Category Archives: Libertarian Argument

Conjoined Twins, Property Rights, and the Abortion Issue

In an article [i] on property rights concerning conjoined twins, Walter Block and Jeremiah Dyke [ii] have raised some interesting questions and thoughts. See here to read the full essay. Many of them could easily be applied to the abortion issue without doing much more than simply changing a few words here or there. I do not necessarily have any argument with the authors concerning the issue of conjoined twins, but wanted to draw attention to the ease with which the arguments could apply to the abortion debate.

“Though an individual has the right to not be physically aggressed against, he does not have the right to demand someone help or save him if he is being physically aggressed against.”–Dyke and Block

Though a woman has the right to not be pregnant against her will, she does not have the right to demand someone help or save her if she is pregnant against her will. If she does not have the right to demand that someone help or save her from the predicament she finds herself in, then she does not have the authority to demand that abortion be legal or that she be allowed to kill her unborn child for any reason she finds suitable.

This is especially relevant since women everywhere are literally demanding that society, culture, and State grant them help and salvation in their quest to be non-pregnant. No one, least of all a more powerful government, should be able to force a woman to be pregnant, but it does not follow that she can manipulate government to allow the use of force to kill her unborn child. Dyke and Block should examine their positions to ensure that all of their statements are consistent with each other.

“…who owns the body if it is under the control of two wills? Is it even intelligible to consider property under duel ownership of two wills?—Dyke and Block

Who owns the body of the fetus if it is under the control of the fetus—the mother or the child? For that matter, who owns the body of the mother if it is under the control of the developing fetus? Is the body of the mother under the control of the fetus or the mother? There is no disputing that the physical condition of the woman changes as the pregnancy progresses, but is this an act of aggression on the part of the unborn child or just a natural response to the pregnancy?

“Are there limits of a dominant twin based on the demands of the other twin?”—Dyke and Block

Are there limits of a dominant will based on the demands of the other submissive will? Dyke and Block were concerned about the limitations of property rights of conjoined twins, but what happens if we compare this question to that of a pregnancy in which there are also two individuals sharing a physical connection? Are there any limits to a woman’s will based on the demands of an unborn child’s? What are the unspoken, yet proven demands of the unborn child? There are only three: time, proper nutrition, and protection. Take away any of one of these three and the life of the child is placed in jeopardy. Take away all of them, according to legally defined abortion laws, and there are virtually no limits placed on the woman as regards these demands.

“Could one twin commit a crime while the other was innocent?”—Block/Dyke

In the case of conjoined twins, this might be a dilemma. It is entirely possible that one twin could completely overrule or overpower the other in committing a crime. In the event of this happening, the only defense possible by the non-dominant twin would be that of unwillingness. “I didn’t want to, but he made me do it!”

In the event of pregnancy and abortion, there is no question. This is not even a valid question. One party (the woman) can absolutely commit a vicious, murderous act while the other (the unborn child) would be completely innocent, but without recourse or appeal to law.

“What, if any, are the limits of restitution and punishment regarding conjoined twins?”—Dyke and Block

If this question were applied to the abortion issue, it would be laughed out of court. The fact of the matter is that the fetus pays the ultimate price and the amount of restitution (subjectively determined) depends on the way the woman lives her life thereafter. Does she gain enough from the abortion to more than make up for the “crime” against her bodily integrity? How are the costs assessed? How is the reparation made? Does the punishment fit the crime or is it excessive?

“Could one twin legally end his life if it meant the end of both of their lives?”—Dyke and Block

In America, under today’s laws, women cannot legally commit suicide in most cases. If they could and were pregnant, it would inevitably mean the death of the unborn child. However, in whatever form it appears, Truth does not tolerate any inconsistencies, hypocrisies, or contradictions. The fact that women cannot legally commit suicide, but can legally kill their unborn children is inconsistent and therefore intolerable. As such, it will eventually be resolved in one of two ways:

  1. Abortion which kills children will eventually be outlawed and prosecuted as criminal, or,
  2. Suicide will be made legal for anyone (adults, at least) regardless of circumstances.

“Could one twin enter into a contract without the consent of the other?”—Dyke and Block

Could one conjoined twin get married without the consent of the other? How would that happen? Assuming that the conjoined twins were female with a shared body and two heads, would the consummation of the marriage be considered rape on the part of the unwilling twin? What if a pregnancy occurred as a result of that consummation? Could the unwilling twin be able to claim the “right” of abortion and terminate the pregnancy against the wishes of the “mother”? If the child were carried to term and delivered, would she have “two mommies”? Would the unwilling twin be called “Auntie”?

What a can of worms! Perhaps we should turn our attention elsewhere.


“Conflicts arise, whenever two actors want and try to use one and the same physical means – the same body, standing room or external object for the attainment of different goals, i.e., when their interests regarding such means are not harmonious but incompatible or antagonistic. Two actors cannot at the same time use the same physical means for alternative purposes. If they try to do so, they must clash. Only one person’s will or that of another can prevail, but not both.” –Herman-Hoppe, Ethics of Argumentation [iii]

Herman-Hoppe is correct in his assessment of conflict. In the abortion war, it simply means the idea that women can kill their unborn children is dominant and accepted, or it is unacceptable and going to be contested. Only one view, not both, is going to prevail, and because tides and opinions change, it is probable that what is seen to prevail today will, in all likelihood, be subjugated tomorrow.

The conflict arises when we try to reduce human beings to a concept of property without any sense of moral grounding. Under some libertarian theory, human beings own their own bodies and can do whatever they wish, so long as they don’t act aggressively toward someone else. (See here for a differing opinion.) By extension, because every human being owns his (her) own body, no other human being can own it, thereby eliminating any invalid form of slavery. Involuntary servitude may sometimes be allowed, even mandated for one reason or another, but only in the pursuit of criminal justice.  

The conflict rages when two actors (born woman, unborn woman) want and try to use the same body for different goals, i.e., when one does not wish to be pregnant and the other needs the space in order to develop. Whose will is dominant? Whose “rights” are protected? Whose “freedoms” are violated? When abortion is legal, the pregnancy is ended by the killing of the dependent child who is unable to defend herself against the aggression.

The pregnancy may be ended, but the conflict is not resolved. [iv] The abortion war is fought, not by the ones who die, but by those who don’t. The fact that many innocent civilians are killed without regard for their lives is not greatly different than two large, political powers supporting, encouraging, and abetting various factions in small, weak countries, e.g., Syria, Yemen, or Venezuela, among others. The locals pay the price, the string-pullers reap the benefits.

Abortion is not an issue of property rights. Instead, it rises out of a moral and spiritual question—good or evil, and the dispute will continue until one side or the other is completely beaten and disappears forever. In other words, not until the end of time itself. In the meantime, we must do what we believe to be right and try to minimize the number of casualties inflicted.

So long as abortion on demand is with us, there is no compromise. No matter how pretty a face we try to put on it, in the end all we are doing is painting lipstick on a pig.

[i] Jeremiah Dyke & Walter E. Block, “Explorations in Property Rights: Conjoined Twins,”Libertarian Papers3, 38 (2011)

[ii] Jeremiah Dyke ( is Instructor of Mathematics, Lord Fairfax Community College.Walter E. Block (; is Harold E. Wirth Eminent Scholar Endowed Chair and Prof. of Economics, College of Business, Loyola University New Orleans and a Senior Fellow of the Ludwig von Mises Institute.

[iii] .

[iv] Similar to the Korean War. See here.

Abortion and the Non-Aggression Principle, Part II

Editor’s Note: This article originally was published on January 5, 2019, in another blog I write. See here. The only change between this post and the original is the cleanup of a few links. None of the subject matter or text was altered.

“…libertarianism is not at all a philosophy of life. Rather, it is a very, very, very limited philosophy. It pretty much asks only one question: “when is violence against another person justified?” and pretty much gives only one answer: “only in response to a prior use of violence, or threats.” That is, violence may properly be used only in defense, not offense. When the latter is engaged in, the perpetrator should be punished. That’s libertarianism in a nutshell,…”–Walter Block

Gasoline on the fire!

Although many people might think otherwise, the debate over abortion is centered on one question—is the unborn fetus a person with an inalienable right to life? Or not? Women’s rights are peripheral to this.

If it is true that a fetus is a person, then Walter Block has exposed a contradiction of the NAP on this issue. Any attempt to terminate a pregnancy through abortion would be an act of aggression against an unborn person.

Of course, the opposing view is that an unborn fetus is not a person and can be treated in any way desired by the woman, without interference from anyone else. If this is true, then there is no inconsistency within the NAP.

This is the question which must be answered. Either the fetus is a person or it is not. Either/or, but not both. There are no other choices. If it can be shown that a fetus is a person with the innate right to life, it will be impossible to defend the “right to choose.” On the other hand, if it can be proven to NOT be a person, the pro-life argument collapses into a quivering pile of nothingness.

If Zager and Evans were correct in their prediction, “…you’ll pick your sons, pick your daughters too, from the bottom of a long, glass tube…”, the personality of the child will be visible from the very beginning. As technology improves, viability will be pushed to an earlier and earlier date, which will erode any claim that the fetus does not become a person until an arbitrary point in time is reached. The use of ultrasound, imaging, and medical science will continue to support and bolster the pro-life position that a live, human, individual with a personality all its own exists. These are going to be extremely difficult hurdles for politics and rationalization to clear, regardless of judicial orders.

The burden of proof rests heavily on the pro-abortion side of this debate. It has the more difficult task of proving its point. Efforts to show that fetuses are not persons will prove, in the long run, to be futile and insurmountable.

The difference between these two positions cannot be reconciled. It will never be settled nor agreed upon. It is an “all or nothing” war of conflicting ideas. The NAP is skewed toward “women’s rights” and, as a consequence, does not allow the right to life to be extended to all unborn persons, only those who are “wanted”.

If libertarianism is a horse carrying its riders to freedom and the NAP is the saddle those riders rest on, then the abortion issue is a burr under that saddle. It will always be there, irritating and counter-productive, until it is removed and ceases to be a problem. When will that be? How will it happen? I don’t know. I can’t predict the future, but I believe it will have something to do with individuals gradually and peacefully changing their minds and then changing their ways. Repentence, in other words. Hopefully, libertarianism won’t end up as Bob Seger put it so brilliantly, “…caught like a wildfire out of control, til there was nothing left to burn and nothing left to prove…”

Where do we go from here? My answer, short and simple–keep moving. Don’t allow this single issue to tear us apart. A solution will appear, sooner or later, and it might be quite a lot later, maybe not until the year 6565. Doesn’t matter. Keep moving.

Abortion and the Non-Aggression Principle

Editor’s Note: This article originally was published on December 23, 2018, in another blog I write. See here. See also this immediate response. As far as I’m concerned, Michael Rozeff’s honor is above reproach. The only change between this post and the original is the cleanup of a few links. None of the subject matter or text was altered.

I have a lot of respect for Michael Rozeff. I read his articles and letters regularly and usually do not find anything with which to disagree. In a recent post on Lew Rockwell, however, he wrote something which just grated on me and, apparently others as well. See here and here.

Michael Rozeff is wrong. Something does not have to be capable of life outside the womb (with assistance, of course) in order to have being. (An unhatched bald eagle does not need to be capable of living outside the shell to be considered worthy of legal protection.) He says that “Fetuses that cannot survive outside the womb are not yet human beings…” (Which is like saying that a chick which cannot survive outside the shell is not yet an eagle.) My question to him is that if they are not human beings, then what are they?

Being means existence and it is scientifically undeniable that a human life exists. If there is no existence, there is no need of argument. The new human being (zygote, blastocyst, embryo, fetus, unborn child) IS, emphatically so, and therefore HAS being.

Even after 23 weeks of pregnancy when a fetus can conceivably survive outside the womb, it cannot live without care, nurture, and a protective environment, in other words, exactly what is needed to survive before 23 weeks. Furthermore, when a person becomes old or disabled and cannot survive without care, nurture, and a protective environment, does she, according to Rozeff’s argument, lose her so-called right of being and risk being “aborted”. Did Terri Schiavo become a non-being and were all the lengthy machinations over her life and death simply much ado about nothing? Or did they really matter?

Everyone needs assistance from other people to survive and live at some point in their lives. Everyone, without exception! There has never been nor ever will be anyone who simply springs into being who does not require care, nurture, and a protective environment at some time in his life. If one’s innate right to live is contingent on his ability to live independently of others, then we are all in trouble, since none of us are truly independent.

Rozeff uses the argument that if a woman wants an abortion, no one can deprive her of it. It is her “right”, if  you will.  What this line of reasoning does, however, is to give pregnant women the authority to violate the rights of their unborn offspring, at their own discretion, without repercussion, hindrance, sanction, or punishment. He then attempts to get around this dilemma by declaring that “viable, with assistance” is the determining factor in deciding when an unborn fetus actually becomes a “person”, which approximates the Roe v. Wade ruling of the Supreme Court. He never says what the unborn fetus is before it reaches that point. I repeat my question—if it is not a human being, then what is it?

The NAP is dead. Long live the NAP!

It appears to me that the NAP (non-aggression principle), so beloved by libertarians everywhere, has a fatal contradiction. On the one hand, no one can (should be able to) force a woman to carry her pregnancy to term. On the other hand, no one should be able to initiate aggression against an unborn human being by killing and aborting it. These two positions are diametrically opposed and cannot be reconciled. Either the NAP will allow women to act aggressively against their unborn children or it will accord protection to unborn children against that aggression until a point is reached when viable separation (eviction, birth) can occur. Either one or the other, but not both! The problem lies in deciding which of these positions is supported.

In an earlier blog post, Rozeff lays it out quite well.

“…to resolve this problem of definition and starting point philosophically or religiously, we need to specify what a human being or person IS. What IS this “I”? What is the BEING that “I” am, and that you are?”

Exactly! What is a human being? What is a person? This whole argument over abortion and women’s “right to choose” is going to forever hinge on these two questions. How do we determine the answer to them? What will be the TRUTH that we point to and anchor our decision in? Dogmatic religious beliefs? Scientific fact? Fluctuating social mores? Fickle political whims? Regardless of the method used, someone is going to be upset with the result. There will always be someone who feels that the decision is wrong and must be changed to better reflect their own opinion.

Human beings ARE. Being is real and is a gift from God or, if you prefer, a random chance of accident. Before pregnancy, a child can be hoped for or dreamed about.  After death, people are considered memories. While alive, however, he or she IS a person, no matter how young or old. The right to live is granted to persons everywhere simply because they are, by virtue of being, persons.

The political definition of “person-hood” is something else entirely, an abstract notion which is conferred and can mean anything at any time. (Dred Scott, Jews in Nazi Germany, e.g.). This so-called person-hood is a “right” given by certain powerful people to other less powerful people and can be taken away at any time, depending on the whim of the moment. Just because five members of a nine-member panel say that a human being does not become a “person” and have “rights” until he or she is viable does not necessarily make it so.

It is inevitable that aggression will be forced on someone—either the woman or the fetus. Someone will have to undergo suffering against her (or his) will. How do we determine which will be the one to suffer? The methodology used today, right now, is politics. If you make a loud enough noise, you will be given what you want. At someone else’s expense!  For a long, long time the loudest noise has been made by the pro-abortion crowd, which has attempted to justify its position by declaring that unborn human beings are not really “persons”. Since at least Jan. 22, 1973, this has been the deciding factor.

When viewed from a purely moral (right vs. wrong) standard, it is obvious that abortion, as it is practiced today, is a heinous crime against the most vulnerable persons among us. This morality does not have to incorporate any religious beliefs in order to be valid. The scientific facts are enough—an unborn fetus IS a live personal human being and, as such, requires that measures be taken to care for, nurture, and protect it until it becomes capable of independent living, with assistance, of course. The NAP must apply, despite protestations to the contrary! Sadly, the moral viewpoint is denigrated and dismissed in much of the discussion of this issue. Instead, it has taken a back seat to the idea that some people have more “rights” than others and interference with those “rights” is a blatant aggression. Rights have become more important than what is right.

I do agree with Rozeff that the government should not support or subsidize abortion, but I am emphatically opposed to the idea that it should not be outlawed. The common view of government is that it exists to protect those within its domain against outside aggression and to offer justice and redress in case such aggression occurs. Until and unless the day comes when every individual is a government in and of themselves (in other words, not until the end of time), certain people are going to be dominant and make the rules, while other people submit and do as they are told. No question! Because of this, I have no problem at all with government ordering a pregnant woman not to abort her unborn fetus, under pain of punishment.

In the post cited above, Rozeff makes this statement.

“…people need to understand their essential be-ing in order to understand how they should treat one another.”

Perhaps he should consider rephrasing this statement to read that “pregnant women need to understand…how they should treat their unborn children.” Perhaps abortion proponents should consider “doing unto others in the same manner that they would like to have done unto them.” Perhaps the Humanity Bureau will rise one day to determine who should live. And who shouldn’t.

Until everyone is protected from aggression, no one is safe.