A couple quick questions…

Since it looks like we’re hitting an exam season slump in posting, here’s something I wrote for my own blog.

Q.  I’m struggling with the concept of the right to privacy. I understand how privacy is important as a hedge against government control and interference, but what exactly is the philosophical basis to the right to privacy? — Preston, from Bellevue, WA.

A. I’m answering three questions quickly, so I might not give you the deepest answer here.  But then again, this is probably a book-length topic, in all honesty.  Privacy is generally considered a natural right, and it’s a concept which flows from the individualism and property rights of John Locke, Adam Smith, Thomas Jefferson, and other classical liberals and humanists.  The right is derived from the individual’s property in his person and belongings.  After all, if I own my body, am I not entitled to say who can look at it or otherwise interact with it?  The same goes for my physical property — the Fourth Amendment sums it up as “persons, houses, papers, and effects.”  Of course, individual ownership and its attendant privacy also allow me to abandon that privacy and share information or access if I wish, though I cannot rightfully be forced to do so.

Q. What is the best way to promote peace to people with right-wing sensibilities? — Matt, from Omaha, NE.

A. The short answer, I’d say, is money.  Even though they are rarely consistent about it in practice (at least not on the federal level — though I hear there are sometimes actual fiscal conservatives in state and local governments), people on the right do tend to be rhetorically firm about their love for controlled spending and taxation.  Showing intellectually honest conservatives that aggressive war is quite frankly unaffordable ought to go far toward promoting their love of peace.  That war is just another big, expensive government program is a strong argument, if altogether foreign to many on the right.  Fortunately, history has amply demonstrated this point:  “Vietnam should remind conservatives that whenever you put your faith in big government for any reason, sooner or later you wind up an apologist for mass murder.”  Hopefully this introduction might lead to more complex and principled opposition to aggression.

Q. How many vocal pro-choice candidates have made it through to be the Republican presidential nominee? — Dustin, from New York, NY.

A. Goldwater was of course pro-choice, but before the Nixon presidency (1969-1974), abortion doesn’t really seem to have been a major issue.  It was during that time that Roe v. Wade was decided, yet Nixon never spoke publicly on the subject.  His wife was apparently was vocally pro-choice, but Nixon’s own views didn’t come out until years later.  When the Watergate tapes were released, however, Nixon was shown to be ambivalent on the subject, saying abortion fostered “permissiveness” but finding it necessary in cases of rape and interracial children.  His vice-president, Gerald Ford, was pro-choice as well — though he took a federalist perspective on the subject.  Since then, every GOP nominee for the presidency (Reagan, Bush 1, Dole, Bush 2, McCain) has been pro-life.

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