My friends Nick Gillespie and Matt Welch from Reason Magazine are inviting people to submit questions on libertarianism, which the two will answer in video responses, in order to promote their new book The Declaration of Independents: How Libertarian Politics Can Fix What’s Wrong with America, due out on June 28th. I decided to ask about abortion (as did National Review’s Mark Hemingway), which is a tough question for libertarians. On one hand, they usually don’t like government intrusion on medical decisions of any sort, but the reliance on individual rights poses a conundrum for the unquestionably human in utero. As I framed it in my private tweet to Nick — sans crotch shot, I can assure you — if we can abort human beings, why can’t government treat individuals in a utilitarian manner in any other context?
Nick and Matt provide a thoughtful, measured response in this video:
I have to say, I appreciate the approach they took in this response, and there is much to consider in it. In the end, I believe that one cannot draw a “sliding scale of humanity” before birth without allowing for one afterward. There is no difference in the individuality or humanity of the child in the womb, which starts at fertilization with a complete and unique DNA set, and whose growth scientifically demonstrates its individual (although dependent) life. The only difference along that sliding scale is the utility of the being. If utility is an overriding issue in this context, it would certainly allow for utility as a consideration for other people to dictate control over individuals in other private contexts as well, such as health care at a minimum, at least conceptually. But I certainly appreciate the thoughtful discussion of the issue, and I’ll be interested to see what more they have to say on the subject.