Conservatives for Government Intervention in Social Affairs?

In the comments section of this post at Cafe Hayek, JohnK posted that conservatives advocate intervention in social affairs.   I asked for examples.  MichealSmith provided this response:

…but let’s take a look at what many (perhaps most?) Republicans advocate, even if they’ve not succeeded in getting much of it put into law:

1) Outlawing of virtually all abortion
2) Prayer in public schools
3) Teaching of creation on an equal basis with evolution
4) Constitutional amendment outlawing gay marriage
5) Denial of a gay’s right to serve in the defense of his country
6) Government intervention to block termination of life support for those in hopeless conditions
7) Faith-based grants of taxpayer funds to churches.
8) Banning or severly limiting certain biotechnology research, such as stem cell research and cloning.
9) Immigration restrictions
10) Government regulation of private sexual behaviors through, for instance, laws banning sodomy.
11) Denial of speration of church and state; advocacy of displays of religious artifacts like the Ten Commandments in courtrooms.

It’s pretty clear to me that the Republican party, for the most part, supports a significant amount of “government intervention into social affairs”.

I think this is a good direction for this conversation, but out of respect for Cafe Hayek who recently requested to minimize off-topic posts, I thought I’d host the conversation here.  I think it’s worthwhile to respond to MichaelSmith’s comments.

Response (work-in-progress):

1) First, I don’t consider abortion a social affair, so I don’t consider outlawing it government interference in a social affair.  Second, I view one of the only roles of government to protect our liberty from the exercise of illegitimate power from others.  I view ending the life of another prematurely, without due process, an exercise of illegitimate power.  I happen to believe that’s the case whether that life is still in the womb or not. To convince me otherwise, you would need to convince me that a life in the womb is somehow not a life or has not yet earned the basic liberty of life yet.

2) I’m not clear what government interference MichaelSmith is referring to here.  I’d hate to speculate.  I won’t respond to this until I know the specific government interference he’s referring to.

3) Like #2, I’m not sure what government interference he’s referring to.  I’d need a more specific description of it.  I don’t know of many cases where conservatives have tried to force everyone though government intervention to be taught creation on equal footing with evolution.

4) What does ‘outlaw’ mean here?  I don’t believe anyone would be prevented from or prosecuted for being married with the amendment he referenced.

5) Serving the military is a social affair?

6) I believe any intervention here was to ensure that the people with the appropriate power made the decision to terminate life support.  Like #1, this is to prevent the exercise of illegitimate power, i.e. someone deciding to end a life who may not have the legal authority to do so.

7) If he means giving government funds to religious organizations, fine.  I don’t see this as a defining characteristic of a conservative.  In fact, most conservatives would rather reduce taxes so we will have more funds to send to the charities of our choosing.

8) To my knowledge, conservatives do not want taxpayer funds used to research stem cells, which is consistent with their belief in minimal government intervention.  As for cloning, like #1, that comes down to exercising illegitimate power over another life.

9)  I don’t think most conservatives want to restrict immigration.  They want to observe and enforce the laws we do have. Many also want to make it easier for law abiding people from other countries to come here and contribute to our society.

10)  I don’t think this is a defining conservative characteristic.

11) How is this intervention in social affairs?

6 thoughts on “Conservatives for Government Intervention in Social Affairs?

  1. Greetings, Seth.

    First, let me review the context in which I offered my list. It began with this comment by JohnK:

    “Conservatives support government intervention in social affairs, while progressive liberals support government intervention in economic affairs. They both support government intervention.”

    Eric responded that this was not true, and provided a number of examples wherein Democrats were guilty of intervention on “social issues” such as censorship.

    The point of my list was to point out that if one wishes to evaluate JohnK’s claim that “both parties support intervention”, one must look at not only what the parties have succeeded in getting put into law, but also what they *advocate*.

    So I am not particularly interested in whether or not a given intervention may be classified as “economic” or “social” or something else. The issue I’m addressing is whether or not it is true that the Republicans — like Democrats — support intervention (whatever category they may rationally fit in). And I believe they do. I believe everything on my list represents improper, unjustified government interventions that infringe the freedom of the citizens.

    One other thing we must acknowledge before going on is that neither party is a monolithic collection of people who all advocate the same things. In some cases, all one can say is that “some Democrats advocate this” or “some Republicans advocate that”. However, while I cannot say for certain that a *majority* of Republicans advocate the things on my list, I certainly don’t think they are merely fringe positions in the Republican ranks.

    Now, to your points:

    1) I support abortion because I recognize the distinction between the *actual* and the *potential*.

    An embryo is not an *actual* human being — it is only a *potential* human being — in the same way that an acorn is not an oak tree, only a potential oak tree.

    In the first trimester, the embryo is a mass of relatively undifferentiated cells that exist as a part of a woman’s body. If we look at what it *is* rather than what it might become, an embryo under three months is something far more primitive than even a frog or a fish. To compare it to an infant is ridiculous.

    To claim that it is a human being is even more ridiculous — it is not any kind of “being”. A “being” is a independently existing, biologically formed, separate entity. A body part is not a “being”, no matter what its ultimate potential may be.

    You cannot equate a potential with an actual. To claim that an embryo is an “unborn child” and thus has the rights as an actual human being is exactly the same as claiming that a living adult is an “undead corpse” and has the same rights as a corpse.

    Mere *potentialities” are irrelevant in determining rights. For instance, every embryo is also a *potential* murderer — yet this mere potentiality does not argue for putting all embryos to death.

    Only *actual* human beings — like the woman carrying the embryo — can possess rights.

    And the right to determine what to do with your own body is a fundamental right. No one can claim the right to dictate to another what they should do with their body. And no one — not even an *actual* human being, not to mention a mere mass of protoplasm — can claim a right to *use* another person’s body against their will and without their permission.

    (And it isn’t relevant that we have laws that currently do dictate what we may or may not do with our bodies, such as laws against prostitution and drug use. Those laws are wrong, and their existence only proves that legislatures can pass some very bad laws. )

    This is why the woman must have the absolute right to terminate her pregnancy.

    I’ll stop there and address the other points tomorrow.

  2. Hi Michael – Thanks for the response.

    I heard the heartbeat of my child at 6 weeks. There must be some cell differentiation at that point. All the code is there from inception.

    Would you mind citing the source of your definition of “being”? I’ll admit, my search wasn’t exhaustive, but I didn’t find any definitions that matched your’s.

    Re: the undead corpse – I can clearly define what differentiates a corpse from a living being using words as defined by the dictionary – and it doesn’t involve the word “potentiality”. A corpse is a person where the biological processes that gave rise to that being at the point of inception have ceased to function.

    Can you describe in the biological, not philosophical (e.g. “potentiality”), threshold of an embryo becoming a being and earning the rights of a human, like I’ve described the biological threshold of a human being becoming a corpse?

  3. On further thought, I believe your undead corpse example shows that your “potentiality” argument for an embryo is invalid.

  4. I consider it self-evident that what exists at the early embryo stage — which is a mass of cells that biologically and developmentally is more primitive than a fish or a frog — is not a human being.

    Are you disagreeing with that? Are you saying that the early embryo is not merely a potential human being, but is already a human being?

    There is no point in further discussion until we know where we each stand on that point.

  5. And the right to determine what to do with your own body is a fundamental right. No one can claim the right to dictate to another what they should do with their body. And no one — not even an *actual* human being, not to mention a mere mass of protoplasm — can claim a right to *use* another person’s body against their will and without their permission.

    I’m several days late to this debate, but I’ll go ahead and answer this assertion.

    There is only one sure way to avoid pregnancy, and unless a woman is raped, she is voluntarily taking a chance that she’s inviting another being into her body.

    The argument that a human embryo is more primitive than a fish isn’t relevant to me. No matter what you do to that fish, it is not human.

    The irreconcilable difference between true pro-choicers, like you, and me, is that I cannot come to any other conclusion than life begins at conception. Medical science has advanced to the degree that surgeries are done in the early stages of gestation.

  6. brotio – Thanks for joining in. I agree with you.

    Michael – I agree that an embryo is not yet a human being. But many conservatives, from the moment the egg is fertilized, believe it is human life.

    If you’d like to e-mail further on abortion, I’d be happy to. I don’t think we’ll settle that, but I can at least share with you some of things that changed my mind about that.

    The original point we were addressing was that liberals view conservative support for pro life as a government intrusion into a private matter that’s inconsistent with their support of “limited” government.

    My point is that it’s not inconsistent if you understand their position on abortion (they view it as a human life with the basic liberty to live) and their meaning of limited government (government exists to protect liberty).

    You may disagree with with pro life conservatives regarding the status of the human life and its rights with respect to the mother. You may also disagree with their belief of the basic function of government. That’s fine. It’s a free country.

    But, to assert those positions are inconsistent is a false representation of their positions. I see this falsely represented often. I don’t think it’s an intentional false representation. I believe it stems from a simple misunderstanding of the conservative positions.

    I also look forward to your comments about the points that, many of which, I also believe were falsely represented as conservative support for government intrusion into private matters that’s inconsistent with with their belief in the limited role of government.

    Thanks for taking the time to address these. I appreciate your willingness to engage on these without invective. I think that’s when the best exchange takes place.


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