child’s education should be relative to the essential state task of instilling your son or daughter with “progressive” values. Teaching your child to read and write are secondary to “educating” them about America’s racist, sexist, classist society. And all good liberals support “speech codes” in our nation’s universities, which punish students who use “derogatory or intimidating” language toward minorities, woman, or homosexuals. These are hardly libertarian positions.
Francis J. Beckwith recounted an excellent example of this leftist hypocrisy in his essay “Arguments From Bodily Rights: A Critical Analysis.” In a November 1990 Nevada referendum, having to do with abortion, the feminist Nevada Women’s Lobby asked the public to help “get the government off our backs and out of our bedrooms.” Then in January these same abortion rights activists pushed a proposal through the state legislature that asked for taxpayer funds to setup “school-based sex clinics,” which would offer, among other things, an abortion referral service for school-aged girls. “Forgetting that most taxpayers keep their wallet in their back pocket during the day and on their dressers at night,” writes Beckwith, “The Nevada Women’s Lobby had no problems doing in January what they vehemently opposed in November. The Libertarians of November were social engineers come January.”22
Another good example of this type of liberal hypocrisy is the recent decision taken by a Maine school board to give contraceptives to middle school students as young as eleven. And the school clinic would prescribe the birth control without the parent’s permission being necessary. If you were to query these leftist school administrators about their opinions on abortion, you would hear a lot of trite “libertarian” nonsense about “privacy” and “keeping the state out of our private lives.” But these same “libertarians” have no problem at all usurping your role as a parent in order to put your eleven-year-old daughter on the Pill.
Why the inconsistency? Because egalitarians know that personal liberty arguments work best when selling abortion to the masses. Such arguments are better than coming right out and saying that a woman needs the option of killing her kid in order to level some mythical playing field. Liberal legal scholars found it more expedient to fashion the “pro-choice” argument around the classical liberal concepts of individual liberty, knowing that most Americans would be alienated if they were told that killing 1.5 million unborn children every year was necessary in order to achieve female equality. The crackers in the hinterland (fly over country) had never read Marx, but they could identify with the concept of personal liberty.
Pro-abortion ideologues put a different position before the courts and the public than the one they put before their fellow travelers. To the true egalitarian abortion is a necessary part of the revolutionary struggle. Even though it is the deliberate taking of a child’s life, abortion is a legitimate revolutionary response to patriarchal oppression. As the victims of oppression, women are not to blame. Blame lies with the oppressor class of males. However regrettable, the aborted child is collateral damage in a struggle for equality. This is the feminist defense of abortion. As noted earlier, Ruth Bader Ginsburg took this position in her critique of Roe v Wade. Some of the other feminist ideologues who have expounded on this position are Catherine MacKinnon, Sally Markowitz, and Naomi Wolf.
In her essay “Roe v Wade: A Study in Male Ideology,” Catherine MacKinnon said the Roe decision was based on the false premise that women control their own sexuality. Not so, says MacKinnon. Sex as practiced from the beginning of time, especially in the marriage context, is just a legitimized form of rape. Even though she may “believe” she consented to sex, the typical women today is a brainwashed sex slave. It has always been that way. Roe is improper because “abortion policy has never been explicitly approached in the context of how women get pregnant, that is, as a consequence of intercourse under conditions of gender inequality: that is as an issue of forced sex.”23
“What are babies?” asks MacKinnon. They are allies of patriarchy, and however brutal it may seem to abort them, it is a defensive action. Questions about the morality of abortion are strictly secondary, and out of place. Women must have the choice of abortion, but “not because the fetus is not a form of life. In the usual argument, the abortion decision is made contingent on whether the fetus is a form of life.” This is totally inappropriate, says MacKinnon. “Why should women not make life or death decisions?” If a woman aborts, it is the fault of the man who “raped” her: “Most women who seek abortions become pregnant while having sex with men. Most did not mean or wish to conceive.”24 Until women control their own sexuality, we cannot have a proper debate about the morality of abortion.
Sally Markowitz begins with the same basic premise-women are not autonomous actors, they are an oppressed slave class, and the personhood argument is inappropriate within this context. Markowitz puts forward two principles: the Feminist Proviso and the Impermissible Sacrifice Principle. In the first principle, “Women are, as a group, sexually oppressed by men and this oppression can neither be completely understood in terms of, nor otherwise reduced to oppressions of the other sorts.” The second principle: “When one social group in society is oppressed by another, it is impermissible to require the oppressed group to make sacrifices that will exacerbate or perpetuate this oppression.” Together, these principles “justify abortion-on-demand for women because they live in a sexist society.” The unborn child is a hostage in a war for equality. Patriarchy needs women slaves to bare its children, so abortion is an effective tactic against the male slave masters. Until patriarchy frees its women, Markowitz encourages her oppressed sisters to get the little bastards while they’re still in the womb:
Let feminists insist that the conditions for refraining from having abortions is a sexually egalitarian society. If men do not respond, and quickly, they will have indicated that fetal life isn’t so important to them after all, or at least not important enough to give up the privileges of being male in a sexist society. If this makes feminists look bad, it makes men look worse.25
Naomi Wolf is just as committed to the war against patriarchy. She is, however, more sentimental about enemy casualties. Abortion is a moral tragedy, says Wolf. She suggests that feminists ought to put aside the de-humanizing language when it comes to aborted children. In fact, mothers ought to mourn their aborted children as fellow human beings. Out of respect for Priam, Achilles finally gave him Hector’s corpse, allowing the old Trojan to mourn his dead son. After bloody battles, it’s customary to call a truce, so both sides can carry off the wounded and the dead. There are no enemies in the after life. But no one mourns for the aborted child, says Wolf. Perhaps feminists should hold the occasional “candlelight vigil at abortion clinics, standing shoulder to shoulder with the doctors who work there, commemorating and saying goodbye to the dead.”26
Wolf doesn’t suggest for a minute that abortions should be outlawed or restricted in any way. Abortion may be a moral tragedy, but it’s a legitimate tactic:
War is legal; it is sometimes even necessary. Letting the dying die in peace is often legal and sometimes even necessary. Abortion should be legal; it is sometimes even necessary. Sometimes the mother must be able to decide that the fetus, in its full humanity, must die. [Emphasis Added] 27
And make no mistake; Wolf has no qualms about killing children. When a conservative asked her at a roundtable discussion whether the fetus was a human being, Wolf snapped back, “Of course it’s a baby. And if I found myself in circumstances in which I had to make the terrible decision to end this life, then that would be between myself and God.” Although recognizing that abortion is a deliberate killing of another human being, Wolf wants a little sympathy for the victims, because “it is never right or necessary to minimize the value of the lives involved or the sacrifice incurred in letting them go.”28
Of the three pro-abortion arguments, the feminist is the most consistent. There is nothing new here. Throughout history it is often the least consistent arguments that are the most popular. To accept the feminist position you must first acknowledge the personhood of the unborn child. Then you must accept that abortion is the deliberate killing of an unborn child. Most that are pro-abortion don’t have the stomach for such honestly. They prefer hiding behind a lie. The unborn child is either a “part of a women’s body,” or he is only a “potential human being.” If he is only a potential human being, then the unborn child could potentially turn out to be a shoe, or a rock, or a Brazilian walnut. Who knows? Whatever it is, the fetus is not a human being, they insist. Both positions are cowardly and inconsistent and typical of mass ideas.
According to the first, the fetus is a part of the mother’s body, just like a cell. Therefore, abortion is akin to amputating a smashed finger, removing an appendix, or having some cells scraped from the insides of your mouth with a cotton swab. The “philosopher” Mortimer Adler claimed that until the child reached viability, he was “part of the mother’s body, in the same sense that an individual’s arm or leg is a part of a living organism. An individual’s decision to have an arm or leg amputated falls within the sphere of privacy-the freedom to do as one pleases in all matters that do not injure others or the public welfare.”29 Adler’s fellow traveler Laurence Tribe, Harvard Law School professor, said that even “though the fetus eventually develops into a separate independent identity . . . it begins as a living part of the women’s body.”30
Adler and Tribe are both egalitarian frauds, using whatever argument seems best at the moment. In the same book Abortion: The Clash of Absolutes, Tribe contradicts his above position, arguing that “Even if the fetus is a person, our Constitution forbids compelling a woman to carry it for nine months and become a mother.”31 When you’re fighting for progress, Tribe and Adler believe that lying is an effective tactic against the reactionary enemy.
The notion that the fetus is a part of the mother’s body is unscientific. In his book The Abortion Papers, Dr. Bernard Nathanson wrote “that the modern science of immunology has shown that the unborn child is not a part of a women’s body in the sense that her kidney or heart is.”32 In fact, as soon as the pregnancy implants itself in the wall of the mother’s uterus an immunological battle begins between the mother and the baby. The mother’s white blood cells maneuver to confront the alien embryo that has set up camp:
Therefore, an intense immunological attack is mounted on the pregnancy by the white blood cell elements, and through an ingenious and extraordinarily efficient defense system the unborn child succeeds in repelling the attack. In 10 percent or so of cases the defensive system fails and pregnancy is lost as a spontaneous abortion or miscarriage. Think of how fundamental a lesson there is here for us: Even on the most minute microscopic scale the body has trained itself, or somehow in some inchoate way knows, how to recognized self from non-self.33
Another good example of the separateness of the mother and the unborn child is the inescapable fact that conception can be formed in a Petri-dish using the sperm and egg of white parents and the conceptus can then be transferred to a black surrogate mother and carried to term. And when the child is finally born, it will be white, and will carry the unique DNA of the embryo conceived in the Petri-dish nine months before, using the sperm and egg of the white parents.
The pro-abortion personhood argument is equally flimsy. Looked at closely, Warren’s and Tooley’s personhood arguments are really transparent attempts to narrow the definition of a person just enough to exclude the unborn child. In order to qualify as a person, Warren says you must have consciousness, reasoning, self-motivated activity, and the capacity to communicate messages. Tooley says an “entity” can’t have a right to life unless it “has an interest in its own continued existence,” and can’t possibly have an interest in its own continued existence, unless it has a “concept of a continuing self.” In other words, if you didn’t graduate from Columbia University; don’t have a time share on Fire Island; can’t put a down payment on a Lexus; or can’t complete a decorating plan for your new corner apartment on the Upper West Side of Manhattan-if you can’t do any of these things, you’re not a person.
The problem with their arguments is that all of us at various times in our lives lack the qualities Warren and Tooley use to define a person. Under their definitions, sleeping people and infants, because they lack “consciousness” and a “concept of a continuing self,” have no right to life. People in comas, people suffering amnesia are not “conscious” and have no “concept of a continuing self.” But these are temporary states, Tooley and Warren would object. Well, so is pregnancy. And what about the senile? What about suicidal teenagers? They have no interest in their “own continued existence.” Should we stop them from killing themselves? Or are they fair game for others who might want to kill them?
One can make the argument that most of humanity lacks rationality. History is a testament to the fact that humans are primarily guided by irrational passions, perceptions, desires, fears, emotions. Witness drug users, drinkers, people who eat at McDonalds, people who fall in love with “losers,” people who watch the Jerry Springer Show. Are these people rational?
To accept their narrow definitions of personhood, you must also accept infanticide, as both Warren and Tooley do. The newborn infant simply can’t hurdle their personhood bar. “Since I do not believe human infants are persons,” says Tooley “infanticide is in itself morally acceptable.”34 Warren also supports infanticide: “Killing a newborn infant isn’t murder. Thus, infanticide is wrong for reason analogous to those which make it wrong to wantonly destroy natural resources, or great works of art.”35 Infanticide is the Achilles Heel of the personhood argument because most Americans will not stomach infanticide. Then again, most Americans who claim to be “pro-choice” use a vulgarized personhood argument to justify their position. This is an irrational, paradoxical position, which would disqualify then as persons under Warren’s and Tooley’s definitions.
Used by the majority of “pro-choicers,” the personhood defense of abortion is a hollow attempt to assuage guilty consciences. Killing is a disagreeable business. But if a person de-humanizes the victim, it makes it so much easier. Combatants do this in time of war. The enemy is transformed from a human being into an object: “Gook,” “Jerry,” “Kraut,” “Crusaders.” Even military nomenclature uses “target,” “enemy personnel,” and “collateral damage.” The pro-abortion ideologues are no different. They use “fetus,” “material,” and “parasite.” Thomson, Tooley, and Warren’s use of bizarre de-humanizing examples are evidences of guilty consciences. Unborn children are “burglars,” “people-seeds,” and “kittens on consciousness drugs”-they are anything but human beings. Pro-abortion ideologue Pollack Petchesky put it bluntly, when he said, that “on a level of biology alone . . . the fetus is a parasite.”36
Medical science says that the zygote is on individual human being at his earliest stage of life. Life never stands still from conception to death, life is one continuum. If you interrupt the continuum at any point, you have killed that individual human being. Stephen Swartz’s excellent essay “Personhood Begins at Conception” makes this point very well. The unborn child, says Swartz, is not an organ like a heart or lung. Nor is he a simple cell, or a cancer cell. If left to grow, a cancer cell will not develop into a walking, talking, reasoning human being. But a zygote will develop into a full grown human being. All of us were zygotes at the beginning of our lives, just as all of us will be elderly at the end. And if our mothers had aborted us when we were zygotes, or at any stage of gestation, we would not be here. It is true that pre-natal life has special dependencies that post-natal life does not. But all of us will have special dependencies at other times in our lives as well-hospitalization, adolescence, senility, old age. Although each stage of life has its special considerations, the individual experiencing that stage of life is still the same person, and should be treated accordingly:
A being at the beginning of his development cannot be expected to possess what only that development will provide him. He is already the being who will later function as a person, given time. The sleeping person is also a being who will later function as a person, only he will do it much sooner. What they each have now-a fully developed brain in one case, and a potential brain that will grow into a developed brain in the other-is a basis for their capacity to function as a person. It is the same essential basis, one undeveloped, the other developed. It is merely a matter of degree; there is no difference in kind.37
If infants, sleeping people, amnesiacs, the comatose, the mentally ill are protected from unjustified homicide, then so should the unborn.
Even if you put his position in its most favorable light, Tooley’s argument is absurd. Imagine twin girls born at precisely the same time. One is born comatose, and will remain that way until she is nine-years-old. Her sister is born healthy, but the moment she develops Tooley’s “concept of continuing self,” she slips into a coma, and like her sister will remain that way until her ninth birthday. According to Tooley’s twisted logic, it is moral to kill the first twin because she has no history of functioning as a “person.” But it would be immoral to kill the second twin because she does have such a history, however brief.
It simply is not possible to narrow the definition of personhood with the intention of excluding the unborn without at the same time excluding infants as well. There are no differences between the fetus in his eight month and the newborn infant. The pro-abortion personhood argument thus falls apart over infanticide. Here is Warren sounding like some savage in the Amazon jungle: “It follows from my argument that when an unwanted or defective infant is born into a society which cannot afford and/or is not willing to care for it, then its destruction is permissible.”38
Don Marquis used Kantian philosophy to fashion a personhood defense for the unborn, one that he hoped was not too broad, or too narrow. Marquis believes the pro-life position that it is always “prima facie wrong to take human life” is too broad because it seems to include cancer cells. Conversely, he believes the pro-abortion argument that it is only “prima facie wrong to kill a rational agent” is too narrow because it excludes infants, the severely retarded, and the mentally ill.39
Killing is wrong because of the effect on the victim, says Marquis. It “deprives him of all the experiences, activities, projects, and enjoyments that would have otherwise constituted” his future. “What makes killing an adult human wrong is the loss of his or her future.” Marquis admits that the problem with any argument that relies on psychological qualities is you always end up excluding one or another class of people. Because the terminally ill and the aged don’t have much of a future, Marquis’ formula ends up excluding them: “The claim that the loss of one’s future is” what makes killing them wrong does not mean “that active euthanasia is wrong.”40
One of the best arguments against abortion is that it attacks the very heart of social order, which is social obligation. Thomson’s libertarian interpretation of the social contract is a pile of nonsense. Either you are in society, or you are out. The individual and society are not sitting in their own little kingdoms, trading rights for obligations. All contractual agreements exist within society. Outside of society is anarchy and war, not a utopia full of sovereign people. The individual is not prior to society. There are no sovereign individuals. Whatever rights and privileges you manage to get in a particular society, the society is sovereign, for if it were not, there would be no society. If everyone was left as judge in his own case, the laws could only be applied to consenting individuals.
Thomson’s contention that the child has no right to live in his mother’s body undermines all social obligations. A woman must give her consent before the child can stay. This applies to all pregnancies, says Thomson. Even if the pregnancy was intended and the child is carried into the ninth month, Thomson believes the mother has every right to “unplug” herself through abortion. Her argument is predicated on the false notion that society is made up of sovereign individuals. The mother has no obligations to her child. No one owes anyone anything, unless they give their consent.
To make her argument, Thomson assumes that all obligations in society are voluntary. A mother’s obligation to her child is similar to those obligations toward a stranger. Her argument is untenable in part because parental obligations are different than those obligations to strangers. Normally, a woman gets pregnant after engaging in consensual sex, being fully aware that pregnancy is a likely possibility. Pregnancy is a natural result of engaging in sex. Any twelve-year-old knows this. Pregnancy is not an unusual event like being kidnapped by music lovers, or being burglarized. Also, what makes Thomson’s arguments inappropriate is their novelty. Sex and pregnancy go together like eating and digesting. If you engage in sex, you assume the risk of pregnancy. If you eat, you should likewise expect to digest. If you engage in certain behavior, you must accept the inherent consequences of that behavior.
Thomson’s thesis also nullifies parental support laws. Under the current laws, a man who has consensual sex with a woman is responsible for the financial upkeep of any resulting offspring, even if he used birth control and didn’t intend to have a child. As Michael Levin points out, “All parental support laws make the parental body an indirect resource for the child. If the father is a construction worker, the state will intervene unless some of the calories he is expending lifting equipment go to providing food for his children.”41
Let us carry Thomson’s argument to its logical end. Why should there be any difference between the way a mother can treat her child before birth, and the way she can treat him after birth? Remember, Thomson accepts that the fetus is fully human at all stages of gestation. Still she insists that the child has no “prima facie” right to his mother’s body. Abortion is not deliberate murder, says Thomson. Aborting a child is the same as unplugging yourself from that violinist. Yes, the violinist will die if you unplug yourself, but you are not deliberating killing him, just refusing to give him use of your body. Why not be consistent? If a mother can unplug herself at any point during the pregnancy, why not after the pregnancy as well? What if a mother brings a baby to term, delivers him, and raises him for one year. Then one day after watching Sex In the City she discovers that motherhood is a drag. So she makes plane reservations, packs her bags, and jets over to Europe for a few months. Meanwhile, her child starves to death. No harm no foul, right? She didn’t kill the child; she just “unplugged” herself.
Our society still prosecutes child abusers precisely because we believe that parents assume certain obligations to their children. They are obligated to provide a minimum of food, shelter, medical care, and education. And if the parents don’t live up to their obligations, they can be prosecuted and the child can be removed from their custody. The parents can’t simply “unplug” themselves anytime they choose. The mother who let her child starve to death while she was on a trip to Europe would be tracked down and prosecuted for murder. Most civilized people still recognize that we assume certain involuntary obligations as part of living in society. And one of those obligations is to care for our children.
Not only are we obligated to our family, we are also obligated to strangers. In a case out of Minnesota, a cattle buyer name Orlando Depue was awarded damages after he was literally kicked out in the cold. It was a cold January night in Minnesota-we’re talking Eskimo weather. Depue had eaten dinner with a couple, the Flateaus. Feeling sick after the dinner, he asked the couple if he could sleep over. But the Flateaus refused to give him board and told him to leave. Too sick to drive, Depue was forced to sleep in the backseat of his car. In the morning his fingers were popsicles, and later had to be amputated.
Depue sued the couple for damages. The Court said: “In the case at bar the defendants were under no contract obligation to minister to plaintiff in his distress; but humanity demanded they do so, if they understood and appreciated his condition . . . The law as well as humanity required that he not be exposed in his helpless condition to the merciless elements.”42 An obligation is assumed once you “understand and appreciate” the conditions of your fellowman, even if he is a stranger. What goes for strangers goes double for family members.
Looked at within the normal context of familial obligations, Thomson’s Henry Fonda example falls apart. Although it may be asking too much of Henry to run about the country laying hands on sick folks, it would be only just to expect his healing touch if you were his son or daughter. The glue that holds society together is assumed responsibility to family, friends, strangers, and country. No doubt we owe each of these categories a different level of responsibility, but without assumed responsibility, there is no society.
There is something deeper at work in Thomson’s examples than just a brutal social contract theory. They reveal someone with a deep hatred of maternity itself. Such attitudes are typical of feminists like Thomson. Pregnancy is like being kidnapped and hooked-up to an ailing violinist. In her bizarre world, the wonders of maternity are similar to being trapped in a tiny house with an ever expanding child, who will eventually crush her to death if she doesn’t kill him first. Contraceptives are like bars on your windows meant to keep burglars (babies) out. Something so natural and traditionally welcomed by women the world over is reduced to a malevolent force. A woman is trapped, put upon by nature, and abortion is a defensive reaction. In feminist literature, with few exceptions, pregnancy is everything negative, never a gift or a blessing. All healthy cultures treat child birth as the penultimate female experience. Feminists like Thomson see it as a curse.
Liberals such as Harry Blackmun and Judith Jarvis Thomson framed the abortion debate and conservatives feel compelled to base their arguments on the same classical liberal premises. From their side, the unborn child’s right to life outweighs the mother’s right to control her body. The problem with this approach is the unborn child is not an independent actor as social contract theory assumes. The neonate is a special dependent. In Lockian social contract theory dependents are not afforded full rights. In fact, if you didn’t own property, Locke believed you had no stake in society, and therefore should not be given the full rights of a citizen. This is where early American property qualification for voting is derived from.
Pro-lifers frame the debate as if they were going into court to represent the child in a legal dispute against his mother. Strictly speaking, carrying a child to term entails more than just respecting the baby’s right to life. Maternity is about the performance of an affirmative duty. The two are somewhat different. For example, respecting your neighbor’s property rights normally requires only that you refrain from violating his property through trespass, theft, or vandalism and so forth. If you do nothing to your neighbor’s property, you have observed his rights. But you are not required to go over to his house every week and mow his grass, or help him put on a new roof, if he needs one. And respecting another’s right to life requires only that you refrain from killing him. Normally, you are not obligated to make sure your neighbor is well fed and has adequate shelter.
Thomson’s argument relies on this classical liberal notion that to observe another person’s rights we are not obligated for another’s upkeep. But caring for a child does require that the mother do more than just respect the child’s right to life. She must nurture the child; she must protect him from abortion; she can’t use drugs or alcohol; and if she intends to keep him after birth, she must provide food, shelter, healthcare, and education. Thomson points out this weakness in the pro-life position:
Opponents of abortion have been so concerned to make out the independence of the fetus, in order to establish that it has a right to life, just as the mother does, that they have tended to overlook the possible support they might gain from making out that the fetus is dependent on the mother, in order to establish that she has a special responsibility that gives it rights against her that are not possessed by an independent person-such as an ailing violinist who is a stranger to her.43
Thomson makes a good point here. Ancient obligations to our family and society take precedence to our individual rights. This is the correct conservative argument against abortion and infanticide. Cardinal Newman put it this way:
We are not our own anymore than what we possess is our own. We did not make ourselves, we can’t be supreme over ourselves. We are not our masters. We are God’s property. Is it not our happiness to view the matter? Is it any happiness or any comfort to consider that we are our own? It may be thought so by the young and prosperous. These may think it a great thing to have everything, as they suppose, their own way-to depend on no one, to think of nothing out of sight, to be without irksome and continual acknowledgment, continual prayer, continual reference to what they do to the will of another. But as time goes on, they, as all men, will find that independence was not made for man-that it an unnatural state-will do for a while, but will not carry them safely to the end.44
Our parental laws are rooted in this ancient wisdom. Until 1973, most governments in the Western world applied this thinking to abortion. Childbirth is a blessing. It is an essential relationship. Without mothers, society is not possible. The family is the primary unit in society, the primary socializer of citizens. More specifically, the traditional nuclear family performs those essential tasks best. Good families make good taxpayers, good patriots, good citizens. If the government is effective, it will do all in its power to create an environment where healthy families can flourish. Family life is none of the government’s business, you may say. You are wrong! All cultures have found that social stability is dependent on strong families. Marriage contracts and family law are found in all healthy societies. Children raised by responsible fathers and mothers are less likely to engage in anti-social behavior. The problems of America’s inner cities today are largely due to the absence of solid families, specifically the absence of fathers. Studies continue to show that children who grow up in fatherless households are far more likely to end up in prison. Protecting the integrity of the family is a legitimate state interest and falls well within the constitutional mandate. Compelling a woman, who is already pregnant, to carry her child for at least the nine months of pregnancy is a legitimate extension of that mandate. Except to save the life of the mother, there is no legitimate reason for abortion.
The Liberal approach to cultural and familial issues is a recipe for social disintegration. Relativising the family structure through gay marriage, relaxed divorce laws, and allowing abortion-on-demand are dire threats to the nation. Ignoring such threats is similar to ignoring a foreign army that has landed on our shores because we must not interfere with their “right to conquer.”
Does this mean that society’s interest in maintaining family integrity outweighs a woman’s right to control her own body? Yes. If the state has the authority to control its citizens in any situation, it certainly has the authority to hold a mother accountable for the life and health of her unborn child. This is merely a reasonable requirement of living in a civilized society, one that Western society imposed on women for over 1,000 years.
Thomson’s argument in defense of abortion demonstrates the absurdity of libertarianism. Taken to its logical end, libertarianism is a child’s attempt to avoid thinking seriously about the problems of society. If man is reasonable, then the “best government is the one that governs least,” say libertarians. How to deal with immigration? Open the borders. How to deal with the drug problem? Legalize all drugs. What about foreign policy? Don’t have one. How to regulate an increasingly interdependent economy? Don’t. The libertarians are right, if man was generally reasonable, there would be little need of government. And if we all had wings, we could solve the traffic problem overnight. And mental telepathy would eliminate our telecommunication problems as well.
But man is not generally reasonable, and thus we have laws and governments. How a government governs depends on the present situation. For example, an increase in the number of people in a given space, an increase in diversity among the people, and an increase of the likelihood of conflict with other societies, often creates the need for more government. And the reverse is generally true-less people, less diversity, more space, equals more freedoms.
Even under the best of conditions, no government in history has allowed everything. The Declaration of Independence and John Stuart Mill notwithstanding, the individual is not sovereign. No one has an absolute right to anything, including life, liberty, and property. Rights are limited by the demand of living in an organized society. The Founding Fathers who gathered in Philadelphia to write the Constitution of 1787 knew this. They realized, despite social contract theory, there were prior obligations that we assume as members of society.
Rights are especially limited in time of war. The direr the threat to society, the more society will curtail the individual's freedoms, and subordinate his interests to society. Speech is often regulated in time of war. At the very outbreak of the Civil War, Lincoln, jailed the Mayor of Baltimore and the entire legislature of Maryland, lest they vote for secession. Leading Copperhead and Ohio Congressman Vallandigham was jailed and exiled to the Confederacy for encouraging peace talks with the South. Responding to criticism of his order to suspend the right of habeas corpus and the arrest of Vallandigham, Lincoln wrote: “Must I shoot a simple-minded solider boy who deserts, while I must not touch a hair of a wily agitator who induces him to desert? . . I think that in such a case to silence the agitator and save the boy is not only constitutional, but withal a great mercy.” The Southern rebellion, Lincoln continued, reached into the North, where “under the cover of ‘liberty of speech,’ ‘liberty of press,’ and ‘Habeas Corpus,’ the rebels hoped to keep on foot amongst us a most efficient corps of spies, informers, suppliers, aiders and abettors of their cause.” For those who accused him of setting a pattern that would be carried over into peace time, Lincoln said he could no more believe that the necessary curtailment of civil liberties in wartime would establish precedents fatal to liberty in peacetime “than I am able to believe that a man could contract so strong an appetite for emetics during temporary illness, as to persist in feeding upon them through the remainder of his healthful life.”45
The same was true of wars in the twentieth century. Under the Sedition Act, hundreds were jailed for criticizing conscription during the First World War, including Socialist leader and presidential candidate Eugene Debs. Thousands of Japanese, Germans, and Italians were “interned” during the Second World War as potential fifth columnists. An American citizen name William Pelley had his publishing company and press confiscated and was sentenced to fifteen years in prison under the Espionage Act-all for writing a pamphlet accusing FDR of having fore knowledge of the Pearl Harbor attack.
Property rights are also relative to the needs of society. Under Eminent Domain the government can take your property to build roads, airports, military bases, harbors-anything it deems to be in the public interest. In time of war, property rights become even more tenuous. During the Civil War property was confiscated or destroyed throughout the South. Very few of the owners were compensated after the war, and only after long court battles. Most got nothing, for most of the property was in slaves. Others had their lands taken for leading the Confederacy. Jefferson Davis had his Mississippi plantations seized. Likewise, our nation’s National Military Cemetery at Arlington, Virginia now sits on land confiscated from Robert E. Lee. Lincoln took over the railroads during the war. And during both world wars the government conscripted heavy industry and compelled it to produce war goods.
Even the way we use our property during peacetime has its limitations. You can’t set up a nuclear reactor in your backyard. Nor can you build a poison gas factory in your house. And the power to tax is the ultimate expression of the public interest superseding the private. You can influence the tax system through your representatives, but you can’t simply opt out of the tax system anytime you choose.
The entire legal system is based on the fact that society is sovereign. If the government believes you have committed a crime, it can deprive you of your life, liberty, or property. You can’t stand as judge in your own case. You are not even guaranteed a perfect trail. The Constitution only mandates a “fair” trial. What is considered “fair” changes from time to time, judge to judge, community to community. Nor are you guaranteed the right outcome. In many cases a person’s guilt is uncertain. Many a man has lost his life, liberty, and property for a crime he didn’t commit. As a citizen of this country, you are only guaranteed as much due process as the situation allows. As noted above, due process almost disappears in time of war and national emergency. All of your rights are relative to the needs of society
Last but not least, you have no absolute right to life. In time of war the state will put a gun in your hands, send you to the frontline, where you will fight, and if necessary, die for your country. Exemptions from combat are not absolute. If you refuse to help the war effort, you can be imprisoned, and even shot. Hundreds of deserters were shot during the Revolutionary War and the Civil War. Thousands were jailed for draft evasion. Persons caught in the war zone, of both sexes, were pressed into service to dig trenches, to cut firewood, or to gather food.
When pressed against the wall, the state’s demands on the citizen increase. Not since the Civil War has the American state been threatened with extinction. America experienced something like this in the weeks following 9/11. After three planes were deliberately crashed into buildings, America went into survival mode. Orders were in the works to shoot down any plane that appeared to be on a similar suicide mission, and was not responding to radio contact. Those in authority had to weigh the lives of the hundreds on board the hijacked plane against the thousands of citizens that could be killed if that plane was allowed to crash into another building. Would the right to life of those on board that plane have prevented the President from issuing the shoot-down order? No. He would have issued the order, and no one at that moment of crisis would have questioned his judgment. Only later after everyone’s fears had lessened would some congressman call hearings into the “unreasonable” shoot-down order. But on 9/11 that same congressman was the one yelling the loudest for protection. If you remember the dynamic in this country in the two weeks after 9/11, that is the actual basis for the relationship between the individual and society, not the theoretical one found in the Declaration of Independence and John Locke.
This is not to say that all of these decisions to abridge individual liberties were justified. Some of them certainly were not. They are extreme examples, used to demonstrate that in the balance between society’s interests and the individual’s it is society that must ultimately prevail. In order to establish law and order and protect the nation from foreign threats the state, any state, needs this basic authority over the individual. That is the price the individual pays for living in an organized society.
If you are laboring under the illusion that you have absolute rights, let me enlighten you. Beside the part about the colonies severing their political ties to Britain, the Declaration of Independence is a statement of abstract principles, not law. “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.” Jefferson wrote excellent rationalist poetry. You will remember that in John Locke’s social contract theory, which is where Jefferson got these ideas, man was supposedly a sovereign free agent before the creation of society. His Creator had supposedly given him the inalienable rights-life, liberty, and property. He was his own little country, so to speak. But when once he fell from classical liberal grace and decided to band together with other sovereign men, he traded in the inalienable portion of his rights for the protections of society. He empowered society to be his judge, including in matters involving his life, liberty, and property.
In other words, a man's rights may belong to him by nature and inhere in his person by virtue of God's creative act, but the demands of living in society necessarily limit these rights. A man's rights must be balanced against the common good, public order, and the rights of other individuals. If the state could never take a man's life, liberty, or property, then the laws could never be enforced, and organized society would not be possible. Any man charged with murder could simply stand on his “sovereign” rights, and refuse to be tried.
Jefferson’s rhetoric in the Declaration of Independence is a statement of principles, based on Locke’s theory of the supposed origins of the social contract. He is writing about man as he existed in the classical liberal Garden of Eden, before the social contract. The United States Constitution, on the other hand, is concerned with life after the social contract.
The Constitution mandates a balancing test between the “rights of the individual and the demands of living in an organized society.” What the Founding Fathers intended was that the greatest amount of freedom be given the individual consistent with good government, what classical liberals used to call “ordered liberty.” As I’ve shown, the needs of government change with the situation. In time of war, individual liberties are severely limited; and in time of peace, liberties are increased. But in the balancing scales, society’s interests outweigh the individual’s interests.
The Fifth Amendment prevents the federal government from depriving U.S. citizens of “life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.” And it prevents the government from taking private property “for public used, without just compensation.” The Fourteenth Amendment extended these protections to the states. The key phrase here is “due process.” What angered classical liberals like the Founders was arbitrary power, power without due process. The Constitution is aimed at curbing arbitrary power. Under feudalism the nobility was privileged with a great deal of arbitrary power. In many courts, men decided what the law was. Whether you got justice depended on the man who sat as judge in your case. The Constitution writers wanted to replace the rule of men with the rule of laws. So now when the state wants to take your life, liberty, or property it must provide you due process of law. In other words, the government can still kill you, put you in prison, or take your property away, they just can’t do it arbitrarily. “The touchstone of due process is the protection of the individual against arbitrary action of government.”46
Due process, however, is not a concept written in stone. It has never been reduced to a particular formula, and it is therefore quite flexible: “Due process of law has never been a term of fixed or invariable content.”47 As noted earlier, due process has always assumed a balancing test: “Considerations of what procedures due process may require under any given set of circumstances must begin with a demonstration of the precise nature of the government function involved as well as of the private interest that has been affected by government action.”48
There are two types of due process: procedural and substantive. To have procedural due process, the government must establish “fundamentally fair” procedures before it can deprive you of your rights. This is pretty straightforward. Substantive due process, on the other hand, is more nebulous. Under this type of due process, before the government can deprive you of your rights, it must have a “reasonable justification.” So even if the government has erected a decent set of court procedures, it must “demonstrate a valid reason for the deprivation,” and there must be a “compelling state interest” involved.49 Just what exactly constitutes a “valid reason” and a “compelling state interest” is a matter of interpretation. There is the rub. Substantive due process, at any given time, is dependent on societies “current understanding of what is allowable government conduct.”50
From the conservative perspective, there is more than enough substantive justification in the Federal Constitution, the state constitutions, and the common law to compel an already pregnant woman to care for her unborn child, for at least the nine months of pregnancy. Blackmun’s assertion that the “state has no right to conscript a woman’s body” is nonsense. The state conscripts all of our body’s for a number of reasons. All that is needed for it to do so is find a “compelling state interest.” The laws themselves are a form of conscription, for they compel the citizen to behave in a certain way. Any two-bit anarchist knows that. The threat that foreign enemies have posed to America’s existence in the past justified conscripting millions of men. America has lost over one million men in all of its wars. Abortion kills approximately 1.5 million U.S. citizens every year. And since Roe v Wade , 50 million have been murdered. If preventing the murder of 1.5 million citizens in the coming year is not a “compelling state interest,” I don’t know what is. The fact that millions of citizens are in favor of this form of murder is no legitimate argument for abortion. At one time, millions of Americans were in favor of owning slaves. That thousands of citizens every year decide to murder other adult citizens has never been a legitimate argument for overturning the murder statutes. No one is forcing a woman to bear children for the state. The state is merely forcing her to care for the child she has already conceived. By whatever means, she has already conceived a child, and the state is more than justified in protecting the unborn child. This is the same rationale behind all parental laws. If the mother doesn’t like this, she can move to China or the Amazon jungle.
From the egalitarian perspective, Roe v Wade is the case most often cited as an example of “proper” substantive due process. Blackmun ruled that Texas’ interest in “protecting potential human life” should not outweigh “a woman’s right to privacy,” which includes her “decision whether or not to terminate her pregnancy.”51 This was a value judgment. Blackmun stretched the concept of individual liberty into the “right of privacy,” and he declared that the unborn child was not a person deserving of constitutional protections. The convoluted nature of his decision makes it plain that Blackmun was social engineering, in accordance with his egalitarian values. He was designing a new due process framework for abortion-on-demand. Why? Because in his opinion women needed abortion to achieve equality.
Conversely, the Texas anti-abortion statute that Roe overturned was based on a substantive balancing test in exact reverse of Blackmun’s. The legislators who passed the statute and the judges who upheld it for one hundred years believed that the state’s interests in protecting unborn children outweighed a woman’s liberty interests. The anti-abortion statutes treated the unborn child as a special dependent, without the full rights of the Fifth Amendment, but more than enough to justify protection. These were value judgments too. Both Roe and the anti-abortion statutes depended on the value judgments of those writing and interpreting the law. Roe was an expression of egalitarian values; the anti-abortion statutes were expressions of Western Christian values.
Roe is not a case of faulty constitutional interpretation. Like many decisions in the 1950’s and 60’s and 70s, Roe represented a changing of the guard on the High Court. Blackmun was well aware that the right to an abortion was not in the Constitution, not in the Common Law, nor in the Western legal tradition. He knew that the Framers of the Constitution would have been revolted by his ruling. As Rehnquist and White said in their dissent, Roe v Wade was “an exercise of raw power.” Blackmun had the power to change the law, so he did it. He was exactly correct when he said “the Constitution was designed to serve human values.”52 And in Roe v Wade the law served his values.
Blackmun was merely expressing an inescapable fact: It is impossible to establish a set of laws that will never change upon interpretation and application. Although it is possible to enact an Amendment that expressly prohibits abortion, for instance, this would not solve the underlying problem of Roe. Laws serve the values of the community. When the laws no longer reflect the values of the community, they are changed or reinterpreted. Laws must be enacted, interpreted, and enforced. No set of laws, for instance, can guard against corrupt legislators, judges, and policemen. Nor will the laws that reflect the values of one community stand forever, when those who take the legislator’s bench, the judge’s gavel, and the policeman’s gun hold very different values. The laws will eventually come to reflect the values of the new legislators, judges, and policemen.
Conservatives such as James Dobson have suggested electing Supreme Court Justices so as to weed out liberal judges like Blackmun. But this won’t permanently guard against decisions like Roe. What happens when the majority of voters are TV-watching morons, raised on the gutter values of Hollywood? What kind of judges do you think they will vote for?
It simply is not possible to write laws that will not change, if the values of the community change. The Ten Commandments are no exception. Don’t kill; don’t steal; don’t lie-pretty simple, right? Wrong. There has never been a uniform interpretation of the Ten Commandments. Those who wrote the Commandments certainly had a different interpretation than even the most traditional of Bible believers today. Only a fool would suggest executing Sabbath-breakers today, as was done in Ancient Israel. Conservative Christians, for example, believe that killing in self-defense and in time of war is moral, while pacifist Christian sects do not. As for stealing, David took the shewbread from the Temple and Jesus and his disciples plucked corn in the fields. And the Church has never condemned starving people for stealing food. Rehab the prostitute lied to the soldiers of Jericho about hiding the spies of Israel, and yet she is celebrated throughout the Bible for her actions. All of our criminal laws have evolved over time. Years ago there was only one punishment-death. Horse thieves and pick pockets were hanged alongside those who had committed pre-meditated murder. But today we recognize different “levels” of offense, for murder as well as theft. Each level of offense carries its own peculiar punishment. And the punishment reflects the community’s current opinion as to what is appropriate punishment for that particular offense. Laws reflect the values of the community that enacts them and applies them.
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A body of thought has grown out of the classical liberal tradition that has tried to identify justice without reference to the ends that it serves. John Rawls’ book A Theory of Justice (1971) tried to articulate this view. It is based on two claims. First, that certain individual rights are so essential that society’s interests should never be allowed to override them. And second, that those rights should not depend for their justification on any particular moral or religious conception of the good life.
Rawls’ theory was a break with tradition. Traditionally the concept of justice was related to the ends that it served. Aristotle thought that you had to determine the most desirable way of life before you could define justice. John Locke and Thomas Jefferson thought that the purpose of justice was to protect the individual’s natural right of life, liberty and property. And John Stuart Mill believed the end of justice was to promote happiness. All these definitions of justice are utilitarian. Relying on Kant’s concept of rights, Rawls objected to the utilitarian approach because it relies on a particular conception of the good life. Society, said Rawls, is composed of persons with differing conceptions of the good life. People have different interests, different aims, different gods; therefore, society is best organized on principles of justice that do not themselves presuppose any definition of the good life. This allows each citizen the freedom to choose his own ends. And it lessens the chance that a majority believing in one particular definition of the good life will persecute minorities who hold different beliefs. Such an arrangement respects the individual as a being capable of choice, and treats him as an end rather than a means. Justice is therefore an end in itself.
Rawls’ theory of justice is built on a hypothetical position he calls the “veil of ignorance.” Parties to his social contract must first be stripped of any knowledge of their place in society. They don’t know their religion, sex, class, race, age, wealth, intelligence, talents or abilities. Nor do they know what ideas they have about the good life. They only know that they possess some of these attributes, and that such attributes are worthy of being protected. Rawls’ purpose in placing the parties behind this veil is to prevent their decisions being prejudiced by the contingency of natural and social circumstances. It is assumed that all parties will choose principles of justice that protect even the most disadvantaged person in society because no one knows whether they may end up being that person.
In his book Liberalism and the Limits of Justice (1982), Michael J. Sandel demonstrated that a social contract built on Rawls’ veil of ignorance is impossible. A theory of justice without reference to the attributes of the parties involved and without reference to any particular conception of the good life is meaningless, said Sandel. Not only is Rawls’ veil of ignorance a hypothetical situation, which is true of most social contract theories, it involves a type of human being that has never existed, one without identity. Because the parties behind the veil have no beliefs, ideas, attachments or experiences, they lack identity. Also, as I alluded to earlier, justice is impossible apart from the circumstances that give rise to the virtue of justice. Behind Rawls’ veil there are no circumstances. And bargaining or even discussing rights or interests in order to arrive at a contract requires that the parties have some differences of interests, opinions, knowledge, aims and power.
Behind Rawls’ veil of ignorance is a universe without purpose, without telos, as the Greeks called it. This perspective has plagued Western thought since the seventeenth century. Unlike Greek or scholastic conceptions, Rawl’s and Kant’s universe is a place devoid of inherent meaning. “Only a world ungoverned by a purposive order leaves principles of justice open to human construction and conceptions of the good to individual choice.”53 In such a world the purpose of justice is to give the individual unfettered choice. Once free of God, Nature, or his role within the organic social group, the individual is crowned with sovereignty over all his choices.
Rawls’ sovereign rational being is merely a conception. And a society that adopts his theory of justice is promoting divisions that will ultimately undermine social order. Like it or not, we are tied to our identity. Any decisions we arrive at, whether about justice or anything else, must necessarily depend on who we are. We cannot regard ourselves as
independent in the sense that our identity is never tied to our aims and attachments…without great cost to those loyalties and convictions whose moral force consists partially in the fact that living by them is inseparable from understanding ourselves as the particular person we are-as members of a family, or community, nation, or people, as bearers of this history, as sons and daughters of that revolution, as citizens of this republic. Allegiances such as these are more than values I happen to have or aims I espouse at a given time. They go beyond the obligations I voluntarily incur and the “natural duties” I owe to human beings as such. They allow that to some I owe more than justice requires or even permits, not by reason of agreements I have made but instead in virtue of those more or less enduring attachments and commitments which taken together partly define the person I am.54
It is impossible to arrive at principles of justice without making value judgments that some choices are better than others. Take a look at the issue of religious liberty as contained in the First Amendment. Traditionally what makes religious activities more worthy of legal protections than other activities is the role it plays in the good life, the type of character it produces, and from a political perspective its abilities to mold good citizens. Rawlsian liberalism, on the other hand, says that religious activities are important not because of their content, but instead because they are the result of free and voluntary choice. There is nothing that distinguishes between what believers consider to be vital claims of conscience, and what others see as mere preference. And thus demands that the laws not unduly burden the free exercise of religion are no more deserving of respect than demands to protect any other preferential choice. If, for example, religious believers are permitted a special day off from work for a religious observance, why can’t baseball fans demand their own special day off to watch games? To give religious activities greater weight in law than sports activities is to say that religion is more central to the individual’s self-definition in his quest to live the good life. This was the meaning the Founding Fathers gave to the First Amendment. But it runs counter to Rawlsian Liberalism.
Rawls’ intent was to create an individual free of prejudice, capable of making unbiased decisions, but in actuality Rawls’ “free and rational agent” is a person without character or moral depth:
For to have character is to know that I move in a history I neither summon nor command, which carries consequences nonetheless for my choices and conduct. It draws me closer to some and more distant from others; it makes some aims more appropriate, others less so. As a self-interesting being, I am able to reflect on my history and in this sense to distance myself from it, but the distance is always precarious and provisional, the point of protection never finally secured outside the history itself. A person with character thus knows that he is implicated in various ways even as he reflects, and feels the moral weight of what he knows.55
What that means is exactly what Rawls’ theory tried to guard against: a society composed of sovereign individuals is an abstraction; and a society cannot accommodate all manner of diversity. A society must find its principles of justice in some conception of the good life. And a society with large groups of people, holding very different ideas of the good life will eventually come unraveled. The current conflict over abortion is a classic example of this. Rawls’ political liberalism dictates that we keep our private morality apart from our public life. When we run into a contentious issue like abortion, where one side believes it is an essential human right and the other believes it is murder, Rawls advises us to bracket the issue out of political debate. But if abortion is in fact murder, as pro lifers contend, then bracketing it out of the debate runs counter to one of the basic purposes for having a society-to protect individuals from unjustified homicide. Why have a society at all when an entire class of persons are bracketed out of protection simply because the idea of protecting them is contentious to one segment of society? Telling pro-lifers to ignore the issue of abortion because millions of people are in favor of it is untenable.
Philosophers such as Rawls, Kant, and even Locke, Jefferson and Aristotle tried to arrive at a theory of justice apart from the historical contingencies that give rise to societies. History teaches us how organic societies are formed and how these societies define justice. Principles of justice are indeed founded on conceptions of the good life. But ideas of the good life are derived from the unique moral-religious worldview of that particular organic culture identity, not from one universal worldview, as philosophers would have it.
The fundamental quid pro quo of any social contract is protection and obedience. For society’s protection the citizen returns obedience to its laws. Protection includes the ideas of justice and accountability. People willingly obey the laws of their society only if they believe the laws are just. And they trust their government only if it is accountable. Power is tenuous if it rests only on naked force. Stable political power is spiritual, not physical. If it is to last, political authority must rest on the public opinion that those who wield authority do so by moral right. Whether this consent is expressed formally through regular elections or tacitly through loyalty to a traditional hierarchy is irrelevant. When the people believe the laws are unjust and the government is not accountable, the regime’s hold on power is uncertain. More and more the regime will have to rely on the naked force of its police-military to retain power.
Government is about controlling people. But people naturally do not want to be controlled. Even the simplest man wants the freedom to do what he wants. Government limits his freedom. This is grating. He will allow the government to limit his freedom only if he trusts those in authority. And he will trust those in authority only if they are people like him, if they share his culture identity. Culture identity is spiritual. It is at this spiritual level that people connect with their leaders. The average man in any society has little grasp of the political issues of his day. He doesn’t understand history. He has never read the fundamental documents and laws of his society. So he has no objective basis to judge whether the laws are just and the political authorities are accountable. He feels his way through life. He relies upon his leaders to define the big picture for him. The leadership class must formulate the laws of society. Trust is essential in this relationship. If he senses a disconnect with his leaders, he starts to distrust them. He’ll begin to accuse them of all manner of evil. Eventually he’ll look for new leaders, ones he can trust. A common cause for this disconnect is a culture identity disjunction.
The events that led up to the American Revolution are instructive. On the surface the Revolution was caused by the British government, when they attempted to tax the colonists without their consent. But if you look deeper, the actual cause of the Revolution was a growing culture identity disjunction.
In 1765 the British Parliament passed the Stamp Act, which taxed various items sold and transacted in the American colonies. A good chunk of the American people saw the Stamp Act as the first step in a larger diabolical conspiracy designed to take away their liberties. Which liberties the colonists had in mind were at first undefined. A French-backed Catholic party in England was thought to have organized the plot, receiving their secret instructions from the Pope himself. At any moment, the colonists believed, the Anglican establishment in England was going to ship a Bishop over to America in order to regiment the colonies’ independent churches. Protestant liberties would then be at an end. Then it was only a matter of time before they would be kneeling before the hated Pope in Rome.
Memories of when the Church of England’s Archbishop Laud tried to run all the Puritans out of England and organize religion in the colonies (1630s) caused some of this paranoia.. Laud’s efforts failed and contributed greatly to causing the English Civil War (1642-1648). Parliament had learned its lessons and had no intentions of repeating that mistake. But over the decades the colonists had lost a great deal of respect for the British government. From their perspective the Stamp Act was really another attempt to force the Church of England down their throats, even though on the surface it was a tax law. They were sure that Granville, the author of the Stamp Act, and his fellow minister the Earl of Bute were attending late night mass with the Pope and dancing together with the Devil himself. Soon after the Stamp Act was enacted, riots broke out in several colonies. Stamp distributors were tarred and feathered. Effigies of Granville, the Earl of Bute, and the Devil were burned side-by-side on the public commons in most of the larger towns.
The conspiratorial bent in the American consciousness was also the legacy of the Reformation, the English Civil War and the Glorious Revolution of 1688. Paranoia, however, doesn’t fully explain the visceral reaction to the Stamp Act, especially since the tax would have effected very few of those who rioted. The violent outbursts, the readiness to blame their own government for orchestrating a diabolical conspiracy showed that their trust in the British
Parliament had all but evaporated. This process had been going on for over a century; the Stamp Act just revealed what was happening beneath the surface in colonial society.
That the colonists’ reactions to the Stamp Act were based on subjective feeling and not on objective fact is obvious to any student of the period. Granville was not a French-backed Catholic. He and the Earl of Bute didn’t know the Pope. And both couldn’t have cared less whether the colonists accepted Anglican orthodoxy. Granville was simply a penny-pinching minister, and the Stamp Act was his ham-handed way of getting the colonists to pay their share of the empire’s expenses.
England was in debt after the Seven Years’ War (French and Indian War, 1756-1763). Most of the fighting had taken place in America. And the colonists had reaped most of the benefits of England’s victory. The war had doubled the size of America’s territory, and the French were finally being driven from the North American continent. Controlling Canada and everything west of the Appalachians, the French had been a constant threat to the colonists. They had fought two previous wars, trying to drive the English colonists into the sea. Now the French were leaving Canada and abandoning the forts on America’s frontier. The colonists were also the least taxed subjects in the British Empire. The Stamp Act was largely symbolic as it would have brought in very little revenue. Britain’s real benefit in keeping the colonies was the trans-Atlantic trade. Because the war had heavily benefited the colonists, it seemed only fair to Parliament and Granville that they pick up part of the tab.
The colonists didn’t see it that way. They smelled a nefarious plot. The Devil and the Pope were behind it. They exploded in violence. Their reaction dumbfounded Parliament. Even the colonial leaders were taken by surprise. Benjamin Franklin actually signed up to be a stamp distributor, but quickly demurred after witnessing the people’s reaction. Wanting self-determination and sensing opportunity, leaders like Patrick Henry and Samuel Adams harnessed this anger and distrust and channeled it into an effective political movement.
The colonists had lost trust in the British Parliament because of a culture identity disjunction, not because Parliament had violated some abstract social contract. Over the decades the colonists began to think of themselves as Americans, not just Englishmen. Although sharing the same Western Christian culture identity with their English cousins, the American colonists had developed a unique national culture identity over the previous two centuries since Jamestown and Plymouth. When they spoke about political relations with the mother country, they began to make distinctions between the British Parliament and their own colonial legislatures. They had grown in wealth and power. Through their colonial legislatures they had learned to govern themselves. Except for the military protection England provided, the colonists could take care of themselves. With the French leaving after the Seven Years’ War, they no longer needed English military protection.
After the French signed the peace treaty, Pitt the Elder commented that the colonists would seek more independence and if the Parliament were wise, said Pitt, it would give it to them. As Secretary of State, Pitt was the genius who engineered England’s victory. Through his prescient statesmanship he had made England the preeminent power in the world, a position it would hold into the twentieth century. He knew what he was talking about.
Unlucky for England, Pitt was growing old by the late 1760s, and his party (Independent Whigs) was losing power in Parliament. He was kicked upstairs to the House of Lords and was on the back bench by the time the Stamp Act crisis exploded. His arguments for appeasing the colonists fell on deaf, stupid ears. Mediocres like Granville and North replaced him in the government. Instead of loosening the apron strings, they wanted to tighten them. So the colonists revolted.
To use a crude analogy, the colonists reacted to the Stamp Act much in the same way that a teenage boy reacts to an overbearing father who tries to impose more chores or a stricter curfew. A wise father gives a child more independence as he matures. But if instead of giving more freedoms, a father imposes more restrictions, the child is liable to rebel. That is what happened with the American Colonists. Parliament imposed more restrictions precisely when it should have granted more freedoms. And true to form the colonists packed their bags and moved out of the house, peeling out in the front yard as they left.
The specific pretext for the American revolution-taxation without representation-was less important than the underlying culture identity disjunction. If the conflict was not over taxation, it might have been over Indian Policy, or the Navigation Acts. Similarly, the specific argument over chores and curfew is less important than the underlying fact that a teenager starts to develop his own identity and will naturally seek more independence.
The same is true of many other conflicts. In 1857, Indian Sapoys serving in the army of the British East India Company mutinied after they refused to handle new bullets that were apparently greased with pig and cow fat (an outrage to Muslims and Hindus respectively). The mutiny quickly spread across northern India. After capturing the fortress of Cawnpore, the mutineers massacred the entire British garrison. In 1993 four white police officers were acquitted of charges in the beating of black motorist Rodney King. South Central Los Angeles exploded. In both of these cases the specific pretext for violence was less important than the underlying culture identity disjunction. The Indians were reacting to over a century of British domination. The blacks of South Central Los Angeles were reacting to the perceived injustices of living in a so-called white man’s country. These violent eruptions have little to do with the breach of some objective social contract. They were the result of an underlying culture identity disjunction. As long as there is a culture identity disjunction such violent eruptions will occur again and again because there is no trust between the government and the governed, and there is no trust because they do not share the same culture identity.
Whether the philosophers and theologians like it or not, the organic culture identity evolves its own interpretation of the Moral Law. Universalist schemes, whether religious or ideological, have always broken down in the face of these organic divisions. A social contract is possible within a given society only because those within it share the same culture identity. Laws are seen as just only because those within the society share the same comprehensive moral-religious conception of the good life. As laws must reflect some conception of the good life, one system of laws cannot contain a diversity of identities holding very different definitions of the good life. Sooner or later an issue will come along-taxation, greased bullets, pummeled motorists, abortion-that cannot be bracketed out. One of the identities will succeed in assimilating, excluding or extirpating the opponent; or, a political division will take place.
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The Constitution of 1787 was designed to serve the American nation that created it. It was an expression of the values of a particular organic culture identity, at a particular time of history. Those values are Western Christian. The Constitution did not create the American nation, it gave it form. The American nation was forged organically over two centuries from Jamestown to Yorktown. The representatives of this organic culture identity met in Philadelphia and wrote the Constitution. Outside of this organic context, the Constitution means something different. Look, for example, at the nation of Brazil. It has precisely the same constitution as the United States. They copied our Constitution word - for - word. Are the United States and Brazil the same? If you listen to the egalitarians who say that America is a set of culturally neutral abstractions found in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, The answer would have to be: yes. But only a fool with a very shallow view of history would give that answer. A closer examination of the two countries reveals vast culture - identity differences. And it is precisely these culture- identity differences that form the basis for our respective nations, not the dead words of a constitution. It is the nation which breathes life into a constitution in its own peculiar way.
In Roe v Wade Blackmun insisted that the Constitution was not the reflection of one particular nation, with a particular culture identity, with a particular value system. The Founding Fathers, said Blackmun, designed the Constitution with the greatest amount of diversity in mind. It was designed to handle everyone from Catholics to cannibals, in a culturally neutral system. Blackmun quoted from a 1905 dissent by former Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes. The Constitution, wrote Holmes, “is made for people of fundamentally differing views, and the accident of our finding certain opinions natural and familiar, or novel, and even shocking, ought not to conclude our judgment upon the question whether statutes embodying them conflict with the Constitution of the United States.”56 In other words, you might believe that abortion is cold blooded murder, but others don’t. And you have no right to demand that others adopt your beliefs about abortion. Different strokes for different folks. Some folks believe that children are gifts from God. Others believe that they are medical waste.
What about Baal worshipers? Nature cults are hip these days, what with all the Wiccan worship. What if several million fools from Berkley, California decided to move to Arkansas and set up an agrarian society, centered on the worship of Baal, the ancient god of Canaan and Carthage. And as part of their religious expression they sacrificed a few children to Baal every spring in the hopes of producing a good harvest. Remember, in many ancient fertility cults that practiced human sacrifice it was a great honor to be selected as the spring offering in times of great crisis. Many of the best families of Carthage offered their children to Baal. In other words, it was a voluntary act. Should we allow voluntary human sacrifice? But the victim is a “minor,” you might say. Well, what if the sacrificial offering was eighteen or nineteen?
Since we’re following this train of thought, what gives society the right to determine the “age of consent”? Isn’t the “age of consent” a value judgment based on the moral beliefs of a particular culture? After all, I can find fifteen-year-olds that are far more mature than some forty-year-olds. If the age of consent is a value judgment, what about sex between a forty-year-old father and his six-year-old daughter? Remember, in many cultures girls as young as eight are eligible for marriage. Until the late nineteenth century, Delaware’s age of consent was seven. What about consensual cannibalism? What about voluntary blood feuds? If two families want to kill each other, why not? As long as their gun-play doesn’t jeopardize the lives of non-consenting third parties, there should be no problem in Holmes’ or Mill’s book.
Most Americans still see the absurdity of these propositions. All societies make value judgments about how its citizens ought to live. The laws reflect these values. The only real question is what value system will be applied, and how the parameters of that value system will be defined. The parameters determine the extent of allowable diversity. There are limits to diversity in any society. Human sacrifice, cannibalism, infanticide, pedophilia, incest, child marriage, blood feuds, slavery-all fall outside America’s present value system. And until 1973, abortion fell outside the value system of most Western governments.
What happened in Roe v Wade, however, was not a case of the Western Christian value system reinterpreting its own values, liberalizing itself for the sake of “diversity,” as Blackmun asserts. No, starting in the nineteenth century a completely opposite value system was emerging from the sewers of Europe, and later took ship for America. You will find this sewer value system in the writings of Darwin, Feuerbach, Marx, Engels, Comtè, Dewey, and Freud. This sewer value system set about to destroy the existing Western Christian value system and replace it with a set of egalitarian abstractions derived from a completely material explanation of the universe. Slowly but surely these sewer values have gained power throughout the West. And Roe v Wade was an expression of this new value system.
The diversity argument is camouflaging, used by those who have adopted the egalitarian value system. In a world where egalitarians have absolute power, there will be no diversity. If you don’t believe me, go speak against homosexuality and abortion at the University of California Berkley. You will find yourself being spat upon and ticketed by the campus cops, as happened recently to an anti-abortion activist. Or go to Columbia University and talk about our immigration problem. You’ll find yourself being shouted down and pelted with objects, as happened to Jim Gilcrist of the Minutemen. The most intolerant place in America is at a seminar on “tolerance and diversity” at the University of California Berkley.
The U.S. Constitution was designed to handle the diversity within a Western Christian nation. It was not designed to deal with every conceivable question of cultural diversity. When the Founders spoke about religious diversity, they were speaking about diversity amongst Christians. When they talked about religious tolerance, they had in mind Catholics, Anglicans, Quakers, Congregationalists, Baptists, Methodists, Presbyterians, Ana Baptists, etc. Conflicts amongst Christians had torn Europe apart for two hundred years. It was within the context of these religious wars that they spoke about religious diversity. Non-Christians were such a small number of the population that they really didn’t influence the debate about religion in those days. The Founding Fathers didn’t write the First Amendment with the intention of one day welcoming five million Baal worshippers to America’s shores. And if there had been two million well organized Muslims on America’s frontier in 1791, the First Amendment would have been written very differently.
In their wildest dreams the Founders couldn’t have imagined that in 200 years time a value system would evolve in America that looks upon pregnancy as a shackle used to keep women in subjection to men. And in order to break free of the shackle, women need contraception, abortion, and even infanticide. The writers of the Constitution would later witness the birth of these ideas in Jacobin France (1790s). The more responsible among them-Washington, Hamilton-condemned these ideas as incendiary. Thomas Jefferson was initially supportive of the French Revolution, but withdrew his support when it turned bloody. Only a few fools like Thomas Paine, who would actually become a deputy in the French Convention and would almost lose his empty head, supported the French Revolution. But even after witnessing the French Revolution the Founders could never have imagined these Jacobin ideas mutating into a value system that now regards the annual murder of 1.5 million children as a necessary price to pay for women’s liberation. In their day, there was no diversity of opinion on abortion. There were no “pro-choice” delegates in Philadelphia in 1787. Transported in a time machine to present day America, the Founders would think that a pack of Baal worshipers had landed on America’s shores and taken over the government. A tour of University of California Berkley’s campus would confirm their supposition.
“We need not resolve the difficult question of when life begins,” wrote Blackmun. When life begins is a religious- philosophical question that you must answer for yourself. In a diverse society, your view of when life begins must never be imposed on another person who holds a different view. “By adopting one theory of life,” the Texas legislature overrode a woman’s right to an abortion, said Blackmun.57 Justice Stevens emphasized this same approach in Webster v Reproductive Health Services: “The Missouri legislature [which said that life begins at conception] may not inject its endorsement of a particular religious tradition in this debate, for the Establishment Clause does not allow the public to foment such a disagreement.” 58
Let’s take Blackmun’s and Steven’s arguments to their logical end. What if our Baal worshippers set down roots in Arkansas, and according to their “theory of life,” children less than two years of age are not persons. But they do make excellent sacrifices to Baal. If the Court forbade the Baal worshipers from sacrificing their toddlers, but allowed pregnant mothers to abort their unborn children, then the Court would be adopting a “theory of life,” one that says life begins after birth.
And Stevens’ ham-handed attempt to discount the pro-life position merely because it finds some of its philosophical support in the Christian religion is typical leftist tripe. If we discounted all the laws that were also found in the Bible, then murder, rape and robbery would have to be tolerated. As noted earlier, all laws impose a moral perspective. Those who are pro-abortion, for instance, advocate a whole host of laws and social engineering schemes that impose a moral perspective: civil rights, hate crimes laws, income redistribution, environmental laws, universal healthcare, gun control, affirmative action, sex education. The list is endless. Leftist activism always adopts a moralistic stance. Their basic world view is moralistic: According to them, “bad” racist, capitalist, bourgeois, sexist pigs have been hogging all the wealth and power in the world, and it’s only moral that the “good” non-white, poor, proletarians, take it back-“Power to the People!” All their talk about “scientific determinism” cloaks the heart of a world improver. Their “libertarian” “pro-choice” rhetoric disguises egalitarian collectivist morality: They believe women have been kept barefoot and pregnant since the beginning of time; abortion is their only means of escape; denying them abortion is immoral. Ask any NOW member whether it is moral to make abortion illegal and be prepared to wipe the spittle off your face as she screams out moral indignation.
So the pro-abortion lobby is correct when it says that pro-lifers are trying to impose their morality on others. But those who are pro-abortion are also trying to impose their morality on others:
All rights imply obligations on the part of others, and all obligations impose a moral perspective on others, to make them act in a certain way. Thus, the abortion rights advocate, by saying that the pro-lifer is obligated not to interfere with the free choice of the pregnant mother to kill her unborn offspring, is imposing his moral perspective on the pro-lifer who believes it is her duty to rescue the unborn because those beings are fully human and hence deserve, like all human beings, our society’s protection. Therefore, every right, whether it is the right to life or the right to an abortion, imposes some moral perspective on others to either act or not act in a certain way 59
Everything depends on which value system you subscribe to.
Once you get through the camouflaging polemics, what is clear about the abortion debate is that the two positions are irreconcilable. Put simply, those who are pro-abortion are saying, “If you don’t like abortion, don’t have one.” But to pro-lifers this sounds like, “If you don’t like murder, don’t commit one.” At that level of the debate, there can be no compromises. This is what happened 150 years ago when half of America was saying, “If you don’t like slavery, don’t own one.” On such a fundamental question like abortion or slavery there is room for only one position within one system of laws. America will either be all pro-life, or all pro-abortion. Lincoln was smart enough to see the fundamental disjunction over slavery in the 1850s. Unfortunately, conservatives refuse to see the fundamental disjunction over abortion today. The egalitarians are not so blind, or so cowardly. They are making plans for an America without conservatives. Listen to Peter Singer: “During the next thirty-five years the traditional view of the sanctity of human life will collapse under the pressure from scientific, technological, and demographic developments. By 2040, it may be that only a rump of hard-core, know-nothing, religious fundamentalists will defend the view that every human life, from conception to death, is sacrosanct.”60 If present trends continue, Singer is exactly correct.
Chapter 3 References
1. James McPherson, Battle Cry of Freedom, (New York: Oxford University Press, 1988) p. 465-466
2. George E. Baker, ed. The Works of William H. Seward, 5 vols. (New York, 1853-84) IV, pp. 282-292
3. John Locke, Two Treatise on Government, (1690) e.d. (London: J.M. Dent, 1993) pp 116, 117, 226, 227, 158
4. Ibid., p. 194
5. Michael J. Sandel, Liberalism and the Limits of Justice, (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1982, 1998) p. 29
6. John Stuart Mill, Autobiography, (Penguin Classics, 1989) pp. 66-69
7. Judith Jarvis Thomson, “A Defense of Abortion,” in The Abortion Controversy: Twenty-Five Years After Roe v. Wade, (Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Publishing, 1998) Poijman And Beckwith pp. 117-118
8. Ibid., p 119
9. Ibid., p 120
10. Ibid., p 121
11. Ibid., p 121
12. Ibid., p 123
13. Ibid. p. 125
14. Ibid. p.125
15. Ibid., pp 129-130
16. Ibid., p 130
17. Mary Ann Warren, “On the Moral and Legal Status of Abortion,” in The Ethics of Abortion, (New York: Prometheus Books, 2001) Baird and Rosenbaum
20. Michael Tooley, “In Defense of Abortion and Infanticide,” in The Ethics of Abortion, (New York: Prometheus Books, 2001) Baird and Rosenbaum
22. Francis J. Beckwith, Politically Correct Death: Answering the Argument for Abortion Rights (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1993) Chapter 7
23. Catherine MacKinnon, “Roe v. Wade: A Study in Male Ideology,” in The Abortion Controversy: Twenty-Five Years After Roe v. Wade, Poijman And Beckwith p.98
24. Ibid., pp 96-97
25. Sally Markowitz, “A Feminist Defense of Abortion,” in The Abortion Controversy: Twenty-Five Years After Roe v. Wade, Poijman And Beckwith, pp. 394-398
26.Naomi Wolf, “Our Bodies, Our Souls,” in The New Republic, 16 Oct 1995
29. Mortimer J. Adler, Haves Without Have-Nots: Essays for the 20th Century on Democracy and Socialism, (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1991) p. 210
30. Laurence H. Tribe, Abortion: The Clash of Absolutes, (Norton, 1992) p.210
32. Dr. Bernard Nathanson, The Abortion Papers: Inside the Abortion Mentality, (New York, Frederick Fell, Inc. 1983) p. 150
33. Ibid. pp. 150-151
34. Tooley, “A Defense of Abortion and Infanticide”
35. Warren, “On the Moral and Legal Status of Abortion”
36. Pollack Petchesky, Abortion and Women’s Choice, (Boston, Northeastern University Press, 1990) p. 350
37. Stephen Swartz, “Personhood Begins at Conception,” in The Moral Question of Abortion, (Sophia Institute Press, 1990), p. 265
38. Warren, “On the Moral and Legal Status of Abortion”
39. Don Marquis, “Why Abortion is Immoral,” in The Abortion Controversy: Twenty-Five Years After Roe v. Wade, Poijman And Beckwith, p341
40. Ibid., pp. 339-354
41. Constitutional Commentary 2, (Summer 1986) p. 519
42. John T. Noonan, "How to Argue About Abortion," in Morality in Practice (Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Publishing, 1998) p. 150
43. Thomson, “A Defense of Abortion”, p. 125
44. Cardinal John Henry Newman, Apologia pro vita sua, (1864) in The Ethics of Abortion, (New York, Prometheus Books, 2001) Baird and Rosenbaum
45. McPherson, Battle Cry of Freedom, pp. 598-599
46. Dent v. West Virginia, 129 U.S. 144 (1889)
47. Preface to the Chapter “Due Process,” in Corpus Jurus Secundum
48. Morrissey v. Brewer, 408 U.S. 471 (1972)
49. Kramer v. Union Free School District, 395 U.S. 621 (1969)
50. L. Powell Belanger, Prisoner’s Survival Guide, p. 209 (P.S.I. Publishing, 2001)
51. Roe v. Wade
53. Sandel, Liberalism and the Limits of Justice, p. 175
54. Ibid. p. 179
55. Ibid. pp. 179-180
56. Lochner v. New York
57. Roe v. Wade
58. Webster v. Reproductive Health Services
59. Francis J. Beckwith, “Pluralism, Tolerance, and Abortion Rights,” in Politically Correct Death: Answering the Arguments For Abortion Rights, Chapter 5 (1993)
60. National Review, (March 9, 2007)
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