In Defence of Decentralisation – Political Unionism after Roe v. Wade

[Originally Published on Free Life]

When asked to account for the inspiration behind his voluminous output, Murray N Rothbard is supposed to have replied “hatred is my muse”. In other words, he could not bear to let the scores of fallacies etched into some statist screed stand unanswered.

I myself receive few visits from this particular muse. In fact, to become riled by the predictably ignorant emissions of mainstream authors, journalists and pundits would probably be detrimental to one’s own sanity – more so today than in Rothbard’s lifetime. (Either way, it goes without saying that I am unlikely to come close to matching the great man’s extraordinary contributions). However, I do experience more than a passing encounter with some combination of wrath and despair in one, particular situation: when confronted by some piece of errant nonsense penned by a libertarian (or fellow traveller) who is in the position to know better.

Those following the political situation in the United States may have heard that the Supreme Court in Washington, DC has recently delivered several, broadly favourable judgments in US constitutional law, including: one striking down a New York gun control law, and, on June 24th, another reversing the landmark decision on abortion, Roe v. Wade.[1] While the effect of the latter is limited to declaring that abortion should be a matter regulated by the states – most blue states will inevitably continue to allow terminations – abortion, with Roe as its centrepiece, has become part and parcel of the US culture war. As such, rather than being regarded as a simple reversal of Federal overreach, it is arguable that the overruling of Roe has symbolised the struggle for the control of America.[2] Indeed, shortly after the decision, conservative commentator Matt Walsh tweeted:

We are not done. We are not satisfied. A federal ban on abortion nationwide is the next step.

Thus, amidst the jubilation of conservatives, traditionalists, states’ rights advocates and their allies, the US Libertarian Party – which has recently come under the control of the Rothbardian/Paulian “Mises Caucus” – was much less enthusiastic:

Allowing five politically-connected lawyers to determine ANY policy for 330 million people contradicts liberty and undermines decentralization. Having a one-size fits all “solution” on abortion has fueled [sic] 50 years of national contention. Judicial oligarchy hasn’t helped.

The Libertarian Party is comprised of those who come down on different sides of the abortion debate. So is the United States as a whole. Whatever one’s position on the [overruling of Roe], political decentralization and peaceful [national divorce] is the clear remedy to the problem.

Pro-lifers, why share a country with those who support the dismemberment of babies in the womb? Pro-choicers, why share a country with those who would take a woman’s right to abort away?[3]

To counter what seems, to me, to be a reasonably sensible take, another user decided to tweet the following:

Regardless of abortion, this is a complete rejection of the idea that there are *any* individual rights that should limit state and local governments. No free speech, no Second Amendment, no trial by jury, no property right against takings. Nothing. Totally unlimited state power.

The idea that state governments should be able to ban whatever they want and violate any right they want because “decentralization” is certainly an opinion, but it’s not one that has anything to do with libertarianism or supporting individual freedom.

This comment fails to grasp in every way the reasons why libertarians should support the decentralisation of state power.

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