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No. of Recommendations: 14
Babyfrog's excellent "rational" post prompted me to present my own thoughts on the issues he discussed.

I view these controversial issues through a prism of competing individual rights. One person's right ends where another begins. Also, certain rights supercede others. Looking at each case individually:

Abortion

First of all, I want to express my disgust with the common use of phrases such as "pro-life" or "pro-choice." These are meaningless labels which apply to almost all civlized people. They are a distilled form of propaganda. They vilify the opposition which by implication are anti-life or anti-choice. This propaganda is furthered by a lazy or incompetent media which uses these euphemisms. Similarly, I don't think most people can be accurately described as pro-abortion. Most agree that abortion is not a desirable outcome. The only truly accurate terms for the two opposing camps would be pro-legal abortion or anti-legal abortion.

The crux of the debate is the competing rights of the mother and the fetus. Schooled in the horrors of back-alley abortions, my younger self accepted the premise that legal abortion on demand was clearly the lesser of two evils. With time, I have backed off on this position. First of all, I value the sanctity of all life and cannot deny the basic fact that a fetus IS a human life. It is a developing and dependent human life but so are infants. Secondly, I recognize the wide availability of contraception and the presence of other options such as adoption. On the other hand, this is NOT a black and white issue. There are cases where the mother's rights outweigh fetal rights. These include cases of rape or incest where the mother's psychological health is gravely endangered and of course, cases where the mother's physical health is seriously at risk. Unfortunately, this may depend on individual judgements. Adding to the confusion is the question of whether early alternatives such as "emergency contraception" or the "morning after pill" are abortion. Ultimately, in the long run, gray areas may be unavoidable.

Drugs

My initial youthful position was one espousing full legalization of drugs. With time, I have come to realize that one person's use of a mind-altering substance may impede the rights of others. Simply put, the use of certain "recreational" drugs results in actions which can endanger the lives of others. Moreover, as you point out, with addiction or intoxication, the drug user is no longer a "rational actor" making rational choices. The most problematic part of drug policy is inconsistency due to politicization. I find it rather bizarre that arguably the most dangerous and addictive drugs are also the only legal ones. Tobacco and alcohol contribute to the MAJORITY of serious illness in my place of work, the emergency department. Do I see illness or death related to marijuana use? Never. How many deaths are attributable to marijuana use every year? Zero. Yet marijuana remains illegal even when medically indicated while truly lethal drugs remain legal. Even narcotics (essentially different forms of heroin) are approved for medical use. I would propose that science and medicine drive drug policy - not politics. I no longer favor complete decriminalization of drug use but would suggest that a focus on prevention and treatment would be more constructive. How about broad drug testing in high schools? How about spending money on medical research for solutions such as vaccines (which produce an immune reaction to certain drugs) rather than on more jails? How about deploying our "drug warriors" in the area of homeland defense or security? Ultimately, such an approach may yield greater liberty than one that jails people for using a politically unpopular drug, seizes their property before trial, or even shoots down planes on the mere suspicion of drug trafficking.

Mental Illness

My position is essentially the same as yours. I recognize the potential abuse of forcing the mentally ill to comply with medical treatment. On the other hand, the mental illness of an individual directly impacts the well-being and sanity of anybody near him or her. Any relative of a mentally ill individual can attest to this. I would also add that current laws which guard the privacy of the mentally ill are often counterproductive. Family members who must deal with the terrible consequences of a mentally ill relative's noncompliance are often denied basic information regarding medical treatment or diagnosis.
Their rights need to be considered as well.

Suicide

The irreversible nature of this act compels me to favor a continued ban. On the other hand, I am not adamantly opposed to those who favor exceptions in the terminally ill with chronic severe pain.

The Patriot Act

This is a difficult issue since I have not read this voluminous piece of legislation. My biggest concern is the dereliction of duty of politicians who also have not read it. Increased surveillance by government seems unavoidable in a modern age of terrorists who might wield potent conventional, nuclear, biological or chemical weapons. A lack of this surveillance would almost certainly lead to a major catastrophe. Very simply, we need to weigh rights of privacy against the right not to be exterminated. My current understanding is that certain parts of the act are critical to preventing terrorist acts. We need a healthy debate among our politicians on which provisions are necessary and which guidelines protecting civil liberties should accompany these.

I doubt that these opinions would hew the Libertarian party line but believe that my positions are consistent with a philosophy of optimizing individual rights and freedoms. On government spending, I am decidedly libertarian in most respects. Unneccessary government programs have become gargantuan as people to continue to vote for more and more "free" benefits. The tax code has become a complex obstruction to economic freedom and social freedom. It is used as a tyrannical tool by politicians to reward some constituents and punish others. Both major parties are guilty in this respect although Republicans marginally less so. In areas of social liberty, I am also decidedly libertarian. I oppose the Democratic Party's platform of government-sponsored racism and unlimited civil litigation which threatens our basic liberties. Government should not judge me or classify me by race. Government should not empower other citizens to use the civil legal system as means of random legal extortion. Civil legal action should not proceed without VERY good cause and significant financial risk for those who drag others into court based on uncertain or weak premises. I also vehemently oppose the Republican Party's efforts to bring religion into government and legislate morality.

So, although I may not be a full-fledged Libertarian, I generally vote Libertarian and would prefer a more viable option to the two major parties. I would prefer an honest constructive debate on these issues rather than the usual negative partisan and personal bickering and shameless pandering to special interests by Democrats and Republicans.

Thanks for indulging me.

wolvy

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