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  • Reverend James Squire

You Can't Have It Both Ways

I wrote recently about political ethics. One of the people who I highlighted was John Locke. His key concepts included the sacred nature of property. He defined property as that “with which one mixes one’s labor.” It is interesting to note that his view of property can be argued as a basis for both socialism and democracy. In essence, one side of the coin of his understanding of property rests in the fact they we can own property only to the point that it does not infringe on the rights of a neighbor. The image that I used with my ethics classes was often about pizza.

The pizza image is an analogy that each of us would put the same amount of money into a collection to buy pizzas. When they were delivered to our classroom, we would be aware of the number of pieces in all the pies so that they could be evenly distributed to the class. However, one member of the class would grab a whole pizza as the delivery man stepped through the doorway and proceeded to a corner of our classroom and ate it all. From an ethical standpoint the class concluded with one voice, “That’s not fair!” That is one part of Locke’s emphasis on equal distribution of property when all the stakeholders “mixed their labor” by giving the same amount of money for our order of pizza. This was tied to his doctrine of a radical sense of equality for all.

There is another aspect of Locke’s theory about property that supports the woman’s right to have abortion available to her. Her body is her basic property. She should have ultimate say about what happens to it.

This view of your body as being your most basic piece of property causes cognitive dissonance in bioethical considerations of the right or wrong of your choice to not get the Covid vaccine.

Bioethics usually kicks in when you have that thought that “you can’t have it both ways.” You can’t have ultimate say over whether you should have to get a vaccination as a mandate when you are the only one who can make a decision about your rights of your body. The anti- abortion group could argue as well that abortion does not allow for the natural continuum of life as natural law is derived from the theory of Locke as well. Nothing should violate the natural continuum such as abortion, birth control, contraception, capital punishment, or euthanasia. You will recognize this as the Roman Catholic position.

Notice you can argue for and against abortion with the same system of belief. You can also argue for socialism where your property stops when it infringes on my property. This is the opposite of equal opportunity for all to have the freedom to gather as much property as they can which is the basic concept of capitalism, the free market, and our democracy. Two political systems that are the opposite in terms of basic rights coming from the same view of one political ethicist, John Locke.

When this kind of cognitive difference is in play, you have to add some other levels of thinking to the issue to demonstrate the paradox. They are short term vs. long term impact, justice vs. mercy, and autonomy (individual rights) vs. beneficence (what is good for the greater community).

A bioethicist will not make the decision for you, but will clearly add more thought to the decision than simply saying, “I am for it or I am against it!” or the thoughtless, “I don’t know why! But I am a conservative or liberal so that is what I should be saying!”

Too many people, from what I have seen and read, have a thoughtless response. Vaccination and abortion relate to living and dying therefore they deserve the most thoughtful, respectful, and honorable response no matter what your position because you can’t have it both ways. You have to make a filled with thought response. You need to answer, “Why?”

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