Thursday, July 05, 2012

No Right to Do Wrong

In general, I find that there is a good deal of overlap between the views of conservatives and those who identify themselves as libertarians. It’s easy for a conservative to sympathize with and find common cause with libertarians on the principals of individual liberty, personal responsibility, and limited government. I understand the appeal of libertarian political philosophy, especially to the young, and welcome hearing voices who espouse the libertarian perspective debate the great matters of the day. In fact, some of my best friends are libertarians.

However, there are some significant issues where the different attitudes and approaches that one takes from either a conservative or libertarian perspective are so striking that it makes it difficult to imagine how the two camps could ever come together to form a lasting alliance. Abortion is one such issue.

Before we continue, I will acknowledge that not all libertarians favor legalized abortion and not all conservatives are pro-life. But in my experience at least, it’s a fair generalization to make.

I was reminded of the main problem with the libertarian view on abortion when I recently came across this quote from Abraham Lincoln on slavery from the Lincoln and Douglas debates:

When Judge Douglas says that whoever or whatever community wants slaves, they have a right to have them, he is perfectly logical, if there is nothing wrong in the institution; but if you admit that it is wrong, he cannot logically say that anybody has a right to do wrong.

Substitute abortion for slavery and you have a striking refutation of the standard libertarian line on abortion:

When libertarians say that whoever or whatever community wants legalized abortion, they have a right to have it, they are perfectly logical, if there is nothing wrong with the activity; but if you admit that it is wrong, you cannot logically say that anybody has a right to do wrong.

I’ve heard thoughtful libertarians take what is essentially the “personally opposed, but…” position on abortion. But as Lincoln so eloquently explained regarding slavery, if you make a moral judgment that abortion is wrong, then you are arguing for the right to do wrong. To the expected comeback that libertarians support the right to do what some may regard as wrong when it comes to gambling, prostitution, and drug use, I would respond that none of those activities share the same outcome as slavery and abortion: one person taking the life of another.

The Nihilist responds: as someone recently accused by Chad of being "a libertarian," I take issue with his premise.  I'd suggest that definition #1 from the free on-line dictionary succinctly sums up the libertarian philosophy:

One who advocates maximizing individual rights and minimizing the role of the state.

I'd say the right to life is pretty much the most basic right of all individuals, and was listed as such in by the founders of this country.  To quote Col. Nathan Jessup from "A Few Good Men," Yes, I’m certain that I read that somewhere once.

My point is that any so-called libertarian that advocates trampling on the rights of any class of individuals, especially a weak and legally unprotected class, doesn't really espouse a philosophy consistent with libertarianism.  Anarchists may embrace a philosophy where the strong can trample the rights of the weak, but anarchists, despite sharing a disdain for the state, are not libertarians.


Oh, so The Nihilist takes issue with my premise, does he? That premise being that while some INDIVIDUAL libertarians are pro-life, the prevailing view of the libertarian political philosophy is to allow legalized abortion. If only there was some way to refute his anecdotal example with evidence to support my premise. If only...

Platform of the Libertarian Party:

1.4 Abortion

Recognizing that abortion is a sensitive issue and that people can hold good-faith views on all sides, we believe that government should be kept out of the matter, leaving the question to each person for their conscientious consideration.

That is the official big "L" Libertarian position. If The Nihilist is actually a libertarian, he’s definitely more of the small "l" variety. And rather than contravening my original premise, his views on abortion reinforce it.


I am shocked, I say shocked, to see that the Libertarian Party doesn't live up to it's name.  It's almost as if the folks who put their platform together only really care about the legalization of marijuana.  Next you will tell me that the leaders of Democratic Party doesn't really care about democracy.