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Child benefits as universal benefits
A quick writing roundup to close out the week.
At National Review, I have an essay arguing that child benefits are not a matter of taking from childless adults to give to parents. Child benefits are the most universal benefits a government can offer.
Whether you have children of your own or not, any program that addresses the needs of children will cover every American born from the time of enactment, since everyone begins life as a child. […]
Attempts to peel children away into their own special-interest group represent a false anthropology. Those making this argument imagine that adults have no continuity of identity with the children they once were. Adults who say they “hate children” or don’t want to be around them aren’t expressing an aesthetic taste but a certain degree of self-hatred. A world that isn’t welcoming to children cannot be a humane world, since childhood is part of what it means to be human.
I try to think about where to place essays. My usual goal is to fit a piece into a publication that just barely matches. I want to make my argument to people who will hear me out, but have reservations about the argument. I’m grateful NR let me make the pitch to their mixed, sometimes libertarian-leaning readers.
In that, I’m in alliance with Erika Bachiochi and Patrick Brown, both profiled in this article about pro-lifers pushing for pro-family policy.
I also published a piece with Deseret this week, responding to widely circulated photos from My Abortion Network. The advocacy made the case that early abortions (up to 9 weeks) involve children too small to be seen by the naked eye—a claim that doesn’t match the “blueberry!” “raspberry!” “cherry!” excitement of pregnancy apps like the Bump.
[The article describes the process of an aspiration abortion, and also discusses looking at fetal tissue after miscarriage. I won’t quote those parts in this email].
I was frustrated by their claims, which are contradicted by my own experience and other moms who miscarry. And I was frustrated by the way the desire to deny that your opponent has anything on their side tempts us to distort plain facts:
It’s common to argue that nothing supports your opponent’s position, but this is rarely true. Claiming that you are right is claiming that your account of the world is the best fit for the evidence we have, not that your opponent’s views are utterly baseless or in bad faith. Going too far forces you to deny the plain truth if you think, viewed in isolation, it might give aid and comfort to the enemy.
To its credit, My Abortion Network says clearly that the photos don’t settle the moral argument. Eventually, a small figure is discernible, and the group said, “We did not want our message to undermine our unequivocal support for patients who make this decision at later stages when there is a visible embryo or fetus.” Their argument is that abortion is always morally licit, and the images of the body have no moral claim on the viewer. It should have been easier to concede that a body can be discerned earlier.
It’s always worth asking what the strongest evidence for your opponent’s position is. It helps remind you that people don’t act primarily out of sheer perversity, but for the sake of a perceived good.
Asking what that perceived good makes it easier to have a fruitful disagreement. Often, looking for that good (and the evidence that led my opponent there) shifts me from simply arguing they’re wrong to one of these kinds of arguments instead:
The perceived good isn’t good—our disagreement is at the level of what we should desire and why
The perceived good is a lesser good—they’re not wrong to attend to it, but they’re letting it eclipse a higher good
We both agree on the good in question, but disagree practically about how to attend to it
I’m the one who is wrong, on any or all of the three counts above!