August 19, 2013

"Rand Paul is... strongly against abortion rights, which many libertarians disagree with."

"What is the libertarian position on abortion?"
I don't think there is a libertarian position on abortion. There was a study done by a graduate student at UCLA that found that about two-thirds of people you would identify as libertarian are pro-choice. From a philosophical perspective, libertarians generally believe the appropriate role of government is to protect life, liberty, and property. The question is, is forbidding abortion a way of protecting life, or should it be viewed as a restriction of liberty? There's a plausible libertarian case on both sides. People who are consciously libertarian are more respectful of the other position on abortion, in my experience, than most pro-lifers and pro-choicers. I do not think there is an official position.
From an interesting Atlantic interview — via Instapundit — titled "America's Libertarian Moment" ("A longtime libertarian policy wonk talks about whether the philosophy can save the GOP -- and why he still doesn't think Rand Paul can win the presidency"). Via Instapundit, who says: "Rand Paul doesn’t have to be elected President to change the direction of the country."

I like libertarians when they back off from stark ideology, which really is not presentable to the American people, who require a closer approximation to something that feels like humanity. It's fascinating to watch Rand Paul supply the performance in the role of Libertarian that Americans can watch.

30 comments:

Scott M said...

What is the libertarian position on abortion.

There's a plausible libertarian case on both sides.

Exactly. If you're going to argue personal liberty, we're right back at square one, asking when life begins, or it's next door neighbor, viability. At some point, a citizen's own rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness kick in. Most libertarians I know get uncomfortable when asked if that magically applies when the head clears the birth canal.

Maybe the official libertarian position is akin to the official PETA position on abortion, ie, it doesn't exist. PETA's official statement (which was changed since last I looked at it) is, PETA does not have a position on the abortion issue, because our focus as an organization is the alleviation of the suffering inflicted on nonhuman animals.

The last time I looked at it, years ago, it didn't contain "nonhuman", so they've had to backpedal a bit it seems. Sounds awfully speciest, doesn't it?

Conserve Liberty said...

I have pondered the "abortion question" for forty years and I still haven't come to a conclusion - it is that close an argument - other than to believe I shall not express an opinion on the subject.

A perso or politician who holds a moderate view on either side is worthy of further consideration. An extremist of either ilk I simply dismiss.

Does Rand Paul, then, equal Todd Akin?

KN@PPSTER said...

Well ... there's no "official libertarian position" on anything, because there's no group or organization which can speak for the entire libertarian movement.

But you are correct in what you are getting at: There are multiple positions on abortion held by libertarians.

What makes those competing positions all libertarian is that all of them are based on the libertarian position in opposition to aggression.

Pro-life libertarians believe that the fetus is a person with rights, and that abortion is therefore aggression in the form of murder.

Pro-choice libertarians either do not believe that the fetus is a person with rights, or they believe that where a conflict of rights exists the mothers' rights take precedence.

There are variants within those positions, of course. And presumably they can't all be right ... but they can all be libertarian.

gadfly said...

Perhaps the problem here is the use of the label "Pro Choice." If a libertarian were asked about making it legal to commit murder, the response would be a resounding NO - so who is kidding who?

Drago said...

Conserve Liberty: "A perso or politician who holds a moderate view on either side is worthy of further consideration. An extremist of either ilk I simply dismiss."

For the sake of perspective, what was the moderate view on slavery?

Saint Croix said...

I like libertarians when they back off from stark ideology, which really is not presentable to the American people, who require a closer approximation to something that feels like humanity.

Libertarians have a reputation for being cold or callous. "Am I my brother's keeper?" is a question libertarians should be ready to answer. If libertarians are to be a political force, they need to avoid the stigma of not caring.

"Am I my baby's keeper?" is the abortion version of the Biblical question.

Ann Althouse said...

"For the sake of perspective, what was the moderate view on slavery?"

This is a great question!

Here's a collection of 10 reasons for not abolishing slavery at all, arguments that were presented as persuasive at the time. For example, there was the idea that freed slaves would suffer even more, and it would therefore be better to improve conditions for slaves.

One might characterize this famous statement by Lincoln as moderate toward slavery: "If I could save the Union without freeing any slave, I would do it; and if I could save it by freeing all the slaves, I would do it; and if I could save it by freeing some and leaving others alone, I would also do that. What I do about slavery and the colored race, I do because I believe it helps to save the Union; and what I forbear, I forbear because I do not believe it would help to save the Union.”

One might say Ron Paul took a moderate view, described here: "Texas Rep. Ron Paul, the anti-government GOP presidential candidate who is now surging in Iowa, is not a fan of Abraham Lincoln. He believes the Civil War was a “senseless” bloodbath that was the result of Lincoln’s desire to “enhance and get rid of the original intent of the republic.”
“He shouldn’t have gone to war,” explained Paul in a December 2007 appearance on Meet The Press. Failing to fight for the union, however, would not mean embracing slavery — after all, it was on its way out, and in 1833 the British Empire had successfully abolished it without violence. His advice to the north: “you buy the slaves and release them. How much would that cost compared to killing 600,000 Americans and where it lingered for 100 years?”"

Ann Althouse said...

Other moderate slavery ideas that can be found in American history:

1. Outlaw slavery in new states.

2. Ban the importation of new slaves.

2. Reject the idea that the child of a slave is born a slave.

Basically, I'm rejecting your implication that some things are absolute in a way that admits no moderate position. (I'm not saying a little slavery might be acceptable! And yet there is a lot of slavery in the world: What are you doing about it? If only bemoaning it occasionally, when you think about it, that's moderate, if not shamefully complacent.)

Ann Althouse said...

But the idea that abortion is absolute is something most people who say they are pro-life reject, since they'll tolerate abortion after rape or incest or when the pregnant person is very young -- and often when the pregnant woman faces serious health consequences.

You won't get far in politics if your anti-abortion position is too severe, just like you won't get far if your pro-abortion position is too strong. That's what the Partial Birth Abortion laws proved.

Scott M said...

If only bemoaning it occasionally, when you think about it, that's moderate, if not shamefully complacent.)

Surely being moderate doesn't equate to being lazy on an issue. More accurately, if you publicly claim to be dead-set against something, but do little about it, you are, in fact, apathetic about it, and you probably know it deep in the regions of your heart were only personal truth resides.

Hmm.

Can one, in complete intellectual honesty and consistency, be dead-set against something without lifting a finger to put an end to it?

Lyssa said...

Basically, I'm rejecting your implication that some things are absolute in a way that admits no moderate position.

I didn't read Drago as saying that; I believe that his implication was that moderation is not necessarily a virtuous or even defensible position. What's that quote about "Extremism in the pursuit of liberty is no vice"? Yes, there were moderate positions on slavery, but, at least now, we see that those opinions were still morally objectionable*, because slavery was so morally objectionable that the only moral opinion is to be fully against it.

I believe that Drago's point was that abortion, as the killing of an innocent person, is also so morally objectionable that the only morally acceptable opinion ought to be against it.

Althouse is correct, though, that that is not an opinion that you'd want to run for national office on.

* An interesting argument, though, would consider that in order to eradicate slavery, we had to have those moderates - full-out abolitionists did not win office, and if there had been a purity test that Lincoln and had failed, eradication of slavery might have taken much longer. Therefore, were Lincoln, et al's opinions, grotesque as they seem today, more morally acceptable than an opinion fully against slavery, because it got (presumably) better results?

Crunchy Frog said...

You won't get far in politics if your anti-abortion position is too severe, just like you won't get far if your pro-abortion position is too strong. That's what the Partial Birth Abortion laws proved.

Illinois State Senator Barack Obama voted for the position that a baby born alive during a botched abortion should be thrown in the trash. It ruined his career.

Inga said...

I've seen far more rightist libertarians that are anti abortion, than pro choice. Even here a while back, during an abortion discussion, many who self described as libertarian also stated they were anti abortion. And most libertarians self report being more closely aligned withheld right than the left.

Carl said...

What is the libertarian position on...?

Anyone who can frame that question or take it seriously ipso facto doesn't really understand libertarianism, and is just trying to pigeonhole it into some of the many superficial variations of statism.

You might as well ask the atheist So which god DO you believe in? Uh...not getting through here...

RiverRat said...

What choose to call small government libertarianism is actually minarchism.

On the abortion issue most my friends who self-identify as minarchists favor laws similar to that currently passed in my home state of Texas.

I morally object to gay marriage but support it in the cause of liberty. Recent effort emerging to force religious organizations to accept it are objectionable to minarchists.

Inga said...

Obviously that should be "with the right than the left."

Sigivald said...

The question is, is forbidding abortion a way of protecting life, or should it be viewed as a restriction of liberty? There's a plausible libertarian case on both sides. People who are consciously libertarian are more respectful of the other position on abortion, in my experience, than most pro-lifers and pro-choicers. I do not think there is an official position.

Yup.

Maybe it's "my body, my choice".

Maybe it's "that's a person, and thus strongly protected".

Deciding which it is (or that we can't decide well enough!) is the entire issue, and libertarian fundamentals don't provide that judgment for us.

RiverRat said...

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Minarchism
Minarchism (also known as minimal statism) is a political philosophy. It is variously defined by sources. In the strictest sense, it holds that states ought to exist (as opposed to anarchy), that their only legitimate function is the protection of individuals from aggression, theft, breach of contract, and fraud, and that the only legitimate governmental institutions are the military, police, and courts. In the broadest sense, it also includes fire departments, prisons, the executive, and legislatures as legitimate government functions.[1][2][3] Such states are generally called night-watchman states.

Minarchists argue that the state has no authority to use its monopoly of force to interfere with free transactions between people, and see the state's sole responsibility as ensuring that contracts between private individuals and property are protected, through a system of law courts and enforcement. Minarchists generally believe a laissez-faire approach to the economy is most likely to lead to economic prosperity.

Conserve Liberty said...

By moderate I mean one who accepts this is (and slavery was) a complex issue with strong and valid arguments on both sides. A moderate person may express a personal opinion but would reasonably allow that another valid argument exists.

Another word for moderate is tolerant.

Matthew Sablan said...

"I've seen far more rightist libertarians that are anti abortion, than pro choice."

-- For the most part, I think most people ARE anti-abortion, even for people comfortable with the consequences. Sort of like the death penalty; in the ideal world, we'd never NEED it. In the ideal world, we'd never NEED abortions.

In the real world though, even though I'm anti-abortion, I understand the legal necessities of making it available.

Even using the terms pro/anti here are muddying the issues, confusing what someone thinks about the PROCESS of abortion with the legal realities surrounding it. I would imagine very few people are "pro-abortion" the way one might be "pro-the Yankees" or the like.

However, abortion is one of those issues where people from the right and left can reach different conclusions while STILL maintaining an internally consistent world view. Which is why it is a difficult problem to solve.

Carol said...

after all, it was on its way out,

Geez, I thought W.E.B. DuBois put that trope to rest 100 years ago.

David said...

I am probably not a libertarian (virtually no one is, as far as I can tell) but I think the government should not prohibit abortion. I also think that abortion has been destructive for our society since legalized, especially to the black community but also to many supposedly well educated white women who seem to lose their ability to think, feel and discriminate when arguing in favor of abortion.

Plus it never should have been made a constitutional right. We would have legislated in favor of regulated abortion in most parts of the country.

Even the Europeans are more sensible on restricting abortion than we are.

So have your abortions. But stop pretending its such a great liberating thing for women. Too many women have been made mute and unfeeling by abortion, even (especially?) those who have not had one.

David said...

Shorter version of my comment:

It's not the legalization of abortion that has been destructive but the promotion of abortion as a meaningless act.

Mitch H. said...

For the sake of perspective, what was the moderate view on slavery?

Lincoln's? He was in favor of a slate of measures and policies that tended to limit slavery within those states where it already existed, and to tend towards the extinction of the institution by its own wasteful unsustainability. Slave agriculture was massively and destructively inefficient, and required a large supply of virgin prime farmland to absorb the surplus slave manpower accumulated on imploding plantations in the east.

Lincoln didn't start out the war as an abolitionist, and in fact dragged his feet every step of the way towards writing the Emancipation Proclamation. John Brown was the abolitionist absolutist - you know, the one who invaded Virginia with a handful of pikes aiming to incite a slave revolt, and was duly hanged for it?

Sabinal said...

Conserve Liberty asked:
Does Rand Paul, then, equal Todd Akin?

Nope, but if he becomes a true challenge against Hillary in 2016, he will be

RiverRat said...

The important issue, imho, is defining a political libertarian/minarchist.

Rand Paul is a mix and match on various issues...as are most of us who self-identity as libertarians. This is of course true of most Americans who will say they're fiscally conservative regardless party affiliation.

The problem is factions within a two party system vs. coalitions of many parties in a parliamentary system.

Properly defined and marketed I suspect about 65% of voting Americans might call themselves Minarchists...I'd almost bet Ann might define herself as such...at least at the Federal level.

It's the authoritarian left, and to a lesser degree, the authoritarian right which concern me most.

RiverRat said...

The Smallest Minority on earth is the individual. Those who deny individual rights cannot claim to be defenders of minorities. - Ayn Rand

n.n said...

Let's begin the conversation with a factual observation: a human life evolves from conception to death, which is neither controversial nor novel.

Let's continue the conversation with a juxtaposition of two principles: intrinsic and earned value. The first is a principle of faith, while the latter is a principle of economy.

The question we need to answer is when does a human life acquire value. Should it be classified as a commodity or a creation with certain unalienable Rights?

Guimo said...

Conserve Liberty, as they say in Texas, the only thing in the middle of the road is a yellow stripe and a dead armadillo.

ken in sc said...

Mauritania has officially outlawed slavery three times. There are still slaves there. The masters are Arabs. The slaves are black, moderately I suppose. Some slaves refuse to leave their masters because they have no other way to make a living, and masters feel obligated to provide for them.

BTW, they cannot be legally bought or sold there.