Mission Statement

Mission Statement: This blog is dedicated to both political philosophy and application to current issues based on the ideas of limited government, free markets, and individual liberty. Additionally, this blog strives to create an atmosphere where intelligent discussions based on the principles of logic, no matter the viewpoints expressed in their conclusions, are not only welcome, but also thrive.

To learn more, feel free to read the introduction and subsequent posts which explain the aforementioned philosophy and purpose of this blog in more detail.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Issues 17: Abortion--Defining Life

          As I discussed in my last post, so-called pro-life and so-called pro-choice believers tend to agree on the final logic step used to reach their widely separated conclusions: that humans, even children, deserve protection under the law and that a person has supreme choice over their own body. As I said before, I believe that the sticking point in the argument is when one defines the beginning of a separate, “individual” human life.
          Government exists to regulate the interaction between individuals involving force. Once you define the beginning of individual human life, it then becomes the responsibility of government to protect that life from uninvited violence (I offer this especially for those who say that pro-life is not a stance a true libertarian can take). I will in this entry propose what I believe to be the most scientifically acceptable definition, and discuss why other definitions lack. A solid definition of human life would have legal implications in the form of the current abortion arguments. My goal in this writing is to use only terms and arguments that are acceptable Constitutional measures with which to legislate. As such, no religious, emotional, or linguistic arguments will be presented. For example, one side says “when a woman is pregnant, we ask about her baby, thus indicating a common understanding of individuality.” The other may use a similar argument, “we call it a fetus or other terms at various stages of development, thus recognizing that it is different from a baby newly born to a mother.” These are both linguistic arguments and, while they have use in shaping a person’s views on the subject, are completely irrelevant to providing a Constitutional basis with which to legislate.
          That said, the most reasonable place to define the beginning of human life is conception. This is the point where there is some change between “sperm and egg” and something else. We must ask the question, what has changed? The answer is that cells that are genetically identical to their parent body, i.e. the man and woman from which they came, have merged into a new cell with a new genetic identity. When this happens, a genetic study could trace the origins of the new organism to its parents, but the DNA would be distinct, in essence, it is genetically an “individual.”
          This is the point where the current pro-choice argument begins to diverge and not be rigorously correct. By saying that a woman has dominion over her body, the term body must be acceptably defined as well. If she were to, for some inexplicable reason, have the finger of another adult inside of her, I doubt anyone would propose that is “her body.” It is genetically unique and part of someone else’s body. By the same argument, even though a new life is growing inside her, sustained by her, it is genetically unique. It is not part of her body, it is a separate body inside of her own being nourished by her body.
          Consider this. If a police forensics team was investigating a crime using DNA evidence, which currently is an acceptable legal standard of human identity, and they tried to match a “sample” of the mother to the thing growing inside her, they would not match. In a court of law, there is no evidence to convict one based on the genetics of the other. They are not the same person, not the same body, under current legal definitions. Since DNA testing is newer than the major court decision on the issue, it is certainly an issue that should be revisited with the new legal and scientific understanding.
          With a lack of agreement that the very thing she would be initiating force against in an abortion is part of her own body, the blanket statement that she has dominion of her body no longer applies to the discussion. With the additional scientific truth that the thing is genetically individual, the principle of one individual not initiating force against another individual begins to apply.
          Some counters to this argument that I have heard recently include that it is religiously based. This discussion has steered clear of every aspect of religion, but will certainly still draw that criticism. By mathematical definition, that is an illogical argument. Consider this proof in support:

p + q (implies) s

r (implies) s

s (implies) T

t is an element of T

p is humanity
q is individuality
r is religion saying a person is a person at conception
s is the libertarian principle “one individual [human] not initiating violence on another individual [human]”
T is the set of government laws protecting individuals
t is government enforcement of anti-abortion (because abortion is force)

          What this proof says is that if something can be shown to fit into the category of one human individual not initiating violence on another human individual, then the government should legislate it to protect the individual who is victim. The “r (implies) s” statement is the religious argument saying that a person becomes such at conception. This method of establishment is not acceptable to government legislation due to the separation of church and state. However, s can be established by other means, namely scientific definition of human (p) and individual (q). Therefore, if something is established to be both human and individual, it follows that it should be protected by government regulation. This proof shows that although a religious argument may establish a certain principle, it cannot be legislated unless it is arrived at secularly.
          By scientific definition of the DNA, chromosomes, and genetics that make up a new cell at conception, it fits the definitions of human and individual. From the above proof to include the fact that abortion is a type of force, it logically follows that abortion should be illegal in the United States, no religion involved or necessary. I have not encountered other serious counters to this argument, but if I do I will address them in the comments or a further post.
          I have, however, heard other proposals for the definition of the beginning of individual human life. I will address these as well. The worst proposed definition of both life and abortion-legality is the idea of “viability.” There are many definitions of the term, one of which is “abortion”-based, saying that it is a point where a child can survive outside the womb. First, the wider meaning of the word is when something can survive independently. Even outside the womb, a child requires years of care before it can venture into the world to survive independently. The term used in the abortion-sense is then contradictory to the term as more generally applied. I will address this whole issue that arises of how long a parent should care for a child at a later time. The other reason this argument falls flat is that it is completely based on technology. Years ago the point of viability would have been much different than it is today. We can presume it will be much different in 200 years as well. By tying the definition of human life to technology a person admits that they are not defining the life itself, merely a current state of technological capability. This makes for a poor definition.
          Another suggestion is that life be defined to begin at birth. This is also a poor definition as it brings up questions of C-sections, partial births, umbilical cord attachment, and others. If birth is the line, what makes a baby born one month premature different from a part of a woman’s body that will be born tomorrow? The latter would be defined as not a human life although it is more fully developed and bears more characteristics of human life than the former that is being afforded protection of the law. The happenstance casing that surrounds that baby once again does not take into account the organism itself in the definition.
          Finally, I have heard suggestions such as when there is a heartbeat or when there is a determinable sex to define human individuality. While these approach a better definition of life since they use the life itself, they still are not as good as the genetically individual definition. The reason is that the genetic code is the final authority on life, since all aspect of life are recorded in that genome. When blood is to be matched to a person in a murder case, DNA is the method. When animals are checked for similar ancestry, the answer is in their genes. In all questions of life, genetics has been the scientifically and legally accepted final answer. By extension of this principle, human individuality begins at conception, implying protection of the law and government criminalization of abortion.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Issues 16: Abortion--Framing the Debate

          In light of my recent posts concerning the foundation of my political beliefs and ideas on how to properly discuss those beliefs with others, I wish to offer a case study. The case study I will present leaves plenty of room for contention as it is one of the most hotly debated issues today: abortion. I think this is an appropriate topic since it has many arguments that form the base idea, from the secular to the religious. The thought processes that then move forward from those base ideas also vary widely, making it a challenge to even identify the proper place to begin the discussion. I hope to live up to it.
          In this first post I will only try to identify what I believe to be the proper place to discuss the issue, the place where most views diverge. I will use the base idea that one individual shall not initiate force on another individual as the prime argument. Although there are many base ideas used, this one is in line with all Constitutional ideas and is therefore the best to use for discussing government policy. From here, we see the arguments presented by the two sides to support their position. The “pro-life” side argues that one should not have the authority to end a child’s life. The “pro-choice” side argues that a woman can do with her own body as she pleases without anyone dictating to her. I agree with both of these sentiments as they are written, as I think that most people do, and with both of the terms pro-life and pro-choice. I think they are misnomers for the positions they hold, since I and many others profess to be both at the same time. However, since they are in common use I will continue to use them throughout the discussion.
          To illustrate my point, consider this: no one seems to think it should be illegal for a man to launch his sperm into the air to die by masturbation or for a woman to drop her eggs to the same fate during menstruation. This is because these cells are obviously part of a person’s body, not an “individual” in terms of separate human life, and no one, even those who espouse a pro-life point of view, claim to be able to legislate what a person does with their own body (I understand there are exceptions to this, but I refer only to the stance of the pro-life argument, not each individual and their separate beliefs. The same is true for future blanket statements about the pro-choice argument). Similarly, no one suggests that a child, once born, is anything other than an individual due full protection of the law to include the prevention of initiation of force (once again, there are some that do but I refer to the position, not each individual).
          The point of contention, then, lies further back the chain of thinking. Each side spouting “you can’t kill a child” or “a woman has a right to choose what to do with her body” is completely pointless since those are principles to which all agree. The point of divergence in the beliefs is sometime during the period from just before conception to just after birth. One side seems to hold that an “individual,” as written in the base idea of an individual not initiating violence against another, does not become such until birth. The other argues that an individual becomes such at conception. Some argue for various points in between. However, the proper framing of the argument is not whether we should kill children or should violate a woman’s sanctity of her own body, but “at what point do parts of two people’s bodies cease being just parts and become a separate “individual” body?”
          To illustrate my point, I would like to include a quotation from Bertrand Russel, a famous mathematician. He said, “’But,’ you might say, ‘none of this shakes my belief that 2 and 2 are 4.’ You are quite right, except in marginal cases -- and it is only in marginal cases that you are doubtful whether a certain animal is a dog or a certain length is less than a meter. Two must be two of something, and the proposition ‘2 and 2 are 4’ is useless unless it can be applied. Two dogs and two dogs are certainly four dogs, but cases arise in which you are doubtful whether two of them are dogs. ‘Well, at any rate there are four animals,’ you may say. But there are microorganisms concerning which it is doubtful whether they are animals or plants. ‘Well, then living organisms,’ you say. But there are things of which it is doubtful whether they are living organisms or not. You will be driven into saying: ‘Two entities and two entities are four entities.’ When you have told me what you mean by ‘entity,’ we will resume the argument.”
          The point of this quote is to illustrate how an ill-defined margin creates room for argument. There is currently no decisive legal or scientific definition of human life. As such there is not clear definition of who should receive the benefits of “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,” or “individual not initiating force against another individual.” The point is the terms used to build the arguments are not completely defined, and so become the sticking point to any argument about abortion. I will not disagree with the conclusion of either side, that children deserve protection or that women deserve supremacy of their bodies. I will argue all day with anyone who says that is the entire reason for their belief, though. When traced back along their chain from their final position toward their base idea, pro-choice supporters and pro-life supporters both must eventually reach a point where they define the beginning of human life and governmental protections. Many do not realize that this point is where the discussion must be held. To properly address the issue of abortion we cannot continue to talk about what a woman can do with her body or what rights a child has, but must talk about when certain cells are not longer a part of someone’s body but a body of their own.
          This discussion in itself is a long and contentious one, but to not even realize that it is the central issue at hand is devastating to the level of debate we see on this issue. In my next posts I will address many arguments concerning this defining of human life, the role of religion in the argument, and how I believe the application of the non-initiation of force base idea and logic can bring a person to only one conclusion. I would love to hear discussion on the issue, but first I would love to hear discussion on where discussion on the issue should take place.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Foundations 6: Arguing Politics

          In every argument between individuals, there is a disagreement. The disagreement on a given issue in politics is not necessarily the place to argue, however. A political stance is the result of a long line of logical steps that incrementally move from a base idea to the position in question. If one arrives at an idea after 20 steps from the base idea, and another uses 20 steps from a similar base idea to arrive at a different stance, then the chances are small that the true disagreement lies in the stance itself.
          In the example above, say the two individuals agree on the base idea and the first 10 steps of logic. If they are trying to convince each other by saying “America should do A because of step 19”or “America should do B because of my step 19,” then they will never be able to reach a consensus because they have no common ground.
          Instead they must trace back their arguments. For example, they realize they don’t agree on step 19, and so ask each other “why do believe that?” The answer is because of step 18. Once again they disagree and the process continues. Eventually they say “I believe step 11 because of step 10,” and “I also believe step 10, but it gives me this step 11.” Now they have found the point of divergence in their views and the true discussion may begin.
          In this true discussion they may say something like “you used this logical argument to move from step 10 to step 11, but that is in fact a fallacy, not a logical truth,” or “you brought in an outside idea to get from step 10 to step 11, and it is not a correct or proven idea.” In the first case, knowing and using mathematical logic will help, such as “if P, then Q.” Logic is a well-founded and accepted science. Were it to be employed more often, I think we may find ourselves with fewer disputes on our hands. The second case is more difficult to argue. The reason for the outside idea not meeting approval must itself be traced back to a point of disagreement, and the process revisited.
          In the end, every person should be able to trace each stance on every position back to a set of base ideas. If the base ideas of two people do not coincide, then reaching agreement is unlikely and the discussion itself must center on the base ideas and trying to convince your neighbor that his or her ideas are not the best set to use. If the base ideas coincide, then a rigorous examination of the logical arguments, or “proofs,” should yield some ground toward concurrence.
          I write this not because I think that these concepts are beyond understanding, but because I do not think that most people approach their political thoughts in this manner. This can be seen by examining a person’s stances and finding ones that seem contradictory. Did a person arrive at that conclusion after rigorous examination of their principles, or because a role model or trusted political figure proposed it? How much self-examination are most people willing to do on their own ideas? If people were to identify their principles, build logical stances from these, and routinely reexamine them in the light of new information, I think many would be surprised.
          My primary goal in this endeavor, in this blog, is not to promote libertarianism. That is only a secondary goal, as I realize that my arguments may have flaws. Libertarianism is only the best answer I have right now. My true goal is to create a dialog where we can talk to each other about contentious ideas without saying “you believe this so you are [extreme, hard-hearted, soft-hearted, weak, gay, nazi, ],” but rather “Ok, we disagree. Let’s find the root of that disagreement and dispassionately, with mutual respect for the integrity of an idea, discuss the discrepancies.” It is absolutely possible for two people to be completely opposed, but have the best interests of America and good intentions at heart. I will not necessarily agree with them, but I will never put down someone personally because of a difference of ideas. I hold ideas in reverence. They are too important and eternal to be tied to mortal flesh.

Friday, April 8, 2011

YGBSM 2: Government Shutdown! Run for the Hills!

         So the Federal Government is about to shut down—over a measly $28 billion dollars. According to this article from CNN, the issue is the size of the spending cuts for the rest of this year. The Republicans want $61 billion in cuts, while the Democrats want $33 billion in cuts. I am thinking we need more like $1.5 trillion in cuts, aka our deficit.
          The funny thing is the ferocity with which they are defending their cuts. In a deficit that has seen many approximations, all in the neighborhood of $1.5 trillion, the $61 or $33 billion are nothing. Talking about billions of dollars sounds like a lot, so when this comes up on the news most people are impressed that the government is working so hard to cut spending. But let’s look at the numbers written in a similar way: we are spending $1,500 billion more than we make EVERY YEAR. Congress is negotiating to cut about $50 billion of that. That is 50 out of 1500, sometimes known as 3.33%, and that is just of the deficit, not of total spending! Why even bother? I mean, if that is the biggest commitment we can make to responsible fiscal policy, then just don’t even cut anything. It won’t make a bit of difference.
          The funny thing about the government shutdown is that many “essential” personnel will still be working during this time, presumably to be paid later. This more than anything highlights what people truly believe to be the purpose of government. Workers such as FBI and DEA agents, US Marshals, prison guards, and military will still be working. What do these all have in common? They exist to protect people from force and are deemed essential. This “shutdown” shows us what is essential in government and what is not. By forcing people to pay taxes and support non-essential items regularly, the government is overstepping its role. The best way to begin paring back government is to watch this partial shutdown, see where the essential jobs are, maintain those, and cut the rest to be picked up by States or private businesses. I have a feeling there will still be much more “essential” than not, but it might at least be a start. Bring on the shutdown.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

YGBSM 1: McDonald's in San Francisco

          I today I was inspired to start a new category of post that I believe will help further the cause of Liberty. The category is YGBSM, and is dedicated completely to governmental actions that make you think “do they even HAVE a thought process?”. I haven’t documented a lot of instances that I want to use, but from the history of times that I have done a /facepalm, I have no doubt that I will be able to keep this going. If you have an example that you would like me to use, just send it to me on Facebook.

          The first YGBSM post that I would like to present is not national, but rather city politics that really opens a window into how people think who “have humanity’s best interest at heart.” If you do not like the show or organization that is presenting it, I would ask that you still give the video a chance—it really is very good.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Foundations 5: THE Foundation

          To borrow a concept from mathematics, a system of theories and truths is built on a foundation of axioms, or basic ideas that are taken to be correct without proof. From these base ideas, the rest is built. The idea is that the fewer axioms that you use to completely build the base of your theory, the more sound it is.
         This applies equally to political philosophy, and I will use this post to show why I think libertarianism is the only correct form for government to take. Additionally, these axioms serve as the basis for all of the issues discussed in the blog, and are a point to which we can trace agreement or disagreement in an argument.
          I propose two axioms for formulating a system of government. The first is that one individual initiating force against another individual is the worst wrong a person can commit. Force is loosely defined as making a person do something that they have not agreed to do, whether that be physical, mental, fraud, or some other means. The second axiom is that no other wrongs can add up to be greater than or equal to the initiation of force.
          These two axioms together tell us that initiating force against an individual is inexcusable, because 1) it is the most wrong thing you can do and 2) there is no accumulation of other wrongs that a person could have done to “deserve” the initiated force. Note that this applies to initiated force, because force used in defense does not fit these definitions of wrong.
          These axioms and this immediate conclusion are philosophical, without direct application at this point. To apply them to government, we must examine the nature of government. Government is a system whereby a certain group of people, usually citizens and visitors, are held to a set of rules that contain penalties for breeching. This may take a concrete form of citizens paying taxes in return for governmental services used in enforcing the rules or providing services. Taxes are not optional, and so can be regarded as forced from a person by their government. In order to exist, a government uses force.
          So what makes this acceptable, if the initiation of force is the pinnacle of unjust activity? If the government uses this force to provide a service that is not related to force, it has violated the axioms by using force to combat a lesser evil.
          On the contrary, if a government uses the force of taxation in order to prevent force, this may be viewed as a fair exchange. For example, if a government uses taxation to fund a military that protects its citizens from outside force, or a police force that protects its citizens from force originating within, then it has induced force on its citizens for the purpose of preventing greater and more widespread and destructive force. This is a legitimate use of government force.
          Some may argue that the initiation of force by government in the first place is contrary to principles. These people would tend towards a lack of government, or anarchy. On the contrary, the cries of the victim are the most constant sound in human history. At the individual level, from Cain to the evening news, human nature has shown itself to tend toward force. This has translated into the international force of warfare since there have been nations. Force between people or groups of people has existed since time before government, and may be rightly considered the initiation, with government being considered one of the defenses.
          This is the basis for a libertarian government: the role of the government is only to prevent the initiation of force, and a government may be considered to legitimately serve the people if and only if that is its sole endeavor. So what would this libertarian government look like in America? It would surely involve a military and police force. Having the legislature create laws that govern what is force and what is not force is acceptable. The legislature should confine itself to these activities, to setting the missions for the organizations used to carry them out. The executive branch heads the military and police forces, and runs the various forces and organizations that accomplish these missions. A judiciary adjudicates all disputes to determine whether or not force was criminally applied. It also moderates between the other branches of government.
          The Constitution lays out all of this rather nicely. It provides some small extra powers that are not strictly in keeping with this idea, such as the ability of the legislature to create post offices. However, using the axioms to create this idea of how any government, especially that of America, should run lays a solid foundation for each issue that may arise from politics. Perhaps more importantly it provides the basis for a vision of the nature of government. Using this vision, a politician may make principled decisions guiding his nation toward a well-understood and accepted, predictable end. These axioms are my base. All of my ideas, principles, visions, and stances grow from them. If we agree on these axioms, then we should be able to come to similar conclusions as we discuss the nature of government and each individual issue.