Tag Archives: Liberty

Liberty and Abortion

One of the things that I really appreciate about the liberty movement is that, despite the wide diversity of opinions and positions that its supporters take, it seems to have fostered a culture in which its advocates can usually address their differences rational, respectful, and civilized discussion. As so much of the American political conversation takes the form of people talking past each other and scoring cheap publicity points, this is often quite refreshing.

However, there is one issue that seems to be an exception to this rule: abortion. While some libertarians see it as a fundamental liberty issue that should not be regulated or prohibited at all, others see abortion as the extinguishing of a rights-bearing human life that is morally equivalent to murdering a child or adult. After having been witness to a number of these contentious, internecine arguments in which both parties fail to resolve anything and end up bearing grudges, I figured it might be useful to unpack what I perceive to be the source of the extreme tension that underlies the libertarian abortion debate.

People on both sides of the debate usually agree with the fundamental starting premise that human beings have inalienable natural rights, including the right to life. As such, the core of their disagreement stems from the fact that they view what it means to be human in a fundamentally different way.

Pro-lifers, I’ve noticed, generally subscribe to a position of mind-body dualism. They believe that human beings have a soul or essence of some kind that is fundamentally separate from the body, which is the source of one’s humanness, and thus one’s rights. This belief leads to a binary view of humanness – either a body has a discrete soul and is thus entitled to the full panoply of rights, or a body lacks a soul and has no rights. Thus, for the liberty movement’s pro-lifers, if the soul is present in the human being at the moment of conception, killing a fetus is the moral equivalent of murder, which violates the basic libertarian principle of non-aggression.

Pro-choice libertarians, on the other hand, tend to reject mind-body dualism in favor of a “spectrum of consciousness” model, in which levels of consciousness shade into one another, from the very low level embodied in a stalk of grass, to the very complex cognition of an adult human being (an interesting version of this viewpoint on consciousness and being can be found in Doug Hofstadter’s I am a Strange Loop). In this way of viewing the world, there is no sharp dividing line between the human who is entitled to full rights and the non-human that is entitled to no rights with in the “mind-body dualism” model. Instead, the amount of consideration a particular being should rightfully be given is dependent upon their level of consciousness. As such, as an early-stage fetus has the level of consciousness development of a plankton, it can be validly argued from this perspective that the rights of the fully developed mother includes the right to morally terminate a pregnancy up to a certain contestable point. This is not to say that people with this world-view can’t be against abortion as well; however, to be morally consistent, such people would have to be vegetarians as well, since killing a chicken is the moral equivalent to killing a fetus within this philosophical framework.

Given these fundamentally different perspectives on the nature of the universe, it is easy to see how libertarians often talk past each other on the abortion issue. To mind-body dualists, the pro-choice assertion of the mother’s rights seems ludicrous, since no-one has the right to end another human’s life. Conversely, the pro-life cries of “murderer” ring hollow to those of the “spectrum of consciousness” persuasion, since, to them, an early-stage abortion is the moral equivalent of eating a shrimp cocktail. As a result of this enormous philosophical chasm, it has been exceedingly difficult to have a meaningful discussion about the place of abortion within the liberty movement. Nonetheless, it is an important issue to wrangle with, and I hope that, by openly acknowledging the philosophical roots of our positions, we might begin to have the same sorts of productive discussions and disagreements that we are able to manage on so many other issues.

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The Problem with Glenn Beck

Ever since Ron Paul’s presidential bid in 2007-2008, Glenn Beck has been something of a controversial figure among members of the liberty movement.  On the one hand, he addresses many issues near and dear to our hearts (such as the bailouts and stimulus, the Federal Reserve, select police state measures, state sovereignty, etc.) which we’d come to expect to be completely ignored by the mainstream media.  To add icing to the cake, Beck conducts those discussions in the *language* of the liberty movement, sprinkling his diatribes with generous helpings of references to the Constitution and Founders.  Such references are deeply symbolic and emotionally resonant for people in the liberty movement, and his use of them cements Beck’s position in many minds as a friend of liberty.
However, the recent flap concerning Texas Gubernatorial candidate Debra Medina’s appearance on Beck’s show serves as a reminder of the entertainer’s dark side.  Beck is well versed at talking the talk of liberty, and his faction of the Tea Party and “9/12 Movement” have certainly made a lot of noise waving signs and marching on things.  However, when it appears that a champion of liberty has a shot at real political power, Beck’s resolve melts like a snowball in August.  During the Ron Paul campaign, Beck was deeply dismissive of Paul while the primary was still contested; it was only after it could be safely assumed that he had no shot at winning the primary that Beck miraculously began to spout suspiciously Paulist Constitutionalist-libertarian rhetoric.  Similarly, from the game Beck talks, one would think that Debra Medina would be his dream candidate.  Instead, he attacked her when he came on her show by using some fairly twisted logic to label her a 911-Truther, and, in a subsequent show, referred to her oxymoronically as an “anarchist Nazi” and an advocate of a “Total State”. Continue reading

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Blogger jailed for posting a photograph of a police officer

As much as we celebrate the freedom of the press as being integral to the health of our republic, it’s disressing but not suprising to see it violated once again.  Starting with John Adams and the Federalist Party in the last year of the 18th century, those in power in the United States have made countless attempts to silence their critics in the press.  This is but one more stain in that sordid history of repression and censorship; check out the article.

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Interview with Burlington, VT Mayor Bob Kiss

Bob Kiss sits down to talk about the ailing economy, forclosures in Burlington and the role of Third Parties in government.  2/22/09

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The Rutland Liberty Movement Citizen’s Open Forum

Topics of discussion focused on the economic bailout and third party candidates.  This meeting was held on Friday, October 24, 2008.  For more information visit groups.yahoo.com then type in ‘Rutland Liberty Movement’.

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