Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

Can We Think Outside the Capitalism-Statism Box?

Here’s a very thoughtful and exceedingly respectful criticism of me for my biostatism. The alternative? Biocapitalism! My tentative response: Isn’t there a third alternative? That would be political deliberation.

Another blogster comments on my NEW ATLANTIS article with the intention of showing that liberals will unite with the libertarians on organ markets. Liberals, on such issues, can’t explain why they aren’t libertarians.

Discussions - 7 Comments

Peter, it is a good question. If we create law about what we do with our bodies, it becomes just one more area of life and our humanity wherein we give the state control over us. Not that we haven’t got that, in many ways. From suicide to contact lens prescriptions, the state seems to have an interest in how we manage our bodies. To some degree, for us to live in society, I suppose it must, but SO much?

Political deliberation - by which do you mean we have legislated, but not regulated our control of our body’s parts? That is just another kind of government control. Does the legislative aspect of that make for a real, practical difference? If I lose a liberty by democratic means, the liberty is still lost. Though, to tell myself "It is by the will of the people." I might find it more consistent with human dignity.

Once people could sell themselves for a time - indentured servitude - and it seems to me better than a statist welfare system. That it was a contractual agreement, agreed upon for a time, always seems to me to argue that it left ultimate control of the person in his own hands, and was, therefore, not true slavery.

I was not impressed by this defense of ’biocapitalism’. Like most libertarians, it shows a real lack of imagination when it comes to social/communal consequences. It also assumes that 1) there are no negative ’externalities’ of such individual behavior, and 2) that "the market" for organs (or sex, or any commodification of the body) is truly voluntary. Without the state, of course, we never really know about other levels of coercion (e.g., family, community, religious, etc.).

I really wish libertarians would understand that "individualism" and "individual rights" are ultimately dependent on the state. Authority is an absolute requirement of social life, and however elegant libertarian reductionism might appear, "stateless" societies are generally a bloody mess (e.g., Somalia, civil society in today’s South Africa). Real conservatives understand there is no substitute for socially-rooted value systems and their enforcement.

dain, I am not trying to pick a fight, but want talk about this, because I am not sure what I think, where I fall. Do you mind?

I agree with your 1) & 2) points. But if the primary point is individual freedom and an individual’s right to his body, then do those (1&2) become secondary points? Can we get carried away with secondary points until the primary point is obscured? I don’t think I am a libertarian, but I do worry about the extent of state control. I do not think even libertarians are interested in having the kinds of stateless societies you point out. However, which are the more important individual rights, the right to some measure of personal sovereignty, or the right to be protected from everything ill or evil in life?

I thought that article was pointing to the social/communal consequences of NOT being allowed to sell a kidney, which are also real. How much do I prefer state coercion to that of my family, community, religion?

Peter, I wrote this in answer to your blogster:

It is not just a “yuck” thing. There are risks in donating a kidney, not just in the surgery, but also in the point you make about your own kidneys - “get ‘em while they’re pink” as if that poor person needs his other kidney later, well, too bad. Can I just lease my kidney to that other guy till I need it back? I don’t think so. You make more plasma all the time. Your hair still grows after the donating cut. You can even make more babies after abortion. (Not that the baby might have seen it that way.) You do NOT make another kidney.Not that I don’t get your point about making it legal, especially as it relates to the War on Drugs nor about the “kidney crisis” but the organ market might kill innocents because a kidney is not like plasma, etc.

Kate, sometimes family coercion can be lots worse than state coercion (e.g., honor killing). My point is really straightforward: Social order cannot be predicated on "individualism." Conservatives understand that there is a tension between the individual and the collective, and that fact simply will not go away (no matter how ’consistent’ the philosophy). What should be the ’rule of thumb’? I haven’t decided on that myself...maybe ’consistency’ is incompatible with real human life.

As a liberal, I can say why I’M not a libertarian - I think it’s a particularly selfish and short-sighted philosophy. "Why do I have to pay for roads I don’t drive on? I don’t even have kids - I should give money for their schools?"

I like the idea that I’m surrounded by educated people who can get from place to place, and I like not having to spend my own money on weapons to protect me from all the have-nots. It’s enlightened self-interest.

Daniel K. Having recently driven across state lines on turnpikes, I am really glad that every road is not a toll road. Yes, there are lots of conveniences to the state and even libertarians would probably agree with your second paragraph. Well... mostly. Yes, I heard one once who was just that selfish and short-sighted and I wanted to kick him for being such a fathead.

dain, in terms of coercion from any source of the type you mention, evil is just evil. A democratically elected Islamic state might require honor killing and other horrors like that Pakistani law recently changed that Julie mentioned earlier in the week.

Then yes, Conservatives understand that there is a tension between the individual and the collective, but if I could find an absolute position on issues like this one Peter Lawler raises, I think I would be more comfortable. I envy him his apparent certainty.

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