Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Compassionless Conservatism?

I just read an article by John Stossel (pictured on the right) that reminded me why good old-fashioned free market conservatism doesn't appeal to me so much these days.

The worst part of the article is probably the title: "Pregnant Women Have No Right To Their Jobs." Good one, John.

Of course, he's trying to make a classic free market ideological statement, which is that usually when the government tries to intervene on behalf of a group of people with some sort of disadvantage, those people end up worse off than they were.

Sure, conservatives have lots of data to support this claim. Still, they don't even come close to sounding as if they want to really do something about the problem. Their solution is always something like this:
"If my employer decides they no longer want me as an employee, then it should be their right to fire me."
This quote actually comes from Carrie Lukas, the director of the Independent Women's Forum. Okay, so, fine, Stossel found a woman willing to say this. And it's a nice little purist capitalist thing to say, but it doesn't really solve any problems, nor does it get at the moral issues.

People in the real world deal with problems like these:
  • Many couples need two incomes to maintain a healthy lifestyle for their children.
  • Many women need incomes because men aren't around to support them.
  • Many women would like to work because, well, it's fulfilling and they have skills they would like to use. It's healthier if our culture respects that.
How does a purist capitalist "solution" resolve any of these issues?

Conservatives are free to point out the failures of our system as we have it, but I feel there must be some lack of moral sense that drives them to reason that government should therefore do nothing. Frankly I find it disturbing that Stossel's article has a four-star rating by readers on

Perhaps the way to deal with these real-world issues in both a moral and practical way would be to try to work around businesses. It might be better if society as a whole shouldered some of the burden for supporting women through pregnancy, rather than insisting that businesses provide for pregnant employees. Yes, this would mean another tax, but at some point our moral fiber ought to encourage us to go this direction.

I agree that law suits are generally not the answer. I'm generally concerned that our society grows increasingly incapable of settling things out of court, which means establishing healthy relationships between people, not just appealing to the law every time something goes wrong.

But at the same time, there is nothing wrong with the law providing moral constraints on business practices. Such moral constraints don't make markets any less free. "Free Market" doesn't mean businesses just do whatever they want; it simply means they aren't run by the government. The government has every right to govern, that is, to enforce some base-level moral system agreed upon by the people. As long as our laws are clearly stated and comprehensible to all people, they by no means inhibit the free market; they actually make it better.

Finally, because I am concerned about bioethical issues, I am fretful about the implications of this conservative mentality for the abortion issue. The kind of ideology that Stossel espouses only encourages a culture of death, since it makes business transactions seem more important than families and human lives. Of course we all need business transactions to make our lives better, but at some level one or the other has to be held sacred. I choose human life over money, and I think society should, as well.

In any case, conservative politicians need to be careful when it comes to associating with folks like Stossel, since my bet would be that they're only going to alienate even more voters with an attitude like this. They're certainly starting to alienate me.


  1. Is anyone else having trouble posting comments? It doesn't seem to be working for everyone.

  2. I dont know if I think this has anything to do with free market....I feel like this is just outright immoral discrimination- nothing to do with free market business stuff....

  3. You ought to read our constitution, clueless.....


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