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Reblogged:Wrong Lesson Learned From EU

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Conservative Ben Shapiro recently considered election results from the European Union in light of lessons for America. In the process, he made a very common, and very disastrous mistake:

Image by Paul Green, via Unsplash, license.
The burgeoning conflict within the EU should provide the United States with an object lesson: When you maximize the power of the federal government at the expense of the states, you maximize the possibility of polarization.

And indeed, that's precisely what we've seen.

Take, for example, transgender bathrooms. If ever there were a local issue, that would be one: What business is it of a New Yorker what North Carolinians do to their bathrooms? Yet North Carolina's bathroom laws prompted national boycotts from residents of other states.
This is dangerously half-right: It is true that to the degree a federal government attempts to impose the customs of one region on another, it will create conflict. But don't be fooled by the geography: That's just a particular manifestation of the pressure group warfare that mixed economies make inevitable:
A mixed economy is rule by pressure groups. It is an amoral, institutionalized civil war of special interests and lobbies, all fighting to seize a momentary control of the legislative machinery, to extort some special privilege at one another's expense by an act of government -- i.e., by force. In the absence of individual rights, in the absence of any moral or legal principles, a mixed economy's only hope to preserve its precarious semblance of order, to restrain the savage, desperately rapacious groups it itself has created, and to prevent the legalized plunder from running over into plain, unlegalized looting of all by all -- is compromise; compromise on everything and in every realm -- material, spiritual, intellectual -- so that no group would step over the line by demanding too much and topple the whole rotted structure. If the game is to continue, nothing can be permitted to remain firm, solid, absolute, untouchable; everything (and everyone) has to be fluid, flexible, indeterminate, approximate. By what standard are anyone's actions to be guided? By the expediency of any immediate moment. [italics in original]
Shapiro's proposed solution, as applied to the United States, would only result in fifty tyrannies, each with its own pressure group warfare, rather than one. More important, Shapiro's analysis, by focusing on superficial cultural differences among regions of a polity misses an important point. At what point should the federal government intervene? Would Shapiro regard laws enforcing racial segregation as local matters, too?

This is a serious question, for Shapiro treats abortion, at least as serious an issue, as a local matter. But abortion is either murder or it isn't. And forcing a woman to carry to term is either slavery or it isn't. Murder and slavery each violate individual rights, and should not be tolerated at any level of government. Treating abortion as an issue of minor import (like whether a legislature is unicameral or what a state calls its county-equivalent subdivisions) is too steep a price to pay for a probably temporary reprieve from incessant, idiotic discussions about bathroom use -- discussions that could and should easily evaporate, anyway: See below.

Shapiro's focus on local vs. federal government distracts us from what we should be looking at: the proper purpose of government. I agree with Ayn Rand that this is the protection of individual rights. "States' rights," which derive only from individual rights are, as I have argued elsewhere, much less important in such a view. Indeed, I shall quote Rand again on that:
The constitutional concept of "states' rights" pertains to the division of power between local and national authorities, and serves to protect the states from the Federal government; it does not grant to a state government an unlimited, arbitrary power over its citizens or the privilege of abrogating the citizens' individual rights. [bold added]
It is instructive to consider a proper resolution of Shapiro's own example of how governments should act regarding "transgender" bathrooms: Bathrooms, being private property, should be used as their owners see fit, so long as such use does not violate the rights of anyone else. The state (at no level, federal or otherwise), has any business dictating to the owner of a bathroom, how it is to be used. In practice, this means that a government can neither force an owner to provide separate bathrooms for men and women, nor to force men and women to use the same bathroom. Such arrangements would be up to the owner, who would face lost business as a consequence of any policy that potential customers dislike. Consonant with the protection of property rights, the federal government would intervene only if one of its constituent polities violated individual rights by making such a prescription either way. More to the point, not only is it not the "business of a New Yorker what North Carolinians do to their bathrooms," What I do with my bathroom is nobody else's business, nor is it any of mine what someone else does with his bathroom.

To grossly understate: It is a shame that such an omission of the concept of individual rights from a political analysis is missed or evaded by too many in today's political discussions.

-- CAV

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