Thursday, June 30, 2016

The strange place of abortion in modern ideological politics

I suppose I should address that SCOTUS ruling, if Trump won't.  In political science terms, abortion is a weird issue, and as usual, I go back to good, ole' Phil Converse and "The Nature of Belief Systems in Mass Publics."  Warning: unmutual political thoughts to follow.

Is a blastocyst/zygote/embryo/fetus/whatever a human being?

1)  If yes, then abortion at that stage is murder, and must be treated as such, with appropriate criminal penalties.

2)  If no, then abortion at that stage is not murder, and should be completely unrestricted.

One's position on abortion, then, should be determined by one's biological/philosophical interpretation of "human being."  Either it's murder or it's not.

And that has precisely what to do with the appropriateness of taxation to support a welfare state/social safety net (pick the term you prefer based on your policy preferences)?

Nothing.  Nothing whatsoever.  Which brings us to that article I mention over, and over again.  "The Nature of Belief Systems in Mass Publics," by Phil Converse.  Ideology is about constraint.  To be liberal is to be constrained to take liberal positions on multiple issues, and to be conservative is to be constrained to take conservative positions on multiple issues.  Constraint, though, is rarely logical.  And that's what's going on here.  There is no logical constraint that gets you high taxes to support wealth redistribution and lax abortion laws, nor supply-side economics and restrictive abortion laws.

Why?  Because abortion is really about when human life begins.  Wealth redistribution is about something else entirely.  They got nothin' to do with one another.  Who put them together?

Go read Political Ideologies and Political Parties in America, by Hans Noel.  Hans is actually a co-author on my favorite book to trash, The Party Decides, but he acknowledged its shortcomings long before people like Jonathan Bernstein, so give proper respect to Hans.  And his book on ideology really is important.

The critical idea is that coalition merchants basically put ideas together in the form of abstract log-rolls.  Modern liberalism comes about when the pro-choice side cuts a deal with the FDR/LBJ/welfare state-expanding side, along with the civil rights movement, and modern conservatism is the result of a deal cut between the white southerners ejected from the Democratic Party during the civil rights era, the business community, and eventually, the evangelicals over abortion/gay marriage etc.  These deals need leaders, and their work takes time and effort.  That's where Noel's argument gets its power.

When does human life begin, and what does the answer to that question have to do with the appropriateness of wealth redistribution?  I'll leave the first question to you.  The answer to the second question is, nothing.  But, your answer to the first tells me something about your beliefs on the second because you have been influenced by coalition merchants.

And so have the justices on the Supreme Court.  As far as I'm concerned, they're all just politicians in silly costumes.  I'll probably do a post on that eventually.

I'll leave you with this...


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