Monday, May 18, 2009

Issues that Conservatives Should Absolutely NOT Drop #1--Abortion

Abortion is the supreme moral issue of our time. No other issue in the developed world is bigger, no other issue is as comparatively ignored. While we hem and haw about the economy and terrorism and Israel and health care, literally MILLIONS of unborn babies are being aborted each year. Millions. Probably the biggest obstacle the pro-life side has is convincing people that there is an abortion holocaust going on that makes the Nazis look like amateurs, and the Soviet gulag system look like a slap on the wrist. It is the sheer enormity of the issue, the implications of the pro-life argument that life incontrovertibly begins at conception and that abortion is the murder of a human life, that is hardest for people to accept. The implications are heart-rending, staggering, incomprehensible, and too, too real.

In America, one of the most abortion-happy countries in the world, the pro-life side has either dropped the ball on how to present its argument or has been muzzled by a pro-abortion media and a pro-abortion legal system that punishes those who try to air the abortion industry's dirty laundry. Frankly I'm not sure which is true, or if they're both true. Here are some of the myths pro-lifers tell might themselves:

MYTH: If I take a public stand on this issue, I'm seen as a freak, as anti-woman.
REALITY: A majority of the US population, including a majority of women, considers themselves pro-life. Just because the pro-abortion media tries to depict you a certain way, you should not be scared of being labeled a certain way. If the only pro-life faces most complacent people see are the occasional "clinic" bomber, and they never see you, peacefully extolling the virtues of the right to life, then by staying silent on your position you are helping to paint pro-lifers as extremists.

MYTH: If I show people the reality of abortion--pictures and videos of abortions and aborted babies--I'm simply making the pro-life side look like vulgar extremists.
REALITY: Abortion is vulgar and extreme. Pictures of it merely reflect that reality. Pictures of aborted babies, coupled with personal testimony from people who have had abortion and those who have performed or assisted in the performing of an abortion, are the most powerful weapons we have, and to let them sit in a drawer and not use them is the main reason why pro-lifers have such diminished influence in this country.

MYTH: You can't convince anybody in an argument, so our only hope is to lobby the political system.
REALITY: Show a person some pictures of an aborted baby, show to them the testimony of ex-abortionists who have murdered unborn children and now repent. To know the reality of abortion in its clearest terms is the beginning of any argument that is to be had on abortion.

MYTH: I have to hate and shun anybody who has had an abortion.
REALITY: Hatred and shunning is not a good way to spread the message, to encourage women to come forward with their testimony, to see that there is forgiveness. Imagine if just one percent of all the women in this country who have had an abortion and now regret it, spoke with a different woman once a week about her story.

Here are some of the myths pro-abortioners tell themselves:

MYTH: I'm personally against abortion, but I respect a person's right to choose.
REALITY: No, you don't, because you don't respect the right of the unborn child to have a say.

MYTH: Yes, abortion is wrong, but it's the woman's body and she has a right to choose, not us.
REALITY: If abortion is wrong, then it must necessarily follow that it is not the woman's body but the body of her unborn child, and that the mother does not have the choice to murder her child whether it is born or unborn. If abortion is wrong, it's wrong because it takes an innocent human life, and for no other reason. And if it takes an innocent human life, then it must be treated as the murder that it is, not some kind of special case of murder where the victim suddenly doesn't matter, and only the financial needs of the mother are at stake. It's not wrong because "it's a hard decision to make," it's a hard decision to make because it is wrong.

MYTH: Abortion should be safe, legal, and rare.
REALITY: Why wish for it to be rare? What does it matter? Do you hear that tonsillectomies or heart transplants should be "rare"? If there is nothing morally wrong with a medical procedure, and it would improve the lives of all concerned, shouldn't you wish that it would happen more often, not less? But of course, we know why you want it to be rare. In your heart of hearts you know what abortion is--the murder of an innocent human life. If abortion isn't murder, then it's irrelevant how often it happens. It's only because abortion is murder that you say it should be rare, but you are unwilling to bring yourself to the full truth, the full implications of that murder. You want to look the other way and move onto much easier issues.

MYTH: A fetus is just tissue, it's not a human being.
REALITY: Tell a biologist that a fetus is just tissue, and not a human being. See if anything in science backs that up. An unborn person is definitely a person. This cannot be argued with. Science simply won't move on this issue. Biochemistry, genetics, epigenetics, embryonic development, etc., all scream "HUMAN!" This is a myth that may have held sway before we understood genetics or biochemistry, or before we could see what was happening in the uterus, but not anymore. There is no magical point at which a lump of tissue becomes a human, the new human organism begins when the sperm fertilizes the eggs.

Here are some things the pro-life side needs to do:

1. I would like to see a pro-life Presidential candidate show pictures of aborted babies on live tv when they accept the nomination, and say "I'm going to Washington to fight this, and my opponent is going to try to keep it going." I want to see a pro-life President show pictures of aborted fetus at every state of the union address and at major speeches. Use the big guns, don't hide them, as if you're ashamed to be seen as a kook. It is the murderers and the people who lend them political support who ought to be ashamed of the reality that those pictures would show.
2. I want to see ex-abortionists and women who have had abortions go out into the college campuses and give testimony. Make fools of the pro-abortion crowd when they say pro-lifers are old men bent on controlling women, by showing them pro-lifers their age, of various backgrounds, and yes, various political parties and religious affiliations.
3. Pass a law requiring abortion "clinics" to show detailed sonograms of the unborn child to the mother before AND DURING the procedure, and required the abortionist to give the mother a chance to back out of the procedure at no charge at any time.
4. I would like to see more debate about this issue, but not angry debate. Some people will not be convinced with arguments, or testimony, or pictures or even videos. You don't have to convince everybody. You just have to convince enough. Know when to back out of a debate, when a person just isn't going to be receptive to what you're saying.

Issues that Conservatives Need to Drop #1--Illegal Immigration


Let me explain, since I can hear you all sharpening your knives right now. My position on illegal immigration is undergoing kind of a change lately, and what I have to say now would have been heresy to me two months ago. What's changed? Well, I started thinking about the issue in practical terms rather than "right and wrong" terms.

Until just a short while ago, I was solidly-anti illegal immigrant, still am, frankly. Though I believed then and believe now that immigrant workers are a boon, not a hindrance to any economy. Just ask Singapore, or the UAE, or any country that ever existed. I knew the arguments against amnesty. The perverse incentives it would create, how it ignored the rule of law, how it could foster terrorism, etc. In a way I still respect those arguments. My position on illegal immigration is not a black and white one, and I've become more pragmatic and less dogmatic as time goes by.

Firstly, under no circumstances should we ignore the importance of the rule of law. The law is not, and should not be, something we can change on a whim, but something rock solid we can rely on as the rules of the game. Not a social engineering attempt to bring about a particular outcome, but rules that we all are aware of and understand. See Hayek's The Road to Serfdom for more info on the importance of the rule of law.

Secondly, we could spend millions or billions on a wall along our Southern border, and spend more and more on border patrol, but all resources are scarce, they are finite, we have to make choices about what to spend tax payer money on, and we have to make tradeoffs. We cannot rub out 99% of all illegal immigration, but at a high cost. What is the acceptable amount of illegal immigration? I don't know, anymore than I could tell you the acceptable about of other crimes to tolerate. We do not spend every penny of police resources on fighting one particular crime for this very reason, because different crimes require attention and resources have to be divided up in the most effective way possible. The lesson is that we may build a wall--it may be a good idea, I don't know--but it won't end illegal immigration. They could just switch to boats/rafts/floating timber, which would require an increase in Coast Guard spending. Not to mention tunnels dug under the border wall, makeshift aircraft flown over it, etc.

Think I'm exaggerating? Even the Berlin Wall was porous.

Rather than spend a lot of money building a wall on whatever border is giving us trouble, a better use of resources might be to change the incentives. If Mexico continues to become a lawless, anarchic, state, if the government collapses, it could actually be a good idea to invade Mexico militarily and install a real government there, but that's an idea for the future, if and when Mexico reaches such a state that it is an undeniable threat to the US (not militarily, but in terms of anarchy, crime, gang violence, etc.).

Thirdly, America benefits economically from immigration, legal or illegal, period. (don't think I've forgotten about how illegal immigrants take advantage of ERs and the welfare state, I'm getting to that) That's right, we benefit. Fight it all you want, but you're fighting hundreds of years of well-documented, proven economic theory. Low cost labor right here in this country benefits everybody. You benefit by paying less than you otherwise would for groceries, produce, fast food, various services, etc. They aren't "stealing our jobs," they are taking jobs that employers have trouble filling even during this recession, because Americans by and large aren't willing to take a lot of these low-level grunt jobs. Being a wealthier country gives us more disposable time, it also makes us want more disposable income to buy nifty things, all of which makes labor relatively more expensive as compared to capital which is relatively abundant.

The decrease in Americans hired in no-skill and low-skill jobs isn't something to lament, or a sign of increasing poverty, it is something to celebrate, and a sign of increasing prosperity. A hundred years ago most people's productivity, and hence their wages, were determined by physical strength and fortitude. Thank God that's no longer the case, it makes more people more employable, and makes a person's employability more dependent on what they themselves put into their own human capital, rather than in what God gave them in the brawn department. An incontinent wheelchair-bound woman isn't screwed, like she would have been in 1900. She can get an education and a higher-paying job that doesn't require legs or strong arms. An old man can keep his job even after his back gives out and he can't lift what he used to. In fact, during this recession, it is the younger and the stronger workers, and the men, who are losing the most jobs. This leaves us with a temporary inconvenience because the economy never stays in one place or in one state, but it makes us better in the long run. It's called creative destruction, a term coined by economist Joseph Schumpeter.

The lesson is that illegal immigrants, and for that matter people in other countries where jobs are being "out-sourced," are not stealing anything from us. They make us better off by lowering the production costs of the goods and services we buy, hence lowering the market price, hence having the same effect of raising our income. This is how economic growth happens. That it happens to involve people from other countries is totally irrelevent. We are not "losing jobs," our recession is due to a collapsed credit bubble, not factories in China. There's a good reason you won't find many economists--you know, people who study the economy and who deal with facts rather than emotions or ignorant preconceptions--on the side of the anti-out-sourcing crowd.

Fourth, as for the illegal immigrants' use of the welfare state, yes, unless a particular immigrant is paying taxes (and many if not most of them are) then it needs to be stopped. In fact that is where conservatives will have the most success in not only getting voters on their side but in slowing down the tide of immigrants who want to come here not to work but to live off the tax-payers (though they are in the minority, as I understand it).

Getting back to the rule of law, this is an issue we should remain firm on. However, we didn't decide to ignore the law for decade after decade. Others did that. But we have to live with their decision. Sometimes you can simply undo a past decision, other times you cannot simply undo a past decision. Mass deportation sounds like an attractive option, and it may be, but knowing our government it would be done at the cost of $100,000 per deportee, spend years tied up in the courts before it happened, prolong this issue, and in the long run do nothing.

My proposal is.....amnesty. I would have called myself a traitor just a few months ago. But let me explain my reasoning. It's purely pragmatic. What do you call an illegal alien who has been granted the right to stay here by Congress? Answer: a legal immigrant. Like it or not, but if such amnesty should be granted, we would have nothing to complain about. After all, despite that person's past crimes, they would have been pardoned and granted legal status by the book, i.e. by the proper authority: Congress. Amnesty is just as much a legal, by-the-book procedure as mass deportation would be (or for that matter the Presidential pardoning of a crime). And it would cost less. But it should have restrictions. It should be limited to a period of a handful of years, requiring renewal, it should *not* be a pathway to citizenship, it should not allow a person to live off the tax-payer, and it should coincide with mass arrest of all violent criminals among the illegal immigrant population. In short the system would favor people who want to come here and work, not violent criminals, not would-be welfare moms, but workers.

What incentive does this create for would-be illegal immigrants? Would they see that we would just roll over and they can break into the country anyway, and that we would eventually grant them amnesty? Perhaps. For this reason I think we need to make it easy as pie to get a work visa. Just pay a fee. For renewal, a fee. The penalty for not having a work visa though, should be immediate deportation followed by a three-year period during which that person cannot get a work visa to reenter the country. This reduces the incentive for people to bypass the legal immigration system, making the population of "illegal immigrants" much smaller and easier to contain and deport.

It's an issue of economic freedom. If I want to have the freedom to pay cheap imported labor to make my burgers for me, why shouldn't I have the right? Why should the government step in and take away that right from me? Why deny the American consumers the benefit of cheap labor?

The national security considerations, the only true challenge, IMO, to my amnesty position, are for another post entirely, and they merit discussion, and they would have to be factored into the guest worker program.