April 25, 2016 § 155 Comments
It has been pointed out to me that in characterizing the public position of the mainstream pro-life movement as pro abortion, I am being unfair. Some go so far as to suggest, while bravely facing the applause, that this is outright calumny and rash judgment. The dispute is not over the moral status of abortion: it is over the legal status of abortion. The mainstream pro-life movement abhors abortion morally and wants to see the number of abortions dramatically reduced.
Pro-lifers are even willing to do whatever it takes legally to mete out punishment for all of the abortions caused by men who manipulate poor helpless women.
So lets define “pro choice” as the position that a woman ought to be able to choose abortion without any legal consequences to herself.
The mainstream pro-life movement’s position, then, is not pro abortion. It is pro choice.
April 24, 2016 § 13 Comments
I’ve expressed before why I am not concerned that some artificial intelligence is going to take over the world and turn humans into slaves any time soon. Computer scientists have been yammering on about how AI was just around the corner since before I was typing rudimentary game programs into Hewlett-Packard calculators in the 1970’s. The pinnacle of what all of this massive human effort has produced is smart phone autocorrect.
Computers don’t have intelligence and they will never have intelligence. They do just exactly what they are told to do, nothing more, nothing less. Because they can do so very, very quickly, and because human beings are telling them what to do, they can be used to do some astonishing things. But they are just mindless tools, and that is all they will ever be.
However, computer-infected objects have managed to become quite narcissistic, at the instruction of their programmers. It is astonishing how many inanimate objects are constantly nagging me for attention, not because of something they can do for me but because they need me to attend to their own special needs.
Of course if humans continue on our current trends Alan Turing may turn out to have been prescient after all. As human society approaches the Narcissism Singularity it may ultimately become impossible for a third party observer to distinguish between the nagging narcissism of circuits and the nagging narcissism of meat.
April 24, 2016 § 33 Comments
I don’t have strong views about intellectual property. Modern understandings of property and commerce are perverse, immoral, and unreal. It seems likely that at least some of what IP law sanctions, asserts, and prohibits goes against the natural law. But I haven’t personally done the due diligence required to credibly advance particular arguments about particular laws or practices.
The sovereign is, qua sovereign, the ‘owner’ of certain marketplaces: that is, he sets the terms upon which transactions are permitted and carried out in the marketplaces over which he is sovereign.
Cash – or more specifically, sovereign-issued currency – entitles the bearer to engage in certain kinds of taxable transactions in the sovereign’s marketplaces. (People often use it for non-taxable transactions too, and in other marketplaces owned by different sovereigns: insulin is valuable for barter in trade by non-diabetics).
Fiat currency does not authorize all conceivable transactions, of course: various transactions such as selling yourself outright into slavery are not “allowed” (that is, enforced); and usurious contracts are allowed/enforced but should not be.
Intellectual property, then, is like a lease or easement in the sovereign’s markets. Leases and easements are a kind of financial security, that is, claims against property. A patent permits the patent holder to sell the patented invention in the sovereign’s marketplaces, while forbidding other parties to sell the patented invention. A patent, then, is a financial security; the property against which it entitles a specific claim is the sovereign’s marketplaces.
It is similar to Disney allowing only Starbucks to sell coffee in Disneyland. When you are in Disneyland, you must commercially transact within the rules of Disneyland.
 Modern economists use the label “money” to refer to many essentially different kinds of security: actual paper currency, individual currency-denominated claims against the balance sheets of banks, bank claims agains the balance sheet of the Federal Reserve, etc etc. All mainstream modern economic theories — Austrian, Keynesian, Chicago, MMT, Labor Theory of Value, etc — are metaphysically anti-realist, that is, are disconnected from reality and therefore insane and incoherent. In fact I am not personally aware of any metaphysically realist economic theory (an economic theory which competently distinguishes between imaginary reality and actual reality) at all, mainstream or fringe.
April 21, 2016 § 70 Comments
At Cane Caldo’s blog commenter Bruce writes:
There’s another dynamic here. Pro-lifers strongly identify with their role of saving individual babies. I think they believe they can save more babies by going easy [on women] and changing their hearts.
Agreed. It isn’t just a one-off situation of hostage taking: it is an ongoing process of hostage-taking with no end in sight, and if the hostage takers are not appeased then more hostages are going to die.
This leads some ‘hostage negotiators’ (pro lifers) initially into lying to the hostage takers about their real views and their long-term intentions. In reality the hostage-taking murderesses ought to get the gallows or at least the asylum; but if we actually say that then we will lose more hostages right now and in the next round of hostage taking.
So the pro life movement feels like it has to lie, and feels justified in doing so.
After a while though the hostage negotiators start to believe their own BS, out of habit and because they do not want to think of themselves as liars.
UPDATE/NOTE: It should perhaps be emphasized that this dynamic applies to some pro-lifers. Other pro-lifers are just feminists, with all that that implies. The dead babies are ultimately just a price paid for female emancipation, and while we’d like to stop the baby-killing we aren’t willing to call feminism into question in order to do so.
April 15, 2016 § 41 Comments
Ending political conflict over abortion admits of a simple technical solution. All we need to do is develop and enhance techniques which empower women to carry out abortion themselves, without the assistance of an abortionist. If necessary we can develop technology which has ‘acceptable’ uses – which is to say, non-criminal uses – for other things besides self-abortion, to avoid any objection to the effect that the providers of the technology can be criminally charged. After all, guns don’t kill people: people kill people.
That way – under the principles expounded by all respectable people, including pro-lifers – the law has nobody to charge with a crime. Political conflict over abortion should come to an end.
Unless we listen to the fruitcakes and nutcases who think there should be legal sanctions against women who procure abortion, that is.
But they aren’t True Pro Lifers[tm] or True Conservatives[tm] anyway, so why should we listen to them?
Reader GJ in the comments below provides data to the effect that 20% of all abortions in 2011 were self-administered by the mother taking an abortion-inducing pill. In 2008 approximately 30% of the abortions in Planned Parenthood facilities were performed by the mother herself (taking a pill).
April 15, 2016 § 40 Comments
Someone is pro abortion if he asserts – for whatever reason or set of reasons – that no woman should face any kind of legal sanction or punishment for deliberately choosing to have her unborn child murdered.
It is a pretty big tent. I used to think that many of the folks who literally march under the pro-life banner were well meaning but suffered from a kind of stockholm syndrome. Recent events show that I was giving them too much credit. It turns out that they are just pro abortion after all, and have been so all along.
April 13, 2016 § 60 Comments
Conservative writers continue to confirm that the mainstream pro-life movement views (and has for some time viewed) women who procure abortion as, categorically, innocent victims. Mother Theresa observed that a murderess murders her conscience in addition to her victim, and the pro-life movement has perverted this act of conscience-killing into exoneration. This is a narrative you may recognize: sure the behavior she chose was objectively abhorrent, but through the magic of inscrutable subjectivity we can presume her subjective victimhood. Because we can’t know anything about whether she is subjectively guilty or innocent in the invisible Cartesian theater of the mind we are justified in concluding that she is an innocent victim in the invisible Cartesian theater of the mind. Christ’s admonishment not to judge the inner state of her soul translates into a license to declare that the inner state of her soul trumps her chosen behavior. Judging the inner states of souls is actually just fine — as long as the conclusion is that a woman who procures abortion is subjectively innocent.
Dump trucks filled with exceptional cases where murder goes unpunished are rhetorically deployed to turn special pleading into a general principle. (Obviously, just to take one example, if abortion were treated legally like a kind of murder that would not alter the double-jeopardy exception: someone who had been tried and found innocent could not be re-tried even in the face of new evidence).
Beneath it all is – precisely as I have suggested – a belief (or, equivalently from my standpoint, actions and words perfectly consistent with the belief) that women are not fully adult and responsible moral agents when it comes to abortion.
we will treat women who go outside the law to end their pregnancies the same way we treat people who attempt to commit suicide. We might mandate that they get help, in the form of counseling — instead of leaving them to face the crushing guilt without support
One flaw in the suicide analogy is that attempted homicide is not the same as a successfully completed homicide. But I can work with that, I suppose.
Therefore I suggest a compromise: the pro-life movement can reach consensus to treat women who procure abortion the same way we treat other severely mentally ill people who have successfully carried out homicide and remain a permanent danger to themselves and to others. Instead of life in prison, life in an asylum.
April 8, 2016 § 19 Comments
All the complicated discussion about usury tends to make the mind glaze over and can create a kind of moral smokescreen. That is just because usury is one of those things that people really want moral license to do though, so they are always scrambling around to find loopholes. Someone who is tempted toward adultery is likely to find himself rationalizing behaviors in its vicinity, including behaviors which may not technically be adulterous.
Someone who has developed in virtue will not merely avoid technically immoral behaviors but will avoid flirting with sin.
Even though usury is a pervasive moral evil in modern economies, it is really quite difficult to do it by accident. Accidentally committing usury is like accidentally committing theft. Christians and men of good will can avoid it very, very easily by just following a few simple guidelines.
1. If someone is in a tight spot and you are able to help, do so generously. Expect nothing in return. If he is not generous back toward you when things improve materially for him then keep him in your prayers, because material misfortune is obviously not his only affliction.
2. If someone helps you out, be generous in your gratitude when you are able.
3. If you invest, save, or enter into contracts to preserve your wealth, never require someone to personally guarantee that you won’t lose all that you invested to misfortune. (It is OK if an institution makes that kind of guarantee. Institutions are not persons). Make sure that what secures your investment is property and only property. Require either payment or pledge of property as security when you perform work or sell products. In summary, do not – except as an act of gratuitous charity – accept personal pledges as security in any business agreement or contract.
Accidentally committing usury is like accidentally sinning sexually. If you aren’t constantly gazing at financial pornography when you ought to be just doing the Christian thing and helping someone out, you are much less likely to have a problem with it.
April 8, 2016 § 45 Comments
A commenter writes:
Men pay for the abortions, and I don’t mean tax dollars. Men are hiring the hit men, particularly in the case of the unmarried women who make up a majority of abortion-seekers.
It’s an old trope for a reason. Women have moral culpability for getting up on that table, but they all too often aren’t the ones putting the money into the abortionist’s hand. That’s usually a man, baby.
Nobody has suggested that co-conspirators in murder should not be punished. Quite the contrary. All co-conspirators in and accessories to murder should be normatively subject to some sort of sanction or punishment. Exceptions are people who literally lack agency: who are physically forced, who are severely mentally ill and need to be under constant supervision for that reason, etc.
Leniency is possible and sometimes warranted; but true leniency is leniency precisely because the person deserves to be punished. As Dalrock points out, being under pressure or ignorant isn’t even exculpatory in the case of a parking ticket, let alone murder.
What is ludicrous and irrational is the simultaneous contention that abortion is murder and that women who deliberately procure abortion are categorically innocent victims, not perpetrators of murder (along with the abortionist and any other co-conspirators). To consider innocent victimhood the normative case for women who procure abortions is to assert that – as the normative case – women lack moral agency. It is to assume that women in general lack the capacity to be responsible for the behaviors they choose unless proven otherwise in a particular case.