Protecting the Lives of Women: Addressing Counterarguments Concerning Reproductive Freedom

I want to clarify and reinforce key points from recent blog entries concerning abortion rights (The Supreme Court Affirms the Tyranny of Majorities; Abortion is Not Murder. At Least According to the Bible. It’s Not Even Criminal; Segregating Liberty by Sex and the Matter of Religious Freedom). This issue is far too important to not talk to death—and the death I’d like to see in all this is that of the tyrannical impulse to control women’s bodies.

New York City, May 3, 2022. 

At the start, however, let me say two things I haven’t said, or at least, for one of them, need to clarify. The first is that abortion is birth control. I see rhetoric differentiating contraceptive methods that prevent pregnancy from abortifacients and medical procedures that end pregnancy. There is a fuzzy area in there where methods of preventing the fertilized egg from implanting in the uterine wall prevents a pregnancy but still ends the life of a potential human being. We can dispense with ambiguity by noting the literal meaning of the term in use, namely birth control. Everything we’re talking about is about preventing a baby from being born. I may be warned about putting ideas in people’s heads, but preventing a woman from having an abortion is preventing her from practicing birth control and this must be said.

Secondly, I have been criticized for using the castle doctrine to justify terminating what I regard to be a human being. I steel man my argument in defense of abortion by granting the personhood of the fetus (see, for example, The Fetus is a Person. Now What?), so arguments operating on the premise that the fetus is not a person are not available to me. (The premise that denies the personhood of the fetus comes with a myriad of problems, not least among them euthanization of those government and medical authorities deem non-persons because they lack the characteristics of personhood also absent in fetuses.) Because I grant personhood, I have to identify a legal excuse for fetal homicide when this is the desired outcome. The castle doctrine is not the only legal excuse available to me. Not all killing is murder and there are several avenues open to those who kill but wish to avoid murder charges. These are: wartime killing, killing to overthrow oppression, killing in self-defense, and killing to protect those who cannot defend themselves (the latter is an extension of the former).

Any good patriotic conservative will recognize all of these types of killing as undeserving of the charge and stigma of murder. Americans have gone off to war and returned heroes. If the war was just, and soldiers followed the rules of combat, then so was their killing. The founders of the American Republic initiated a war of independence to establish a new order of things—or, more precisely, to make manifest the promise of the Enlightenment, an act that in time ended the legacy of slavery and realized the right of women to be full political actors (a right that is at present very much in jeopardy). Any good patriotic conservative recognizes the right of a man to defend himself, his family, and his home from interlopers.

It should be clear that I am using the castle doctrine not as the crux of the legal justification for abortion (although I would throw it in the mix in judging a case), but as an instantiation of the foundational right to defend one’s life, liberty, and happiness, the inalienable rights identified in the Declaration of Independence. It is more than an analogy; such a principle must be assumed or there is no mechanism for defending inalienable rights. In other words, if a woman cannot defend life and liberty, then how can a man appeal to the castle doctrine? In both cases, killing is a means to a just end. This is why the Second Amendment is important—and why it is a collective right available to all. The question for conservatives is why they make an exception for women.

A counterargument presented to me in debate is that pregnancy, except for rape and incest (presuming the incestuous intercourse is involuntary, which makes it rape), is one hundred precent preventable. If you don’t want to be pregnant, then just don’t have sexual intercourse. Moreover, there is contraception that, when used correctly, and if the correct one is used, almost never results in pregnancy.

Previously I argued that, consistent with Nuremberg, another instantiation of the foundational rights identified above, women enjoy a right to withdraw from circumstances they may have voluntarily chose. However, even if we agreed that women aren’t allowed to change their mind after becoming pregnant by choice (and I do not agree), the reality is that sex without the intent to have children results in unwanted pregnancy all the time. Arguing with intent in the mix loses the argument in all cases where intent cannot be demonstrated—and it would be the burden of the state to demonstrate intent, an impossible task in most cases; having sex is not in itself indicative of intent to become pregnant.

Having made clear that the claim that sex and procreation are intrinsically linked is a religious perversion, let me emphasize that sex, which is for the most part intended for fun, is linked then to the right to happiness, which is among a woman’s inalienable rights (see Declaration of Independence). Not to go on about it, but sex is, for many people, one of the greatest things about being alive. It’s why humans do it so much. Unintended pregnancies are therefore inevitable. And this is why abortion has been practiced nearly everywhere for millennia—yes, even in the US at the time of our founding.

There is a related issue that is highlighted by the categorical attack on men suggesting that men should be the target of state reproductive control—vasectomies and whatever. This argument undermines the struggle for reproductive freedom by denying principle. If it is wrong for the state to regulate a woman’s reproductive capacity, then it is wrong to regulate a man’s. This extends to the man’s responsibility for the care of a child. If the women who does not intend a pregnancy or who wished not to continue with it can abort the fetus, then the man who did not intend the pregnancy or wishes it to continue can also walk away. Since having sex is not intrinsically linked to having children, the man can no more be on the hook for the fetus than the woman.

I have written that pregnancy comes with risks. When a person can, she should be allowed to voluntarily accept—or not be prevented from refusing—risks to her health and wellbeing. In this case, the risks are subject to choice. Whatever the probabilities associated with contraception, whatever the rate of failure of its various methods (and individuals should take time to learn about these), the methods of ending a pregnancy, if correctly used or performed, enjoy success rates approaching one hundred percent.

To be sure, there are risks to birth control. However, again, a person must be free to choose those risks. If one determines that having an abortion is less risky than methods of contraception available to them, then a rational choice has been made. If a person is prepared to accept the risks associated with having sex, including having an abortion, then a rational choice has been made. Of course there are risks to having sex. In a free and secular society, individuals must be free to choose those risks. They must also be allowed to have consensual sex without state-imposed consequences.

I have also criticized the defenders of abortion for the manner in which they defend the practice, especially over the language of rape and incest. Granting life of the mother (even those who resist my argument concerning the castle doctrine surely must be accept this exception), my argument goes like this: if the fetus is a person, and the person’s life must be preserved even at the cost of the mother’s desires, then why should the fetus suffer because the father is a rapist or a family member? Remember, I have granted the claim that the fetus is a person. Why should a person die for the sins of the father?

I make this point because I want those who defend abortion by appealing to the horrors and tragedies of rape and incest to reflect on the possibility that their suspect exceptions may becomes part of the regime that regulates abortion. Indeed, across Europe, and much of the United States, abortion is regulated with these exceptions in mind. But there should be no exceptions. The argument for abortion must focus on bodily autonomy and personal liberty, not on a presumption that some fetuses are more valuable than others. Birth control is not about protecting the lives of fetuses. It’s about protecting the lives of women.

I also push back against arguments that use cases where the mother forced to give birth is a minor. In some of these cases, the person is very young. It is hard to not respond in shock to the plight of a child forced by the state to give birth. Indeed, when three years ago, in Argentina, authorities denied an abortion to rape victim eleven-year-old “Lucia,” we were rightly horrified. Lucia attempted suicide twice upon learning of her pregnancy. She was placed in state care as a consequence. So the state literally forced her upon a gurney and cut her open. Lucia underwent a Caesarean section in the twenty-third week. The baby died a few days later. But why is this any less horrible if the person facing all this is an adult?

Finally, and this should be obvious in everything I write, the state must not force women to practice birth control any more than the state can force women to have babies. Observers are estimating that China’s one-child policy, a past program that included forced abortion, has resulted in the termination of 400 million pregnancies. I adamantly oppose any policy that compels women not to have the children they want or that forcibly limits family size. It is one thing to educate and persuade (and we do have an overpopulation problem). It is another to indoctrinate and coerce. America is a republic, not a tyranny. Family planning is not up to the majority or technocrats to determine. People own their bodies and control their destinies in a free and secular society.

In closing let me iterate that the United States of America was not established as a majoritarian democracy. The founders loathed popular democracy. They saw this style of government as not only destructive of individualism, but of progress and justice. We were founded as a liberal democracy—a constitutional republic with a bill of rights that specifically protects personal liberty from government overreach. The United States is explicitly organized around individual liberties and rights. Women are as entitled to those rights as men.

Segregating Liberty by Sex and the Matter of Religious Freedom

On average, seven hundred women die each year in the United States as a result of pregnancy or delivery complications. To be sure, some of them took on that risk voluntarily. But it was their choice. It should always be their choice.

Folks portray pregnancy as if it presents no risks to girls and women. But it does present risks—including death. Pregnancy can be dangerous. It moreover, affects almost every aspect of a woman’s life.

A fetus may sicken a woman. Women often develop serious and detrimental health conditions while pregnant. Women may be permanently disabled from pregnancy or child birth. A fetus may delay cancer treatments. A fetus imposes many costs a woman may wish not to bear. A fetus curtails her freedom. So she chooses not to bear a child.

The risks and effects associated with pregnancy mean that it must always be a voluntary decision. Even if at one point the woman wanted the pregnancy, her situation at a later point may indicate discontinuing it. She should be allowed to make that choice.

The code of Nuremberg requires that, in human subjects research, those conducting the study always allow the subject to withdraw from the study at any time. A researcher never says, “I’m sorry, Sir, but it is too late to withdraw now. You decided to involve yourself in the study. You have to see it through.” No, ethics demands that a free person may revoke his consent to participate. It is, after all, his body, his choice. The right to terminate a pregnancy is not unlike the right to withdraw from an experiment.

It is also like the right to defend one’s home. But there is a double standard in play. Why are men expected to defend their home and persons against interlopers, but women disallowed from defending their body in a similar fashion? Because the interloper is a fetus? Because the intruder in one’s home is an actual threat to safety and wellbeing?

We have already established that the fetus is a threat to safety and wellbeing. At the same time, a homeowner doesn’t know the intent of the stranger in his house. The stranger may be in the wrong house. He may wrongly believe it is his house. Mistake of fact, as they say in the law. He may not know where he is. He’s lost. He may be mentally ill and in need of help. But the homeowner doesn’t have to determine his intent. He only needs to believe that the stranger may harm him, that he is where he should not be. So he is entitled to use lethal force against him.

What right does a fetus have to be involved in a place or situation where it is not wanted or is considered not to belong? Its right to life? Why doesn’t a stranger in my house have a right to life? The answer is because my liberty is at stake—and I have a right to it. Why is liberty valued over life when it’s a man whose liberty is at stake but not a woman’s? As we have established, there are a myriad of threats the woman faces from the stranger in her womb. These are enough actual and potential threats to justify the expression of liberty in the same way a man can defend his home.

There is a principle involved here. Ideology should not negate principle. It must not be allowed to determine the law. The principle is foundational: the right to defend one’s home flows the inherent right to defend one’s self—his life and liberty. This right allows me to take a life. It is not murder. Imagine the state denying the homeowner his right to defend his sanctuary. This would be tranny.

A chief measure of liberty is the extent to which we are able to remove uninvited guest from our homes—or even invited ones when they overstay their welcome. We have to be allowed to defend ourselves from dangers, otherwise the right of personal sovereignty doesn’t exist. If we say a woman must bear a fetus in her body, then why can’t we say that the man must bear a stranger in his house? Is it his house or not? Is it her body or not? Why would we deny women the right to self-defense and bodily autonomy? What’s the point of the castle doctrine if you have to keep a stranger inside you?

Imagine the state commandeering a man’s body to sustain the life of the woman he just had sex with, arguing that he chose to have sex. Would any man stand for that? To be sure, the man may choose to have his body used in this way. But any man who is okay with the state forcing him to do so is a man who does not love liberty. A man could not be expected to serve as an incubator for the state—a vessel used to grow a fetus—but a woman can and is.

That’s a hell of a double standard. Can there be a more patriarchal assumption? Women are second-class citizens in the patriarchal double standard. This has been true for millennia.

Furthermore, this argument that pregnancy should be compelled because the woman chose to have sex is straightaway absurd. Sex and pregnancy are not intrinsically linked in purpose. If this were true, sex would only occur for procreative purposes. The notion that sex is strictly for procreative purposes is a religious perversion. Only a theocracy would impose such an absurd notion.

Is America becoming a theocracy?

Is it wrong to forcibly impregnate a girl or a woman? You know the answer and the reason: No. Because it is not her decision. It’s not her choice. It’s against her will. It’s not just the intercourse part she does not want. It’s being impregnated. She does not want to be pregnant. It is moreover wrong because it exposes her to risks she did not wish to take on, the myriad of risks noted above. If all that is obvious, and surely it is, then forcing her to remain pregnant is just as wrong for all the same reasons. It is just as wrong to keep a man in slavery as it is to enslave him.

Suppose she wants the intercourse, but not the pregnancy. She must be free to choose either. For the most part, we have intercourse because it’s fun, not the have children. (Perhaps some people ought to have more fun.)

Should we feel bad that the fetus loses its life when the woman exercises liberty? One is entitled to remorse. If the fetus was wanted, then its death is tragic. Nobody should ever be forced to have an abortion. What’s at issue is whether a woman’s life and liberty are more important than the continued existence of a fetus; if the woman does not want or no longer desires to carry a fetus, she has the right to terminate the pregnancy. As bad as that makes you feel, her life and liberty are more important than your feelings—or your religion.

People tell me that without life there’s no liberty. There is truth in this, of course. Why am I allowed to kill a man who threatens my life? Because I wish to continue to live in order to enjoy liberty. But the formulation has lost some spirit. It’s missing the part about no life without liberty. No life worth living, at least. Life is not just about existing. It’s about the freedom to choose.

To be used for the interests and purposes of others, to be denied one’s freedom to choose, is to be reduced to an object, robbed of agency. I have compared being forced to be a vessel in which to grow another person is an incubator. A mother once objected that she never felt like an incubator. One may never feel like an incubator, but may serve as one nonetheless—just as one may feel like a valued employee and a team member, but exist as human capital.

This is what moved Patrick Henry to declare, “Give me liberty, or give me death.” One must never be an object for the purposes of the state. There are causes which involve killing. It is why we make war, overthrow tyrannical government, and defend our homes—and bodies.

* * *

This is the season for Supreme Court rulings. Amid the Dobbs decision (The Supreme Court Affirms the Tyranny of Majorities), the Court handed down another decision concerning religious liberty. yesterday morning, the Court vindicated a Christian football coach terminated for praying on the field after games. Joseph Kennedy, an assistant football coach at Bremerton High School, Bremerton, Washington would “give thanks through prayer” at the end of each game by kneeling on the 50-yard line. Students would join him. To stop him, the school board enacted a ban on “demonstrative religious activity, readily observable to (if not intended to be observed by) students and the attending public.” 

Coach Joseph Kennedy praying with his students at Bremerton High School

It was just a matter of time before the Court recognized the right of Christians to their religious liberty. After all, Muslims have had a right to theirs for a long time. In the document Religious Practices of Muslim Students in Public Schools, the Islamic Networks Group (ING), “a peace-building organization providing face-to-face education and engagement opportunities that foster understanding of Muslims and other misunderstood groups to promote harmony among all people,” details all the ways Islamic faith practices exist in public schools.

Imagine none or most of what ING lists were true and the Court had just removed barriers to Muslim prayer and attire in public schools. How progressives would be cheering. Of course, there were no such barriers because progressives run the public schools and progressives are Islamophiliacs (see The Democratic Party and the Doctrine of Multiculturalism). It was never even a thought. But they aren’t so eager to Christianity expressed in our schools. This is how such an absurd notion as “Islamophobia” can be a rallying cry but complaining about “Christophobia” sounds absurd.

The counterargument is that religious expression carries subtle pressure to conform. The paradigm is the Jew in the Christian locker room. Indeed, pressure can be subtle. But Muslims have been praying in the hallways of my sons’ high school for years. Surely a Muslim teacher prays to Mecca. He must, as it is his religious duty to pray several times a day—if he is devout. Why could he not pray with the students? (What if there is sex segregation as there is in the mosque?) The influence here may be subtle; a kid with a Muslim background may not wish to pray because he wishes to be secular, to leave behind the irrational traditions of an atavistic culture. Would we for his sake stop the Muslims in the high school from praying in the hallways? (We’d be accused of bigotry, wouldn’t we?) Would we tell the Muslim teacher she couldn’t wear a hijab? (We’d be accused of bigotry) How then can a public school district tell the coach he cannot kneel at the 50 yard line and pray to his god and allow whomever among the students who share his faith to join him? 

As long as no student is punished for not participating, this sounds like religious liberty—if we are to allow Muslims their costumes and prayers. Either nobody gets to express religious sentiment or everybody gets to express religious sentiment. School authorities allow Sikh kids their ceremonial knives (see The Kirpan and the Seax) but Coach Kennedy can’t pray? Christianity is no less important to that faith community than are Islam or Sikhism to their own. As long as the public school is not instructing students in religious doctrine, or punishing them for no participating, and if we are going to allow religious scarves and knives, then I think it is difficult to deny teachers and students the exercise of their Christian faith. (Moreover, as I have argued on this blog, we must also allow hoodies and pocket knives. Otherwise, the religious are allowed privileges in the face of the demand that the state respect no such distinction. See The Injustices of Public School Dress Codes.)

Abortion is Not Murder. At Least According to the Bible. It’s Not Even Criminal.

Not that I personally find it compelling (after all, the Old Testament positively sanctions slavery, among other horrors, and I am an atheist), but it might interest those who follow the Abrahamic faith that the husband of a pregnant woman who loses a fetus on account of actions by others is warranted financial compensation, if this is not the outcome he desired. The fetus is his property, after all, since its mother belongs to him.

The Tanakh is the foundation of the Abrahamic faith

In other words, according to the God’s law, abortion is not murder. Don’t believe me? Read the Bible. Exodus 21:22 says: “When men fight, and one of them pushes a pregnant woman and a miscarriage results, but no other damage ensues, the one responsible shall be fined according as the women’s husband may exact from him, the payment to be based on reckoning.” Versus 23-25 instruct the court, that if other damages do ensue, that is, if the woman is killed or injured, to apply lex talionis as warranted.

Are conservatives telling men what to do with their wives’ bodies over against the spirit of the Old Testament?

But, wait, there’s more. In Numbers 5:11-31, we are told that the purity test required of a wife accused of adultery will, if guilty, cause her to abort the fetus. I won’t go into the purity test because it’s a bunch of mumbo-jumbo (it reads like a Monty Python bit), but it is obvious from the text that the faithful believe the woman will miscarry if “in fact” an adulteress, a fact proven by her miscarriage.

There is a disturbing implication in this circularity. If a woman goes through the ritual and subsequently miscarries, it follows that she will have committed adultery, which in turn carries a sentence of death. So even if she did not commit adultery, the ritual will have found her guilty as such if by coincidence she miscarries. If the witch floats…

For rebelling against God, Hosea 13:16 tells us that Samaria’s people will be killed, their babies dashed to death, and their pregnant women cut open. Sounds unbelievable, I know, but here are the versus: “Samaria must bear her guilt/For she has defied God/They will fall by the sword/Their little ones shall be dashed to death/And their women with child ripped open.” (This is a common outcome for people who don’t do what God wants.)

There is a profound paradox here: if you disobey God by aborting a fetus, if aborting a fetus is indeed disobeying God, then you will be ripped open with a sword and your fetus aborted. Don’t try to figure it out. There’s no way out of religious contradiction.

What about the New Testament? All Jesus said about fetuses that I know of is this, according to Matthew (24:19): “Woe to pregnant women and those who are nursing.” Jesus was speaking about the end-times. It is not a passage about abortion. You’d think if abortion were such a terrible wrong, then Jesus would have mentioned it.

The Supreme Court Affirms the Tyranny of Majorities

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. —That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.” —Declaration of Independence (1776)

In Dobbs v Jackson Women’s Health Organization, the US Supreme Court held that abortion is not a protected right under the Constitution of the United States, thus overruling Roe v Wade (1973) and Planned Parenthood v Casey (1992) and returned the matter to the states.

Five states—Alabama, Arizona, Michigan, West Virginia and Wisconsin—have state bans on abortions already in place, which could soon and are likely in some cases to, be enforced. There are thirteen states—Arkansas, Idaho, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah and Wyoming—that have “trigger bans” that will outlaw abortions within a month. Georgia, Iowa, and South Carolina have passed bans or severe restrictions that are likely to go into effect. Florida’s recently passed ban on abortions after fifteen weeks takes effect in July. And Ohio just criminalized all abortions after a fetal heartbeat is detected. On the horizon, Indiana, Montana and Nebraska are likely to restrict abortion.

Demonstrators protest about abortion outside the Supreme Court, Washington DC, Friday, June 24, 2022. (AP)

Associate Justice Samuel Alito authored the majority opinion : “We hold that Roe and Casey must be overruled. The Constitution makes no reference to abortion, and no such right is implicitly protected by any constitutional provision, including the one on which the defenders of Roe and Casey now chiefly rely—the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. That provision has been held to guarantee some rights that are not mentioned in the Constitution, but any such right must be ‘deeply rooted in this Nation’s history and tradition’ and ‘implicit in the concept of ordered liberty.’ It is time to heed the Constitution and return the issue of abortion to the people’s elected representatives.” Justices Amy Coney Barrett, Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh, and Clarence Thomas, joined Alito in the majority. Chief Justice Johns Roberts pitched in, upholding Mississippi’s fifteen week ban, which was the case at hand. Alito, Barrett, Kavanaugh, Roberts, and Thomas are all Catholics (see Judging the Religious; Religious Liberty, Relative Theocratic Threat, and Keeping the Supreme Court Divided; Secularism, Nationalism, and Nativism).

I will address the matters of abortion as a right “deeply rooted in this Nation’s history and tradition” and “implicit in the concept of ordered liberty” later. (I have addressed these matters in a number of past blogs. See The End of Roe and Beginning Again; The Fetus is a Person. Now What?Abortion is Really About FreedomLiberty is America’s raison d’être. Preserving Reproductive Freedom for the Sake of the Republic.) As the reader will learn, Alito is wrong on both counts. I want to pursue at the outset an argument—and observation really—that the understanding of the purpose of republican government represented by the Court’s majority and its grasp of the nature of rights in a liberal society, which America was founded as, is profoundly misguided and, frankly, unAmerican.

To wit: rights are not given by men. As Thomas Jefferson makes clear in the Declaration of Independence, rights are a priori, inhering in human nature and universal principle—from the “Laws of Nature and Nature’s God,” to use Jefferson’s majestic (and deistic) phrase. People, as Jefferson contends, are “entitled” to these by virtue of an authority beyond men. Moreover, governments recognize and defend these rights by identifying and removing obstacles to liberty and happiness (intelligent and fair-minded people accomplish this). Indeed, governments are stood up to secure these rights—in free societies, at least. Those who argue that men grant rights deservedly sport a bad label: statist. Conservatives will ape Jeffersonian language now and again, but in truth, they are too illiberal to be of his ilk. The spirit in back their judicial philosophy, such that we can dignify their ideology using such terms, is authoritarian.

The pressing issue here is the conservative assault on substantive due process, with Justice Thomas already asking the court to reconsider a list of rulings that rest upon that principle. Substantive due process is a constitutional law principle that empowers courts to protect from government interference fundamental rights even if those rights are unenumerated in the US Constitution (which includes the Bill of Rights) and state constitutions. The rejection of substantive due process for conservatives on the Court has at its core the fallacy of “states’ rights.” States rights was used, it will easily be recalled, to deny blacks equality with whites. Opposition to marriage equality was justified on the basis of this fallacy. Let the states decide whether to grant same-sex marriage, we were told—you know, like the question of interracial marriage. Thomas has in mind Griswold v Connecticut, Lawrence v Texas and Obergefell v Hodges. We know because he said so. He didn’t saying Loving v Virginia. But why not?

You will have noticed that conservatives like to reference the Tenth Amendment: “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.” This is “states’ rights.” But note that the amendment is about powers. A power finds its authority in common law, constitutional law, or statute. In a free society, power is in principle delegated to institutions by the citizenry to manage their affairs—to keep them safe and make them happy. Before the Tenth Amendment there is a Ninth: “The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.” The Ninth is the relevant amendment in the debate over the Dobbs decision because it concerns rights, which are fundamentally different from powers. And not certain rights, but those that flow generally from the foundational ones identified in the Declaration: “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” The Ninth Amendment is the key to the whole shebang.

Ted Cruz, whom conservatives fancy on the Supreme Court one day, is of the opinion that Roe is among the worst of the Supreme Court’s decisions. (It’s a bad decision, for sure.) He then says “Abortion is not in the Constitution.” He is correct. However, there are a lot of things that are not in the Constitution. This is why the Ninth Amendment exists. The Bill of Rights could not possibility identify all the rights, not only those known to the Founders, but those smart and just men would discover in the future. The Ninth Amendment explicitly states this understanding. This is why conservatives skip over it and head straight for the Tenth.

At the Constitutional Convention, James Madison, the principle author of both the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, advocated for provisions that protected individual liberties and limited the power of government. Crucially, Madison sought the establishment of a national veto over state laws, and he did so explicitly to prevent the tyranny of the majority in the states. The tyranny of the majority (or tyranny of the masses) occurs in democracies where judicial protections for minorities and individuals are weak or lacking. For example, if a majority in a state can through law compel a woman to carry a pregnancy to term, that is, force the woman to serve as an incubator for the interests of the majority, then a tyranny has been obtained. If abortion is a right, on the other hand, then the primary role of government is to defend that right. If state government won’t do it, then the federal government must. This is the principle of substantive due process, and it is an essential feature of the foundation of the American Republic.

During the Constitution’s ratification, in order to secure the support of Anti-federalists (those who opposed the formation of a national government in favor of a loose network of local governments), the Federalists promised a bill of rights. Having lost his bid to limit the power of the states via the mechanism of a federal veto, Madison was skeptical of what a bill of rights could accomplish. Moreover, several states already had bills of rights. Still, the Federalists sought a list of rights to limit government power. The inherent problem of such a list, of course, is that it may be understood to be exhaustive. Madison understood that no such list could be.

After consulting with Thomas Jefferson, who very much wanted the people to have such a bill, Madison reconsidered the matter. In short order, he became a zealot for the cause. The Ninth Amendment was no afterthought, you see. In the original draft of the bill, Madison writes, “The exceptions here or elsewhere in the Constitution, made in favor of particular rights, shall not be so construed as to diminish the just importance of other rights retained by the people, or as to enlarge the powers delegated by the Constitution; but either as actual limitations of such powers, or as inserted merely for greater caution.”

Madison’s understanding that rights exist a priori and cannot be completely enumerated is foundational to Enlightenment thinking. This understanding is inseparable from the spirit that produced the Declaration of Independence. As historian Robert McDonald records, Jefferson himself claimed there were no new ideas in the Declaration of Independence, citing, among other sources, the English struggle for civil liberties, the Scottish Enlightenment, and the great philosophers of freedom, such as John Locke and Montesquieu. In other words, it is a profound expression of humanist, liberal, and secular values.

To be sure, courts may invent rights. But courts also affirm them. The right to control one’s own body is not an invented right, but among the most fundamental of rights. When the United States was founded, most states operated under the English common law right to abortion, which permitted the termination of a pregnancy before quickening (fetal movement). Laws criminalizing abortion did not appear until the late 1800s. In fact, abortion is a fundamental right stretching back millennia. So Alito’s suggestion that abortion is not “deeply rooted in this Nation’s history and tradition” is an ignorant one.

As for whether abortion is “implicit in the concept of ordered liberty,” the matter is straight forward. Either you believe the state can commandeer a woman’s body and use its organs and processes for its own interests and purposes or for the interests and purposes of others or you believe that personal sovereignty and bodily autonomy demand the right to determine what one’s body is used for and who uses it where and when and for how long. The paradigm of individual liberty and self-ownership is found in reproductive freedom. Moreover, because of sex differences, girls and women bear a special burden in this domain. To demand woman serve as incubators not only violates their liberty, but it discriminates against them.

The matter can be put like this: Imagine the state commandeering your body to sustain the life of a person you had sex with. That you chose to have sex with this person does not obligate you to sustain his life. Sex and pregnancy are not intrinsically linked in purpose. If this were true, sex would only occur for procreative purposes, and that notion is an entirely religious perversion.

Rights are not matters for the majority to decide. Rights are inherent and discovered. Rights exist in the face of majority opinion and sentiment. It is the role of government to protect these rights from the majority, not subject them to the whims of the masses or powerful and well-organized elites. By leaving the determination of rights to state governments, conservative judges on the high court are advocating for the tyranny of the majority. They are proponents of majoritarianism, a standpoint antithetical to the Constitution and the liberal traditions upon which it rests.

I cannot leave this blog entry without saying something about the Democrats. Imagine Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg had retired when she received her pancreatic cancer diagnosis in 2009 (when she was in her late seventies) and Obama had not lost Congress in his first term. I don’t say this to merely engage in counterfactual revisionist snark. There are lessons to be learned.

Another lesson to be learned learned is the point the woman makes in the video I shared above. It looks like green screen. But I checked and this is an MSNBC reporter and there are other videos from this segment. I’m surprised this interview was aired (perhaps why it looks like green screen to me). I’m more surprised the question was asked by an MSDNC reporter. The reporter seems to go out of her way to record the response, knowing what the woman wanted to say—which was very well said! Bravo to the woman calling out Democratic Party manipulations.

Everybody is beating up on Ginsburg, so I will leave her be. With respect to Obama, the nation had a president who enjoyed Democratic control over both houses of Congress and immense popularity. Had his party pursued a national economic strategy involving a massive jobs program and saving the homes of American families across the country, instead of pushing a derivative of Romneycare through Congress, exhausting his political capital while alienating millions of Americans, we’d likely have a court more sympathetic to Roe. Folks say that elections have consequences. But let’s be sure to remember that political policy choices have consequences, as well. Obama was elected. Twice. What does the country have to show for his eight years beyond drone strikes and resurgent conservatism?

But the biggest lesson comes from realizing that the Democratic Party didn’t care about this issue in the way many progressives think they did. Fifty years of progress has been erased, progressives tell us. However, fifty years of progress might have looked more like a body of federal law protecting reproductive freedom rather than a problematic precedent. Instead, Democrats were more interested in leveraging a flawed judicial opinion as campaign strategy rather than fighting like hell to secure a federal guarantee for abortion (and this criticism applies to several states, as well).

Now that the strategy has failed, Democrats are pinning Clinton’s crushing 2016 defeat on those who refused to vote for the neoliberal and neoconservative candidate. Bill Maher used a recent monologue to chastise those of us who on principle do not vote for what Maher regards as a lesser evil. The woman’s answer to the MSNBC reporter’s question negates Maher’s attempt at shaming. The Democratic Party that has failed women. But I hasten to write that conservatives have failed America. Erasing substantive due process from constitutional law is a very grave development for the future of the American Republic.

Roe was a poor decision, but the goal of protecting this most fundamental right of women—the right to bodily autonomy—is the correct one. The struggle begins anew and we must use this struggle to not only secure the right of reproductive freedom for all women, but to reassert the American legal tradition of substantive due process and prevent the rollback of other hard-won victories in the long struggle for greater justice for our people. The movement to re-secure this right and shore up many others must proceed with new energy and determined purpose—and the best arguments. Those arguments are found in the moral logic that founded the United States of America.

Keep for your records

Note: I revised the blog from this morning to add the tweet with the MSNBC video clip and weave it into the commentary. The video so nicely punctuated the point I made—indeed, making the point better than I did!—that I had to revisit the essay.

The Work of “People of Color” and Other Abstractions

However useful for electoral strategies and mind control the construct “people of color” (“POC”) is sociologically absurd. As John McWhorter wondered on a recent episode of the Glenn Show, how does the experience of a black American put him in the same category as that of the Bangladeshi immigrant? Moreover, how is his experience like that of an American Indian? For that matter, how is his experience the same as another black American—or all other black Americans? The newer construct “black and indigenous people of color” (“BIPOC”) is not much better. At least it doesn’t try to suck every nonwhite majority and minority into a fantastic abstract mass. But it still lumps people of disparate backgrounds in a way in an invalid way.

Illustration by Franz Draws

Consider a black CEO of a major corporation. How does his experience compare to that of a black man living in a ghetto? The most important social fact of all, namely social class (defined as relative position with respect to the means of production), means their life chances and trajectories are highly dissimilar. The CEO lives in a gated community. He is unlikely to be the victim of a drive-by or a home invasion. If he gets sick, he can afford a doctor. If he runs afoul of the law, he can afford an attorney—and the time and resources the attorney needs to properly represent him. The CEO enjoys a better diet. And so on. Reckoned in material terms, everything about his life is better, and that generally translates to better emotional, psychological, and relational quality of life.

If your response is to say both the black CEO in his gated neighborhood and the poor black man are more likely to be pulled over by the cops on their way to work, if we accept this claim as true, is the same true for the Bangladeshi immigrant? Or a Chinese man? They’re “people of color.” Is the greater likelihood of a black man being stopped by the cops compared to a Chinese man the fact that erases all other facts so as to make a homogeneous group out of the more than forty million Americans? What happens to “people of color” as a meaningful category if the Chinese man does not share the black experience? All they have in common is that they are not white. And if a Chinese man is more likely to be assaulted by a black man than a white man, what does this say about the common oppressor? (See The Rise in Anti-Asian Hate Crimes. Trump-inspired? Not Quite.)

Even if we admit that, out of racial bias, cops are more likely to pull over a black man compared to other racial groups, how does that fact sustain the broader claim that white supremacy is the common experience that validly groups blacks? If white supremacy were such a problem, how did that black man become a CEO? His social class may not matter to a cop, but it matters to just about everybody and everything else. And, as I have shown, the claim that the criminal justice is racist is mythical (see The Myth of Systemic Racism in Lethal Police-Civilian Encounters; The Myth of Racist Criminal Justice Persists—at the Denial of Human Agency (and Logic); Debunking Mythologies Surrounding the American Criminal Justice System; Again, The Myth of the Racist Criminal Justice System).

How are black bankers, business owners, doctors, executives, lawyers, managers, professors, and so on even possible if we live in Ibram X Kendi’s world? Kendi’s world, he told a fawning crew at CBS News, is one where not teaching children about white supremacy guarantees that they will be absorbed into and perpetuate it. This is why, he argues, we must raise up a generation of “antiracist kids.” According to Brookings Institution, in February 2020 more than 60 percent of black families were middle class. To be sure, the middle class is reckoned here not in Marxist terms, but as incomes between $22,000 and $125,000. However, speaking in Marxist terms, how does one find in a society where white supremacy permeates everything a black capitalist exploiting the labor of a white worker?

Folks need to see the work these constructs are doing. The function of “POC,” if not its intent, is to lump everybody who is not white (or not European or East Asian, in the case of BIPOC) and treat the majority of people on the planet as the collective victims of the white oppressor. Europe, North America, and South American hold less than a quarter of the world’s population, and these are the most diverse regions on the planet; if Hispanics are excluded, the proportion of the world’s population comprised by white people is maybe around fifteen percent. Of course, Chinese and other Asian groups are increasingly identified as “white adjacent.” Indeed, one suspects “BIPOC”is a way to exclude successful minorities from the POC category to save the argument that inequality is the work of racism (and not classism). Nonetheless, white people, as defined by progressives, remain a distinct minority of the world’s population. Touting the victimhood of an abstract mass composed of those who are not white is a contrived act of majoritarianism with political intent.

I want to note before moving on that, according to the standard racial theory, Arabs are white. According to its guidelines, those of Middle Eastern and North African descent are to enter the US Census as white. Some Arabs are rejecting their whiteness and there is a discussion about elaborating the racial and ethnic categories of the census. Central and most South Asians are also considered white. (See my essay Race, Ethnicity, Religion, and the Problem of Conceptual Conflation and Inflation.) I raise this issue because those behind the construct “people of color” do not see Arabs, Central, and South Asians as white (it is unclear whether they see Jews as white, but there is some chatter to that effect). You can understand why. If Asian Indians are white, the narrative becomes complicated: one white population (Great Britain) colonized another white population (Indians). This is as problematic as black Africans owning and selling as slaves other black Africans. Also, if Arabs and Indians are white there are lot of white people in the world and most of them do not live in the West.

(There is an interesting history here with respect to Asian Indians. Briefly, in US v. Bhagat Singh Thind (1923), the Supreme Court ruled that Asian Indians were ineligible for citizenship because federal law specified that only free whites could become naturalized citizens. Following the anthropology of the day, which held Asian Indians and white Europeans to be the same race, Asian Indians were declared caucasian, but significant subracial differences prevented them from being legally recognized as white. In other words, according to the Supreme Court not all caucasians are white. In 1946, Congress passed a law that allowed Indians to become naturalized citizens, but I trust you get my point. Race is malleable. Racial designations change to sustain the antiracist doctrine.)

However conceptualized, centering race polarizes the world in a false way. Peddling lies, antiracism substitutes itself for class struggle; it negates class struggle by obscuring the capitalist imperative and the material relations it necessitates (see The Ruling Ideas and the Faux-Left). By blaming systemic social facts on a mythological etiology, namely that the West operates on the logic of white supremacy, antiracism serves as an ideological obscurantism that defies sound explanations for inequality (see They Do You This Way; What Explains—and Doesn’t Explain—Inequality and Explaining Demographic Disparities Requires a Multifactorial Approach). Antiracism divides the world between whites and their fellow travelers, on one side, and everybody else on the other. On one side is the oppressor—the white man. On the other, the oppressed (see Totalitarian Monopoly Capitalism: Fascism Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow; The Wages of Victimism: Leftwing Trauma Production for Political Ends; The New Left’s War on Imaginary Structures of Oppression in Order to Hide the Real Ones).

As progressives would have it, it’s not a world dividing up into capitalist versus proletariat as Marx and Engels describe in the Communist Manifesto, but a world founded upon the division between whites (and white adjacent) and people of color. The increasingly shrill James Lindsey decries critical race theory as “race Marxism,” but by centering race the politics of woke progressive are anti-Marxist. (The title of Lindsay’s book tells you that its premise is absurd. Marxism is a materialist praxis. If anything, critical race theory is neo-Hegelian—it makes people out of abstractions. CRT, like gender theory, is a form of idealism.) Whites are not a monolithic group any more than any other racial group. There are white CEOs and there are whites homeless on the streets, with a vast working class between these extremes—the same as it is for blacks. Indeed, the working class is multiracial. Their common experience is a proletarian one, not a racial one.

“People of color” is a construct that appears designed to disrupt class consciousness and disorganize the proletarian movement (see The Elite Obsession with Race Reveals a Project to Divide the Working Class and Dismantle the American Republic). It is advanced by the corporate state, its operatives exploiting the work Third Worldists performed in undermining the socialist struggle for economic justice by substituting race for class (see The Mao Zedong Thought Shift from the Class-Analytical to Race-Ideological). This is preparing those living in the periphery for incorporation into the transnational capitalist system.

“POC” is not a valid concept; it commits the fallacy of reification, i.e., it misplaces concreteness by treating abstractions as actual persons, as well as commits the ecological fallacy (see Equity and Social Justice: Rationalizing Unjust Enrichment; Critical Race Theory: A New Racism; What Critical Race Theory Is and Isn’t. Spoiler Alert: It’s Racist and Not Marxist; Committing the Crime it Condemns; God is Everywhere—On the Ontology of Systemic Racism and the Faith-Belief of the Progressive). If one operates from the standpoint of scientific socialism, then these constructs are understood to be a counterproductive absurdity. “People of color” is an ideology of class paralysis. And this is why it has become part of the normative language of corporate governance.

This tweet sums up the matter quite well

* * *

Horrified by the shooting of school children in Texas, a person asked me why people kill people they don’t know and who never wronged them. I answered that humans do this all the time in war. The wartime mentality escapes the confines of the battlefield. At least the battlefield as traditionally defined. A lot of these mass killers—armed with guns or driving trucks—are at war. They have causes. They have grievances. These are not “senseless” acts (as politicians mindlessly say right before asking for prayers for the victims). They are the actions of profoundly alienated individuals swimming in social currents that have dehumanized populations.

In a world that personifies abstractions, any child can stand in for the one a young man believed bullied him when he was a kid. Any and every white person has privilege and is an oppressor (see Against White Privilege: Clarifying the Critique of a Problematic Term). And so on. When any individual of this or that imaginary community becomes a stand-in for any other “member” of the community imagined, those with grievances feel licensed to take out those grievances against strangers. They can even rationalize that, with their actions, they’re doing justice for others. Social justice. This is the consequence of identitarian thinking. It’s one of the reasons why what I have written in this blog matters.

Police Have Arrested a Man on His Way to Kill Judge Kavanaugh

Not everybody who disagrees with a Supreme Court justice tries to kill him. But when politicians and activists encourage people to go to his home and give them directions, then they enable those who do. This just happened. Around 1:50 am this morning, an armed man from California was arrested near Brett Kavanaugh’s Maryland home after making threats against the Supreme Court justice. The man was armed with at least one weapon and burglary tools. He told the police he was there to kill Kavanaugh over the leaked opinion in the pending ruling concerning the 1973 Roe v Wade precedent.

Judge Brett Kavanaugh at the Capitol in 2018.

This is the spirit on the progressive woke side of American politics: political violence. We saw it over the summer of 2020. The Democratic Party and the establishment media encouraged violence and vandalism in America’s streets while at the same time depolicing communities by either directing law enforcement to stand down or making the consequences of duty personally and professional destructive (see Portland and the Rule of Law). The consequence was dozens of deaths, many more injuries, and billions of dollars in property damage. (See Zombie Politics: the Corporatist Ideology of Antiracism; Democrats Pander While Managing America’s Decline; Corporations Own the Left. Black Lives Matter Proves it; Color Revolution, Joe from Scranton, and PEDs; What’s Really Going On with #BlackLivesMatter)

Ted Cruz speaks to the double standard on the woke progressive side

The double standard on the progressive side is blatant (see The Selective Application of the First Amendment; The Relative Ethics of Occupying Capitol Buildings; Antifa and the Boogaloos: Condemning Political Violence Left and Right; Buried Lede: Biden Fails to Condemn Antifa at First Presidential Debate; Antifa, the Proud Boys, and the Relative Scale of Violent Extremism). In the name of woke progressive politics, activists damage and occupy government buildings with impunity. When conservatives enter a public building they are thrown in jail on misdemeanor charges (if they are charged at all). (See The Establishment Project to Demonize Conservative White Males; Cancelling Half the Nation: Progressives Reach for One-Party Rule; The Campaign to Portray Ordinary America as Deviant and Dangerous; Suppressing the Rabble: Portraying Conservatism and Republicanism as Fringe and Dangerous; Bad Comparisons and the Call for Racially Differentiated Law Enforcement; The Michigan Kidnapping Plot and January 6; On Riots and the Postmodern Corruption of the Culture of Protest; “A republic, if you can keep it.”)

Understand that what we are witnessing is not the work of the left—at least not the left with which I have associated since I became political conscious. Rather, this is the work of the corporate state and transnationalist countermovement against democratic-republicanism and liberalism. Woke progressivism (and its European counterparts social democracy and corporatism) represent the political project of state capitalism. This praxis stands alongside neoliberalism and neoconservatism as ideologies of unfreedom. It looks favorable on the work of the January 6 Commission, currently holding hearings in Washington DC pursuing a theory of seditious conspiracy (see The Democratic Party is Not the Party of Liberal Politics for a discussion of the character of this intervention). It applauds DHS harassment of parents speaking up at school board meetings (see MDM is the New WMD: DHS Issues a New NTAS Bulletin).

The appropriate response to this is inclusive nationalism and participatory populism. The establishment media characterizes these politics as dangerous to democracy (see The Atlantic’s recent essay about the “scheming” Steve Bannon “American Rasputin”). They are, however, an expression of the popular democratic spirit. And that is why they are dangerous. Inclusive nationalism and participatory populism are a threat not to democracy but to the corporate state and the transnationalist project that is destroying democracy and liberty everywhere.

The Right Argument in Defense of Popular Gun Possession

In a letter addressed to J B Schweizer published in Der Social-Demokrat, February 1865, Karl Marx criticized Pierre-Joseph Proudhon’s famous slogan (from What is Property?): “Property is theft!” Since theft as a forcible violation of property presupposes the existence of property, which Marx assumes is a category of law, then the anarchist’s slogan is self-refuting. How can the capitalist steal what is lawfully his? This criticism points to the importance of grasping what the criminal represents, namely, to lean on Richard Quinney’s first proposition in his social reality of crime thesis, “crime is a definition of human conduct created by authorized agents in a politically organized society.” In other words, without law there is no crime. And where there is no crime, there is no criminal.

From NRA Family

For many of you this is obvious. But for many others it is not. The gun debate has resurrected some old arguments and I once again feel called upon to suit up and slay them. One of those arguments is commonly sloganeered as such: “If guns are outlawed then only outlaws will have guns.” It’s an obvious tautology. Take “guns” off of the bumpersticker and stand any thing in its stead. Try “drugs.” See the problem? It’s clever wordplay perhaps, but not an argument. Another argument is that restricting guns will not stop criminals from breaking the law; therefore, restricting guns is a useless exercise. This argument is often joined by the slogan, the implication being that gun laws will only harm who would otherwise be law-abiding gun owners. The claim the argument is making is more than tautological, but is nonetheless wrong.

The argument that laws are useless because criminals break them forgets of what Marx is reminding Schweizer, namely that what makes criminals is criminal law. The existence of crime presupposes laws criminalizing behaviors and sometimes the identities or statuses. Moreover, the existence of a criminal presupposes an adjudicative process by which that definition becomes formally applied to a person accused of perpetrating the targeted behavior or being of some such thing or another. Again, if there were no laws, then there would be neither crime nor criminal. This is not to say that there are no things that should be criminalized (polluting rivers comes to mind). Rather, it’s to simply point out that until behaviors or identities are criminalized, those who act in those ways or who are this things cannot be criminals. This is true by definition.

Because there are people who break a law criminalizing murder, should we have no laws against unjustified killing? Remember, not all killing is unjustified. We may say that murder is “the unlawful taking of a life,” but what this means is that the killing was not justified or is not excused in light of the law. Do laws against those behaviors the law defines as criminal stop those behaviors? Not always. But sometimes. Deterring the behavior we criminalize is part of justification for doing so. Would I kill a person if it weren’t illegal? Only for the same reasons I would kill a person with the law the way it is presently (self-defense, defense of others who cannot defend themselves, overthrow of tyranny). But I’m confident that there are people who would see the absence of law against killing as a license to kill somebody whom they otherwise would not with a law in place.

Furthermore, we have laws not only because we want to reduce the wrongful behaviors the law defines as criminal but because we want to signal their wrongfulness. Here we confront the moral question. Not all law morality finds its way into law. And not all law is rooted in morality. Indeed, some laws transgress moral rules, such as those that segregate public facilities on the basis of race. It follows that we may oppose laws because we believe they are bad laws, not because they are ineffective. I am sure you have heard people argue that we should end drug prohibition because it doesn’t work or because it’s counterproductive (in generating other behavior defined as criminal by other laws and even more of the undesired behavior itself). We often hear this argument applied to the failures of alcohol prohibition (often not carried over to the case of other drugs). But that’s not the reason I oppose drug laws. I oppose drug laws because I don’t believe that it’s the government’s place to tell a person whether they can alter their conscious states or blunt their emotions.

I oppose laws against homosexuality for the same reason: it’s not the government’s place to tell people with whom they may have consensual sex. However, I can assure you that there were a lot of gay men who endured heterosexual appearance and relations because homosexuality was illegal. And, yes, laws against homosexuality drive homosexual behavior underground. But, again, that’s not why it was a bad law. It was bad law because it violates bodily autonomy and personal sovereignty. These are fundamental rights that lie beyond law. To be sure, we may need to prohibit state actors from passing laws that violate these rights. This is why our rights are recognized in bills of them—not because the state gives us our rights, but because we demand in writing assurance that the state recognizes them. Nobody gave women the right to vote; men in power stopped denying women an effective voice in politics via the ballot box. Etcetera.

It will not do as a counterargument against those advocating for stricter gun laws to say that laws are of no purpose because some people choose or are compelled to break them. Such defeatism applies to all law (and, remember, without law there can be no punishment). Moreover, strict gun laws would very likely reduce gun death and injury, just as taking cars off the streets would reduce traffic accidents. There is a deeper issue here: the matter of rights. A successful defense of the freedom to own firearms must proceed on the basis of showing that there is a right or rights gun possession secures, i.e., that gun possession affects rights already recognized in foundational law.

What are these foundational rights? Life and liberty. Like locks on doors and alarm systems, firearms are tools in the defense of these rights. How can I effect my right to life, for example, if access to the means to this end is prohibited or sharply constrained? If an intruder enters my home, I must be able to defend myself and my family from possible harm. What role should the government play in the type of firearm I use to effect that right? A firearm is, after all, a tool. I have no objection to registering weapons and showing authorities I know how to use them. But to deny me access to the tool I believe appropriate for the task must lie beyond the authority of the government of a free people. These rights must be reserved for the people. The Second Amendment was specific in guaranteeing the people the right to keep and bear arms for the defense of a free state because it was assumed that people had a natural right to possess arms for defense of person and home. This was assumed in English common law.

A common sight in high school parking lots int he 1970s and 80s.

The question, then, is whether it is wrong for the people to possess the means to successfully effect their rights. Only under tyrannical government is the defense of one’s rights wrong—and this is because tyranny is wrong. This question does not depend on whether the inhabitants of impoverished inner-city zones murder each other with guns on a daily basis. Nor does this question depend on whether a mentally-deranged teenager walks into a grocery store and shoots a dozen people. We don’t prohibit the possession of trucks because a black nationalist drives his through a Christmas parade in a small city in Wisconsin. We hold him accountable for his actions and inquire into what caused him to act in this way. The truck was only a means to an end. There were many people driving trucks in Waukesha that day (many of them gun owners). A truck did not murder Dancing Grannies. Darrell Brooks did. What happened in Salvador Ramos’ life that made him a mass murderer? Talk about that.

* * *

Bad cartoon

A quick empirical note regarding a bad cartoon. For most of the period of video games with simulated violence, gun homicides have sharply declined over the period before their appearance. This is also true for simulated violence in movies, which has, over the last several decades, become more extreme and graphic. Gun homicide has only very recently started rising again, and this is mostly in areas dominated by gangs where progressive depolicing policy has compromised public safety. Video games are not a cause of mass shootings, which remain a small proportion of homicide deaths. Some mass shooters also enjoy playing video games.

A Clueless President, Gun Hysteria, and Ulterior Motives

At an event honoring those who died at the hands of a deranged gunman (Salvador Ramos) who entered Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, Joe Biden said, “They said a .22-caliber bullet will lodge in the lung, and we can probably get it out—may be able to get it and save the life. A 9mm bullet blows the lung out of the body.” Who said? Doctors? Did they dig the .22 caliber bullet out of a living perpetrator who went on to do more harm? Or were they looking at the lung of a predator in the morgue who was stopped by a 9mm projectile before he could do any (more) harm?

At any rate, the man’s ignorance is astounding. Embarrassing. This is the President of the United States, the Command-in-Chief of the nation’s armed forces. He appears to know nothing at all about firearms—while he gives away billions of dollars worth of them to countries he courts for the new world order he and comrades are building for the future state sought by their corporate masters. Yet he has no hesitation in talking about the subject—and always in the same uninformed way.

“So, the idea of these high-caliber weapons is, uh, there’s simply no rational basis for it in terms of self-protection, hunting.” He said this. For self-defense, stopping an attacker is paramount. The 9mm has stopping power at close range. If you know how to place shots, then its stopping power extends quite a bit farther. There is, therefore, a rational basis for possessing such a weapon; the 9mm it is ideal for self-protection. To be sure, it’s not particularly good for hunting, because of loss of energy at distance. But if you were face-to-face with a big animal, you could definitely bring it down with a 9mm. With what weapon would you rather face a bear? A .22 caliber or a 9mm handgun?

Silliness from The New York Times in 2013

“Remember, the Constitution, the Second Amendment was never absolute,” the President said. Somebody should tell this authoritarian hack that rights pretty much are absolute. It’s sort of the point of them. Rights are something you possess by virtue of your existence. Just a few days ago, Biden said that our rights come from God. He says he is a believer. That sounds pretty absolute. Now he presumes to speak for God. Limitations on rights depend only on the rights of others and then only in their real effects and depending on actual circumstance. Self-defense is a fundamental human right—however you think it comes to you.

Let me be clear: the right to self-defense depends on just exercise. This is no so much a limitation as it is an ethic. The efficacy of the means to accomplishing that end is a question for the person who seeks to exercise the right under just circumstances. Leaving a man with only a knife to defend his life and family undermines his right to effective self-defense. Drastically rising crime under Biden’s presidency indicates a need to protect the right and the means to effective self-defense. We have to survive in the world the progressives have made for us.

However, this seems to be the purpose of compromising that right: to leave men effectively defenseless. Ask yourself: why does Biden wish to disarm the populace? He’s not the only (mis)leader seeking this end. The tyrant to our north—the smarmy Justin Trudeau of Canada—just announced an effective ban on all handguns. A “freeze,” he calls it. There are many other similarities between the moves Canada, the United States, and other western countries are making these days. The same people who seek one world government also seek to curtail to ability of their populations to possess firearms—except, of course, if those populations can be weaponized to threaten Russia.

“You couldn’t buy a cannon when the Second Amendment was passed,” Biden said. Yes, you could. The Second Amendment allows for a cannon. Why wouldn’t it? There is nothing in the Second Amendment that says the people have the right to keep and bear arms except for cannons. Go read the amendment. But I can tell you now that it says nothing about prohibiting cannons. Indeed, the author of the amendment, James Madison, confirmed this when, as President, in numerous letters of Marque and Reprisal during the War of 1812 (more than 500), he clarified that the Second Amendment protects the right of private shipowners to acquire and arm their vessels with cannons—cannons purchased as private individuals from private manufacturers.

The 9mm round is the most popular handgun caliber in the United States. Depending on the year, nearly or over half of all handguns produced in the United States over the last several years have been 9mm. Biden wants to ban the most popular type of firearm. Why? Because of the vanishingly small risk of a mass casualty event at a public school? How, in light of the fact that civilian-use AR-15s use .223 Remington, not 9mm? More than this, rifles, the category that includes what activists and politicians refer to “assault weapons” were involved in just three percent of murders effected by firearm in 2020. (I no longer agree with the opinion expressed in this May 2018 blog, The Truth About the AR-15, but the facts are sounds and useful. Moreover, the contrast demonstrates how a rational person changes his mind in the face of facts. On the other hand, even as late as August 2019, I was still stubbornly resisting the opinion I now hold—and in dramatic moralistic tones. See A Truly Awful Commentary on Gun Control and the Value of Life.)

So Biden is stupid. We get that. (We cannot say his gun talk is the result of diminished capacity because he has always talked about guns in this way.) But his handlers allow him to be stupid because they believe Americans are too dumb to know that Biden is clueless on this subject. That’s not the entire reason; there’s also this: his handlers want the leader of the Democratic Party to repeat clichés and slogans because they know they’re effective among the cultural managers who manufacture attitudes useful to corporate power. But people who understand firearms know bullshit when they hear it. So the effect of his speech is further delegitimization of government in eyes of tens of millions of Americans. Arguably, that’s a good thing. But it is certainly no way to build consensus around gun regulation to talk in a way that tells millions of Americans that you don’t have the first clue about what you’re talking about.

The reality is that most gun death is suicide, with the plurality of those who take their lives being 75 years of age or older (and I think you can figure out why for yourself). Most gun homicides involve handguns, and many are perpetrated during robberies and gang violence, which are largely urban phenomena. Moreover, in these cities, guns are already banned or sharply restricted. We are not dealing with the real crisis at hand. Most homicide victims are black males—and black males are only around six percent of the population. Most perpetrators of homicide are black males. Most perpetrators of robbery are blacks males, as well, and guns are used in a large proportion of these crimes. And most of the the victims are black. (Black Lives Matters were useful for the 2020 color revolution. Not so much for saving black lives in our inner-city poverty areas.)

Progressives spread two false narratives in an attempt to criminalize gun possession (and advance their agenda): (1) mass murder is caused by opponents of open borders and the woke indoctrination of children in public schools, opposition depicted as “white nationalism” (see AOC’s latest rant, which I share here: Bias Coverage of Gun Homicide Distorts Statistical Reality at the Expense of Young Americans); (2) public schools are dangerous places because of the widespread availability of guns. The fact is, as I just explained, most mass murder is perpetrated by street gangs (see How to Misrepresent the Racial Demographics of Mass Murder; The Continuing Media Campaign of Disinformation about Race and Violence; Everything Progressives Say About Mass Shootings is Wrong…and Racist). Mass casualty events at our nations schools are extremely rare. Public schools are among the safest places for children in America. (I have a nuanced position on this. See my blog A Liberal Mugged By Reality. Remember That Old Line?) The unsafe spaces for children in America are largely in our inner cities and progressives are doing nothing to deal with this problem. Indeed, if you talk about it you risk being maligned as “racist.”

There is an odd disconnect. The AR-15 is rarely the instrument of death in gang violence. The Glock 9mm is popular here. The Swedish semi-automatic TEC-9 and its permutations has also been popular historically. It’s also 9mm. The call for comprehensive gun reform leverages the mass shootings perpetrated by most young white males using the AR-15. Yet Biden is talking about the 9mm. Are gun control advocates planning to limit gang violence without talking about gangs violence? One can see the politics necessity a stealth strategy. But is this the way to go about reducing crime in our inner cities? It looks more like a plan to ban everything, from 9mm handguns to AR-15s. If feels like we are being positioned for disarmament, especially with all the talk about “domestic terrorism” and the mobilization of the Department of Homeland Security against American citizens of a particular political persuasion (MDM is the New WMD: DHS Issues a New NTAS Bulletin).

To be sure, there is a violent crime problem in America. As I reported in Bias Coverage of Gun Homicide Distorts Statistical Reality at the Expense of Young Americans, the 45,222 total gun deaths in 2020 were by far the most on record, representing an increase of 14 percent over the year before, a twenty-five percent increase from five years prior and a forty-three percent increase from a decade ago. More than half of those were suicides. However, the growth in gun deaths is largely explained by homicide. The nearly 20,000 gun murders in 2020 were the most since at least 1968 (exceeding the previous peak of 18,253 in 1993). When we look at the homicide statistics, the rise in gun deaths is startling. The 2020 total represented a thirty-four percent increase over the previous year, a nearly fifty percent increase over five years and a seventy-five percent increase over 10 years. (See this recent analysis by Pew Research Center.)

While it is true that the gun death rate in the United States is higher than in many other countries, it is still far below the rates in several Latin American countries (according to a 2018 study of 195 countries and territories by researchers at the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington), countries to which the Biden Administration address his invitation to come to the United States. (See my blogs The Northern Triangle, the Migrant Flow, and the Risk of Criminal Violence and The Interstate System and the Experience of Safe, Orderly Immigration.) But restricting immigration isn’t the only strategy for reducing violent crime in America. We also need more cops on the street. And while we must demand officers obey the Bill of Rights, we need to make sure that public safety is the number one priority in the list of the job duties.

Guns have always been popular in the United States. They are an enduring piece of Americana. I grew up around guns and have no fear of them. Even when I advocated banning certain types of weapons, I did not do so out of fear (but rather out of a misguided understanding of public health). The desire to disarm Americans will likely fail, but not before whipping up more anger and resentment. That in itself can have political benefit by further polarizing—and paralyzing—the proletariat. Guns have become a major ideological element in class warfare, pitting the professional-managerial strata against the working class. But violence is not caused by guns per se. Yes, gun violence does involve the availability of guns; but guns have always been available. The real cause of gun violence is societal disorganization and an uneven commitment to public safety. Fixing those problems requires solidarity, a substance gun hysteria makes elusive. This is not accidental.

You Are Not Your Avatar

“A researcher’s avatar was sexually assaulted on a metaverse platform owned by Meta, making her the latest victim of sexual abuse on Meta’s platforms, watchdog says.” That’s the headline from a Business Insider article. “A researcher entered the metaverse wanting to study users’ behavior on Meta’s social-networking platform Horizon World,” reports Weilun Soon. “But within an hour after she donned her Oculus virtual-reality headset, she says, her avatar was raped in the virtual space.” This is not an isolated case. In November, a beta tester reported that her avatar had been groped in Horizon Worlds.

But the researcher was not raped. The beta tester was not groped. These things could not possibly have happened. The virtual space is not real. You are not your avatar. You are your body—and your body remains on the plane of the actual world.

A Metaverse meme

Soon finds the researcher’s tale in a report by SumOfUs, “Metaverse: another cesspool of toxic content.” The report links to a video that purportedly shows what happened to the researcher’s avatar from her perspective. “In the video, a male avatar is seen getting very close to her, while another male avatar stands nearby, watching. A bottle of what appears to be alcohol is then passed between the two avatars, per the 28-second video. Two male voices are heard making lewd comments in the video.”

The bottle of alcohol is not real, either. It can only appear to be alcohol. And lewd comments are words. It’s bizarre that Weilun Soon treats these occurrences as if they are actually happening. The bottle does not appear to be alcohol because it really isn’t. In Soon’s account, appear is used here as if there may be alcohol in the bottle. You know, the way a cop presumes there is alcohol in the bottle on your dash right before he asks you to step out of the vehicle. But we are here talking about a bottle that doesn’t exist. There is no alcohol.

In discussing this story on Facebook earlier today, a friend said, “Do people know what make believe is anymore? There were safety measures the players turned off themselves. But it is disturbing that some people wanna gang rape others avatars. What kind of sick people want to do this in this imaginary land?! It is imaginary but disturbing.” I responded, “No more disturbing than shooting people in virtual worlds.”

She liked my comment so I did not elaborate my point. But I will here. Why is it weird to pretend to rape avatars in virtual space but unremarkable to shoot them? If a mother were to walk into her teenage son’s room and witness the boy “raping” an avatar, she would likely be very troubled. Yet mothers watch their teenage sons “killing” other players in hyper-realistic first-person shooter games and pay no mind. Isn’t killing as wrong as rape? But nobody is being killed or raped. Nothing wrong is happening. The only potential crimes here are thought-crimes—and only if we allow thoughts to enter into the realm of punishment. Sure, people think these are wrong thoughts. But that’s an opinion.

Another friend noted that Meta’s latest Quest 2 is highly immersive. The game “has multiple forward facing cameras to capture the environment you are in, augment it, and use it to create the experience. You put that headset on and it immediately starts to recorded and utilize what you would be looking at. Having Darth Vader ’stare’ you directly in your eyes (adjusted for height) can give you chills. Rollercoaster experiences can cause physical reactions.” I am reminded of the movie Brainstorm, where a research team, led by Christopher Walken, constructs a system that directly records and replays the sensory experiences, emotional feelings, and physiological reactions of a subject. Predictably, the military-industrial complex seeks control of the technology for military ends. One researcher, played by Louise Fletcher, records her own death from a heart attack. When the recording is played back, it produces a heart attack in the user.

“Obviously, you can take the headset off but I still have papers from when I was an undergraduate making the argument the Facebook would eventually generate an abundance of poor quality social capital that it would have an impact on ’disconnected’ life whether you wanted it to or not,” writes my Facebook friend. “And, well, here we are.” He continues, “The argument I made was that although discourse would increase, corroded networks of associations and the algorithms that utilize would make that distinction of online or offline irrelevant. Does this lend credence to that concept or something similar? Does there need to be a clear distinction similar to computer facilitated assault?”

These are useful observations and important questions. In my initial Facebook comments (which were only these: “It isn’t real. No one was sexually assaulted”), I wasn’t talking about the socially corrosive effects of virtual reality. I was talking about the absurdity of supposing virtual spaces and occurrences are actual. To be sure, people can become absorbed in a false world where they believe the things that are happening to them are actually happening to them.

We see this problem in religion. A religious man may believe he is possessed by a demon. But he is not really. His experience is that of a false consciousness. This is why it is important to help him understand that the entities supposed by by faith are not actual things. They are real to him because he believes they are real (the Thomas Theorem). We help him by telling him that his experiences are not real. We do not help him by joining him in his delusion. We also don’t regulate religious content or put warning labels on religious experience.

There are mentally ill people who believe the things happening in their head are really happening to them, or that they really are the thing they think they are, such as the embodiment of this or that spirit animal. Consider body dysmorphic disorder, in which a person perceives something about his body that cannot be seen by others. To expect others believe his claims is an attempt to break down the distinction between the real and the imaginary. That is the problem. It leads to horrors such as those I cover in my essay Disordering Bodies for Disordered Minds. For instance (true story), a person wants to have a smooth genital areas like the ones he imagines space aliens have, and opportunistic surgeons, rather than refer the deluded man to a psychiatrist (one who isn’t woke), they mutilate his genitalia. Now he has only a hole where his genitals used to be. This is not described as mutilation, but “affirmation.” Affirmative is also expected from those the man encounters who are expected to participate in his delusion.

Violence is the wrong word to describe virtual experiences

We cannot say this enough. What you imagine is happening to you may not be happening to you. If it is the virtual space created by a computer program, then it is not happening to you—at least not physically. And if you can’t be in a virtual space where rape and murder can only be imaginary without experiencing trauma, then how can you stand to watch horror movies, pornography, or read a graphic novel? A “rape” in the metaverse is not a crime because nobody is actually raped. Nor are you actually who you pretend to be online or in real life, even if your pretending is not intentional. You are lying or delusional. You need either to be called out or helped.

Is it the fault of the computer program that you are confused? If you are inclined to answer in the negative, that is not what Meta representative, Kristina Milian, told MIT Technology Review. She told them that users should have “a positive experience with safety tools that are easy to find—and it’s never a user’s fault if they don’t use all the features we offer.” She continued: “We will continue to improve our UI (user interface) and to better understand how people use our tools so that users are able to report things easily and reliably. Our goal is to make Horizon Worlds safe, and we are committed to doing that work.”

Deploying the word “safe” here evokes the woke notion of “safe spaces” on college campuses. These are not spaces safe from outside interference that would limit discourse, but the opposite: rules limiting discourse to keep people “safe” from ideas that might offend them. In both cases, the motive and effect is infantilization.

Moreover, trying to manipulate the public into believing these are spaces where actual things happen is part of the rot of trans-humanism. It functions to prepare populations for changing self and spaces—real selves and spaces—to align with the avatars we create (or are created for us) and the virtual spaces they inhabit. This is the real danger of this discourse—if it ever finds itself way into law and policy.

The researcher is not her avatar. No one was raped here. No one is actually killed in a virtual world. Ever. That people believe that they are raped or killed in virtual spaces—that’s a problem. We need to help people who have become confused about what is real and what is not. The Business Insider article is to helpful. It is an exercise in reification. The bigger problem is expecting us to agree with the deluded that they are what they think they are and that what they think they are experiencing—which cannot be real—is actually real. We mustn’t join them in their delusions. The majority needs to keep its collective head in actual space and time.

Bias Coverage of Gun Homicide Distorts Statistical Reality at the Expense of Young Americans

Today’s New York Post headline, “Guns now leading cause of death for American children, CDC says,” comes against the backdrop of two nearly back-to-back shootings by young white males, both eighteen years old, the first shooting at a grocery store in Buffalo, New York, the second at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas. Between them, the shootings left thirty-one people dead, mostly children. These are the latest in high profile mass shootings occurring over the last several decades. But mass shootings seem to be ramping up.

The NYP story summarizes an analysis published by the New England Journal of Medicine on May 19, “Current Causes of Death in Children and Adolescents in the United States,” which, based on data recently released from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), reports that firearms are now the leading cause of death for American children. More than five deaths per 100,000 Americans between the ages of one and nineteen were due to guns in 2020, the most recent year for which the CDC has data, a figure that represents a nearly 30 percent increase in firearms deaths among children over 2019. That’s more than twice as high as the relative increase in the general population.

The CDC data shows 45,222 firearm-related deaths in the United States in 2020 (2021 will likely show an even great number). The NEJM reports that this is a new peak. “Although previous analyses have shown increases in firearm-related mortality in recent years (2015 to 2019), as compared with the relatively stable rates from earlier years (1999 to 2014), these new data show a sharp 13.5% increase in the crude rate of firearm-related death from 2019 to 2020.” Significant, the increase is not driven by suicide, which remains however the largest proportion of gun-related fatalities. “This change was driven largely by firearm homicides, which saw a 33.4% increase in the crude rate from 2019 to 2020, whereas the crude rate of firearm suicides increased by 1.1%.”

“The increase was seen across most demographic characteristics and types of firearm-related death,” note the authors of the analysis (professors at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor). The authors provide a link to Fig. S1 in the Supplementary Appendix if readers wished to follow up. I followed up because I had a suspicion about where this increase was occurring; politically hot subjects are often conspicuous in their absence. Scientific norms push scientists to be honest (not that they always are), but those norms don’t usually compel them to make finding all the relevant information easy. You usually have to do that work yourself (the COVID-19 pandemic made that abundantly clear).

I provide a screenshot of significant parts of Fig. S1 below (what is left out is the overall increase, which is reported above, and sex differences, which finds that the vast majority of most homicide victims are male, as expected). One crucial piece included in the screenshot left out of both the NYP story and the NEJM analysis is race and ethnic differences, which is substantial. Take a look:

Significant parts of Fig. S1

You will note that, after Asian/Pacific Islander, which shows a decrease in gun homicide over the period, Non-Hispanic White shows the lowest overall rate of gun fatalities and the lowest increase during the period for all racial and ethnic categories. In contrast, Black or African American shows the largest number of gun fatalities and the largest increase, followed by American Indian/Alaska Native and Hispanic White. Also included in the screenshot is the higher rate of homicide relative to suicide among those one-to-nineteen years of age, which is reversed in those over the age of nineteen. I do not have access to the relative race/ethnic distinctions among victims of homicide over against suicide. It is entirely possible that the increase of homicide victims is even greater for one or more groups.

I am highlighting the demographic profile of the evidence because the almost exclusive media attention given to shootings perpetrated by white males (Salvador Ramos is Hispanic but racially white) can lead to a false perception of the cause of the rise in gun homicides is a young white male problem. In fact, as I have reported here on Freedom and Reason many times (most recently on April 18, The Continuing Media Campaign of Disinformation about Race and Violence, which contains links to other past blogs), most homicide victims in America are black men and their deaths come at the hands of other black men. Moreover, most mass shootings occur in black and brown neighborhoods and their victims are mostly black and brown people. However, the dominant MSM narrative, amplified by Democratic Party members, is that mass shootings are the result of white male pathology.

Putting aside for now the question of why the MSM and Democrats portrays white males as the source of violence in American society (it’s part of why Douglas Murray calls his latest book The War on The West), we must ask why black and brown victims of gun violence are ignored by the MSM (except when their deaths are at the hands of white perpetrators, a statistically uncommon occurrence)? This is an important question; if we wish to understand gun violence we need to understand its dynamics, and a narrow focus on the unusual case of the young white male mass shooter, which typically involves significant psychiatric illness, leaves the dynamics of most gun violence lying in darkness, where it continues to wreak the most havoc.

The fact is that most gun violence is perpetrated by young black men without fathers in their lives socialized in a subculture that diminishes the capacity for empathy and conditions individuals to see others as means to ends. Most gun deaths in America are associated with robbery, gang warfare, and other crimes of disorganized neighborhoods where generations of black and brown families have been idled by progressive policy (see Michael Shellenberger’s 2021 San Fransicko: Why Progressives Ruin Cities).

Progressives have for decades installed a mechanism in popular consciousness to deflect from their failure to make American cities thriving centers of personal success. By treating subculture as an authentic expression of racial type, those who draw attention to criminogenic pathologies in the majority-black neighborhoods in our cities are branded racist. This political move comes at the expense of the thousands of young black men victims by young black male perpetrators.

We also have to ask why the United States government is prepared to mobilize the Department of Homeland Security to address the relatively rare phenomenon of white nationalist terrorism but are silent on the remarkably high rate of gun violence occurrence in America’s inner cities. The question is largely rhetorical. It’s pretty obvious what’s going on here: progressives are portraying white working families as the real problem of America in the longstanding project to dismantle the American republic.

We know what AOC means by “radicalized.”

The NEJM analysis reports that “drug overdose and poisoning increased by 83.6% from 2019 to 2020 among children and adolescents, becoming the third leading cause of death in that age group.” This is significant for the reason the NEJM analysis notes: “The rates for other leading causes of death have remained relatively stable since the previous analysis, which suggests that changes in mortality trends among children and adolescents during the early Covid-19 pandemic were specific to firearm-related injuries and drug poisoning; Covid-19 itself resulted in 0.2 deaths per 100,000 children and adolescents in 2020.”

Leading Causes of Death among Children and Adolescents in the United States, 1999 through 2020.
Note: Children and adolescents are defined as persons 1 to 19 years of age.

However, pandemics are largely manmade phenomena. Those in power lock down societies, not pathogens, whether naturally occurring or lab enhanced. To be sure, alienation from isolation and social distancing explain some of the increase. This piece is acute. The persistent conditions of America’s cities that produce globally extraordinarily high rates of gun violence and death are the result of a much more profound situation of isolation and social distancing. These are the consequence of decades of progressive policy.