Sunday, July 15, 2018

[nyjlrefd] Right to life

Consider the three "inalienable rights" enumerated in the Declaration of Independence.  The right to the pursuit of happiness is hollow and meaningless; sure, you may pursue it in principle, but there is nothing stopping the government from putting obstacles, even insurmountable obstacles, in your pursuit: the right is merely to a pursuit of happiness, not to happiness itself.  We alienate people from their right to liberty all the time by prison.  Some jurisdictions, though not all, alienate people from their right to life by the death penalty.

Nevertheless, let us consider why and when a government should grant the right to life.

Knowing that the government cannot arbitrarily deprive you of your life induces or allows you to make better long-term plans.  Then, it is socially preferable to grant the right to life when knowing, or acknowledging, that you have that right affects your behavior.  By this logic, infanticide is acceptable: infants don't make plans.  (Abortion, any trimester, any means, is also acceptable.)  At what age are children capable of choosing delayed gratification?  Is this a good proxy for when you are able to make long-term plans for which a right to life is useful?  If so, this would be a threshold at which infanticide should forbidden.

Things might get more complicated when there are more stakeholders than just the person themselves living.  Perhaps these issues can be resolved through civil procedure.  However, inspired by the Coase Theorem, a government does have to set the default property line first.  It might still work out if the default property line is that no one has has the right to take the life of another, but those who sue for wrongful death have to show standing.

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