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Roe vs Wade... Some philosophy

I wrote what follows the night that Thompson dropped out. Never posted it because I'm self-critical and it wasn't "perfect". Still isn't.
But I couldn't resist posting it because I've seen several other posters informing us of their difficulties explaining why the Roe vs. Wade argument is important. Hopefully this will help put people on a useful trail. I will entertain any and all questions/commentary. Please send to my personal email addy for quickest response.

All links lead to Wikipedia unless otherwise noted.

Fred Thompson is out of the race.

To all his previous supporters I ask: Have you examined Ron Paul's issues? They are remarkably similar in many areas that the Republican base has traditionally considered important.

Fred Thompson's Political Stance

Ron Paul's Political Stance

Pro-life vs. Pro-choice

I don't know where I should stand on abortion. Not that I believe in anything that might be confused with an immortal soul, but there are plenty of good secular arguments for the pro-life position. The trouble is that there are good arguments from the pro-choice side as well. Part of the indecision stems from the fact that the legal status of abortion can only ever affect me indirectly (I won't ever be in the market for an abortion).

I mean it deferentially (and not derisively) when I say that abortion is a woman's issue as far as I am concerned.

This much I am convinced of: If I can't make a solid opinion about what I myself think about abortion, where does the Supreme Court get the idea that the answer is to make the choice for everyone??

Ron Paul and Fred Thompson both have the stance and (unlike Romney or McCain) the voting record showing that they oppose Roe vs. Wade on the grounds that it represents the a diktat from The Top about how people in very different communities ought to behave.

A solid scientific education causes me to lean pro-choice. But I can still recognize a bad law when I see one. Essentially what Roe vs. Wade represents is one more choice that was taken away from the States. Which is where it belonged in the first place.

That choice still belongs at the State level.

Just like choices about education, taxes, drug laws and numerous other things.

I am not ignorant of the arguments surrounding the idea that I just expressed. I will boil-down the reasoning that convinced me to adopt a set of philosophies that culminated in a Libertarian political outlook.

When issues go to the Federal level, very specific things happen as a result:

  • Diverse populations are forced to conform to a single rule that very well may be inappropriate for a given region. Think about the differences between Boston and Oklahoma City, or between Los Angeles and Detroit. Now tell me that all four of those places should have the same laws about things like gun-control, drugs/prostitution, gambling, abortion, school curricula, etc...
  • Lobbyists get involved in an attempt to decide the outcome. This may not be a bad thing, as it is the most direct route between you and a federal level politician. But what often happens is that the best-financed lobbyists win. And such a system takes us that much closer to Ralph Waldo Emerson's cynical (but correct) observation.
    "Democracy becomes a government of bullies tempered by editors."
    ---Ralph Waldo Emerson
  • When the decision is made and it results in a cost, the losers (and the winners) have their pockets raided to pay for the results of the decision. I wonder how many Iraqi civilians my tax dollars will kill this year? (link is iraqbodycount.org)
  • The losers and the winners have less freedom due to one simple fact: If one doesn't like the law, one must now move countries rather than simply move states. That means that even the "victors" are discarding their freedom piece by precious piece. So slowly, in fact, that one day when Blackwater gets a domestic contract, people will be afraid and confused about why their rights aren't being respected. And it will be too late to tear down the Federal monolith whose construction those same people unknowingly clamored for.
    "The best argument against democracy is a five minute conversation with the average voter."
    ---Winston Churchill
  • The efficacy of government is inversely proportional to its distance from those governed. This observation extends right down to the individual in the form of self-government. Taking someone's soverignty away from them results in a phenomena called learned helplessness, which can look superficially like apathy or ignorance to an outside observer.

    "The death of democracy is not likely to be an assassination from ambush. It will be a slow extinction from apathy, indifference, and undernourishment."
    ---Robert Hutchins



So when someone criticizes Roe vs. Wade, it doesn't necessarily reveal an anti-abortion agenda. This cannot be overstated. Even people who are inclined to favor abortion can be incensed by fanatics using the Federal level of government to impose their "superior moral view" on other people who are far removed from the progressive culture.


A libertarian political philosophy reflects a preference for distributed knowledge and government as opposed to a centrallized point-source for these things.

Free-markets are libertarian in nature. No one tells retailers what to stock. No one tells investors where to put their capital. Every entity acting in the economy follows a small set of rules that are best for that individual. Rules like "Buy low and sell high" and "Savings now is freedom later".

Since each individual is influenced by the choices of other individuals, a collective behavior emerges from this system and takes on properties that are greater than the sum of its parts.

We call this a free-market.

And IDEAS are a market as well! Academia thrives on controversy and diversity of opinion. Academia is more libertarian than many people give it credit for being. After all, freedom of ideas drive science and the arts. Not central dogma and controls.


We see distributed systems everywhere in Nature. Markets and governments are human-made things. But brains, ant-hills, basic human-sociality and Life itself are distributed systems that arose from Nature without the hand of man to make it "better".

An engineer sees that there are different classes of problems.

A scientist sees that Nature has solved them already.

A libertarian implicitly understands that the best design mimics Nature in form, because She will always be more powerful than man. Libertarianism is a profound humility in the face of our own faults.


The alternative to such distributed systems is a single authority that micromanages each individual in the system. When applied to markets, it is Communism. When applied to ideas, it is the end of discovery. When applied to government, it is totalitarianism.


Roe vs. Wade is a move toward central control. It is the product of a philosophy which asserts that people don't know what is best for themselves, and need a hypothetical "perfect ruler" to enforce the best-practice on everyone, regardless of who they are or what their lives are like. This philosophy is not only incompatible with personal freedom, it is fraught with practical difficulties regarding implementation. Specifically: Where the hell are you going to find a perfectly moral, perfectly knowledgable human being to make and enforce policy???

Using the Federal government to enforce a law with valid arguments on any given side is akin to violence. It represents a means for forcing others to conform to your own point of view, whereas the libertarian tells people to solve their own problems in the way they best see fit.

Libertarianism reflects a faith in distributed systems.

...A faith in the good in human nature.

...A conscious choice that the problems associated with freedom (and there are many) are more manageable than those that arise from central-control gone bad because when the individual is free, there is nearly nothing that cannot be solved by way of education and argument.



To write this, I drew heavilly on ideas from Karl Popper and Steven Pinker. I would highly recommend reading both of them.