Politics

Loaded Terms: Pro-Life, Anti-Abortion, or just True Believers?

Thursday, August 25th, 2005

I recently read an amusing article about a LA Times editor who changed a review of an opera which included the sentence “an incomparably glorious and goofy pro-life paean” to read “an incomparably glorious and goofy anti-abortion paean.”

If you didn’t get it the first time around, it may be clearer if you see that the author meant “pro-life” in the sense of “life-affirming,” and that the opera actually had naught to do with abortion.

Someone responding to the report pointed out that he was an LA Times reporter, and understands that the error was made because of an LA Times style guide entry about abortion, reproduced below:

abortion

Those who favor maintaining legal access to abortion are abortion rights advocates, supporters of legal abortion or those who favor abortion rights. They should not be called abortion advocates or be characterized as being pro-abortion. Those opposed to abortion may be called opponents of abortion or abortion foes or may be characterized as being anti-abortion. Do not use the term pro-life.

Conservatives immediately lunged a response, claiming for example:

The ban of “pro-life” only makes ethical sense if its part of an even handed treatment of the abortion argument that includes a ban on the equally loaded and misrepresentative term “pro-choice”, for example phrasing the sides as pro- and anti-abortion. It’s very telling that the pro-abortion people are only characterized in positive terms (advocates, supporters, favor) while anti-abortion activists are entirely negative (oppponents, foes).

Here, the conservative missed the point. People who support the right to abortion aren’t “pro-abortion.” To be “pro-abortion” would mean you favor abortion over all other options–such that, for example, you think all pregnancies should end in abortion. Of course, pro-choice people are only focused on the right to abort–they don’t, for example, extol the virtues of aborting a fetus, but only want the option available. Pro-choice people support the right to choose whether to have an abortion, instead of being told one way or the other about it.

To put it another way, though one may support the right one has to murder another man in defense of one’s own life, one would be quite illspoken to call such a right “pro-murder.” The killing may be justified in this or that case, but there almost always exists the riskier and less convenient route, say, to capture the attacker, tie his hands behind his back, and bring him to the police. Likewise, abortion rights advocates believe that when a pregnancy is unwanted, one should not be forced to carry the pregnancy to term, since doing so forces risks and inconveniences upon the woman in question (such as, for example, complications during pregnancy, complications at delivery, being unable to perform in school or work during the ultimate months of the pregnancy, and having to care for a born human being after birth). If the woman was raped and seeks an abortion afterwards, things are even more complicated, as there may be serious psychological issues at play.

Ultimately, the pro-choice crowd sees this issue as a decision only that a woman and her doctor should be allowed to make–not lawmakers or priests or the Vatican. As I will argue in my future article evaluating the ethics surrounding abortion, the decision to abort a fetus who has the potential of becoming a full-grown human-being rests entirely with the creator, and, ironically, this view of the creator’s power over its creation is entirely consistent with Christian scripture (not that it has to be to be morally true, but this just happens to be a nice and elegant if-I-may-say-so-myself consequence of the ethical analysis).

On the other hand, anti-abortion is a completely proper term for the conservative crowd, because they think abortion should not be allowed in any instance (in other words, women shouldn’t be give the choice of abortion), so not only don’t they support the right to have an abortion, but they equate abortion with a kind of murder, and are therefore almost unequivocally against it.

The reason “pro-life,” as a term, is so grossly distorted, is that it equates a love of innocent life with being against a woman’s right to choose to abort a fetus which she created and about which there is no consensus whether it can be considered to be a “human life.” (The only consensus, lest you forget, is that the fetus has the potential at becoming a human life, but as I argued earlier in my blog, so too do my glances at a fertile woman.)

It also equates the morality of abortion with the morality of euthanasia, two issues that are so crazily opposed on the ethical analyst’s scale that it is strange to find them uttered in the same sentence. It also plays into the love that spiritual and religious people have of life, and tries to place them as diametrically opposed to people who are implied to be “anti-life,” or life haters. This is quite a distortion, and as a newspaper editor, I’d leave this term out of the debate as well.

The reason I, personally, am disgusted by the term “pro-life” is because of how inconsistent (and, sometimes even racist) the people who declare themselves pro-life tend to be. Now, here I am speaking in generalities, so please don’t take the following paragraph as the ultra-serious analysis you come to normally expect from me ;-). Coming from an Italian background, I think speaking in generalities is sometimes important, as often the “stereotypes” arise from somewhere.

There are many “pro-life” people who support the war in Iraq and our general military presence in the world, and there are many “pro-life” people who are very much against this war and all others. But just to point out the general moral inconsistency, I have to say that I find it quite laughable when a person claims he or she is “pro-life” but accepts as a consequence of our war in Iraq “collateral damage,” namely “innocent life lost as a means to an end.” I again am speaking in generalties, but I’m sure you can also find more than a few thousand “pro-life” people who believe we were justified in dropping the atom bombs on Japan (see earlier articles on my blog). The term pro-life only refers to fetuses and euthanasia because ultimately the issue is not at all about practical political or secular philosophical issues for these people. The issues revolve entirely around scripture, the Bible, and moral righteousness, seeing the people who ask for abortions as the same people who also do such evils as having sex for fun, smoking marijuana, and using swear-words.

When I analyze the issue of abortion from a philosophical standpoint (I am currently working on a WordPress draft that does just that), I leave miracles out of it. But these people can’t help but cite the scripture. It’s funny and sad that we see the same trend emerging as they aim to stamp out evolutionary theory, as well.

That said, as a newspaper editor I’d leave the term “intelligent design” out of the evolution debate, preferring instead to refer to those people as “people who believe that the only way to explain the natural diversity of this planet is to say that a higher being–call him “God”–designed each and every species on this planet, and on all the other planets in this universe that may have life forms. But those who support this view have no explanation for who created this higher being, or where he may have come from.”

As Bill Maher recently said in his wonderful New Rules from last show:

And the reason there is no real debate, is that intelligent design isn’t real science. It’s the equivalent of saying that the thermos keeps hot things hot and cold things cold… because it’s a god. It’s so willfully ignorant you might as well worship the U.S. Mail. It came again! Praise, Jesus!

No, stupidity isn’t a form of knowing things. Thunder is high pressure air meeting low pressure air. It’s not God bowling. “Babies come from storks” is not a competing school of thought. In medical school, we shouldn’t teach both. The media shouldn’t equate both. If Thomas Jefferson knew we were blurring the line this much between church and state, he would turn over in his slave.

Perhaps the grossest distortion of views ever engaged by the “pro-life” crowd was related to Terri Schiavo. I’m glad that even after that woman finally got to rest in peace, a Roman Catholic University will continue to mourn her death with a scholarship for priests in her name.

Right after my Mom had me, she had an aneurysm of her brain. The operation that had to be performed on her had a 30% chance of success, with a high chance of intense brain damage (leading to a vegetative state).

When my Dad found the doctor to perform the surgery, he spoke with him in confidence, and said to him something to the effect of, “My wife has told me she doesn’t want to end up a vegetable. Either she survives the operation, or she doesn’t–understand?”

My Mom survived the operation, thank goodness. But if the operation had failed, and my Mom would have been left there in a vegetative state, I would have thanked anyone who gave my father the right to end her life as someone who truly understands humanity, and the morality of life and death. Since then, my Mom has said the same thing to me. She was utterly disgusted by the Terri Schiavo case, and how so-called religious people’s could support keeping alive a woman who was clearly suffering so much, just to push forward their biological-life-obsessed agenda. But perhaps the concurrence between intelligent design theorists and “pro-life” people isn’t so far-fetched. After all, it’s quite hard to get so very excited about saving embryos, 1- or 3-month-old fetuses, or braindead human bodies, if you don’t believe that “God” had a hand in creating each of them, if you don’t believe that each of those configurations of cells are works of art from an Almighty Creator.

Corporate Pork in the Age of “Homeland Security”

Tuesday, August 23rd, 2005

As reported on most major news stations, Air America, and Slashdot, Lockheed Martin was awarded a big $212 million contract to install thousands of cameras in NYC’s subway system and a wireless network which, incidentally, will not work in moving cars. I don’t know whether the cameras themselves will actually work in the cars (it seems to me if one seems a technical hurdle than the other will as well), but that remains to be seen.

I know this almost goes without saying, but this is really a waste of taxpayer dollars. People will say this is a good step, that anything goes to make them feel safer, but in the end, we have to think about the facts.

9/11 didn’t happen because of a failure of security or intelligence. It happened because of a failure of imagination. We’ve said this time and time again, but perhaps now we’re forgetting just how surprised we were that terrorists decided to hijack our airplanes and fly them into our buildings while we were worrying about trucks full of explosives being driven into the underground parking garage.

People have worried about subways being a terrorist target for years, even before 9/11. Therefore, it’s quite likely they won’t be a target. It will more likely be an unattended package in Times Square, where it’s crowded and relatively light on security, or a smuggled package into Carnegie Hall, where the well-to-do nature of the crowd makes no one suspect anything, or any other number of possible things that are completely not obvious. Because protecting against a terrorist is ultimately futile, because smart ones will obviously choose means that you didn’t think of, then why take these measures at all?

Well, one reason is because people in public policy feel this pressure to do something, so that when something does happen, they won’t be fired on the grounds of taking no steps to counter terrorism. Then, we hand $200 million dollars over to a corporation that already lives and breathes on our taxpayer dollars for fighter jets and missiles, and we never look back.

In return for this false sense of safety, we get other hidden harms. Invasion of privacy? Check. Feeling like you live in a police state? Check. $200 million dollars we could have spent on health care, education, or retirement benefits? Check.

How about when the new “anti-terrorism” cameras start being used to spot young black kids who might be carrying marijuana, so we can lock them up? Are there legal exemptions in this system if, when approaching a person for suspection as a potential terrorist, finding a bit of marijuana isn’t admissable as evidence against this person? I doubt it. It’s probably just like the cameras in the parks around New York; installed, supposedly, to prevent rape, but used most often to bust drug deals.

My other concern is much more practical. These cameras won’t work. I heard the woman who sponsored the project for the MTA saying the purpose was to be able to find a suspicious package, identify it, and dispatch bomb sniffing dogs to “take care of the situation.”

You must be kidding, right?

First of all, whoever will be manning the camera stations, if they are anything like the luggage screeners in the airports, I very much doubt they will notice “suspicious packages” when we need them to. Second, following the trends of most modern terrorists, you’ll be looking at a suspicious bag at the West 4th Street station, while a young man wearing a backpack suddenly explodes.

What if the coordinated terrorists decide to drop “suspicious packages” all over most of the subways in Manhattan, at about the same time. 30 suspicious packages across New York. They’ll only actually blow up 10 of them, but you’ll be spread so thin by that point that you won’t even know how to respond.

Do you see what I’m getting at? How futile is this stuff? I know it’s hard to accept, I know it’s cold and maybe downright mean, and you may be saying, “Andrew, you’re full of shit, you don’t understand this at all,” but this is what I say to all this spending:

Fuck it. Fuck it all. Don’t spend a god-damn dime on pre-empting a terrorist attack.

Spend it, instead, on providing health care for sick Americans. Making sure the unemployed get employed so they don’t turn to crime. Focusing on education in poor neighborhoods where crime is common. In the end, you spend $200 million dollars in any of those, and you’ll probably save a few hundred lives every year, and at least we can measure it, and at least I don’t have to sacrifice my civil liberties for it.

In this country, we spend over $400 billion on defense. That’s more than our combined spending for Education, Housing, Justice, Housing Assistance, Environment, Employment, Science/space and Transportion, among other things. And it’s not just slightly more; it’s $100 billion more.

Real Time with Bill Maher and Conservative Boneheads

Monday, August 22nd, 2005

There’s a great blog post over at The Liberal Doomsayer, and I provided a reply. Here it is.

Great post. Found your blog via Technorati search for Bill Maher (wanted to see what the blogosphere was saying about his latest show, which I just caught last night).

To call her a bubblehead is right on… I couldn’t believe some of the spin this woman was selling. Do you remember when she said that the reason she can say that Iraqi women are doing better now than before the war despite the fact that journalists and reporters have said otherwise is that “as you know better than anyone, Bill, the media in this country doesn’t always tell us the truth.”

Oh, that’s right. If Iraqi women were doing better, the media would want us to think otherwise! When we on the Left say that the media is distorting the truth, say by presenting White House PR as “the truth” or presenting America in the most favorable light possible, the reason we are able to prove this at all is because we know that press access to the White House is controlled by the White House (duh), and therefore, journalists don’t want to piss off the administration too badly since that might cost them contacts in high places.

Would it offend anyone to provide definitive journalistic proof that Iraqi women are doing better after the Iraq war? Of course not! The White House would love an article like that, and we on the left wouldn’t mind it either–after all, what, the hell, are we spending billions of dollars for if humans aren’t even getting basic rights in Iraq?

But this bonehead Conway really is just a talking head of the right, who parrots what the right-wing machine tells her to say. She is what Paul Krugman recently called “an echo chamber”, who simply assumes that what other people tell her in her conservative circles must be true.

Remember when she mentioned that John Kerry voted against what she called “the body armor bill”? She referred to the $87 billion package as “the body armor bill,” even though FactCheck.org and other actual analysts have thoroughly proven the distortion in this claim (a distortion used by Bush to win the election of 2004). It pissed me off that Bill Maher didn’t call her bluff and instead simply used the equally propogandistic “Well, Kerry fought in Vietnam.”

In reality, the proper response would be to point out that the $87 billion package included $300 million for upgraded vests, yes, but that was a mere 1/3 of 1 percent (i.e. 0.33%) of the actual bill’s spending.[1] Do you think what Kerry voted against was those $300 million, or is it more rational to assume that Kerry voted against the other $86,700 million dollars spent in that bill?

1. http://www.factcheck.org/article155.html

Sadness and remorse for the worst acts of human history

Sunday, August 21st, 2005

Wow, I worked myself up at this late hour thinking about issues related to the morality of warfare (or lack thereof, as it were), and in particular to Hiroshima and Nagasaki. A particularly naive /. poster (is the adjective “naive” redundant here?) pointed out how we can often forget that “civilians can be enemy combatants,” and he mentions a Mitsubishi plant in Nagasaki, as if that were most casulaties occured in Nagasaki (nonsense of course, since over 100,000 deaths occured in that unfortunate city). He then compares America to a police station and Japan to a “man who runs at the station with a bat,” and concludes that it is therefore “all the man with the bat’s fault.” If that reasoning weren’t pathetic enough, he provides another justification for dropping the bombs: that Japan would have done the same, but to New York! Ah, the things I could teach the average /. writer about argumentation. I really hope these aren’t the same folks I meet in the workplace of my future. Read the rest of this entry »

Gangs of America: The History of Corporate Power

Friday, August 19th, 2005

I am totally engrossed in this book at the moment. My Dad gave it to me to read, and I flew through about 100 pages today while allowing the aforementioned backup processes to run.

Among other such gems you discover in this book are these facts:

  • The Boston Tea Party wasn’t so much about taxation without representation or hatred for the British crown as it was about anticorporatism. Colonialists were worried about the East Indies Trade Company moving into the colonies and taking their business. Colonists used to see “globalization” for what it was even back then, calling the East Indies Trade Company a vile institution which “enslaves one half of the human race to enrich the other half.”
  • The founding fathers were thoroughly against the idea of the corporation, and thought that large monied enterprises were the greatest threat to democracy, as they could subvert the political system if they were not placed in check.
  • Even Abraham Lincoln and Thomas Jefferson saw these threats, and they were themselves supported by Adam Smith, the economist whose theories are nowadays oft-used in justifying corporate existence.
  • During the days of robber barons, one man essentially created the modern corporation by lobbying the government for the right to intercompany ownership, namely one corporation owning stock in another. Through this law, he established “holding companies,” whose only purpose was to hold stock in other companies. And via holding companies, he was able to take over other corporations and place his corporations outside of any regulation by the state governments. Furthermore, this same man whose foresight gave him great wealth, also provides a nice historical example of corporate greed that is unchecked by government power: he managed to buy up newspapers to fire editors who didn’t print what he liked, and he managed to buy politicians by offering them posts on the board of his major corporate entities.
  • Corporations were not always this way. Corporations do not have to be separate legal entities, completely unaccountable to any of its investors, able to integrate across industries by gobbling up other corporations, able to subvert democracy through political contributions, and able to ruin people’s lives through “externalities.” Once upon a time, American society and American government knew corporations were dangerous, and knew they needed to be carefully monitored and controlled. What happened?

I hope this book answers that last question.

Cindy Sheehan smeared by O’Reilly

Saturday, August 13th, 2005

I really would expect nothing less of my unfortunate neighbor, Bill O’Reilly. Apparently on last night’s show he smeared Cindy Sheehan, the grieving mother that’s been glavanizing the Left as of late, on his wonderful show, the O’Liar Factor. Apparently we still live under McCarthy, where it’s not who you are, but with whom you associate, that determines whether you are a “radical,” or “commie bastard.”

How do people still watch his show?

CAFTA: Is this democracy?

Tuesday, August 2nd, 2005

Check out a few links about CAFTA: 1 2 3 4 5.

Disgusting. My take? Globalization in its most ruthless form is going to be seen in the next few years in each of the countries affected by CAFTA. Then there’s going to be a long track record of failure for the theories of globalization, from NAFTA and Mexico, to WTO effects on Jamaica, to CAFTA in Central America and Dominican Republic. And then what are we all going to say? We’re still supporting these theories on “faith”? Or will we wake up and smell the coffee, and realize that “globalization,” the way it is sold now by politicians and even theoreticians, is nothing more than “handing public capital over to corporations, basically for free”.

Or, perhaps more pointedly: restoring the world order of imperial powers and their subjugated colonies.

My only fear is that by the time we realize this, globalization will have so evolved that the “imperial powers” won’t be rich governments, but rich transnationals, and the subjugated colonies won’t be third-world countries, but all countries and all people who don’t have major stakes in the ruling corporations.

The Potentiality Argument

Saturday, July 30th, 2005

In my first philosophy class, I remember putting forth an argument for why abortion cannot be defended on the “potentiality principle,” that is, that the human fetus has the potential to be a human being, and thus must be saved.

Someone on /. recently replied to an article about stem cell research, with some nice observations about the abusers of this principle:

Now, someone might argue that a process is started at conception which would end up with a functioning human. The potential is critical. There are a few problems with that position:

  • When a fertile woman smiles back at me, there is a potential for a new human.
  • The use of condoms stops the potential for a new human being.
  • Soon, all our cells will be potential humans with a little “twist”…
  • Half of all conceptions ends soon with a spontaneous abortion. That means, according to the bible belt, that half of all people dies at an age of a few days. To be consistent, the believers should argue that half of all medical research should try to stop this mass death!

The retort often flung back is that a fetus doesn’t merely have potential to be a human being, but it is a human being. This, however, is interesting when taking this poster’s last point about “spontaneous abortions.” If you’re willing to save a fetus from a willing abortion, shouldn’t you also see spontaneous abortions (and miscarriages, for example) as equally tragic, and thus deserving of serious medical research?

Ah, the arguments against early-term abortions really amaze me. How can you be so philosophically inconsistent?

“We will not negotiate with terrorists”

Tuesday, July 26th, 2005

Writes the Economist about the London bombings:

Mr. Blair’s blank refusal to acknowledge a possible link to Iraq is wrong. But so what if there was one? Those who would go on to conclude that the right course of action in the light of the bombings is for western countries to flee Iraq are in danger of making a very much bigger mistake. [There is] the need to defend the principle that the foreign policy of democracies should be made by representative governments, not by disaffected young men bent on murder.

This is quite stunning. The last line in particular.

Immediately after 9/11, I thought to myself: the worst possible thing we can do is go try to fight these guys guns blazing. It isn’t “war” until both sides agree it is, and up until Bush made the announcement to go into Afghanistan (and then Iraq, later on), we still had the chance to maintain the principle the Economist describes above. These were terrorists, and we were a Western power. We had seen terrorism before: true, not on this scale, but we had seen it. But rather than scream louder than they, we could have responded with silence and strength. That’s the way a proper president would have responded. We elect public officials to be wiser than we are: we can respond with the knee-jerk “I want revenge,” but policymakers need exercise more restraint.

But it is because neither the Economist nor most of the Western world understands modern terrorism that the Economist doesn’t realize the irony in saying that we have an obligation to preserve this principle now. And that can be seen by the second part of that last sentence, where terrorists who attacked London are described as “disaffected young men bent on murder.”

If one believes that all terrorists are simply people “bent on murder,” or people who “hate the American way of life,” as Bush sometimes puts it, then one misses the whole point.

More important perhaps is that these terrorists, before 9/11, constituted a radical minority, that believed the only way to solve the problems of the invasion of materialism and godlessness from the East was to engage in a holy war. This, this minority thought, was the only way this could come to an end: a battle of epic proportions.

There was a major problem for this epic battle though: no one else was willing to fight it. The radical Islamists constituted a minority: the great majority of Muslims did not believe in violence, and did not consider Westerners “at large” to be “guilty” and “murderable” under Allah. They wanted health and prosperity for their countries, economic advancement, and of course the respect for basic Muslim traditions and morality. But they were by no means energized and galvanized to fight a holy war.

But this radical minority also realized something: what if they committed an act that was so spectacular, symbolic, and violent, that the other side would see it as a great attack and respond in kind? The damage done in the vengeful response might just be enough to convince the moderate Muslims that the “holy war has begun,” and that it’s senseless to debate it any further. Pick sides, they probably said: you’re either with us, or you’re with them.

And so also the President said: you’re with us, or you’re with them.

After September 11, America had a choice. We could have focused to study the problem of terrorism, and root out the conditions that cause it in the world. We could have tried to eliminate the political power and clout of Islamist movements. We could have worked with governments to make sure law enforcement in every country is up to snuff so that intelligence is good and solid for prevention.

Instead? We went on a bounty hunt. We went in, guns blazing. And then we pretended that Iraq, a longtime pet peeve of ours, was involved in terrorism. So we went guns-blazing in there too. We rolled in our tanks, we treated Iraqi civilians like prisoners of war, and we declared martial law. And in our wake, we left a shitload of angry Easterners, who we’re still fighting today. Not only that, we loaded the country up with corporate contracts, almost inviting Easterners to see us an evil imperialist power.

And now that the moderate Muslims have seen what evil people we are, they are ready to fight us. We declared war on them, and they’re not going to step down now.

So, what the heck is the Economist talking about? The age of “We will not negotiate with terrorists” is over. We played right into their hands, and anyone who doesn’t think so just isn’t seeing straight. They wanted this war, they wanted this global hysteria, they wanted this exaggeration of threat. Now they are a force to be reckoned with, even if only symbolically. The symbol is strong enough: the people, in large numbers, are coming, and will continue to come, so long as we keep giving them a reason to.

Xenophobia and Politics: Is Protectionism Racism?

Saturday, July 23rd, 2005

I recently found myself digging through a trash can. Why? Well, in it was a discarded Forbes Magazine, with an article visible with the same title as this post. It was written by Steven Landsburg, a professor of Economics at University of Rochester, who is, to put it lightly, criminally insane.

The ideas put forth in this article are quite strange, in the worst kind of way. You can read the entire thing at Forbes.com. His basic premise? That encouraging companies to hire American workers over foreign ones is racism. He points out that our government ranks…

…are infested with protectionist fellow travelers who would discriminate on the basis of national origin no less virulently than David Duke or any other overt racist would discriminate on the basis of skin color. But if racism is morally repugnant-and it is-then so is xenophobia, and for exactly the same reasons.

Apparently Landsburg is received his PhD from University of Chicago in 1979. So, the first question I asked myself was, “Is Landsburg a member of the Chicago School of Economics?” and some quick Googling reviewing his books made it clear that he is. Well, this already answered many of my questions.

For those out of the know, the Chicago school embodies what is known as Neoclassical Economic Theory, in which the idea of a laissez-faire economy is placed in the highest regard. The Chicago school’s theories were based on ultra-mathematical economic modelling and a general rejection of Keynesian economic ideas which took hold in public policies around the world and are still seen as the major reason we haven’t seen another major global recession since the Great Depression. However, economists like Landsburg reject these ideas, opting instead for a neoliberal, neoclassical economic order in which globalization reigns supreme and government power to protect its citizens is quite reduced.

For some examples of Landsburg’s other works, feel free to read his economic explanations of why the minimum wage isn’t necessary and why convicted computer crackers should be executed instead of murderers.

That latter article in particular will let you know what I meant by calling Landsburg “criminally insane.”

Interestingly enough, Landsburg’s viewpoint on protectionism is so patently false, that I even found myself agreeing with Pat Buchanan, of all people, who wrote a stunningly potent and elegant paragraph pointing out the major fallacy in Landsburg’s interpretation of “racism” and “xenophobia”:

To be more concerned about the well-being of one’s fellow Americans is not “xenophobia,” which means a fear or hatred or foreigners. It is patriotism, which entails a special love for one’s own country and countrymen, not a hatred of any other country or people. Preferring Americans no more means hating other peoples than preferring one’s family means hating all other families. An icy indifference as to whether one’s countrymen are winning—be it in a competition for jobs or Olympic medals—is moral treason and the mark of a dead soul.

Why do I think Landsburg’s view is so deranged? Because it fails to see the world for what it is: a whole bunch of groups of people trying to work together to better their collective lot in life. The reason a South American worker shouldn’t have an equal shot at an American employer’s jobs is that South America needs to have its own sustainable businesses. If we allow corporations to hop around the globe, picking the cheapest labor markets with the best political advantages, then we will never see progress. A factory built in South America is worth nothing if it is torn down 5 years later when that factory owner moves shop to China. What did the South American workers gain? Skills, you say? Nope, not if the jobs involve unskilled labor, as in 99% of these cases. Money? Sure, but I guarantee you the little pay they received doesn’t give them enough money to become a real estate developer, as the President of Nike once hilariously suggested. Chances are most of it was spent on making ends meet. But who did gain? Well, the American corporation gained. Its shareholders gained. On the short term, the American consumer gains (though even he will be a victim of globalization’s corporate capital fluidity in the end).

Landsburg writes, “if it’s okay to enrich ourselves by denying foreigners the right to earn a living, why not enrich ourselves by invading peaceful countries and seizing their assets?” Here you can see the major philosophical reason Landsburg’s piece doesn’t hold up. He says protectionism is “denying foreigners the right to earn a living,” but I don’t believe that’s what protectionism is at all.

It is not as if American corporations go to places like Mexico because they are attracted to the skills of the laborers. They go there because it’s cheaper, and let’s not forget that. They go there because the Mexican government won’t restrict them as much when it comes to things like pollution, workers’ rights, and, perhaps most importantly, minimum wage. These are all economic costs of being a business in the United States. But the reason these limitations on business were instituted was because the government is supposed to protect a person’s basic human rights before considering a corporation’s rights. It’s true that from an economic point of view, it would be very efficient and profitable for me to find 10 unemployed Mexican immigrants and let them to work for me for $0.10 a day in unairconditioned rooms, with quotas of 400 units per worker per day, making some product I can sell for a huge profit. But there’s a minor problem: it’s not legal for me to do so. If you think the fact that it would benefit the consumers of my product (in terms of the low price I can sell it for) is worth more than protecting the human rights of those 10 Mexicans I hired, then maybe you can start talking to me about globalization, since that’s just what corporations do if they move to Mexico and open a factory with poor worker conditions and wages that one can barely even live off. If you fail to see that moral connection, you’re failing to see a lot.

So there are really only two choices if you think globalization is inevitable: bring third world country’s laws onto the same level as ours (in terms of minimum wage, pollution, etc.) in which case there truthfully won’t be much of a compelling interest for corporations to move to those countries anyway, or strip away laws that protect laborers across the globe so that even in the United States, laws like minimum wage no longer exist.

Landsburg clearly believes in this second vision of globalization, the one that one can easily label “the race to the bottom.” In this global order, corporations hop around the globe finding the cheapest labor markets and best consumer markets, in a big cycle where the only group that continually prospers is the rich shareholders.

I believe in the third option: reject the vision of globalization entirely. Focus on the local, and in countries where local conditions are desperate, focus energies on political programs which allow laborers to band together to form their own local markets and local economies. Open schools and libraries, not factories. Stop performing economic terrorism on places like Jamaica, where we destroy local markets by forcing our (often lower-quality, but cheaper) exported goods upon them. Track down corporations that run sweatshop factories across the globe and punish them as if those sweatshop factories were in the USA, forcing them to figure out how to profit using humane labor. Encourage trade, but only on fair terms.

Does that really seem like racism?