Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Integrity, to what?

A recent column by Thomas L. Friedman entitled "Why I Am Pro-Life" makes the demand for consistency and integrity in one's beliefs. While integrity is a virtue, consistency in his belief of "the sanctity of life" leads to fostering violence and human suffering --- the destruction of life --- via the annihilation of individual rights.

The primary error of method is that throughout his op-ed, Friedman endorses laws or prospective laws by their advertised outcome, with no mention of the actual mechanisms that are introduced by those laws. For example:
"While [NYC Mayor David Bloomberg] supports a woman’s right to choose, he has also used his position to promote a whole set of policies that enhance everyone’s quality of life — from his ban on smoking in bars and city parks to reduce cancer, to his ban on the sale in New York City of giant sugary drinks to combat obesity and diabetes..."
Observe how his statement is framed from the standpoint of supposed results, but not the actual results. How does he know what will happen with such a ban? No discussion takes place in his article and no discussion takes place culturally. Sugary drinks harm health? So ban them, right? Well, this particular ban is only for certain sizes, so being unable to buy a XL, is easily remedied by buying two regulars  A sugary drink "ban" incentivizes a change in behavior in individuals: the means by which individuals pursue something, but not the outcome. Changing the outcome involves an absolute ban on a substance or action, but even then that will only prevent a fraction of people from taking an action they otherwise would want to take.

Picture the prohibition of alcohol in the 1920's and early 30's. A great number of people didn't stop drinking alcohol, they merely found a way to make and consume it illegally. No matter how many booze lounges Police broke up, another one sprouted up nearby to sate the demand.

In principle, it is the same for other aspects of the law. Friedman says about weapons bans:
"In my world, you don’t get to call yourself “pro-life” and be against common-sense gun control — like banning public access to the kind of semiautomatic assault rifle, designed for warfare, that was used recently in a Colorado theater."
Criminals do not care if weapons are illegal, like drinkers don't much care if booze is illegal like drug users don't much care if drugs are illegal. Thus, the degree of a gun ban is the degree to which one disarms innocent law-abiding people, making them easier victims for criminals.

Drugs, alcohol, guns: people of all walks of life want these things regardless of whether there's a law against them. The law changes their behavior in procuring what they desire, but it does not change the outcome. What is often accomplished however, is that violence is brought into a situation that would otherwise be non-violent. For example, there will always be drug dealers, so the question is whether or not those dealers can turn to police in order to protect their property, thereby avoiding violence, or whether their property rights are not respected and they must necessarily become violent to protect what is theirs.

"The Environmental Protection Agency, which ensures clean air and clean water..."

Oh, is that what it does? Because individuals have no incentive to procure these things without a shotgun pressed to their temples? "You provide that clean water OR ELSE!". Though I suppose if you are a liberal with no respect for property rights, you can't really fathom how things could take care of themselves if rights were properly defined and clearly protected. Therefore anyone not in favor of shotguns in their face and everyone else's faces are clearly "anti-life" and want babies to die from drinking dirty toilet water.
"I have no respect for someone who relies on voodoo science to declare that a woman’s body can distinguish a “legitimate” rape, but then declares — when 99 percent of all climate scientists conclude that climate change poses a danger to the sanctity of all life on the planet — that global warming is just a hoax. "
Yes, as for "climate change", what are the intended results of regulating industry in the name of warming? "Saving our future". But this a lot of political pull for something unproven. 99% of all climate scientists say "warming" is a danger of "the sanctity of all life"? How alarming. And untrue. Not that a consensus of experts would be tantamount to the truth anyway.  In fact, it's not proven that human beings have anything whatsoever to do with warming this planet, and even if we did, you'd have to distinguish the man-made from the natural temperature variations to find out if that warming is significant enough to even matter. Why the presumption that human beings can even make a long-term dent in the power of mother earth? Maybe because if everyone buys into it, there's a lot of political power to be grabbed. A human desire for power over others is far more believable than a doomsday human contamination of the planet scenario, but that's just my opinion.

But let's grant that power to our "experts" and superiors to cripple industry by violating rights in the name of dodgy claims of the apocalypse anyway. Life's more interesting under manufactured polarization, after all. Well, the results of curtailing industry would be a loss of production and innovation. A loss of production and innovation is bad news for everyone. When these slow, it means one more cure that reaches us even slower, which means thousands of more people who will die in the meantime, because some experts want them to care about what happens to civilization 3000 years from now (under the assumption it would actually continue to exist anyway). So go ahead and tell that African village that their vaccines could not be manufactured due to CO2 emissions peaking. Make sure to feel virtuously "pro-life" when they all die in an outbreak of nipple herpes.

Intent blinds us to probability.
And then when the old technology breaks and has to be replaced, but it can't be at a great enough rate since some people "know better" and have restricted production beyond the point of inconvenience and into the the realm of human sacrifice, well, what exactly are we trying to protect even if warming were real? A future in which we are all at the mercy of nature? A future where we tell people "It's best *not* to do all you can." or "It can't be helped."? How can we even love others fully in the knowledge we are not free to protect them? That at some point we should give up on ill loved ones in the name of protecting some hypothetical person, centuries from now? Accept that pain and all the lowered standards for happiness and values. Sound really "pro-life" to me.

When we observe and project the actual results of these "pro-life" mechanisms instead of preaching their intended results, we can see that the outcome is not "pro-life" at all. Hundreds of thousands dead in drug wars. More of them locked away for ages for non-violent crimes. Disarmed, ready-made victims at the mercy of their law-breaking intruders. Inconveniences on the way to becoming sacrifices on the way to watering-down life to such a level that the claim one is "pro-life" loses all meaning.
"Respect for the sanctity of life, if you believe that it begins at conception, cannot end at birth. "
It's great to demand consistency. But the problem with consistency is that if you begin with flawed premises, it leads you to being consistently wrong.

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