By David C. Stolinsky & Dave Kopel. Dr. Stolinsky is retired from medical-school teaching. He writes on political and social topics from Los Angeles. Mr. Kopel is research director of the Independence Institute.
National Review Online, April 19, 2001 9:55 a.m.
The first thing to do when learning to play poker is to learn the relative value of the various hands. A straight flush is the rarest hand, so it beats the next rarest, four of a kind. The ranks of the hands teach us about the laws of probability, which underlie all games of chance. A similar process occurs elsewhere. When ideas conflict, we can observe which ones dominate. This gives a good indication of the underlying beliefs of the persons involved.
For instance, you like to listen to music. Someone offers to sell you a top-of-the-line MP3 player, which has been stolen. You decline. This shows that to you, the value of respecting others' property is more important than music. Both values were important to you, but you had to choose which one was more important.
Now let's see how some priorities get selected in real life. Pro-choice advocates insist that a woman has the right to control her own body. A woman who one of us knows was trying to become pregnant. She and her husband had undergone infertility tests. If she became pregnant and suddenly decided on an abortion, her husband would have no legal say. So far, the principle that the woman gets to choose remains intact.
But suppose one day this woman gets her hair done at a new salon. The stylist visits the toilet, after which he massages the woman's scalp with his fingertips. As he talks, saliva sprays onto the woman's face and eyes. After he finishes, he announces that he is HIV-positive.
This woman's control over her body includes the right to an abortion with no regard for the fetus's life or the father's wishes, but the woman is deprived of her ability to exercise choice about having her skin rubbed and her eyes sprayed with saliva by a stranger carrying a fatal disease. The likelihood of contracting AIDS in this way is tiny, but the point is this: She is given no choice. Several persons who have heard this story saw nothing wrong. They thus revealed that in their value systems, the rights of HIV-carriers trump a woman's right to choose.
Many feminists are very concerned about protecting women from sexual harassment, which they define so broadly as to include a man asking a fellow employee for a date, or two men telling a dirty joke which a woman overhears. These feminists tend to support a legal rule of always believing the alleged victim, even when there is no corroborating evidence. "Women, don't lie" about sexual harassment, they claim.
But most of these same feminists remained silent, or were actively hostile, when Kathleen Willey, Paula Jones, Juanita Broaddrick, and other women credibly accused Bill Clinton of rape, assault, and indecent exposure; the accusations were backed by substantial supporting evidence.
During the impeachment case, Stanford University Law Professor Deborah L. Rhode served as Deputy Counsel to the House Judiciary Democrats. She claimed that President Clinton's sexual relationship with Monica Lewinsky did not matter because it was consensual. But in 1988, regarding allegations of Gary Hart's consensual sexual relationships, Rhode claimed, "Womanizing degrades and objectifies women in general … For positions involving moral leadership, these questions are relevant."
Feminists complained about Paula Jones using a sexual harassment lawsuit to pry into Bill Clinton's consensual sexual activities. Yet this complaint ignored the fact that the very law that allowed Jones's attorneys to question Clinton was a 1994 law that Clinton had signed, a move that they had championed.
Betty Friedan, of the National Organization of Women, fulminated that Clarence Thomas was unfit to serve on the Supreme Court because he had allegedly talked dirty to Anita Hill ten years before. When Paula Jones reported that Bill Clinton had indecently exposed himself and ordered a state employee to perform fellatio on him, Betty Friedan responded blithely, "What's the big deal? She wasn't killed, She wasn't harassed. She wasn't fired."
There were some feminists who refused to defend Clinton, but they were hardly a majority of the most-prominent leaders of the movement. For this majority, it is fair to ask whether the welfare of the victims of rape and other sex crimes is less important than the perpetuation of political power by any means necessary.
In 1970, on the first Earth Day, the environmental movement strongly supported slowing or halting U.S. population growth. They pointed out the obvious fact that a higher population tends to mean more use of natural resources, and to mean more open space consumed for housing and other human needs.
As we approach the 31st Earth Day, on April 22, most U.S. environmental lobbies have fallen silent about U.S. population growth. Is it because they have read books like The Ultimate Resource 2by Julian Simon, and concluded that population growth is good for society and good for the environment? Of course not.
Is it because U.S. population growth has slowed so much that the groups can focus on other issues? To the contrary, the 1990s witnessed the largest population increase in American history: 32.7 million people.
A new report from the Center for Immigration Studies (Forsaking Fundamentals: The Environmental Establishment Abandons U.S. Population Stabilization, by Leon Kolankiewicz and Roy Beck) explains that one reason why the environmentalists lost interest in population stabilization was:
"the change in the source of population growth, from births by native-born American women to immigration and births by immigrant women. In the 1990s, immigrant-related growth was equivalent to 70 percent of U.S. population increase. This development caused environmental groups to lapse into silence on U.S. population policy for a variety of reasons, including the fear that advocating immigration cuts would alienate progressive allies; the transformation of population and environment into global, as opposed to national, issues; and concerns that funding might be jeopardized, since many foundation boards include left-leaning globalists and right-leaning representatives of multinational corporations, each with strong biases in favor of high immigration."
There are still some environmentalists who consider protecting the environment more important than placating allies who want uncontrolled immigration. Douglas LaFollette — Wisconsin's Secretary of State and namesake of a genuine progressive — endorses the Center for Immigration Studies' challenge to the environmental lobbies, as does former Sen. Gaylord Nelson, the founder of Earth Day.
Austria was shunned by its neighbors because it included a far-right party in its ruling coalition. At the same time, France and Italy retained good relations with their neighbors, despite having Communists in their ruling coalitions. Moreover, European nations pursue trade with terrorist, totalitarian states like Libya, Syria, and Iraq. Apparently, tyranny is not what is objectionable, but merely one kind of tyranny. The struggle between freedom and oppression is thus removed from the realm of ethics and trivialized into a question of personal preference.
General Pinochet was arrested in Britain, despite his diplomatic passport. A Spanish judge issued a warrant, demanding his extradition to Spain for crimes committed when he ruled Chile, including the deaths of 3,000 dissidents. Leftist pundits saw no problem with Britain and Spain usurping jurisdiction over crimes committed half a world away. Perhaps they had never forgiven Pinochet for blocking a Communist takeover in Chile. Pinochet did eventually surrender power, leaving a democratic and prosperous nation. Meanwhile, Fidel Castro travels the world freely and is received warmly, despite having executed at least 15,000 dissidents — five times more than Pinochet — and imprisoned 100,000 more, and having shown no sign of relinquishing power over his oppressed and impoverished people. Media anger is used up on right-wing tyrants, and media sympathy is used up on their victims, leaving no anger for left-wing tyrants, and no sympathy for their victims.
Thus, we see that among many of the politically correct:
Are there any principles that such people would defend even if political sacrifice were required? Or is power the ultimate value?