Frying a Red Herring

I wonder if our country would be in better shape if we spent more energy in a war on bad arguments rather than a war on terrorĀ  (or poverty, or drugs, . . . or prosperity). Just a thought.

As an example, we see the often repeated argument by abortion advocates that it is hypocritical to claim to be pro-life and simultaneously support capital punishment. This is a very nice red herring for them because there is a lot of overlap between those who oppose abortion and those who support capital punishment. The problem is that holding those positions simultaneously does not amount to hypocrisy. For those who care, here is a long, well-written explanation of how the two are perfectly compatible. For those who are in a hurry or in the middle of a debate where this argument is trotted out, here’s my short proof.

The founders recognized life, liberty, and (private) property, as human rights to be protected. It’s not really necessary, but for the sake of clarity let’s view these as a hierarchy of primary individual rights – life being the most important of the three and property as the least important of these inalienable rights. “Inalienable” means that they are “incapable of being alienated, surrendered, or transferred .”

Now, if we cannot surrender or transfer our right to property I would ask if property can ever be legitimately taken from our control? The answer is clearly “yes.” Taxes, fines, and restitution for wrongs committed by a person are all examples. If we cannot surrender or transfer our right to liberty, can liberty ever be legitimately taken from us? Once again, the answer is “yes.” Saunter on down to the nearest jail or prison and see that it has been taken from some. Note also that even in cases where a person is later proven innocent the state at times has a legitimate right to suspend liberty while determining the question of guilt. Finally, if we cannot surrender or transfer our right to life, can life ever be legitimately forfeit based on our actions (according to the best evidence available at the time)? I will stop short of answering in the affirmative because I recognize a lack of complete consensus on the question but I submit that the affirmative answers on both preceding questions is ample evidence of what I set out to prove – that simultaneously being pro-life and supporting capital punishment is insufficient evidence to convict someone of the sin of hypocrisy.

Case closed – pass the fish.

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