Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Rov v Wade from an "Unintended Consequences" Perspective

An elementary libertarian complaint about government control is that it is ham-handed in its regulations, not allowing for gradualism and gray areas that exist in the real world enough, and frustrating people in the process. The same could easily be said about having a Constitution that limits what a democracy can do: even when the limits are well-intentioned and generally good, they don’t deal with the nuance of the situation at all. (To be honest, I’ve been thinking for a while about the analogy of social planning:economic freedom::political super-rules:democratic freedom, and will write more about that later).

This all brings me to one of the most famous constitutional court cases,
Roe v. Wade. Much has already been said, on this blog and others, of how Roe and the Constitution make coming to terms over this controversial issue nearly impossible. The current losers feel they are denied on an important moral issue without ever getting a chance to express an opinion on it. The current winners have no motivation to reach out to the other side and convince America (calmly and coolly that is) to support pro-choice. And both political parties can use this issue ad infinitum for political support, but will never be able to do anything about it, meaning we are one step closer to electing our leaders without accountability.

Now over at Left2Right they are having an interesting discussion about America’s liberal abortion regime. America has one of the most licentious systems regarding abortion in the world, allowing abortions far later than any other country, because we’re going by Supreme Court absolutes (the body is inviolate) instead of trying to find any moderate compromises (like most of the nations in Europe, Africa, Asia, etc…). It doesn't seem right that America is more pro-abortion than Denmark or France, it's certainly not reflective of our culture or political will. The Court has repeatedly struck down late term bans that passed through the normal democratic process. Now, I don’t know whether “You can have abortion until 3 or 4 months into the pregnancy” is a good rule, and it’s probably not philosophically very consistent. But it does reflect what a democracy should be trying to do, satisfy all the people as much as they can – it’s a rule that doesn’t trap all women because of bad choices, but also doesn’t let us become inulled to a fetus that rapidly resembles human life. It’s not perfect - just democratic.

The point of this post was not to say “I hate Roe, so I want the whole Constitution gone”, but to convince both sides of the abortion divide that the absolutist solutions that our Constitution leads are not good for our country (and lead us to being in a very odd position. And for libertarians to see how the laws of unintended consequences and black-and-white world views apply and are destructive, even for a document written 200 years ago by a bunch of rich farmers.


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