Saturday, August 28, 2010

Neumann and Walker morally challenged on abortion.

Hi everyone,

I've been fascinated for some time now by the radical swing to the right taken by Republicans over the past 30 years. I like to joke that, these days, even Barry Goldwater would be characterized as a RINO.

This is no longer a joke. Local candidates for governor have adopted a position on abortion that isn't conservative in any meaningful sense of that word. It is conceptually dissonant in ways that would make Arnold Schoenberg reach for the morphine.

Their positions are better characterized as puritanical -- an increasingly popular position.


And so it goes.


Saturday's column.



Neumann, Walker misguided on abortion issue



As a measure of how far today's so-called conservatives have drifted (or been stampeded) away from traditional conservative values, consider that Mark Neumann and Scott Walker hold positions on abortion that make Barry Goldwater look like a moderate or, these days, a socialist. Personally, I side with Sen. Goldwater. I suspect a lot of moderate Republicans still do. Goldwater believed abortion is a matter that belongs to the sphere of personal choice and not government intervention.

Digging through Neumann and Walker's campaign materials you'd guess they contain the usual promises about fighting for the rights of un-born people — since it's a promise they'll never actually have to keep once those people are post-born. What is surprising, however, is that both candidates have consistently introduced legislation to let government make moral and medical decisions for Americans.

What strikes me as most incongruous about this is that both Neumann and Walker claim they want government to stay out of public matters (like regulating economic hooliganism that could, for instance, crash the world's economy), and intervene in personal matters, like family planning.

Frankly, this isn't conservative, although it seems to be popular in some circles.

While in the Legislature, Scott Walker sponsored bills most moderates would characterize as whoppers in the anti-women's-health category. Four of his bills in 2002 (AB 55, 168, 360, and 831) stepped over the line. These bills would have denied women insurance coverage for birth control, allowed pharmacists to refuse to fill women's birth control prescriptions, allowed doctors to withhold medical information and refuse to provide routine prenatal tests to women, and last, but not least, eliminated prevention-based family planning health services for low income women. It's hard to imagine more effective ways to strip the rights of women in Wisconsin to have the kind of families they'd like. It's even stranger to see someone who claims to be a conservative putting government in the role of making those decisions for Wisconsin families.

These examples are bad enough, but weirder still is Walker's support of Scott Southworth, the Juneau County district attorney. Southworth is the DA who promised to go after teachers who complied with the Healthy Youth Act. Supporting a district attorney who threatens teachers when they obey the law is not the sort of thing you want in a governor — and for reasons that go way beyond the single issue of reproductive freedom.

So much for Walker, who tried to put women on a short leash here at home. Mark Neumann tried the same shenanigans back in the mid-1990s at the national level in the US Congress. Here are some highlights. He voted to restrict family planning programs in the world’s poorest countries, eliminate funding for family planning programs here in the U.S., and ban abortion procedures even when a woman's health was in danger.

Pro-Life Wisconsin, which opposed the Compassionate Care for Rape Victims Act and opposes not only abortions (under absolutely any circumstances) but even the use of birth control — which their test marketing has cleverly redefined as a kind of pre-emptive abortion (since, after all, it does prevent the conception of what might become a human being) — has endorsed both of these guys.

The easiest way to eliminate the issue of abortion is to eliminate unexpected pregnancies. The best way to do that is through adequate and well established birth control education programs. So why do people who want to stop abortion also want to avoid the very thing that would prevent abortions? Maybe because tugging on heart strings to win elections is more important than being ethically coherent.

And if straightforward ethical questions like these go unanswered by candidates for governor, do we really want to put them in command of a government they've demonstrated they'd use to intervene in our private lives to impose their own muddled answers? Sen. Goldwater thought this was a bad place for government to interfere with the freedom of Americans. What was good enough for the father of American conservatism is now being tossed under the bus by his misguided and morally challenged heirs.



To put it mildly.

hiho
Mp

18 comments:

zeus said...

One of the most over used fallacies in politics.

There is NOTHING conservative about allowing immorality.

When people use the infamous and false "you can't legislate morality" adage, they may as well be saying in their best Pee Wee Herman voice (and erroneously just as confident) "I know you are but what am I"....

It is absolutely the obligation of the government to legislate immorality, especially if it is a scientific FACT that the immoral act is ending a human life without their consent. Ending an innocent person's life is NOT a "personal matter."

Comparing Stimulus and the like to un-born children being murdered is absolutely absurd.

I'll tell you what "professor" I will debate you publicly anytime, anywhere on this subject.

What do you say?

Mpeterson said...

It would be my pleasure to have a conversation in public about these topics.

I didn't make any claim, however, about the stimulus package and abortion, only about their own incoherence with what were once "conservative" principles. I haven't seen any real "conservatives" since the Reagan people arrived in 1980. Okay, maybe Bob Dole and the old John McCain. I kind of liked those guys even when I disagreed with them.

Oh, also Mr. Bush the First. A pretty good president by my reckoning.

I guess I'd say it is not the job of governments to regulate moralities with a religious justification, since that might violate the Establishment Clause. I'd argue that the role of government is to regulate our public actions, actions that impact other citizens, while staying out of our private lives. Business is not a private matter, but a public one. Morality is a private rather than public matter and, so, government on these grounds would be responsible for regulating economic conduct, but not allowed to interfere with my private life.

What's with the quotation marks? Don't you believe I'm a real professor? ;^) Somehow, I am.

But debate is good for everyone. Where and when?

Oh, but on what subject? You never said.

zeus said...

Excellent, my wife's entire family lives in West Bend so maybe we could discuss the topic of whether it is or it isn't the government's role to legislate IMmorality not Morality specifically in the case of Abortion. I am sure you get the distinction or should I save it for our discourse?

How about my Mother in Law's restaurant, Tasting's, in downtown West Bend? The sooner the better. I am available most evenings and weekends that I am not on call for a hospital. I am on call this weekend but not the following weekend.

Do you prefer Weekends or Weekdays?

arod said...

"I guess I'd say it is not the job of governments to regulate moralities with a religious justification, since that might violate the Establishment Clause."

Define religious justification.

"Morality is a private rather than public matter"

Interesting. I suppose if I killed someone in an area where there was no government (like formerly deserted island), it wouldn't by immoral, right?

Mpeterson said...

Hi arod,

Your crime in this case is public so government gets a say. But what about your sexual tastes that do *not* impact other people? What about your own religious preferences, so long as they don't affect others? Wouldn't you say government should stay the hell out of those?

Or what about running a business that produces a product that's actually dangerous to people? Would government be a reasonable referee in a case like that? Wouldn't it be more or less reasonable for government to intrude if the product was more(plutonium M&Ms) or less (Jello) dangerous?

Or maybe you have a different definition of 'immoral'?

Mpeterson said...

Zeus, you're a physician?

Interesting.

My schedule is a mess for the next week or so as we retool for the fall semester, plus I have the Milwaukee ukulele festival coming up and I'm part of the organizing committee. That's on the 25th of September. After that things clear up pretty nicely... End of September sometime? Thursday evenings are pretty good for me.

And just to be clear, there are obviously lines where your own morality can have a public effect -- at which point the public may indeed have an interest in regulating it. The courts have decided, for instance, that Rastafarians aren't allowed to get high in public, even though it's part of their religion. And we don't allow religious groups to censor public library materials just because their personal morality mandates it.

So maybe we could talk about where the line is between public and private?

zeus said...

Pardon me for interjecting but...

You asked my cousin Arod,

" But what about your sexual tastes that do *not* impact other people? What about your own religious preferences, so long as they don't affect others? Wouldn't you say government should stay the hell out of those?"

Regarding your first and second question, maybe, if we (or specifically you) could guarantee or even get close to proving that those things do *not* affect others in a way not commonly accepted by and or therefore beneficial to society.

There are a lot of assumptions that you would have to rectify before I would be willing to consider the relevancy of the last question.

Such as and in this order:

1. Is there purpose to life?

2. Are there absolutes?

3. Do people have a responsibility to other people?

We can start there and try to move forward, or we can just save it for the debate.... ;)

No, I am not a Physician. I am an Entrepreneur who still likes to play Surgery in my spare time.

Just let me know what exact date and if you want an audience?

We "could" argue where the line is between private and public, but that might be to broad and lead to too many rabbit trails. I would prefer to argue the role in government / society to legislate immorality, specifically in the realm of abortion rights. Since that was the reason for my original response to you and motivation for my challenge.

How do you suggest I get my private contact information to you?

Mpeterson said...

You can post it here, and I'll intercept it without publishing it to the blog if you like.

We can narrow this as you like. My ready answers to your questions would be something like this.

1. see Kierkegaard.

2. see Kant's Antinomies

3. see Kant and Nietzsche and Levinas.

Go ahead and send your info. It will not appear in the blog.

zeus said...

For the record, I am not in school so I don't do reading assignments.

But I suppose my ready rebuttal would be like this.

1. See Augustine

2. See Aquinas

3. See John Paul II and st. John of the Cross

and G.K. Chesterton

arod said...

"Your crime in this case is public so government gets a say."

What government? My example provides a place remote from any form of government. Two men are on an island with no civil contract. One decides to murder the other. According to your definition of morality, this act is not immoral because their is no recognized government.

I had a philosophy professor that took the same position you have espoused. When I posed the same example, he didn't have much an answer.

You said, "But what about your sexual tastes that do *not* impact other people? What about your own religious preferences, so long as they don't affect others? Wouldn't you say government should stay the hell out of those?"

Yes, I would.

You said, "Or what about running a business that produces a product that's actually dangerous to people? Would government be a reasonable referee in a case like that? Wouldn't it be more or less reasonable for government to intrude if the product was more(plutonium M&Ms) or less (Jello) dangerous?"

Yes. Correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't an abortion dangerous to the one being aborted?

Mpeterson said...

I respect your time constraints.

Strangely enough, if you want to stand by your answers, you and I actually have very little to disagree about.... especially when you include Chesterton.

arod said...

Are you saying that if a murder takes place where their is no government put into place, that it's not immoral?

Mpeterson said...

Hmm. I haven't actually said what my position on morality is, I only suggested some conditions under which government should be allowed to act to make legislation concerning it. I mean why would you think it's not okay for government to dictate your sexual conduct, if you weren't agreeing with my general outlines? Or are you actually shooting to see whether I'd defend an absolutist kind of moral groundwork?

If you're asking me about the ground of moral judgments, I'd say that Aristotle's view of ethics -- a kind of ethical model they're inaccurately calling "virtue ethics" these days -- is probably more consistent both theoretically and practically than the kind of absolutist moral grounds you find in Kant, or even in Mill. I think Nietzsche pretty much took care of those grounds by asking whether morality that appeals to a non-testable absolute grounds, isn't really just psychological preference dressed up for Church. I'm hard pressed to see where he's got that wrong.

Virtue ethics, on the other hand, would let you say something like "it's wrong to kill someone else, even on a desert island" ... but then what Aristotle means by "wrong" isn't exactly the same thing "wrong" means under the version Christianity imposed on western culture.

Does abortion harm a person, and if it does, is it justified... How do you answer Judith Jarvis Thomson's world famous violinist?

My view is that abortions up until onset of brain activity in the fetus are probably justifiable, but after that only if the mother's life is at stake, and then only until fetal viability, after which I tend to side with having the baby live over the life of the mother.

But I think this is the wrong question altogether: the real question is why we live in a culture that produces unwanted pregnancies. Eliminate those and abortions disappear, except in the case of medical emergencies. I think this last issue is the real problem.

Mpeterson said...

Hmm. I haven't actually said what my position on morality is, I only suggested some conditions under which government should be allowed to act to make legislation concerning it. I mean why would you think it's not okay for government to dictate your sexual conduct, if you weren't agreeing with my general outlines? Or are you actually shooting to see whether I'd defend an absolutist kind of moral groundwork?

If you're asking me about the ground of moral judgments, I'd say that Aristotle's view of ethics -- a kind of ethical model they're inaccurately calling "virtue ethics" these days -- is probably more consistent both theoretically and practically than the kind of absolutist moral grounds you find in Kant, or even in Mill. I think Nietzsche pretty much took care of those grounds by asking whether morality that appeals to a non-testable absolute grounds, isn't really just psychological preference dressed up for Church. I'm hard pressed to see where he's got that wrong.

Virtue ethics, on the other hand, would let you say something like "it's wrong to kill someone else, even on a desert island" ... but then what Aristotle means by "wrong" isn't exactly the same thing "wrong" means under the version Christianity imposed on western culture.

Does abortion harm a person, and if it does, is it justified... How do you answer Judith Jarvis Thomson's world famous violinist?

But I think this is the wrong question altogether: the real question is why we live in a culture that produces unwanted pregnancies. Eliminate those and abortions disappear, except in the case of medical emergencies. I think this last issue is the real problem.

zeus said...

Butting in yet again, I figured I should make an important point before I go any further.

I believe it's fair to assume that we have all read a lot of books written by a lot of philosophers. That being said, I am not terribly interested in debating Kant, Nietzsche or any other philosopher not named Mark Peterson. Since those philosophers are not even alive it would be difficult and (IMHO) inappropriate to give them a significant role in this debate without many unnecessary assumptions being made and ultimately being left with more unanswered questions then what we started with.

I recognize that applying another philosopher's reasoning to one's own argument is not only appropriate but necessary at times. However, the search for Truth is not predicated on the works of the "masters" which to me is the equivalent of "name dropping."

So moving forward, I would kindly suggest that we use our own reasoning while not assuming everyone else has read the same old arguments with the same results.

I know I like to articulate my own argument i.e. "fight my own battles."

This is fun!

Mpeterson said...

Those names are short hand for longer and denser constellations of arguments, and I'm afraid that we can't dispense with them if you want to have a substantive conversation. My thoughts on most of these questions have been influenced by these old guys.

Besides, philosophers aren't smart enough to have their own arguments until we're around 70 years old. Up to that point we're still busy processing the last 2000 years.

I'm only 50 something.

So I'm afraid I'll have to reference the classic sources on questions of morality and government, since history has sifted and winnowed out the chaff.

I *can* restate their ideas in simpler language but to suggest I can't use them, or that you aren't interested in them, is a bit like telling a physicist he can't use Newton's or Heisenberg's theories to discuss time and space and that, besides, you're not interested in gravity or uncertainty, but only in what I happen to think about them.

If you just want to trade opinions, we'll need beer. If you want to test your understanding of questions about morality and government, then why not face off against the real pros? Their ideas are the ones I'm bringing to the table.

zeus said...

I apologize, I thought I was clear when I said...

"I recognize that applying another philosopher's reasoning to one's own argument is not only appropriate but necessary at times. However, the search for Truth is not predicated on the works of the "masters" which to me is the equivalent of "name dropping."

Of course it's okay to reference other philosophers, I am merely suggesting that we don't assume that everyone has the same opinion about what they have said or even their relevance. Since this debate is actually about the specific immorality of abortion I am not sure many of the "masters" would have a lot of specific arguments in this regard.

That the problem with classical rhetoric, it is more concerned with "seeming" to win the argument than actually doing so. I would like to avoid this and as they say, K.I.S.S. ;)

Mpeterson said...

I'm just making sure.