November 2007

November 16, 2007 8:52AM

What about Fetal Rights?

In response to my letter on abortion recently published in Reason Magazine, several people have asked me, “What about fetal rights?” I addressed that issue in my original letter but it was edited out. Below is the letter I submitted with the portions that were deleted in bold.

Libertarian and Mother of Four

As a libertarian and a mother of four, I take issue with Radley Balko’s characterization of the abortion debate in “Getting Beyond Roe” (Aug/Sep) as being about “setting community standards” and that issues such as abortion “are best dealt with in those diverse laboratories of democracy, the states.” Abortion should no more be a question for local politics than slavery.

Community standards are the greatest threat to individual liberty there is. They have led to witch trials, kangaroo courts, censorship and egregious takings through eminent domain. And now Balko would like to let them decide the reproductive fate of women. Our country is not a democracy, not even a federalist democracy, but a constitutional republic — a country in which the Constitution protects individuals against majoritarian trespass. As far as individual rights are concerned, the Constitution is useless if it can’t protect one portion of the population from being forced into involuntary servitude by another, no matter at what level of government the enslavement takes place.

The right to have an abortion per se is not the issue, but the right to self-determination, the right not to be used as a means to an end against one’s will, the right not to be considered a communal resource — in short, the right for women to have the same control over their own bodies and their own fates as men.

Perhaps Roe was decided wrongly, not because it nationalized a right to abortion, but because it was decided in reliance on the wrong precedents. The 13th Amendment is more germane to the abortion debate than the Griswold v. Conn. line of cases and their amorphous right to privacy. Blackmun, in Roe, showed sympathy for the plight of women but also a profound paternalistic disrespect for those very people he was trying to help. To hinge the right of women to control their own bodies on privacy instead of every individual’s right, whether male or female, not to be treated as a public resource indicates a fundamental misunderstanding of what is at stake.

I believe abortion is morally wrong, but I also believe that in a conflict between mother and fetus, a woman’s right must always take precedence. A human being’s rights under the law increase with maturity. That has been the tradition under Anglo-American law as well as world wide for most of history. To suggest that a fetus has the same rights as a mature adult individual borders on the perverse. A woman’s rights should never be placed second to the needs of her fetus. To do so is to treat women first and foremost as communally owned vessels for bringing forth life and only second as autonomous individuals.

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November 15, 2007 4:22PM

Great Moments in Government‐​Run Health Care

People in the United Kingdom are pulling their own teeth with pliers, suffering on waiting lists, and enduring higher death rates from cancer, but the bureaucrats at the National Health Service are paying for “virginity repair” operations. Actually, the taxpayers are the ones financing this boondoggle. The Evening Standard reports:

Women are being given controversial “virginity repair” operations on the NHS, it emerged last night. Taxpayers funded 24 hymen replacement operations between 2005 and 2006, official figures revealed. …Tory health spokesman Mike Penning expressed concern. …”nobody would understand is if taxpayers’ money is being used to fund operations of this kind for cultural or cosmetic reasons.” Labour MP Ann Cryer said she was “absolutely horrified” to learn of the phenomenon. …“We have to also ask whether our National Health Service should be providing this sort of facility. I don’t think it should be available on the NHS.” The Department of Health said “certain cosmetic procedures” are available on the NHS “to secure physical or psychological health”.

November 15, 2007 12:40PM

The Flat Tax Club Should Get Another Member Tomorrow

It’s not quite time to play the theme song of the global flat tax revolution, but a Bulgarian news source indicates that the Parliament will approve a 10 percent flat tax tomorrow:

Bulgarian lawmakers from the ruling three‐​way coalition are expected to rubber stamp on Friday the introduction of the flat tax in the country starting from next year by amending the Taxation Act. In summer, the leaders of the coalition have agreed to scrap the existing progressive taxation system with three income brackets and introduce a flat income tax of 10% starting from 2008.

Depending on how the list is compiled, this will mean 22 flat tax jurisdictions, up from three just 15 years ago. The main country to adopt a flat tax this year (effective on January 1) is the Czech Republic. The top target next year is Poland. By 2050, France may join the club. By 2100, North Korea will be among the final dominoes to fall. Then maybe we can overcome the special‐​interest opposition in Congress.

November 15, 2007 11:06AM

What Does that “C” Stand for Again?

For anyone who still believes that the debate over expanding the state Children’s Health Insurance Program (S-CHIP) is really about health care for poor children, the New York Times reports that 8 Senate Democrats have signed a letter saying they will oppose any compromise that doesn’t allow the program to continue covering adults.

Currently, 12 states currently use S-CHIP funds to provide taxpayer‐​funded insurance for adults. According to data released by the Department of Health and Human Services in July, Wisconsin covers almost twice as many adults as children — and spends 75 percent of its S-CHIP funds on them. Minnesota spends 63 percent of its S-CHIP funds on adults. In New Jersey, it’s 43 percent.

Let’s keep that in mind the next time we see ads featuring adorable little kids pleading for those mean, nasty Republicans to give them health insurance.

November 15, 2007 9:59AM

I Guess It Depends What “All” Means…

Several blogs, including the one over at the New Republic have taken me to task for my last post pointing out that with the deadline looming for complying with the Massachusetts individual health insurance mandate, more than 100,000 people still haven’t purchased the required insurance. I suggested that this proves a mandate is unlikely to achieve universal coverage. But, the blogs say, no one ever claimed that the Massachusetts plan would insure everyone.

Except that is exactly what the plan’s supporters claimed. When the bill was signed, the media, state lawmakers, and health care reform advocates hailed it as achieving “universal coverage.” As Mitt Romney himself wrote in the Wall Street Journal, “all Massachusetts citizens will have health insurance.”

There’s no doubt that the Massachusetts plan has reduced the number of people without health insurance in the state. But that is largely because of the plan’s enormously generous (and costly) subsidies. The mandate, with its infringement on individual liberty and invitation to greater government regulation, has had little positive impact.

November 14, 2007 4:55PM

Anti‐​Immigrant Opinions are Weakly Held II

[Here’s Anti‐​Immigrant Opinions are Weakly Held I.]

In his book The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers: Economic Change and Military Conflict from 1500 to 2000 Yale history professor Paul Kennedy makes the case that, historically, great powers have risen to a point where they have become overextended because of their imperial commitments and the expenditures needed to defend them, at which point they have collapsed.

I was reminded of this when I saw the television ad Rep. Tom Tancredo is running in Iowa. (It’s getting much more play in the blogosphere than he could ever afford to buy.)

By equating immigrants to terrorists, this leader of the anti‐​immigrant right is shedding credibility — the coin of the political realm — at a furious pace. His argument just doesn’t square with the real world or the common sense judgments good American people make for themselves.

Anti‐​immigrant opinions have reached their apex. The cartoonish quality of Tancredo’s hysteria‐​mongering presages the fall. See for yourself.

November 14, 2007 12:12PM

Spitzer Gives Up, Will Start Over Later

The New York Times reports today that New York Governor Eliot Spitzer (D) has dropped his plan to issue licenses without regard to immigration status.

His original, correct decision to break the tie between driver licensing and immigration status met with hails of derision from anti‐​immigrant groups and his political opponents. He attempted to quell the outrage by agreeing to sign New York up for the federal government’s “REAL ID” national ID system, but this did not please anyone. So now he’s back at square one.

He said the state would put on hold the plan to adopt the Real ID, which has been championed by the Bush administration. The governor said he wanted to wait until federal regulations for Real ID licenses were issued next year before deciding how to proceed.

Now that he’s — ahem — studied the issues, one hopes he’ll recognize that REAL ID is costly, privacy‐​invasive, and ineffective, and he’ll decline to involve his state in the national ID program.