Advocates of birth control and abortion frequently fly the banner of “women’s reproductive health,” as if the prevention and termination of pregnancy were intrinsically therapeutic–which is to say, as if the capacity to become pregnant were a disease or defect. The same logic would treat the freezing of eggs as a therapy and the normal decline of a woman’s fertility with age as a disease or defect.
We understand how these technologies can be construed as liberating for women. But just as our hypothetical osteotomy advocate is no friend of the wee, reproductive-choice feminism can also be seen as a form of misogyny.
One more point: This column has noted in the past how the pill, now ubiquitous and generally seen as benign and liberating for women, was also harmful to women. By giving them control over the reproductive process, it absolved men of responsibility. By promising consequence-free sex, it expanded male sexual options. As a result, it became harder for women to demand commitment either as a precondition of sex or in the event of unintended pregnancy. That contributed to the decline of marriage, the rise in illegitimacy and the demand for abortion.
Imagine if cosmetic osteotomy caught on, so that a significant percentage–let’s say one-third–of short men were having the procedure. That would have similar systemic effects. The average male height would rise considerably, while the number of short men would decline. Short men who were content to live in a society with a natural height distribution would feel more isolated and diminished, increasing the pressure on them to get stretched. Men of average natural height would find themselves slipping below average, as former 5-foot-6ers shot up to 6-foot-2. At that point even tall men would have to have the procedure in order to maintain their advantage.
It would be like the arms race, only with legs.
Kimberly Strassel calls the National Republican Senatorial Committee’s staggering Senate loss candidates “professional malpractice” (“The GOP’s Epic Senate Fail,” Potomac Watch, Nov. 8). While Ms. Strassel is correct, she fails to explore the historical irony behind leaving Senate elections vulnerable to this particular brand of malpractice: The whole point of the American founders’ decision to divide the legislature in the first place was to protect states’ rights in one house, free from bungling attempts like the NRSC’s to direct the popular will and influence special interest groups.
Enacted in 1913, the 17th Amendment restructured the government so that there is no difference between how Senators and Representatives are elected. This is in stark contrast to how the American Constitution imagined the country would be run.
The Constitution outlined a legislative branch in which Americans didn’t actually directly elect senators, state legislators did. This reflected the fact that the House was intended to represent individuals’ rights, while the Senate stood for states’ rights. Individuals, the founders believed, would be better represented overall with two separate levels of accountability before submitting to the ultimate will of the federal government on high.
Federalism was an important principle for the American founders, and federalism holds states’ rights paramount. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia has gone so far as to note that since the 17th Amendment was ratified, “you can trace the decline of so-called states’ rights throughout the rest of the 20th century.”
America was founded not as a democracy, but as a Constitutional Republic—a community of individuals and states responsible to constitutional procedures designed to promote divided government. The 17th Amendment changed the process to make the Senate democratically responsible to the people rather than, as in a republic, responsible to the states.
It is no wonder, then, that so many other American principles have also ceased to resemble the constitutional principles of 1776.
Thomas Frank ended his list of questions regarding the oil spill by stating that, absent answers from the right, “for now, we are all liberals” (“Laissez-Faire Meets the Oil Spill,” The Tilting Yard, June 2). This conception defines “liberal” as the presumption that government is separate from citizenry, and citizenry separate from leadership.
Frank is correct in noting that when disaster strikes sheep tend to look towards their shepherd. It is tempting to solicit government apologies and centrally-organized hair donations to sop up the spill. It was not so long ago that we sheep voted for change. This disastrous spill presents an opportunity for a new kind of shepherd.
Just this week the Obama Administration presented conflicting messages as slippery as oil itself, a contradiction that permits BP the chance to exploit government dollars rather than bear the responsibility for its actions. It makes no sense for a shepherd to “assume full responsibility” for the incentives that caused a disaster even while the shepherd’s administration serves oil execs with subpoenas.
Indeed, Frank characterizes “liberalism” as the urge to find somebody to blame. Finger-pointing does not lead to solutions. The urge to panic will not absorb thousands of tons of spilled oil. Blame has not catapulted Detroit to economic rebound. No shepherd can protect children from being left behind.
Perhaps in moments of uncertainty we all are indeed temporarily “liberals.” These are the moments that separate the sheep from the shepherds. It is in these moments that those shepherds among us must stand up and focus on the solution. No amount of blame can substitute for true responsibility and leadership, as “illiberal” as those concepts may be.
From today’s WSJ:
It is amusing to me that five (count them!) former Treasury secretaries of the U.S. think that further government control of the financial community will somehow prevent or repair this or any other boom-bust credit cycle (Letters, Feb. 22). The primary entity that needs to be restrained is the federal government in all its various forms. Its agencies have worked together to orchestrate the most massive credit expansion in our history, the real cause of our current difficulties, all the while telling the American people that they were doing them a favor.
In the process, they manipulated the financial community, among many others, to achieve their questionable goal of increasing home ownership at any cost. I am no particular advocate of banks or hedge funds, but the notion that all of these former Treasury officials are encouraging closer control of one of their key instruments in the wholesale manipulation of the American economy is laughable. We are in far more trouble than I thought.
Last week the WSJ printed a great column: one man’s list of “things most essential to a fully satisfactory and happy life.”
Here are the 5:
1. Before I die I want to know that I have done something truly great, that I have accomplished some glorious achievement the credit for which belongs solely to me.
2. Before I die I want to know that during my life I have brought great happiness to others.
3. Before I die I want to have visited a large portion of the globe and to have actually lived with several foreign races in their own environment.
4. Before I die there is another great desire I must fulfill, and that is to have felt a truly great love.
5. Before I die I want to feel a great sorrow.
This last is the most interesting. Here’s the author’s explanation, in full:
Before I die I want to feel a great sorrow. This, perhaps, of all my wishes will seem the strangest to the reader. Yet, is it unusual that I should wish to have had a complete life? I want to have lived fully, and certainly sorrow is a part of life. It is my belief that, as in the case of love, no man has lived until he has felt sorrow. It molds us and teaches us that there is a far deeper significance to life than might be supposed if one passed through this world forever happy and carefree. Moreover, once the pangs of sorrow have slackened, for I do not believe it to be a permanent emotion, its dregs often leave us a better knowledge of this world of ours and a better understanding of humanity. Yes, strange as it may seem, I really want to feel a great sorrow.
In full it’s a beautiful piece; the last paragraph particularly lovely:
As for death itself, I do not believe that it will be such a disagreeable thing providing my life has been successful. I have always considered life and death as two cups of wine. Of the first cup, containing the wine of life, we can learn a little from literature and from those who have drunk it, but only a little. In order to get the full flavor we must drink deeply of it for ourselves. I believe that after I have quaffed the cup containing the wine of life, emptied it to its last dregs, then I will not fear to turn to that other cup, the one whose contents can be designated only by X, an unknown, and a thing about which we can gain no knowledge at all until we drink for ourselves. Will it be sweet, or sour, or tasteless? Who can tell? Surely none of us like to think of death as the end of everything. Yet is it? That is a question that for all of us will one day be answered when we, having witnessed the drama of life, come to the final curtain. Probably we will all regret to leave this world, yet I believe that after I have drained the first cup, and have possibly grown a bit weary of its flavor, I will then turn not unwillingly to the second cup and to the new and thrilling experience of exploring the unknown.
How ironic that on the same day the WSJ published Charlotte Allen’s call for Catholic activism (Opinion, Jan. 14), Massachusetts Attorney General – and Senate hopeful — Martha Coakley declared that “You can have religious freedom, but you probably shouldn’t work in an emergency room.”
Allen and Coakley both support the separation of church and state. Both likely value the freedom of conscience. But while Allen’s edict celebrates religious freedom, Coakley’s controversial statement suggests an important application: Religious freedom is a latent right that will fall to the wayside without staunch, active protection.
America’s Constitution rests on the principle that people are born imbued with innumerate natural rights. We cede some rights to government in exchange for protection, community, and organized trade. Rights like free speech and worship do not come from government; they belong naturally to individuals, latent and subject to our decision to protect them.
Ms. Allen asks Catholics to engage with their religion. Only through active, deliberate practice can Catholics protect the tenets of their faith from unraveling – or, indeed, from falling victim to government bent on encroaching further into that critical natural right to worship.
Even while AG Coakley agrees that “the law says that people are allowed to have [religious freedom],” her statements reflect just the kind of encroachment that should light a fire under every religious American.
When it comes to faith, use it or lose it. If religious individuals do not actively protect their beliefs, government will actively infringe on their religious freedom in the future.
If we do not take Ms. Allen’s advice to engage our latent freedoms, we will all become victims to politicians’ determination to usurp them.