The Christmas season isn”t easy for those of us on the secular left. On the one hand we find ourselves in the midst of this awful orgy of consumption and commercialization. On the other hand, the capitalistic revelry at least distracts people from paying too much attention to the bogus spiritual fantasy that acts as the supposed impetus behind “The Most Wonderful Time of the Year.”
So it”s at times like these that I like to spread my personal confusion by revealing some uncomfortable contradictions I detect in people who are ideologically aligned with two of my very favorite political positions: The hard-core, right wing, laissez-faire property rights advocate position and the hard-core pro-life position. Guess what? You can”t be both.
Still, there are a lot of people who think you can be for examples think aspiring Christian Mullahs like Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson and most mainstream, tow-the-party-line Republicans. Here”s why you can”t be a pro-life strong property rights advocate:
Let”s start by granting (I think wrongly) the pro-lifers one of their principal points that a fetus is a person in the moral sense. That is, fetuses are entitled to all of the moral considerations society usually accords to anybody else.
Let”s also assume something that almost everyone who believes in the free market agrees with that property rights actually exist. It follows from this that if anyone is capable of having a “right” to own anything, it ought to be his or her own body.
With these two premises established, we can already see a conflict a-brewin”. If I have property rights to, say, a piece of pizza, that means I can do whatever I want with that piece of pizza so long as it does not conflict with anyone else”s rights. I can eat it, I can give it to a homeless person, I can just let it sit around and watch mold grow all over it it”s my decision, and I am under no obligation to choose any particular method to dispose of my piece of pizza. If you take my piece of pizza away from me without my permission, regardless of how noble your motives are (feeding the homeless for example) then that means you have violated my property rights.
The problem for pro-lifers who believe in a strict conception of property rights is that a woman”s body must function in the exact same way for them that my piece of pizza does for me. She is free to use it as she pleases, and she is under no obligation whatsoever to use it to help anyone else, even if it would keep a cute li”l clump o” cells alive.
Of course, the laissez-faire pro-lifer might try to argue that, by having intercourse, a woman implicitly accepts the possibility that she might become pregnant, and that in doing so, she enters into some sort of contract with any potential zygote whereby she promises to bring it to term. This would, however, be a pretty strange contract, since every contract that I”m aware of requires that both parties enter into it voluntarily and an “unwanted pregnancy” is, by definition, not voluntary.
The only way I can see this argument working (maybe) is if it applied some sort of statute of limitations on the decision to have an abortion. This would apply to cases where, if a woman doesn”t decide to terminate the pregnancy in so many weeks/months, she implicitly enters into a contract with the fetus to bring it to term. However, since pro-lifers are against abortion at any point in the pregnancy, this is a moot point.
Therefore, to be consistent, our laissez-faire-loving pro-lifer either has to seriously rethink his or her conception of property rights or he or she has to join the Satanic legions of pro-choicers (bruhahahahaha!). I tend to think that people who take generally principled positions like being pro-life would be more inclined to drop their allegiance to property rights.
When you think about it, however, the pro-life conception of property rights is probably going to look pretty radical. Here is a position that says that even that which we have the most solemn claim of control over (our body) ought to be confiscated (at least for nine months) for the good of another. Following this logic, then, it would seem that the needy also ought to be able to confiscate those things which people have significantly less solemn control over (like discretionary income, inheritance, etc.) for the greater good. A consistent pro-lifer, then, ought to be clamoring for at least all of the features of the traditional welfare state (universal health care, unemployment benefits, access to education at all levels, etc.) since he or she must accept the premise that property rights are flexible in the pursuit of the greater good.
It”s worth noting that a lot of pro-lifers already realize this and act accordingly in the political arena. That said, many (probably most in this country) do not if they”re going to be such staunch opponents of “murderous” institutions, they”d be well advised not to pick and choose which ones their consciences tell them to oppose.
Nick Woomer can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.