A new direction for American conservatives

It’s time to end the post mortem and get moving, the only problem being that “getting moving” is proving to be as rancorous amongst conservatives as was the political cycle itself.  One of the schisms I’m seeing in my own blog is between pro-Life and pro- (or, at least, not anti-) abortion types.  That got me thinking about a potential way out of that, which was something that Danny Lemieux raised in an email:  libertarianism.

I have to say that, when I was growing up, the term libertarian had exactly the same meaning for me as “completely nuts in a creepy way.”  Ron Paul’s candidacy, which attracted an unseemly number of unpleasant people and ideas, didn’t help the whole concept of libertarianism.  In fact, though, libertarianism is probably about as good an answer as there is, whether your question is “How do we counter Obama’s statism?” or “How do we cause the disparate elements of conservatism to coalesce?”

If you want an excellent primer on core libertarian principles, you can’t do better than Charles Murray’s What It Means to Be a Libertarian.  In this short little book (almost a pamphlet, really), Murray spells out the fundamental libertarian concept, which is that maximum freedom means minimum government — and especially minimum federal government.

Contrary to big-government aficionados, who envision libertarianism as a sort of anarchic situation, akin to a perpetual Lord of the Flies world, Murray does not demand that government vanish.  Instead, as I’ve often said here (inspired, no doubt, by Murray’s book), he envisions government as an entity that doesn’t guarantee prosperity, but that clears the way for individuals to seek that prosperity.  When you think about this concept, you’ll quickly realize that it sounds familiar:  it echoes Jefferson’s formulation of a free society as one in which the government creates the circumstances under which citizens are guaranteed, not happiness, but the right to pursue happiness.

In this libertarian world, government continues to be responsible for national security; domestic safety (which includes police forces, fire fighters, and guidance and protection during epidemic and endemic diseases); transportation infrastructure; and the assurance that no single group is targeted for discrimination in any of the marketplaces that make up a functional country (business, housing, education, etc.).  As to that last, government would be charged with protecting citizens such as women and minorities from discrimination, but it would no longer use its brute force to give them a leg up in the marketplace.

Because the country is so large as to be unwieldy, we can also hand government a few more powers:  it can make and enforce clear, limited rules for the securities market, but it may not control the market;* it can provide a safety net for those temporarily down on their luck; and it can provide resources for people permanently incapable of taking care of themselves (such as the profoundly handicapped).

Once upon a time, I would have said that the government should also provide public school education, but I’m more inclined to say that the (state) government should use tax dollars to provide vouchers to parents who can then enter the marketplace in a search for the education of their choice.  In this marketplace, those vouchers may, in the first few years, be used for some pretty flaky and abhorrent schools.  However, the fact that most parents want their children to succeed in the world would mean that the flaky schools would quickly vanish from the marketplace as their graduates would likely not do well in market competition.  (And before you get upset about the poor guinea pig kids who are unlucky enough to have parents who make bad choices, think about the generations of children who have been condemned to the hell of poorly-performing public schools.)

There’s also an argument to be made for government to get out of the business of education altogether, but I can see that turning into a situation such as existed in the world before public education:  only affluent people got educated.  As a republic, I do believe we owe all of our children the right to a good education.  Since the government is proving increasingly inept at providing that education, however, I just think we should let the marketplace take over.

The libertarianism I envision would also bypass the gay marriage issue which is becoming every more ugly.  (And, really, do you think harassment and intimidation is really the way to win hearts and minds?)  I would get the government out of the “marriage” business entirely and make everything “civil unions.”

Owing to the fact that, up until the American experiment, religious and civil marriage were inextricably intertwined, we’ve ended up with a bastardized system that uses the word marriage, but that is really concerned with extending certain civil benefits to those formalized relationships of which the state approves.  These are relationships that, in gross (even if it is not true for every specific relationship) confer a benefit on the state.  The most obvious benefit, of course, is population stability through children.

In addition to these civil concerns, marriage continues to exist in a parallel world as a purely religious construct.  In Catholicism, for example, its part of core religious doctrine, and is, I understand, one of the seven sacraments.

If we continue to conflate religious marriage and civil unions, I can readily envision a situation in which a gay couple sues the Catholic church for refusing to conduct a marriage ceremony.  Someone I know said this will never happen, because the Catholic church isn’t sued for refusing to give communion to pro-abortion people.  This erroneous argument shows precisely the problem with conflating civil rights and religious doctrine.  While abortion is a right, the church isn’t in the business of giving abortions; and while the church is in the business of giving communion, communion isn’t a right.  However, the church is in the business of presiding over marriages and if you make civil “marriage” a right, even though you’re dealing with two entirely different concepts (a religious sacrament and a civil contract for tax and other benefits), you end up with a sued church.

In my libertarian world, the state would stop using the word marriage altogether and would allow people to register for civil unions.  These civil unions would confer on the participants all the benefits and burdens that the state feels would best encourage such unions.  And the state traditionally encourages these unions (1) because of children (every state needs citizens) and, due to those same children, (2) because of the stability those couples seek to create in order to protect those children both in the present and in the future.  Frankly, the civil unions would look pretty much like modern civil marriages, but we would have gotten the state disentangled from its hangover relationship with religious marriage.  We would also force the state to focus on societal goals in defining civil unions, which should allow us to bypass polygamy, polyamory and bestiality, all of which are tugging on the coat tails of “gay” marriage.

The approach I’ve outlined above also takes the federal government out of the abortion issue.  As a voter, you would not need to investigate a candidate’s stand on the abortion issue.  Instead, a solid conservative/libertarian citizen would simply vote for a candidate who would, in turn, appoint strict constructionist judges.  These judges, if they’re intellectually honest, would say, as should have been said in 1973, that abortion is not a Constitutional right and therefore not a federal matter.

Once abortion is returned to local jurisdictions, citizens will have much more control over the issue, with those who are pro-Choice gravitating to states that allow less fettered abortion and those who are pro-Life gathering in jurisdictions with more fettered abortion.  Time will tell which geographic areas are physically and emotionally healthier, more stable, more productive, more affluent, and generally more agreeable.

I realize that what I’m proposing is somewhat revolutionary, since it envisions dismantling large sectors of the federal government.  And indeed, after several years of unfettered Democratic rule, there will be even more sectors to dismantle.  Nevertheless, it’s a template that can bring the largest number of people into the conservative tent because it’s basic message is clear and attractive:  You need to give just enough money to the government so that it can provide a safe, stable, fair environment that takes care of its weakest members.  After that, all the choices are yours.


*As a lawyer who has had the misfortunate to do some securities work, I can tell you that the plethora of extraordinarily confusing and poorly written regulations (both state and federal) does little to protect the “widows and orphans,” but it does make lawyers rich, all the while keeping businesses from maximizing their profitability.

Cross-posted at Right Wing News

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  • http://neomodernism.net Huan

    like the definition of marriage, for now abortion issues should be left to the states

  • http://neomodernism.net Huan

    Rove however had this to say on the topic:
    <blockquote<9. Culture matters. Suggestions that we abandon social conservatism, including our pro-life agenda, should be ignored. These values are often more popular than the GOP itself. The age of sonograms has made younger voters a more pro-life generation. And California and Florida approved marriage amendments while McCain lost both states. Republicans, in championing our values agenda, need to come across as morally serious rather than as judgmental. More than 4 million Americans who go to church more than once a week and voted in 2004 stayed home in 2008. They represented half the margin between Obama and McCain.

  • http://neomodernism.net Huan

    Rove however had this to say on the topic:

    9. Culture matters. Suggestions that we abandon social conservatism, including our pro-life agenda, should be ignored. These values are often more popular than the GOP itself. The age of sonograms has made younger voters a more pro-life generation. And California and Florida approved marriage amendments while McCain lost both states. Republicans, in championing our values agenda, need to come across as morally serious rather than as judgmental. More than 4 million Americans who go to church more than once a week and voted in 2004 stayed home in 2008. They represented half the margin between Obama and McCain.

  • sevesteen

    I’m curious about your view of allowable civil union–By defining it in terms of family and children, it sounds like you would be restricting it to a man and woman–Am I misreading this? That is at best misusing libertarian principles to get a non-libertarian goal. I would agree that government should not be in the marriage business, but a civil union should be a contract between two people, exchanging certain rights and responsibilities. The government could define the “standard contract”, but leave people free to do their own. I don’t see much validity in a government interest in marriage, and a better track to take would be to eliminate most of the benefits and non-personal privileges.

    Education is an area where I’ve got problems with traditional libertarian views. I don’t think we “owe” it to individual children, but education is a form of infrastructure. I am better off if most everyone else is educated to a reasonable minimum. I want smart people running the country, both in government and business. I don’t know the best way to do that–I’m not happy with the control that federally-funded schools give in the message that’s taught. I don’t think there is a conspiracy, but I think schools bias towards teaching reliance on authority rather than self reliance. (I think this is primarily due to the type of people who choose to work in a school bureaucracy)

    Most libertarians say that control of your own body is a basic right, therefore women have the right to abortion, and a fetus does not have the right to demand the use of a womb. It is an issue that is nearly impossible to compromise on–I am on the libertarian side here, but I think I understand the conservative view. Something that would help with the perception of abortion being a neo-con, religious based issue would be to back off on abstinence only education, and promote fully informed education, including safer sex, birth control, and the risks, failure rates and side effects. This should be done clinically, and it should be clear that most of the value judgments are not appropriate for schools to teach.

    Our government and especially the federal is at least twice as big as it should be, and possibly 3 or 4 times larger. (I’m not counting military here, I don’t know what size they should be) Cutting funding is the best way to keep it down to a proper size.

  • Synova

    I disagree very strongly, sevesteen.

    Marriage benefits society at *least* as much as educating children benefits society. It’s not just that marriages offer the best place to raise children who aren’t maladjusted hoodlums, but that the basic family unit provides hundreds of *billions* of dollars in unpaid caretaker labor every year. This is a huge reason that it does matter to you and to me that our neighbors and our communities are made up of the economic units we call families. There are three ways to get a family… reproduce, adopt, or marry. In any case the permanence of the family is what defines it. The connection and responsibilities between family members, between you and your parents, grandparents, cousins, aunts and uncles, your siblings and your children are *permanent*. Which is why marriage vows are what they are, ’til death do us part.

    Hundreds of billions of dollars a year of labor that does *not* have to be provided by you or me or the state with our taxes.

    Now, the State could get out of the marriage business (and it’s just about broke it anyhow, by now) but it would also have to be willing to let people go hang if they didn’t get along with others well enough to get other people to voluntarily care for them when they are ill, or infants, or whatever. And that might work. But until the STATE is out of the WELFARE business, getting out of the marriage and family business means picking up a huge bill for caretaking.

    Education on the other hand is simpler. Parents and families really can be trusted to educate their children, just as they are trusted to feed them and teach them values. And even when they don’t, state education has shown zero ability to make up the difference. School success still depends on parental involvement, no matter the efforts at school, if children are not taught values and honesty at home, they are not taught it. By all objective measures that I’ve ever seen, compulsory schools do nothing to make up for hopeless parents. The only thing that actually happens is that good parent’s jobs are made more difficult and children learn to resist learning and accept warehousing. It’s understandable to worry that uneducated children will impact our own lives, but it’s irrational to think that the answer is compulsory public schooling. If the use of tax money to provide educations simply must happen, then vouchers and parental control offer the best outcomes, encouraging innovation and parental involvement as well as the coherent teaching of morals and ethics (rather than teachers trying to undermine parents.)

    And I really just have to ask… how do you figure that a fetus doesn’t have the right to demand a womb? On what grounds? Did the fetus do anything whatsoever to come into existence so that it needed a womb? No. Not a thing. The fetus in no way whatsoever imposed itself on its mother. In the absence of rape or coercion, the mother made that choice. The fetus did not. Once, by the mother’s free choice a fetus *needs* a womb, how does it not have the right to demand one?

    Libertarian principles are that humans do not have the right to take another life, do harm to another person, steal their stuff, or coerce them. Here, just like with abortion from a religious perspective, the issue is – do you view the distinct human life of the unborn as being life that matters or not, and at what point do you believe it changes from not deserving protection to deserving protection.

    If fetuses *imposed* themselves unwanted on women, it would be different.

    Lastly, the issue of sex education would be entirely solved by school vouchers and school choice. You don’t have the right to impose your idea of the *right* way to teach chidlren about sex on anyone but your very own children.

  • http://bookwormroom.com Bookworm

    Sevesteen — Take away religion and marriage has always been about two things: children and property. Procreation (to create citizens) and property (to smooth the transfer of wealth, enrich the nation, and provide for those little citizens) are still the engines that drive civil unions in this country. However, we don’t make it a prerequisite that married couples have children or that they transfer their wealth to each other or any other thing. Those are simply the civic virtues they encourage. That is, the benefits that flow from civil marriage (automatic recognition that children belong to both partners in the union; the presumption that an estate passes from one partner to another) could apply to any civil union the state is going to recognize, provided that union as the potential to enrich the state, both in terms of population and wealth (and stability, I guess).

    I’m being a little bit garbled here, I know, but if we phrase all of this in terms of state’s rights, rather than natural rights, it becomes clearer what benefits and burdens the state wants to extend. And if people have no interest in starting a family or passing wealth, they can still have a religious ceremony, but they don’t need to do the state stuff.

    Clearly, I’m feeling around with this idea, but I do think it would be a good idea to disentangle “marriage,” which has a religious and moral connotation, from “civil union,” which looks to civil benefits and burdens for both state and citizenry.

  • Synova

    In case there is confusion… choosing to use mind altering substances or choosing to take a chance without birth control and ending up with an *unwanted* pregnancy is still choice and not a case, at all, of a fetus imposing itself on a woman and demanding the use of a womb.

  • Synova

    Churches now are free to perform marriages for homosexual couples, and some of them do.

    Having two ceremonies, a church wedding and a trip to the courthouse, is common in some countries. It would not be a difficult change to make.

    I have friends who got married by a judge to get on the military base housing list because the list was so long… they didn’t consider themselves married until they had their church wedding and by that time they had quarters to move into.

    Not a big conceptual change.

  • sevesteen


    Maybe I’m dense, but I’m not closer to understanding whether your civil unions would be available to same-sex couples. I’m always suspicious when a political yes or no question is answered in a paragraph that doesn’t contain a clear yes or no.


    Marriage is going to happen, with or without government, the question is how much does it get involved? How does gay marriage or civil union, or whatever you want to call it weaken “proper” marriage? People who didn’t have a piece of paper from the government would refuse to care for their family?

    Debating abortion is unlikely to change minds, at least among the people who already have opinions strong enough to debate. It is where conservatives and libertarians are going to have the hardest time getting along. The question to me is defining when it is human (or human enough), and when do its rights become more than the woman who is carrying it. Abortion is something to be avoided and discouraged, but it doesn’t rise to the level of a crime early enough in the pregnancy.

    Public schools should continue to exist, and they will need a basic curriculum. I don’t know any facts that should be off limits, and I can’t think of any justification not based in religion for avoiding the clinical facts of reproduction . Most parents will educate their children–Those aren’t the ones we need to worry about. There are so-called parents who are too lazy, and without some compulsion won’t bother. It is important that as many people as possible are reasonably literate, have basic math skills, a low-level understanding of civics, history and science.

    There are families who just won’t bother with education without compulsion, While their kids will likely never be rocket scientists, our system is better than nothing–Most of them will at least learn to read and add. I haven’t made up my mind about vouchers–Do they improve outcomes, or do they primarily go to people who would send their kids to private schools anyhow?

  • Mike Devx

    Synova (#5)
    >> And I really just have to ask… how do you figure that a fetus doesn’t have the right to demand a womb? On what grounds? Did the fetus do anything whatsoever to come into existence so that it needed a womb? No. Not a thing. The fetus in no way whatsoever imposed itself on its mother. In the absence of rape or coercion, the mother made that choice. The fetus did not. Once, by the mother’s free choice a fetus *needs* a womb, how does it not have the right to demand one?

    If fetuses *imposed* themselves unwanted on women, it would be different. >>

    My comment here really has no place in the discussion. (Excellent post, I thought, Synova, by the way!)

    But Synova’s comment excerpt, above, caused me to have a brainflash for a truly horrifying sci-fi/fantasy short story plot.

    Human conception has recently taken a sudden shocking mutational turn, the cause of which no one can yet determine. The result of sperm/ovum fusing results within minutes of a zygote with a hard shell that drops out of the vagina and grows into egg that eventually hatches into an intermediate organism that is not recognizably human. It consists of a tough protein sheath with pseudopods that allow it to creep along the ground, usually slowly but for seconds can “creep” at a high rate of speed, and can survive like this for three days. It must find a human female – apparently via powerful chemical receptors – and insert itself into the vagina and attach itself to the vaginal wall, shedding its protein sheath and then completing the formerly-normal development cycle of becoming a human fetus. The intermediate organism hides from the sun and usually performs this search at night, preferring to locate a sleeping female.

    Yikes. I probably shouldn’t even have posted this. What does it say about me that Synova’s last statement above (fetuses imposing themselves unwanted upon women) prompted such a nightmarish short story concept?

    The horror story would probably be about a thoroughly amoral man who has decided he wants a child while his wife does not; and he keeps deliberately short-circuiting the home protections against the organisms’ surreptitious efforts to gain access to the home at night. Her efforts to search the home for any hiding organism – just wait til you sleep at night should you miss one! He starts with a window “accidentally” left open and proceeds through ever sneakier efforts, including a knife cut in her protective tent around her bed, eventually to … ?


    Seriously, though, pro-abortion forces seem to view a fetus as a pre-human object with no rights. As someone (SueK?) pointed out in another thread, in protecting an endangered species such as the Bald Eagle, we make it a crime not only to kill a Bald Eagle, but also to destroy Bald Eagle eggs. Surely the inconsistency in holding those two positions simultaneously is breathtaking.

    Book once posted the traditional rabbinical teaching on abortion which I found very thoughtful and insightful. It seems like a very useful compromise, if compromise we must.

  • suek

    >>I’m not closer to understanding whether your civil unions would be available to same-sex couples. >>

    Civil unions are currently available to gay couples in California. Nevertheless, they want “marriage”. Why? What does “marriage” provide that “civil union” does not?

    My question is as before when we’ve discussed this – what is the State’s interest? Why does the State have any activity in this at all? maybe if we can delineate the State’s interest and rationale for registering, licensing, or any other function, maybe it will become apparent what the State should or should not be doing. Maybe the State shouldn’t be involved at all.

  • suek

    >>Churches now are free to perform marriages for homosexual couples, and some of them do.>>

    I suspect that if marriage is made “legal” there might be basis for suits requiring that churches perform marriages for gay couples for homosexual couples if they also perform marriages for heterosexual couples. In other words…gays want to force religions to recognize their relationships as acceptable as well.

    So much for freedom of religion.

  • Mike Devx

    Book says,
    >> The approach I’ve outlined above also takes the federal government out of the abortion issue. […] a solid conservative/libertarian citizen would simply vote for a candidate who would, in turn, appoint strict constructionist judges. […] abortion is not a Constitutional right and therefore not a federal matter. >>

    I view abortion as a part of the larger issue of “the culture of life” vs “the culture of death”.

    In the end I agree completely with Book’s viewpoint: We should agree, on conservative principles, to overturn Roe v Wade and return the issue to the states, and let the battles be fought there. My reasons revolve around the cultures of life vs death, and how our legislative approaches address these cultures.

    Capital punishment: The issue sits with the states, which allow it or deny it.
    Assisted suicide: The issue sits with the states, which allow it or deny it.

    Keeping abortion as a federal (national government) issue resides solely on the idea that abortion involves a fundamental civil right.

    On the left, some believe abortion must be legal – for all Americans – because it is a civil right for women.

    On the right, some believe abortion must be illegal – for all Americans – because life is a civil right for the fetus.

    If we agree to return the issue to the states, then we are placing it outside the arena of civil rights, and making it purely an issue of “quality of life”, with profound moral implications for the quality of that state’s society. Not as a civil rights issue. And due to those profound moral implications, as with assisted suicide and capital punishment, the issue would be still fought intensely.

    So, yes, I agree, that the conservative position should best be: Let us agree to return the abortion issue to the states, because abortion is not a civil rights issue, but rather it is an issue with profound moral implications for the society we live in, and such non-civil-rights issues we leave to the states.

  • suek

    >>Surely the inconsistency in holding those two positions simultaneously is breathtaking.>>

    Nearly as breathtaking as the murder trial where the prosecutor demanded the death penalty for the murder of the man’s wife and her unborn fetus as two murders, and thus qualifying for the death penalty, when in fact, if the woman had chosen to go to a clinic the same day her fetus died with her, it would have been legal for her to abort it.

    There have been other cases in California where a person is tried for murder of a fetus, when it would have been legal for the woman carrying the baby to abort it. So the underlying principle seems to be that if the woman _wants_ the baby (at least today), then killing it is murder. The same identical baby can be killed with impunity if the mother _doesn’t_ want it.

    Murder or choice depends on the whim of the woman. Human or not human depends on a whim. Talk about protecting minority rights!!

  • http://OgBlog.net Earl

    Let’s start with the science: when an egg is fertilized by a sperm, a new human being comes in to existence. This is beyond question, and any further discussion can only be about when we are going to give this new human being the same rights that other human beings enjoy.

    I hold (along with a significant minority of my fellow libertarians) that ALL human beings have the same rights. The right not to be killed is one of these, for any innocent human being, regardless of age, developmental stage, or ability/disability.

    And, with ALL of my fellow libertarians, I hold that the fundamental job of the state is to enforce this right to life against those who would violate it because they are stronger than I am.

    If the pregnancy is a threat to the mother’s life (as in a tubal implantation) then the right of self defense comes into play, and abortion is licit and should not be forbidden by the State. Every citizen has the right to protect his/her life against another.

    Rape and incest resulting in pregnancy are tragedies, and the unborn baby is an innocent, but what to do is really problematic. I think that most would say the State must not intervene, and that may be the right answer. Others say that it’s more like a stowaway situation – where the owner of the yacht may not simply throw the stowaway overboard, but must deliver him to a place of reasonable safety.

    Seems to me that if we had a just regime of law protecting the life of every human being under the same rules, the argument over rape and incest would be fairly small potatoes. The testimony of those who have had abortions after a rape ought to be considered very carefully in making these decisions.

    Finally……I argue very strongly against ANY attempt to divide the human race into groups with different sets of rights. Doesn’t reading history tell us enough to make us more cautious? We lost 600,000 Americans establishing the principle that black and white isn’t a valid distinction in assigning rights. We killed millions world-wide to establish the same principle about Aryan and non-Aryan. Why is it so hard to see that this principle applies at least as strongly to born and unborn?

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  • Synova

    “There are so-called parents who are too lazy, and without some compulsion won’t bother.”

    And what percentage of the population is that?

    Is it worth the disincentives associated with compulsion just to catch up those few? Are those few worth a proven negative result for everyone else, for the vast majority?

    In truth, I think the parent who must be forced is a myth. It’s a myth promoted by a system that actively encourages parental apathy. Assuming the availability of education, why would a lazy parent want their child underfoot all day? So he or she can do farm labor? Maybe this was an issue for schools a century ago… now farmers go to universities.

    Also… if reading and doing sums is a good enough argument to force these parents to send their children to school, might I ask… how long do you think it actually takes to teach a person to read and do sums? Take a person who has average intelligence and no learning disabilities… they speak the language just fine… and teach them to read and do sums. It would take several months to a year for fluency. Tops.

    If reading and sums is a justification for compelling public education, there is still no way it possibly justifies 12 years of internment.

  • sevesteen

    I’m having a hard time translating my thoughts here into something others can understand.

    I consider myself libertarian, and I certainly support the majority of Bookworm’s proposals–If a candidate were to express those as his primary platform, it would be closer to what I believe than any major candidate in any election I’ve voted. I used to consider myself barely liberal, mostly because I didn’t know enough about Libertarian philosophy, partly because I grew up in a liberal family (my parents worked on the McGovern campaign against Nixon). Part of the reason was also the religious and sexual intolerance that many conservatives want to legislate.

    The whole tone of comments is an example of why many who are overall sympathetic to conservative ideas don’t support conservatives more. Abortion was mentioned in 2 paragraphs out of 16 in the original post, but most of the comments are focusing on that rather than trying to find core principles of a coalition to fight Obama’s statism.

  • Mike Devx

    Sevesteen (#17)

    If you took a similar liberal position paper that had two paragraphs on what the best position on abortion is… and you started comments on abortion, it would take over that comment thread as well. Abortion is simply that contentious an issue, and people are that widely divided about it. And the divisions are not simply “A” and “B”, but there are many divisions.

    I’d like to add that if what I wrote in #13 seemed unduly harsh, it was meant to be.
    I believe this statement was very fair but harsh in its simplicity:

    >> On the right, some believe abortion must be illegal – for all Americans – because life is a civil right for the fetus. […] So, yes, I agree, that the conservative position should best be: Let us agree to return the abortion issue to the states. >>

    I hope we are all clear what we asking that group of conservatives to give up!
    I believe Earl has written above, in #15, brilliantly in summarizing that position.
    By giving up all the rights of humanity – in making it NOT a national civil rights issue – this group of conservatives would be giving up something they consider sacred and inviolate.

    That is likely to be too much to ask, and it is to Earl’s credit that he was able to write without bitterness and anger spilling over.

    (Earl, if I’m putting words in your mouth that aren’t true, I apologize! It does appear to me that you are the group that considers the life of the fetus, and all of its human rights therefore, to be inviolable and sacred, from the moment of conception. And that is a purely valid position; in fact it is the most consistent and defensible of all positions that are based on principle. All other positions take some amount of expediency into their formulation.)

    Based on what Earl wrote, I myself am of the opinion that the national conservative movement will always have a strong group that advocates that abortion be illegal nationwide, period. And to the extent that this group is shunned by the conservative movement, they will abandon the conservative movement. Simply stating that we will return this issue to the states won’t be enough – we have to indicate more strongly than that what our position will be in the fight across all fifty states. And even that might not be enough to keep us together.

  • http://OgBlog.net Earl

    To sevesteen: It’s not hard to explain….we can’t establish a just society
    if the Federal government is going to allow the States to violate the most fundamental right – that to life – of an entire class of human beings.

    Again, anyone reading history ought to be having a “deja vu” moment here…..for many, the big “solution” to the slavery question was going to be “let the States decide”. But, letting the States decide whether or not to allow the enslavement of black human beings was to prejudge that black people were not fully human and did not have the same rights as the rest of us humans.

    Likewise, allowing the States to decide whether to protect unborn humans from being killed is to prejudge the situation – saying that the unborn are not fully human and do not have the same rights as the rest of us humans.

    Compared to this, “gay marriage” (about which I have very definite opinions) is simply not that important – which is why many of us choose to focus on those “two paragraphs” rather than the other 14.

  • http://OgBlog.net Earl

    For those who want to read the libertarian case against abortion, see http://www.l4l.org/

    The Libertarian Case Against Abortion

    One popular misconception is that libertarianism as a political principle supports choice on abortion. And major elements within the libertarian movement (the Libertarian Party, for example) take abortion-choice stands. Nonetheless, libertarianism’s basic principle is that each of us has the obligation not to aggress against (violate the rights of) anyone else — for any reason (personal, social, or political), however worthy. That is a clearly pro-life principle. Recognizing that, and seeing the abortion-choice drift within the libertarian movement, Libertarians for Life was founded in 1976 to show why abortion is a wrong under justice, not a right.

    We see our mission as presenting the pro-life case to libertarians and the libertarian case to pro-lifers. Among supporters of LFL, some of us are members of the Libertarian Party, some are not. Some are religious, some are not. (Doris Gordon, our Founder and Coordinator, is a Jewish atheist.) Our reasoning is expressly scientific and philosophical rather than either pragmatic or religious, or merely political or emotional.

    To explain and defend our case, LFL argues that:

    1. Human offspring are human beings, persons from conception, whether that takes place as natural or artificial fertilization, by cloning, or by any other means.

    2. Abortion is homicide — the killing of one person by another.

    3. One’s right to control one’s own body does not allow violating the obligation not to aggress. There is never a right to kill an innocent person. Prenatally, we are all innocent persons.

    4. A prenatal child has the right to be in the mother’s body. Parents have no right to evict their children from the crib or from the womb and let them die. Instead both parents, the father as well as the mother, owe them support and protection from harm.

    5. No government, nor any individual, has a just power to legally “de-person” any one of us, born or preborn.

    6. The proper purpose of the law is to side with the innocent, not against them.

    For more, please read LFL’s literature in the Library.

  • Deana

    Hi sevesteen –

    I understand what you are saying.

    But, as I am sure you have heard before, the issue of abortion is so egregious, so fundamentally wrong in the minds of many conservatives, that it is very difficult for us to consider “dropping” it.

    I agree that it should not be the end-all, be-all of conservative purpose. But in my heart, I know that if we can’t, at a bare-minimum, agree to promote and protect life, our other beliefs aren’t worth as much.

    Liberty is not as valuable if it is not also for the defenseless.

    I really like a lot of what Earl says in his #15 post. Since you appear to be in agreement with most of the other conservative principles, is the abortion issue so fundamental to you that you would NOT be willing to vote for conservatives if they adopted a guiding principle of “promoting and protecting human life?” (And I’m not suggesting that you don’t value life – I’m just wondering how big of a deal this principle would be to you.)



  • sevesteen

    Synova (#16)

    I’m fine with homeschooling, I’m fine with private schools. If a parent has strong objections to public school, there should absolutely be legal alternatives without excessive red tape. By “compulsion” I mean it should be easier for the lazy to just send their kids to public school than to leave them uneducated. I don’t care how kids are educated, as long as enough of them are.

    My minimum standard was somewhat higher than reading and adding, but I think you may be misunderstanding. If your 10 year old has learned enough to graduate a public high school by whatever means, the compulsory part should be over–They have achieved the official goal, and it is the family’s choice how or if their education should continue.

    My wife would not have been allowed to go to school without compulsory education–Her father thought that girls shouldn’t be educated, since the man should be in charge anyhow. There are enough welfare families that wouldn’t bother, and these are the children that need it most. (The fact that there is such a thing as a permanent welfare family is a separate problem)

    Deanna (#21)
    I’m not a single-issue voter, so there are circumstances I’d vote for a pro-life candidate–there aren’t many candidates that support all my most important issues. If a candidate had a position something like “Abortion is wrong, so we need to ensure that every sexually active person has education about and access to effective birth control regardless of age” It is so obvious to me that birth control reduces the need for abortion, it is difficult for me to comprehend logical reasons for being against abortion, while also being against birth control. Too often, a pro-life position is a part of a viewpoint that seems to want to restrict any sex outside a traditional marriage.

  • Deana

    Hi sevesteen –

    Thanks for your response.

    I’m in the health care field and am all about availability of birth control and education. But it seems that there already is a lot of sex education available (although I would argue that it isn’t as honest as it should be in terms of the consequences of unprotected sex and sex outside a long-term committed relationship).

    Sex education is provided in the schools, doctor offices, in books, and on-line. Public health departments destroy forests to print pamphlets, guides, and other documents on sex education. It’s on TV and radio. Short of forcing each American over the age of 12 to sit through annual sex education courses and pass a test, I’m not sure what more we can do to promote more sex education.

    Birth control is pretty cheap. And no one I know who is against abortion is against birth control in large part for the exact reason you say: the proper use of birth control reduces the likelihood of a woman getting herself into a situation where she might consider abortion.

    I know there are people who are against both but they seem (in my opinion) to be pretty small in numbers.

    I guess my problem with this is that it isn’t as if women are in the condition they were 100 years ago. They have the freedom to say no, they and the men have many birth control options, and your average American knows more facts about sex than the average American did in 1908.

    Choices abound nowadays and yet still the idea that women don’t have “choices” is bandied about, without any serious acknowledgment of the myriad of choices that women have and are free to exercise.

    As for restricting sex prior to marriage, I will say this. My personal belief is that it is better to wait. It is something that I think that should be advocated or promoted, along with honest sex education so that if people choose not to wait, they know what they need to know to protect themselves as much as possible.

    But sevesteen – even though we have all sorts of sex education out there right now and cheap birth control, it doesn’t address the fact that with all of this, we still have millions of people who REFUSE to accept RESPONSIBILITY for themselves. They willfully engage in risky behaviors even though they are aware of the consequences and then, when things don’t work out perfectly, they want even more choices, regardless of the fact that they had all these choices beforehand and didn’t make good use of them. And many of them want taxpayers to fund their choices to boot!!

    Look. I’m not trying to say “you’re wrong” or change your mind at all! I’m glad that in terms of supporting conservatives, you agree that abortion is wrong and simply want to see effective education and birth control. It’s just that in my opinion, what you want is already in existence. And if there are a lot of people out there who are sitting on the fence about supporting conservative principles because they want what you say you want regarding sex education and birth control, then I think they should go ahead and join us. There is very little difference between us.


  • http://neomodernism.net Huan

    Abortion is not and should not be a federal issue. It has no place in our constitution and all powers not explicitly given to the feds in the constitution belongs to the state. We should leave it there.

    I would say the same of marriage.
    Having said that, I also think marriage should be a church issue and make civil unions a legal issue. I personally think civil union legal rights should only be given to families (i.e. couples with kids), whether the couple is heterosexual or homosexual).

  • Deana

    Huan –

    I understand the attraction to leaving the abortion issue to the states. However, we as a people came together and declared that “. . . men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

    Personally, I struggle with the idea that any state in the U.S. would deny the right to life and liberty to anyone, particularly those who can’t defend themselves.

    As for the marriage issue: I’d be ok with the civil unions of homosexuals and leaving marriage to the churches but the homosexuals don’t seem to be ok with that. Many (not all) want their lifestyle taught to children in public schools. They teach that anyone who doesn’t agree with their lifestyles is guilty of hate and discrimination.

    Besides, California made a decision and because the people of California didn’t make the decision they wanted, the opponents of Prop. 8 are making life difficult for everyone there and accusing them of being bigots.

    Compromise does not seem to be working on this last issue.


  • sevesteen

    I just realized that I’m talking primarily about teens, making the unconscious and unwarranted assumption that adults will be more responsible than that. I don’t really know the percentage of aborted pregnancies due to birth control failure, negligence or other reasons, or adult vs. minor.

    I don’t think the anti-abortion groups do enough to promote pregnancy control as an alternative. The existence of “abstinence only” education is strong evidence to me that there isn’t enough separation between education and religion.

  • http://OgBlog.net Earl

    to sevesteen:

    The ONLY birth control method without a predictable failure rate is abstinence. If it’s truly important that you not create a child, then the adult decision is not to have intercourse.

    This is true for atheists, as well as for religious people, so how can “separation between education and religion” be an issue?

    Only if the unborn child does not have the right to life, of course, and can be killed at the convenience of the mother.

    But recognizing the humanity of the tiny human being in the womb is *not* dependent on “religion”….it’s a brute fact of biology that many seem determined to ignore.

    This is not new, of course – in virtually every age, there has been a group of human beings whose right to life a group of more powerful human beings wish to deny.

    Seems that we might have learned from history, rather than repeating it.

    If there is a flaw in this analysis, please help us all to see it.

  • Danny Lemieux

    “I don’t think the anti-abortion groups do enough to promote pregnancy control as an alternative.:” – sevesteen.

    What you are overlooking, sevesteen, is that unplanned pregnancies resulting in “abortion” are the result of people (kids, adults) having spur-of-the-moment sex. These people already know plenty about birth control, it is just that most people are, at heart, gamblers and subject to “live in the moment” experiences.

    The other point that has not been addressed in this thread is the tremendous pressures exerted to encourage high-risk behavior, not-only from society at large but especially from the highly lucrative abortion industry ($1.0 billion-plus) and their friends and recipients of lobbying largess on Capitol Hill. These efforts serve discourage any controls on behavior that would reduce unplanned pregnancies.

    To that end, the “abstinence only” movement is only one pathetically small movement of many trying to discourage society’s most vulnerable members from a very destructive behavior, of which pregnancy is only one of the unfortunate and long-lasting consequences.

  • suek

    >>I don’t think the anti-abortion groups do enough to promote pregnancy control as an alternative.>>

    There was a recent article on Fox news which stated that research showed that there was a higher rate of pregnancy among teens who watched sexually explicit material on TV than among those that didn’t. Which makes me wonder – this is sort of a chicken and egg kind of thing – these young women may be watching sexual material because they’re looking for sexual material, or they may be sexually active because they now have a model for behavior…who knows.
    One of the things we have to look at is the balance between presenting sexual material to young people when it might cause them to become sexually active, and _not_ presenting sexual material when they _need_ it.
    The problem with young people is often that they simply don’t/won’t accept the advice, warnings, instruction from adults because they have this idea that they know better, it won’t happen to them, “I didn’t think I could get pregnant …we only did it _once_!” (as if pregnancy were a cumulative condition!)…that kind of thing. The same attitude that makes little children get up and try to walk after they fall down a dozen times makes them ignore the advice of their parents. I don’t think it’s possible to overcome that.
    And that’s why the strictures against early sexual activity have always been so strong – because it’s such a strong drive. You assume that teaching teens about sex and sexual protection will cure the problem. If the problem was ignorance, I might agree, but I’m not sure that education will solve the problem.
    It might be better to teach young women that when the young man says “if you loved me, you would…” , the answer should be “if you loved me, you wouldn’t ask”.
    Look at islam. I am in total disagreement with their treatment of women, but we keep hearing of women being stoned or killed…wouldn’t you think that the threat of stoning would keep every female of every age behaving in the manner dictated by her culture no matter how irrational?? It amazes me.

  • Deana

    Hi sevesteen –

    What specific types of actions do you think the average American citizen who is against abortion should do to promote pregnancy control?

    Or are you thinking along the lines of tax payers footing the bill for condoms, birth control pills, and vasectomies? Is that what you would support?

    Please don’t get me wrong: I’m all for the use of birth control. I just don’t have a clear understanding of what more can be done. We’ve provided all kinds of sex education to teenagers. Condoms are cheap – they’re often given away for free on college campuses. There are organizations in each city that exist for the sole purpose of providing inexpensive birth control options to people who want them.

    What could be done to assure you that everything possible is being done to reduce unwanted pregnancies and make you feel comfortable with limiting abortions?


  • suek

    Oh yeah…

    And we haven’t even begun to address the factors in our culture that teach a young woman that her real value in society is how sexually attractive she is, and the encouragement to become sexually active before she’s really fully mature. You look on the restriction of young women as being a negative thing – personally, I consider it a positive thing. That is, protection of an immature female from predatory males who are biologically engineered to nail anything that doesn’t run away. Women may be physically mature and capable of carrying babies in their teen years, but they don’t really mature until their early twenties. That’s when they begin to realize who they are, and make their own decisions.
    And yes, sometimes you’re protecting them from themselves – but that’s what parents and society should be doing…protecting the young until they reach adulthood.

    I suspect you also consider sex to be a harmless form of entertainment – yet if that’s all it is, why is the result of an early sexual molestation a later psychological problem?

  • Deana

    suek –

    “I didn’t think I could get pregnant …we only did it _once_!” (as if pregnancy were a cumulative condition!)”

    suek, I’ll have to remember that line the next time some woman comes into the ER and says that.

    That’s a good one!


  • Charles Martel

    (I’m going to use an anthropomorphic term here, designed,” only because it makes it easier to discuss how nature works.)

    Nature designed the act of sexual intercourse to result in conception and reproduction. For thousands of years human beings knew that, and created structures designed to keep young people from running amok once they became ready to have sex — chaparones, courtship, early marriage. People in those times could not fathom not taking responsibility for a child once it was conceived.

    Fast forward to 1960 and the introduction of The Pill. Within 10 years a “contraceptive mindset” becames common once the means to consequence-free sex became available to millions of people. That mindset includes the following assumptions:

    —Sex is primarily a recreational, not reproductive, activity.

    —Because of contraceptives, recreational sex quickly evolves a new category of behavior: “safe sex.” In safe sex, the only danger that intercourse now presents is “accidental” pregnancy — accidental in the sense that most people engaging in intercourse have no intention of procreating.

    —“Safe sex” soon becomes a pseudo-ethical category. It becomes the obligation of each participant in an act of intercourse to make sure that sperm does not meet egg. To fail to do so could derail carefully laid educational or career plans — powerful considerations since society has prolonged adolescence into the mid and late 20s.

    An inevitable extension of the “safe sex” mentality is that unborn children now must be “wanted.” That is, the people engaging in intercourse must consciously decide at the outset that they are willing to accept and nurture a pregnancy thyat results from intercourse.

    If the pregnancy is not intended, the fetus is an accident that has resulted from unsafe sex. It can, therefore, be moved into a separate category: abortable.

    So, the reason why I’m not so gung-ho about teaching children about contraceptives is that their use leads inevitably to the idea that if there’s an “accident,” there’s an emergency exit: abortion.

    It is a twisted ethic that teaches children to think that they not only can play with sex, but are obligated to pay a price (pregnancy) if they play with it improperly. Fortunately, society has a Christ-like lamb it can offer to atone for the sin. It’s called an unborn child.

  • BrianE

    Isn’t it interesting that a post suggesting a way to move away from abortion as a national issue produces a discusssion on abortion?

    Since abortion can’t be defended from a moral basis, abortionists hide behind the privacy right– which means they are unable to give up any ground up to the moment of birth, since it is all about privacy.
    Had the supreme court that found this new right in the first trimester realized that the logical conclusion of their decision would render an abortion legal up to and in some cases birth, I wonder if they would have had second thoughts about creating this new right?

    “McCain’s selection of Palin as his running mate is a “blatant pander for the women’s vote,” but the “reality” is that Palin “opposes abortion for any reason” and “wants to use the magnificent freedom the women’s movement has won for her” to “take away the freedom of every other woman in the country” to choose to have an abortion,…” – Katha Pollit, columnist for The Nation

    And this magnificant freedom is what- to commit one of the most selfish acts possible as a human being?

    While the APA discounts an effect called the “Post Traumatic Abortion Syndrome”, there is ample evidence that the effects of an abortion can be serious and long-lasting. Couple that with the inablility of teens to deal with the emotional effects of sex meant to be a bond of intimacy, while reducing it to an act of rubbing parts of the body for a period of time– much like scratching a back when a particularly aggravating itch is present, we can see why society has become so disconnected.

    Evidence is that abstinence only education can have a beneficial effect to young persons and society, especially at the earlier stages of sexual development.
    Years ago as a youth worker in a junior high school group I was asked whether I thought it was actually possible for a person to avoid sex before marriage. They were skeptical and nearly incredulous that I thought it was.
    Of course, since we live our lives in the most highly sexualized society in modern history, it becomes harder to give young people a consistent message about this.
    Given the range of negative effects to casual sex from STD’s to pregnancy, it seems we have an obligation as a society to at least try.

  • suek

    I’m going to do the unorthodox and get back on topic…!

    Found this:


    It’s a short quote from “The Conscience of a Conservative” by Goldwater. I must confess I’ve never read it. I think I’ll add it to my list.

  • Mike Devx

    I’d like to use the ‘assault gun weapon ban’ to make a point.

    A Republican has reintroduced the gun assault weapon ban, and this bill has, at this time, four co-sponsors – all Republicans as well.

    The bill is: (replace DOT with .)
    http://www.govtrack DOT us/congress/bill.xpd?bill=h110-6257

    A critical article about the bill:
    rightwingnews DOT com/mt331/2008/11/assault_weapons_ban_introduced.php

    I wonder what Book and her readers think about this? On which side of the issue will opinion fall?

    The pro- argument is that there is no legitimate activity that a citizen would engage in, in a “normal daily life”, that would require powerful weapons such as these. Therefore, the government is justified in removing the right of citizens to own such guns.

    For me, conservative philosophy would state that I, as a legal citizen, do not have to justify one moment of my time or my activities to the government. We institute a police force to protect us from our fellow citizens who decide to engage in criminal activity and predatory behavior.

    Is it ever proper to restrict the lawful activities (and therefore the rights) of citizens, in the hope that it will also restrict the activities of criminals and predators? If so, why not institute total stops on all people in cars, to administer breathalyzer tests, in hopes of catching someone who is drunk, in the absence of any outward signs among any of the motorists? Or, in a zip code where crime is rampant, institute home searches of ALL houses and apartments, in hopes of reducing crime in that area?

  • BrianE

    For home protection, a shotgun is more effective.
    As to assault style weapons, fully automatic weapons have always been illegal. What we’re talking about rifles with large clips.
    For intimidation though, I imagine an assault style weapon would be effective.
    I do wish they would at least be accurate in their characterization of what weapons are covered.
    The news media probably don’t know an assault weapon from a pellet gun. They are just ignorant. The politicians know better.
    It’s simply criminal that it would be Republicans initiating this. At least it’s not my representative!

  • sevesteen

    I’m not even happy about the machine gun registry being closed, and a ban on what they call “assault weapons” is absurd, if you know what it covers. One of my handguns had to have a dimple added in the grip and grooves in the trigger, else it would be a “Saturday Night Special” and ineligible for import. My version is post-ban, and one of the magazines that came with it makes it an assault weapon, too.

    …and the politicians don’t know better. Do a Google search on “shoulder thing that goes up” for a leading Democrat’s description of what a barrel shroud is.