Speaking of Ignoring the American Founding…

Concluding NRB’s recent drug legalization debate is a post entitled, “This is What Happens When the Founders’ Philosophy of Government Is Ignored.”  Setting aside the fact that just how the Founders would have treated drugs remains very much an open question, it seems to me that, given another recent NRB debate, a reminder of what else can happen when America’s founding principles are disregarded is in order. (Content Warning)


…can turn to this:

More here, for those brave enough to confront the ramifications of their positions.


14 thoughts on “Speaking of Ignoring the American Founding…

  1. So I’m curious, Calvin, and maybe you’ve explained this elsewhere on your blog… What’s your practical plan on abortion? Is it going to be a nationwide, federal law that makes abortion a crime or is Roe v. Wade just going to be overturned and then you’re fine with each individual state deciding how it wants to legislate about abortion’s legality? What needs to happen exactly?


    • I’d like to see Roe v. Wade overturned for sure, either by the Supreme Court or by a constitutional amendment.

      There’s a substantive argument that the 14th Amendment already grants Congress sufficient authority to ban abortion, but I’m not sure I’m convinced of it yet. I had a debate with Lisa Graas on the subject not too long ago:


      Eventually, I’d like to see support for a federal Human Life Amendment built up, because allowing the murder of preborn people certainly violates the spirit of the 14th Amendment, if not the language. No state should have the right to deny equal protection to the unborn any more than they have the right to deny equal protection to black people.

      But practically speaking, if you had a big enough majority for a constitutional amendment, most of the states would probably pass abortion bans on their own anyway. I’m content to argue the ethical principles now and cross the practical bridge when we come to it.


      • “I’m content to argue the ethical principles now and cross the practical bridge when we come to it.”

        I’m not. My experience in being a part of the Left and studying/analyzing the Left as much as I have has made me very skeptical about philosophizing about abstract principles without thinking critically about the practicality of their real world implementation. One cannot be separated from the other.

        This is the mistake that the Left made in the 20th century. They were too focused on abstract ideas and philosophies without thinking about how a society would actually function once those ideas were implemented. (And it’s their problem still.) The Right needs to learn from such mistakes and not have the attitude of “Oh we’ll just plan the practical later.”

        You’re proposing a radical change for our society: abortion would be a crime. You need to explain specifically how that could actually function in the practical world.

        I mean I’m persuadable on this, Calvin. I don’t like abortion; I don’t think it’s a “right.” But criminalizing all abortions doesn’t seem like something that’s at all practical.


  2. I don’t think that problem is in play here, because the different suggestions I mentioned are all largely compatible with one another. For instance, regardless of whether abortion should be addressed federally or left to the states, Roe should be overturned because it’s contrary to both goals and undermines the democratic process, and judges inclined against Roe’s logic should be appointed out of a broader respect for judicial originalism anyway. Conversely, if a Human Life Amendment were somehow ratified prior to Roe’s repeal, overturning Roe would serve no more purpose than overturning Dred Scott after the passage of the Civil War amendments.

    As far as the difference between a federal or a state-by-state solution, the same arguments that convince people that the unborn deserve legal protection generally will make those people more sympathetic to protection measures at either level. I’d probably give the states some leeway on how to prosecute abortionists, but I don’t think the transformation would be all that radical politically, because neither state nor federal measures would get anywhere until the people wanted them.

    As far as what a society without abortion would look like: I’m sure you’d have some discontent initially as those who rely on abortion for birth control run into the new status quo (and yes, the occasional back-alley abortion we hear so much about), but after that many people will see that the safety net of abortion is something they can live without after all.

    Offhand, the only potential source for considerable lasting social unrest I can see is whether or not our financial straits radically impair public aid and/or private charity to underage, low-income mothers. But given the emotional & psychological impact of abortion on many women, there would be benefits to women that also have to be weighed, too.


    • So all that’s basically going to happen is that pregnant women who want professional abortions will get on a bus and go up to Canada to get them. And people will find local, shadier abortionists the same way they find pot dealers now — through word of mouth. It’s not going to be an “occasional” thing just as buying drugs isn’t an occasional thing.

      (Or if you allow states to decide if abortion will be legal or not then some states will allow abortions and others will not, in which case, those who want abortions have shorter distances to drive than to just Canada.)

      How much taxpayer money do you think needs to be invested in developing the teams to combat the criminal abortion syndicates that will rise as a result of your proposed legislation? A similar amount in the billions since you support the government spending that on trying to prevent drug addiction?

      And I don’t recall, were you one who was going to make an exception for abortion in cases of rape?

      And you were against punishing women who get abortions, right? If it was your objective to prevent abortions wouldn’t you want to make a stiff punishment for those caught having abortions? Because I bet there are definitely plenty of women who would rather spend a year in jail than have a child.

      See, these are some of the practical questions/subjects which aren’t really addressed in a persuasive fashion. Maybe you should do a blog post outlining the practical nuts and bolts of how a society would actually be able to protect the unborn as you claim it should.


      • A longer reply is forthcoming, but for now it should be noted that none of this is a substantive argument against seeking legal protection for the unborn. If they are people, American principles demand that the law treat them as such. Even though the Civil War Amendments ended slavery in name and constitutional legitimacy, it took many years after that to end slavery in practice (see the Black Codes, for instance). That didn’t make slavery’s formal & legal abolition any less necessary. Likewise, the difficulty of implementing legal protection for the unborn, and the possibility of a lengthy period of flawed effectiveness, however severe, are not arguments against pursuing the goal.


  3. “A similar amount in the billions since you support the government spending that on trying to prevent drug addiction?”

    Also, for the record I made no claims about what form anti-drug laws should take, or whether it should be a federal or state concern.


  4. “A longer reply is forthcoming, but for now it should be noted that none of this is a substantive argument against seeking legal protection for the unborn.”

    Actually I think that “government is incapable of doing what you want it to do” is a substantive and legitimate argument for not pushing it to do something. And we as conservatives do it all the time with other issues (like anti-poverty, affirmative action, and socialized medicine.)

    And be careful with the parallel to slavery. Would slavery have ended without the Civil War? Probably not. But you’ve already taken armed conflict off the table in this issue even though you want to call it an evil akin to slavery and the Holocaust. Heck, you’ve even taken civil disobedience off the table. Your logic requires you to condemn the actions of Harriet Tubman since you renounce such methods when applied by pro-life activists.

    I guess I’d wind down the debate with this encouragement to you Calvin… You’re one of the bright, rising lights of Generation Y Conservatism. And part of this project of Generation Y Conservatism is putting the Conservative Project in a new context with new arguments to defend old ideas. I’m not really seeing you do that with abortion. I wish I could see you do something new and different here. Comparing abortion to slavery and calling it “murder” are old arguments. You need to come up with new metaphors and make new connections — and come up with compelling practical plans.


    • For one thing, I remain unpersuaded by your reasons for why government is incapable of protecting the unborn (for reasons I’ll get into in that next post). And again, basic questions of justice and human rights cannot simply be treated identically to social ills like poverty.

      I already explained why the armed conflict point is invalid back in “Unalienable.” And vigilantism & mob rule, which I did take off the table, are obviously different from civil disopbedience, which I don’t recall taking off the table. The two concepts cannot be treated interchangeably.

      Whether or not something is “new and different” has no bearing on whether or not it’s right, true, or persuasive. I’m not out to fit anyone’s preconceived notions of what a conservative should be, Generation-Y or otherwise (though I am grateful for the praise). Of course I’m going to be mindful of how to present the case and consider what measures will be the most effective. But based on my years involved in this battle (and also based on public opinion trends), I’m confident that I’m already doing just that.


      • It doesn’t matter how right an argument might be to you if it’s not effective at getting through to other people. All I’m telling you is that I’m wanting to hear something new, unique, and creative instead of you just parroting the pro-life arguments and rhetoric that have used for decades.


  5. I was thinking about how to put together a longer response to all of this…pre-Roe history to research, crime statistics to look up, polling data to compare…and if you’re interested, here are some great starting points:




    But then I realized, as interesting as that would all be, it really is peripheral to the heart of the issue. As you say, “We talk too much in politics. We compose long essays and in-depth articles that obscure what really matters.”

    And what really matters, what outweighs every other consideration, is this: if all men are created equal, with unalienable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, if governments are instituted among men to secure these rights, and if the unborn are our fellow human beings, then that’s it. All the big decisions are already decided for us.

    We don’t have a choice to tolerate legal discrimination, up to and including the right to deliberately kill, our countrymen.


    We have no more choice here than we do opposing Sharia, or standing for Israel’s right to exist — struggles which, let’s not kid ourselves, won’t be neatly wrapped up in the 30 years you gave the pro-life movement to win before packing it in.

    How much do we spend? How much do we experiment before we get it right? (And no, getting it right doesn’t mean nobody’s gonna skirt the law. Nobody’s asking for utopia.) Whatever it takes. Because unlike all the other nonsense the government wastes money on, protection of our natural rights is THE ENTIRE POINT of the government the Founders envisioned.

    Besides, it’s not as if we pass a law and go home. If it’s judged that certain statutes don’t work, they can be changed. And the pro-life charity and public persuasion efforts will still go on.

    It really is that simple.


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