The Kevin Williamson/Atlantic fracas

Many of you are asking my opinion of what happened.  I’d like to answer a slightly different question.  As you may know, America does in fact (partially) restrict a woman’s right to an abortion beyond a certain stage of her pregnancy.  I believe Roe vs. Wade specified up until the 22nd to 24th week for the relevant right, and as of a few years ago eleven states had imposed legal restrictions.

I believe I have never read a piece, much less a good piece, on how these restrictions are enforced in practice, and what happens when such laws are broken.  I’ve also never read a good piece, from any point of view, on how these laws should be enforced, given that a particular law is in place (I have read pieces on what the laws should be).

My suggestion is this: do not focus your emotional energies toward revaluing Kevin Williamson or The Atlantic.  Ask yourself what are the relevant topics you have yet to read good pieces on, and then try to find them and read them.  Over time, your broader opinions will then evolve in better directions than if you focus on having an immediate emotional reaction to the events right before your eyes.  The more tempted you are to judge, the higher the return from trying to read something factual and substantive instead.


My comment on the Bryan Caplan upcoming discussion: What does Caplan think about having such a prominent place in Kevin Williamson’s one and only essay for The Atlantic? From the essay: “And libertarianism has benefited from the fact that American elites are notably more libertarian in their views than is the median American voter. That dynamic was explored by the economist Bryan Caplan under a typically bold title (“Why Is Democracy Tolerable?”) with a typically needling conclusion: “Democracies listen to the relatively libertarian rich far more than they listen to the absolutely statist non-rich … Democracy as we know it is bad enough. Democracy that really listened to all the people would be an authoritarian nightmare.”’ Read Williamson’s essay, it is excellent. If this essay is representative of Williamson’s writing, this liberal greatly regrets that The Atlantic fired Williamson. As for Williamson’s position with regard to abortion and those who have them (the stated reason The Atlantic fired him), of course he believes women who have abortions should be punished: to Williamson and the millions of others who believe a fetus is a person, there can be no exceptions. After all, we don’t make exceptions for Jeffrey Dahmer just because Dahmer has an unorthodox view about women. To be clear, I don’t agree with Williamson’s view about fetuses, but that doesn’t mean he is morally wrong and that his view is so repugnant that he should not be allowed to write for The Atlantic.

What is this Atlantic about which you wrote?

Are you serious?

I wouldn't read "The Atlantic" with your eyes.

I thought conservatism had a monopoly on eating its own.

The Atlantic will continue in its proud tradition of being the official magazine of annoying kids in international baccalaureate classes, consultants who have emotional affairs on Good Reads, and whatever virus is currently hosted by David Frum

Conservatism? Libertarianism? I guess The Atlantic fills the marketplace void that exists in the MSM with hard hitting, original, Israel First, Never Trump Neocons, has-been National Review/Commentary/Weekly Standard writers that the commentary pages of NY Times/WaPo/etc absolutely LACK (sarcasm).

I subscribed to The Atlantic some 15-20 years ago on a whim. It was august, struggling, and dirt cheap. They also had PJ O'Rourke and Christopher Hitchens in there. It was good. Then it became not so good. Then I stopped reading it.

The economy of opinion journalism and William Whitworth's retirement indubitably damaged it. They still had engaging online columnists (Megan McArdle, Ross Douthat) a decade ago, though their comment boards were injured by a weak moderation system.

Same! It's not experienced as bad a decline as the New Republic, however. Now THAT is a severe decline, to the point of producing dissonance.

Here’s the Tip of the Day: if you stop drinking sugary beverages you will shed pounds without Marie Osmond coming to your house. There are plenty of drinks with less than 15g of sugar (read the label), or drink water with lemon. Saves you money when you eat out as well.

Nice red herring, TC.

Williamson actually advocated death by hanging for women who choose legal abortions. Of course, it's entirely repugnant.
He's advocating death, Rayward. He's judge and jury, it's no different than terrorists who kill innocents for their god, or whatever...

"it’s no different than terrorists who kill innocents for their god, or whatever…"

'Or whatever' ia pretty harsh reference to Planned Parenthood, but you may be right.

Abortion Body Count: 62,000,000 and continuing.

Some people want the laws to be different, but they may differ on which ones. Some think guns are responsible for many murders and should be banned or heavily regulated. Some think ending pregnancy through abortion is murder.

Glenn, can you point out one citation of Williamson (just one) advocating death by hanging (or any other means) for women who choose **legal** abortion"? I doubt you will...

"Yes, I believe that the law should treat abortion like any other homicide."
Abortion is currently legal; Williamson doesn't bother to clarify that abortion should be made illegal. And how can anyone be sure that's what he implies?

And this:
"I'm torn on capital punishment generally; but treating abortion as homicide means what it means."
And this.
"I have hanging more in mind."

If the law treated abortion like any other homicide, that would mean making it illegal.

"Against stupidity the gods themselves contend in vain"

It's quite obvious that he means abortion should be made illegal like other homicides

Not all homicides are illegal. But most of them are, and there's a pretty strong legal presumption in that direction even if the exact strength depends on the jurisdiction.

Isn't refusing entry and refugees status to those children being killed murder? (Killed for refusingto kill, for example)

Isn't failing to provide food, shelter, medical care to children causing their death murder?

Kevin, et al advocate Sstate intervention in the lives of women, claiming to protect life, but then object to protecting the life, they claim to protect, from the world they are born into, claiming that the costs of protecting these lives takes their liberty. Yet, taking the liberty of women by the state is just, and necessary, according to Kevin, et al.

The concern for the sanctity of life ceases at birth, by all evidence, for those claiming to be "pro life"

Those arguing "pro choice" argue wholistically from before conception to birth to long life then death.

There is a difference between doing something and not doing something, though both can be morally wrong depending on the situation.

From the quotes here, Glenn's description of Williamson's position is a flat-out lie. Is there somewhere else where Williamson actually took a position in favor of extralegal murder of women who'd had abortions?

There are at least some pro-Life people who are not on board with the death penalty in any way )see: Pro-Life). Williamson proves the point about a narrow consistency being the hobgoblin of little minds. had he been merely against abortion there would have been no fracas as plenty of people, especially among Republicans, are.

Suppose a pro-choice writer consistently held to the view that, until birth and not a second before, a fetus was just a clump of cells without any rights as an individual being. He or she took this view to its logical conclusion that, yes, even a moment before birth the mother should have complete discretion without any legal restrictions as to whether she wanted an abortion. If this writer expressed this view in a combination of tweets and podcasts, should that writer be limited to writing only for explicitly left-wing publications, banned from all publications that aspire to be "mainstream"? If so, I'm guessing that NYT, Washington Post, CNN, and other mainstream media have a lot of vetting to do.

As rayward points out, Williamson's one essay for The Atlantic was thoughtful and *had nothing to do with abortion*. He was not hired to be The Atlantic's "abortion writer" and has written many high quality pieces for National Review in the past about many different topics. I used to offer the specter of pro-choice gas stations and pro-life grocery stores as the slippery slope endpoint of politicizing non-political entities like airlines (e.g., turning Delta into an anti-gun airline). I thought we had reached a consensus to "agree to disagree", recognizing that it would be ridiculous for any "normal" organization, one that didn't have reason to become explicitly pro-life or pro-choice, to condition employment based on one's abortion views. I guess I will have to find a different slippery slope endpoint because we keep blowing through the old ones.

had he been merely against abortion there would have been no fracas

In other words, he must be the well-behaved pet in the house of social liberals.

"Transgressive for lefties like me but not for thee."

the weird part is that when Williamson is a speaker he will remind people that he is against the death penalty so the point about hanging women who get abortions was just trolling-but he was sincere that you should treat abortion seriously. You can readily affirm this by listening to many of his speaking events-such as at Hillsdale etc.

Never heard of this guy. Did he not advocate a trial with a judge and a jury for women who abort their children?

The Atlantic is engaging in a publicity stunt. Advocating capital punishment of felonious women via hanging is not that controversial.

Bonus trivia: the French female WWI spy "Mata Hari" did NOT send 50k soldiers to their deaths via her spying for the Germans. She was a scapegoat. True she was on the German payroll but she accepted money and produced little in return from several spy agencies, not just the Germans. She was just a promiscuous woman looking to make a bit of extra money in a male dominated world. True!

We can all disagree, but it should not be beyond the pale of legitimate discourse for those who find abortion or the death penalty repugnant to give voice to their perspectives.

If they truly do believe that abortion = murder, then it should not be surprise that they demand sanctions proportionate to the offense.

What I truly cannot understand are the abortion opponents who say they would not seek any prosecution or punishment at all for the mothers. Such voices are much more numerous than those like Williamson's. Whatever one thinks of the merits or morality of abortion, this makes no sense at all. It's like only going after the hit-man but excusing the one who profited from and paid for the hit.

Just to point out that law enforcement clears about 9,000 homicide cases in a typical year. The annual number of executions has IIRC bounced around a set point of about 55 in the last 15 years.

It is not beyond the pale of legitimate discourse to suggest that I should be hanging from a tree (because, in fact, I've been responsible for and paid for an abortion), but I don't have to like it. It does change my view of Kevin Williamson.

I was not impressed with the Williamson essay in the Atlantic. A lot of hemming and hawing but no there there.

On the abortion issue: I think Williamson's position is stupid. He wants to punish the women. He makes no mention of the men who made the women pregnant. I would have more respect for his position that women who have abortions should be hung if he also said men who made the women pregnant should be castrated and then hung.

But as it stands his position just shows disdain for women. It has nothing legitimate to say about abortion.

Bottom line: There must be better columnists out there than the ones we usually get on both sides of the fence. In principle I agree with Tyler.

except he didn't believe in hanging women-or anyone else for that matter. The woke crowd wanted him gone & had no moral compunction preventing them from taking his point out of context (to an egregious extent one might add). Editor Goldberg's courage failed him...

It was more than a tweet. He defended it in a podcast:

But the bottom line remains: It is a misogynist position: Hang the woman; ignore the man.

Misogynist and stupid. Stupid because it ignores the man's role and basically forgives him. You know: he can't help himself. Only women can know and exercise self control.

What a joke. He should be fired for being stupid. Not for any other reason.

really, you are going to quote media matters? How about actually listening to the man speak-he has a number lectures you can listen to on youtube-& in them he states he isn't in favor of hanging women & in fact he opposes the death penalty. But why look at facts when you can get the result you desire by looking at partisan websites?

Media matters has the podcast where Williamson spoke about hanging and/or killing them women who had abortions in other ways. So, yes, I guess you are right. Media Matters is partisan for publishing information you don't want to hear. Shame on them.

Well, the efficacy of the method of execution in deterring criminal activity was something that only arose a couple of hours ago, due to Williamson raising the point - 'Those comments, all of which were public and made long before The Atlantic hired Williamson, were reiterated in a series of podcasts as well, Media Matters reported Tuesday. In a 2014 episode, he said methods like lethal injection are “too antiseptic” for women who get abortions and that states should use more “violent” forms of capital punishment to match the “violence” of an abortion.'

Wait, this is probably not the sort of speculation concerning capital punishment that one would get from 'trying to read something factual and substantive instead.' After all, it is not as if Williamson is a serious figure in terms of advocating killing people, right? Well, at least until that podcast came out - a podcast that itself provides a framdework for factual and substantive discussion concerning advocating death as a punishment in American society for whatever it is that someone disapproves of.

But if anyone has any suggestions about reading why the Founders were wrong concerning their abhorrence to cruel and unusual punishment, and how this led to America's seemingly intractable problem with crime, that would be interesting.

The Founders had no issue with hanging at all

And didn't make a fuss over the literal buying and selling of human slaves, either. Morals change.

I'm not sure "morals change" so much as we come to realize that our behaviors are inconsistent with our morals, and so we cease -- eventually -- those behaviors.

Many founders did make a fuss about slavery. That's why the issue was so contentious at the Constitutional Convention.

What the founders did not make nearly as much a fuss about is the fact that many felonies less than murder were also subject to the death penalty as punishment. There is nothing inherent about "cruel and usual" that supports Justice Brennan's faith that the "evolving standards of decency" move in one direction towards ever milder punishments.

You are right - they just had a problem with hanging someone who did not do anything illegal. Due process, forbidding ex post facto laws, the definition of treason - the Founders were quite concerned about ensuring that hanging was reserved for those who were found guilty of a crime when the law said it was a crime at the time of the act.

If it's murder then the death penalty is quite appropriate. A firing squad--as one method of execution--remains legal (that is until Kennedy in his usual arbitrary way decides that it is now "cruel and unusual"). But the immoral Germans have only selectively followed Kant by rejecting the categorical requirement that in the event that a society should disband the first thing that would have to be done is to execute every convicted murderer in prison to honor them as rational beings.

Constitutional protections don't guranteee a market for your speech.

Nor should it. It should also not protect the Atlantic from scorn and loss of market due to its actions.

Hopefully, from all of them.

Their paywall/adblocker wall has guaranteed that they've already lost my readership.

Same thing happened with me at Starbucks. If they want to charge for coffee, they've lost me as customer. I'm sure they are crying in their beans!

If there were more coffee than I could ever drink being offered for free by hobbyists, and Starbucks offered me okay but not great coffee at $1/cup, they'd lose my business, too.

"Constitutional protections don’t guranteee a market for your speech."

Or it would seem your ability to work if your boss dislikes what you believe in.

If your job is "speech" or opinion writing and your boss doesn't like how you are doing your job, or if your personal behavior compromises your ability to get your message across, or compromises the ability of the organization to get it's message across, yes, you can get fired. What's the argument against that? That doesn't violate any laws or "norms".

The legal situation regarding restrictions on employers especially regarding terminations is more complicated at the state level. See:

South Carolina, for example, has a law that stated that any legislateively chartered company could not "discharge, or threaten to discharge, from employment ... any operative or employee, ... for or on account of his political opinion ..."

Predictably, judicial legislators have replaced some of these statutes with very different ones without changing any words, and narrowed the scope of the laws to exclude crimethink. Furthermore, it's not settled how much more they could be neutralized by very creative interpretations of the First Amendment.

But, given the temper of our times, I expect to see some states try to breath new life into these laws and test the limits. Maybe someone should write another factual and substantive article about the prospects for such welcome reforms.

This isn't a First Amendment issue.

It's concerning, but it's not a First Amendment issue.

Right... just a free speech issue. Does every employee have to pass a political litmus test?

I certainly wouldn't want The Atlantic to be compelled to publish stuff they don't want to.

There's less of an issue here than, say, wondering if your accountants are Trump supporters.

'Or it would seem your ability to work if your boss dislikes what you believe in.'

What, you have a problem with at will employment? What sort of hard leftists is Prof. Cowen attracting these days? The Mercatus Center would undoubtedly close down (or at least lose all its funding) before it denounces at will employment, including the absolute right of any employer to fire any employee at any time, for no reason at all.

Yes, freedom of association demands at will employment.

It cuts both ways. Unlike Germany, in the US both the employee and the employer have the right to walk away. In Germany neither has that basic human right to dissolve a relationship. Weird eh ?

Also in the US, unlike Germany, women have the right to an abortion.

In the redneck backwards country of Alabama, er wait sorry Germany, there is a mandatory waiting period, and a mandatory counseling by the State. Oh, and only first trimester ladies. Otherwise it must be a medical necessity. Woops!

As usual Germany misses the freedom train. Quelle surprise.

I think the steelman position is that Goldberg was entirely within his rights to fire Williams and yet deeply stupid to do so.

The narrowing scope for disagreement in common forums and journalism terrifies me.

Tired strawman. The 1st Amendment applies to government action. But the US still has (had?) important norms about free and open discourse.

I don't think this violates any of those norms. If he wants to talk about violent capital punishment for women who get abortions I'm sure that the x% of the people who think that is interesting to listen to will provide a forum for that inquiry. If that was posturing to get attention then maybe a lesson learned is that type of posturing can have real economic and career consequences.

Another way to look at this is that if your speech can't be calibrated, ie you are willing to say things you don't really believe or use exaggeration to get attention, then the market is right in discounting the value of your speech.

Is anybody that matters contending otherwise? It's a question of whether firing some guy I have never heard of for expressing whatever the hell he epxressed is good, isn't it?

What a surprise. Tyler wimps out and refuses to answer the question.

Then again, his effort to change the subject just confirms what we all know to be true.

Cowen totally answers the question. Read this again "Ask yourself what are the relevant topics you have yet to read good pieces on, and then try to find them and read them. Over time, your broader opinions will then evolve in better directions than if you focus on having an immediate emotional reaction to the events right before your eyes. The more tempted you are to judge, the higher the return from trying to read something factual and substantive instead." The obvious implication being that neither Williamson nor the Atlantic are worth reading because they focus on "immediate emotional reaction" as opposed to things that are "factual and substantive".

Cowen dodged it 100%. He shirked because it was important and something deep down in him might be slightly uncomfortable with Williamson's position - just maybe - but he refuses to acknowledge it.

I am pretty sure that Cowen implied very clearly that both the Atlantic and Kevin Williamson suck, and that you should read other things. As Cowen put it, the question was asked of him what he thought of Williamson's firing, not whether or not Cowen agrees with Williamson's position. I don't know Cowen's position on abortion, and I would be interested in what he thinks and why he thinks that. But if what you want is Cowen's opinion on abortion, just say so. Cowen was instead asked about media and how media operates.

Getting caught up in yet another battle of the culture wars will get you outraged and angry and keep you engaged so the ad networks can sell your attention, but it won't make you a smarter or better-informed or better person.

Now, if you're looking for entertainment with a newsy / current-events veneer, then that's fine. Get outraged over the Williamson wanting to hang people for getting abortions or Atlantic for bowing to a Twitter mob or wanting conservative opinions, but only a small range of acceptable ones.

But if you want to get smarter or better as a person, you should instead follow Tyler's advice. There's this huge industry whose goal is to get you scared or mad so you'll stay on their site long enough for your attention to be monetized. Their goals and methods don't play well with trying to become better informed or a better person. Avoid them and go find something worthwhile to read, something that's trying to engage your brain instead of your guts or your balls.

"But if you want to get smarter or better as a person, you should instead follow Tyler’s advice. "

Whoa there cowboy, that's crazy talk1

Didnt Tyler link to Williamson's piece in the Atlantic earlier this week? That makes no sense.

@Will- He might have. Still I think that the not so veiled criticism is that both the Atlantic and Williamson feed off of outrage, and that it is better to avoid that kind of writing. My suspicion is that Cowen just skims an awful lot of stuff, and isn't all that careful about what he links to. My other suspicion is that he spends more time on writing that is a little bit deeper, like good literature or stuff like Derek Parfit and whatnot.


+1 to albatross and P Burgos.

I would cast aside the airy self-improvement exhortations and tell people they shouldn't become emotionally invested in the matter because they're opinion doesn't matter, Kevin Williamson will find another job, and anyway, this is just another man bites dog story. The church of Washington journalists casting out heretics; plus ca change.


"I would cast aside the airy self-improvement exhortations" {"what are the relevant topics you have yet to read good pieces on, and then try to find them and read them.}

yes, a rather dumb posting. One simply identifies "relevant topics" and hunts for "good pieces" to read -- vapid advice.

Abortion is a hot button issue (?), do tell. The specified topic was Williamson/Atlantic. Atlantic editors fired Williamson for politically incorrect viewpoint, but no discussion on that issue.

"Politically Incorrect?" He advocated death to women who choose legal abortions. It's the law. It wasn't couched in, "if it were illegal then they should face the death penalty." He thinks they should be punished for doing something legal, including up to death by hanging.
In what world is that okay? In what world is that tolerable? Oh yeah...Tyler's...

Not quite true. He advocates making abortion illegal and punishing people who violate the law, not punishing people for undertaking a legal action.

It's true - the church of Washington journalism does tend to have a problem with people advocating killing people for doing something legal.

Oddly enough, so does the church of the Washington legal profession.

Not to mention churches in general, actually.

I know that you have reading comprehension issues, but nonetheless you are not accurate when you say 'for doing something legal'.

It is illegal in some states to have an abortion after a specific term.

And capital punishment by hanging is not the penalty for doing something that individual states may forbid. State laws, it should be noted, which any American woman can easily ignore by taking advantage of federalism, and going to another state where such limits do not exist.

But if it makes you happier, it is possible that some abortions, in some states, may be illegal. Though one of course can assume that any woman having a legal abortion did not have one in one of those states in which her abortion would be illegal.

Wow, I assumed the one guy willfully misreading Williamson was just a random crank, but now TWO people? How many people have managed to force their minds into this bizarre misinterpretation? Is it that actually Williamson's statement is perfectly fine to you and so you have to twist it in order to adopt the "acceptable" position of opposing it?

Well, here is his actual words - "And someone challenged me on my views on abortion, saying, 'If you really thought it was a crime you would support things like life in prison, no parole, for treating it as a homicide,'" Williamson said. "And I do support that, in fact, as I wrote, what I had in mind was hanging. My broader point here is, of course, that I am a — as you know I’m kind of squishy on capital punishment in general — but that I'm absolutely willing to see abortion treated like a regular homicide under the criminal code, sure."

If you wish to argue that he does not support murdering a doctor that performs abortions in a church - - fine by me. If you wish to further argue that he has no interest in ever punishing a woman who had had a legal abortion, well, his use of the past tense is certainly not precise enough to say he would advocate executing women for have already had an abortion before it was defined as a crime worthy of execution.

That he has absolutely no problem with executing women because they have an abortion is absolutely beyond question however.

For the record, I do think Williamson's position is daft. If the Atlantic got rid of everybody their with a stupid opinion, though, the magazine would have to shut down. Which might not be the worst thing, really.


Dammit. I need stronger coffee.

Wee need English spelling reform.

"The more tempted you are to judge ...": why are people so sanctimoniously judgemental about judging?


Car salesmen probably don't want you to be judgmental, either.

Tyler's tribe has fired someone for expressing a far-from-uncomon point of view.

Listen everyone, says Tyler, this is no time to be judgmental!

Self-improvement is all that matters! Do not look outside yourself!!

Its amazing that you think that Tyler's tribe are liberals. You are so busy commenting on this site that you probably don't even read what Tyler writes.

Cowen and Tabarrok are conventional academics and they do not take exception to things which would be deal-breakers in the faculty rathskellar. It's a reasonable wager almost no one they encounter socially cares much about FDA procedures or occupational licensure, at least in any visceral way. Compare their subject selection to that of Megan McArdle, hardly an anarcho-capitalist fanatic. (Or ask yourself why their favorite Republican pundit is ... Bruce Bartlett).

I think the audience Megan M gets at WaPo and the audience Tyler&Alex hope to get at this blog may be different. Not every topic has to affect us viscerally for us to be interested in them. I for one am glad that they don't play to the crowd to maximize the eyeballs.

This sums it up nicely. As further evidence, review Tyler’s comments about free speech on campus:
Where, by the way, he absurdly claims that public universities have the right to restrict speech, as if they are unbound by the first amendment.

If it’s an actual contensious issue that might make him unpopular amongst his colleagues he evades. Make of that what you will.

>Its amazing that you think that Tyler’s tribe are liberals.

No shit, huh? The guy who writes for Bloomberg, wants a carbon tax, favors open borders, voted Hillary, takes every opportunity to trash Trump, and hedges his criticism every time the left is obviously wrong... it's amazing anyone could think Ty and Alex are liberals!

The best thing about this kind of tribal crap is that it saves you so much effort. You can decide whose side Tyler is on, and then you don't have to do any of that yucky hard thinking stuff to know how to respond to his post.

It's a wise question. Maybe MLK should have spent his time reading the Stoics.

As Louis CK says: getting an abortion is either killing a baby or like taking a dump.

There's no middle ground when one side believes babies are being killed.

I'm not sure if it's actual middle ground, but at least understanding that:
1) Abortions are perfectly legal.
2) Women are acting 100% within their right to have an abortion.

Advocating death to people (who are just going about doing legal things) isn't far removed at all by terrorists who want to kill people simply because they pray to a different god, or to no god.

1) "Baby Murder is 100% legal"
2) "Women are acting 100% within their right to murder babies"

Again, there is no true middle ground.

Oh, you mean, no middle ground for those who refuse to open their eyes to actual fact, rather than inflammatory biases? You might be right.

You know what’s an actual fact? The complex brains and emotions of fetuses/babies in the third trimester.

Glenn, what fact are you referring to?

Some people think life begins at conception (there's just too much hand-wavy, "how many grains make a pile" type of argumentation otherwise). Due to this belief, some people consider abortion murder. Those with these beliefs have a non-zero intersection with those who believe a just punishment for murder is the death penalty. Some of these people don't prescribe to a utilitarian calculus that would allow for differential consideration/punishment. There is, then, really no middle ground and it has nothing to do with inflammatory biases.

You're also confusing legality with morality, and as mentioned below, Williamson's comments come in a context in which abortion should be illegal.

Life does begin at conception. The anti-science left can put their fingers in their ears but instead I would challenge them to be bold and brave. Every abortion does end a human life. There is no disputing this, this is scientific fact. The relevant question which could be discussed in mainstream discourse (if the left could stop lying about what "life" means), is how the rights of a fetus weigh against the rights of a mother. That balance depends on where we set our standards in regard to how much personhood it is okay to kill. Contradictions abound; it would be illegal for an individual to abort his dog's fetus, but why? The dog is certainly less of a person than a fetus, and the left presumes fetuses have no personhood at all; it is illegal to kill an infant, but an infant has no more personhood than a fetus at t - 10 seconds.

So many on the left believe in the mystical thinking that life begins at birth. That idea is absurd on its face as we know what the biological definition of life is (at least until the left fully infiltrates biology to change it), and we know about the development of human offspring to know there is no magical change at the moment of birth. If we could just get the left to acknowledge the reality of what abortion is, we could finally get down to answering important questions. For instance, should abortion be legal after the point of viability? This is what interests me most, as I think the answer is clear but there will be segments of the left who object to a requirement to birth a pre-mature baby in one piece, rather than chopped up bit by bit. Perhaps the intelligence at the top of Planned Parenthood recognizes how bloodthirsty they will look if they publicly express their preference for having the right to kill viable fetuses? Perhaps they push blatantly false ideas like life "beings at birth" to keep their mindless followers far in front of where the line of battle actually is - viability?

Thomas, most abortions happen naturally. Nature is committing mass genocide against the unborn, in your view. Surely something needs to be done to reduce the frequency that this happens?

@Anon - by that logic, I guess we should charge nature with murder each time someone dies from an earthquake or flood?

Haven’t all kinds of things been done to reduce the probability of miscarriage?

Who is against that?

Obviously if he thinks there should be a death penalty then he thinks it should be illegal. Comparing it to terrorism is idiotic. It's not really outside of the mainstream to think abortion is murder, especially after the first trimester.

I was surprised at the cognitive dissonance around this, he very obviously believes that abortion should be illegal.

He may think it, but what he advocated was that, right now, currently, women who choose to act within their legal right should be hung. That's what he's about.
And no, the comparison is not idiotic. Williamson is for killing people who are acting legally but hold a different viewpoint than he does. And why? Judeo-Christian value..? Dunno precisely, but it's a similar way of thinking than some terrorists.


Please understand that you are wrong and stop repeating this falsehood

It's plain inaccurate that Williamson is "advocating death for legal abortions."

Williamson proposed that 1) abortion be illegal and 2) treated as murder and 3) murderers face the death penalty.

I would love to see where he said that we should ex-post-facto prosecute people who had abortions while it was legal, or that he gets to be "judge and jury" (your words, again) instead of going through the normal legal process that we do for other murders.

You can oppose his proposed policy, of course. There are people who advocate that killing animals should be treated as murder. I think their policy positions are stupid and will never happen. But I am also not insane, so I realize that they are not advocating for roving bands of vegans executing butchers, or a reckoning day where everyone who ate meat while it was legal gets hanged.

(The same goes for people who think there should be castration for rapists, or the death penalty for drug dealing, or mumble mumble for voting for Trump. They are proposing new laws. Dumb, stupid, asinine, laws. But not extra-judicial violence.)

Calm down and take a breath.

With respect, he may indeed feel that way and advocated that, but in what I read - and I certainly haven't read much of his stuff - he made no allowance for, first, making the procedure illegal. Yes, it of course it makes sense that he feels that way.
But what he tweeted was different, and admittedly, open for different interpretations. He said the law should treat abortion as homicide and that women should be punished including up to hanging. He didn't specify the caveat that abortion be made illegal first..
But it could be I'm entirely, 100% wrong, and Williamson is certainly an okay guy wither perfectly mainstream and acceptable views...

He nuked his own twitter account months ago, so anything you read about his tweets are out of context and necessarily limited to 140 characters.

He said the law should treat abortion as homicide and that women should be punished including up to hanging. He didn’t specify the caveat that abortion be made illegal first..

Just. . . just read what you wrote here. Read it.

Look. In your own words, he said the law should treat abortion as homicide. Of course that means making it illegal. That's what homicide is. This isn't some "caveat" or weird linguistic footnote that he just forgot. There is nothing you can do without a scrambled brain to think that we'd have legal abortion that is homicide. Even typing that looks stupid.

You are entirely, 100% wrong, no doubt about that. But you're excused because you're particularly stupid. And this has of course no bearing on the question of whether Williamson is an Okay guy (whatever that means) or not.

The dude in the Atlantic is an idiot (I repeat myself), but as I hate terrible logic I have to do this now:

~1955, ceteris paribus your logic

“Glenn says,

1) marital rape is perfectly legal 2) men are 100% acting within their rights when commiting violent sexual assault upon their spouses

Advocating the death penalty against these men is terrorism because the law permits it.”


The law does not equal morality, nor should it. And I shudder at the thought of Liberals and conservatives rubbing their hands in glee, mr burns style, at the fantasy of forcing The Other to adhere to their tribe’s morality.

While I appreciate Mr. Cowen's take on the whole Atlantic-Williamson fracas, I have to admit it is not what I was expecting.

What I expected was something along the lines of The Atlantic having future difficulties. They can either just resolve to be a liberal opinion magazine, which puts them into a niche. Or they can try to have a balanced approach, but what conservative will agree to work for them now?

Williamson was both hired AND fired based on a body of work which existed prior to The Atlantic offering him a job. The fact that they instantly caved, rather than defending their hire means that any writer with controversial views, in the conservative direction only, would be crazy to consider working with such weasels.

Cowen's piece was far more weasel-y than the Atlantic.

So you are claiming that most conservatives believe women who get abortions deserve the death penalty? Firing Williamson over his extremist views is no different than firing a leftist who argued for confiscating private property and executing priests.

Has anyone ever lost a job for advocating confiscation of private property?

That's because in today's media, advocating confiscation is within the Overton window, and capital punishment for abortion isn't.

'and capital punishment for abortion isn’t'

And it is easy to make such a comment with the stunning lack of any female participants in this comment section easily making one think that women have no role in how that Overton window is actually framed.

prior with the rare home run. Note the brevity and lack of Wikipedia links.

The reason you will never read a good piece on how to practically enforce these laws, even if you value life, is because there is no good way practically to enforce them, particularly for laws that take into account the “health” of the mother. And the laws that don’t don’t value all lives. South Carolina gop wanted to pass a law recently that outlawed all direct abortion. You could only treat the mother and if miscarriage happened that was ok but not direct abortion. The law of course has not made it far but they tried!

Let’s think of some real world hypotheticals that could happen:

1. Your doctor tells you if you continue with the pregnancy, there is an 80% chance you could die. Is this risk high enough to be considered worthy of an abortion? What if there’s disagreement as to what the risk is? What if a particular woman is more risk averse than another?

2. Your doctor says you have an average risk of death if you continue with pregnancy, which I don’t know what the average risk is in the USA but let’s say .1%.

In the two scenarios above I could see where a reasonable person might say situation 2 should be prevented from having an abortion but situation 1 it’s “ok.” However, the reason I want the government to stay out of making these types of decisions is because I don’t want them deciding what a woman’s risk preference should be in the gray areas. At what point does a gov beaurocrat decide the risk is too high? At 30% ? At 10% the point is if we were hatched in eggs this would be simpler, although viability would still be an issue. But The woman’s life wouldn’t be encountering risk. When gov beauocrats are put in charge of figuring out what’s too high of a risk in any given case, and all cases are unique, there is no practical solution or application of law.

In Canada the abortion law collapsed when juries would not convict.

Surely revocation of licenses by medical boards would be sufficient to prevent most abortions. The whole issue of punishing women--or even criminally punishing doctors--is kind of an abstract speculation. I personally try to avoid reading abstract speculation, so I will not be taking Tyler's advice on this issue.

Which juries, where?

In Montreal, in the 1970s, Dr. Henry Morgentaler was prosecuted three times for abortions and acquitted by juries, though he did not deny his actions.

"Your doctor tells you if you continue with the pregnancy, there is an 80% chance you could die" How often does this occur? High-risk pregnancies can cause a difficult delivery, but mother's death is rare. In those rare cases, a late-term abortion will not save the life of the mother.

You are using a false hypothetical..

Revoking the medical license of doctors who perform unnecessary or illegal abortions is allowing medical professionals to make "medically necessary to protect the life of the mother" choices while holding them accountable for their decisions, just as we do with many medical procedures. Limiting the ability to preform abortions to medical professionals and requiring oversight of those licensed professionals solves 99.9% of the enforcement issue.

I'm not picking on you, and you may even be completely right that his hypothetical is prohibitively rare, but I notice in abortion debates that both sides like to pretend the rare things that could strongly impact their narrative just don't exist and aren't worth talking about. It's depressing.

ProChoice groups argue for exceptions based on the "health" of the mother rather than the "life" of the mother because 1) they know that life-threatening incidents are very rare and 2) health of the mother is such a vague term that in practice it has no meaning.

In those very rare incidents where the mother's life is in danger, the child is so severely damaged that the abortion issue is mute. It becomes more of a matter of a mercy killing of an already nearly dead person. Giving a physician the opportunity to explain why this was an exceptional case, with the risk of losing his license if his reasoning is found disingenuous, is a compromise that hopefully can work. Not perfect, just better than alternatives.

Regretfully sometimes a doctor may recommend an abortion to simplify the treatment of the mother. For example, the mother has cancer. Studies do not show that aborting the fetus changes the mother's outcome. But it does make it easier for the doctor to treat and reduces his potential liability if something goes wrong with the mother or child. It sometimes happens.

I know of no way to design a system that will prevent some people from gaming the system. We have many laws, but we still have criminal activity. Requiring physicians to report and record their activities with penalties for violating the rules is basically how our current medical system works. Do some doctors ignore those rules. Yes. But most don't because the risks of punishment is too high.

A system that works the vast majority of the time is the best a free society can hope to achieve.

It solves none of the enforcement issues. Considering that an abortion is literally the exact same procedure as dealing with preterm fetal death means it will be trivial for a doctor who is willing to perform abortions to conceal that fact. Unless you're going to put police officers into OBGYN facilities to observe ultrasounds abortions will still occur. At least for wealthy and socially connected women. Which is of course the ideal conservative position.

C'mon. If abortions are so trivial to get, even if illegal, why was Roe v Wade important at all?

The advancement of computerized machinery with audit logs makes faking records much harder than it was 50 years ago.

Because legal abortions are much safer than illegal ones? Of course, there actually is research on this -

Excuse me? As a person who is somewhat conservative, I'd like to make sure that women who cannot care for their child have access to abortion. The wealthy and well-connected have other options.

Very few licensed professionals with six figure incomes are willing to skirt the law: the risk is too great if the penalty is loss of license. Sending out a few women with wires to make arrangements for the disguised abortions Jonathan suggests would be sufficient to deter almost every doctor. The same reason I (as a lawyer) would not engage in fraud at the behest of a client, even if it was unlikely to be detected.

It's the same as catching tax cheats, or marijuana dealers, or gun dealers. Some people don't want it enforced at all and will suddenly pretend to not understand how we catch people doing crimes and demand the other side completely re-litigate the concept of the justice system.

Enforcing a ban on abortions is the same with the same toolset as enforcing a ban on marijuana or a ban on handguns. We can debate how useful enforcement will be, but the concept that enforcing a law is some new invention for 2018 is just playing dumb.

Also, you say it's rare for a woman to be told if she continues with pregnancy she faces a high risk of death. Well, it DOES happen sometimes even after 20 weeks. In fact, abortion after 20 weeks is very rare. It usually happens due to health reasons or fetus viability. Yet Republicans howl and scream about abortion after 20 weeks. If it's so rare and usually for health reasons, why do you howl so loud?

I personally know of a teenager who got pregnant and was told she was too small at the time to take the pregnancy to term.

So if she were told , "sorry, we can treat you, but we can't give you a direct abortion" then sorry whoever tells her that doesn't value her life.

"do not focus your emotional energies toward revaluing Kevin Williamson or The Atlantic. "

OK, how about I focus my rational energies on this. Goldberg is an executive with a company. He made a bad business decision. How should he be judged in this context?

Actually, I think he made two bad decisions:

1. Hiring Williamson.
2. Firing Williamson.

I was lumping both under one decision, but you're right.

+1 Williams is a a mediocre trollish thinker and will never persuade a single person who does not already agree with him on most issues. But I'm also not happy to see the internet lynch mobs be encouraged yet again. Bad situation all around.

Concur. If you are going to do something controversial, you need to have the guts to stick to it. Don't start a fight and quit halfway through.

This was the SC bill that wanted to end all direct abortions in our state, regardless of the health of the mother.

Heathens are elected there.

Bud, you seem to worship at the alter of dead fetuses, and you call others heathens? It's one thing to support abortion but with a sense of disgust, it's another to celebrate it. Gross.

the reason this topic is so charged, is that those who advocate abortion (and benefit from abortion existing), don't want to dwell on what they are doing. So they focus their guilt and shame and anger on anybody who opposes abortion. Thus this guy in this thread who wants to bring up terrorism. Because the right to kill unborn babies isn't a argument he can win.


That is an interesting theory. Abortion to some feminists seems akin to a right of passage. Almost like a sacrificial act to join a tribe.

There are many reasons this topic is so charged, including yours. The 30 day old fetus = a cute little baby thing is another.

That's right, Thomas. I'm worshipping. I'm celebrating.

Well, Tyler, Williamson only advocated death by hanging to women who choose legal abortions. Nothing wrong with that, eh, Tyler.

I've long thought you so full of yourself, Tyler, to be self-cloying and intensely off-putting, but your complete lack of perspective is something relatively surprising.

What compared to ta-genius Coates extremely offensive posts suggesting the 9/11 reponders that died deserved their fate?

Or to take it into the real world, all their neocon hires that adovcated and pushed for a real life war that killed hundreds of thousands of people for ideological reasons at best? Sloppy Williamson and his stupid Twitter trolling is least moral objectionable thing they got going.

It's a pity they all can't lose.

Foisting a deranged, dimwitted xenophobe like Ta-Nawhatever Coates on their subscribers as if he were some sort of Important Social Commentator or Voice for Black America is indeed reason enough not to subscribe.

Perhaps, but stick to the topic at hand. It seems a diversionary tactic...
There are lots of fringe performers and posturers on the right and on the left.

It is off topic, but it does reveal hypocrisy. Goldberg does have a right to be a hypocrite though, not that it should be good for business.

Coates, a fringe performer? Surely you jest. And if, contra Tyler, the point is The Atlantic's reasons for firing Williamson are window-dressing (instead of admitting they are running scared from vehement lefties), then you must bring in how it treats its other staff writers.

A pity indeed, but digital media allows enough insane views to get oxygen and survive that merely the extremely perverse and/or egregiously immoral thrive.

That is a wildly paranoid distortion of what Coates wrote on the subject.

He did not advocate that

Infanticide was once very common, I kind of think abortion is atavistic. My evidence is that the rate of combined abortion + infanticide per pregnancy seems to have fallen over the long run. One day people may look at abortion the way people today look at infanticide.

Abortion rates are declining actually, something both pro-life and pro-choice people should be celebrating

The pro choice people certainly find that good - after all, they are advocates of effective birth control.

This is tangential, but "The Day After Roe" is among the most interesting pieces I've read on, if not quite this subject, then at least subjects adjacent to it.

I'd be willing to bet that there's interesting material about it stashed somewhere in law reviews.

Well worth reading this article again! And it deals with the political reality of abortion which Williamson doesn’t. Most “pro-life” positions are just empty rightward virtue signaling and this article shows how little effect overturning Roe would have on most abortions performed today.
We are in an age where most “character” questions are now moot anyways. Given the President’s long career of fornication and adultery, anyone care to guess the number of abortions he has paid for? My over/under is 3.
Regarding Williamson, he seems to have an issue with emotional control, as his phone stealing/throwing incident demonstrates. I suspect this, rather than his position on Roe, is what led to his quick exit. Given the opportunity to back away from an irrational and stupid tweet, he doubled down.

He was honest, which is an unforgivable sin in the media

Political realities aren't particularly important when it comes to rights as moral side constraints.

Paraphrased from Nozick:

The endorsement of the imposition of sacrifices on individuals for the sake of any (non-trivial) conception of the social good—even, e.g., distribution-sensitive conceptions of the social good—fails to recognize the status of individuals as ends-in-themselves.

What is interesting about discussions about Facebook privacy and other rights of privacy is that the Roe decision has as its underpinnings earlier decisions involving privacy, penumbral rights emanating from the text of the constitution and other amendments, and even earlier decisions, so that the reversal of Roe would also signal a loss of privacy protections and a substantial increase in government power intruding in previous rights of privacy and other liberties that you are accustomed to.

Would be great for Baptist preachers, though, who would want to rule your life by electing "good Christian" politicians, like Donald Trump, whom they gave a Mulligan.

An example of the penumbral rights decision is the Griswold v. Connecticut decision in which the state banned the sales of contraceptives,

That is such a stretch that I really don't know how you created such a link in your mind. Overturning Roe will not revoke the 4th Amendment. Nor will it revoke FTC rules about consumer protection. Or the Electronic Communications Privacy Act etc.

You think the only thing keeping Zukerberg out of jail and free of fines is Roe? Why has no one filed a lawsuit claiming that Facebook violed privacy laws under Roe? Because they would be laughed out of court.

Dan, To show your lack of knowledge on this subject, please identify the parts of the Constitution that have been used to identify a right to privacy, describe the precedent relied upon by Roe, and explain how a reversal of Roe based on precedent would not limit rights of privacy and individual liberty.

Use this website comment section as a bluebook. If you fail to answer and address these questions you will be handed an F.

Dan, To help you in your exercise, here is a lay summary of the Constitutional right to privacy history. You may cite it if you wish.

Please see my comment below (I am not Dan). It is you who have misunderstood the precedent "relied upon" by Roe.

DB, Since you have so unceremoniously acknowledged (below) that Roe was based on rights of privacy enunciated in earlier decisions, including Griswold, correcting your substantive due process claim, and now acknowledging penumbral rights, I will not respond. But, for those who wish to read more, there is a section from West's Encyclopedia of American Law which describes the central right to privacy and its origins as described in Roe:

"Douglas rhetorically asked, "Would we allow the police to search the sacred precincts of marital bedrooms for telltale signs of the use of contraceptives?" But in Griswold the police had not searched a bedroom and the defendants were not a married couple; rather, a licensed physician was accused of aiding and abetting an illegal act.

Douglas' fears of government intrusion on marital privacy were conjured up to invent a constitutional right of privacy. But Connecticut's sensible enforcement of its birth-control statute demonstrated that elected officials are alert to privacy values that would continue to thrive without the Supreme Court's manipulating the Constitution."

"The overarching question raised by the Supreme Court's abortion decisions is not whether the Constitution was intended to protect some types of privacy--it clearly was--or whether privacy values should be important--they certainly should be--but whether we want to permit the justices to employ undefined and undefinable "penumbras" to fasten on the nation their personal views of privacy rights. Rejecting a constitutional right of privacy would not forbid legislative or executive bodies from embracing pro-choice laws or programs, like California's 1967 pro-abortion statute signed by then-Gov. Ronald Reagan."

"I have difficulty in concluding, as the Court does, that the right of "privacy" is involved in this case. Texas, by the statute here challenged, bars the performance of a medical abortion by a licensed physician on a plaintiff such as Roe. A transaction resulting in an operation such as this is not "private" in the ordinary usage of that word. Nor is the "privacy" that the Court finds here even a distant relative of the freedom from searches and seizures protected by the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution, which the Court has referred to as embodying a right to privacy."

But that liberty is not guaranteed absolutely against deprivation, only against deprivation without due process of law. The test traditionally applied in the area of social and economic legislation is whether or not a law such as that challenged has a rational relation to a valid state objective. Williamson v. Lee Optical Co., 348 U.S. 483, 491 (1955). The Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment undoubtedly does place a limit, albeit a broad one, on legislative power to enact laws such as this. If the Texas statute were to prohibit an abortion even where the mother's life is in jeopardy, I have little doubt that such a statute would lack a rational relation to a valid state objective under the test stated in Williamson, supra. But the Court's sweeping invalidation of any restrictions on abortion during the first trimester is impossible to justify under that standard,

To reach its result, the Court necessarily has had to find within the scope of the Fourteenth Amendment a right that was apparently completely unknown to the drafters of the Amendment. As early as 1821, the first state law dealing directly with abortion was enacted by the Connecticut Legislature. Conn.Stat., Tit. 22, §§ 14, 16. By the time of the adoption of the Fourteenth [p175] Amendment in 1868, there were at least 36 laws enacted by state or territorial legislatures limiting abortion. [n1] While many States have amended or updated [p176] their laws, 21 of the laws on the books in 1868 remain in effect today. [n2] Indeed, the Texas statute struck down today was, as the majority notes, first enacted in 1857, [p177] and "has remained substantially unchanged to the present time."

From Edward Lazarus, law clerk to Justice Harry Blakmun
What, exactly, is the problem with Roe? The problem, I believe, is that it has little connection to the Constitutional right it purportedly interpreted. A constitutional right to privacy broad enough to include abortion has no meaningful foundation in constitutional text, history, or precedent. ...

The proof of Roe's failings comes not from the writings of those unsympathetic to women's rights, but from the decision itself and the friends who have tried to sustain it. Justice Blackmun's opinion provides essentially no reasoning in support of its holding. And in the almost 30 years since Roe's announcement, no one has produced a convincing defense of Roe on its own terms.7

Geoffrey R. Stone, a law clerk to Justice Brennan when Roe was decided, was recently quoted as saying: "Everyone in the Supreme Court, all the justices, all the law clerks knew it was 'legislative' or 'arbitrary.'"

But abortion does not fit neatly among these spheres of privacy. It negates them. Abortion is not akin to childrearing; it's child destruction. A pregnant woman's right to abort nullifies the right to procreate upheld in "Skinner." He no longer has a right to bring children into the world, but only a right to fertilize an ovum, which his mate can then destroy without his knowledge or consent. The fear of government intruding into the marital bedroom by searching for evidence of contraceptive use drove the Griswold Court to find a privacy right for couples to use contraception in the "penumbras, formed by emanations from" various guarantees in the Bill of Rights. But however closely abortion and contraception may be linked in purpose and effect, they are worlds apart in terms of privacy. Abortions do not take place in the sacred precincts of marital bedrooms, preventing them does not require investigation of private sexual behavior, and they involve personnel other than the spouses.

"reversal of Roe would also signal a loss of privacy protections "

The kids may disagree.

Yeah, but they are only kids. Not adults.

This is flatly incorrect.

Roe was decided on substantive due process grounds (i.e. under the 14th Amendment). Griswold, with its famous discussion of penumbras and emanations, was grounded in a right to privacy inferred from other Constitutional rights, including the Fifth and First Amendments - not the Fourteenth. (This can be most obviously seen in the fact that Justices White and Harlan wrote separate opinions arguing for grounding an abortion right in the Fourteenth.) The majority opinion in Roe explicitly disclaims a substantive due process underpinning, and overturning Roe (to the extent it hasn't already been eroded by the Court's subsequent decisions in Planned Parenthood v. Casey and Whole Woman's Health v. Hellerstedt) would in no respect eliminate the "right to privacy."

ugh - in my last sentence, "substantive due process underpinning" should be "penumbral underpinning"

Ugh to you. So, you admit you are wrong, and that you acknowledge Roe was decided on penumbral rights, including the right to privacy.

Do you know what the word "disclaims" means?

Since you're citing law review articles, perhaps you might want to take a look at this extremely famous one :

"In Roe v. Wade, decided January 22, 1973, the Supreme Court - Justice Blackmun speaking for everyone but Justices White and Rehnquist - held unconstitutional Texas's (and virtually every other state's) criminal abortion statute. The broad outlines of its argument are not difficult to make out: 1. The right to privacy, though not explicitly mentioned in the Constitution, is protected by the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth


Next time you cite an article, you should first read it:

From the Yale article you cite:

"What the Court does assert is that there is a general right of privacy granted special protection-that is, protection above and beyond the baseline requirement of "rationality"-by the Fourteenth Amend- ment,58 and that that right "is broad enough to encompass" the right to an abortion. The general right of privacy is inferred, as it was in Griswold v. Connecticut,50 from various provisions of the Bill of Rights manifesting a concern with privacy, notably the Fourth Amend- ment's guarantee against unreasonable searches, the Fifth Amend- ment's privilege against self-incrimination, and the right, inferred from the First Amendment, to keep one's political associations secret."0"

You clearly have a problem with talking something you know nothing about.


Let me quote you from Justice Blackmun's decision in Roe v. Wade, and his reliance on a right to privacy from the penumbral rights in the Constitution and its amendments that were the basis of his decision:

"The Constitution does not explicitly mention any right of privacy. In a line of decisions, however, going back perhaps as far as Union Pacific R. Co. v. Botsford, 141 U. S. 250, 251 (1891), the Court has recognized that a right of personal privacy, or a guarantee of certain areas or zones of privacy, does exist under the Constitution. In varying contexts, the Court or individual Justices have, indeed, found at least the roots of that right in the First Amendment, Stanley v. Georgia, 394 U. S. 557, 564 (1969); in the Fourth and Fifth Amendments, Terry v. Ohio, 392 U. S. 1, 8-9 (1968), Katz v. United States, 389 U. S. 347, 350 (1967), Boyd v. United States, 116 U. S. 616 (1886), see Olmstead v. United States, 277 U. S. 438, 478 (1928) (Brandeis, J., dissenting); in the penumbras of the Bill of Rights, Griswold v. Connecticut, 381 U.S. at 484-485; in the Ninth Amendment, id. at 486 (Goldberg, J., concurring); or in the concept of liberty guaranteed by the first section of the Fourteenth Amendment, see Meyer v. Nebraska, 262 U. S. 390, 399 (1923). These decisions make it clear that only personal rights that can be deemed "fundamental" or "implicit in the concept of ordered liberty," Palko v. Connecticut, 302 U. S. 319, 325 (1937), are included in this guarantee of personal privacy. They also make it clear that the right has some extension to activities relating to marriage, Loving v. Virginia, 388 U. S. 1, 12 (1967); procreation, Skinner v. Oklahoma, 316 U. S. 535, 541-542 (1942); contraception, Eisenstadt v. Baird, 405 U.S. at 453-454; id. at 460, 463-465"

DB, Evidently you haven't read the material, law reviews, or even the case. For the lay audience (for which you must be a part to call it a decision based on substantive due process), however, I will refer you to the material above, as well as this article, critical of Roe, for its reliance on a right to privacy, so generously republished by that great defender of personal liberty, Liberty University:

But, ignore if you wish. You are entitled to your opinion, but you are not entitled to make things up. You are not worth responding to if you do not come forward with facts to support your position.

You might want to read the article you cited, at page 38. Roe is a substantive due process case (i.e. was decided under the Fourteenth Amendment), anyone who's ever attended law school knows this, and I'm done engaging with your bizarre crusade for a factually incorrect interpretation.

I did read the article, as well as the opinion, and the article clearly discusses that it was penumbral rights to privacy, whereas the earlier draft of the opinion relied on a due process claim.

But you saw what I saw. Instead of telling the truth...that Blackmun used the penumbral rights to privacy, including Griswold, chose to lie.

DB, for those not following the thread, and maybe you for not reading, I posted above the text of Roe that articulated the penumbral right to privacy as a basis for the decision. Read the case.

If you ever get a chance to take Bill’s class don’t. Waste of money and time. Unless you really enjoy watching somebody try to lecture while his head is stuck up his ass.

Tyler must have gotten some rather awful and leading letters. From the above, it does seem that some of you want to make Williamson or the Atlantic a clean and clear villain.

Personally I think we should all strive read articles independent of baggage, and to glean what actual content they may have. Not that you have to love every author or publisher.

And now a good joke on the Williamson saga:

Williamson, like Donald Trump before him, deviated from the pro-life party line in calling for penalties for women who get abortions.

The standard narrative is that these women don't realize that they're killing a baby. This is one reason for the flurry of show-her-the-ultrasound laws: contrary to the contention of the pro-choice faction, these are not intended primarily as devices for making abortion more expensive and inconvenient; their authors genuinely believe that women wouldn't undergo abortion if confronted with this incontrovertible evidence of their fetus's humanity.

According to this narrative, women are duped into getting abortions by money-hungry doctors and clinics. It's the right's counterpart to the progressive argument that obesity is the fault of greedy corporations that manipulate the hapless consumer into stuffing himself with their products, and in no way the fault of the consumer himself.

Many if not most professional single women in metropolitan areas are sluts--but also careerists who don't want an unplanned child (prole women just have the baby). Or at least wish they were sluts (guessing the Atlantic staff isn't very hot).

Abortion is an important safety option for them, and they don't like being made to feel bad for any reason.

Kevin Williamson has a fake tough guy act going on (e.g. his infamous piece wishing death on the white working class), so calling for capital punishment of sluts is part and parcel of his schtick.

The left doesn't understand its enemies (even the milquetoast lickspittle ones like Williamson) and are genuinely confused and outraged that there are people opposed to abortion.

Are you willing to condemn men who have sex outside of marriage as "sluts" too?

Exactly, this guy sounds like an incel who is mad those sluts won't get with him.

"Are you willing to condemn men who have sex outside of marriage as “sluts” too?"

If he did would that change your opinion on his opinion? If not, your question is a red herring. Ben Shapiro reports that when he was 17 and writing a column in which he often argued in favor of traditional moral values in dating and sex, that the left mocked him as "Ben the Virgin".

"this guy sounds like an incel"

This is the go-to insult to avoid arguments against traditional morality. Other favorites are insults against the speaker's status, masculinity, attractiveness, and income.

These aren't arguments guys, they are petty status-based insults that signal the recipient and the reader to "get with the program" on the collapse of the traditional family at risk of being labelled a loser.

Sure, but 'sluts' is an argument, not a petty insult. GMAFB.

Okay but 'sluts' wasn't his argument. The argument was that the type of person who is a young, single, irreligious, professional women, live lives that depend on the availability of abortion and that this debate is about more than legality - because these type of women recoil strongly at feeling bad about anything they've done. In fact, most of our popular culture seems to elevate irresponsible, guilt-free behavior, and for these young pop-culture plugged in conformist women, that means access to shame-free abortion. They are deluding themselves, but the DNC is selling that product and they are buying.

I don't know if you've ever talked to a woman who's had an abortion, but the caricature you are describing is pretty rare. Not quite a straw (wo)man but another example of an internet argument about edge cases. Nobody wants to have an abortion. Nobody uses them as simple birth control. But sometimes it's the best choice. As has been mentioned, if you think any abortion = murder, of course you can't agree. But then there's nothing to discuss.

The non-hysterical, moderate, reasonable position is IMO first trimester abortions should be ok, at that point it's nowhere near a 'baby'. After that it gets much trickier, I tend to think after the 3rd month they should not be allowed, except for extreme and rare cases like the mother's health or if only then do you discover the fetus harbors some horrible, life-ruining condition.

>Nobody wants to have an abortion. Nobody uses them as simple birth control.

Utterly false.

Tell that to the women who have had 5-10 of them.

Name two of those women. Gotta stop getting your 'facts' from Infowars.

Really bad satire by a rare Scandinavian with poor English skills and/or sense of humor?

On the odd assortment of abortion law and enforcement, I think it all falls out of the division of belief. Fully a third of Americans think abortion should be legal in all circumstances, half in "some," and only 20% say never.

That "never" minority says a lot of things that seem crazy to the other 80% and that should not be surprising. Fringe beliefs cannot continue to exist without a mountain of self-righteousness.

So these messy laws represent an approximation of our collective beliefs.

"Fringe beliefs cannot continue to exist without a mountain of self-righteousness."

Citation needed

Isn't 20% approval about as low as anything goes in US politics?

I guess libertarians poll lower, but they've got the self-righteous disdain of democracy wired as a self-protection.

"Fully a third of Americans think abortion should be legal in all circumstances"

A third of Americans think AR-15 based abortions at 9 cm dilation should be legal? A third of Americans think cheese-shredder based abortions with 3-d imaging videos with overlaid brain scans demonstrating pain, to be posted on the internet for profit should be legal? No. A third of Americans aren't smart enough to think about what "all" means. Granted, some portion of that third is actually Democrats who are simply closed-minded signallers.

"Fringe beliefs cannot continue to exist without a mountain of self-righteousness."

Yes, #shoutyourabortion, brought to us by the DNC, is fringe and is many mountains of self-righteousness.

Approach it with less anger. In a three choice question people will choose the one that feels closest. I'd expect that many people in both of the "absolute" positions have some flexibility in real life. It's just that the "strong" position is the one they want to take publicly.

IOW, probably even more than 50% functionally believe "legal in only certain circumstances."

Thomas is a pretty angry poster, so maybe not possible for him.

The Atlantic wanted a "conservative" to bash Trump. Just as CNN constantly looks for "conservatives" to balance their panels. It was a charade and the Atlantic's bad luck that they hired a guy who wouldn't stay to the script. They wanted to claim they have balanced views, i.e., extremes from the right and left who want to bash Trump. They didn't want dissenting opinions, they wanted a mob to lynch Trump.

I don't much care, but it is a pattern that the dishonest media seems to repeat over and over these days.

But was he right on Trump? Yes, yes he was. Whatever else he was wrong on, he was right on that.

So it's not all 100% about Trump any more.


The reality show continues.

It is not usually this blatant, no.

Anonymous, that last tweet isn't really problematic. A guy contributes to the inauguration fund, helping defray government costs with private money, why shouldn't he attend? And it didn't prevent Trump from sanctioning him. There's plenty of corruption with Trump but this seems pretty normal.

I think it connects to "what was Trump's view of the world, and what did he think he'd do?"

Trump had been "palling around with oligarchs" (to borrow and bend a phrase) for years. His buddies are authoritarian strong men bending state administration to their will. In Saudi, in Russia, in the Philippines. The things he likes about Xi are not really about democratic government.

He didn't pull it off here because there weren't so many people ready to swear personal loyalty to an oligarch over loyalty to the Constitution. And maybe Trump and Viktor Vekselberg got more Constitution and less oligarchy than they were expecting.

Indeed. And whether it's a mob, or a mass of individuals, a lynching, figuratively, is what Trump needs. And what America needs.

It doesn't seem that too many people believe Trump anymore, and despite some fearful folk who say this is the most dangerous time, I think things are getting safer.

Trump seems bent on destroying what base he has left. Markets down, tariffs up, and that is soon to be felt in red state manufacturing.

"Safer..." Safe from what?
It's not like he surrounds himself with exemplaries or competents... In fact, the most qualified want nothing to do with Trump.

Anything Trump has passed policy wise can be easily rolled back by a Democratic President, and Trump seems bent on there being one. He never figured out that the easiest way to win majority approval was to have majoritarian positions.

The greatest danger to life and limb is war in Korea or Iran, but I think Trump is sufficiently marginalized that no one would go along with him there.

So we suffer through this farce (loudly, in order to keep it in check) and then it's over.

So we can all agree. The media is intent on forming an angry mob to attack Trump, by whatever means they can.

I noticed a few mentions of the words Kevin Williamson & Atlantic in the past day or two, but I thought that Kevin Williamson was a basketball player and that "Atlantic" in that case had something to with the "Atlantic Conference" or something like that.

Add this article to the list:

Tyler, you need to read Doe v. Bolton, the companion case to Roe v. Wade. Once you do you’ll understand why there isn’t any practical limit on abortion. The second trimester limit the Supremes pretended to giveth in the latter they’d already takeneth away in the former.

He (and you, it seems) should actually read Planned Parenthood v. Casey and Whole Woman's Health v. Hellerstedt, which actually supply the current legal standard for abortion regulation.

Obviously, "a woman's health", and "an undue burden", are objectively, measurably different standards (snark). The latter as you surely know was just a fig leaf for a narrow window of political debate briefly opened then hastily closed. It is a debate the Death Cult of the Left, boot-like on a face, is attempting to suppress - forever.

Very wise advice from TC on this. Avoid judging the petty drama and just try to read good op-eds and political analysis.

For me this is a story of redemption, for Kevin Williamson and women who have abortions. Recognition of a wrong, contrition, and then acceptance.

As a Masthead subscriber and a woman, I disagree with his dismissal. Jeff should have done his homework prior to the hire. Rich will gladly welcome him back to NR.

Having lived in both blue and red America I am accustomed to views I disagree with. Racism, sexism, anti-elitism. If I boycotted or smeared every person I felt deserved tarring then I would be very busy. Reason and persuasion are more effective tools.

Well said and well-thought. And I wish that were a communicable disease.

Wow so I hear Kevin Williamson got fired for claiming the libertarian moment has passed.

Of course, Tyler is right that there are many other issues besides the Williamson/Atlantic affair that are worthy of your attention. But there is social value in paying extra attention to the *affaire du jour*; and the more “emotional energy” you have, the more you can afford to devote to such transient matters.

The only legal/political resolution to this issue is that there should be state by state referendums on the legality of abortion that require voters who participate to be women. It would be interesting if triggered conservatives like Williamson claim a different gender status.

Can they only kill baby girls then?

Women are split pretty evenly

we could do the same thing for infanticide, only mothers can vote on whether mothers can kill their own children.

So only husbands get to decide whether they kill their wives, and vice versa? At what point do you stop?

At the point when you realize a first trimester fetus is not actually a person.

Dem N**@#&* ain't peepul!

It's very Vulcan to dodge the Outrage of the Day, which is also low brow compared to ruminating on gradual but widespread problems of political economy and such. But I suspect it comes from the same place that decides politics is icky. But those not afraid to engage politics - and who yes, debase themselves intellectually in the process - are the ones who move history. Opting out puts your values at a disadvantage.

John Brennan not opting out.

It's nice not to have to do business with people you find disagreeable.

The Atlantic's hiring and firing of Williamson comes a few months after Goldberg & Co. shut down their Disqus Forums for much or most published content (exceptions prevailed prior to that action: Coates and a handful of others were protected from public vitriol by never having Disqus Forums appear under their bylines).

Now EIC Goldberg hires and fires "a conservative". (This is the same Jeff Goldberg who enjoyed a close working relationship with disgraced public TV icon Charlie Rose until his firing, the same Jeff Goldberg who appeared on Rose's programs at least twice in 2017 prior to Rose's downfall, and the same Jeff Goldberg who seems never to've published the first article on Rose, his career, or his formerly close working relationship with The Atlantic [Rose was active in The Atlantic's "Aspen Ideas Festival" over the years].)

I see no "profile in courage" here. The retreat of our effete elites continues apace.

I guess it would be clever if hiring-and-firing was the whole troll from the beginning. Look at these "conservatives," they want to hang women!

The Atlantic comment forums were overrun with trolls, and had been since c. 2012. The Atlantic failed utterly as moderating those forums. When even a game of Thrones piece attracts nutcases condemning the show as "Jewish homosexual propaganda" the commentary has become useless for any sort of rational dialogue.

TNC definitely had a disqus comment section. James Fallows has always been comment-free.

The final two years or so I ever checked out The Atlantic's Disqus Forums I think I saw fewer than a dozen TNC pieces with Disqus Forums appearing beneath his byline: whenever they DID appear, they were closed to comments in VERY short order (as "within hours" or "within twenty-four hours"), whereas most other Atlantic scribes' pieces' Disqus Forums remained up long after their pieces appeared (months later).

Maya Angelou was once paid a handsome salary by Wake Forest University to offer occasional courses. I think she offered one course a year and was paid something along the lines of $130,000 to do so (ca. 1993). Two features of her classes: (1) she had no office on campus; the campus phone directory did list a location for her office, but that particular room was a utility closet; and (2) enrolling in her courses was by invitation only; you applied to enroll and she interviewed you.

I think the same principle's in operation.

I actually never read the articles, and instead just skipped to the comments. They were much more interesting.

The primary point of all this reading, thinking and mind broadening is to develop the mental and moral muscles needed to fairly consider complex issues. Exhorting readers to build such muscles is well and good in general. But it rings a little hollow in the context of dodging a question. Less allusions and more straightforwardness might have helped here - "this fracas is not a good vehicle for exploring abortion issues for x, y and z reasons, public opinion on abortion is incoherent, and intellectuals are not much more coherent than the public."

I think Tyler is talking sense here. You and I and many other readers on this blog have perfectly understood what he meant, and that you summarize well in you las sentence. On the Atlantic/Williamson story proper there is not much to say.

"Many of you are asking my opinion of what happened. I’d like to...not answer that at all."

I'm not surprised he ducked the question, given that he is lying that "many" people begged for his "wisdom" on the subject.

I’ve also never read a good piece, from any point of view, on how these laws should be enforced, given that a particular law is in place (I have read pieces on what the laws should be).

This is not a hard problem. Start with the penalties for infanticide and work backwards. Is infanticide premeditated murder? For desperate woman (who may be suffering from post-partum depression), no -- we properly treat it as a lesser crime. But if anybody else kills a newborn, it's murder, straight up. I think there is relatively broad agreement on this on both sides of the political spectrum.

OK, so abortion. The first step is easy. Killing a viable 3rd trimester baby (rather than delivering it by c-section) is equivalent to killing a newborn. For the desperate woman, it should be treated less than murder depending on circumstances. For the abortionist? Murder. First trimester? First trimester pregnancies are quite likely to end in miscarriages. Societies around the world and throughout history do not and have not treated early miscarriages as child deaths. They are not named, there are no funerals, etc. So abortion should be legally allowed. Also, keep in mind that the alternative is to do a criminal investigation of every miscarriage. I know of more than one woman who's had half a dozen or more. I can't imagine adding a criminal investigation to that anguish.

What about the second trimester? Here we have to ask, "Why is it wrong to kill a newborn -- because of what it is or because of what it will become". The answer is 'a bit of both but mostly the latter'. Thought experiment -- imagine a newborn with a birth defect. It appears healthy and, indeed, if cared for will live for a decade or more. But it will never grow or learn or become anything other than what it is at birth. Now, would it be more or less wrong to kill it than my dog? My answer is that killing the dog is worse -- my dog has more thoughts, memories, self-awareness, personal relationships, etc than the always-newborn could ever have. So killing a baby is murder mostly because of its potential. That gives us the answer to the second trimester. It is nearly as wrong to kill a second trimester baby that has a high probability of making it to term and is close to viability as a 3rd trimester baby. The baby's right to exist, at that point, outweighs a few more weeks of inconvenience on the part of the pregnant woman.

This is a good summary of my beliefs. It's practical, moderate, thoughtful. And thus will not satisfy most of the pro-choice and pro-life partisans. To them it's much more black and white.

Although I will say more pro-life people understand that abortion shouldn't be allowed late in the term if possible, while hardly any pro-life people think it should be allowed at any time. How could they, if they think any abortion is murder?

That's the hard part, when it the baby a baby, not just a clump of cells? It is a very difficult question. The third trimester seems obvious, the second mostly too. I understand the position of the pro life partisan better than the pro choice, just because it's precautionary.

I have mixed feeling on the first trimester, and believe in exceptions for rape and mother's health. And I admit that the rape exception doesn't square with my beliefs that the baby should pay for the father's sins. It's hard.

Agreed, it's not an easy one. I just think it's reasonable to say in the first trimester, it's not really a baby as it's nowhere close to being viable.

The problem is that there's not an actual clear line anywhere provided by nature. It's one fertilized egg, and then it divides and differentiates until it's a tiny person in your arms. It seems kind of intuitive that killing that fertilized egg isn't as bad as killing the tiny person in your arms, but there's not a natural place to draw a line between them.

I think of this as being a bit like the situation Schelling talks about w.r.t. two armies advancing but not wanting to fight--if there were a nice natural boundary like a river somewhere on the map, both armies would likely stop there. Since there's not a natural boundary anywhere except conception or birth, there's not an easy place for the two sides to converge on as a reasonable answer.

Agreed, that is indeed part of what makes this so hard. So that means we do have to use a kludge and pick an arbitrary line in the sand, like the first trimester. Not every problem can be solved with deduction from First Principles. Abortion is a clear example, because if you think any abortion, even of that fertilized egg, is a murder, then you can never support a kludge.

Baby or clump of cells? ... Strikes me as just an engineered phrasing as pro choice and pro life. The terms themselves are chosen to imply an answer.

I applaud the discussion about potential... Destroying the potential of life is equivalent of destroying the life (imho) so the question really is 'at what point, and how do we tell, is the pregnancy and fetus enough of a potential to be protected as we do other lives?' Against which I could see answers ranging from X semester to the moment of birth to (when I am especially cross with my children) 25 years old.

Of course, we can also ask a second question, which is under what circumstances is it ok for the mother (and or father and or medical staff) to choose to murder?' After all, there are many settings in our social system where we explicitly acknowledge murder is OK (such as self defense, or armed conflict by our military forces)... In other words, even if an abortion is legitimately a murder, it may still be acceptable for that murder to occur, even a social good (such as to prevent a vegetable from living for decades as great cost, or to save the life of the mother).

None of these are easy moral conversations to have, and people who would rather avoid them will resist the conversation (back to the clump of cells or its all 100% evil murder frame)

I'm going to assume this was a typo and you are claiming that "more pro-choice people understand that abortion shouldn't be allowed late in the term if possible." and all I can tell you is that you don't know anything about the abortion lobby. As viability creeps earlier and earlier with new techniques and technologies, look to PP, NARAL, NOW, and the DNC to oppose restrictions on killing viable babies. They will argue that a c-section is too much trouble to save a life that they created, a few weeks more gestation is too much trouble to save a life that they created, and worst of all, that allowing the life that they created to exist will forever burden them with guilt. On the latter, there will be op-eds written in the NYT to sympathetic audiences. If you don't believe me just wait, or you can ask these 8 and 9 figure organizations how they feel about fetuses who survived abortion attempts and lived to testify against convenience abortions - they feel pure hatred.

That was a typo, I meant pro-choice there.

The rabid pro-choice side is as unreasonable as the rabid pro-life side, sure. Their aim is to always push back against ANY restrictions because they are afraid of a slippery slope leading to a ban. It's the exact same stupidity that animates the NRA. I am not a fan of either, as slippery slope arguments basically mean you can't change anything because it's a first step to something more.

Arbitrarily picking first trimester for abortions of choice (leaving out later abortions for the very rare cases of mother's health or late discovery of fetal damage) is the sensible way to go. If you are raped, or simply cannot have a child, you need to decide to end itt early on or tough luck.

I'm pro-choice, and I appreciate your thoughts and views and mach up pretty well with mine. There are (many) extremists who seem to take up all the oxygen in this debate (and it seems more so than in most others), but I hope that centrism prevails.
That said, I know of NO ONE who celebrates a child's "conception day." Probably people do. I know of no one who celebrates, "viability day." Probably no one does.
It's not hypocrisy, of course, but for those who are steadfastly against abortion, at any point, on the grounds that it's killing a person, celebrating conception would seem to logically follow...
That said, the day of birth can always be celebrated, too.

I think it is interesting that while apparently Glenn, msgkings, and myself all agree with Slocum's take, the actual debate itself, both here and in popular media and culture. Personally I blame the feminist movement, which I have always found to be vicious and hateful from the first time I listened to a professor of communication's take (as a Moot Court adviser) on "common-sense abortion control" like mandatory wait periods and ultrasounds. I don't think Glenn and msgkings are aware of how their tribe would react to their ('misogynistic') opinions on abortion rights.

First sentence...?
Blame who you like, Thomas. I tend not to blame an entire and large group for one (shrill) voice... And I'll presume that says more about you than it does about them.

I'm really not part of any tribe, or certainly not how you imply. I certainly don't claim to be. And as to the hypothetical, which I try not to truck in, I presume you know. And you're right: I have no idea.
Yes, I'm quite glad it's (still). I'm pro-choice, but some of it is out of pure pragmatism. Abortions would continue, legal or not, and they're far safer (even with the right-wing crazies) with it being legal.
Granted, I'm not religious; far too certain conception is far from being a viable person. I'm also for marijuana legality and legalizing prostitution, for many of the same practical reasons... And I don't judge
those who disagree.

...glad it's (still) legal...fridays.

"Blame who you like, Thomas. I tend not to blame an entire and large group for one (shrill) voice"

Maybe you haven't read what you've been writing.

"Abortions would continue, legal or not, and they’re far safer (even with the right-wing crazies) with it being legal."

Sure, since the right wing crazies are hardly dangerous. Also the abortions are really dangerous for the fetus.

Because you are a blinkered tribalist, you think we're all in tribes. I'm not, in fact most of my posts here are about how the whole polarized tribal thing is a disaster. So save it, Thomas.

Here is everything you need to know about abortion restrictions in practice, at least for pregnant adults:
The opinion in Roe v. Wade seems to say that states can restrict abortions more and more as time goes by. However, it also makes clear that an abortion to protect the life or health of the mother can never be made illegal. Supreme Court decisions make it clear that "health" includes mental health and that the decision about whether an abortion is necessary to protect the mother's mental health is entirely up to the woman and her doctor and can never be overruled by anyone else. So, putting all these rulings together, if a pregnant woman can find a doctor willing to perform an abortion, she can have that abortion and neither she nor the doctor can be punished for that. They just have to agree that giving birth would endanger the mother's mental health. However, very few doctors are willing to abort healthy nine-month-old fetuses if giving birth would not really endanger the mother's health. In practice, therefore, the only bar to very-late-term abortions is the potential difficulty and perhaps expense of finding a doctor willing to perform them. The law does not stand in the way, and laws purporting to do so are make-believe.

You are mistaken. If someone is pro-choice, then by definition they are saying that the "enforcement" is to do nothing.

I'm reading that arch "campus" novel TC recommended recently (I think he did anyway ...).

Of the [very pattern of a] university president:

"He was a labyrinth in which no one could manage to remain for even a minute, because there were in it no wrong turnings."

What's so bad about emotional reactions? Try it some time?

Come now, Prof. Cowen has thrown the occasional temper tantrum here. Like breaking bunches of comment threads deleting what he did not approve of (assuming that it was not the work of a product manager, of course).

An economist gets emotional:

It's not that different from my local newspapers, who feel obliged to hire a token outspoken "conservative" columnist or two, to try and reduce the complaints coming from the local right wingers about the supposedly left-wing bias of the actually center-right editorial staff.

Inevitably, the local columnists who step up into the role are and unable to write coherently, think clearly, or hold an intellectual thread from column to column, and basically regurgitate whatever they heard that morning on talk radio, twitter feed, etc. We all just sort of ignore/tolerate the bellowing and bloviating, not unlike the jerkoff brother inlaw at Thanksgiving dinner who seems constitutionally unable to shut up long enough even for the family to say grace. I am sure their personal twitter and facebook accounts are horrifying as well, if anyone bothered to check them out.

That the Times et all seem unable to obtain any stronger talent at the national level is unsurprising, and a little bit tragic.

the actually center-right editorial staff.

You give no one any indication that you could ever offer a valid definition of 'center right'

Art Deco

You give no indication that you could handle it.

You fancy I'm going to have an emotional meltdown in reaction to a clueless remark from you? That's a fairly steep conceit, McMike.

And yet it is clear I am already under your skin.

So you are just going to reply here to tell me that you are above replying to me

212 comments on Mr. Williamson's employment prospects. I had no idea he had so many relatives interested in his welfare.

I believe Roe vs. Wade specified up until the 22nd to 24th week for the relevant right, and as of a few years ago eleven states had imposed legal restrictions.

Thousands of partial-birth abortions are performed every year. There are no state-enforced restrictions on the practice other than those which apply to any medical or surgical or dental practice. And regulatory regimes can be verrry lax. See the career of Kermit Gosnell.

The firing of Williamson says far more about The Atlantic than about Williamson.

Yes, Williamson's opinion on abortion is extreme, but, Ta-Nehisi Coates opinions on race are also pretty extreme. And, although Coates seems to write little that's not about race, Williamson very seldom writes on abortion.

In any case, whatever his other qualities, Williamson does know how to write quality, engaging non-fiction articles of a sort that are, aesthetically at least, worlds beyond the politically-correct hackwork that seems to be The Atlantic's most frequently published content. See, for example,

I guess I'm not surprised that someone at The Atlantic panicked in the face of the increasingly common SJW-eruption; nonetheless, the firing seems more a loss to The Atlantic than to WIlliamson.

"Ta-Nehisi Coates opinions on race are also pretty extreme"


"The firing of Williamson says far more about The Atlantic than about Williamson."

Perhaps but who is Williamson and why should his opinion matter?

There seems to be two arguments here.

One, a national 'ideas magazine' should try to represent the different intellectual groups in the discussion at a given moment. Hence The Atlantic should probably consider a ten page article by a noted climate change skeptic but need not bother wasting its ink on flat earth theory by the world's best advocate of it.

Two, a national 'ideas magazine' should try to represent interesting ideas that 'new idea terrain'. In that case a really good ten page article on why the earth is really flat may indeed be the better choice than a survey of climate change skeptic thinking An offbeat, eccentric idea (like "we should re-establish monarchy" or "hey flat earthers have a point!") might be outside the box enough to be stimulative and entertaining.

It seems to me Williamson is more like the flat-earth side of things. He doesn't represent mainstream pro-life thinking so he isn't the guy to read to 'get to know the right wing'.

Coates calls for monetary slavery reparations doesn't he? That's pretty extreme. I suppose someday it might not be but right now it is.

Tax and spend is less extreme than killing people for abortions. Who does that or wants to do that? Not even Wahabbists, right?

Coates calls for monetary slavery reparations doesn't he? That's pretty extreme. I suppose someday it might not be but right now it is.

I actually find it hard to say. Reading it seems to me like his original article was less about actually pushing for a reparations plan but articulating a case for reparations...namely the idea that slavery, Jim Crow, etc. are all 'ancient history' that have little or no impact on the present state of affairs is entirely wrong.

He seems to specifically shun proposing actual reparations plans...which do run into a problem where Rosanne's fictional TV family ends up being taxed to pay Bill Cosby's fictional family. However the fact would be a concentrated attempt to deal with inequality would act as a form of reparations to the degree that blacks suffer due to drawing the short end of the stick when it comes to US history.

In terms of this debate the answer to your my request you provided falls short. Coates article and followup generated a lot of discussion by reasonable thinking. Williamson's call for killing women who have abortions has failed to generate much of any discussion by either pro-lifers or the larger political culture.

I agree this indicates that something is deeply incoherent in pro-life groups. They are unable to follow through on the consequences of their premises, yet demand others accept their position by following their premises. Their structural faults can only be ignored by intellectual building inspectors for so long.

The thing that looks pretty bad for The Atlantic is that they:

a. Hired him as an opinion writer.

b. Suddenly "discovered" (after a Twitter mob demanded that he be fired) that his opinions were outside the range of opinions they were willing to accept.

The only way I can interpret what happened there is that either they didn't bother reading much by Williamson before they hired him as an opinion writer (so that they could be shocked when it turned out he had offensive opinions), or they just spinelessly gave in to a Twitter mob and "discovered" a reason to fire him to appease that mob. Neither one really looks great for the magazine.

Or there isn't much coherency on the right these days hence not very easy to secure anyone to represent them. I recall hearing about how CNN had this problem during the election, trying to find coherent people to represent Trump's side during their 24-7 discussion/commentary and going deeper and deeper into the barrel.

Who should a magazine get to represent the right these days? Richard Spencer? Steve Bannon? Rosanne Barr? The problem with picking any of them is you get 10% of thinking that might be said to drive 'the other side of the spectrum' and 90% personal fetishes, obsessions and quirks that only represent the ego or insanity of the individual.

And the Left fails the ideological Turing test.

Why, they can't even find any "coherent" opponents - they looked all the way down the corridor and back. Their thought is indeed the ONLY reasonable position!

Speaking of intellectual consistency....

I assume that The Atlantic, as a private employer, is free to fire anyone they want for whatever reason they want whenever they want, and are not even obligated to explain themselves. We can imagine that, as a rational economic enterprise, the owners or their agents determined that continued employment of that writer was not beneficial to their profitability. So they got rid of him.

Hooray for unfettered capitalism!

I do find myself irked; however, with the entitlement-minded forces of conservative political correctness, that insisted that the magazine employ a writer outside the magazine's editorial product niche, simply for the sake of diversity.

When you can understand the distinction between (1) a complaint that a particular subculture cannot tolerate debate and (2) an insistence that person x has an enforceable entitlement to be employed by members of that subculture, you get back to us. For now, you're at the kid's table.

What I understand is that the right can dish it out but they can't take it

That's not what you imagine. That's your talking point du jour.

And apparently you are my stalking troll du jour.

No, merely your critic. You want a stalker, you have to run afoul of the moderators, and they'll provide one for you.

I believe that in your mind, ad hominem and content-less one-line snark passes as criticism.

If one truly believes that abortion is murder, than how can you NOT think that the same penalties that apply to murder, should also apply to abortion? What is the meaning of IS, anyway?

I think about the same thing when I consider that people who purport to love and follow the teachings of Jesus somehow do not seem to love their neighbors, or turn the other cheek, and, in advocating the death penalty, advocate violating the Commandments.

Jeez Chris,

People can't even hold an intellectually consistent opinion on the SAME issue from day to day.

Now you want them to be consistent across different topics? GLWT

and, in advocating the death penalty, advocate violating the Commandments.

That's not the commandment, Chris. As for the status of capital punishment, see the writings of Fr. Avery Dulles, SJ.

Yes, I am aware, although unimpressed, by the various theological contortions used to say, "Thou shalt not kill" doesn't mean exactly that, or that hating gays or apostates or whatever is cool with Christ.

And never too far from cooking up an excuse to stone or burn a witch

You're aware of nothing that cannot be written on a cocktail napkin.

It is becoming increasingly difficult to define the hard boundary between political conservatism and blatant political racism, misogyny, and so forth. There’s a fundamental belief in the a natural structure of inherent in egalitarianism rooted in some set of categories (wealth, race, gender sexuality, citizenship, religion) that seems to be at the core of every conservative thinker’s philosophy. It is often hidden deep beneath brilliance and good arguments that often challenge unexamined assumptions of liberals (arguments like these made me a 2nd amendment liberal) but it is always there, lurking, waiting to claw back whatever concessions people belonging the the unequal categories have won through struggle.

I prefer the term, "bio-cultural realist", myself.

Why can Ruth Marcus write that she’d abort a Down syndrome child and keep her job, but a month later Kevin Williamson loses his for saying that women that have abortions should be subject to homicide laws, including capital punishment? What is the point of an editorial is you can’t have differing opinions

What is the point of an editorial if you have a mélange of opinions, some of which involve believing hundreds of thousands of women deserve to be killed? Sorry, born women.

"Hi, I'm William Kevinson, and I have many interesting ideas - pay me to disseminate them."
"Great! Bring back slavery! Make breaking-on-the-wheel the penalty for getting an abortion!"
"Er, look, on second thoughts, we've decided you'd be a better fit elsewhere. Maybe as a commenter at Marginal Revolution."
"I thought you guys were cool, man, but you're just like all the rest! Snowflakes! You can't handle the truth!"
"Well, it's more that we're inexplicably willing to pay for certain sorts of annoying right-wing trolling, but will draw the line if you're advocating stuff that sounds like it comes from the Committee in the Handmaid's Tale."
"Help, help, I'm being oppressed. See the violence inherent in the system..."

New type fonts, same old baloney

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