“You don’t get to choose for someone else!”

A common retort against pro-abortion and antinatalist positions is that no one should make decisions for anyone else, and to enshrine such a delegation into law is tyrannical. So telling people they should abort or should not have children is wrong. They should decide for themselves whether they should do so, decisions about their lives are theirs to make.

There are many problems with this retort. One of them, as I’ve pointed out before, is that we already do this all the time. We prohibit murder, theft, rape, assault, and we “take the decision” for people who commit these actions that they should not repeat them. If this is tyrannical, then every society in history, including Anarchist ones, have been tyrannical. Surely this is nonsense.

But then we cannot say that it is tyrannical to, say, forbid a woman to give birth to a compromised child. Given the fact that all children have the right to the highest standard of health, giving birth to a compromised child is the equivalent of assaulting and severely injuring a healthy person. If forcibly making a person’s health compromised is a criminal act, then so it creating a person’s health as compromised.

People ask, where do we “draw the line”? They try to reduce it to an issue of choice, because people will always disagree. But disagreement does not mean the issue is an issue of personal choice. Billions of people think evolution didn’t happen, but it’s not an issue of choice, it’s a fact. Hundreds of millions of people think you go to some extra-dimensional cubical city when you die. So what? Arguing from dissent, without dissenting evidence, is not rational.

Given that, what evidence can anyone present to demonstrate that giving birth to a compromised child is not a criminal act? Well, they would have to either prove that children do not have a right to the highest standard of health (but even if children only have a right to living below a certain level of illness or disease, something which must still be proven, that still excludes many births), or that having a compromised health is somehow inconsequential.

The problem is that this request for evidence would never be answered, because to them children don’t have rights, period. Children are property, and therefore irrelevant from an ethical standpoint. In fact, they will look at pretty much everyone’s rights before even starting to consider the child’s rights. Which leads me to my next point…

“Choosing for someone else” is exactly what they’re doing! By deciding to start a new human life, they are deciding that the risks of life are low enough to make new lives desirable. But that’s their opinion. Everyone has a different threshold as to how much suffering or hardship they find acceptable. To some people, only concentration camp-level suffering makes life not worth living. To others, the threshold is much, much lower.

Unlike the previous point, there are no facts here, only preferences. People have different levels of tolerance towards risk, because that tolerance depends on a lot of other factors, some of which are personal. Some people wouldn’t even try skydiving, even though the chance of dying from a jump is 1 out of 100,000 (granted, the chance of injuring something is somewhat higher). Some people become firefighters, an occupation which is considered risky by others, especially where wildfires are concerned.

The point here is that, while any person can decide to try to be a firefighter, it would be wrong for that person to force anyone else to become a firefighter. This is exactly what people do when they start new human lives: they judge the risks of living sufficiently low that procreation seems reasonable, to them.

Furthermore, it’s important not to forget what happens after the new life is started: 18 years of parenting. After all, what is parenting if not constantly making decisions for someone else?

Some may reply that it is necessary to do so in order to raise children properly. That may be so, but such a reply misses the point. I am not passing judgment on the institution of parenting, merely pointing out that parenting does imply “choosing for someone else.” That’s all I’m talking about here.

The root of this objection is a desire to use voluntaryism and self-ownership as an argument. At this point I refer you to my entry “Voluntaryism: it’s not just about capitalism…” for further discussion on this line of argument.

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6 thoughts on ““You don’t get to choose for someone else!”

  1. dimasok January 30 2013 at 23:20 Reply

    Good post Francois. Indeed children are used as property. What if I find the very idea of work unacceptable to me? What if I want the world to be ideal? Why do the parents get to decide what sort of life I will find acceptable? Non-existence is neutral and perfect in its own way like existence could never be. Procreation is a mortal sin, a crime that begets all other crimes.

    • Francois Tremblay January 30 2013 at 23:30 Reply

      Thank you dimasok, love your blog.

      • dimasok January 31 2013 at 0:42 Reply

        I love your blog too even though I am mainly an antinatalist and the fact that I relate to everything you talk about as I do is merely another facet of my overwhelming desire to exterminate the whole structure :) You talk a lot about idealism, but isn’t non-existence the apogee of idealsm and suicide the ultimate act of freedom that ends in an ideal state of being?

        • Francois Tremblay January 31 2013 at 0:55 Reply

          What do you mean by idealism exactly? Are you associating this with radicalism? Or something else?

        • dimasok January 31 2013 at 1:03 Reply

          I mean, judging by your antinatalist posts, you agreed that humans and civilization are a horrible failure and that life is a pointless slaughterhouse. With that being said, you also expressed your love of your personal life and how you have a vested interest to continue living and surviving. Its safe to say that I am a much more pessimistic antinatalist than you are perhaps due to my life circumstances or perhaps due to how my brain circuitry treats the truth of existence. While I definitely did have good moments in life during my 26 years in existence, I think unequivocally that it would have been much better if I was never born and despite myself existing, I would jump at the opportunity to end my life in a suicide clinic similar to Dignitas in Switzerland if one was built here.

          Out of curiosity, since you do a great job of not holding your positive emotions to be the objective truth, do you regret being born or do you think it was still a beneficial event for you?

          I think the main reason why I don’t write about a lot of the topics you write about except the main topic of antinatalism is because I am so invested in the idea of non-existence of everything that I can’t bring myself to take any other topic seriously enough. I don’t think anything should exist because that by itself would guarantee no more strife, war, poverty, suffering, death, etc or necessitate any sort of improvement.

          So, overall, I agree with you on all the topics you write about, but I can’t bring myself to contemplate any idea seriously except the ultimate idea of eliminating all life and ending all problems and negative/positive prospects with one swing of the brush.

          However, I am with you with anarchism and every other idea encapsulated within it. Let’s abolish money, labour, capitalism and let’s engineer a transhumanistic, post-scarcity society where we could triumph over our miserable Darwinian environment and transition to something that contains no potential for negative states of being. David Pearce writes a lot about that.

          However, all of that is second best. Non-existence is my choice of preference as it solves everything right now and forever and no such solution would ever exist in existence.

          • Francois Tremblay January 31 2013 at 1:09

            “Out of curiosity, since you do a great job of not holding your positive emotions to be the objective truth, do you regret being born or do you think it was still a beneficial event for you?”
            Of course I regret it. I’ve stated as much many times before. It logically cannot be beneficial to be born.

            “I think the main reason why I don’t write about a lot of the topics you write about except the main topic of antinatalism is because I am so invested in the idea of non-existence of everything that I can’t bring myself to take any other topic seriously enough.”
            That’s fine, you’re more on the closed side of antinatalism. As long as you’re not one of the people who tell me I should stop writing about them, we’re fine. Although I disagree, I can’t say I don’t sympathize with this perspective.

            “So, overall, I agree with you on all the topics you write about, but I can’t bring myself to contemplate any idea seriously except the ultimate idea of eliminating all life and ending all problems and negative/positive prospects with one swing of the brush.”
            That’s fine.

            “However, I am with you with anarchism and every other idea encapsulated within it. Let’s abolish money, labour, capitalism and let’s engineer a transhumanistic, post-scarcity society where we could triumph over our miserable Darwinian environment and transition to something that contains no potential for negative states of being. David Pearce writes a lot about that.”
            Well, Anarchists don’t typically support transhumanism. That’s more of a Libertarian/”ancap” thing. But apart from that, yea. It would be nice if we could move in that direction, for our own sakes. I don’t hold much hope about it, though.

            “However, all of that is second best. Non-existence is my choice of preference as it solves everything right now and forever and no such solution would ever exist in existence.”
            We’re agreed on that. There is no need for human needs to exist. There is no need for suffering to exist. But it does exist. To me that means that we should seek to eliminate it (the initiation of harm), but we should also address its First Cause (natalism).

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