Ellen Goodman’s Incoherence on Freedom of Conscience

Whose Conscience Rules?,” by Ellen Goodman, Boston Globe, 10 April 2005, http://www.boston.com/news/globe/editorial_opinion/oped/articles/2005/04/10/whose_conscience_rules/.

Collounsbury seems to be alone in being able to sensible defend forcing pharmacists to serve patients they don’t want to. His arguments are coherent. Ellen Goodman’s aren’t

How much further do we want to expand the reach of the individual conscience? Does the person at the checkout counter have a right to refuse to sell condoms? Does the bus driver have a right to refuse to let off customers in front of a Planned Parenthood clinic?


A clerk can refuse service to any customer. The clerk’s boss can fire the clerk. It’s freedom of contract, and it is an important part of America. Goodman might have attacked it on technical grounds, as Collounsbury did. Instead she can’t get her facts straight.

Yes, we want people to have a strong moral compass. But they have to coexist with others whose compasses point in another direction. In the debate over conscience clauses, Frances Kissling of Catholics for a Free Choice says properly, ”There is very little recognition that the conscience of the woman is as important, let alone more important, than the conscience of the provider.

This is a post-Liberal opinion. America was founded on the belief in equal rights. Goodman wants to move away from this, for special rights for special classes of citizens.

Pharmacists don’t have the same claim to refuse filling a prescription as a doctor has to refuse performing an abortion. But there are other ways to exercise a private conscience clause. Indeed, in a conflict between your job and your ethics, you can quit. It happens every day.

What other laws designed to protect ethics does Goodman want repealed? Does she believe that sex discrimination laws meant to protect womanly virtue should go, because the woman can always quit?

I do, but my position is intellectually consistant.

Reality is complicated, and complicated solutions may be best in the short term. But Goodman’s political rhetoric doesn’t see complexities — she sees pseudo-simplicities.

When Thoreau refused to pay taxes as a war protest, remember, he went to jail. What pharmacists and others are asking for is conscience without consequence. The plea to protect their conscience is a thinly veiled ploy for conquest.

Freedom of contract is analogous to tax protesting. Again, genius.

However, on the subject of being jailed for doing the “right” thing. This is another post-Liberal stance. If the innocent are being unjustly jailed, the solution is to free the innocent. Not to harrang other innocents for not also being imprisoned.

Did Goodman say to Iraqi exiles: why are you not in mass graves too?

This is not easy stuff. But in the culture wars we have become enamored of moral stances. Have we forgotten that what holds us together is the other lowly virtue: minding your own business?

She confuses horizontal and vertical freedom. Government should not use its power to enforce its morality, which is one reason why her desire to use vertical controls to enforce sexual licentiousness if troubling.

However, she is exactly wrong if she is saying horizontal isolation somehow “holds us together.” The ties of culture, our horizontal bonds to each other, hold us together. It is the critical component of civil society. Goodman’s disregard for horizontal ties is breathtaking.

To each his own conscience. But the drugstore is not an altar. The last time I looked, the pharmacist’s license did not include the right to dispense morality.

A “liberal” using masculine language? Interesting, but that’s a post for another time….

Controls: Vertical-Horizontal, Strong-Weak, Implicit-Explicit (Spousal Abuse an a Transcending Example)

Chapter 13: Submission to the Authorities,” by Paul, Letter to the Romans, http://bible.gospelcom.net/passage/?search=romans%2013:1-7&version=31.

Mmm, that’s interesting,” by “Not One of Chad’s Little Sheep,” Clean Cut Kid, 12 April 2005, http://www.cleancutkid.com/2005/04/09/ways-to-actually-reduce-abortions#comment-1141.

Freedom of contract is great,” by “Not One of Chad’s Little Sheep,” Clean Cut Kid, 12 April 2005, http://www.cleancutkid.com/2005/04/09/ways-to-actually-reduce-abortions#comment-1143.

Yesterday I blogged on the unequal nature of work. This post extends that words and also replies to a comment on CCK

I’m using the following definitions

  • vertical control is domination supported by nonconsentual violence
  • horizontal control is domination not supported by nonconsentual violence

For example, the following groups may excersize vertical control against you

  • The IRS (they will take your property)
  • The Police (they can imprison you)
  • Thugs (also may take your property, but with less fuss and more random violence than the IRS)

Meanwhile, the following probably are excersizing horizontol control over you

  • Friends (be rude to them, they will be rude to you)
  • Employer (not show up on time, he will stop paying you)
  • Parent (“fail” expectations, they are no longer proud of you)

Systems of horizontal and vertical control can interact. Saint Paul created a morality of authority to get followers to peer pressure each other into obeying the government — horizontal pressure reenforcing vertical pressure.

Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.

Give everyone what you owe him: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor.

Vertical controls are sometimes used to reenforce horizontal ones as well. Hillary Clinton is noteably encouraging the government to force employers to recognize religions — an authority of morality

Vertical and Horizontal Controls can be strong or weak. Roughly, a control is weak if it can be profitably violated to little personal ill effect. For example, the following prohibitions:

  • Strong Vertical: Terrorism, Murder, Bank Robbery
  • Weak Vertical: Littering
  • Strong Horizontal: “Stealing” a significant other
  • Weak Horizontal: Spitting outdoors

The ultimate consequences of violating strong controls may be severe, regardless of whether they are vertical or horizontal. Breaking the strong vertical prohibitions may lead to imprisonment or even death. But breaking strong horizontal prohibitions can also lead serious emotional which can kill (suicide).

What’s nice about horizontal controls is that they are voluntary. If a man wishes to be a devout Catholic and observe all the canon laws, fine – the Church will have horizontal control of you. If not, fine – the Church no longer has that control. If you yearn for the acceptance of your friends, you are under their horizontal control and must be the friend they wish you to be. If not, be yourself.

Note how the voluntary nature of horizontal controls affects the bargaining situation. There are thousands of faiths in the world, so if a man just wishes to be faithful he has tremendous buyer power. But if that man wishes to be a devout and noted Roman Catholic in the Sioux Falls Archdioces, suddendly that Churh has immense sellign power. In horizontal control, the bargaining positions are voluntary.

One last note: horizontal and vertical rules can be implicit or explicit. Implicit rules are often recognized as “natural” while explicit ones are “artificial.” For example

  • Implicit Vertical: murder (the legal term is a heinous crime or crime of moral terpitude)
  • Explicit Vertical: accounting fraud
  • Implicit Horizontal: murder (even in anarchy, few people would kill even if able to get away with it)
  • Explicit Horizontal: When at an expensive restaurant, use the outer silverwear first

Note the overlap between implicit vertical and implicit horizontal controls — both are “natural.” And also notice the calculation needed to avoid violating explicit rules — both are “unnatural.” Any rule can be internalized and made implicit — public nudity is an implicit vertical prohibition in the United States and a implicit horizontal prohibition pretty much everywhere.

This all leads up to two comments on Clean Cut Kid on spousal abuse

The abusing spouse has inordinate control over the abused spouse. The inherent power of the abusing spouse makes their abuse worse than that doled out in a simple battery outside of a marriage or relationship and abuse of that power should receive greater punishment.

and later

Freedom of contract is great. When the parties are of equal strength. It has no application in the case of spousal abuse where, typically, the abusing spouse has inordinate control over the abused spouse.

I thank the poster for the comments, but the comments themselves are spurious. The husband has the selling power the wife wishes, and the wife has the selling power the husband wishes. Each spouse only open to abuse to the extent that spouse chooses — further, each spouse recognizes abuse to the extent that spouse chooses.

A devout Muslim woman may choose (have an internalized horizontal ruleset that states) to recognize abuse as being told to appear in public without a veil (“forced” to be “immodest”). A secular American man may choose (have an internalized horizontal ruleset that states) to recognize abuse as being calmly verbally abused (“nagged”). Each recognizes and accepts those actions

On the othe hand, laws against spousal abuse are vertical controls. They are non voluntary. Spousal abuse laws are completely nonhorizontal — they are culturally arbitrary. American laws against spousal abuse may heavily punish a striker but consider the woman who wishes to be veiled weird (at best). Analagous Saudi laws are the reverse.

And such is the way of controls, both implicit and explicit, strong and weak, vertical and horizontal.

Bad News for Japan (No UNSC Seat this Year?)

Japan’s Bid for UN Council Seat This Year Frustrated,” Digital Chosunilbo, 12 April 2005, http://english.chosun.com/w21data/html/news/200504/200504120024.html.

If this is accurate, it’s frustrating

Representatives of 116 nations including Korea, Italy and Pakistan met in New York on Monday and agreed to oppose hasty reform of the U.N. Security Council, which could dash the hopes of the so-called G-4 — Japan, Germany, India and Brazil — of a permanent seat on the council.

The U.S. and China joined the meeting under the slogan “Uniting for Consensus” saying, “Security Council reform must be pursued by agreement without set deadlines.” Both are veto-wielding members of the council.

That in effect scuppers Japanese plans to enter the permanent council this November after getting it expanded by six members through a resolution in the General Assembly in June.

The group’s chairman, Italian Foreign Minister Gianfranco Fini, said, “Each national representative expressed the opinion that consensus was important for Security Council reform, and they presented the opinion that it was illogical to set a deadline for such reform.”

At the meeting, nicknamed the “Coffee Club, Beijing’s U.N. Ambassador Wang Guangya and Washington’s U.N. delegation minister Howard Stoffer also voiced opposition to a vote before consensus is reached.

This is disturbing. The United Nations Security Council, as it is today, is bizarre. It does not reflect geopolitical realities or contributions to global stability. Expanding the Security Council to include India, Japan, Germany, and Brazil is a sensible first step towards reorganization. America’s stalling slows down our friends and appeases pseudo-allies like Korea.

I first heard the news over at The Acorn, but I was hoping it wasn’t true.

Even Vietnam was on board! And France!