Culture Wars/Current Controversies

We can take your live body parts

By Tom Woods

One of the major left-wing arguments (famously advanced by John Rawls but not exclusively by him) in support of redistribution is this: you don’t deserve your talents, so neither do you deserve their fruits.

Translation: it’s morally acceptable for us to seize your dough from you and distribute it to people who weren’t so fortunate as to be born with your talents.

I was reminded of this argument on Facebook the other day. Someone advanced the interesting suggestion that people who favor net neutrality would also have to oppose Fast Passes at Disneyworld and other theme parks. (The Disney FastPass was recently replaced by Disney Genie+, but the principle still stands.)

To which a schoolteacher replied:

I would love for you to stand in line with kids while the rich kids get in first, and see how it makes you feel after working very hard to earn your right to purchase tickets for a fun time you rarely get, only to see long lines and kids with rich parents getting the “free passes” possibly due to their parents’ inheritance or ability to thrive off the minimum-wager….

Do the 1% kids deserve the rides more than the other kids? I sure don’t think so. They’re likely spoiled brats, some of them.

This is a schoolteacher, mind you, and the so-called arguments she’s advancing involve “how it makes you feel,” and the claim that everyone equally “deserves” fast access to rides. (She also doesn’t seem to understand that Fast Passes didn’t actually cost anything, but never mind.)

Why Johnny can’t think, indeed.

I couldn’t help responding. I wrote this:

[Name withheld] is teaching children dangerous nonsense that is certain to fill them with a self-sabotaging entitlement mentality. The question is not who “deserves” to go on a ride, or “how it makes you feel.” This is morally horrendous. It is a question of contractual terms, freely entered into by all parties. If you’d like to open a theme park that operates according to different rules, be our guest.

No child is going to be imbued with an entrepreneurial spirit who grows up with the idea that he “deserves” to be able to do X. This is a self-destructive pity party. Children should also not be taught destructive nonsense about “the rich,” the one group in society we are permitted to hate, and whose achievements may never be mentioned. Why, they’re possibly rich through inheritance! Or by “exploiting” someone earning minimum wage! This is economic nonsense.

If the emphasis is on who is “deserving,” then answer me this. Suppose eye transplants are possible. My child is blind. Your child has two functioning eyes. Does your child “deserve” those eyes more than my child? If not, then you are required to transfer one of your child’s eyes to my child.

Even though the example is preposterous, the principle is the same. That’s why philosophers have used this example to show the problems with the “you don’t deserve X more than I do!” school of thought.

I think the eye example is a very good one. If I don’t “deserve,” say, my golf talents that earn me big bucks, I am equally undeserving of my healthy eyes, which are just as much a matter of luck as my golf talent.

Surely nobody would actually argue that, though, right?

Well, the other day I was flipping through Gerard Casey’s masterful book Freedom’s Progress? A History of Political Thought. Casey makes reference to philosopher Cecile Fabre. I love the way he incrementally introduces us to Fabre’s ideas:

“Fabre is the author of a paper innocuously entitled, ‘Justice, Fairness, and World Ownership,’ another paper, rather more ominously entitled, ‘Justice and the Compulsory Taking of Live Body Parts,’ and a book with the really alarming title, Whose Body Is It Anyway? Justice and the Integrity of the Person.”

Alrighty, then.

Learn the history of political thought with Professor Casey, and history and economics with other libertarian scholars (including me), at my Liberty Classroom, during your commute.

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Tom Woods

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