January 02, 2003
Christine Stolba Fears Reproductive Choice With Biotech

Christine Stolba (see short bio) fears that feminist rhetoric in favor of reproductive choice will lead to a consumer-driven eugenic society.

We are not all mothers yet, but if we continue along the path our feminist ethical guides have laid down, we run the risk of ending up in a consumer-driven eugenic society. With ever more sophisticated ivf techniques, genetic screening, and artificial wombs, the physiological process of pregnancy and childbirth could become just another commodified “life experience.” Like climbing Mt. Everest or meditating on an ashram, seekers of the exotic could experience the “adventure” of childbirth the old-fashioned way, while some women would make use of artificial wombs to avoid the hassles of pregnancy.

Its not clear from her essay whether she blames this likely outcome solely or mainly on feminism. Nor it is clear what about that outcome causes her to object to it. In her mind is it bad to use biotech to give embryos genetic variations that, for instance, boost intelligence or make personality be different? Is her problem with the possibility that feminists will use biotechnology to create genetically engineered feminist-minded children (yes, I expect that will become possible to make every male have the moral sensibilities of Alan Alda). Or is her deeper objection to the idea that feminists, by encouraging reproductive choice, will help lead the way into a sort of free-for-all reproductive chaos where individuals, whether feminist or not, will make all sorts of unwise decisions about what genetic characteristics their children will have?

Conservatives are fearful of changes. They tend (often quite wisely) to defend established institutions, traditions and practices. They are right to sense that biotechnology will allow people to separate previously related acts and to produce reproductive practices and outcomes that are radically different than what has been the case for humanity's existence up until now. For instance, already artificial insemination makes it is possible for a woman to have a child without having to have sex with a man or even to meet the man who will become the biological father. This already allows most male involvement in procreation to be dispensed with and yet most women are still having babies with men they know. It is important to recognize the benefits that most women feel they gain by having a child with a man (emotional, financial, and other practical considerations). These benefits have prevented what might have predicted would happen as a consequence of the creation of sperm banks.

As Stolba points out, eventually it will even become possible to bring a fetus to term in an artificial womb and to choose which genetic characteristics the baby will have. It is not foolish to feel some degree of apprehension when pondering these monumental changes in human society. But in Stolba's essay she spends more time attacking feminists, feminist ideology, and feminist ideas about reproduction than she does articulating exactly what harm she expects to result from allowing individuals complete freedom to make decisions to use forthcoming reproductive technologies. Just because some radical academic feminists make an argument that doesn't mean that people will do what they suggest. Also, even if people do what they suggest that still doesn't mean that the people did it because the feminists suggested that they should do it.

To be fair to Stolba, some feminists have certainly advocated a number of changes in society which have had some deleterious consequences and no doubt some of the feminists she quotes are peddling some ideas which would be harmful if put into widespread practice. Given the limits to our understanding of human nature if we start changing some aspects of human institutions (or with genetic engineering even changing human nature) we can too easily make some change to society which will cause some unexpected horrible social pathologies which won't become obvious for many years after the change is made. There's a defendable humility at the foundation of a conservative argument that defends the traditional ways to make and raise children.

However, the technological advances that will make artificial wombs and genetic engineering possible are coming. These advances do create real specific potential dangers to our society. It would be helpful if conservatives tried to focus more on the specific dangers and the specific motivations that will cause people make choices that the conservatives find potentially harmful. One fear is that men will be cut out of the reproductive picture. But artificial insemination has been available for decades and in spite of radical feminist arguments against the male patriarchy there is not big rush of women choosing artificial insemination in order to allow them to avoid male involvement in a child's upbringing. Plus, it is also already possible for a woman to raise a child on her own pretty easily in a more conventional fashion without recourse to any biotech. There are women (I know one who did this) determined to have a child on their own who meet a guy in a big city, have a one-night stand when they are fertile, get pregnant, and then never tell the guy and lose contact with him. Women choosing that route to reproduction are also still the exception. So fears about the use of biotech have to be placed in perspective. Absent a motive to use a technology people will not use it.

Is there an unsatisfied demand among women to cut males out of the reproductive picture? I don't see it. Nor do I expect the radical feminist theorists to make much headway trying to convince women to do so. However, I do see a capability that biotechnology may provide that could provide women with a far more powerful incentive for having children by use of an anonymous male donor's sperm: once personal DNA sequencing becomes possible it will be more obvious what genetic flaws or advantages each potential mate has. The perceived and real difference in genetic quality between a sperm bank sperm donor and a mate's DNA will create a greater incentive to use sperm bank sperm. This illustrates how if one looks at the details of biotechnology one can spot where the real forces for change in society will come from as a result of what biotech makes possible. An examination of those details could result in a more effective conservative critique of the dangers that biotech poses for human institutions and human nature.

Share |      Randall Parker, 2003 January 02 11:31 PM  Bioethics Reproduction


Comments
Philip Shropshire said at January 3, 2003 11:11 AM:

Well, it is a piece from the conservative think tank the Hoover Institute. That's what you should expect. I'm beginning to suspect that you are a research scientist because you know so little about politics. It's the Godless Capitalist conundrum writ yet again. But if you want a really scary story about what happens when Feminists take over biotech, then you should try out: Greg Egan's "Oceanic". That link is here:

http://www.netspace.net.au/~gregegan/OCEANIC/Complete/Oceanic.html

A lot of Egan's short stories are available online for free. In this particular Feminist biotech society of the far future, it's a little hard to tell the boys from the girls. In fact, the radical dream of the denizens of Oceanic is just staying one sex for your entire life...what a radical concept...

I actually think she's probably right. But she's obviously anti-choice to begin with. Why would she want an expansion of those rights? That's what freedom means: the right to make choices that other people don't like. I actually make an extension of this point with my essay over at Better Humans, which would make a good feature here at Futurepundit! That link is here:

http://www.betterhumans.com/Features/Columns/Guests/column.aspx?articleID=2002-12-29-4

Philip Shropshire
www.threerivertechreview.com
www.majic12.com

Bob said at January 4, 2003 12:43 PM:

Philip, I suggest you avoid the ad hominem. It really weakens any point you are trying to make.

Anyone who knows Randall, as I have known him for about a decade, knows he has a broader and deeper insight into politics, ideology, epistemology etc. than one finds outside of public office. In fact, precious few even in public office rival Randall's keen political perception.

If you hope to develop a similar comprehension, I suggest you focus on actual historical events instead of fanciful works of fiction. Authors have an omnipotent power to make their stories work out contrary to real inevitabilities.

Should you improve your own political perception, you might have the means to realise the Hoover Institute is not a conservative organization per se. It is very much a liberal institution in the classical liberal sense. Its very aim is to find ways to improve our political system. A conservative institution would only seek to maintain the political status quo.

I read your essay at Better Humans, and I read Stolba's essay at Policy Review. Frankly, Randall made the correct choice when he chose Stolba's essay to critique.

With all due respect, I found your essay meandering and pointless. It is full of incomprehensible non sequitur innuendo that I suppose like-minded individuals will find comforting but that do not offer any real informative value.

Conservatives seek to maintain a political and institutional status quo. Neo-luddites--the Unabomber included--seek to maintain a technological status quo. Insofar as they each seek to maintain a status quo, they are similar. Your essay notes the similarity while dancing around the obvious cause and the obvious limitations. Note that the similarity is not a similarity of morals nor a similarity of goals but a rather tenuous similarity of goal type.

By comparison, Stolba's essay is direct and well-researched. She does a very good job of pointing out the limitations of feminist ethics for dealing with advanced biological and reproductive technologies. Unfortunately, she offers no evidence that any other morality or ethic provides a solution to the problem.

The technological advances will happen. The consequences will be good and bad, intended and unintended. At this point, it is perhaps premature to attempt to deal with those consequences, and Randall is correct to point out that the rules of discourse and some of our most basic assumptions will have to change before we can.

Philip Shropshire said at January 4, 2003 8:52 PM:

First, Bob, you start your essay by describing the Hoover Institution as a "classical liberal organization". Now, you're either dim, not a personal attack aside from your point but because of it which disqualifies it from being ad hominem--just a note--or you're a very bad liar (Who funds Hoover? "Classic liberal" multinationals who hate regulation, come on...), or you're a very bad message board debater...I'm guessing the trifecta here.

I didn't go by my memory to determine if the Hoover Institute was conservative, I actually typed in "Conservative Think Tanks" at google and up popped the Hoover institute. Just to make sure that was accurate, I then went to the homepage to check out what "liberal" concerns they were involved with these days. These concerns included but were not limited to these topics:


THE INTELLECTUAL ORIGINS OF AMERICA-BASHING
The utopian leanings of latter-day radicalism
Lee Harris

THE NEW DIPLOMACY
The ban on land mines, the International Criminal Court, and beyond
David Davenport

OVERCOMING MOTHERHOOD
Pushing the limits of reproductive choice
Christine Stolba

NUCLEAR DETERRENCE, THEN AND NOW
The Cold War is over, but the world remains heavily armed
Daniel Gouré

GIBRALTAR ON THE ROCKS
The American stake in a sovereignty dispute
Thomas D. Grant

Now, I didn't read the other pieces, but I'm going to take a wild guess that the piece about America bashing isn't a liberal piece. And that if I read it, I wouldn't be surprised about what I actually read, just as Randall really shouldn't be surprised to hear what a writer who is sponsored by the Hoover Institution might say. I mean, she's being to paid to write to the conclusion, not come to conclusions through the writing. When I click on the essays of the Hoover Institution, I find out that they hate teacher's unions, seem hostile to public education, hate teacher's unions again, are pro charter schools,there's even a surprising critique against regulation...Yep. This is exactly the kind of thing I'm used to reading whenever I venture into, say, Public Citizen or Max Sawicky or a truly liberal think tank: The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. What you still don't think they're conservative? Well, FAIR, a liberal organization calls them conservative

(that link is here: http://www.fair.org/extra/0203/think_tanks.html)

Now here's a frothy right wing site called Free Citizen and they list conservative think tanks.

(That link is here:http://www.freecitizen.com/links/thnklnks.htm)

How do I know he's a conservative, welp, the big hint is the book on his homepage where there's a book profiled that alleges that Jesse Jackson is a crook and his second amendment links...What, that's not enough for you either? Well, how about Christine's resume: Commentary and the usual slew of conservative Eagle Forumish woman's groups and no I didn't check them all...I probably didn't have to.

So, your first point is so stunningly wrong that I'm not even sure if it's worth decimating your other points, badly reasoned as they may happen to be. But just for the record, I didn't seriously think that Randall would review the essay, but it does include more than witty jibes at your favorite people: Fukuyama, Kass and the Unabomber. The big point is that I think that the Unabomber seemed to think, and I make the point that this was just my own darkest speculation based on the essay that I had read, that killing of biotechs would be a good idea tactically for the Anarchist Green left. (Actually, if you want to know something really scary, that's already happened...a number of biotechs did die mysteriously over the last several years, about two dozen...perhaps the policy is already in place although I'm hoping it was all just coincidental...). The other Bigger Point that I also made is that the freedom of choice issue, with the rise of these wonderful new technologies, now can apply to men. What would protect you and me from using the life extension therapies that Kass and Rifkin want to ban? The right to privacy, as it was argued out in Roe v. Wade...Or, to put it another way: The Right to Choose, It's Not Just For Women Anymore. As far as I can tell, no one so far in the science press has made these connections. Perhaps you could be more specific in your critiques, you know, quote something that I actually wrote or said that you found objectionable...

I might also point out that I'm proud to be a part of Better Humans, a mouthpiece for the transhumanist/extroprian viewpoint, and hope to contribute many many articles to them, because there's a need for a left view of technology that's more articulate and meaningful than "Just Stop Doing That." I think the Extropians are on the mark when they figure out that human enhancement won't be tolerated by the political party of the Radical Christian Right (That's the GOP for you Bob, and no they're not in the "liberal" tradition....

And one final defense of science fiction: The reason I urge everyone to read Oceanic isn't just because it's a great great story, but because it articulates the points that Christine was just sniffing at in her essay. I mean, I've read Christine's essay and I've read Egan's "Oceanic". If I wanted to clue somebody in on what tomorrow's techs were about and how disturbing they are, I'd point them to Oceanic. By the way, Randall, if you're looking for a really interesting essay piece, do a review of both "Oceanic" and Egan's "The Moral Virologist"...You'd have more to work with and Egan isn't a strait-jacketed guy ideology wise, he brings up points that should infuriate the right and the left, which is why I find him so enjoyable...One more thing: Egan probably knows as much about science as Randall Parker, if not more. His speciality is computer science but he's Asimov SFnal writers who is comfortable around Nanhttp://www.fair.org/extra/0203/think_tanks.html, quantum physics, computer stuff, everything...He's quite an intellect. In fact, lots of real scientists write science fiction these days. Off the top of my head there's Rudy Rucker, Stephen Baxter, Paul McAuley, Greg Bear, Vernor Vinge...In fact, as I was reading over the writer's bio (she is kinda hot!)it struck me that she was a historian, not a scientist...

Philip Shropshire
www.threerivertechreview.com
www.majic12.com

PS: I didn't think he would actually review my piece because I give him such a hard time! On the other hand, I think that debate on your message boards only helps builds your site, so...I mean, he writes these long windy pieces and noboby responds. Somehow, I think that's worse....I do respect Randall by the way. He's treated me with courtesy and I often link to his posts! I even permalinked to him...Now, I suspect that he comes from a centrist Libertarian perspective, as do most of Instapundit's links, but I think he works hard and does a good job of laying out these issues. It would be nice if he put up a bio or something just so I can get a sense of his specialty, although I sense its genetics and biology, just a guess....

Philip Shropshire said at January 4, 2003 8:56 PM:

Whoops! That next to the last graph should read:

His speciality is computer science but he's one of those Asimov SFnal writers who is comfortable around Nan, quantum and theoretical physics, computer stuff, everything...He's quite an intellect. In fact, lots of real scientists write science fiction these days. Off the top of my head there's Rudy Rucker, Stephen Baxter, Paul McAuley, Greg Bear, Vernor Vinge...In fact, as I was reading over the writer's bio (she is kinda hot!)it struck me that she was a historian, not a scientist...

Philip Shropshire said at January 4, 2003 9:15 PM:

I can't let this Hoover Institute classic liberal propaganda line go unchallenged Bob. Here's a graph from Counterpunch. By the way, when Richard Scaife sits on your board, you are not liberal, in any sense, classic or contemporary...(and wasn't Hoover a bad president...?)

"The Ehrlichs' leading benefactor NYC apartment property heir Peter Bing sits on the board of the conservative Hoover Institute along with the likes of Richard Mellon Scaife and Dwayne O. Andreas(Archer Daniels Midland CEO). The Hoover Institute has long been a fountain of anti-environmentalism, recently publishing a book touting the benefits of global warming."

Bob said at January 5, 2003 12:19 AM:

Whatever. The ad hominem just proves you have little of worth to say.

I tried your google search on "conservative think tanks". I examined the first 260 links returned and the Hoover Institute was not among them. Thinking that a think tank might not refer to itself in the plural, I repeated the search with "conservative think tank", and again the Hoover Institute did not rank among the top 260 hits.

In both cases, the search turned up links to plenty of conservative think tanks--for instance, the Heritage Foundation was a stand-out both times.

The closest I saw to a link to the Hoover Institute was a link to a diatribe by a Marxist professor of political science at Stanford. I have no doubt that ignorant socialists confuse classical liberalism with conservatism. I will grant you that.

I even expect that a few conservative groups would like to commandeer the Hoover Institute's good name for their own.

However, neither socialist ignorance nor conservative covetousness change the nature of the institution, which is clearly liberal in the classical sense.

Should you decide to, you can perform a google search on "classical liberalism", and you will find plenty of links on the subject. For instance, I quickly found Amy H. Sturgis' essay The Rise, Decline, and Reemergence of Classical Liberalism. What I have read of it so far is very good, and I have bookmarked it for a complete reading later. She defines "classical liberalism" with the following attributes:


  • an ethical emphasis on the individual as a rights-bearer prior to the existence of any state, community, or society,
  • the support of the right of property carried to its economic conclusion, a free-market system,
  • the desire for a limited constitutional government to protect individuals' rights from others and from its own expansion, and
  • the universal (global and ahistorical) applicability of these above convictions.

You will see from the above that classical liberals desire limited government to protect individual rights. And, yes, I expect classical liberals, who wisely fear superfluous regulation, fund the Hoover Institute.

Any research institution seeking responsible change to society will examine a multitude of views some advocating a conservative stance on an issue and some advocating a liberal stance on an issue. At times, a responsible liberal institution will opt for the conservative position.

The Intellectual Origins of America-Bashing is completely compatible with--and even expected for--a classical liberal viewpoint. Classical liberals reject collectivist doctrine as indicated by the defining attribute: "an ethical emphasis on the individual as a rights-bearer prior to the existence of any state, community, or society."

I disagree with your bold claim that researchers at the Hoover Institute write to conservatism. It is easily refuted by finding just one article that does not write to conservatism. For instance, the essay Classroom Research and Cargo Cults is inherently liberal in that it seeks effective interventions to improve education.

In the case of Stolba, I suspect she is conservative--not because the Hoover Institute's Policy Review published her essay but because her short bio associates her to the Ethics and Public Policy Center "established in 1976 to clarify and reinforce the bond between the Judeo-Christian moral tradition and the public debate over domestic and foreign policy issues."

With regard to FAIR etc., I realise the socialists have commandeered the name "liberal", which is why I clearly referred to liberal in the classical sense. Contemporary liberalism equates to collectivism.

I didn't bother to quote anything from your essay because, as I said, I found it pointless and meandering. I don't find the Unabomber's (or any neo-luddite's) penchant for violence surprising or noteworthy.

Politics makes for strange bedfellows. The socialist takeover of the Democratic Party leaves classical liberals little choice but to vote for the same party as the conservative christian right.

The Democrats will do just as much to eliminate your right to choose as the Republicans might. They will simply do so for different reasons and will use different methods. Classical liberals, on the other hand, favour individual freedom and choice. You will find that many Republicans do have a very liberal tradition in the classical sense.

I expect that both parties will try to attract religious votes (or more precisely try not to repulse them) by banning certain biotechnologies. The Democrats present a further risk of eliminating the financial rewards for developing biotechnologies.

The idea of any ideology taking over biotech scares me silly even without an SF story. In any case, I directed you to actual historical events to gain a better grasp of politics not to gain a better grasp of the magnitude of coming upheavals caused by revolutionary technology.

As for Randall, I will let him speak for himself when it comes to his political beliefs.

Bob said at January 5, 2003 12:50 AM:

Philip, it seems you omitted the link to the referenced Counterpunch article.

I do not rely on the opinions of a couple of stasists who predominantly define themselves by what they oppose to accurately categorize and represent research institutes.

I do not know enough about Hoover to conclude how good a President he was. He was President during a globally difficult economy, which no doubt made him unpopular.

Philip Shropshire said at January 5, 2003 8:52 PM:

Whatever. The ad hominem just proves you have little of worth to say.I tried your google search on "conservative think tanks". I examined the first 260 links returned and the Hoover Institute was not among them. Thinking that a think tank might not refer to itself in the plural, I repeated the search with "conservative think tank", and again the Hoover Institute did not rank among the top 260 hits.In both cases, the search turned up links to plenty of conservative think tanks--for instance, the Heritage Foundation was a stand-out both times.The closest I saw to a link to the Hoover Institute was a link to a diatribe by a Marxist professor of political science at Stanford. I have no doubt that ignorant socialists confuse classical liberalism with conservatism. I will grant you that. I even expect that a few conservative groups would like to commandeer the Hoover Institute's good name for their own.


Welp, I've finished basking in the Steelers victory. Here's a four point rebut:

1) Well, first. Let me try to define for you the ad hominem argument. For example, you make an argument that the Hoover Institute is not really “conservative” but is being called “conservative” by unscrupulous sorts who don’t know their “classical liberalism” from their rabid conservatism. Now, if my retort was you’re just a duped Pro Idiotarian who is confusing academic definitions with reality. That would be ad hominem namecalling. However, I am arguing that you are dim because of your arguments. Furthermore, I suggest that you click on the links that you will find at Google when you type in Conservative Think Tanks. Here is the link, for anyone watching:

http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&ie=UTF-8&oe=UTF-8&q=Conservative+Think+Tanks&btnG=Google+Search


Or to quote Delany’s Dahlgren: “You have confused the true and the real”. It could be true that the Hoover Institute is “classically liberal” by your definition—which it isn’t, but more on that later—but in today’s reality, where the Hoover institute is a shill for right wing foundations and already predefined policy initiatives, it’s quite clear that Hoover isn’t exactly an independent source of news. I must also recommend that in the future, whenever you check links, that you clink the links, where you will find the Hoover Institute mentioned on the first five pages, but one, and that was the About.com page, where it was mentioned on page two under a listing of “conservative think tanks”—another pinko commie source right (?). Actually, and I believe this was link three from a well-known left site, this is kind of what the Hoover Institute sort of does:


Speaking truth to power is all well and good, but applying the dictum, "money talks, " conservative foundations have long been bankrolling like-minded thin tanks and advocacy groups. Together, they have effected far-reaching changes in US social, political, and economic policy. Proclaiming their movement a war of ideas, conservatives began to mobilize resources for battle in the 1960s. They built new institutional bastions; recruited, trained, and equipped their intellectual warriors; forged new weapons as cable television, the Internet, and other communications technologies evolved; and threw their resources into policy and political battles. By 1984, moderate Republican John Saloma warned of a "major new presence in American politics." If left unchecked, he accurately predicted, "the new conservative labyrinth" would pull the nation's political center sharply to the right. Today, that labyrinth is larger, more sophisticated, and increasingly able to influence what gets on-and what stays off- the public policy agenda. From the decision to abandon the federal guarantee of cash assistance to the poor, to changes in the federal tax structure, to interest in medical savings accounts and the privatization of Social Security, conservative policy ideas and rhetoric have come to dominate the nation’s political conversation, reflecting what political scientist WaIter Dean Burnham has called a "hegemony of market theology"

I just wanted to point out that earlier I had also quoted a conservative right wing source who defined the Hoover institute as a conservative right wing source. I mean it’s like you’re arguing that water isn’t a liquid. Anyway, here are the six graphs about the Hoover Institute (remember to clink on the links) that are shown if you go to the google link:


One:The Hoover Institute and the New Jersey Family Cap. In 1993, New Jersey began denying extra welfare benefits to welfare mothers who had more kids. Conservatives were eager to show that the cap took away a financial incentive for welfare mothers to increase their family size. Sixteen months after the cap took effect, the Hoover Institute released a study showing that the average monthly birth rate for New Jersey welfare mothers had declined more than 10 percent. However, the study was so poorly done that it failed to compare a control group with an experimental group. A Rutgers study which did found that "there is not a statistically significant difference between the birth rates in the experimental and control groups." (4)

Two: A decade later, the marketing strategies of conservative institutions are even more sophisticated and aggressive. The Hoover Institutions public affairs office, for example, links to 900 media centers across the US and 450 abroad. The Reason Foundation, a national public policy research organization that also serves as a national clearinghouse on privatization, had 359 television and radio appearances in 1995 and more than 1,500 citations in national newspapers and magazines. The Manhattan Institute has held more than 600 forums or briefings for journalists and policy makers on multiple public policy issues and concerns, from tort reform to federal welfare policy And the National Center for Policy Analysis reports that "NCPA ideas" have been discussed in 573 nationally syndicated columns and 184 wire stories over the 12 years of its existence

Three:* The Hoover Institution -- with more than $3.2 million in grants and an operating budget of almost $19 million in 1995, has focused particular attention on tax policy, promoting the flat tax, and opposing federal social welfare policies


Four: A number of smaller and relatively new conservative think tanks have risen to new positions of visibility in recent years. The five largest and most well-known policy institutions (the Heritage Foundation, Hoover Institution, Center for Strategic and International Studies, American Enterprise Institute, and Free Congress Research and Education Foundation) expended half of the $158 million total in 1996, but the remaining $80 million was spent by 15 smaller policy organizations working to advance core elements of the conservative agenda

o Five: Hoover Institution on War, Revolution, and Peace
§ Description of programs, research, and archival holdings
§ Text of press releases


Six: Hoover InstitutionDevoted to advanced study of politics, economics, and political economy.

Philip Shropshire said at January 5, 2003 8:55 PM:

“Should you decide to, you can perform a google search on "classical liberalism", and you will find plenty of links on the subject. For instance, I quickly found Amy H. Sturgis' essay The Rise, Decline, and Reemergence of Classical Liberalism. What I have read of it so far is very good, and I have bookmarked it for a complete reading later. She defines "classical liberalism" with the following attributes: an ethical emphasis on the individual as a rights-bearer prior to the existence of any state, community, or society; the support of the right of property carried to its economic conclusion, a free-market system; the desire for a limited constitutional government to protect individuals' rights from others and from its own expansion, and the universal (global and ahistorical) applicability of these above convictions.”

2) I should point out to you that the essay, violates every single principle that you’ve just outlined. Here’s one of her passages: “Contemporary feminism’s valorization of “choice” in reproductive matters and its exaltation of individualism — powerful arguments for access to contraceptives and first-generation reproductive techniques — offer few ethical moorings as we confront these fundamentally new technologies. In fact, the extreme individualism of the feminist position is encouraging women to take these technologies to their logical, if morally dubious conclusion: a consumer-driven form of eugenics.” Now, perhaps I’m not as bright as you, someone who doesn’t understand the technology behind actually clicking on google links as opposed to headline surfing—but she seems to be making an argument against choice. How does this place an emphasis on the individual as a rights bearer, when the writer in question seems to openly condemn the right of women to choose? This doesn’t fit into your “classical liberal” definition, however, it fits perfectly into my vast right wing propaganda mill theory. The Hoover Institute is conservative, therefore it publishes pro-life positions. Water really is a liquid. Honest. Can this be made more clear?

A second part of the definition has to do with “free markets”. Please point me to the Hoover Institute pieces on why it’s important to enforce antitrust law. I must have missed them. Or how the right to choose is now an embedded part of American life and is now to be “conserved”? Point out those links to me, please. As for point three, how can you have a limited constitutional government that believes in controlling a woman’s right to choose, and is actively suppressing genomic research? I don’t get it. Now, if you told me that there is an intrinsic conflict between the GOP’s Big Pharma donors and its Christian right base and these things happen okay…but to claim that the Hoover Institute is some sort of independent arbiter of opinion…c’mon…

Philip Shropshire said at January 5, 2003 8:59 PM:

“I disagree with your bold claim that researchers at the Hoover Institute write to conservatism. It is easily refuted by finding just one article that does not write to conservatism. For instance, the essay Classroom Research and Cargo Cults is inherently liberal in that it seeks effective interventions to improve education.”

3) Actually, the claim isn’t that bold. Please see point one about how even centrist and conservative sources can point out that the Hoover Institute is conservative. Please tell me how can one of the nation’s most notorious right winger, Richard Scaife (I used to write about this guy when I was a media watch columnist at In Pittsburgh some years ago. I once joked that he might have me killed. Turns out that one of his prominent critics was killed, in an odd way that seemed to suggest suicide from a guy who wasn’t very suicidal. I don’t think the joke is as funny as it once was.) can sit on your board and yet not be conservative? Thomas Sowell, noted black right winger and sell out, is a Hoover Institute fellow? I mean, c’mon. Water really is a liquid. And it’s not easily refuted by finding one article. I may praise President Bush’s proposal to raise education spending by $1 billion dollars. It’s doesn’t make me a conservative or a Republican. And no I won’t talk about vouchers right now.

Philip Shropshire said at January 5, 2003 9:03 PM:

“Politics makes for strange bedfellows. The socialist takeover of the Democratic Party leaves classical liberals little choice but to vote for the same party as the conservative christian right. The Democrats will do just as much to eliminate your right to choose as the Republicans might. They will simply do so for different reasons and will use different methods. Classical liberals, on the other hand, favour individual freedom and choice. You will find that many Republicans do have a very liberal tradition in the classical sense. I expect that both parties witry to attract religious votes (or more precisely try not to repulse them) by banning certain biotechnologies. The Democrats present a further risk of ll eliminating the financial rewards for developing biotechnologies.”

4)The socialist takeover of the Dem Party? And you wonder why I didn’t respond to some of your earlier rebuttals…Look, I used to be a DSA member: Clinton was never a socialist. Socialists don’t support NAFTA or welfare reform. Trust me on this. In fact, a lot of them probably voted Green in the last presidential election. The DLC that now runs the Dems aren’t socialist and they’re pretty much republican and Big Donor leaning when it comes to big issues, except for science policy, which is why if you really believe in the genomics revolution (and the computer revolution now that Microsoft backs the Republicans these days..) you should probably vote democrat, or at least the DLC…You say the Democrats will do just as much to eliminate my right to choose as the Republicans, well prove it. Who appointed the Kass Commission? Who wants to regulate genomic research? Who wants to take away a woman’s right to choose? Last time I checked, it wasn’t the Democrats. The democrats ushered in the computer revolution. You know who the first senator was who defended cloning? It was democratic senator Tom Harkin. And did you really read my piece? I notice that you didn’t quote from it. Apparently, you get to call my piece meandering and so forth but don’t even bother to supply a quote where that’s proven. Thanks for nothing fella. That’s so, y’know, ad hominem. Tell me that you at least read the Egan, who’s a research scientist and not a historian…Feh.

I guess this is why I find the Pro Idiotarian right so, well, unpersuasive. You argue points that are just silly. They’re not even worth rebutting for the most part. Jeez…


Bob said at January 5, 2003 10:43 PM:

Philip, I do not know whether it is incapacity or unwillingness, but I am truly astounded by your failure to comprehend plain english. Your incoherent rants seem to meld the Bush government, the Hoover Institute, Christine Stolba and Richard Scaife into a single entity. It is impossible to respond sensibly to such confusion.

An interesting illogic runs through all of your aguments:

Extrapolating the logic from some of your arguments above, you apparently believe a large corporation like Coca Cola cannot be racist or discriminate against blacks if they have a black person on their board of directors. (Not that I accuse Coca Cola of racism--I only seem to recall a similar issue was raised at one time in an employment dispute.)

Again extrapolating the logic from your arguments, you believe that researchers should only--or perhaps can only--look at one side of an argument.

Likewise, you apparently believe if a research institute funds a study that turns out to have flaws, all of the studies they fund are flawed.

Some of your arguments seem to assume that only two political beliefs can exist. If a person or organization opposes socialist programs like federal welfare policies, the person or organization is necessarily conservative. Apparently, you allow no room for anything but socialism or conservatism. However, seeking to change existing welfare policies would not be 'conservative' per se.

Apparently, any institute that actually studies politics, economics and political economy is conservative.

Again, this is all still simply extrapolation of the logic in your arguments: You seem to believe that if you have not seen something it doesn't exist. Peeka-boo!

Somehow you believe that saying a research institute's "aim is to find ways to improve our political system" implies it is nothing more than an arbiter of opinion.

I am not sure where or when, but you apparently hallucinated some desire or request to discuss vouchers.

Apparently, you believe that socialism occupies a very narrow band of opinion.

Demanding someone prove that an essay meanders by looking at a small part of it is rather like demanding someone push on a rope. If anyone wants to verify that your essay meanders pointlessly, they can easily follow the link you provided them above.

Finally, if my points are not worth rebutting, I suggest you simply expend less effort doing so.

For instance, you have not addressed the points I made that both socialists and conservatives have motives for mislabelling classical liberal institutions like the Hoover Institute as conservative think tanks. Instead, you have simply pointed out once again that socialists and conservatives do so. That seems like a lot of pointless effort.

Philip Shropshire said at January 5, 2003 11:15 PM:

For the record, you're kind of an easy target because you don't back up anything. It's all out of the Wondrous Head of Bob. Can you quote me one person on the net who thinks the Hoover institute isn't just a mouthpiece for rich multinationals who doesn't work or write for the organization and could reasonably be called objective and no you don't count. Google please. Do you actually read anything I wrote? You're supposed to do some innovative googling of your own and explain why Scaife and Sowell, movement conservatives and right wingers, would associate themselves with such an open minded group as the Hoover institute. I'm sure it's interesting but it's not an argument. And have you read the Egan? Have you read my piece even? Okay, fine. The Hoover Institute isn't really conservative, those zillion links from google saying that Hoover is conservative ( from biased sources, conservatives, the left, and even about.com) are in fact just delusions for our lying eyes. Water really isn't a liquid. War is Peace, etc... Bob: You are a proud member of the Pro Idiotarian Right Wing Punditry Elite or PIRWPE, whatever that means...

And no that wasn't the logic of my arguments, (again some proofs here, some evidence) either inductive or deductive...Feh. Again.

Bob said at January 5, 2003 11:54 PM:

Why wouldn't conservatives fund classically liberal institutions? Both conservatives and classical liberals value individual freedom and see socialists as a real threat.

Scaife is clearly opposed to collectivists. So are classical liberals. It only makes sense he would contribute to the Hoover Institute. If the Hoover Institute is such a conservative institution and so tightly under his control, why would Scaife bother to donate twice as much to the Heritage Foundation?

I read everything you wrote. I didn't think it presented a strong enough argument to warrant expending any additional effort to refute it. The rants were weak on their own merits primarily due to confusion and illogic. I suggest you come back to this exchange after you calm down. I think you will do a much better job then.

You accused Randall of not understanding politics, but you do not see many distinctions among political groups. In your understanding of politics, "right-wing", republican and conservative are synonyms lacking any real meaning or historical context and all republicans desire a single monolithic policy platform. Apparently, in your political universe, liberalism did not exist prior to Marx and Engels.

Do you honestly expect the readers here to accept you as sufficiently knowledgeable about politics to judge another's knowledge about politics?

Philip Shropshire said at January 6, 2003 12:01 PM:

Well, I do know a conservative think tank when I see one and will point out reams of evidence that sez so unlike you...I also was nice enough to point out to you how Christine violates every rule that you cited regarding what "Classical liberalism" actually is...As per usual, you didn't bother rebuting what I said. I presume you must agree with it. Feh! Thrice!

Bob said at January 6, 2003 4:36 PM:

I never said Christine Stolba is a classical liberal; in fact, I said I suspect she is conservative given her association to the EPPC. I did say that the Hoover Institute is a liberal institution in the classical sense, and it is.

Do you see why I say: "Your incoherent rants seem to meld the Bush government, the Hoover Institute, Christine Stolba and Richard Scaife into a single entity." They are separate entities. One or more may be classical liberals while the others may be conservatives or some may be neither conservatives nor classical liberals. It is impossible to respond sensibly to confused rambling that seems to treat them as one.

The Hoover Institute actively seeks desirable and responsible ways to change our institutions, our society and our laws. Change is a liberal characteristic--not a conservative characteristic. Conservatives seek to preserve our institutions, our society and our laws as they are.

You have provided nothing to demonstrate that the Hoover Institute is anything other than a classically liberal institution, nor even to demonstrate you understand what classical liberalism is. I am not convinced you understand what conservatism is either.

My posts make their points directly and in plain english--even if somewhat long-winded english. If I say something about the Hoover Institute, then it applies to the Hoover Institute, and not necessarily to anything or anyone else.

I realise that socialists cannot afford to recognize or to disseminate the arguments of their opponents. Neither can they afford to allow logic and fact to pollute their fantastic theories. I suppose one can forgive you for thinking that political institutions cannot allow full, free and rational discussion of issues and policies simply because the politics you find most familiar cannot. However, classical liberals have no reason to fear arguments for conservative stances regarding any one issue or policy. Classical liberals recognize their responsibility to advocate only beneficial change and realise that many institutions are the way they are for very important reasons--even if those reasons are not well-understood. Responsible institutions exhibit appropriate caution.

I suggest you calm down and revisit this exchange when you can afford the time to fully comprehend its content. I give you the benefit of the doubt and assume you are able to. To offer what assistance I can, this post will be my last in this exchange. I suspect any further posts will simply goad you into further outbursts.

Philip Shropshire said at January 6, 2003 5:28 PM:

Feh(!)to the fourth power!

Philip Shropshire said at January 6, 2003 5:28 PM:

Feh(!)to the fourth power!

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