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Self in Society Roundup 7

FDA, university diversity, abortion, Rand on abortion, and more.

Copyright © 2024 by Ari Armstrong
June 30, 2022; ported here on June 4, 2024

My Body, the FDA's Choice

It seems like every political faction cries "my body my choice" when it is convenient for them to do so. The problem is that most people believe "your body my choice" at least in important contexts.

Here is a recent example via Axios:

The Biden administration wants to make the tobacco industry cut back the amount of nicotine in cigarettes sold in the U.S. to non-addictive levels. . . . The FDA can't actually just ban cigarettes, but can create "product standards" that make them less attractive, experts say. So on Tuesday, the agency proposed a rule to establish a maximum nicotine level in cigarettes and other certain finished tobacco products. It is unclear if they would do it at once or gradually.

Government has no right to do this. It is simply not government's proper role to try to save people from themselves. If people want to poison themselves with inhaled smoke in order to get a nicotine high, that is their business. If people wish to purchase potent cigarettes, they have a right to do so—from willing sellers. And companies have a right to provide such products.

True, "we" (the current government and the people who support its policies) have created massive third-party costs in this area by substantially socializing medicine. But you don't (properly) wipe out people's rights just because government has set up bad incentive structures and coerced subsidies.

In a free society, government would play no role in people's drug use, other than to enforce contracts and to protect unconsenting third parties. So government would take action against fraudulent product claims. And government would impose some age restrictions on dangerous products, on grounds that immature people cannot rationally consent to certain things. Arguably reasonable notifications of product harms are withing government's proper purview, although obviously such things easily are politicized (just imagine warnings on abortions as written by religious conservatives). There might be a case for government intervening if parents expose their children to harmful levels of second-hand smoke. Private establishments open to consenting adults should be free to set their own rules.

I'm all for private philanthropic groups trying to persuade people to adopt healthier choices.

On a personal note, often when I lift weights in my garage I'll see one of my neighbors smoking in their garage. I'm making my choice, my neighbor is making theirs. You can't credibly say "my body my choice" unless you also say "your body your choice."

Related news. . . "The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is preparing to order Juul Labs Inc to take its e-cigarettes off the market in the United States."

Ilya Somin has more on the broader topic.

University Diversity

Michael Huemer, a philosopher at the University of Colorado, Boulder, writes:

All across the Academy, schools are requiring "Diversity Statements" as a condition for new hires. . . . What you're supposed to do in these, and what everyone damn well knows you're supposed to do, is (i) talk about your race, gender, and other "identity group" traits that it would be illegal for the university to explicitly ask you about, and (ii) talk about your activism on behalf of left-wing identity politics. Note: If you write a statement merely explaining how you will scrupulously avoid discriminating, or explaining how you will contribute to intellectual diversity, your application will be tossed in the trash.

Huemer points out that universities are not actually attempting to achieve sorts of diversity that might matter. He concludes:

My general view that the Diversity, Inclusion, and Equity movement is Orwellian: it's the opposite of what it says it is. "Diversity, inclusion, and equity" refers to ideological uniformity, exclusion, and discrimination.

Read the whole thing.

Also, check out my podcasts with Huemer about rationality and animal welfare.

Abortion Watch

In my previous article, "On the Right to Get an Abortion," I argued that abortion should be legal in almost all circumstances. Here I post scattered notes on the topic.

Data: "When law enforcement authorities demand personal data belonging to those suspected of getting an abortion, tech firms will likely hand it over" (Axios). See also Zeynep Tufekci's article on the topic.

Speech: The National Right to Life Committee wants to censor speech about abortion. Wired also has a story about these attempts at censorship and about the protections that Section 230 offers.

Health Risks: Under abortion bans with "life and health" exceptions, "it can be hard to prove your medical emergency is enough of an emergency to get an abortion in a doctor's office or hospital," note Maggie Koerth and Amelia Thomson-DeVeaux. Reportedly women in Missouri are having trouble getting treatment for dangerous ectopic pregnancies until they show "unstable vital signs."

Movement: "Several national antiabortion groups and their allies in Republican-led state legislatures are advancing plans to stop people in states where abortion is banned from seeking the procedure elsewhere," reports the Washington Post.

Rape: "Mississippi House Speaker Philip Gunn told journalists that he believes even 12-year-old girls raped by their fathers and uncles should be forced to carry a pregnancy to term."

Rand on Abortion

The Ayn Rand Lexicon lists two instances where Ayn Rand claims rights begin at birth, and one instance where she says "one may argue about the later stages of a pregnancy."

The Lexicon quotes Rand's "The Age of Mediocrity" as reprinted in The Objectivist Forum, June 1981:

If any among you are confused or taken in by the argument that the cells of an embryo are living human cells, remember that so are all the cells of your body, including the cells of your skin, your tonsils, or your ruptured appendix—and that cutting them is murder, according to the notions of that proposed law. Remember also that a potentiality is not the equivalent of an actuality—and that a human being's life begins at birth.

But that is not what Rand said during her original speech. Rather, she said:

. . .Remember also that a potentiality is not the equivalent of an actuality, and that a fetus may be regarded as a human being only when it is capable of surviving outside of and independent of the mother's body.

This is via a Twitter thread.

Practically speaking, the distinction makes little difference, as almost all abortions take place in the first trimester. But it might make some difference late in the term. I believe that I have sorted out the relevant complexities in my pair of articles, "On the Right to Get an Abortion" and "Abortion and Individuation."

Quick Takes

Hurting the Poor: Virginia Postrel tells the extraordinary story of how federal regulations largely wiped out loans for less-expensive homes, dramatically undercutting the value of those homes. These regulations were passed to help home buyers, of course.

Homicide: Scott Alexander offers compelling evidence that the murder spike starting in 2020 was caused by the Black Lives Matter protests and a subsequent pullback of policing.

Mites: Face mites might eventually die out . . . and that would be bad. The problem is loss of genetic diversity. See more about face mites from Deep Look.

NIMBY Meltdown: Some leftists actually believe that "allowing" the construction of profitable new housing raises the costs of housing generally. In other words, they believe that increasing the supply of something increases its price. Obviously that's bullshit, as Noah Smith discusses. Here's a though: How about, you know, respect people's property rights, including their rights to build new housing.

Uvalde: A teacher, Eva Mireles, called husband, a cop, to tell him "she had been shot and was dying," reports KWTX. That officer "tried to move forward into the hallway. He was detained and they [other police officers] took his gun away from him and escorted him off the scene." Mirales, along with another teacher and nineteen students, died, while police took 74 minutes to enter the room in question.

Covid: Moderna has an Omicron-specific vaccine in the works. It appears the FDA is friendly to an update, although how long it will take is another matter.

Nixon's Revenge: Kentucky is imposing price controls on gas under "price gouging" laws. So stupid.

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