Defunding Planned Parenthood …

“It is a poverty to decide that a child must die so that you may live as you wish” – Mother Teresa

Last week, House republicans voted to end federal funding for Planned Parenthood. We applaud this decision. Will it hold up in the final deal-making of the budget process? Who knows, but for now it is a good sign.

My opposition to planned parenthood funding is quite simple. First, funding an entity that provides abortion services is the same as funding abortions – with federal dollars. Why? Because money is fungible. planned parenthood can argue all they want that “none of the federal dollars are used to provide abortions” – but this is nonsense. The federal dollars may well be used to fund all other activities, allowing all of their private contributions to fund the abortions.

It’s no different than state lotteries used to “fund education”. The states may well take all lottery profits and divert to education – but they take the other money that previously would have gone to education and divert it to other functions. (The only reason the lottery would necessarily increase education funding is if lottery proceeds exceed the total education allotments.) So, the legislators will argue that the lottery funded education, not other programs. Yet we know that the lottery increased funding for all those other programs.

Beyond this, I oppose funding of planned parenthood, or any such organization that is not related to defense of life, liberty, property, and fundamental human rights. The purpose of the government is organized defense of individual liberties. By funding any organization outside those confines, the government (which is “the people”) have usurped authority over the individual and decided of their own benevolent will what the people ought to do with their resources. It is insipid. It elevates one group of people (first the majority then the elected) to the role of judge-of-the-law rather than doer-of-the-law (see James 4:11).

Apparently the bill also included defunding of National Public Radio – another move I commend. These are small gains from a financial standpoint and will in no way balance the budget. But they recognize that the government is out of money and has no business funding frivolous things outside their purview.

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6 Responses to Defunding Planned Parenthood …

  1. “I oppose funding of planned parenthood, or any such organization that is not related to defense of life, liberty, property, and fundamental human rights.”

    It is worth pointing out that the proposed cuts include funding for CPB as a whole, not NPR in particular, which comprises less than 25% of what CPB spends. I suppose the specific mention of NPR is understandable, since NPR is the real target of most of the political ire.

    So I assume that the constrained role of government quoted above would exclude, in addition to NPR, television programs like NOVA, Sesame Street, etc., as well as the National Science Foundation, NASA, and the National Endowment for the Arts? I fail to see how any of these educational programs or organizations have anything to do with defense of life, liberty, or property.

    • nomasir says:

      There’s a plausible argument for NASA in the organized collective defense of the nation. But National Endowment for the Arts??? yes, cut away. NOVA, Sesame Street … why are these things funded by federal dollars? If there is a broad-based demand then there is a market, and the government need not be involved.

      • I don’t buy this. Ok, maybe NASA’s role in design, launch, and maintenance of very specific space-based applications related to national defense could be justified. But space exploration in general? What does going to the Moon or to Mars have to do with our collective defense?

        You left out the NSF as well. To provide a concrete example, is there broad-based demand for, say, robust public key encryption schemes for secure Internet communication? Sure… there is now. But was there broad-based demand, and a resulting market, back in the ’70s for such a thing? No; we had not even imagined the concept, let alone recognized the market. Now imagine back then trying to convince Joe Q. Citizen to take a chunk of his hard-earned money to pay, specifically, for some graduate student or postdoc to study some relatively obscure areas of number theory, that might, or might not, end up having some useful application.

        The implication must be that these things do not belong under a federally supported umbrella. (As I said, I don’t buy this. But I think this is where the argument takes us.)

      • nomasir says:

        Believe it or not, I’m OK with relatively broad-based arguments over what is needed for defense of individual liberties. However, the vast majority – VAST – goes to programs that do not have anything to do with individual liberties. For an entitlement program to meet this condition (and they cobble up near 2/3 of the budget) you would have to claim that without these programs we’d have greater crime from the needy which would cost us even more in enforcement. If true, then entitlements are protection money; something I don’t think the powerful federal government needs to pay.

        Encryption clearly has public safety implications. Sure, it all started militarily, but weren’t Rivest et. al. in the private sector when they made it big?

        On the whole, your argumentation implies that there are local minima in the “overall goodness” loss function (surely there are), and that total self-organization will be inefficient at escaping them. That is, if we self-organized (let people decide what is important to them and let the free market invest privately to develop products in demand by the public) then we will get stuck and never develop these cool technologies – and they are cool technologies. I argue that this is an experiment without a control. We don’t know what other, different cool technologies would be discovered if we had given resource control back to the individual. (Much like the current government argument in favor of stimulus – “it would have been worse without it” … HOW DO YOU KNOW? it’s unobservable.)

        To the extent that we have made observations against this well being loss function, it is that technological advances have grown from the more free marketplaces. Countries that carry greater “socialistic” structures generally produce less innovation … in distribution.

  2. “…you would have to claim that without these programs we’d have greater crime from the needy…”

    I think this misses my point. I suppose I am in the minority in this forum, but I don’t feel that cost-effective defense of liberty is the only justification for programs like these. I think simple scientific curiosity is sufficient. That is, learning about the world around us is a useful endeavor, even if there is financial cost that is never outweighed by some potential future application of that newly-gained knowledge.

    For example, I think it was worth the cost of going to the moon, even if we never have to go there again, to save ourselves or defeat the Russians or whatever. As Kennedy said, we chose to do those things for no better reason than “because they are hard.”

    I think a valid question is one of scale. Using the moon again, suppose that the last 100 years were spent in a completely free market with no federal support of scientific study, space exploration, etc. Would any of us have set foot on the moon, even by 2011, let alone 1969? As you point out, this is at best a thought experiment, but I would confidently wager large amounts that we would not have. There are large, costly endeavors that I think are useful to our progress (gasp!) of knowledge, for its own sake, and which can be accomplished more quickly with the support of a powerful government.

    So what about the small contributions, like NSF support of all of the graduate theses being written as we speak? Here, I claim that the problem is that we don’t know which small things will end up being big. This was my point with the encryption example, that it could have demand, commercially/militarily/whatever, and not so much any argument for its defense-specific applications. (Also, I was actually not referring to Rivest, although he was still at MIT working under NSF and DARPA funding at the time, so even he is still a good example. I was thinking earlier than that, e.g. Diffie/Hellman’s paper from the 1970s… or Fermat, or Lagrange, etc., the real beginners, at least if they had happened to be American. 🙂

    • nomasir says:

      The point speaks to the nature of democracy versus republic. I too find those scientific endeavors to be of value – as I think many Americans do. Having said so, it is a perversion in my mind to use the power of government to tax the citizenry for such reasons as the citizenry may not have chosen of their own unless they can be connected to defense of liberties. Would such a place result in the absence of scientific thought and progress? I think not. There are certainly plenty of scientific-minded people and benefactors willing to push discovery without specific profit motive. Money is not the only thing that drives people. But to demand that I give money to these endeavors, when I may well have a host of other bills to pay and mouths to feed, places me as less than equal. The majority has demanded that my efforts be used to pay for their preferred projects. This is mob rule.

      Now, the world has certainly seen mob rule before and democracy even in this base form is not the worst of all governmental approaches. I will note however, that I don’t find sufficient support from a Christian standpoint to engage in such mob rule – precisely because it is to make me (supposing I’m a member of the majority) a judge and ruler over my brothers and sisters – when they have been endowed with the same rights to life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness. To promise that “we’ll all be better off” with this or that technology – even if not due to profit or improvement in economic efficiency – is to again set up a “committee of our betters” to decide for us how we ought to apply our resources. Even if they turn out to be right, the ends do not justify the means. Furthermore, if they turn out to be wrong we will only hear “but we meant well” followed by silence – all the while the money has long since been spent.

      I would also conjecture that in a world devoid of such government largess, the citizenry would have significantly more money at their disposal – and economic activity would be greatly increased. As such, there would be much more left over to support such scientific discovery, if the people so choose – and I think many would. This is, of course, unobservable. But I suspect the love of discovery and creativity would not be abandoned. The people would freely form scientific communities funded by private donation.

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