This post has been republished at The Federalist as “Why We’ll Never End Abortion Until We Shrink Government.”
Now that Donald Trump has won the presidency, my news feed has been filled with posts declaring victory for the pro-life movement. Surely Trump will be true to his campaign promises and appoint pro-life Supreme Court justices, and surely those justices will finally overturn Roe v. Wade. Of course the Supreme Court will finally rule that the preborn are “persons” and therefore subject to the due process and equal protection clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment, thus criminalizing abortion nationwide.
That is, at least, what they believe will happen, and maybe it will. Then again, maybe it won’t, if history can teach us anything. Nevertheless, pro-lifers find a great deal of hope in the election of Donald Trump. And while overturning Roe v. Wade and ruling that the preborn are persons with equal rights may serve to curtail abortion, it will not change the culture that demands abortion like harpies screaming for their bloody feast.
In Liberty Defined, Dr. Ron Paul presents what he believes to be the solution to the abortion problem based on decades of experience as an obstetrician and as a United States Representative. He believes that while the availability of abortion “changes behavior and actually increases unwanted pregnancies,” he argues that “the abortion problem is more of a social and moral issue than it is a legal one” (5). During Dr. Paul’s OB/GYN residency in the 1960s, he writes, doctors were performing abortions despite their illegality. The reason? “Society had changed and the majority agreed the laws should be changed as well. The Supreme Court in 1973 in Roe v. Wade caught up with the changes in moral standards” (5).
We cannot simply hope to use legislation to solve the problem of abortion, but rather we must look to addressing the root of the problem. We must recognize that abortion is a symptom of a systemic disease. This disease is moral hazard, a metastasized cancer wreaking havoc on society at every level. Its only cure is a return to individual liberty and personal responsibility.
Moral Hazard Defined
Moral hazard is a term which describes the increase of irresponsible risk-taking behavior in response to insulation from the negative consequences of those risks. It was once used to describe the increase in immoral or risk-taking behavior by the insured, knowing that any injury or damage sustained would be paid for. In today’s rather socialized society, we see moral hazard as the unintended negative consequences of government programs and social practices. It is reflected in a diminished sense of personal responsibility and an increased sense of dependency on the state to protect us from every conceivable risk, including our own unwise behavior.
This is depicted perfectly, albeit unintentionally, in this Obamacare ad from 2013:
This image is merely one of a series of ads in a campaign to encourage young people to buy health insurance. The argument goes: buy health insurance so that you can engage in reckless behavior while forcing someone else to bear the risks.
And with the introduction of insulation in the form of birth control and abortion comes an increase in risk-taking behavior. This is no doubt why researchers have found that the rate of unintended pregnancies actually increases in schools which hand out free condoms to students. Apparently the mere presence of free condoms was enough to make the students feel “insured” against the risks of having sex and encouraged them to behave even more irresponsibly than when they actually had to purchase contraception with money they’d earned.
Likewise, the ease with which one may obtain an abortion encourages men and women to take less care to not become pregnant in the first place, while forcing their child and (they fantasize) taxpayers to bear the risk. The introduction of moral hazard removes the sense of self-ownership and society ends up worse off, not better.
Another way of understanding moral hazard is, in the context of interpersonal relationships, as codependency in contrast to maintaining healthy boundaries. In a relationship that lacks healthy boundaries, one person will use another person’s sense of obligation in order to escape the consequences of his own actions. For example, a teenager who is abusing drugs or alcohol, flunking out of school, and who wrecks his parents’ car might have parents who repeatedly lend him more money, bail him out of jail, help him with his schoolwork, provide him with a new car, and so on.
It won’t be until the parents begin enforcing boundaries, forcing their son to face the consequences of his own choices, that he will be motivated to make different choices. Up until that time, the son will continue to learn that he doesn’t have to suffer any consequences for his actions, a fact which encourages him to take bigger and bigger risks.
The culprit who bears the most responsibility for the creation of moral hazard is the Federal Reserve, who with no oversight whatsoever goes about creating money and credit out of thin air. They finance and bail out special interests by robbing hardworking Americans of their earnings, promoting a culture of consumption and spending, of living for the moment instead of planning for the future. Every unwise decision, the Fed teaches us, is a burden that can be placed upon the shoulders of someone else.
Richard W. Fulmer, writing for the Foundation for Economic Education (FEE), explained the moral hazard created by the welfare state as a weakening or destruction of the “feedback loops linking cause and effect.” This creates incentive for vice and disincentive for virtue.
It is called moral hazard because the system leads to immoral acts. It leads to immoral acts because it has interrupted the feedback loops – the natural, built-in free market principles that would normally guide our actions. In a “free market” society, unwise behavior would lead to undesirable consequences, thus deterring unwise behavior and encouraging responsible behavior. In a society in which a powerful agent such as the Fed attempts to play God, natural laws are interrupted or inverted, making vice seem to be virtue and virtue to be vice.
The Welfare State and Moral Hazard
The Fed’s manipulation of money finances our welfare-warfare state, which carries the moral hazard from the elites to the populace. Every governmental intrusion into our lives which undermines personal responsibility results in moral hazard. If the Fed can create its own money out of thin air, it is no wonder that public assistance teaches people that they, too, can get something for “nothing” (unless you count the sacrifices of liberty and dignity). When the government presumes to dictate, for example, what we can and cannot put into our own bodies, it undermines personal responsibility over our own choices. It teaches us that the consequences of any poor choices we make, whether it’s consuming too much food or too much alcohol or too much meth can be blamed on someone else.
The inversion of virtue and vice that results is evident in the State’s active role in creating broken homes by undermining fathers. When the State rewards single parent households while financially penalizing intact families, it teaches men that not only are they not needed, but that women and children are better off without them. Is it any wonder that our inner cities have epidemics of single mothers and deadbeat dads?
Welfare programs ultimately harm the people they were designed to help. As anyone acquainted with Austrian economics can tell you, disrupting free market forces through taxation and regulation ultimately leads to lower efficiency, less profit, an increase in prices, and fewer jobs. If poverty is the reason behind many abortions, then we must understand that the same forces which introduce moral hazard and reduce personal responsibility also lead to greater poverty and, therefore, more abortions.
Laws which on the surface aim to benefit the poor ultimately lead to fewer jobs and greater poverty include minimum wage and overtime laws. Sure, they sound good, but ultimately, a Jeffrey Tucker writes: “Excellence is punished. Ambition is blocked. Dreams are crushed. And all from one change in the regulations.”
Mandated paid parental leave, another leftist rallying cry, would further diminish job opportunities and wages, especially for women. As Robert P. Murphy writes for FEE, “If this trade-off is something the vast majority of employees want, then that’s the outcome a free labor market would have provided without a state mandate.” And because leftists never get tired of asking the government to solve problems the government created, they also demand childcare subsidies in order to help finance its obscene costs. Heaven forbid we reduce costs by cutting government regulations, which are what drove costs up in the first place.
It will come as a surprise to no one except those on Medicaid and the willfully deluded that Obamacare has also led to greater poverty, higher unemployment, and slower economic growth. Not only does the Affordable Care Act punish you for buying health insurance (those sky-high premiums and deductibles for lousy coverage) or for not buying health insurance, it also punishes you for trying to earn extra money to pay for your health insurance. The working class have learned that they are actually better off not earning extra income, since the government will so dramatically reduce their healthcare subsidies as to make them worse off financially.
You might wonder why, if the government has made raising children so costly, why adoption isn’t a feasible option. After all, for every baby available for adoption in the United States, there are approximately thirty-six couples on an adoption waiting list. Ever since Roe v. Wade, women have been by-and-large choosing abortion over adoption. Of course, the abortion peddlers don’t make any money by promoting adoption, and so they sell abortions as a painless solution to a temporary problem – a “get out of pregnancy free” card. Adoption, on the other hand, is much more emotionally taxing, they say. It’s much easier to kill a child you’ve never seen than to surrender one you’ve carried and delivered – love is too costly. Long forgotten is the proverb, “If you love someone, set them free.” Not surprisingly, pregnant women feel little incentive themselves to give up their children for adoption. That would not be the case if birth parents were allowed to sell the right of parenthood to an adoptive couple.
There are those couples who would love to adopt who, even if they weren’t placed on a waiting list, wouldn’t be able to afford the $10K-$40K that an adoption would cost them. Adoption should be a feasible option, but once again, government regulation has disincentivized a virtuous practice. The answer, as with everything else that serves to impoverish Americans and make life more difficult is deregulation. Deregulate adoption and allow hopeful couples to purchase the parental rights, and everyone will be happier (except for Planned Parenthood).
Of course, we can’t eradicate the disease of moral hazard without irradiating or excising the growth that is public education. Jeffrey Tucker makes a compelling argument that the laws which restrict child labor but use coercion to keep kids in school are to blame for our generation of young people with no taste for work, no work ethic, no marketable skills, and no sense of personal responsibility.
Now factor in sexual education, which teaches kids that if they are careful, they can have as much sex as they want with zero consequences. Abstinence is anathema. Joseph Turner writes for The Federalist that sex ed should be equipping students to give informed consent to sexual activity. We need to be teaching kids the real consequences of premarital sex and porn use, and that their best hope for a happy, fulfilled life (and great sex) will be achieved through marriage and family.
Instead, however, our society has been teaching young people that their best hope for a happy and fulfilled life is earning advanced degrees, making lots of money, being “beautiful,” and having many sexual partners. We teach them that getting pregnant will only keep them from reaching “their full potential,” while we should be teaching them that we reach our full potential by dealing with challenges head-on without wronging others in the process. Our society has taught them that avoiding responsibility and escaping consequences in order to pursue one’s own agenda, even if it means killing your own children, is a virtue worthy of praise.
I could go on, but I hope you’re beginning to get the picture: If you want fewer abortions, you need less government. In every area of our lives, we’ve been conditioned to expect to be able to do whatever we want without suffering any consequences. Abortion is just one more symptom of this systemic disease that has been eating away at self-ownership for decades. Virtue and vice have been inverted, our society built upon theft, lies, vanity, and greed. If we are truly to take a stand against evil, they must take a stand against the entire system, the corrupt culture of which Hillary Clinton is merely an embodiment.
Government programs which appear to help the poor actually increase their poverty and make raising children more difficult and costly while stripping them of their sense of personal responsibility, thus perpetuating the abortion problem. Unplanned pregnancies arise from a culture that has trained our children that they can live as hedonists and suffer no consequences. We’ve taught them that personal responsibility means ruthlessly pursuing their own agenda and doing whatever it takes to get ahead, even if it means harming anyone who gets in their way. Personal responsibility must, therefore, always be defined within the context of the non-aggression principle and natural rights.
If you fight for legal measures to protect the unborn but do not work to reduce the size of government, eliminate the Federal Reserve, and return to personal responsibility and free market principles, the pro-life cause will always be struggling against the cultural current.