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Conflating Choices

In this remarkable clip, Rand Paul goes off on deputy assistant energy secretary for efficiency on how she’s restricting consumers’ free choices yet doesn’t see the hypocrisy in being simultaneously “pro-choice” for abortion.

Senator Paul is echoing a very common argument among libertarians that they repeat amongst themselves to laugh at those inconsistent liberals! Ha ha ha. Oddly, Paul is against a woman’s right to have an abortion so it’s a bit strange for him to be making the argument but oh well. I could hammer him for his hypocrisy, but that’s not what bothers me.

PZ Myers, who I got the clip from, and Irin Carmon (PZ got it from her) bash Paul because of the degree of conflating a woman’s choice with a choice to buy a toilet. But it’s not the degree (or not just the degree) for why Paul is wrong. It’s quite simple. Having an abortion is a personal choice without large negative externalities that shape other citizens’ choices. Buying products that use wasteful amounts of energy, deplete common resources, or pollute the public environment affect other consumers, which restricts their choice to breath clean air and drink safe water. Conservation isn’t a leftist plot for capricious power to control; it’s to conserve scarce resources so the rest of us can make more choices.

Categories: Rand Paul
  1. Thomas Iodine
    March 11, 2011 at 7:00 pm

    I like how righteously you smacked down his idiocy. Indeed, this is your most salient point: “Conservation isn’t a leftist plot for capricious power to control; it’s to conserve scarce resources so the rest of us can make more choices.”

  2. Niemsters
    March 12, 2011 at 9:13 am

    I think it’s sad and gross that you don’t consider killing a child a “negative externality”. I have liberal friends that think we should extend more rights to dogs/cat/animals… but still think it’s ok to kill a baby in the 3rd trimester. That lady had nothing to say to Rand Paul except… this is a great way to partner with the administration and it’s bi-partisan.

    • March 12, 2011 at 9:52 am

      This is why I typically don’t do posts that cover topics like this. People’s deep emotions cause them to misinterpret my arguments.

      I’m not making an argument here for or against abortion. I’m making a point about freedom and externalities. If you really believe abortion is “killing a child” it’s a gross understatement to call it a “negative externality” so I wasn’t going to glibly lump it in. I haven’t learned enough about the specifics of fetal development to too strongly form an opinion on everything about abortion; so let me concede to you that there could be some role for the state in limiting the timing on abortion (like the 3rd trimester).

      If you think abortion is a negative externality on “the child” then that is an argument for involving the state. Although I disagree with that characterization, your making an argument for state regulation of choice to limit bad consequences on other actors. That is precisely the point Rand Paul fails to acknowledge. He acts as if government bureaucrats want to limit consumer choice just because they don’t “like” something. It’s a narrow conception of freedom that disregards the interests of others in order to enshrine the right of a consumer to purchase a product that harms the welfare of others.

  3. Bill
    March 12, 2011 at 9:24 am

    What about shared sacrifice?? Paul’s indignation is completely false and the narrative he is pushing is ideological rather than pragmatic. Perhaps, by not playing into Paul’s argument, Hogan came out on top-Paul looks petulant-but by not directly challenging him on an ideological level, she allows his spin to gain traction. There will be many who see this video that will laud Paul for his ranting. They will see that he got away with it unchallenged and mimic it in their own debates. We see this style all over the internet. I would like to see deeper engagement with these ideologues-Bernie Sanders style-so to expose them for what they really are all about: preserving profits at all cost.

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