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ARE VOTER ID LAWS NECESSARY? SHOULD TARGETED KILLING BE USED BY GOVERNMENTS? IS 'HAMILTON: AN AMERICAN MUSICAL' GOOD HISTORY? SHOULD WE CONSUME THE ART OF IMMORAL ARTISTS?
MICROTRANSACTIONS IN THE GAMING INDUSTRY: Who benefits?
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From the Desk of the Editor-in-Chief “None of us is infallible. Whether you are a person of the left, the right, or the center, there are reasonable people of goodwill who do not share your fundamental convictions... Someone who has not fallen into the idolatry of worshiping his or her own opinion... will want to listen to people who see things differently.”
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he common denominator of human life is difference. Difference between individuals’ lived experiences, sets of values, and ideas for how the world should work dictate what we think and with whom we associate. Rich and flourishing communities are those that embrace and work with—rather than against—the inevitable differences between its members.
With this in mind, on behalf of the Board of Editors and all of us at Rebuttal, I proudly present our first ever publication. The purpose of this publication is to nurture healthy debate at St. Olaf College. We provide a forum for reasonable and well-intentioned students to participate in the kind of frank exchange of ideas that remains so critical to the liberal arts tradition. Our Spring 2019 issue covers an eclectic range of topics. Matters of social justice, public policy, foreign policy, history, the arts, technology, political science, and more have all found a home on our pages. We expect that you may disagree with many of the papers presented here. But we hope that in disagreeing with the ideas put forward by our peers (some of whom propose these ideas for the pure theoretics of it), you come away with an even deeper understanding of why good people can disagree, as well as further appreciation for alternative worldviews. Immense effort has gone into starting this publication from scratch in the span of several months. I am personally indebted to the hard work and diligence of our editors and writers, as well as our many supporters. I tell you now in print what I hope I have already conveyed to you in person: thank you. Please enjoy the first of many editions of Rebuttal. Nick Gonnerman Founder, Editor-in-Chief
DISCLAIMER Not every paper presented in this edition necessarily represents the views of their authors or the views of Rebuttal and its affiliates. This publication serves as a marketplace for the exchange of ideas. Rebuttal is a nonpartisan intellectual platform for writers of all backgrounds to critique prevailing ideas, test the validity of certain positions, and explore solutions to relevant problems.
Microtransactions are a business model where players can purchase in-game content. By Jacob Otten
he term “microtransaction” has become a filthy word in the gaming community, being associated with greedy, out-of-touch corporations corrupting the industry and wringing their player bases for all the money that they have. However, negative connotations aside, what exactly are these much-derided forms of game monetization? Microtransactions are a business model where players can purchase in-game content with payments. They are often employed in free-to-play games as the main source of revenue for game developers. In cases where players already purchased the game, microtransactions provide additional content to the basic game experience, but usually aren’t essential to the game itself. They have received heavy negative attention lately, largely brought upon by spectacular abuses of their systems by a small number of notorious games that will be mentioned below. Critics claim that large companies, such as Electronic Arts (EA), abuse the microtransaction model by releasing unfinished games at a $60
fee and then charging micropayments for content that should already have been included in the basic game package. However, many of these critics overlook the advantages that occur from games monetizing microtransaction systems. Microtransactions are effective funding systems for video games and provide unique benefits to both players and game developers. Before diving into the benefits derived from microtransactions, it is important to address the core elements of critique leveled against these infamous monetization systems. The most common accusation made of microtransaction-dependent games is that they become “pay-to-win,” a phenomenon where the amount a player spends determines how much success they will enjoy in the game. Pay-to-win becomes especially egregious when the game pits players in direct competition against each other, creating extremely obvious divides between those who have spent money and those who have not. There also are accusations leveled against specific types of microtransactions known as loot boxes. Many critics believe
that these loot boxes are a malicious implement of gambling systems in video games that target vulnerable youth. For the sake of clarity, this article will not address loot boxes or gambling mechanics, as these subjects breach into different territory altogether. All discussion will focus on micropayments that have no random elements to them, in other words, payments where the user knows exactly what they will receive for their money. While certainly valid, the rage and anger of outspoken microtransaction critics is overblown. There is little risk that microtransactions will ever become a widespread, oppressive threat to gamers. Why would a player ever make the choice to play a game where money spent dictates who will win? The answer is that they often won’t. Games where the pay-to-win elements ruin the experience of players are often boycotted and suffer in terms of player base and financials. For example, EA and Dice’s infamous Star Wars Battlefront 2 was deemed to have microtransactions that were so outrageous and crucial to in-game progression
The rage and anger of outspoken microtransaction critics is overblown. There is little risk that microtransactions will ever become a widespread, oppressive threat to gamers. that players raised an unprecedented amount of negative media attention across YouTube, Reddit, and even mainstream news sources.¹ They encouraged their peers to boycott the game, and the sales results were telling: the game sold 9 million copies, where it had been projected to hit 10 million.² EA’s initial response to the wave of controversy, that their microtransactions had intended “to provide players with a sense of pride and accomplishment,” became the most downvoted comment in Reddit history.³ In order to save their sinking ship, the developers bent to the will of their angry player base and entirely removed Battlefront 2’s microtransactions—within hours of the game’s initial launch. Players have demonstrated their ability self-regulate the industry and keep developers with undesirable pay-to-win tactics from becoming widespread.
YouTube comment sections are breeding zones for furious critics whose single-minded focus on tearing games apart for the presence of microtransactions overshadows any conversation about other issues, such as a game’s strengths or weaknesses. Halo 5 was one of the first mainstream games to receive scrutiny for its pay-towin components. Players could spend hundreds of dollars to acquire powerful, single-use weapons and powers in combat against other players. However, Halo’s design kept microtransaction purchasers in check with a core aspect of the game: player skill. No matter how much money a player spent, if they were killed, another player could steal their purchased items. This created a risk phenomenon, where spamming powerful paid weapons could provide risky first-mover advantages until the enemy players managed to wrest control of the premium items away from the other team. Moreover, easily accessible items were powerful enough to allow players of average skill to remain competitive without needing to spend any money on microtransactions. These types of checks and balances moderate the payto-win elements of Halo 5, ensuring that player skill was still the most significant factor in determining victory. Perhaps user kobrakon101 best summarizes the general Halo 5 player sentiment with the following eloquent comment in response to a request for feedback on how microtransactions have affected Halo players: “They don’t really affect anything with me. Whenever someone complains, I’m just like Meh. It’s just another microtransaction in another game.”⁴
icrotransactions provide general benefits to players in a few different forms. They allow price-sensitive players to pick and choose which elements of the game they most desire, and then pay for those parts without needing to pay for the rest. Other players, content with putting in hours of playtime to grind out ingame currency, earn their additional content for free. If the game is free-to-play and supported by microtransactions, the cost-free model removes any income barriers to players unable to afford the $60 industry standard. These players are able to enjoy the base game experience without being 7
constrained by their limited financial resources. Microtransactions also benefit player communities by boosting game longevity. By providing developers with a steady and continuous stream of income, they allow them to repeatedly roll out updates and expansions long past the initial game release. Without a financial system in place to support their games with sufficient continuous income, many developers abandon their games while they still have an active base of players. Abandonment and lack of new content is a quick way to decimate a game’s community, and it’s in the players’ best interest to play games with strong communities and dedicated developer teams. Updates and expansions keep the player base satisfied and engaged, promoting a longer lifespan for the game. Warframe, a massively multiplayer science fiction cult hit and now mainstream staple in the gaming world, has delivered a top-tier, professional, and content-rich experience on a free-to-play, microtransaction-supported model since it launched in 2013. The game is still well respected by players and developers alike, with over 90% positive user reviews on Steam and Steam’s Platinum Best-Seller status. It’s considered a microtransaction success model, enjoying steady revenue growth that amounted to year-over-year growth of 49% in 2017.⁵ Lastly, microtransactions can offset costs that players might have to pay in their absence. In Halo 5’s case, the income generated from microtransactions was used to offset the cost of developing new battle maps. These maps were able to be given out for free to the entire player base, breaking the paid downloadable content funding system that has dominated gaming for the last 10 years. Financial systems that rely on microtransactions are equally, if not even more beneficial to game companies than to players. Companies are more financially successful due to their ability to price discriminate. Games that adopt free-toplay microtransaction systems entice players who normally wouldn’t pay the common $60 price tag to play the basic, core elements of the game and later pay for the microtransaction elements that interest them. Microtransactions also ensure that players pay exactly what they’d be willing to pay 8
at maximum for the game. For example, players who are willing to pay more than the common $60 price tag are able to purchase additional content above the basic game bundle. This type of price discrimination has received its fair share of backlash; players often accuse games of locking regular content behind paywalls in order to squeeze out more money from the players willing to spend extra. However, as mentioned previously, if a game forces its players to pay extra above the $60 asking price for core elements to the experience, its potential buyers will exert their powers of boycott and hurt the game financially.
he continuous stream of income generated by microtransactions allows studios to adopt a lifecycle approach to managing their companies. The gaming industry is notorious for its boom and bust cycle of employment opportunities, where companies overload on employees for an intensive period of frenzied development only to layoff half of their staff when the game finally releases. EA has been repeatedly slammed for this type of practice, and while conditions have generally improved as awareness has increased over the past 15 years, this practice still exists. EA recently announced layoffs of over
Studios such as Riot Games and Epic Games have maintained a full staff throughout the entire life of their microtransaction-supported games, and in a break from usual hiring patterns, have hired more employees. 350 employees post-launch of its flagship new title, Anthem.⁶ This practice creates a highly unstable and stressful environment for employees. Microtransactions allow developers to retain a larger number of their staff post-launch, cutting down on the volatile nature of hiring patterns and providing employees with more stable tenures. These employees stay onboard to continually produce new content for release as either microtransactions or expansion packs for players to purchase. Studios such as Riot Games and Epic Games have maintained a full staff throughout
the entire life of their microtransaction-supported games, and in a break from usual hiring patterns, have hired more employees as League of Legends and Fortnite gain popularity and longterm traction.⁷ Next time you’re interested in a game, research whether the in-game purchases could be detrimental to your overall experience. Weigh whether the game is worth your time and money; most often, you’ll likely find that the microtransactions in the game are well-balanced to the point
that you’re willing to accept a system that might have inherent pay-to-win elements. You most likely already do this anyways, and players are wonderfully talented at keeping game developer pay-to-win systems in-check through careful analysis of whether the systems are fair enough. Microtransactions are here to stay, and through continued exertion of the gamers’ power to purchase or boycott, the system can bring great benefits to both consumers and producers of gaming content.⁸
1. Joel Hruska, “EA Admits Defeat, Unlocks All Battlefront 2 Heroes, Removes Pay-to-Win Mechanics,” (2018). 2. Samit Sarkar, “Star Wars Battlefront 2 sales miss targets, EA blames loot crate controversy (update),” (2018). 3. “Seriously? I paid 80$ to have Vader locked?,” Reddit, 2017. 4. kobrakon101, “The Effect of Micro-Transactions On Halo,” Halo Way Point, (2016). 5. “Warframe just had a record breaking year in 2017 per today’s Leyou’s annual result announcement,” Reddit, (2018).
6. Jon Porter, “EA is laying off 350 employees and ramping down operations in Japan and Russia,” (2019). 7. Nicholas Barth, “Microtransactions: Positives and Negatives of the Industry Wide Practice,” (2018). 8. Author’s note: the opinions and viewpoints expressed in this paper do not accurately represent the author’s entire personal opinion on the matter.
Against Microtransactions Why Are Games So Long Nowadays? By Carter Granneman, Editor
hey’ve been masked as harmless cosmetics, time savers, and help for people struggling to win. Making their debut in mobile phone games, microtransactions have slowly crept into nearly every major video game release of the past five years and with increasingly macro effects. Entire video games have been made with the express purpose of frustrating and coercing players into spending hundreds of dollars in micropayments over a long period of time. The model of microtransactions used in most modern video games has created a homogenous slew of games that seek to equate “grinding” with “fun,” and in doing so have led to a culture where the consumer’s dollar is worth less than ever before. Rather than shipping full experiences, microtransaction culture has created piecemeal virtual shopping centers in their stead. Rather than paying for complete products, games with microtransactions section off little portions of a game behind a paywall. Microtransactions are an unsustainable model for video game development that contort the notion of video games as enter-
tainment into video games as work, and have drastically reduced the value of the consumer’s dollar in the current video game market. Beginning with the popularization of smart phones, microtransactions were initially limited to free-to-play games. Games like Farmville, The Sims Online, and Clash of Clans existed on platforms that reached hundreds of millions of players, and there was no immediate cost to play these games. Anybody could download one of these titles, play it, and uninstall it from their phone over the span of just a few minutes. As a result, freeto-play video game design prioritizes using every possible method at their disposal to both retain players’ attentions for a long time and also incentivize regular payments over that long period of time. Pascal Luban, in an article on the design of free-to-play games in contrast with traditional game design, describes this emphasis as a focus on both “entertainment and monetization” rather than simply entertainment.¹ In Warframe, a free-to-play space ninja game by Digital Extremes, the crux of the game is obtaining new characters and weapons. There are
two ways of accomplishing this: method one involves slowly grinding out randomly dropped and often incredibly rare items from certain levels in the game and crafting these new characters piece by piece over the course of a long period of time. In the case of Warframe, it takes an absolute minimum of 84 hours to craft a character from scratch. The second method of attaining characters and weapons in Warframe involves spending real money. These purchases are instantaneous. The price for each character varies between ten to twenty dollars, though Warframe constantly barrages players with coupons and rewards for logging in to the game every day. One person dropping ten dollars can potentially save over a hundred hours of time compared to someone trying to squeeze every ounce of value out of the game for free. Warframe either expects you to
One person dropping ten dollars can potentially save over a hundred hours of time compared to someone trying to squeeze every ounce of value out of the game for free. pay a lot of money to experience all it has to offer, or it expects you to give up all of your free time. Ideally, the developers expect both. Of course, Warframe is free. Its adherence to the common tropes of a free-to-play microtransaction system is not only expected, but necessary to pay for its development. Warframe’s system of monetization has led to millions upon millions of people being able to experience an extremely high quality third person ninja shooting game at absolutely no cost to them. I will concede that in the context of quality free-to-play games, microtransactions are perfectly reasonable. In the context of Warframe, many consider it to be an example of an “ethical free-to-play economy” that specifically structures its microtransactions to be unobtrusive.² Their existence is baked into the fundamental design of the game and breaks down the notion that video games are an expensive luxury hobby. While inequalities certainly exist in the experience between someone paying for microtransactions and someone who isn’t, the low-
ered barrier for entry in games like Fortnite and League of Legends has allowed for players of any kind to play and enjoy these games. Unfortunately, microtransactions have not had the same effect in the realm of big budget games. Microtransactions are compounding already existing problems with video game development, rather than alleviating them. The suggested retail price of most every new released game in the United States, as of 2019, is $59.99. That price has remained consistent for at least the last ten years. What has not remained consistent is the pricing model for content developed after the game’s initial release. Downloadable content used to comprise relatively small add-ons for games that typically ranged in price from five dollars for a small add-on to twenty dollars for larger expansions. Beginning around the early 2010’s, it became a common practice for video games to sell bundles of this content under something called a Season Pass. While it’s certainly typical for products to be bundled together, a major critique of the Season Pass system is that it is typically purchased before the content ever releases. In the case of a game like 2018’s Call of Duty Black Ops 4, the additional content of the season pass costs $49.99. This is in addition to the $60 for the game itself, and there is no option to buy any of its content in smaller and more affordable portions. That’s a buy-in of roughly a hundred and ten dollars for a game that also includes microtransactions.³ Video game publishers are not substituting microtransactions for their previous methods of monetization— they’re compounding it. Aside from the cheapening of the consumer’s dollar due to microtransactions, video game developers are cheapening the consumer’s time. There is a massive increase in the number of time-wasting mechanics in video games and a homogenization of the medium in order to facilitate as many microtransactions as possible. Stop me if you’ve heard this before, but I’m going to describe a video game to you: imagine an open world action game, or shooter if you prefer, where you collect loot or currency in order to outfit your character with better equipment. There are reasonably good odds that, if you are relatively familiar with popular and recent games, you imagined one of a 11
few games released in the past two years: Destiny 2, Far Cry 5, Anthem, Assassin’s Creed Odyssey, Middle Earth Shadow of War, The Division 2, Red Dead Online, etc. All of these games cost $60 at release, and either require hours upon hours of playtime to complete or, have no end. Finally, all of these games include microtransactions of some sort.⁴
t’s simple math—the longer someone plays a game, the more likely they are to pay a little extra for something cool. The game wants the player to feel a sense of attachment or frustration with their progress. The developers want players to compete with their friends to see who can get the fanciest gear, the coolest sword, or a flaming donkey steed—but mostly they want people to pay for those things. Developers are creating open world games because they take the longest to complete. Developers are creating loot-based games because loot is easy to sell and can be infinitely generated. The same time-wasting found in a free game like Warframe is present in all of the $60 titles I mentioned earlier. These games never want players to leave because they’re all fighting for the never-ending cashflow of a player base that keeps buying microtransactions. The end result for consumers? A never-ending flow of the same open world action role-playing game with microtransactions for the past few years and for the foreseeable future unless the market changes. Fortunately, the market is changing. Several games and companies have felt the heat of intense consumer backlash due to their microtransactions recently. Middle Earth Shadow of War, one of the games I mentioned earlier as an open world game with microtransactions, actually removed all of its loot boxes after a year of backlash and negative feedback over its practices.⁵ Star Wars Battlefront 2, an infamous example of a game based almost entirely around microtransactions as a fundamental aspect of its design, removed microtransactions entirely for several months before reintroducing them as completely auxiliary cosmetic options.⁶ Though no direct legislation has been passed regarding microtransactions in the United States, many countries around the world, such as Belgium and the Netherlands,
have officially deemed loot boxes in games to be a form of gambling.⁷ These countries make a direct connection between random boxes of video game items and casino slot machines.⁸ If it’s illegal for children to wager their money in a casino, why is it legal for them to wager their money on loot boxes in Call of Duty? There doesn’t have to be an antagonistic relationship between microtransactions and consumers. Alternative forms of monetization have a lot of benefits. The aforementioned Star Wars Battlefront 2 has steadily released new content such as maps and characters to all of its players for free over the past year of its development—some-
There doesn’t have to be an antagonistic relationship between microtransactions and consumers. Alternative forms of monetization have a lot of benefits. thing that would likely be unsustainable without the presence of microtransactions. It’s simply not reasonable to expect people to either pay over a hundred dollars or be forced to play a game for hundreds of hours to see everything it has to offer—particularly when games typically still cost sixty dollars at release. Already, many consumers are either choosing to forego paying for any microtransactions within $60 games or boycotting these titles altogether. It’s only a matter of time before video game publishers realize that there is a limit to their exploitation of consumers’ time and money, and every game will stop feeling the same. 1. Pascal Luban, “The Design of Free-To-Play Games: Part 1,” Gama-sutra, (2011) 2. Ben Kuchera, “How Warframe built an ethical free-to-play economy,” Polygon, (2018) 3. Ben Kuchera, “Assassin’s Creed Odyssey has a huge grinding and microtransaction problem,” Polygon, (2018) 4. Wesley Yin-Poole, “Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 now has microtransactions – and they’re not going down well,” Eurogamer, (2019) 5. Charlie Hall, “Middle-earth: Shadow of War dumps loot crates, adds gameplay
improvements,” Polygon, (2018) 6. Heather Alexandra, “EA is Putting Microtransactions Back Into Star Wars Battlefront II, But They’ll Be Cosmetic-Only,” Kotaku, (2018) 7. T.J. Hafer, “The legal status of loot boxes around the world, and what’s next in the debate,” PC Gamer, (2018); Andy Chalk, “Netherlands Gaming Authority cracks down on loot boxes in some games,” PC Gamer, (2018) 8. Alex Matthews-King, “Games like Fortnite use ‘predatory’ gambling techniques to make children spend, experts warn,” Independent, (2018)
Engaging Developments in Technology within the context of Political Apathy and Rising Totalitarianism By Matthew Erickson
INTRODUCTION otalitarianism seems to be rising across the world as quickly as global temperatures, and society seems at a loss to find appropriate solutions to ever more complex problems, ranging from a global environmental crisis to displaced populations.¹ I believe a part of the reason governments remain stagnant in an increasingly more dynamic world is because they employ 18th century governmental structures to address 21st century problems. Citizens around the world see that government is ineffective, and with political apathy on the rise globally, citizens have been
a part of the reason governments remain stagnant in an increasingly more dynamic world is because they employ 18th century governmental structures to address 21st century problems. 14
trying to find better ways to engage with politics.² Some solutions seem to present themselves through new forms of communication: grassroots movements to hold those in power accountable have been sprouting from social media, and it is now possible to fact check leaders in real time.³
I will describe a kind of democracy in which artificial intelligence plays a central role, which for the purposes of this paper I will refer to as “digitocracy.” However, I believe the rise in smart networks such as blockchain technology, the progression of data mining and the successes of artificial intelligence offer additional opportunities for modern governments, as well as dangers. This paper will propose how modern technology presents significant benefits to how governments are organized and how they do their job, while members of the R ebuttal staff will take the opposite stance. Through our dialectic, I hope that the reader will
acquire a more nuanced understanding of the role these new technologies may play in politics. I will delve into some of the developments in technology which I see as having the potential to benefit governments and clearly identify the criteria by which we ought to assess whether these benefits outweigh their harms. Specifically, I will describe a kind of democracy in which artificial intelligence plays a central role, which for the purposes of this paper I will refer to as “digitocracy.” BACKGROUND A plethora of technologies have developed of late, but I would like to isolate a few for our discussion: blockchain, data mining, and artificial intelligence. While I am discussing these technologies, it is important to be aware that I am primarily establishing background. I will discuss how I see these technologies uniquely coming together in ways which may seem foreign to current governments in the next section. Firstly, a blockchain is a unique form of data storage and data transfer which is incredibly resilient to hacking.⁴ Originally built for cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin, blockchain technology utilizes thousands of independent computers across the globe to independently verify the accuracy of a particular “block” of information, which is then paired with the chain of previous blocks. In order to hack into a blockchain library and corrupt, delete, or otherwise infiltrate its files, one would need to be able to hack into each and every one of these thousands of independent computers across the globe within about 15 minutes, otherwise the system’s verification processes would detect and reject this infiltration.⁵ Thanks to this unique security system, which has allowed a single Bitcoin to be evaluated at over $5,000 US dollars, laws, court proceedings, and other records could be “stored in transparent, shared databases, where they are protected from deletion, tampering, and revision.” This means that “every agreement, every process, every task, and every payment would have a digital record and signature that could be identified, validated, stored, and shared.”⁶ Totalitarian governments like Hungry have used the fact that they hold all public records in a difficult to access and
aloof bureaucracy for malicious ends, such as destroying deeds and tax records,⁷ but that would be much more difficult when blockchain securely stores them in a format which is easily accessible and difficult to destroy, even by the government. The opportunity blockchain opens is not just one in which public information is secure, but one where fundamental aspects of our government may be automated. Jobs normally reserved for politicians, judges, and lawyers, such as contract disputes and negotiations, may be built into the blockchain code, so that we effectively have public records which manage themselves. “The ledger itself can also be programmed to trigger transactions automatically… Intermediaries like lawyers, brokers, and bankers might no longer be necessary. Individuals, organizations, machines, and algorithms would freely transact and interact with one another with little friction.”⁸ By imbuing into the DNA of our data storage the intelligence to follow guidelines and negotiate transactions, a technology we already see may be used to reduce government costs and automate bureaucracy.⁹
AI is already incredibly powerful, able to think within the confines of a simulated world with superhuman capabilities, and it will only become more powerful. Such automation and efficiency has been resisted in the past: the US Defense department, fearing budget cuts, famously attempted to bury an internal report revealing that improving basic information tracking and management would have saved them $125 billion.¹⁰ We now know some background regarding the technology blockchain, but before discussing more novel ways this technology may be utilized in government we need to discuss two more technologies. The second technology is data mining, a technology which has gotten a bad rap from cases such as the Cambridge Analytica scandal, which consisted of a company informing a US political party’s campaign strategies based on data obtained from Facebook.¹¹ Data mining, like most technologies, is just a tool, a way of “finding anomalies, patterns and correlations within large 15
data sets to predict outcomes.”¹² Moreover, it is a tool which is already here, so rather than debating whether or not data mining ought to exist, we should instead discuss whether, in the particular case to be made in the next section, it would produce more benefits than harms. Our ability to find patterns and make predictions about the future is growing incredibly powerful, and we ought not consider any analytical problem as one that can’t be solved, but rather one that can’t be solved yet. The third technological development I want to introduce is artificial intelligence. This is a computer program which makes it possible for machines to learn from experience, adjust to new inputs and perform human-like tasks, as in the case of the AI built by a company acquired by Google, called DeepMind.¹³ To show how DeepMind has revolutionized AI, we need to discuss its latest creation, AlphaZero. This is a program which is able to learn the rules of a particular system, simulate that system, and understand that system to an outstanding degree.¹⁴ While it has primarily worked with relatively simple systems like chess, it is currently being developed to understand incredibly difficult systems like Starcraft and Civilization, games which resemble a great many important aspect of the real world, ranging from resource collection and long-term strategy to cooperative negotiation and maintenance of citizen happiness. AI is already incredibly powerful, able to think within the confines of a simulated world with superhuman capabilities, and it will only become more powerful. The question, then, is not one of whether AI ought to be made, but rather of how we ought to interact with it. If I can show that these technologies might offer us greater benefits than harms, I will have successfully proven my case. This is not to say that the specific solution I propose is likely, but rather that if that solution were employed, it would produce more benefits than harms. AN IMAGE OF DIGITOCRACY I propose an at least partially automated form of democratic rule. This would be one in which certain laws may be written, adjudicated or enforced autonomously. This system of rule would 16
be democratic for two reasons: firstly, it would still be ultimately controlled by politicians elected by members of their constituency; and secondly, because it would be highly transparent in both its goals and its actions. Automated components of the government might run on blockchain technology, which ought to assuage some fears of hacking.¹⁵ Additionally, because blockchain data
I propose an at least partially automated form of democratic rule. This would be one in which certain laws may be written, adjudicated or enforced autonomously. files require thousands of separate computers to be simultaneously running their code, these computers would be owned by the public. An individual could purchase a computer dedicated explicitly to mining data for a public blockchain and be rewarded either with a state-issued bond or, as happens to those who are “miners” of the Bitcoin-specific blockchain,¹⁶ be financially rewarded for the amount of processing power which they lend to the blockchain. Because the public would own and run these computers, the files used on them would be highly transparent and accessible to the public. To be clear, I am not advocating that top secret information be placed on these blockchains, but rather that the blockchain would house public information such as laws, financial reports from the CBO and scientific studies produced with government grants. Thanks to advances in data mining, we know that putting public files on a blockchain and allowing prewritten code to meaningfully perform data analysis either is possible or will be possible very soon.¹⁷ With public data in a highly transparent and accessible format, an AI could be employed that evaluates previous laws within the context of a simulation of the current world. It might evaluate this simulated world with particular goals in mind, before crafting new laws which would be designed towards advancing its goals within that world. The rules of the simulated world which the AI is asked to navigate, as well as the goals which the AI follows, would need to be public in-
formation both established and amendable by our elected officials. We have already established that AI either already can or soon will be able to navigate even the most complex real-world situation with significant effectiveness. This means that the best versions of our laws could be made by an automated system whose only goal is to craft the best solution possible. When we remember that the status quo legislative process, at least in the US, relies heavily on lobbying groups¹⁸ and politicians looking for donations from the wealthy,¹⁹ we realize that allowing AI the capacity to craft laws offers plenty of opportunity for legislation which is creative and focused on the long-term. I am not suggesting that this system completely replace the roles of the House of Representatives or the Senate, but rather that it be integrating into the lawmaking process, possibly working within committees to craft law alongside legislatures, though that would be a process which would undergo many years of testing and progressive adaptation. The process of building a simulation of the current world is no easy task. One way in which this simulation could be built would be through basic data markers like economic data from quarterly jobs reports or legal data from publicly available laws. The results of many scientific studies are already within the public domain, so they could easily be included in a blockchain which feeds updates to the simulated world of the AI. Not all scientific studies are necessarily accurate, but often meta-analyses of the collective findings of a great many studies are the best foundation for a decision which one might hope for. When the US has a president who makes unsubstantiated and incoherent claims like “… the noise [from wind turbines] causes cancer”²⁰ and who has pulled the US out of the Paris Climate Accords despite overwhelming evidence of the need to take such steps to address climate change,²¹ we see that a system in which laws are written with science in mind would have enormous benefits over the current one. Aside from producing creative, long-term oriented legislation and reducing the potential for governments to abuse the aloofness and inaccessibility of bureaucracy, an automated gov-
ernment might also resolve certain issues within the judicial system. Judges in a least some cases could be replaced with an autonomous system. These autonomous systems would be able to review precedent and law in a manner far deeper than any human could.²² After all, while humans might take extraneous details like demographic or economic status into account, it would be possible to program a technology which ignores these and instead focuses on legal analysis alone. This would have two benefits, the first being that massive backlogs of mundane cases, such as the processing of asylum requests, would be vastly improved. US immigration judges are notoriously understaffed, currently dealing with an astounding backlog of 700,000 cases.²³ With autonomous judges able to negotiate cases and review precedent, we could see that the US border becomes a far less intimidating place for asylum seekers. RESPONSES TO OBJECTIONS The staff at Rebuttal have crafted a number of intelligent objections to the notion of a “digitocracy.” They succeed in identifying exactly the key doubts which ought to be assuaged if a digitocracy were to be enacted. I will briefly respond here that while this technology presents some significant uncertainties, it offers far more benefits for the status quo than it does harms. Objection 1. That this technology is hackable. When we consider the value of storing public information in any format, of course we must remember that it is based on technology that is vulnerable to hacking, greed, or espionage. However, we have seen that certain aspects of blockchain technology make it more resilient to these negative effects than its competitors. All examples we can discuss involving status quo instances of technology letting us down are examples of the ineffectiveness of the way things are. Ultimately, blockchain is merely one example of how we might be able to store public information, and since AI and data mining are already here, we ought only to ask whether it is possible to use them to improve governments from where they are now. I have argued that the opportunities for automating certain aspects of the legal system 17
would promote social justice in areas which are experiencing a backlog that prevents them from performing their duties, such as in immigration courts. I have also argued that AI may be used to craft laws with a great degree of creativity and effectiveness, which lawmakers might be able to turn to as alternatives to lobbyists or other groups who offer a similar service of writing laws for representatives.²⁴ We do not live in a world immune to hacking, and when we remember this the value of a digitocracy becomes more apparent. Objection 2. That this technology makes us no less partisan and no more rational. If an AI were to propose certain laws, it is inevitable that some politicians would tout its findings as true while others would decry the AI’s decisions as based on biases or incorrect. While some might take this initial conflict to show that an AI has no effect on partisanship, we should instead see that this partisan conflict might lead a less partisan form of AI. Since all political parties would be allowed control over this system, a sort of median set of priorities and datasets might be agreed upon. For instance, I discussed earlier that while no single scientific study ought to convince us of a broader belief, meta-studies based on the results of hundreds or thousands of previous studies should be given significant weight, or at least as much weight as we ought to given any particular set of evidence. Somewhat more cynically, it is easy for us to imagine an AI being included in committee meetings of representatives or senators and simply being ignored. To this view I can only stress a certain optimism that lawmakers would, in fact, take AI seriously. To debate whether a proposal would occur in a certain political environment is not necessarily an argument against whether it should be a part of that environment. E.g., arguing that “Medicare-for-all” faces significant opposition in the current political system is not the same as arguing that it is a bad idea or shouldn’t be enacted. Objection 3. That digitocracy is just a fancy form of totalitarianism. The notion of giving over control of our government to an AI has been the subject of a great many science fiction horror stories, and there is merit to the fear that anything, whether AI or a particular dictator, rule rath18
er than the people. However, I do not consider digitocracy to warrant these sorts of fears. In my introduction, I refer to the rise of totalitarianism as a negative consequence of growing apathy towards current forms of government and increasingly difficult global problems. I speak primarily of digitocracy as the logical conclusion of the values our politicians agree upon and the datasets our scientists place into the public sphere. I do not argue for an AI overlord that does as it pleases but rather for a tool which will help our politicians to find true common ground and creative solutions. Any examples of current AI being used by totalitarian governments to monitor their citizens or prop up totalitarian regimes are not ones which show that the form of government I advocate for is inherently bad. Rather, these are arguments which identify that AI is a tool being used in the status quo, and that we ought to consider more democratic alternatives. CONCLUSION I have shown a potential means by which certain technologies which are already here or on their way soon may change governments for the better. Whether I have convinced you that technology may come to benefit us or not, I hope to at least have convinced you that these technologies are on their way, and that we ought to take their implications seriously. With the rise of ever more complex political and social contexts, we see that people are becoming ever more willing to turn to strong authority figures for solutions. But if we already distrust our politicians, then trusting autonomous systems may be preferable. Whether I have convinced you or not, we ought to be ready to have careful debates on the merits of digitocracy. With these technologies either on their way or already here, this debate is inevitably one which will soon become of significant political importance. 1. Garry Kasparov and Thor Halvorssen, “Why the rise of authoritarianism is a global catastrophe,” Washington Post, February 13, 2017.
2. Simon Oxenham, “The rise of political apathy in two charts,” Nature, June 6, 2017. 3. “How Chicago activists are using social media data to fight for police accountability,” CBC Radio,November 25, 2016. 4. Andrew Gazdecki, “How secure is blockchain technology?,” Forbes, October 12, 2018. 5. Don Tapscott, “How Blockchain is Changing Money and Business,” filmed August 29, 2016 in Banff, Canada, TED Video, 18:49. 6. Marco Iansiti and Karim Lakhani, “The Truth about Blockchain,” Harvard Business Review, January-February 2017. 7. Don Tapscott, “How Blockchain is Changing Money and Business.” 8. Marco Iansiti and Karim Lakhani, “The Truth about Blockchain.” 9. Don Tapscott, “How Blockchain is Changing Money and Business.” 10. Craig Whitlock and Bob Wooward, “Pentagon Buries Evidence of $125 Billion in Waste,” Washington Post, December 5, 2016. 11. Gaby Hinsliff, “Cambridge Analytica may be Guilty of Hype,” The Guardian, March 20, 2018. 12. “What is Data Mining?,” SAS, sas.com/en_us/ insights/analytics/data-mining.html 13. “Artificial Intelligence: What it is and why it matters,” SAS, sas.com/en_us/insights/analytics/ what-is-artificial-intelligence.html
14. Kyle Wiggers, “DeepMind’s AlphaZero beats state-of-the-art chess and shogi game engines,” Venture Beat, December 6, 2018. 15. Andrew Gazdecki, “How secure is blockchain technology?.” 16. “What is Bitcoin mining?,” Bitcoin Magazine, bitcoinmagazine.com/guides/what-bitcoinmining. 17. “What is Data Mining?,” SAS. 18. Ailsa Chang, “When lobbyists literally write the bill,” NPR, November 11, 2013. 19. Steve Benen, “Rich donors rewards republicans for passing regressive tax breaks,” MSNBC, August 20, 2018. 20. Donald Trump (Speech, National Republican Congressional Committee Spring Fundraising Dinner, Washington D.C., April 2, 2019). 21. Coral Davenport and Kendra Pierre-Louis, “U.S. Climate Report Warns of Damaged Environment and Shrinking Economy,” New York Times, November 11 th , 2018. 22. Don Tapscott, “How Blockchain is Changing Money and Business.” 23. David Martin, “How to fix the crisis caused by Central American asylum seekers — humanely,” Vox, July 4, 2018. 24. Ailsa Chang, “When lobbyists literally write the bill.”
By Nicholas Gonnerman, Editor-in-Chief, and Harrison Clark, Staff Writer
he Board of Editors thanks Mr. Erickson for his thoughtful article. We agree with the author that aspects of technology possess a certain allure when it comes to government. The cyberworld can, in many ways, cut through red tape and offer valuable tools to lawmakers. But we ultimately object to his proposal. Democracy is an organic process that, when possible, should not be computerized. The ability to make logical decisions is only one facet of living in a democratic society, and we tamper with the existing social structure at our peril. There is no debate at present about whether democracy is good or not (an excellent topic for another article). We all agree that it is. Rather, our debate centers around the means of best fulfilling the democratic ideal. We argue that infusing technology with democracy—what we call “digitocracy”—carries with it too many risks to be desirable. We raise three specific concerns. Firstly, that technology in government to the extent Mr. Erickson proposes is largely untested and vulnerable to manipulation by foreign governments or partisan interest groups. Secondly, that digitocracy does not work more effectively than existing
democracies. And thirdly, that a solution to the partisan nature of modern politics comes not from delegating democratic processes to machines, but from the more meaningful (although more difficult) task of rebuilding our social bonds. We take these objections now in turn. OBJECTION 1: THAT TECHNOLOGY IS HACKABLE, MANIPULABLE, AND THEREFORE DANGEROUS. We must first draw a distinction between technology used in the private sector and technology used in the public sphere. Technology like AI and social media in many ways benefit consumers, but the same cannot be said of that technology employed by governments. As we discuss below, government must be exceedingly skeptical of how and where it chooses to leave itself vulnerable to technological shortcomings, as well as to foreign and domestic enemies. Certain technologies pose a risk to democracy by introducing third parties who might harbor malicious intentions. Other technologies not only create an Achilles heel to a country’s security, but incentivize states and other organizations to engage in an international race
Other technologies not only create an Achilles heel to a country’s security, but incentivize states and other organizations to engage in an international race for better and smarter technology. for better and smarter technology—a race which encourages distrust and undermines cooperation on an international level. Russian interference in the 2016 election is a prime example of the dangers technology poses to democracy. According to both the United States Intelligence Community and the FBI, Russian agents hacked into and manipulated election information with the goal of swaying the American electorate. This information included 20,000 emails from the servers of Clinton Campaign officials and other high-ranking Democrats. This unprecedented attack on an American election shows that political data, especially where it comes into contact with nefarious third parties (as was the case with the DNC emails), poses the distinct possibility of malicious use.¹ Likely, Russian hackers also gained access to voting information. These hackers relied upon user error and spear-phishing attacks which were targeted at local government organizations. These organizations were not trained to recognize when the Russians had concealed malware installations, which were disguised as verification logins on government computers. The possibility of voter database malfeasance provides a terrifying glimpse into the potential dangers of technology in national elections. The New York Times article “The Myth of the Hacker-Proof Voting Machine” explores the weaknesses of electronic voting systems, not simply in altering counts but through the hacking of voter registration databases.² In view of the extent to which US elections are at the mercy of international actors, recommending more technology would seem to further open the floodgates to hacking. Simply put, in national systems where data is often the most valuable, there is the greatest incentive and possibility for hacking—making a government’s largest systems its greatest weakness. Even if the technology Mr. Erickson proposes were not used in an election context, relying too much on technology for the purposes of govern-
ing is still unjustifiably risky. Few technologies, it seems, are truly secure. Blockchains (databases spread out over many computers) are a good example of this trend. Once thought of as impenetrable, time has revealed that “just as blockchains have unique security features, they have unique vulnerabilities,” meaning that “marketing slogans and headlines that called the technology ‘unhackable’ were dead wrong.”³ Indeed, hackers of late have stolen millions in cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin, which use blockchains to carry out transactions. In a digitocracy, hackings would cost a nation far more than just money. The consequences could jeopardize a nation’s economy, security, stability, international standing, and a host of other catastrophes. Additionally, in an increasingly technological world, the same forces which unite people across national boundaries pose grave security threats. Currently, US defense officials are looking down the barrel of a possible security crisis if allies and international organizations begin purchasing Huawei 5G-enabled devices. Huawei, a company that works closely with the Chinese government, is on the verge of 5G capability. But experts worry that any data stored, sent, or received on these devices could be delivered into the hands of the Chinese and used against individuals and countries.⁴ From a security and foreign policy perspective, the dangers of digitocracy are great. Governments which rely too much on certain technologies create an environment in which personal data becomes less personal and government data can be weaponized.⁵ Therefore, while technology may pledge to unite our world and improve our governments, the consequences of hacking and unprotected data provide sufficient reason to avoid a digitocracy altogether, instead choosing more measured and limited use of technology for the sake of protecting the data and abilities of a country and its people.
OBJECTION 2: THAT DIGITOCRACY WILL HAVE LITTLE TO NO POSITIVE EFFECT ON THE DEMOCRATIC PROCESS. Since Plato, philosophers and political scientists have felt the urge to defer decision making to learned entities. The reason why makes good theoretical sense; if society can build a machine or train a leader with the ability to make good decisions, why not trust it or them to make decisions on your less capable behalf? The argument for digitocracy follows similar logic. After all, AI can make decisions rationally and with the common good in mind. It acts as a source of information that, even if occasionally mistaken, is “more likely to be right” than a person and should therefore be relied upon.⁶ Mr. Erickson proposes that some of the reasons we should rely upon AI include the following: that AI could solve some of the partisanship issues democracies around the world currently face, and that it would do so by making reasoned and rational decisions which benefit society. So, then, would technology make us less partisan and more reasoned?
In politics, views are often shaped by a need to promote party agenda, and to defeat opponents. Less partisan. Only if the technology in question was “value-neutral,” like the internet, could technology have the potential to reduce partisanship.⁷ Value-neutral technologies act like a forum. People exchange ideas across these platforms, which have the capacity to host open conversation in the search of common ground.⁸ But this is not the case with AI. AI is not a neutral platform. Rather, it learns from human behavior through a set of algorithms and offers information as a result. In a sense, AI works similarly to the way people think (that’s really the entire point), and therefore becomes a partisan actor itself. For AIinfused politics to become less partisan, some consensus needs to exist for our politicians to trust and obey AI decisions. Such a consensus is unlikely. Just last month, Congressman Thomas Massie (R-KY) questioned former Secretary of State John Kerry on climate 22
change. His point: that long ago in the age of dinosaurs and giant volcanoes, the Earth’s atmosphere contained more CO2 than it does now, and so we really shouldn’t be concerned about climate change. The exchange prompted Kerry to ask Massie, “are you serious? I mean, is this really a serious...happening here?” and led reporters to describe the exchange as “bizarre.”⁹ We doubt that the Massies of Congress or the world really care about what AI says about climate change. In politics, views are often shaped by a need to promote party agenda, and to defeat opponents.¹⁰ Congressman Massie has read the data and understands the numbers vis-à-vis climate change. He even has a degree (it may shock some to learn) from MIT. But as with many members of the political class—and all of us, really—on hot button issues, education and even scientific consensus pale in influence to party mentality. Only if AI has power over the Massies of society would AI make any real difference in eliminating partisanship. But this defeats the very point; the moment AI becomes coercive is the moment we lose democracy. More reasoned. Ostensibly, AI uses deduction to maximally benefit society without sin of favor or prejudice. But this is not what happens in reality. AI uses certain sets of information to operate. If the information is skewed, AI conclusions can discriminate based upon gender, race, and other factors. These discriminations, called “algorithm bias,” are not intentional; they simply arise from available data. Algorithm bias calls into question AI’s ability to objectively remedy social issues—especially those issues that involve abstract social values like gender equality. It seems unlikely that AI can really map out a plan to ameliorate gender disparities in the workplace, for example, because these issues require an understanding of abstract social notions of equality rather than tangible goals like GDP growth. Moreover, knowing the prevalence of algorithm bias, we are unwilling to trust AI technology as a provider of solutions to gender and other issues. Even in specific roles, like in courts (which Mr. Erickson proposes), algorithm bias has already done great damage. Judges around the
country often rely on software that assesses the likelihood of recidivism. But this system gives black and white defendants “who are otherwise identical” different recidivism scores “because blacks are re-arrested at higher rates than whites… at least in part because of racial profiling, ineq-
It seems unlikely that AI can really map out a plan to ameliorate gender disparities in the workplace, for example, because these issues require an understanding of abstract social notions of equality rather than tangible goals like GDP growth. uities in enforcement, and harsher treatment of blacks within the justice system.”¹¹ Would you trust the judgement of this AI to shape the outcome of your criminal case? Would you trust it to shape the outcome of your public policy? True, we already have bias in politics. But this bias is more understandable and remediable (through elections) than the far more hidden and nuanced bias of algorithms. AI, then, does not necessarily promote more reason than is capable with human beings, and adds an obstacle to removing racism, sexism, and other bias from democratic institutions. OBJECTION 3: THAT DIGITOCRACY SUBVERTS THE ESSENCE OF DEMOCRACY. There is another issue we must address first: is technology like that discussed by Mr. Erickson compatible with democracy? We think not. Even ignoring daunting questions like who creates the AI? or who maintains the programs? or how much public policy will be controlled by Noah, the IT guy? we can still observe that AI is the hallmark of modern tyranny and dictatorship. As Steven Feldstein writes, “around the world, AI systems are showing their potential for abetting repressive regimes and upending the relationship between citizen and state, thereby accelerating a global resurgence of authoritarianism.”¹² In Malaysia, China, Kenya,¹³ and Iran (to name just a few examples), governments have
taken advantage of facial recognition technology and other AI to aid in their crackdown of opposition and enforcement of policies. In developed nations like the United State, the issue is different. But even in the United States, the specter of Orwellianism exists in the form of private companies like Facebook and Google. The question must be asked: are we really moving in the right direction when that direction is to “Google-ize” government?¹⁴ It makes no difference if AI starts its time in government in an experimental or limited capacity. Mr. Erickson thoughtfully proposes to initially limit the role of AI to deciding court cases or advising lawmakers. But once entered into, the influence of technology will only grow—as will our reliance upon it. Government rarely curtails itself. Look, for example, at how much and how continually the powers of the executive branch have grown over the course of American history. As Milton Friedman once quipped, “there is nothing more permanent than a temporary government program.” The most impending danger of digitocracy in the United States is not that AI will take over the government, or that an AI government will take over the populace, but that this kind of technology will change the very way we think about democratic society. Robert Kanigel warns of the “credo of rational efficiency,” which promotes a view of government not as an embodiment of citizens, but as mechanisms for interpreting raw data and making decisions.¹⁵ Democracy, in other words, is not a real-life game of Civilization V. Civil society cannot and should not be programmed, and reliance on technology as a deciding or even advising instrument misses the point of democratic society by weakening the bonds between state and citizen, as well as between citizens themselves. Democracies are fundamentally about relationships between people. As Peter Berger and Richard Neuhaus observed in 1977, healthy public life revolves around the neighborhood, the family, the church, and other voluntary associations. Without these associations, “the political order becomes detached from the values and realities of individual life” and “delegitimated.” Delegitimation then usually leads to increasingly 23
coercive governments and the end of democratic norms.¹⁶ It is easy to ignore these norms, to look for technology to solve our problems rather than perform the arduous task of building or rebuilding personal relationships. But ultimately, the most meaningful social and political change occurs when participants in democracy come together in a deliberative spirit of citizenship, neighborliness, and family. John Dewey famously called this spirit “the great community”—a community in which
“the ever expanding and intricately ramifying consequences of associated activities shall be known in the full sense of the word, so that an organized, articulate Public comes into being.”¹⁷ Today, we as Dewey’s Public face a choice. Our choice is between exporting our democratic intuitions to AI and the like, or reaffirming our commitments to one another as citizens and neighbors. To take the latter course means ditching the sterility of digitized government in favor of the fullness and richness of democratic—and even human—life.
1. Timothy B. Lee, “DNC Email Leaks Explained,” Vox, July 25, 2016. 2. Kim Zetter, “The Myth of the Hacker-Proof Voting Machine,” New York Times, February 21, 2018. 3. Mike Orcutt, “Once Hailed as Unhackable, Blockchains are Now Getting Hacked,” MIT Technology Review, February 19, 2019. 4. Jasmine Garsd, “The History of Tech Giant Huawei and the Chinese Government,” NPR, December 7, 2018. 5. Alyza Sebenius and Todd Shields, “U.S. Conducting 5G Security Review Amid Hacking, Huawei Concerns,” Bloomberg, March 6, 2019. 6. Jason Brennan, Against Democracy (Princeton University Press, 2016), 221. 7. Ian Bremmer, “Democracy in Cyberspace: What Technology Can and Cannot Do,” Foreign Affairs 89, no. 6 (November/December 2010), n.p. 8. Although, even the internet has been linked to increases in partisanship. See, e.g., Jamie Susskind, Future Politics (Oxford University Press, 2010); Timothy B. Lee, “How Social Media Creates Angry, Poorly Informed Voters,” Vox, October 26, 2016. 9. Colby Itzkowitz, “Are you Serious? John Kerry’s Climate Change Credentials Challenged by GOP Lawmaker,” Washington Post, April 10, 2019. 10. Leonie Huddy and Alexa Bankert, “Political Partisanship as a Social Identity,” Oxford Research Encyclopedias (2017), n.p.
11. Jerry Kaplan, “Why Your AI is Racist,” Washington Post, December 17, 2018. 12. Steven Feldstein, “The Road to Digital Unfreedom,” Journal of Democracy 30, no. 1 (2019). 13. Kenya is interesting for another reason. In 2013, its elections employed a vote counting and organizing software. The implementation process was extremely expensive and prone to error. See Joel D. Barkan, “Technology is not Democracy,” Journal of Democracy 24, no. 3 (2013). 14. We recommend David Eggers’ book, The Circle to readers who wish to explore this question further. 15. Robert Kanigel quoted by Harry C. Boyte, “Dewey and Citizen Politics: How Democracy Can Survive Artificial Intelligence and the Credo of Efficiency,” Education and Culture 33, no. 2 (2017), n.p. 16. Peter L. Berger and Richard John Neuhaus, “To Empower People: The Role of Mediating Structures in Public Policy,” Conservatism: An Anthology of Social and Political Thought from David Hume to the Present, ed. Jerry Z. Muller (Princeton University Press, 1997), 376- 377. 17. John Dewey, The Public and its Problems (Chicago: Gateway Books, 1946), 184.
On Consuming the Art of Immoral Artists
Why the consumer must change the future, not the history, of art By Harrison Clark, Staff Writer
t often feels that a dichotomy exists between media consumption and personal ethics. The modern-day reception of “Roseanne,” “House of Cards,” and “The Cosby Show” demonstrates the impact consumer culture has on what society watches (as well as the increasingly controversial nature of what media we consume). Discussions concerning moral transgressions of actors in these shows generally yield two camps: pro-media, which advocates that art forms ought to live on—divorced from their creators—and pro-restraint, which argues that a divorce of this nature is impossible, thereby suggesting that societal transgressors should be silenced. In applying these two thought patterns to modern day perceptions of literature and music, I argue that a pragmatic approach, one which borrows aspects from both camps, is the only way to ensure the delicate balance which protects victims of assault and hatred while preserving the valuable historical context of literature and music. Music and writing are not concepts born of any single living generation; each generation has
left its mark by reaching back while leaning forward. We cannot divorce today’s Stephen King from history’s Mary Shelley, nor the contributions of Leonard Bernstein from those of J.S. Bach, born three hundred years earlier. For better or for worse, history’s composers and writers are embedded with today’s culture. Arts are evolutionary. Just as there can be no ballistic missiles without the Greek catapult or megachurches without the
Music and writing are not concepts born of any single living generation; each generation has left its mark by reaching back while leaning forward. ancient Jews, there cannot be a clean divorce between today’s craft and each link in the chain of its creation. Wagner presents a compelling example of this messy balance. Widely considered one of history’s more influential composers, Wagner’s opera, extreme tonality, and prolific output place 25
him and his tunes among the most recognizable in the classical music world. (Don’t believe me? Google “Ride of the Valkyries.”) Beyond opera, however, Wagner wrote the now famous essay “Das Judenthum in der Musik” (Judaism in Music) lambasting Jewish traditions and advocating, by some interpretations, suicide for those of Jewish descent. Even beyond this essay, many scholars argue that characters in his work represent Judaism in a humiliating light, and Hitler was a frequent patron of his performances. So what is one to do with Wagner’s music? Those who are pro-restraint may argue that Wagner has no place in the contemporary music collection. After all, at best he was complicit and at worst an active participator in the Third Reich. Alright then, we must respond, Richard Strauss and Gustav Holst, both widely influenced by the work of Wagner, should probably go too, and you’ll need to cull your DVD collection as well. All three also influenced John Williams, so say goodbye to “Star Wars” and “E.T.,” Harry Potter, and “Superman.” Oh, and NBC Sunday Night Football—Williams wrote the opening theme. Of course, all this is quite ridiculous—Williams’ interest in Wagner is purely musical as far as can be seen. And yet, there can be no “Schindler’s List” by Williams without Wagner’s “Parsifal.” Indeed, the brilliance of Williams would be lost in cutting away his pedigree. So then, we cannot enjoy modern film scoring without also enjoying the romantic era roots which underlie it. We may not see it as such, but when one eats fruits from a tree, one is eating from its branches, trunk, and roots as well. In enjoying the product, we are enjoying the labors which allowed its creation, and that includes all the creators who contributed to the form. Music can rarely be consumed, and never studied, in a vacuum, for where is the power of Whitney Houston’s gospel music without hymns and spirituals of early Black Americans? Accepting new music endorses tradition. Therefore, yes, we must listen to music and read works by history’s ethically questionable creators or else cease our consumption of these media altogether. There is no separating the good from the bad without decimating the very industries themselves. 26
In this way, shunning historical music unseats the foundation of music as a whole. All music descends from some music all the way back to the first vocalizations, and to unseat a piece of that progression is to risk toppling everything. Creators fade into the timeline, and their influence is felt and responded to by future creators who memorialize their efforts by following in their footsteps. There can be no going back without losing the form altogether, and I sincerely doubt society would ever be able turn back time far enough to correct the wrongs of its composers and writers. It is not, at this point, a moralistic question but rather a pragmatic one; it is a question of what can be done, and we cannot unseat the foundation of human artistry, morally tainted though it may be. Even Gregorian chant, one of the first forms of notated music, concealed a political attempt to unite Charlemagne’s newly converted empire and drive out other forms of worship. Like Civil War battlefields and napalm-cleared forests, music and literature forcibly remind us of those
Like Civil War battlefields and napalm-cleared forests, music and literature forcibly remind us of those historical atrocities our ancestors found palatable. historical atrocities our ancestors found palatable. Even if we remain unwittingly rooted in history’s faults, it is history’s roots which bear the fruit of music and literature in the modern era. Even if we did have the ability to strike works by objectionable creators, how would we know where to stop? Will Hammurabi’s Code be forgotten as a result of his extreme enforcement by modern standards? Should the Narnia series be removed from bookshelves because of C.S. Lewis’s views on the place of women in marriage? (Hint: not equal.) No—I argue there is no societal duty to blot out the creators who prove offensive or odious to us if their media presents no continuing harm. We may, as individuals, choose to cease our consumption for the sake of our own consciences, but we cannot invoke a moral imperative to cease consumption of a certain creator.
Doing so would create a ripple effect and leave ethically sound literature and music orphaned and weakened, effectively destroying the neutral and positive messages along with the purge of ethically unsound creators. In the modern era, however, the consumer has complete control over and therefore complete
the consumer has complete control over and therefore complete responsibility for the voices which are remembered in future generations. responsibility for the voices which are remembered in future generations. Media, as a profit-driven engine, must show us what we want to consume. Otherwise we have no interest in what has been created, and while there is certainly good evidence that consumers like to be challenged, there is always the ethical pull away from those things which trouble our consciences. Too far outside of the viewer’s moral sense (whether gratuitous violence on camera or misdeeds by the actors), and watching becomes a chore. Still, this poses the obvious question: whose conscience matters most? Should television media cater to anti-Muslim sentiments, or should they depict America with demographic equity? Different outlets pick different viewpoints to bolster, obviously, but the goal for each of them remains the same—selling to the largest possible audience. Often, profit-seeking falls along demographic lines. A Nielsen Report on 2014-15 viewership included this analysis of television spending. “[Black viewers are] over-indexing their total market counterparts by 20 percent. Overall, Black viewers are helping to elevate up-and-coming Black celebrities and programs, which are at the forefront of a trend towards diversity in television, movies and other media forms. In fact, 62 percent of Black millennials agree that they feel really good about seeing celebrities in the media who share their ethnic background.”1 Television media, a profit-driven sector, wanted in. Nielsen also reported a 255 percent increase in advertising targeted toward the Black demographic between 2011 and 2015,2 and UCLA’s
2018 Hollywood Diversity Report, tracking the 2015-16 season, shows representation of Black actors on broadcast TV as higher than the percentage of Black Americans.3 This is all to say, media follows money. Black millennials wanted more Black characters, and as Black purchasing power grew, so did Black representation. Essentially, consumers crave their own representation in media, and companies will happily cater to this given the right incentive (read: money). Television, literature, music, art, radio, and other mass media are more profitable when they reflect the values of their community. In this way, society’s ethics are already influencing media’s choices. We consume what we like, and we like that which is inoffensive and bolsters our worldview. Contemplating pure ethics does not benefit media. It must be left to the evolving morality of the public eye to make these sorts of decisions, and the spending power of each individual represents our voiced discontent. Media can push us right to the edge of our comfort zone, but when enough people are offended by composers and writers, their works are tossed from the public sphere. Simply put, it is in the best interests of companies not to piss off their consumers. Likewise, beyond the producers, another force exists which caters to our consumership—streaming services. Spotify recently made headlines when they started wiping “material that favors hatred or incites violence against race, religion, sexuality or the like” following the Charlottesville rally, yet they had received pressure to do just that from the Southern Poverty Law Center more than two years prior and did nothing. Likewise, iTunes sold music from white supremacist bands even after an SPLC report thirteen years prior to Charlottesville showed how Apple was profiting from this racist music.4 Both examples demonstrate not some moral code but pressure and profits which get results. Once again, markets responded to a fear of offense taken by consumers. The consumer must be discerning and weigh their media in realization that today’s choices will affect future generations. If we find writing or music to be so offensive that we ourselves perceive its quality jeopardized, we ought to toss it out. In this 27
way, we are regents for the next generation. Let us be offended when we are guilty of lining the pockets of offensive people if we feel morally obliged. We cannot, in good conscience, support a creator who runs afoul of our moral sensitivities. We are all epicurean by nature, searching for media we enjoy consuming. If we cannot tolerate its creators enough even to press play or turn the page, let us distance ourselves by refusing to consume it. Non-consumption will pass along the message. If only ethical creators sell, only ethical creators we will have. Spread the word, too; every time someone refuses a song or a literary text, a message is sent in terms companies are forced to respect. In essence, ethics must be weighed against enjoyment, and we ought to place a finger on the scale in favor of ethics in understanding that we fight not for ourselves but for the future. Should we consume media by ethically questionable creators in the modern age? No, if we are offended, it is our duty to minimize and stop the 1. Darnell Hunt et al., “Hollywood Diversity Report 2018,” (online report, 2018), 24. 2. Ibid. 3. Nielsen, “Young, Connected and Black,” (online report, 2016), 22-26. 4. Andrew Flanagan, “Spotify Removes Racist Music In Response To Charlottesville,” NPR.
voices which offend us from gaining social power in the years to come. We must treat old and new media differently in our assessment of our duties as consumers. For better or for worse, older music and literature are difficult to extract from the works of today. It’s canonical Jenga. No one piece can be removed without the risk of toppling significant parts of the form itself. The modern era, though, is ripe with opportunity. Consumers have the chance to stop canonization of works they see as ethically objectionable for any reason. We can muzzle musicians and writers at the distribution level. At very least, a lack of patronage is a strong signal to streaming services, publishers, labels, distributors, and whoever else cares to listen. If we are worried about who will take the spotlight in generations to come and who will be given a platform to have their voice heard, it is our duty to fight back against these contemporary voices, not their ancestral influences.
We Should Not Consume the Art of Immoral Artists A Test for How to Avoid Benefitting Bad People By Iain Carlos
he old and new allegations of sexual abuse faced by singer-songwriter R. Kelly push us to answer the question: Is it moral to consume the art of moral transgressors? I think the answer to this question is dependent upon three factors: 1. Will the consumption of the unethical artist’s product sustain this artist, financially or otherwise? 2. Will the consumption of this art alter the consumer in a way such that they will be harmed or more likely to commit misdeeds? 3. Will agents at large be made more likely to commit misdeeds if this art is consumed? If the answer to all of these questions is no, then, I argue, the product is morally permissible to consume. If the answer to even one of them is yes, then, I argue, the product is not morally permissible to consume. A good place to start is the concrete example of R. Kelly. For the sake of argument, let’s assume that R. Kelly is guilty of sexual abuse and is not the victim of some kind of terrible conspiracy. Let’s also assume that, given the liberty, R. Kelly would commit sexual abuse again, and has not
and will not suddenly rid himself of this inclination. On these assumptions, it would seem that it is immoral to consume the art of R. Kelly in such a way that would sustain him. I say this because for every R. Kelly song we stream or album we purchase, we extend his ability to do further harm. The revenue earned from our consumption
for every R. Kelly song we stream or album we purchase, we extend his ability to do further harm. of his art would aid R. Kelly in paying for competent lawyers in order to avoid incarceration, function as hush-money for his victims, and aid in his future endeavors of sexual abuse. My reader might be inclined to ask if it would then be morally permissible, or perhaps even good, to pirate R. Kelly’s music, as pirating is a form of consumption that would not provide R. Kelly with compensation. I’m inclined to say no. I say this because we generally assume that it is wrong to steal, although the intricacies of such an assumption are beyond the scope of this paper. 29
Now, what if some of R. Kelly’s art became public domain? Then, I would say, consuming his public domain art would be morally permissible, so long as this consumption does not answer question 2 or 3 in the affirmative, i.e., it will not make the consumer more likely to commit misdeeds, and not make society as a whole more likely to commit misdeeds. I would say that the line of reasoning we have used to determine whether or not R. Kelly’s art is morally permissible to consume follows for any other living unethical artist. This determination seems to be dependent upon some kind of ethical framework that determines which acts fall into the domain of moral transgression and which do not, but this framework is beyond the scope of this paper. What about consuming the art of dead, unethical artists? As much as I hate to say it, for I am a prideful Jew, I do enjoy occasionally listening to the music of Richard Wagner in spite of the fact that he was a raging antisemite. Luckily for me and for all of us, Wagner is long dead, and his work is now public domain. As such, we don’t have to worry about listening to one of Wagner’s works and funding his or anyone else’s antisemitic projects. That being said, it has been argued that Wagner’s antisemitism did not merely exist in his mind, but is also manifested in his art.1 As such, it is not inconceivable that one might consume Wagner’s work and somehow become antisemitic or more antisemitic. The fact of the matter is, however, that there are any number of historical and contemporary works, not just in the artistic sphere but in other spheres, that contain ideas contrary to a good moral project. For example, Aristotelian philosophy is sexist and it’s possible that someone could read his work and adopt his brand of sexism. Does this mean that we should do away with reading Aristotle’s work altogether? The utility of reading Aristotle’s work seems to trump the possible bad inflicted by consuming Aristotle’s philosophy. Furthermore, with the proper education, this problem might be avoidable altogether. Of course, we are always obligated to discredit bad ideas and credit good ones wherever and whenever we encounter them. That being said, if you are in the presence of someone who you believe 30
to have a predisposition to becoming a neo-Nazi, you might want to steer clear of introducing them to Wagner and consider playing some Steely Dan for them instead. From discussing dead immoral artists then, I have found that it is permissible for someone to consume the art of the unethical so long as that consumption will not sustain anyone likely to commit misdeeds, and that this someone is confident that the artwork they are consuming will not somehow make them more prone to misdeeds. But can the consumption of the work of the unethical have some unforeseen effects? It seems reasonable for one to be concerned that consuming the art of the unethical may have a negative psychological effect on society as a whole. We might worry that if we deem it permissible to consume the art of a sexual abuser,
It seems reasonable for one to be concerned that consuming the art of the unethical may have a negative psychological effect on society as a whole. we may not view the misdeed of sexual abuse as gravely as we do now. We also might worry that agents may become more likely to commit sexual abuse because we are reducing the punishment we inflict on sexually abusive artists by permitting the consumption of their art, thus perhaps giving the impression of softer consequences for sexual abuse. I concede that I am unsure of the psychological effects that listening to Wagner has on society’s perception of antisemitism and its fear of committing antisemitic acts. All I can do is repeat my intuition that, with proper education and moral development, a society can consume Wagner’s work, even the work that contains antisemitism, and remain safe from becoming more antisemitic. I would add that it seems society should learn that, not merely for artists, but for all producers of important works, we can condemn moral transgressors and still appreciate their work. I do not mean that we should treat a moral transgressor, like Martin Luther for example, simply as a man of his time who we cannot hold to our moral stan-
dards—quite the opposite. We should condemn Martin Luther, Thomas Jefferson, and R. Kelly as committers of atrocious misdeeds but still evaluate their works on their merits and extract what is useful for us now. We would only be doing further disservice to ourselves to suffer the pangs inflicted on us by these moral transgressors and not utilize what good they produced. 1. A.J. Goldmann, “A ‘Gay Jewish Kangaroo’ Takes on Wagner at Bayreuth,” The New York Times,
July 24, 2017.
Missing History By Maren Assef
ow does a musical showcasing America’s founding fathers as hip-hop and rap prodigies break the record of most Tony Award nominations? This unusual mashup of history and hip-hop written by LinManuel Miranda continues to be praised for its artistic edge and lyrical creativity in celebration of a diverse and modern America. However, historians have written reviews that range from praises of the incredible historical details to criticisms of fatal inaccuracies and omitted details, specifically the significant racial divide of this time. Hamilton entertainingly tells a rich story of American history, but the musical suffers from the fatal flaw of ignoring the less glamorous aspects of American history and misrepresents the racial atmosphere of the Revolutionary era. Miranda portrays Alexander Hamilton’s journey to America in a new light. By blending hip-hop, a Broadway musical, and historical retelling, his production freshens a story as old as American itself. He frequently uses primary sources to write the characters’ lyrics, and he engagingly presents them to make historical documents more digestible and relatable to the au-
dience. For example, in “Your Obedient Servant,” Miranda employs a real correspondence between Aaron Burr and Alexander Hamilton leading up to their fatal duel. This choice allows him to develop authentic dialogue between these two characters, such as Burr’s threatening comments to Hamilton: “Careful how you proceed good man, intemperate indeed, good man, answer for the accusations I lay at your feet or prepare to bleed, good man.”¹ He follows it with his charming, yet condescending signature, “Your obedient servant, A. Burr,” similarly borrowed from letters between these men. Drawing on these primary sources enables Miranda to portray his characters in a relatable manner rather than reducing them to figures from a textbook. Presenting history in a clever and effective method is one of Hamilton’s greatest strengths. Although the musical covers a vast breadth of history, Miranda also frequently glorifies aspects of American history which should be recognized as flaws. He takes biased approaches to the characters of the musical, enhancing or omitting strengths and weaknesses as he pleases. Miranda is also guilty of approaching the musical using a “Founders Chic” perspective, a term
that historian Ken Owen defines as “…historians [exaggerating] the importance of individuals, at the expense of understanding the contribution of less-celebrated Americans or the role of broader societal and historical processes.”² Hamilton glorifies the white men who star in the show and ignores their flaws. For example, Miranda portrays Alexander Hamilton as an immigrant eager to advocate for anti-slavery and pro-immigration agendas. Miranda fills the musical with crowd- pleasing lines regarding these issues such as Hamilton and Lafayette’s lyrics in “Yorktown,” chanting “Immigrants, we get the job done.”³ Additionally, in the deleted song, “Cabinet Battle #3,” Hamilton argues, “Institutionalized slavery
Hamilton is portrayed as the moral hero of this musical, while, in reality, his agenda was not as inclusive as Miranda insists. only multiplies our troubles…this is the stain on our soul and democracy…A land of the free? No, it’s not. It’s hypocrisy.”⁴ Hamilton is portrayed as the moral hero of this musical, while, in reality, his agenda was not as inclusive as Miranda insists. In a New York Evening Post article written in 1802, Hamilton revealed his genuine stance on immigration. “The safety of a republic depends essentially on the energy of a common national sentiment; on a uniformity of principles and habits; on the exemption of the citizens from foreign bias, and prejudice…”⁵ This article demonstrates the inconsistencies between Alexander Hamilton’s real personality and the hero Miranda creates. Hamilton’s most significant historical flaw is the disregard of the horrific treatment towards African Americans during the Revolutionary Period. Although Miranda may view the issue of slavery as common knowledge, it is disrespectful to anyone affected by this act of racism to ignore it almost entirely while portraying a period where it was so prominent. Throughout the musical, subtle lines about slavery are expressed, but they are given insufficient attention and easily missed by listeners. These lines are as indirect as Hamilton referencing Jefferson’s affair with one of his many slaves during “Cabinet Battle #1” asking him,
“Would you like to join us or stay mellow? Doing whatever the hell it is you do in Monticello.”⁶ This subtlety masks the fact that Jefferson was an extremely vocal white supremacist. In “Notes on the State of Virginia,” he expresses his racist opinions: “I advance it, therefore, as a suspicion only, that blacks …are inferior to the whites in the endowments of body and mind.”⁷ This is another example of the Founders Chic approach that Miranda used throughout the musical. Miranda had initially composed a song intended to be a final cabinet battle in Hamilton in which Jefferson, Washington, and Hamilton argue over the ethics of the slave trade. This song alone would have drawn much more attention to the racial climate of this era, but Miranda’s decision to omit it wasted the opportunity to address a critical aspect of American history. Likewise, Miranda’s decision to cast a multiracial cast can be viewed in a progressive light, as Miranda allowed for people of color to retell the history that they are so frequently excluded from, but he does so by dismissing the history that their ancestors actually experienced. In essence, this casting disguises his decision to only include glorified white-male history in his musical. Historian Lyra Monteiro believes this casting to be “misleading and actively erases the presence and role of black and brown people in Revolutionary America, as well as before and since.”⁸ Although the cast is made up of people of different races, Miranda fails to portray any person of color in Hamilton, demonstrating his half-hearted efforts to comment on the racism of the era in his retelling. During Hamilton’s lifetime, there were African Americans who played significant roles in American history such as Cato, an enslaved African American who also worked as a patriot spy with his owner. Instead of highlighting Cato’s contributions to the Revolutionary era, Miranda chose to use his owner, Hercules Mulligan, a white man played by an African American. This again was a wasted opportunity for Miranda to include the issue of slavery or the stories of people of color in early American history. The use of a multiracial cast also allows viewers of Hamilton to enjoy a show that celebrates early American racists without feeling guilty or uncomfortable. If 33
Miranda acknowledged the enormous role that racism played throughout this period, many audience members would leave with feelings of guilt, or at least discomfort, because of how their ancestors treated minorities, as 72% of New Yorkers who attend Broadway musicals are white.⁹ For example, when Jefferson returns from Monticello, he is greeted by a line of dancers, representing his many slaves. However, since a black man plays Jefferson, and the line of dancers are smiling and perky, many even white, the audience members are protected from the less glamorous aspects of history that Miranda avoids.
Hamilton is a musical that caused widespread interest in early American history. It is successful in its theatrical display of the Revolutionary era but leaves out critical information, necessary for it to be deemed “good” history. As progressive as Miranda envisioned this musical to be, it is still a glorified portrayal of white American history and is geared towards an audience of the same demographic. The historical inaccuracies of Hamilton are fatal flaws worthy of being critiqued and the discussion of its inadequacies must be considered in an attempt to move towards a more progressive and inclusive modern America.
1. Leslie Odom, Jr. and Lin-Manuel Miranda, Your Obedient Servant, recorded August 2015, track 20 from Act 2 on Hamilton, Avatar Studios. 2. Ken Owen, “Historians and Hamilton: Founders Chic and the Cult of Personality,” The Junto April 21, 2016. 3. Original Broadway Cast of Hamilton,Yorktown (The World Turned Upside Down), recorded August 2015, track 20 from Act 2 on Hamilton, Avatar Studios. 4. Lin-Manuel Miranda, Cabinet Battle 3 (Demo), recorded August 2015, Hamilton, Avatar Studios. 5. Mackubin Owens, “Hamilton’s Actual Views on Immigration,” American Greatness, December 21, 2016.
6. Christopher Jackson, Daveed Diggs, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Okieriete Onaodowan, Cabinet Battle #1, recorded August 2015, track 2 from Act 2 on Hamilton, Avatar Studios. 7. Thomas Jefferson, “Jefferson Quotes & Family Letters,” Jefferson Quotes & Family Letters, January 1, 1782 to December 31, 1782, tjrs.monticello.org/letter/1314. 8. L. D. Monteiro, “Review Essay: Race-Conscious Casting and the Erasure of the Black Past in Lin-Manuel Mirandas Hamilton.” The Public Historian, vol. 38, no. 1 (2016): 89–98. 9. “‘Hamilton’ Is Diverse, but Is Its Audience?” ELDORADO, March 3, 2016.
Important vs. Great History By Brennan Brink
he hit Broadway production Hamilton: An American Musical quickly took America by storm and not-so-quietly won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama, eleven Tony awards, and countless other accolades. Criticism of Hamilton as theater is few and far between, but historians have reason to reprimand the musical for its flawed historical accuracy. Hamilton attempts to paint a biography of founding father Alexander Hamilton within the span of 2 hours and 45 minutes. The musical utilizes rap to fill the story with as much information as possible, but the constraints of the stage make creating a piece of history difficult. Nonetheless, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Hamilton’s writer, did an exceptional job of bring-
The musical utilizes rap to fill the story with as much information as possible, but the constraints of the stage makes creating a piece of history difficult. ing history to the stage. Although Hamilton is not great history, as it does not paint a completely accurate portrait of Alexander Hamilton and the
events of his life, it is an important piece of history because it opens the door for better dissemination of history in the future. Hamilton’s inaccuracies lie within the portrayal of Hamilton as an idealized hero. Hamilton makes a mistake common to biographies; it distorts Hamilton’s image into one which is only positive. In the musical, Hamilton’s ambition and intellect help him skyrocket to the top of the political world. In so doing, the musical masks Hamilton’s flaws. When describing his love affair with Maria Reynolds in the song “Say No to This,” Miranda presents Hamilton as a victim who is taken advantage of and placed in a situation out of his control. Miranda starts the song explaining how Hamilton was stressed and not completely in his right mind, with Hamilton saying, “I hadn’t slept in a week / I was weak, I was awake / You never seen a bastard orphan / more in need of a break.” Then when the affair begins, Miranda shifts Hamilton from the subject of the sentence to the direct object, distancing Hamilton from fault. “She turned red, she led me to her bed / let her legs spread.” Further on in the song, Hamilton’s consent to the action muddies as he says, “then her mouth is on mine, and I don’t say no.”¹ Hamilton 35
Although Hamilton is not great history, as it does not paint a completely accurate portrait of Alexander Hamilton and the events of his life, it is an important piece of history because it opens the door for better dissemination of history in the future. ‘not saying no’ is different from him saying yes; Miranda’s portrayal of Hamilton falls into a major pitfall of historical writing by declaring Hamilton responsible for much of his successes but a victim of his failures. Furthermore, Miranda’s emphasis on Hamilton’s immigrant status is misleading, as it spreads a contemporary message and not Hamilton’s actual views. Throughout the musical, Miranda represents Hamilton as a proud immigrant who accomplished the American Dream through hard work. In Hamilton’s final monologue he reiterates this theme, calling America, “[a] place where even orphan immigrants can leave their fingerprints and rise-up.”² However, Hamilton was not a proud immigrant, but rather shunned his past and held many anti-immigrant beliefs.³ Miranda creates a piece of art which inspires its audience with popular themes, but at the cost of harming Hamilton’s historical veracity. Hamilton did not champion the musical’s theme that “Immigrants…get the job done,”⁴ but instead pushed John Adams to pass the Alien and Sedition Acts in order to imprison and deport foreigners.⁵ Here Miranda not only harms the historical truth of Hamilton’s story, but overtly uses it to spread a political message. Miranda retrojects contemporary themes onto Hamilton, increasing the timeliness of the musical, but muddying the history; Miranda’s modernizing of Hamilton epitomizes Joanne Freeman’s idea “that history is a story that we tell about ourselves.”⁶ Instead of emphasizing the story of Alexander Hamilton, Miranda unpacks the modern political landscape, which wrestles with whether the American Dream is still possible and with immigration policy. Furthermore, the race-conscious casting of Hamilton, where the characters are played predominantly by people of color, presents another historical problem, although one that is not as cut and dry as the other inaccuracies. Save for a brief non-verbal appearance by Sally Hemmings 36
in “What Did I Miss?” there are no named black characters in Hamilton, yet minorities fill the stage. The race-conscious casting empowers modern Americans to embrace American history as their own. At the same time, by representing the founding fathers as minorities, Miranda erases the history of slavery in America. Does the positive message created by the race-conscious casting outweigh the negatives of erasing the racism of the founding fathers and the contribution of African Americans? Well, it is hard to say whether the choice to cast people of color reflects a deeper truth about America as a nation of immigrants or if it erases a dark truth about America. But, this question points to a flaw in the historical probity of Hamilton. Even if the benefit added to the show through race-conscious casting is immense, the mere possibility that the decision could veil one of the worst historical atrocities in America’s history hurts Hamilton’s historical veracity. After examining the flaws of Hamilton, it is easy to forget Hamilton’s accuracy. A good historical piece is two-fold. One aim of history is to give the audience an elevated perspective on the world they currently live in. Thus, the flaws in Miranda’s retrojecting of themes in Hamilton are more permissible—though not completely—because they have substance to offer the audience. The other aim of history is to report the past as accurately as possible, such as Miranda’s seamless ability to weave historical facts and quotes into the songs of Hamilton. Miranda crafted the narrative of Hamilton to follow the major events in Hamilton’s life and stick closely to Ron Chernow’s lengthy biography of Hamilton. Additionally, the characters of Hamilton are complex depictions of real people with multi-faceted personalities. Miranda captures his characters’ thoughts and portrays them in song, such as his depiction of Burr’s mentality in the song, “Wait For It.” Lines like, “I’m not standing still / I’m lying in wait” accurately encapsulate how Burr steadfastly acted unobtrusively before
jumping on any opportunity to gain power.⁷ For instance, in the election of 1800, Burr quietly ran alongside Thomas Jefferson. When a flawed early Electoral College system gave him the chance to gain the presidency, he began campaigning widely;⁸ he did not actively seek opportunity, but instead waited for it. Miranda even seamlessly implements the actual words of his subject into songs. In a letter to Elizabeth Schuyler, his eventual wife, Alexander Hamilton asked, “[d]o you soberly relish the pleasure of being a poor man’s wife?”⁹ a line transferred with minimal editing into the song “That Would Be Enough.” While he does take some artistic liberties, Miranda has worked diligently to capture the actual history of Hamilton into his musical. Perhaps most importantly, Hamilton makes its subject’s story accessible to a vast population, opening up doors to a future filled with better historical pieces available to the masses. Other pieces of mass media have tried this, but none have received the mainstream popularity of Hamilton. One reason for Hamilton’s success is the translation of the founding fathers’ dense language into modern vernacular, which makes the history accessible to today’s audience. Where a young Hamilton said in real life, “my Ambition is prevalent,”¹⁰ Miranda writes, “I am not throwing away my shot / Hey yo, I’m just like my country / I’m young, scrappy and hungry / and I’m not throwing away my shot.”¹¹ The ability to tell a two-hundred-year-old story in a way that captivates today’s audience is Hamilton’s true genius. Miranda found a way to make history more interesting and captivating. In doing so, Miranda has ushered in a future where artist-historians can make more complete histories and simultaneously get them into the hands of the general public. Why preserve history if you are not going to disseminate it to the masses? An appeal for more histories like Hamilton does not shun thick history books that explore a subject in great depth—both should coexist. Imagine a future where everyone, by listening to a playlist on Spotify, an engaging podcast on iTunes, or watching a narrative-based Netflix show, can easily learn about history. If the goal is for history to inform as many people as possible then
this potential future is inspiring. The dense books would still be needed for a deeper study of history and for people who seek an understanding of the nuances of history. Where novel forms of entertainment could reach an audience with the important outline of a story, large history books could fill in the gaps for a newly engaged audience. Therefore, the musical Hamilton is not a perfect historical account in that it misrepresents Hamilton’s perspectives on social issues, yet it remains an important piece because it brings to life certain aspects of his story through a medium for the modern era. 1. Lin-Manuel Miranda, Say No to This, recorded August 2015, track 4 from Act 2 on Hamilton, Avatar Studios. 2. Lin-Manuel Miranda, The World Was Wide Enough, recorded August 2015, track 22 from Act 2 on Hamilton, Avatar Studios. 3. Phillip Magness, “Alexander Hamilton as Immigrant: Musical Mythology Meets Federalist Reality,” The Independent Review 21, no. 4 (2017): 500-3. 4. Original Broadway Cast of Hamilton, Yorktown (The World Turned Upside Down), recorded August 2015, track 20 from Act 1 on Hamilton, Avatar Studios. 5. Magness, “Alexander Hamilton as Immigrant,” 500-3. 6. Joanne Freeman, Affairs of Honor (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2001), 288. 7. Leslie Odom Jr., Original Broadway Cast of Hamilton, Wait for It, recorded August 2015, track 13 from Act 1 on Hamilton, Avatar Studios. 8. Freeman, Affairs of Honor, 201. 9. Alexander Hamilton and Joanne B. Freeman, The Essential Hamilton: Letters & Other Writings: America's Most Controversial Founder in His Own Words (New York: Penguin Classics, 2017) 51. 10. Ibid., 3. 11. Lin-Manuel Miranda, Anthony Ramos, Daveed Diggs, Okieriete Onaodowan, Leslie Odom Jr., Original Broadway Cast of Hamilton, My Shot, recorded August 2015, track 3 from Act 1 on Hamilton, Avatar Studios.
Feminized History By Brigid Miller, Editor
“THE FOUNDERS DIDN’T WANT TO CREATE THE WORLD WE LIVE IN TODAY.”
his quote from Lyra Monteiro tells of the gap between the goals of the founders and the contemporary outcomes of their actions.¹ This gap is evident within Lin-Manuel Miranda’s musical Hamilton. Miranda shaped the thematic interpretation of this musical to reflect the values and social environment of America today by modifying feminist themes within the musical to fit current political and social trends. The female figures in the musical are more representative of current standards because they are portrayed as having a role in society and politics, much like women have today. This is in contrast to the historical norms, in which women had no political and social standing and were treated as second-class citizens. Therefore, the feminist messages in the musical are not historically accurate as they were tailored to current values. The dynamics and relationships of the musical Hamilton are in accordance with modern feminist values and ideals, however, they are not in line with the realities of 1700s colonial America. This
modernized feminism is demonstrated through the Schuyler sisters: Angelica, Eliza, and Peggy. They talk of revolution and political change in the musical, and yet during the actual Revolutionary Period they, along with other women, were not given a platform or opportunities to make a difference. This emphasized feminism is addressed by Robert Gross, who writes, “There are good grounds for suspecting that this happy vision of colonial womanhood is simply nostalgic fiction.”² This fictionalized version of feminism is significant in Hamilton through its exclusion of the constructs that governed women as well as the characterization of Angelica Schuyler. Through these exclusions, it is clear to see that although Hamilton presents feminism as a central theme, it is not historically accurate in its interpretation. Beneath the captivating romance of Eliza Schuyler and Alexander Hamilton, the patriarchal society of colonial America emerges. The musical presents their relationship as one built on love, however it was spurred by wealth and the societal standards of the period. In the 18th century, women had virtually no autonomy as they and their possessions passed from their father’s control to their husband’s. This meant that wom-
en could not hold property in their own names.³ Hamilton alluded to this practice in a letter to John Laurens in which he described his ideal wife, saying, “but as to fortune, the larger the better.”⁴ Hamilton was poor, and he understood that he would be the recipient of his wife’s fortune. The musical illustrates Eliza and Hamilton’s courtship as one founded on love and equality, and while this may be partly accurate through Hamilton’s reference to Eliza as the “best of wives, best of women,” it also glosses over the gender constraints and rules that motivated their marriage, thus impacting its accuracy.⁵ The interpretation of Hamilton’s affair with Maria Reynolds in Hamilton is also modified to appeal to current audiences. While the musical does highlight the agony of the affair on Eliza, it neglects to address the social and economic reasons for her decision to stay with Hamilton. The song “Burn” performed by Eliza, includes lyrics such as “you have ruined our lives” and “you forfeit all rights to my heart.”⁶ These lyrics and others contribute to a song that presents a powerful feminist message and implies that Eliza was torn apart by Hamilton’s actions, but she ultimately chose to stay with him out of love and loyalty. This decision to stay with Hamilton is seemingly addressed within the verse, “I’m erasing myself from the narrative,” however, Eliza could never actually erase herself. The powerful assertions in this song fail to illustrate the true historical implications of Hamilton’s affair. Although Eliza was hurt by this event, socially it would have been nearly impossible for her to leave Hamilton. Divorce was very uncommon in colonial America, as it “was generally unobtainable, and desertion was a dangerous gamble only the most desperate undertook.”⁷ Despite Hamilton’s actions and the damage they caused to Eliza and her reputation, divorce was not an option, and she needed the financial support he provided. The musical ignores this concept and instead provides, in a feminist manner, that Eliza decided to stay by Hamilton’s side. In doing this, Hamilton is not historically accurate because it fails to include the social constructs of colonial America which significantly influenced the life of Eliza Hamilton. The modernization of feminism in Hamilton
is also demonstrated through the characterization of Angelica Schuyler. She is portrayed as an intelligent and headstrong woman who leads her sisters in defiance of their father’s orders. Angelica tells of a revolution in which women are included when she sings, “And when I meet Thomas Jefferson, I’m ‘a compel him to include women in the sequel.”⁸ This verse, although feminist in message, does not accurately reflect the lack of feminist movements and women’s rights
The modernization of feminism in Hamilton is also demonstrated through the characterization of Angelica Schuyler. She is portrayed as an intelligent and headstrong woman who leads her sisters in defiance of their father’s orders. in the 18th century. Rather, this verse is meant to appeal to present-day audiences in that it tells of women gaining a political voice and power in society. The problem with the inclusion of this verse is that the “sequel” will not be considered until the feminist movement of the late 19th century and the passage of the 19th Amendment. Nancy Isenberg discusses the complexity of Angelica Schuyler’s characterization in saying, “Instead of talking about real feminism, or describing women as they really were, popular writers invent a fake heroic female character.”⁹ This concept is glaringly evident in the musical, as Angelica is characterized as a contemporary of Thomas Jefferson and a leading voice in the Revolution and women’s rights. While Angelica may have harbored feminist thoughts, historically she would have never been given the platform to spread or act on these thoughts as women were excluded from politics and leadership.¹⁰ Overall, Angelica Schuyler is representative of the modernization of feminism in Hamilton because she is given political and social authority, but historically she did not have these traits. Hamilton’s presentation of historical events and people through the lens of modern feminist themes cannot be deemed historically correct. The musical, in its retelling of the Schuyler sisters’ 39
lives, neglects to address the gendered social constructs that regulated the lives and relationships of women in America. Instead, the characterization of the sisters are shaped to reflect today’s political and social climate, especially in its portrayal of Angelica as an influential feminist figure. The social and political spheres of 18th century America were male-dominated, and women had little chance to have their voices heard or exert free will over their finances, marriages, or political leaders. With these restrictions, it is hard to imagine that the Schuyler sisters would be able to have any significant influence within the Revolution or society in general, and Hamilton’s portrayal of such is unfair to the realities of the time. 1. Jennifer Schuessler, “‘Hamilton’ and History: Are They in Sync?” New York Times (New York, NY), April 10, 2016. Accessed May 17, 2016. 2. Robert A. Gross, “Review; Reviewed Works: Liberty’s Daughters: The Revolutionary Experience of American Women, 1750-1800,” The William and Mary Quarterly 39, no. 1 (1982): 231-38. Accessed May 17, 2018. 3. “Women and the Law,” Harvard Business School: Women, Enterprise and Society. Last Modified 2010. Accessed May 16, 2018. 4. Alexander Hamilton, “Hope For a Wife” in The Essential Hamilton: Letters and Other Writings, 47. 5. Alexander Hamilton, “My Good Genius” in The Essential Hamilton: Letters and Other Writings, 321. 6. Lin-Manuel Miranda, Burn, recorded August 2015, track 15 Act 2 on Hamilton, Avatar Studios. 7. Gross, “Review,” The William and Mary Quarterly. 8. Lin-Manuel Miranda, The Schuyler Sisters, recorded August 2015, track 5 Act 1 on Hamilton, Avatar Studios. 9. Nancy Isenberg, “Make ‘em Laugh”: Why History Cannot Be Reduced to Song and Dance,” Journal of the Early Republic 37 no. 2 (2017): 295-303. Accessed May 15, 2018. 10. Gross, “Review,” The William and Mary Quarterly.
Con stitu t
Womenâ€™s Rig hts
og l o Bi
ct n a S
fL o y
Abortion and Reproductive Justice
Moving Past the Pro-Choice, Pro-Life Debate By Alisha Chaudhry and Guadalupe Romero INTRODUCTION TO REPRODUCTIVE JUSTICE
he question of whether to embrace pro-choice or pro-life policies has been a long-lasting, prominent, and polarizing debate in the United States. The pro-life movement often invokes religion and the sanctity of life, while the pro-choice movement invokes feminism and womenâ€™s individuality. In reality, both sides over-simplify the real issue at hand: a womanâ€™s right to abortion and reproductive justice, specifically for women of color and women of lower socioeconomic standing. For these marginalized women, abortion is not a choice; it is often necessary for the survival of themselves, their families, and their communities.
Reproductive justice can function to return agency that historically has been denied to marginalized communities and can also simultaneously work against systemic processes of racism and power inequalities. Instead of solely focusing on denying women the right to an abortion, we should instead focus on a greater goal of allowing women and their communities to have the agency and ability to wholly and safely raise their children. This goal can be achieved by transforming systematic processes that prevent women of color and lower-socioeconomic standing from raising their children to their fullest capacity. These processes and factors include womenâ€™s health, economic status, and ability to care for already existing children and other family members. Thus, the debate over reproductive rights should be expanded to include caring about reducing health disparities,
Instead of solely focusing on denying women the right to an abortion, we should instead focus on a greater goal of allowing women and their communities to have the agency and ability to wholly and safely raise their children. 42
allowing everyone access to health education, and reforming the prison system. By moving beyond the debate of pro-choice/pro-life, there lies the ability to remedy the violence induced by systemic oppression and instead promote the ability of women to care for themselves, their communities, their families, and their children. UNDERSTANDING THE DATA In 2015, women of color, specifically Black women, had the highest legal abortion rates in the United States.¹ 49% of abortions in 2014 occurred among women with incomes below the poverty level.² 75% of women who attempted to have an abortion in 2017 cited that they needed an abortion because they did not have enough money to support and care for the child.³ Additionally, 59% of women who had an abortion were already mothers.⁴ Moreover, these statistics also do not account for the number of self-induced abortions, which disproportionately occur in higher numbers with marginalized women who lack access to health-related resources, such as birth control, prenatal care, and preventative care.⁵ Many women also do not have access to insurance, and even those who do may not have coverage for an abortion or other reproductive healthcare procedures. Due to marginalized women’s lack of access to the health-related resources described above, including contraceptives and sexual health education, they experience overall higher rates of unintended pregnancies which reflects their need of abortion services in high proportions.⁶ REPRODUCTIVE JUSTICE AS A MULTIDIMENSIONAL ISSUE Women living in poor socio-economic conditions, women of color, and women without a high school education have the highest rates of unintended pregnancy—42% of these women choose to have an abortion.⁷ These statistics reflect how systemic racism and oppression directly affect specifically women of color and women of lower-economic standing. Thus, abortion is not a stand-alone issue but an intersectional issue that exists as an effect of systemic oppression. Women
who have abortions often do so to allow for the ability to continue to support themselves, their families, and their already existing children.⁸ The 74% of women who choose to have an abortion cited their reason as this: having a child would interfere with their education, work, or ability to care for dependents.⁹ The reason most women have an abortion is not simply that they do not want to have a child, but that they must choose between ensuring the survival of their existing families or bringing another life into the world, that they most likely do not have the means to support.¹⁰ The need for specifically marginalized women to have an abortion is thus reflective of the underlying racial, ethnic, and class disparities present in the United States.¹¹ The exclusion of these underlying intersectional issues of race and class has resulted in the framing of the abor-
abortion is not a stand-alone issue but an intersectional issue that exists as an effect of systemic oppression. tion debate as a binary choice, which has severely ignored the impact that the lack of reproductive healthcare has had on marginalized women’s health, families, and communities from the overarching conversation. The focus should instead be on the lack of access to reproductive healthcare which leads to these women needing to have abortions a higher rates. For example, states that have the most supportive legislature for women’s reproductive rights (by providing access to contraceptives and sexual health education) have had the most significant drops in abortion rates.¹² Thus, reproductive justice calls us to advocate for all women to have access to the resources that improve their quality of life, leading to reduced abortion rates. By providing these resources, we will affirm our commitment to allowing women to care for themselves and their families to the fullest capacity. Such resources include universal healthcare, a higher minimum wage, affordable education, and affordable childcare, which provides women the opportunity to support their children and families. Ultimately, these services reduce the amounts 43
of unplanned pregnancies and thus, abortions. By addressing issues of systemic poverty and racism, we can create an environment that values life by providing everyone an equal ability to maximize the quality of life of their children, families, and communities. HISTORICAL PERSPECTIVES The lack of intersectionality within the debate over women’s reproductive rights is not exclusive to the present. Throughout the history of the fight for reproductive rights, issues pertinent to women of color and women in poverty have been ignored, politicized, and abused. In the article “Contested Terrain,” author Susan Davis brings to light the efforts of the United States’ second wave of feminism, mainly led by white middle-class women, to reform and repeal laws that limited abortions.¹³ These efforts proved successful in 1973 with the decision in Roe v. Wade. However, with the right to abortion came the “the price of an abortion” for women of color and women in poverty.¹⁴ Prevalent sterilization abuse emerged because most women of color could not afford the price of an abortion and the government began to offer the option of subsidized sterilization.¹⁵ In addition, women of color unknowingly underwent forced sterilization, often performed at the time of delivery of their babies. The populations of African Americans, Puerto Ricans, and Native Americans declined in size as the government used sterilization to further eugenic goals in America. Granting reproductive rights to women also allowed the government to decrease the populations of non-white races under the premise of reducing poverty and furthering the white middle class. For this reason, to women of color, reproductive rights did not entail the same rights and freedom that the mainly white members of the second feminist wave associated with the birth control pill and abortion. Due to this historical context, the concept of abortion differs greatly between communities of women of color and communities of white women, making women of color wary of progress towards reproductive freedom. The racist values ingrained in Western 44
history that used birth control and compulsory sterilization to try and diminish these minority communities remain influential when they consider what reproductive freedom could entail today. A Native American woman, when asked whether she was pro-choice or pro-life said, “Well, I would say that I am pro-choice, but the most important thing to me is promoting life in Native communities.”¹⁶ Based on her response, we can
the concept of abortion differs greatly between communities of women of color and communities of white women, making women of color wary of progress towards reproductive freedom. see how, even though women of color want and need reproductive freedom, they fear that it will entail a risk to their communities. The focus of this Native American woman on her community as her primary consideration can help show how abortion is not a single issue but instead a complex topic that is influenced by the harmful history of reproductive rights and multiple sociocultural factors, including systemic racism and the poverty level. THE INTERSECTIONAL IMPERATIVE Following this historical context, the current abortion debate does not reflect an understanding that systemic oppression has caused a lack of access to abortion for women of color. Second wave feminists made a mistake in not considering how access to reproductive healthcare manifested differently for women of color and of lower socioeconomic status. An investigation of this historical context further pushes us to engage critically with an intersectional understanding of reproductive justice, instead of focusing on the pro-choice versus pro-life debate which fails to incorporate this historical context. Instead of discussing the single issue of the right to an abortion, we should also consider the issues related to valuing and caring for the lives of women who engage in the “false choice” of abortion as a means of sur-
vival for themselves and their families. For these marginalized women of color and impoverished women, the question of having an abortion is not one of religion or even necessarily of their rights— but of survival. Through this understanding, we
should instead focus on implementing measures and policies that improve the lives of marginalized communities, policies which would mitigate the repercussions of parents who lack the ability to sufficiently care for the needs of a child.¹⁷
1. T.C. Jatlaoui et al., “Abortion Surveillance— United States, 2015,” MMWR Surveill Summ 201867 no. SS-13: 1-45, http://dx.doi. org/10.15585/mmwr.ss6713a. 2. “U.S. Abortion Patients,” Guttmacher Institute, 30 June 2016, www.guttmacher.org/ infographic/2016/us-abortion-patients. 3. Ronnie Cohen, “Denial of Abortion Leads to Economic Hardship for Low-Income Women,” Reuters, Thomson Reuters, 18 January, 2018, www.reuters.com/article/us-healthabortionhardship/denial-of-abortion-leadsto-economic-hardship-for-low-incomewomenidUSKBN1F731Z. 4. Lizzy Francis, “Legal Abortion Isn’t For Wayward Teens. It’s For Moms,” Fatherly, 31 July, 2018, www.fatherly.com/love-money/who-getsabortions-mothers/. 5. Anusha Ravi, “Limiting Abortion Access Contributes to Poor Maternal Health Outcomes,” Center for American Progress, 13 June 2018, www.americanprogress.org/issues/women/ reports/2018/06/13/451891/limiting-abortionaccess-contributes-poor-maternal-healthoutcomes/. 6. Susan A. Cohen, “Abortion and Women of Color: The Bigger Picture,” Guttmacher Policy Review 11, no. 3 (2008), https://www.guttmacher.org/ gpr/2008/08/abortion-and-women-color-bigger-
7. 8. 9. 10. 11. 12.
14. 15. 16.
picture. Ibid., 11. Ibid. Ibid., 12. Ibid. Ibid. Julie Burkhart, “Access to Contraception and Comprehensive Sex Education Reduce Need for Abortions,” HuffPost, HuffPost, 18 June, 2016, www.huffpost.com/entry/access-tocontraception-a_b_7595654. Susan Davis, “Contested Terrain: The Historical Struggle for Fertility Control,” An Introduction to Women’s and Studies, (2006): 29-32. Scurato, “The Price of an Abortion.” An Introduction to Women’s Studies 2, (2006): 102. Ibid. Andrea Smith, “Beyond Pro-Choice Versus Pro-Life: Women of Color and Reproductive Justice,” NWSA Journal 17, no. 1 (2005): 119-140, doi:10.1353/nwsa.2005.0019. For further reading, see Luu D. Ireland, “Who Chooses Abortion? More Women than You Might Think.” The Conversation, 4 March, 2019; and Lawrence B. Finder et al. “Reasons U.S. Women Have Abortions: Quantitative and Qualitative Perspectives,” Guttmacher Institute, 1 September, 2005.
Abortion, the Gag Rule, and Kantian Ethics
Why Self-Determination Necessitates the Right to Choose By Mary Kimball
n Grounding for the Metaphysics of Morals, Kant makes two claims. First, he describes duty as the sole, moral motivation for action. In addition, he explains that good will along with rational, free choice are essential to human dignity. Recently, a gag rule has been imposed on healthcare providers by the Trump administration that forbids medical professionals from referring abortion in order to receive federal funding from Title X. To keep funding under the rule, providers must accept a condition that bans presenting abortion as an option to their patients.¹ In the following essay, I will summarize Kant’s ethics as they pertain to the issue, then apply them to illuminate the unethical nature of this gag rule. I argue that this rule is unethical because it forces healthcare professionals to treat women as less than human by denying them the option of abortion in a violation of Kantian standards. Duty, as Kant defines it, is respect and compliance with moral law by prioritizing it over individual desires and motives. People are dutiful through their will, which Kant defines as the
faculty humans have to make choices. To have a good will is to be able to understand and act with duty to overcome selfish desires. Kant asserts that “duty can be expressed only in categorical imperatives.”² A categorical imperative is a moral law that is a priori. The law is true and universal in itself, not built upon another imperative. To follow the categorical imperative, Kant urges readers to examine their maxims, or their individual and reasoned motives for every action. Maxims worth following must adhere to a categorical imperative; they must be moral no matter what situation in which they function. Therefore, the categorical imperative forms dutiful maxims that a person with a good will must follow.³ Essential to Kantian duty is his second formulation, part of the categorical imperative, that people are ends in themselves; they should not be used as means to an end. Kant explains that “rational nature exists as an end in itself... every other rational being thinks of his existence on the same rational ground that holds also for me.”⁴ Part of one’s duty in life is to be respectful of every
human and their status as an end in themselves. This entails respecting the will of every person, giving their will importance equal to your own.⁵ The changes to Title X from the new gag rule treat medical professionals as a means to controlling women’s reproductive decisions and do not allow medical practitioners to act or treat women as ends in themselves. The $286 million Title X dollars that go towards family planning clinics and other healthcare centers already cannot fund abortion procedures and are used instead for healthcare services such as cancer screenings and STD testing. This gag rule impedes not only abortion services but any service that a healthcare center provides. Without Title X funds, these clinics’ ability to provide quality care will almost certainly go down, and they will not be able to perform the procedures that they could previously.⁶ Most clinics depend heavily on this funding to function, so giving up Title X to defy the gag rule is not an option. Instead, healthcare professionals must give up fully informing their patients and giving them all of the medical counsel they need so their practices can stay open. By restraining what a healthcare practitioner can describe
By restraining what a healthcare practitioner can describe to their patients, the gag rule forces these practitioners to be dishonest through lies of omission. to their patients, the gag rule forces these practitioners to be dishonest through lies of omission. Kant explains in his first formulation that lying can never be dutiful; if lying were acceptable as a universal imperative, people would stop believing each other, chaos would ensue, and society would crumble. He asserts that no lying, whether by false words or omissions, is universally dutiful, and therefore it is never ethical. The offensive part of dishonesty in Kant’s reasoning is that omission or edition of information undermines others’ ability to act rationally and freely. Under this gag rule, health professionals must lie by omission to keep crucial funding from Title X, and therefore act in an undutiful manner. Through this lie, healthcare
professionals are limited in their ability to serve patients. While abortion is a legitimate medical option, the gag rule prevents it from being presented as such. This gag rule also undermines people’s ability to exercise their free will. Kant emphasizes freedom to make choices as an essential faculty of humanity. Through free choice, we follow the laws of duty and enact our humanity. By forcing clinics
By forcing clinics to withhold information to stay open, the government is impeding upon the rights of women to make fully informed choices. to withhold information to stay open, the government is impeding upon the rights of women to make fully informed choices. There are numerous reasons a woman may seek an abortion, and if patients are not allowed access to that choice, they cannot exert their free will. The National Family Planning and Reproductive Health Association (NFPRHA) and other organizations such as Planned Parenthood very strongly oppose the gag rule. NFPRHA president Clare Coleman warns that The administration’s action [the gag rule] will do irreparable harm to the public’s health and damage the network of highly qualified family planning providers across the country… This rule intentionally strikes at the heart of the patient-provider relationship, inserting political ideology into a family planning visit, which will frustrate providers and discourage patients from seeking the health care they need.⁷ Coleman’s concern about accurate information is not unwarranted. Limiting or banning abortion has concrete, negative effects on women’s health. It is actually safer to have an abortion than to carry an unwanted pregnancy to term, with the risk of mortality in childbirth being fourteen times higher than the mortality rate of abortion in the United States.⁸
he “Turnaway Study” by the Jacobs Institute of Women’s Health examined the health of women who had abortions in the first and second term of pregnancy in comparison to women who carried their pregnancies to term after they were denied an abortion because they were beyond the gestational limit of their facility. The women who carried pregnancies to term had more health problems, both minor and life-threatening, than women in the other groups who terminated their pregnancies. Abortion is safer than an unwanted pregnancy for women who do not want to have a baby.⁹ Another facet of this is that when abortion is limited or banned, self-induced abortions become much more common. Self-induced abortion is extremely dangerous, and the only safe way to self-induce abortion, a combination of the drugs mifepristone and misoprostol, is not readily available in the US.¹⁰ Methods women resort to when regulated, legal abortion is not an option include taking dangerous herbal or drug combinations, forced abdominal trauma, or the use of foreign objects, such as a coat hanger inserted into the vagina and cervix to stop the development of a fetus.¹¹ These methods can be wildly dangerous, and their use increases when access to abortion is limited or inhibited. In short, limiting women’s access to abortion is not only unethical, but it is also extremely unsafe. Many conservative groups who support this law would argue that the fetus has an equal right to personhood beginning at conception. They describe milestones of fetal development such as the heartbeat in an attempt to demonstrate that existence and life are one in the same. They argue that abortion must be stopped to respect life.¹² However, Kant bases humanity on the ability to willfully act with reason, to have maxims aligned with universal laws or base inclinations. He asserts that “freedom belongs universally to the activity of rational beings endowed with a will.”¹³ When an abortion procedure is possible or advised, fetuses do not have the faculties to will or think rationally in the ways that Kant describes humans. Therefore, a fetus is not yet an end in itself, but a means to later having a baby. The transition between means to end in this case is murky,
but while a fetus is still developing, it is encased by and attached to a fully formed human being who already is an end in themselves. To give the fetus more rights than the human carrying it is to give to the means the status of an end and to treat the human end as only a means to carry the fetus. It is illogical and unethical to treat pregnant, rational people as less human than the fetus they carry.
rioritizing a fetus that does not yet have the faculties to be considered a human being over a woman with active reason and free will is not only unethical but harmful because of its implication that women are incapable of utilizing their rational faculties, and therefore subhuman. The potential of becoming a rational being does not outweigh the will of a current rational being, a woman. By limiting a woman’s medical information so that she cannot understand abortion as an option, she is forced to be a means to the end of realizing a fetus’s potential and additionally as a means for anti-choice groups to further their moral agenda and beliefs. Nothing should supersede a woman’s right to accurate, holistic medical information. By preventing women from deciding not to have a baby, the government dictates
Prioritizing a potentially rational being over an existing rational woman treats women as less than human. that a woman is a means for having babies, not an individual with a will who deserves the respect of a human end in themselves. Prioritizing a potentially rational being over an existing rational woman treats women as less than human. For the government to restrict abortion in any way, through a gag rule or otherwise, is to prevent women from being an end in themselves and having full jurisdiction over their own bodies. The Trump administration’s gag rule is a horrendous roadblock between both healthcare providers and patients and their ability to act willfully and with the reason and honesty which Kant values and demands. In the name of a warped morality, the government restrains the United
States’ healthcare system, and as a result unjustly limits healthcare choice. In what situation is a gag, whether literal or figurative, just? From a Kantian perspective, none. Choice is essential to living as a free, rational being in our world. While we as humans cannot simply do whatever we please, decisions regarding the state and usage of our bodies should be ours and ours alone. Even if a fetus can eventually become a body and being of its own, when abortion is possible that fetus is still a part of another’s
body. It does not make sense to say that a fetus is a human independent of the woman carrying it when it cannot further develop outside of the woman’s body. It is also wrong to limit a woman’s options for her own health, bodily or otherwise, for the sake of that fetus. While a fetus is developing, it is not alive in the same way that a woman pregnant with a fetus is alive. The only way to respect life is to respect the autonomy of women and the inherent freedom of choice which living, willful beings possess.
1. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, “HHS Releases Final Title X Rule Detailing Family Planning Grant Program.” HHS. gov, US Department of Health and Human Services, 25 February 2019. www.hhs.gov/about/ news/2019/02/22/hhs-releases-final-title-x-ruledetailing-family-planning-grant-program.html. 2. Immanuel Kant, Grounding for the Metaphysics of Morals, (Indianapolis, IN: Hackett Pub. Co, 1983): 33. 3. Ibid. 4. Ibid, 36. 5. Ibid. 6. Grace Panetta, “Everything You Need to Know about the Trump Administration’s New ‘Domestic Gag Rule’ on Abortions in America.” Business Insider, Business Insider, 22 February, 2019, www.businessinsider.com/trump-gag-rulelimits-abortion-2018-5. 7. Audrey Sandusky, “Newly Issued Family Planning Rule Poses a Serious Public Health Challenge,” Press Release Final Rule- National Family Planning & Reproductive Health Association, (NFPRHA 22 February, 2019), www. nationalfamilyplanning.org/press-release-finalrule.
8. Caitlin Gerdts, et al., “Side Effects, Physical Health Consequences, and Mortality Associated with Abortion and Birth after an Unwanted Pregnancy,” Women’s Health Issues: Official Publication of the Jacobs Institute of Women’s Health, (U.S. National Library of Medicine, 2016), www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26576470. 9. Ibid. 10. Françoise Girard, “Abortion Pills Aren’t Enough to Keep Coat Hangers in the Closet,” The New York Times, (The New York Times, 26 November, 2018), www.nytimes.com/2018/11/25/opinion/ medication-abortion-roe.html. 11. Ibid. 12. “When does life begin?” Life in the Womb, (ProLife Action League, 2019), https://prolifeaction. org/fact_type/life-in-the-womb/. 13. Kant, Grounding For The Metaphysics of Morals, 50.
The Pro-Life Position
A Biological and Philosophical Defense By Emily Albrecht, Alexander Cavender, Joshua Head, and Meredith Maloley
n order for abortion to remain both legally justified and consistent with other US laws, one of three premises must be true: (1) The fetus is not a member of the species Homo sapiens and consequently has no equal right to life; (2) The fetus is a member of the species Homo sapiens, but not all members of that species possess an equal right to life; or (3) The fetus is a member of the species Homo sapiens and possesses an equal right to life, but a woman’s right to her bodily autonomy trumps the fetus’s right to life. A basic understanding of biology demonstrates that a fetus is a living member of the species Homo sapiens for two reasons: a fetus is growing (and therefore is alive), and a fetus possesses two parents who are members of the species Homo sapiens (and therefore is also a member of that
species). At the moment of conception, 23 chromosomes from the biological mother and 23 chromosomes from the biological father join together to create a unique set of DNA in a single-celled organism called a zygote. Eye-color, facial features, personality traits, biological sex, and more are all encoded in the DNA of the tiny zygote. While it is indisputable that a zygote has unique human DNA, there is a common misconception that this zygote or fetus is merely a “clump of cells,” akin to a group of skin cells or sperm cells and therefore possesses the same moral status. However, skin cells and sperm cells are both parts of a whole organism, not an organism in and of themselves. A fetus, on the other hand, is a whole organism on a self-propelled path to maturity from the moment of fertilization.¹ Born humans are also whole organisms on a self-propelled path to ma-
While it is indisputable that a zygote has unique human DNA, there is a common misconception that this zygote or fetus is merely a “clump of cells,” akin to a group of skin cells or sperm cells and therefore possesses the same moral status. 50
turity. All that born humans need to develop and mature are nutrients and the proper environment, i.e., food and shelter. Likewise, an unborn human from the moment of conception, provided with nutrition and the right environment, will continue on its self-propelled journey of development. Consequently, a fetus is biologically distinct from an ordinary group of skin or sperm cells. Embryologists agree that a new member of the species Homo sapiens is created at conception: “Although life is a continuous process, fertilization… is a critical landmark because, under ordinary circumstances, a new genetically distinct human organism is formed when the chromo-
We firmly contend that all human beings, regardless of race, ethnicity, religion, gender, sexual orientation, etc., have an equal right to life. somes of the male and female pronuclei blend in oocyte.”² Even some self-proclaimed pro-choice philosophers affirm the existence of a biological human from conception. Peter Singer, for example, acknowledges the scientific evidence in his book, Practical Ethics, saying: It is possible to give ‘human being’ a precise meaning. We can use it as equivalent to ‘member of the species Homo sapiens.’ Whether a being is a member of a given species is something that can be determined scientifically, by an examination of the nature of the chromosomes in the cells of living organisms. In this sense there is no doubt that from the first moments of its existence an embryo conceived from human sperm and eggs is a human being.³ Since a fetus is indisputably a member of the species Homo sapiens, premise (1) is false. The question now becomes whether or not all Homo sapiens possess a right to life and, further, if they ought to possess this right to life equally. We firmly contend that all human beings, regardless of race, ethnicity, religion, gender, sexual orientation, etc., have an equal right to life. For the moment, we will set aside the concept of the
unborn, and the term “human beings” will refer only to born humans, i.e., infants, toddlers, and adult members of the species Homo sapiens. Provided this assertion that all human beings have an equal right to life is relatively uncontroversial with a sound basis in US law, human rights, and ethical reasoning, we consequently dismiss premise (2) as unreasonable. We need only consider prominent examples throughout history of occasions on which it was argued that certain human beings did not possess an equal right to life in order to be more or less convinced of the falsity of this premise. Although US law, human rights, and ethical reasoning support the notion that all human beings possess an equal right to life, it is still necessary to explain why these rights ought to exist in the first place. In order for all human beings—all born members of the species Homo sapiens—to possess an equal right to life, there must be something that all human beings have in common.⁴ In other words, in order to have an equal right to life, there must be some trait that all human beings possess equally. If this trait was not possessed equally, then different human beings would have different levels of a right to life based on how much or how little they possess of that specific trait. For example, intelligence cannot be the shared trait that grants human beings an equal right to life because not all people are equally intelligent. Intelligence as defined as the ability to think rationally is a trait held by adults, developed in toddlers, but not shared by infants. If the ability to think rationally grants human beings a right to life, infants should certainly not have the same right to life as adults, and toddlers should have a lesser right to life than adults. Therefore, intelligence cannot be the criteria that determines an equal right to life, as not all humans share the same levels of intelligence. Let us consider another example: sentience. Typically defined as the ability to feel, experience, and perceive the world, sentience is another trait that human beings possess at varying levels. Adults certainly perceive and experience the world in a far more complex way than infants or toddlers do. Additionally, many animals like squirrels and elephants are also sentient to varying degrees. Elephants, for example, can mourn 51
their dead for years, which infants and toddlers are both incapable of doing. Furthermore, elephants can pass the “mirror test”; testing an elephant in front of a mirror with a dot on its forehead. In this instance an elephant will rub its own forehead rather than the forehead in the mirror, proving that it identifies the reflection as itself and not some other elephant. Infants certainly cannot do this. If we suppose that the ability to perceive and experience the world is the basis for an equal right to life, then elephants and adult humans should have an equal right to life while infants and toddlers should not. This conclusion, however, is highly problematic and implausible; there is little to no convincing philosophical basis, let alone legal precedent or practical reason, to justify granting animals and humans an equal right to life. We are certainly not saying that it is morally permissible to torture animals or kill them without reason. If a hunter stalked an animal and killed it, one could argue that the hunter should undergo some sort of legal proceedings for his actions, perhaps by paying a fine or spending a few months in jail. If, however, that same hunter killed a 4-year-old girl, no one would argue that the hunter should simply pay a fine or spend a few months in jail; that hunter would be prosecuted and likely sent to a prison for a long time. While animals may have some moral status that should be protected, we are merely arguing that it is more immoral to kill a toddler than an animal. Consequently, sentience cannot provide sound justification for humans possessing an equal right to life. Admittedly, the above argument that it is more immoral to kill a toddler than an animal is not uncontroversial in certain philosophical circles (Peter Singer and a number of utilitarians in the classical tradition would strongly disagree). That being said, this utilitarian position is neither endorsed by common law nor common sense, as these same philosophers would no doubt agree. That is to say, the position of such philosophers is not an obviously correct position and thus bears a significant burden of proof for its justification. Provided this paper’s primary intent is not to develop a comprehensive, universal system of ethics, we thus take it that we are justified prima facie in 52
advancing the aforementioned, commonly agreed upon argument in order to better focus on the main issue in question: the morality of abortion.
ubsequently, we argue that there is only one sound justification for an equal right to life. We contend, in accordance with our ordinary understanding of what an equal right to life must entail, that it ought to include infants, toddlers, and adults of all races, religions, genders, sexual orientations, abilities, etc. However, it must also exclude animals from possessing the exact same right, for it would be practically absurd to suppose humans and animals possess an equivalent right to life. The one sound justification for an equal right to life is this: membership in the species Homo sapiens, as all infants, toddlers, and adults are all members of the species Homo sapiens. In other words, membership in the species provides the basis for which organisms possess an equal right to life. Whether or not abortion can be legally justified depends on this question of what makes us equal (i.e., what serves as the basis for our having an equal right to life). If the thing that infants, toddlers, and adults all have in common that makes them equal is something that the unborn do not possess, then abortion would not be a violation of human rights and could therefore be legal. If the thing that infants, toddlers, and adults all have
Whether or not abortion can be legally justified depends on this question of what makes us equal (i.e., what serves as the basis for our having an equal right to life). in common that makes them equal is something that the unborn do possess, however, then abortion would be violating the rights of the unborn. Given that the unborn are members of the species Homo sapiens and thus possess the same right to life as all other members of the species, abortion must be illegal. Furthermore, abortion must be illegal in order to maintain consistency with other US laws that protect an individual’s right to life. If (A) infants, toddlers, and adults possess an
Con stitu t
Women’s Rig hts
equal right to life because they are all members of the species Homo sapiens, and (B) a fetus is also a living member of the species Homo sapiens, then (C) a fetus must possess the same equal right to life as infants, toddlers, and adults. As we have argued for both (A) and (B), (C) logically follows. As such, any argument to justify abortion must also logically justify the killing of any infant, toddler, or adult human since all members of the species Homo sapiens possess an equal right to life. If, for example, someone claims that overpopulation justifies abortion, overpopulation must theoretically justify the killing of millions of toddlers as well since they possess the same right to life. Indeed, killing millions of toddlers in third world countries all around the world would certainly decrease the global population. However, this would clearly be wrong, and if overpopulation cannot reasonably justify the killing of infants, toddlers, or adults, then overpopulation also cannot justify the killing of the unborn who possess the same equal right to life. ⁵ Therefore, abortion must be illegal unless premise 3 is true, i.e., a woman’s right to her bodily autonomy trumps the fetus’s right to life. Arguments for abortion that focus on bodily autonomy are commonly known as bodily rights arguments. There are two main types of bodily rights arguments: the “My Body, My Choice” argument and the “Right to Refuse” argument. We will address each of these in turn. The “My Body, My Choice” argument may or may not assume that a fetus is a member of the species Homo sapiens and that a fetus possesses an equal right to life; rather, this argument claims that a woman has the right to do anything she wants with anything inside her body as it is her sovereign zone. It is firstly important to note that, if a woman’s body is her sovereign zone and thus she can do anything she wants with anything inside her body, then abortions must be legal at all stages of pregnancy and for any reason. Therefore, a woman must have the right to abort her fetus solely because her fetus is female, or for any other reason. Up until the moment of birth, regardless of the fetus’s viability or any number of other factors, a woman must have the right to abort the fetus. Consequently, sex-selection abortion—in
f Li o y it
which the pregnant individual chooses to abort the fetus because the fetus is not the desired biological sex (usually because the fetus is a female)— must also be legal. Please note, we do not suggest that having no legal restrictions on abortion is necessarily a bad thing, nor are we suggesting that an average pro-choice proponent is both aware of this logical implication of the “sovereign zone” view and holds to it. We merely point out a possible intellectual inconsistency between the anger that many people have surrounding the prospect of sex-selection abortion and the “My Body, My Choice” argument. One cannot denounce the legality of deliberately killing female fetuses because they are viewed as less desirable or valuable while simultaneously claiming that a woman has the right to do anything she wants with anything inside her body. These two statements are logically inconsistent. There are further implications of the “My Body, My Choice” argument as well. One example can be found in the use of Thalidomide, which was a medicine released by a German pharmaceutical company in the late 1950s and was later found to be extremely effective in treating morning sickness in pregnant women. Thalidomide was distributed in 46 countries and became one of the best-selling medicines in the world. Physicians were even given sample packets of the medicine to freely distribute to pregnant patients. However, “what followed was the biggest man-made medical disaster ever, where over 10,000 children were born with a range of severe and debilitating malformations” known as Thalidomide Embryopathy.6 In November of 1961, the medicine was banned in the United States. Thalidomide is under Category X of the FDA’s pregnancy ratings which label medications by their effects on reproduction. This category “is for drugs that empirically contribute to fetal deformities, and for drugs whose risks or undesired effects outweigh possible benefits to the patient.”⁷ Suppose, however, that a pregnant woman in the United States today was experiencing severe morning sickness and went to her medical doctor requesting Thalidomide for treatment.⁸ If it is true that a woman’s body is her sovereign zone and that she has the right to do anything she 54
wants with anything inside her body, then the pregnant woman must legally have the right to take Thalidomide to treat her morning sickness even though the Thalidomide may cause “severe and debilitating malformations” in the fetus.⁹ This conclusion is not only extremely concerning but also inconsistent with the FDA policy which bans the use of Thalidomide by pregnant women.¹⁰ Furthermore, if a woman’s body is her sov-
Either a woman’s body is her sovereign zone, or it is not; it cannot sometimes be her sovereign zone and sometimes not be her sovereign zone depending on whether or not the effects of the sovereign zone view are desirable. ereign zone, then a woman must have the right to take Thalidomide regardless of whether or not she plans to carry the fetus to term. Both a fetus that she plans to carry to term and a fetus that she does not plan to carry to term must fall under her jurisdiction since they are both inside of her body. To argue that a woman’s body is her sovereign zone only when she does not plan to carry the fetus to term is essentially an ad hoc argument. Either a woman’s body is her sovereign zone, or it is not; it cannot sometimes be her sovereign zone and sometimes not be her sovereign zone depending on whether or not the effects of the sovereign zone view are desirable. However, this thought-experiment can be taken even further in order to make the point clearer. Suppose that a pregnant woman in the United States went to her medical doctor and requested Thalidomide but not to treat morning sickness. Suppose she wants to take Thalidomide to intentionally deform her fetus. Please note, we are in no way suggesting that anyone would ever do this. The twisted logic that this would require would take a very disturbed individual. However, for the sake of the thought experiment, if there was a woman who hypothetically wanted to take Thalidomide to intentionally deform her fetus, should she legally have the right to do so? If it is true that a woman can do anything she wants with anything inside her body, then a pregnant
woman must legally have the right to intentionally deform her fetus by taking Thalidomide and, in doing so, give birth to a baby who will have any number of “severe and debilitation malformations” to “the limbs (upper limbs more commonly affected than lower limbs), face, eyes, ears, genitalia, and internal organs, including heart, kidney, and gastrointestinal tract.”¹¹ This intentional deformation of a child clearly qualifies as torture against another member of the species Homo sapiens, and this consequently cannot be legal in the United States. If this intentional deformation cannot be legally (not to mention ethically) justified, then the “My Body, My Choice” argument likewise cannot be justified. It cannot be logically consistent both to hold that a woman has the right to do anything she wants with anything inside her body and to assert (rightly) that intentional deformation is both illegal, unethical, and inconsistent with the FDA’s policy.¹² These two claims cannot be harmonized. This thought experiment can be taken further still. Suppose that a pregnant woman in the United States went to her medical doctor but not because she wanted Thalidomide. Suppose she wants the doctor to help her intentionally torture her third-trimester fetus to death by dismemberment. At 20 weeks gestation or earlier—at least 8 weeks prior to the beginning of the third-trimester, which runs from 28 to 40 weeks gestation—a fetus can feel pain.¹³ Please note, we are in no way suggesting that anyone would ever do this. The twisted logic that this would require would take an extremely disturbed individual to come up with and actually execute. However, for the sake of the thought-experiment, should this hypothetical woman have the right to pay a doctor to intentionally torture her fetus to death? Clearly, this is torture against another member of the species Homo sapiens who as such possesses an equal right to life. Again, the “My Body, My Choice” argument falls apart. If a woman should not have the legal right to torture her fetus to death by dismemberment, then a woman does not have the right to do anything she wants with anything inside her body. This thought experiment raises an interesting parallel between the hypothetical horror of
a doctor intentionally torturing a fetus to death and the procedure for a late term abortion called “Dilation and Evacuation” or “D&E.” This procedure was described by Chief Justice Roberts in the US Supreme Court case Gonzales v. Carhart (2007): The doctor, often guided by ultrasound, inserts grasping forceps through the woman’s cervix and into the uterus to grab the fetus. The doctor grips a fetal part with the forceps and pulls it back through the cervix and vagina, continuing to pull even after meeting resistance from the cervix. The friction causes the fetus to tear apart. For example, a leg might be ripped off the fetus as it is pulled through the cervix and out of the woman. The process of evacuating the fetus piece by piece continues until it has been completely removed.¹⁴ If a hypothetical woman does not have the right to intentionally torture a fetus to death as in the previous thought-experiment, then a D&E abortion, which literally rips the fetus apart and removes it limb by limb, also cannot be legal. The two situations are one and the same. That being said, there is a second, different type of bodily rights argument for abortion that must also be examined known as the “Right to Refuse” argument. Like the “My Body, My Choice” argument, the “Right to Refuse” argument may or may not assume that a fetus is a member of the species Homo sapiens and that the fetus possesses an equal right to life. However, the “Right to Refuse” argument claims that a woman has a right to refuse the use of her body to someone else who wants to use it. We would like to propose a thought-experiment to demonstrate that the ethical and legal implications of the “Right to Refuse” argument are unreasonable.¹⁵ Recall the opening few scenes of the Pixar movie Up. The film’s main character is Carl, an elderly widower, who uses hundreds of balloons to lift the house off the ground and to transport himself to South America. A few minutes into his flight, however, Carl hears a knock at the door. Standing outside on the porch is a young Boy Scout named Russell, and he is un55
derstandably terrified! He asks Carl, “Please let me in,” but Carl says no and slams the door in Russell’s face. There’s a comedic pause, and then of course Carl opens the door again and reluctantly lets Russell inside. Imagine, however, that Pixar decided to take this movie in a much darker direction. Instead of allowing Russell to come inside, suppose that Carl told Russell, “Well, this is my house and my porch, and I have the right to refuse the use of my porch to anyone else who wants to use it, so you have to get off my porch.” Carl proceeds to force Russell to leave the porch, causing him to plunge thousands of feet to his death. Clearly, Carl will be arrested for Russell’s death when the house lands. The most fascinating part of this thought-experiment and its conclusion is that Russell and Carl are not biologically related. They are not even friends. Furthermore, Carl engaged in no action which caused or encouraged Russell’s appearance on his porch. Nevertheless, Carl clearly has some sort of obligation to keep Russell, who is legally a minor, alive. Why? As soon as Carl found Russell on the porch, Carl became Russell’s de facto guardian. While the term de facto guardian has precise legal meaning in certain countries, the term here is strictly philosophical and attempts to put into words the moral intuition that Carl cannot refuse food and shelter to Russell. In the thought experiment, Carl suddenly finds himself in the position similar to that of a parent or guardian, but Carl is in this situation by accident. As the only person in the immediate vicinity who can take care of Russell, Carl now automatically takes on the same legal obligations that Russell’s parent or guardian would have, albeit temporarily. A parent is legally obligated to feed and shelter their children, and if the obligations of a de facto guardian are the same obligations of a parent, then the obligations of a de facto guardian must also be legal obligations.¹⁶ As such, it must be illegal for Carl to neglect the most basic obligations of feeding and sheltering Russell; Carl does not have the right to refuse the use of his house for food and shelter to a dependent minor until he can pass off Russell’s guardianship to another person. Similarly, a pregnant woman is the de facto guardian of the human in her womb. She is not 56
legally obligated to “become a mother” in a philosophical sense by loving the child or choosing to raise the child, but she is the only person in the immediate vicinity who can provide food and shelter to the dependent human. Consequently, the pregnant woman must be legally obligated as the de facto guardian to provide this food and shelter until someone else can.
here exists a fairly common misconception that pro-life advocates want somehow to punish women for having sexual intercourse by forcing them to carry a pregnancy to full term. We neither advocate nor condone this ideology. If there existed some sort of technology by which a fetus could be relocated from the mother’s womb into an artificial womb, allowing the biological mother to cease carrying an unwanted pregnancy, that would be an acceptable alternative. The biological mother would only be obligated as the de facto guardian to provide food and shelter for the fetus until the fetus could be relocated, at which point the biological mother would have no further legal obligations toward the fetus. However, this technology clearly does not exist yet! In effect, this unfortunately obligates a pregnant woman to stay pregnant. But let us take up another thought experiment and suppose that there is a woman who is struggling to raise her toddler. She is a single-mother, working two jobs, and the toddler is extremely difficult to handle. She is distraught and realizes that she cannot raise her toddler any longer. She calls Child Protective Services and tells them, “You have got to come take my child. This toddler is extremely disruptive, and I just can’t handle this anymore. I want to give up my guardianship of the child immediately.” Child Protective Services replies, “We are so sorry, but a major earthquake just devastated part of the nation, and we’re completely overloaded right now. We just need you to hold on for nine months. Just keep the child for nine months, and then we will take over custody of your child.” If the mother has to wait nine months for Child Protective Services to take the child, does she have the right to kill the toddler in the meantime? Clearly, she does not possess this right as killing
the toddler would be illegal (not to mention unethical). Since the toddler and the fetus possess the same, equal right to life as members of the species Homo sapiens, then it must be illegal to kill the fetus just as it is to kill the toddler, even if a woman must wait nine months to transfer her de facto guardianship to someone else.¹⁷ Now it is true that, if a man and a woman freely choose to engage in sexual intercourse, the woman is the only person capable of providing food and shelter to the dependent fetus. This is simply, and perhaps unfortunately, a biological fact. As such, only the woman becomes the de facto guardian obligated to provide sufficient food and shelter for the fetus for nine months. One may argue that this situation is “unfair” given the consensual nature of the sexual intercourse that brought about the fetus’s creation. We will neither agree with nor argue against this point because of its irrelevance to the larger question at hand. Regardless of whether or not the woman’s state as the sole de facto guardian of the fetus is “unfair,” the biological fact remains that the woman is the only one capable of providing food and shelter to the fetus, and therefore she is obligated to. Having addressed both major forms of bodily rights arguments, we conclude that premise 3 is also false: a woman’s right to her bodily autonomy does not trump the fetus’ right to life. Subsequently, let us review the three premises which might legally justify abortion and summarize the arguments we have offered to disprove each in turn. (1) Abortion could be legally justified if the fetus is not a member of the species Homosapiens. But as has been demonstrated, a fetus is biologically a living member of the species Homo sapiens from the moment of conception. Both embryologists and some pro-choice philosophers such as Peter Singer agree on this point. Furthermore, a fetus is a self-contained organism on a self-propelled path to maturity, in stark contrast to a group of skin cells or sperm cells. A fetus requires only food and the proper environment to develop to maturity, which are the same two elements that born humans need to develop to maturity. (2) Abortion could be legally justified if not all members of the species Homo sapiens possess a right to life equally. However, all members of
the species Homo sapiens do possess a right to life equally according to US law, human rights, and sound ethical reasoning. In order for infants, toddlers, and adult human beings to possess an equal right to life, there must exist some shared trait between them which animals do not also possess (otherwise animals would have the same equal right to life as humans, but, as has been argued, this is absurd). There is only one sound answer that includes infants, toddlers, and adults of all races, religions, genders, sexual orientations, abilities, etc., while properly excluding animals from holding an equal status. The shared trait that grants certain organisms an equal right to life is their identity as a member of the species Homo sapiens. Since the unborn are also a member of the species Homo sapiens, they must possess the same right to life as all other members of the species. As such, any argument that is used to justify the killing of a fetus must also justify the killing of a toddler. (3) Abortion could be legally justified if a woman’s right to her bodily autonomy trumps the fetus’ right to life. There exist two main types of bodily autonomy arguments: The “My Body, My Choice” argument and the “Right to Refuse” argument. The “My Body, My Choice” argument states that a woman’s body is her sovereign zone,
If any one of those three things should be illegal, then a woman’s body is not her sovereign zone, and she does not have the right to do anything she wants with anything inside her body. meaning that a woman has the right to do anything she wants with anything inside her body. However, the “My Body, My Choice” argument necessitates the legality of abortion at all stages of pregnancy and for all reasons (including sex-selection) up until the moment of birth. This argument also necessitates the legality of taking Thalidomide for morning sickness, the legality of taking Thalidomide to intentionally deform a fetus, and the legality of torturing a fetus to death. If any one of those three things should be illegal, then a woman’s body is not her sovereign zone, 57
and she does not have the right to do anything she wants with anything inside her body. The “Right to Refuse” argument states that a woman should have the right to refuse the use of her body to someone else who wants to use it. However, the Up thought-experiment demonstrates the concept of de facto guardianship, by which a pregnant woman must be legally obligated to provide sufficient food and shelter for a dependent human being, born or unborn, until someone else can.
ll three of these conditions have been demonstrated to be false. A fetus is a living member of the species Homo sapiens, all members of the species Homo sapiens do possess
an equal right to life, and a woman’s right to her bodily autonomy does not trump a fetus’s right to life. Abortion must therefore be illegal. We firmly believe in equity and inclusion for all women. Furthermore, we firmly believe that all human beings, regardless of race, ethnicity, religion, gender, sexual orientation, etc., have an equal right to life. It is precisely because of these beliefs that we must also be pro-life in the manner we have hitherto described. We should be willing to do absolutely anything to help all women receive the rights and privileges they are entitled to as fellow human beings, but they cannot be permitted to intentionally kill other innocent human beings.
1. Ronan, O’Rahilly, Fabiola Muller, Human Embryology and Teratology, 3rd ed. (New York: Wiley-Liss, 2001). 2. Ibid. 3. Peter Singer, Practical Ethics, 2nd ed. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2008). 4. The following argument was developed by Dr. J.P. Moreland, Distinguished Professor of Philosophy at Biola University and adapted for use in college campus dialogues by Steve Wagner, Executive Director of Justice for All and Timothy Brahm, Director of Training at Equal Rights Institute. 5. The concept that any argument to justify abortion must also be an argument that would justify the killing of toddler is known as Trot Out a Toddler and was developed by Scott Klusendorf, the President of Life Training Institute. 6. Neil Vargesson, “Thalidomide-induced teratogenesis: History and Mechanisms,” Birth Defects Res. Part C Embryo Today 105, no. 2: 140–156. 7. Chanapa Tantibanchachai, “US Regulatory Response to Thalidomide (1950-2000),” The Embryo Project Encyclopedia, April 1, 2014.
8. Richard Poupard, “Suffer the Violinist: Why the Pro-Abortion Argument from Bodily Autonomy Fails,” Christian Research Journal 30, no. 4 (2007). 9. Vargesson, “Thalidomide-induced teratogenesis: History and Mechanisms.” 10. Tantibanchachai, “US Regulatory Response to Thalidomide (1950-2000).” 11. Vargesson, “Thalidomide-induced teratogenesis: History and Mechanisms.” 12. Tantibanchachai, “US Regulatory Response to Thalidomide (1950-2000).” 13. “Science of Fetal Pain at 20 Weeks”; Charlotte Lozier Institute, December 17, 2018. 14. Gonzales v. Carhart, 550 U.S. 124 at section I A (opinon of the Court, Roberts, C.J.) 15. Stephen Wagner, “De Facto Guardian and Abortion: A Response to the Strongest Violinist,” Justice for All, April 14, 2013. 16. Wagner, “De Facto Guardian and Abortion: A Response to the Strongest Violinist.” 17. This is another variation on Trot Out a Toddler, which was developed by Scott Klusendorf, the President of Life Training Institute.
For Voting ID Laws Ensuring Fair Elections for Everybody By Kyle Hooten, Staff Writer
s you might have gleaned from this piece being found in a publication called Rebuttal, there is significant debate over the efficacy and ethicality of photographic voter ID laws (henceforth referred to simply as voter ID laws—the photographic component is assumed). Those who oppose voter ID laws liken them to a poll tax, asserting that the impoverished section of America will be unable to obtain identification and will become disenfranchised by an ID requirement. Others go so far as to compare voter ID laws to Jim Crow laws, saying that those who support the idea are doing so to stifle the minority vote, under the assumption that minorities will have a harder time getting an ID. Supporters of Voter ID laws, on the other hand, hold that voter fraud is a real problem with our elections, and that it needs to be stopped. Currently, so long as an individual is able to say the name of a person and street that the person lives at, they will be allowed to vote as that individual. Voter ID laws would require a citizen to prove they are who they claim to be. On the sur-
face it may appear that the books full of names and addresses found in every polling place are an accurate system of tracking voters—until you consider that according to the Pew Research Center, the books during the 2012 election contained nearly “24 million active voter registrations in the US [which were] either invalid or
Currently, so long as an individual is able to say the name of a person and street that the person lives at, they will be allowed to vote as that individual. inaccurate.”¹ Of these errors, there were two million dead citizens on active lists. Syndicated columnist Hans von Spakovsky found in his investigation that one Georgia county alone saw 5,412 ballots issued to names of people who had died.² Further, the Cooperative Congressional Election Study reports “that 6.4% of all noncitizens voted illegally in the 2008 presidential election, and 2.2% voted in the 2010 midterms.”³ These are not insignificant figures. Rather, numbers of illegally 59
cast votes were “large enough to plausibly account for... victories in a few close elections.”⁴ One example of a notably close election which was decided by voter fraud occurred right here in Minnesota. In 2008, former senator Al Franken won his election by just 312 votes. Disturbingly, however, according to data present-
One Georgia county alone saw 5,412 ballots issued to names of people who had died. ed to the Minnesota Supreme Court during legal action following the election, between 1,099 and 1,670 counted ballots were cast by felons ineligible to vote.⁵ This was allowed by the lackadaisical attitude which surrounds our system of voting, a system that does not even require individuals to prove they are who they claim to be. Even this small instance of voter fraud resulted in the election of a senator whose presence allowed for the passage of Obamacare, a landmark piece of legislation that forever altered the American healthcare system. Without Franken’s tie breaking vote in the senate, Obamacare would never have become law, and the modern conversation surrounding health insurance would be radically different. Had those 1,099-1,670 felons not been allowed to illegally vote, Franken wouldn’t have even been in office. This one small instance of voter fraud, which could have been prevented by a culture of order and lawfulness in our elections, had longstanding, irreversible national consequences. Ohio is another example of a state where diligence in lawful voting is important. Again, Von Sparkovsky explains how “in 2014, 16 local races in Ohio were decided by one vote or through breaking a tie. In 2013, 35 local races in Ohio were that close.”⁶ These local elections are important because Ohio is a swing state in presidential elections. The highly competitive nature of local elections means that elections are neck and neck in the Buckeye State. It is imperative, therefore, that law is upheld in this electoral battleground, and that every vote cast is valid as the representation of one legal citizen with voting rights. Thankfully, the majority of Americans think this way. Gallup data from 2016 reveals that 80% 60
of Americans support voter ID laws requiring the presentation of government issued photo ID to vote.⁷ Interestingly, given the narrative of those who oppose ID laws, whites only lead people of color in support of voter ID by 4 percentage points. 81% of whites favored voter ID laws, as opposed to 77% of people of color.⁸ I believe that the best way to determine the wills and opinions of group of people is to listen to them. The narrative that voter ID laws would be disparaging to minority communities seems to not hold water in those very communities. Further, it seems that minority support for voter ID laws is increasing with the passage of time. A 2012 Washington Post poll reported 65% support for voter ID laws within black communities.⁹ In 4 years, minority support for voter ID rose nearly 20%. America is a democracy by and for the people. It seems to me that the overwhelming majority of the American people believe their democracy should be run in a lawful fashion, ensuring that elections are conducted fairly, affirming that each vote is a fair representation of one citizen. What nation, committed to upholding democratic principles, would deny the people basic control over the honesty of their own elections? Voter ID laws are legal, too! In 2005, Indiana required all voters to present a photographic ID at the polling place.¹⁰ Those without ID were allowed to cast a provisional ballot. These individuals were then given an allotment of 10 days to provide an ID or state that they could not afford one. Those who were unable to afford an ID would be given the opportunity to acquire one for free, and still have their vote count. This allowed some individuals an opportunity to acquire a free ID that can be used for other activities as well. Fraud was prevented, and no one was disenfranchised because there was a solution provided for all to verify their identities and cast a legal ballot. However, William Crawford (D-Indiana House Rep.) saw these rules as an attempt to suppress votes, and served as the plaintiff in a case against the election board of Marion County, IN. The case reached the Supreme Court in 2008. By this point, it had been renamed Crawford v. Marion County Election Board. The Court ruled 6-2 in favor of the legality of voter ID laws. The majority opin-
ion stated that because there was a free method of obtaining identification, and that “posing for a photograph does not qualify as a substantial burden on most voters’ right to vote, or represent a significant increase over the usual burdens of voting,” the voter ID laws instituted in Indiana are legal.¹¹ It is worth noting here that Crawford’s legal team was unable to provide even a single witness claiming that the Indiana regulations suppressed their vote. I believe in voting and democracy. Undeniably, America and its electoral system has its problems. There will always be forces and factors that cloud the voices of American citizens. However, if we
claim status as a representative democracy, we need a voting system that works by giving each citizen one voice, accurately ascribed to them. Voter ID laws can be upheld in such a way that they do not disenfranchise specific groups. Voter ID laws are supported by the majority of Americans across racial lines. It has been proven that small electoral margins can have a large effect on national policy. Voter ID laws have been reviewed and upheld as legal. Because of these reasons, I stand in firm support of instituting federal voter ID laws similar to those found in 2005 in Indiana for all federal elections.¹²
1. Enjoli Francis, “24M Voter Registrations Invalid, Pew Reports,” ABC News, February 15, 2012. 2. Aaron Bandler, “5 Statistics That Show Voter ID Is Not Racist,” Daily Wire, August 2, 2016. 3. Hans Von Spakovsky, “Here Comes the 2014 Voter Fraud,” Heritage Foundation, October 30, 2014. 4. Ibid. 5. Peter Roff, “Al Franken May Have Won His Senate Seat Through Voter Fraud,” US News & World Report, July 20, 2010; Byron York, “York: When 1,099 felons vote in race won by 312 ballots,” Washington Examiner, April 12, 2019. 6. Spakovsky, supra. 7. Justin Mccarthy, “Four in Five Americans Support Voter ID Laws, Early Voting,” Gallup, August 22, 2016.
8. Ibid. 9. Washington Post Poll, “Should voters in the United States be required to show photo identification?” Washington Post, July 19, 2012. 10. Crawford v. Marion County Election Board, 553 U.S. 181. 11. Ibid., at section III (Stevens, J., for the Court). 12. Note: this is not to be misconstrued to mean that I support the issuance of a federal ID. State IDs would be used, and federal law passed requiring voter ID would require states to provide options like those in Indiana. This would also provide a convenient way for those who lack ID to acquire it as they vote. Two for one.
Against Voting ID Laws A Partisan Threat to Democracy By Adam Johnson
merica has a voting problem. And that isn’t meant to be a commentary on which side is winning elections. America has a voting problem because we face below average voter turnout rate, aging voting hardware, and an unusually difficult voting process.¹ Additionally, America is a federation, meaning each state can have their own voting rules. This creates complexities in national elections, like how Maine and Nebraska split their Electoral College votes. It also affects who is allowed to vote at all. All but two states take the right to vote away from convicted felons serving their sentences, and in 34 states the right to vote is restricted even after release. However, the most important difference in state policies is in voter ID laws. Voter ID laws span a range of different approaches, but all share the stated goal of preventing in-person voting fraud. While every state has their own unique law, there are five general categories: no ID required, strict ID required, non-strict ID required, strict photo ID required, and non-strict photo ID required.² While laws allowing voters to show non-photo ID are con-
sidered voter ID laws, most popular references to voter ID laws refer to strict photo ID laws. There are currently 7 states with these laws that require every voter show a government-issued photo ID when arriving at their polling place. If voters don’t have an ID with them, they can cast a provisional ballot that will only be counted only if they return with a valid ID before a cutoff date.³ The main argument in favor of voter ID laws is based on the perception that widespread voter fraud is occurring. In addition to accusations of widespread voter fraud from many public officials, most notably President Trump, several individuals, including Democratic operatives, the Manhattan Board of Elections coordinator, and poll workers, have been caught on hidden cameras talking about potential voter fraud. The effort to expose these potential fraudsters has been led by Project Veritas, a conservative group whose “undercover journalists” use leading questions and selective editing to try to catch officials admitting to illicit acts. The conclusions that Project Veritas takes from its videos are serious. However, it is nearly impossible to verify their truthfulness. Project
Veritas has been caught fabricating evidence in the past and rarely releases videos with full context.⁴ The issue is also marked with extreme politicization, as Project Veritas’ opaque tactics and political mission prevent moderate coverage, instead encouraging coverage from unreliable sources. Additionally, while Project Veritas does release materials harmful to those they are investigating, their operations often backfire, finding nothing and drawing ire from politicos from both major parties.⁵ The goal of this group and others like it is to convince the public that a conspiracy widespread enough to change the outcome of elections is occurring. However, this would require the theft or extensive fabrication of hundreds or thousands of identities. Minnesota is one of about a dozen states that has no specific ID requirements, theoretically making it easy to commit voter fraud. However, not having an ID requirement does not mean that anyone can simply stroll in and cast a vote. Before voting, every voter needs to register: either before Election Day or at the polling place. This requires proving your identity, proving residence in the district, and swearing an oath. Upon voting, a voter must again swear their upholding the faith of the election process.⁶ Election judges oversee the entire process, searching for efforts to harm the election system. This is why despite an intensive search by Project Veritas and others, there has been no empirical evidence found to prove that widespread voter fraud is occurring on any level in the modern United States.⁷ In fact, the discourse around voter ID laws distracts from the much more real threats to the American democratic system. A 2012 investigation that includes 12 years of data from every state found 207 cases of other types of voting fraud for every one case of in-person voter fraud.⁸ These very rare examples of fraud almost exclusively involve absentee ballots and election officials modifying results, while voter ID laws only affect the in-person voting process, where fraud is both rare and results largely from confused voters.⁹ Voter ID laws fail to prevent the rare voter fraud that occurs in the United States. Instead, their main effect is preventing people from voting in the first place. About 11 million eligible voters
in the US don’t have photo ID. Admittedly, voter ID laws don’t disenfranchise all of those people because those without voter IDs are less likely to vote, some are made up of records errors, and some are people who could get IDs if needed. Still, research suggests that strict voter ID laws could bring down turnout by as much as 2-3% in states where they are enacted.¹⁰ If every state had enacted voter ID laws for the 2018 election, that could have resulted in 2 million votes lost.¹¹ The demographics of those affected by voter ID laws are also significant. Studies show that those affected are more likely to be minorities, poor, and vote for Democrats.¹² This is largely because those groups are less likely to have photo IDs, but also because laws have often been written and enforced in ways that makes it harder for minorities to vote.¹³ When North Carolina passed their photo ID law, they prohibited state public assistance and employee ID cards, which data showed were disproportionately held by
After decades of discriminatory poll taxes, literacy tests, and outright intimidation at the polls, new measures bring almost overt discrimination back to the voting process. black voters. The law was struck down in federal court, with the judges saying the provisions “target African Americans with almost surgical precision.”¹⁴ There was similar discrimination in other states, with minority voters being questioned about IDs more often than white voters.¹⁵ These happenings should be especially concerning in the context of America’s history of racial discrimination. In 2013, the case Shelby County v. Holder struck down a portion of the 1965 Voting Rights Act that required southern states with a history of discrimination to get preapproval from the federal government before modifying voting laws. Almost immediately, three states instituted photo ID laws, and many other restrictive voting measures have been passed since then.¹⁶ It’s hard not to see history repeating itself. After decades of discriminatory poll taxes, literacy tests, and outright intimidation at the polls, new measures 63
bring almost overt discrimination back to the voting process. Voter ID laws are being presented as a solution to a problem that does not exist. If someone or some entity wanted to swing an election, they would influence voters before the election, commit fraud with absentee ballots, or hack into aging voting machines that are still being run on the equivalent of Windows 2000.¹⁷ Instead, voter ID laws themselves are what swing elections. They have been repeatedly passed by Republican legislatures to prevent Democratic voters from casting ballots. Voter ID laws do much more harm to legitimate elections than anything they can hope to prevent. These blights on American democracy limit voting to fewer and fewer people, despite advancements that should make it easier than ever to vote. Their loudest proponents are not concerned about making our voting process more legitimate—they’re about making it more conservative. 1. Drew DeSilver, “U.S. Trails Most Developed Countries in Voter Turnout,” Pew Research Center, Pew Research Center, 21 May 2018; Conor Friedersdorf, “An Embarrassment of Glitches,” The Atlantic, Atlantic Media Company, 7 Nov. 2018; Olga Khazan, “Voter ID Proponents Point to Laws in Other Countries,” The Washington Post, 12 July 2012. 2. Wendy Underhill, “Voter Identification Requirements | Voter ID Laws,” National Conference of State Legislatures, 17 Jan. 2019, www.ncsl.org/research/elections-and-campaigns/ voter-id.aspx. 3. Ibid. 4. Kim Lacapria, “Project Veritas’ Election 2016 ‘Rigging’ Videos,” Snopes, 18 Oct. 2016. 5. Kenneth P. Vogel, “James O’Keefe, Practitioner of the Sting, Has an Ally in Trump,” The New York Times, 8 Dec. 2017. 6. Matt Gehring, “Minnesota’s Voter Eligibility and Identification Requirements,” Research Department of the Minnesota House of Representatives, June 2008, www.house.leg.state. mn.us/hrd/pubs/ss/ssvtrelig.pdf. 7. “Debunking the Voter Fraud Myth.” Brennan Center for Justice, NYU School of Law, 31 Jan. 2017, www.brennancenter.org/analysis/ 64
debunking-voter-fraud-myth. 8. Natasha Kahn and Corbin Carson, “Comprehensive Database of U.S. Voter Fraud Uncovers No Evidence That Photo ID Is Needed.” Voting Rights Project, News21, 12 Aug. 2012. 9. Suevon Lee and Sarah Smith. “Everything You’ve Ever Wanted to Know About Voter ID Laws,” ProPublica, 9 Mar. 2019. 10. Nate Silver, “Measuring the Effects of Voter Identification Laws,” Fivethirtyeight, New York Times, 15 July 2012; Government Accountability Office, Issues Related to State Voter Identification Laws, report to Congressional requesters, September 2014. 11. “2018 November General Election Turnout Rates.” United States Elections Project, 14 Dec. 2018, htt14p://www.electproject.org/2018g. 12. Zoltan Hajnal, Nazita Lajevardi, and Lindsay Nielson, “Voter Identification Laws and the Suppression of Minority Votes” (University of California San Diego, 2016), http:// pages.ucsd.edu/~zhajnal/page5/documents/ voterIDhajnaletal.pdf 13. “Citizens Without Proof.” Brennan Center for Justice, NYU School of Law, 28 Nov. 2006, www. brennancenter.org/analysis/citizens-withoutproof. 14. 14. Christopher Ingraham, “The ‘Smoking Gun’ Proving North Carolina Republicans Tried to Disenfranchise Black Voters,” Washington Post, 29 July 2016. 15. “Citizens Without Proof,” supra.; Lonna Rae Atkeson et al., “New Barriers to Participation: Application of New Mexico’s Voter Identification Law” (working paper, Caltech/MIT Voting Technology Project, 2007), http://vote.caltech. edu/documents/84/vtp_wp59.p 16. “Effects of Shelby County v. Holder.” Brennan Center for Justice, NYU School of Law, 6 Aug. 2018, www.brennancenter.org/analysis/effectsshelby-county-v-holder. 17. Jonathan Masters, “Russia, Trump, and the 2016 U.S. Election,” Council on Foreign Relations, 26 Feb. 2018, www.cfr.org/backgrounder/russiatrump-and-2016-us-election; Suevon Lee and Sarah Smith, “Everything You’ve Ever Wanted to Know About Voter ID Laws,” supra.; Lawrence Norden and Christopher Famighetti. “America’s Voting Machines at Risk,” Brennan Center for Justice, NYU School of Law, 15 Sept. 2015, www. brennancenter.org/publication/americas-votingmachines-risk.
For Targeted Killing By Henry Shore
hroughout history, clandestine operations have played a vital role in dismantling some of the world’s most horrific regimes. From CIA operatives behind enemy lines to the raid that killed Osama Bin Laden, the importance of covert operators and their targeted killings cannot be overlooked. It is their work behind the scenes that wins wars, closes loopholes, and forges unforeseen diplomacy. The media often characterizes targeted assassinations as a form of unwarranted aggression. I will argue that they are paramount for strengthening national security, especially for countries who are under threat from enemies. While it’s usually thought that political groups gain power by their size, it is actually leadership that provides the greatest strength. Some of the most successful governments in history were led by individuals that were incredibly gifted at garnering the support of an oppressed people. Strong leaders instill values and motivation to help overcome obstacles and embrace unity. Their decisions shape the next moves on the battlefield and at home. Without them, the lack of direction can
be very damaging and considerably stir public opinion. To highlight this idea, think back to the assassination of the 35th president of the United States, President Kennedy. He was shot by Lee Harvey Oswald as he paraded through Dallas, Texas. The death of JFK shocked America. It was truly unexpected as he was very well liked by Americans, polling in the fourth highest approval ratings of any sitting president.¹ Soon after his death, the presidency would be handed to Lyndon Johnson, vice president at the time. This transfer rightly worried many Americans and created an environment of uncertainty. How would Johnson handle civil rights issues? Would he escalate the war in Vietnam? Terrorist organizations must face a similar dilemma when high-ranking leaders are killed— only terrorist organizations usually lack the features which governments enjoy to absorb the loss of leadership through institutional practice. According to Brian Michael Jenkins of the RAND Corporation, “As a strategic tool, high-value targeting does not simply eliminate terrorist leaders but sends them deeper underground, impedes 65
their ability to communicate, and degrades their ability to function.”² Terrorist organizations struggle to unify their power after their prized members have been killed. Leaders are their foundation of success. They form ideologies, uniting others behind their cause and discerning how best to manifest their ideas in the material world. Without the presence of their leaders, terrorist groups begin to lose their most valuable strongholds by losing both followers and direction. This is especially true in the political hotbed of the Middle East. Israel, for example, regularly deals with security concerns as it faces heavy opposition to its existence. Israel has recently been characterized by its foes as a “cancer tumor” that “must be eradicated.”³ This criticism is not unique to modern times. In the Six Day War, the militaries of Syria, Jordan, Egypt, and Iraq attacked the Jewish state on June 5, 1967. This coalition of power, the Arab states thought, would unquestionably destroy Israel and its inhabitants. In response, the Israelis consolidated their power and struck back. Within six days, the war was over, resulting in an Israeli victory. Though victorious, Israel realized it did not have the resources nor the willingness to have full-fledged wars with its enemies; therefore, it turned to rely heavily on targeted assassinations to strengthen national security. The Mossad is Israel’s clandestine operations service and is similar to the CIA. Some of their most publicized killings include those of Mahmoud Hamshari, the coordinator behind the Munich Olympic Games massacre in 1972, and Ghassan Kanafani, a terrorist responsible for the death of over 26 people in an airport bombing. According to Roen Bergman, author of Rise and Kill First: The Secret History of Israel’s Targeted Assassinations, Israel has assassinated roughly 2,700 high-target individuals through Mossad, military, police, and additional intelligence organizations.⁴ The Mossad has allowed for the Jewish state to thrive by pinpointing and executing individuals that threaten its government. With them gone, Israel no longer has the need to invade enemy states and risk thousands of innocent civilian lives. This is not to say that targeted killings re66
sult in no collateral damage. Operated by airmen thousands of miles away, Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) attack enemy targets through missile strikes. Although relatively accurate, these drone strikes accrue a shockingly high number of civilian casualties, roughly 300 in Afghanistan alone since January 2004.⁵ But that doesn’t mean they aren’t useful. In fact, they actually save lives. According to Mike V. Hayden, former director of the NSA, “Civilians have died, but in my firm opinion, the death toll from terrorist attacks would have been much higher if we had not taken action. What we need here is a dial, not a switch.”⁶ Stopping drone warfare would mean more traditional infantry fighting and ultimately more casualties. Sending men and women to the front line is often less effective, riskier and costlier. Taking care of an army of soldiers is a much larger undertaking than coordinating a series of drone strikes. That said, there is the possibility of too much drone warfare, which is why Hayden suggests we think of it in terms of a dial. It is not a yes or no question; rather, it is one of frequency. In a targeted killing situation, the simple notion of “good guy” vs. “bad guy” blurs. Targeted killings may start to look like the potential death of innocent citizens. But this is the real cost and benefit analysis military advisors must make on a daily basis. Nobody wishes death upon civilians, but priorities of national security often outweigh
Stopping drone warfare would mean more traditional infantry fighting and ultimately more casualties. Sending men and women to the front line is often less effective, riskier and costlier. innocent casualties; this is a harsh reality. In a perfect world, terrorists would not be so deeply intertwined with the civilian sphere of life, but they are intelligent, and their ingenuity cannot be disregarded. Often creative, terrorist groups have traditionally found and continue to find new ways to avoid military intervention. They are staunch believers in their cause, and no one or organization will get in the way of what they wish to achieve.
For example, the beliefs of many currently operating Islamic terrorist groups (the primary target of drone strikes throughout the War on Terror), permit the use of deadly force against military and civilian targets alike. Governments have a vested interest in limiting their success, since under these terrorists’ specific interpretation of Islamic doctrine, religious liberty perishes, and homosexuality is punishable by death.⁷ These beliefs, and the fact that they are often acted upon, constitute an active threat to the lives of people around the world. Since targeted killings are permissible if there is a viable threat, targeted killings are an appropriate response to these evil actors, especially in the context of an ongoing war. Targeted killings are simply a tool in the larger arena of warfare. While the world is full of beauty and wonder, it is also home to people who drive their cars into crowds and film the beheadings of Americans.
Given these acts of violence, targeted killings reveal themselves as one of the primary answers to terror. Targeted killings provide a swift, efficient way to dismantle the enemy without the need for
Eliminating leaders has a decapitating effect on terrorist and “enemy” organizations, denying them organization and leadership with minimal loss of life. large ground incursion and the large scale destruction and loss of life that accompanies such action. Eliminating leaders has a decapitating effect on terrorist and “enemy” organizations, denying them organization and leadership with minimal loss of life. It is ultimately the duty of the government to protect its people, and targeted killings should not be taken out of its arsenal.
1. “Presidential Approval Ratings—Gallup Historical Statistics and Trends,” Gallup. Gallup Organization, 2019, https://news.gallup.com/ poll/116677/presidential-approval-ratingsgallup-historical-statistics-trends.aspx. (Accessed February 14, 2019). 2. Brian Michael Jenkins, “Five Years After the Death of Osama Bin Laden, Is the World Safer?” RAND Corporation, May 2, 2016. 3. Tamar Pileggi, “Khamenei: Israel a ‘cancerous tumor’ that ‘must be eradicated,’” The Times of Israel, June 4, 2018. 4. Ethan Bronner, “Poisoned toothpaste and exploding phones: New book chronicles Israel’s ‘2,700’ assassination operations,” Independent, January 28, 2018.
5. “Strikes in Afghanistan,” The Bureau of Investigative Journalism, https://www. thebureauinvestigates.com/projects/dronewar/charts?show_casualties=1&show_ injuries=1&show_strikes=1&location=afghanista n&from=2015-1-1&to=now. 6. Michael V. Hayden, “To Keep America Safe, Embrace Drone Warfare,” New York Times, February 19, 2016. 7. Elina Noor and Peter W. Singer, “What Do You Call a Terror(Jihad)ist?” Brookings, June 2, 2008, https://www.brookings.edu/opinions/what-doyou-call-a-terrorjihadist/.
Against Targeted Killing By Max Bradley, Editor
n the following paper I will attempt to address two major sources of justification necessary for the construction of a targeted killing program: legitimacy and efficacy. Firstly, I will contest the claim that targeted killing represents a legitimate use of force on the part of state actors, and therefore cannot be curtailed by simple moral objections. To clarify the concept of a legitimate use of force I will conduct a legal and ethical analysis of the potential justifications for targeted killing in order to demonstrate when, if ever, it can be considered just. Secondly, I will address the claim that targeted killing is justified regardless of legal or ethical standards due to its exceptional efficacy and ability to promote the national security of a state by demonstrating that the policy represents nothing less than a tactical failure. To this end I will analyze the direct strategic impacts of US targeted killing programs in order to determine whether the tactic can be considered an effective, or even an acceptable, counter-insurgency technique. To begin I will address what I feel to be a deficiency in my opposing paperâ€™s defense of targeted killing on purely strategic grounds. Justifying such a program with a simple cost-benefit anal-
ysis fails to account for several serious concerns, chief among them: legality. International law provides clear guidelines for how, when, and why lethal force can be employed against the perceived enemies of a state. In fact, according to the United Nations Charter, a treaty which all sovereign states have agreed to be bound by, only two circumstances exist in which a state can legitimately resort to the use of force. The Charter states in Articles 39Âš and 51Â˛, respectively, that the use of force is justified only with
Justifying such a program with a simple cost-benefit analysis fails to account for several serious concerns, chief among them: legality. authorization from the Security Council or in direct self-defense. Thus, in light of the fact that a Security Council authorization has never been issued regarding the use of targeted killing, the sole remaining justification for such a program is self-defense. However, under international law self-defense can prove a deceptively difficult standard
to meet. Article 51 states that the right of self-defense can be invoked only “if an armed attack occurs.”³ Thus, while the United States may have had a relatively clear self-defense claim in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, that claim has become increasingly tenuous as the scope of the US response has expanded enormously. The Bureau of Investigative Journalism reports that as of 2018 targeted killings were being carried out in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia, and Yemen, against dozens of militant organizations.⁴ And yet, none of these organizations have been able to carry out a direct attack against the United States, while several, including Al-Shabab, have never perpetrated an attack outside of their home state.⁵ In light of this, it is very much unclear what imminent threat the various loose Al-Qaeda affiliates currently being targeted could possibly pose to the United States. The clear language of the charter provides no option for either “preemptive self-defense,” or the transfer of this right between nominally associated entities. It is therefore almost impossible to construct a coherent self-defense claim to support the legality of the modern US targeted killing program. Not even the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Terrorists justifies the US program. This document allows for the use of force against those who “planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001,” a mandate which would be thinly stretched even if it was applied only to the modern-day manifestation of Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan.⁶ In fact, the original US request to invoke Article 51 mentioned only “the Al-Qaeda organization, which is supported by the Taliban regime in Afghanistan.”⁷ Neither claim has since been updated or expanded. The only extant legal justification for a targeted killing program is restricted to the now ousted Taliban regime and Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan. Yet, even this core Al-Qaeda organization has become increasingly ineffectual and fragmented. The latest strategic estimates have concluded that it remains “a mystery if remaining remnants of the group that perpetrated the 9/11 attacks are still even plotting overseas attacks.”⁸ Thus, even the initial Article 51 claim put forth by the United States has
little continued relevance. Under international law, the right of self-defense cannot be justified by the mere apprehension of violence, nor can it be applied to organizations on the grounds of simple affiliation. There must be a clear and present threat of an attack that is both “widespread and imminent.”⁹ The paper’s claim that western nations have a reserved right to kill members of terrorist organizations is thus deeply problematic. One of the primary purposes of international law is to create a world in which states are governed by a stable set of norms and principles that are capable of restraining even the most powerful and dangerous actors.¹⁰ Asserting the right of one state to unilaterally exercise lethal force whenever and however it feels to be expedient abandons this purpose and moves the world further away from a stable international society. However, many policy makers maintain that because it is “the duty of the government to protect its people” (as my opponent writes), domestic aims must necessarily subsume international. There are those who would contend that upholding international legal principles above strategic aims represents a foundational failure to carry out essential governmental obligations. In order to address these concerns, I will discuss the principal claim of my opponent’s paper that targeted killings are paramount to “strengthening national security” and examine the potential justifications for targeted killing on strategic grounds. The strongest defense of a targeted killings program lies in its potential to “decapitate” a militant group by eliminating high-ranking leaders without resorting to a more expansive armed conflict. This line of reasoning holds that if a state is able to successfully eliminate the ideological and tactical heads of an organization, then its operational capacity will substantially decrease due to the difficulty inherent in replacing skilled leaders. However, while the highly publicized deaths of figures such as Osama bin Laden may serve to bolster support for the War on Terrorism and offer tangible symbols of progress, the reality is that such victories are few and far between. Despite the theoretical promise of decapitation, targeted killings seldom have the opportunity to put this theory into practice. As the Center 69
for the Study of the Drone reports: “the vast majority of reported drone strikes do not kill any high-value targets or, indeed, any members of a terrorist organization… of the 2,500 – 3,500 estimated deaths from drones in Pakistan… around 2.3% were ranking members of al-Qaeda.”¹¹ Thus, even if my opposing paper’s thesis that in the absence of leadership an organization’s capabilities diminish is held to be true, a program that accomplishes its objectives less than 3% of the time is extremely difficult to justify. Such an abysmal rate of success suggests that either the threat posed by terrorism is greatly exaggerated to the point where it can be contained by essentially shooting in the dark, or that the US has simply gotten lucky that targeted killing’s failures have not yet had serious consequences. In light of the fact that no terrorist organization has been able to directly orchestrate an attack on the United States since 9/11, and due to the fact that there is a “continuing trend of a decline in terrorism” the former options seems to be a great deal more likely.¹² The impotence of targeted killing renders it extremely unlikely that it can take the credit for either of these two positive trends. Thus, even if it were the case that the strategic aim of combatting terrorism was pressing enough to override legal concerns, targeted killing would hardly be able to draw upon this justification. Additionally, the realities of targeted killing call into question the claim articulated by the paper that the end of drone warfare means the start of high-casualty infantry combat. Such a contention in effect creates a false dichotomy. If the vast majority of those killed by targeted killing are low-level militants with no capacity for international action, the question ought not to be “what is the best method of killing these individuals?” but rather “is there a compelling reason to kill these individuals in the first place?” This question harkens back to the challenge posed by supporting targeted killing on the grounds of self-defense. When 98.7% of those killed do not wield any sort of authority within their organization, and are thereby incapable of organizing a transnational attack, what legal, ethical, or strategic justification could the United States have for targeting them? However, even if targeted killings are success70
ful in only a relatively small fraction of cases, it is still possible to justify their use on the grounds that any reduction in the operation capacity of terrorist organizations ought to be a strategic priority. And yet, it is anything but clear that targeted killing has any appreciable positive impact on the broader outlook of US counterterrorism policy. In fact, a 2015 US army report by Lieutenant Colonel Todd Turner¹³ (US Army War College Fellow, Counterterrorism and Public Policy Fellow at Sanford School of Public Policy) found that out of seven studies surveyed, one concluded targeted killing had a negative impact, four concluded it had a negligible impact, and two concluded that it had a positive impact no more than 53% of the time.¹⁴ Thus, even internal strategic analysis paints a bleak picture of targeted killing’s efficacy. When the Center for the Study of the Drone’s statistic regarding the percentage of insurgent leaders versus low-level militants killed is taken into account, we can see that even under the most
it is anything but clear that targeted killing has any appreciable positive impact on the broader outlook of US counterterrorism policy. optimistic framework targeted killings successfully achieve their aims in around 1.431% of cases.¹⁵ Additionally, when the average of the studies which presented a statistically significant result is used (25.8%¹⁶, 18.6%¹⁷, 30%¹⁸, and 53%¹⁹) the percentage drops to an abysmal 0.859%.²⁰ However, even this disheartening metric fails to take into account the negative externalities caused by the use of targeted killing. Turner himself notes that such killings can cause “Martyrdom of terrorist leaders, publicity and legitimacy for the terrorist organization, and creation of more terrorists as a result of civilian casualties”²¹ while several other studies have found that targeted killing has a tendency to “to promote indiscriminate organizational violence by empowering lower level members.”²² Thus, the paper’s claim that leaders are a source of values and motivation for followers may actually offer a reason to
avoid decapitation. The aforementioned studies seem to indicate that the stabilizing influence of established leaders makes organizations less dangerous, more predictable and easier to target. In effect, justification for targeted killing as a necessary, or even as an acceptable policy tool is non-existent. Targeted killing fails to achieve its
In effect, justification for targeted killing as a necessary, or even as an acceptable policy tool is non-existent. primary strategic objective of decapitation 98.7% of the time, in the 2.3% of cases in which it does achieve this primary objective it has the desired secondary impacts no more than 53% of the time, and finally even in the 1.431% of cases in which targeted killing achieves both its primary and secondary objectives, it produces a multitude of uncontrollable negative externalities. Thus, the
unavoidable conclusion is that maintaining the United States’ targeted killing program is nothing less than strategically absurd. In summation, my opponent’s defense of the U.S targeted killing program is legally indefensible, theoretically illegitimate, and strategically unsound. The perpetuation of a targeted killing policy founded on a nebulous “right to execute” flies in the face of basic precepts of international law. Unlike terrorist organizations, the United States has willingly acceded to certain restrictions on how, when, and where it has the right to use lethal force. Violating these restrictions is unlawful. Even justifying this unlawful policy on the basis of strategic necessity fails because the results of targeted killing verge on the statistically insignificant by even the most generous standards. And with a laundry list of uncontrollable negative externalities, it is difficult to conceive of targeted killing as anything but a decades-long failure.
1. “Chapter VII,” United Nations, https://www. un.org/en/sections/un-charter/chapter-vii/index. html (Accessed April 13, 2019). 2. Ibid 3. Ibid 4. “Drone Warfare,” The Bureau of Investigative Journalism, https://www.thebureauinvestigates. com/projects/drone-war (Accessed April 13, 2019). 5. Sen, Ashish Kumar, “Al-Shabaab Threatens U.S. Attacks: Should You Be Worried?” The National Interest, February 25, 2015 (Accessed April 13, 2019). 6. S.J. Res. 23, PUBLIC LAW 107–40, September 18, 2001. 7. The Avalon Project: Letter of John Negroponte to the President of the Security Council, October 7, 2001, http://avalon.law.yale.edu/sept11/un_006. asp (Accessed April 13, 2019). 8. Wesley Morgan, “Whatever Happened to Al Qaeda in Afghanistan?” POLITICO, August 15, 2018, https://www.politico.com/ story/2018/08/15/al-qaeda-afghanistanterrorism-777511 (Accessed April 13, 2019). 9. Amos N. Guiora, Legitimate Target: A Criteriabased Approach to Targeted Killing (New York:
Oxford University Press, 2013). 10. “Chapter I,” United Nations, https://www.un.org/ en/sections/un-charter/chapter-i/index.html (Accessed April 13, 2019). 11. “The Disposition Matrix,” Center for the Study of the Drone, April 27, 2015, https://dronecenter. bard.edu/the-disposition-matrix/ (Accessed April 13, 2019). 12. “Global Terrorism Index 2018- World.” ReliefWeb, https://reliefweb.int/report/world/globalterrorism-index-2018 (Accessed April 13, 2019). 13. Todd Turner, “Targeted Killings: Is Organizational Decapitation An Effective Counterterrorism Strategy?” (presentation, Duke University Counterterrorism and Public Policy Seminar, Durham, NC, April 15, 2015). 14. Patrick B. Johnston, “Does Decapitation Work? Assessing the Effectiveness of Leadership Targeting in Counterinsurgency Campaigns,” International Security, 36(4), 2012. 15. 2.3% of cases result in decapitation (see Center for the Study of the Drone, 2015.) x 53% of decapitations that are successful (Johnston, 2019) 16. Lisa Langdon, Alexander J. Sarapu, and Matthew Wells, “Targeting the Leadership of Terrorist and Insurgent Movements: Historical Lessons for
Contemporary Policy Makers,” Journal of Public and International Affairs 15 (Spring 2004): 63. Jenna Jordan, “When Heads Roll: Assessing the Effectiveness of Leadership Decapitation,” Security Studies, 18, no. 4 (2009): 719-755. Bryan C. Price, Targeting Top Terrorists: Understanding Leadership Removal in Counterterrorism Strategy (New York: Columbia University Press, 2019). Jordan, 2009. This figure is obtained by multiplying the percentage of cases in which a targeted strike successfully decapitates a terrorist organization (see Center for the Study of the Drone, 2015) by the average conclusion of the four studies as to how often decapitation is successful (2.3% x 31.85%) Turner, 2015. Max Abrahms and Jochen Mierau, “Leadership Matters: The Effects of Targeted Killings on Militant Group Tactics,” Terrorism and Political Violence 29, no. 5 (2015): 830-51.
Against Leaving the Iran Deal Withdrawing from the deal means tearing up the best available option By Alexander Screaton, Editor
he Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), commonly known as the Iran nuclear deal, became a major foreign policy issue during the Republican nomination process for the 2016 presidential elections. The vast majority of Republican candidates opposed the deal, with Trump claiming he would tear the agreement up and negotiate a better one.¹ When Trump became president he accomplished half of that promise, withdrawing from the Iran deal in May 2018 and reimplementing US sanctions in November 2018.² Considering the massive destructive capacity of nuclear weapons, the risks of further nuclear proliferation if Iran obtains these weapons, and their effect on the geopolitical landscape, the possibility of Iran constructing nuclear weapons deserves significant gravity. This gravity is precisely why it is so important to determine whether withdrawing from the Iran nuclear deal was
good. In this article I offer two contentions about the withdrawal. First, I argue that the Iran nuclear deal was a “good” deal given the menu of options available to the Obama administration and that Trump will be unable to create a better deal. “Good” is defined as reducing the probability of Iran obtaining nuclear weapons. It logically follows that withdrawing from the deal increases the risk of Iran obtaining nuclear weapons. Second, I argue that Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Iran deal has resulted in reduced trust and diplomatic reputation for the US. WHAT ARE THE OPTIONS FOR PREVENTING IRAN FROM OBTAINING NUKES? In order to understand Trump’s options to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons, we must first understand the options available. A menu of options refers to the array of different choices available to a policy maker. Whether a policy option is “good” or “bad” cannot be un73
derstood in a vacuum but rather with a comparison of the relative utility of the available options.³ In response to the threat of a nuclear Iran, the Trump administration has the same options available that Obama had. First, the Trump administration could do nothing; second, it could use military strikes to destroy Iranian nuclear facilities; and third, it could negotiate using carrots and sticks—sanctions and economic investment. I argue that the best available option is pursuing a comprehensive negotiated deal. Doing nothing would result in further centrifuge production, uranium enrichment, and nuclear research, putting Iran closer to a nuclear bomb. The additional bite of sanctions over time will be offset by Iran becoming closer to building a nuclear weapon. Although the US undoubtedly has the resources to destroy the Iranian air force and nuclear facilities, military strikes on Iranian facilities would require considerable resources and could result in a broader Middle Eastern conflagration, with Iran using asymmetric warfare against neighboring gulf countries and closing the straits of Hormuz.⁴ Military strikes could easily result in significant collateral damage to the global economy.⁵ Considering the alternatives, sustained negotiation is the best available option to prevent the Iranian development of nuclear weapons.⁶ WHAT WAS OBAMA’S DEAL AND WAS IT GOOD? In order to understand why pulling out of the Iran deal was bad, we must first understand the details of the agreement. The Iran deal was finalized in 2015 with the P5+1, a group of six countries that includes the US, UK, France, China, Russia, and Germany. The deal limited Iran to 5,060 of its oldest and least efficient centrifuges out of the estimated 20,000 it had active.⁷ Iran agreed to reduce its uranium stockpile to 300kg, an estimated 98% reduction from its 2015 stockpiles. All research and development of non-weaponized nuclear technologies were limited to a single facility, Natanz, until 2024. No enrichment was permitted at Iran’s second facility, Fordo, until 2031.⁸ Iran agreed to use Fordo for “medicine, agriculture, 74
industry and science.” Iran redesigned the heavy water nuclear facility at Arak to not produce weapons-grade plutonium, and Iran shipped all the fuel from that reactor to outside the country. Additionally, Iran committed to not build any additional heavy-water reactors until 2031.⁹ Finally, Iran agreed to not engage in any activities that could contribute to the development of a nuclear bomb. The deal allowed for inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), an international organization that enforces the nuclear non-proliferation agreement, to “access any site anywhere in the country they deem suspicious” within 24 days of a request.¹⁰ The IAEA mandate covered the confirmation of the entire agreement, with regular reports delivered to the UN.¹¹ These factors, as examined below, reduced the probability of Iran obtaining a nuclear weapon. When Trump decertified Iran in 2018, the IAEA confirmed that Iran was following the deal to the letter. In 2015, US experts estimated that the “breakout time,” or the time that it would take Iran to develop a nuclear bomb if it decided to rush the construction, was two to three months. The Iran deal cut this estimated breakout time to at least a year. In addition, inspectors from the IAEA would have reduced the time it takes for the global community to realize Iran is building such a weapon. The reduced amount of fissile material not only reduced the breakout time but also reduced the number of bombs that could have been created once that break out time was reduced.¹² The Obama administration estimated that Iran had enough uranium for ten bombs in 2015, but after the deal it would not even have enough to build one. The benefits of the Iran deal, however, extended beyond the material reductions in Iranian capacity. The Iran deal also strengthened the moderates in the Iranian regime. A government such as Iran is not a unitary actor but instead is made up of different political alliances and elites competing for power. A useful conceptualization is understanding Iran as having moderates and hardliners. Hardliners see the US as an enemy and sell this vilification of the US to the populace to remain in power. Fear and anger directed at the US are used to justify a poor economy, high military spending,
and repressive politics. Conversely, the moderates include intellectuals, portions of the bureaucracy, businesspeople, students, and members of the public who desire normalized diplomatic and economic relations. The moderates have a different “winning coalition” than the hardliners, and they hope to gain support of the general populace by providing public works and benefits through economic development and integrating into the global economy. By normalizing relations and showing that the US can be trusted, Obama hoped to strengthen the political credibility of the moderates while undermining the bellicose claims of the hardliners. Furthermore, the increased resources coming in from sanctions relief would be mostly under control of the moderates who were in control of the government. Thereby, the moderates could consolidate power, reducing the more significant threat of Iranian antagonism towards the US and Iranian desire to build a nuclear weapon. Although this gamble provided no certain victory, ripping the deal up has resulted in the opposite effect. Trump has weakened the coalition of moderates by denying them both the credibility of a successful deal and the economic resources to implement reforms, all the while proving the hardliners right that America is the enemy.¹³ CAN TRUMP NEGOTIATE A BETTER DEAL? It is unlikely that the deal will be conducted better than Obama’s Iran deal. More pressure and inducements face significant complications. A team of expert negotiators conducted the original deal over the course of three years.¹⁴ Regardless of qualifications, the specific personalities of negotiators have minimal impact on the results of such a deal. Instead, deal outcomes depend on the relative leverage of each party.¹⁵ A party with stronger leverage will be able to get a better deal by pressuring the other party into acquiescing to demands. The use of military leverage, or “big stick diplomacy,” faces considerable opposition from Russia and China, making military strikes with the aforementioned consequences the probable result.¹⁶ Another avenue for increased pres-
sure is waiting for the existing sanctions to take their toll on the Iranian economy and regime. This proposal runs into the same problem mentioned earlier; waiting decreases Iranian breakout time and therefore increases Iranian leverage. The limitations of waiting are shown in US foreign policy towards North Korea. North Korea has faced far more crippling sanctions for far longer than Iran yet nonetheless continues to pursue a nuclear weapons program. Next, there is the possibility of increasing the inducements offered to Iran. The US could promise more investment, but this is risky because the US doesn’t directly invest—companies do, and companies don’t always do what the US government wants them to do. Given the lack of follow-through on economic promises following the original deal, such commitments will be difficult for Iran to take at face value. The final option available is levying more substantial sanctions, which requires an understanding of how sanctions work. Sanctions are economic restrictions or punishments placed on other countries or entities of that country. These economic restrictions include bans on exports, imports, and travel; freezing assets; and implementing tariffs. Sanctions can signal support for opposition or disagreement with a policy, rally domestic support, or change other countries’ policies.¹⁷ In general, sanctions are more effective when they are multilateral, imposed by the UN, and have modest goals.¹⁸ Sanctions are also typically effective when they are targeted to members of the “winning coalition,” or the group that supports the regime.¹⁹ In Iran, the “winning coalition” includes the military and members of the elite, whom the Obama administration targeted by freezing assets and intercepting oil revenue that flowed to other members of the elites and the military. There were and are no other easy additional avenues for targeting the Iranian regime, leaving open options that cause extensive economic damage or are borne largely by the Iranian populace.²⁰ Sanctions would likely increase anti-US sentiment and cause a rally around the flag effect, strengthening the popularity of the regime and causing minimal damage to hardliners.²¹ Additionally, more sanctions would face op75
position from China, Russia, and Europe, making UN sanctions impossible and multilateral sanctions weaker than those that were implemented by Obama. A “better deal” by definition would have more ambitious goals, making it more difficult to accomplish through sanctions. In summary, the deal reached was “good” given the leverage available to the US and the number of positive outcomes. Withdrawing from the deal has weakened the leverage available to the Trump administration, making it likely that any deal Trump negotiates will be worse than Obama’s agreement. The negative effects of withdrawing, however, extend beyond the increased probability of Iran obtaining nuclear weapons. WHAT WERE THE CONSEQUENCES OF BREAKING THE DEAL? Trust is one of the critical ingredients for successful foreign policy, and by pulling out of the Iran deal, Trump reduced bilateral and global trust in the US. One purpose of signing this agreement, as mentioned earlier, was to restore trust between the US and Iran. Iran was following the deal to the letter, yet Trump ignored IAEA reports of compliance.²² Breaking this deal not only dropped US-Iran relations to a new low level of trust but also reduced global confidence in
Trust is one of the critical ingredients for successful foreign policy, and by pulling out of the Iran Deal, Trump reduced bilateral and global trust in the US. US diplomacy.²³ States such as North Korea and Syria have very little reason to trust US promises that change on the whims of newly elected presidents.²⁴ The effect of reduced confidence is complimented by using the example of the iterated game. If you only play a game once, it doesn’t matter if you cheat. Imagine you make a deal with a contractor to build a house. You offer to give them $20,000 up front and $80,000 when they finish. They build the house, yet when the house is done, you change the rules and only give them $40,000. If this happened once, it doesn’t matter— 76
the person who changed the game wins. In the iterated game, however, agents observe past behavior of other agents and make decisions based on these observations. Therefore, other contractors working with you in the future will require, among other things, more stringent contracts and be less likely to work with you. This same logic can be applied to the US. Regardless of whether the deal was “good” or “bad,” breaking the agreement makes future negotiations with Iran and other states more difficult. Breaking the deal has also weakened USEurope relations. The EU and the European P5+1 members strongly supported the Iran deal and continue to support its existence, even though the US backed out.²⁵ The EU launched a concerted diplomatic effort to persuade Trump to remain in the Iran deal, including private meetings between Merkel, Macron, and Trump.²⁶ The lack of responsiveness from the Trump administration has caused considerable frustration about US respect for the EU and US commitment to diplomacy as a foreign policy tool. It has also influenced the EU to chart a more independent course from the US, as the Trump administration has disagreed with the EU on policies as diverse as NATO, the Paris Climate Accords, and democracy promotion. A weaker Atlantic alliance diminishes the influence of both the EU and US to promote democracy and counter global threats, including those from Russia and China. Considering these additional negative repercussions, we can examine the probability of a new deal being better or worse than the original. CONCLUSION Due to the adverse effects of withdrawal and the circumstances that would involve negotiation, any deal negotiated in the near future will be worse than the original. From a perspective of sanctions effectiveness, the current sanctions on Iran are unilateral, not through the UN, and have far reaching goals from Iranian foreign policy to its ballistic missile program. All of these effects create an environment where the US has less leverage, and Iran has stronger resolve. Iran has little reason to trust US promises, making an ef-
fective deal more difficult. The weakened EU-US alliance makes the coordination, implementation, and maintenance of a new deal more difficult, while the strengthened hardliners in the Iranian regime will have more power to undercut or prevent any such deal. The prospects of any new nuclear non-proliferation agreement being better than the original are dismal at best. The Iran deal wasn’t perfect, but it was the best out of the menu of options. It limited the number of centrifuges, limited uranium enrichment, limited the amount of uranium available, limited research, enacted stringent observer mechanisms,
strengthened US-Iranian relations, and strengthened the position of moderates in the Iranian regime. The deal did not introduce liberal markets to Iran, cause regime change, stop Iranian foreign adventurism, or ensure that Iran could never obtain a weapon. Any critique of the deal can only be understood within the menu of options available, and because of Trump’s actions, that menu is now far worse than it was under the Obama administration. Iran must not obtain nuclear weapons, but Trump’s actions have made that eventual outcome more probable.
1. Nick Gass and Adam Lerner, “GOP candidates vow to roll back Iran deal,” Politico. July 14, 2015. 2. Kelsey Davenport, “Timeline of Nuclear Diplomacy with Iran,” Arms Control Association. January 31, 2019. 3. David A. Baldwin, “The Sanctions Debate and the Logic of Choice,” International Security 24, no. 3 (2000): 80-107. 4. Anthony Cordesman and Abdullah Toukan, “Analyzing the Impact of Preventive Strikes Against Iran’s Nuclear Facilities,” Center For Strategic and International Studies. September 12, 2012. 5. Ibid. 6. Kepper Pickard, “Finding Solutions to Iranian Nuclear Weapons Program,” Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs. May 24, 2007. 7. “Iran Nuclear Deal: Key Details,” BBC. May 8, 2018. 8. Ibid 9. Ibid 10. Ibid 11. Ibid 12. Ibid 13. Narges Bajoghli, “Iran Will Never Trust America Again,” Foreign Policy. May 8, 2018. 14. Wendy Sherman, “How We Got the Iran Deal and Why We’ll Miss It,” Foreign Affairs. September 2018. 15. Ibid 16. Pickard, “Finding Solutions to Iranian Nuclear Weapons Program.” 17. Gary Clyde Hufbauer, Economic Sanctions Reconsidered/Gary Clyde Hufbauer ... [et Al.] 3rd ed. Washington, DC: Peterson Institute for
International Economics, 2007. Navin A. Bapat and Bo Ram Kwon, “When Are Sanctions Effective? A Bargaining and Enforcement Framework,” International Organization 69, no. 1 (2015): 131–162. Michael Brzoska, “From Dumb to Smart? Recent Reforms of UN Sanctions,” Global Governance Vol.9 (4) (2003): 519-535. Dursun Peksen and A. Cooper Drury, “Coercive or Corrosive: The Negative Impact of Economic Sanctions on Democracy,” International Interactions 36, no. 3 (2010): 240-64. Wood, Reed M, “‘A Hand upon the Throat of the Nation’: Economic Sanctions and State Repression, 1976-2001,” International Studies Quarterly 52, no. 3 (2008): 489-513. Robin Emmot and Francis Murphy, “Iran is complying with nuclear deal restrictions: IAEA report,” Reuters. August 30, 2018. Bajoghli, “Iran Will Never Trust America Again.” David Sanger, “How Trump’s Disdain for the Iran Deal Makes a North Korea Pact Even Harder,” The New York Times. March 11, 2018. Steven Erlanger, “As U.S. Sanctions on Iran Kick In, Europe Looks for a Workaround,” The New York Times. November 5, 2018. Felicia Schwartz and Laurence Norman, “Macron, Merkel Set to Visit Trump With Iran Deal Hanging in the Balance,” The Wall Street Journal. April 19, 2018.
Leave the Iran Deal
The Deal Suffers from Tunnel Vision and Weak Composition By Christoph Hodel, Editor, and Kyle Hooten, Staff Writer
he United States and its allies unilaterally agree that Iran should not become a nuclear-armed state, but there is still considerable debate over the best approach to deterrence. One of the first major foreign policy moves of the Obama administration was the implementation of the JCPOA, also known as the Iran nuclear deal. The deal relieved Iran of substantial economic sanctions in exchange for a reduction and partial dismantlement of Iran’s nuclear program, in addition to adhering to routine monitoring of their nuclear facilities by the United Nations. The JCPOA was harshly criticized by Republican lawmakers, and the governments of Saudi Arabia and Israel (regional allies of the US) also publicly opposed the deal. Trump repeatedly pledged to pull out of the agreement while running for president in 2015, and he proceeded to do so in May of 2018 —reapplying sanctions on Iran soon after.¹
THE JCPOA FAILS TO PRIORITIZE MORE IMMINENT THREATS Obama himself stated that the JCPOA would “permanently [prohibit] Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.”² While most critiques of the deal are aimed at repudiating this claim, our biggest qualm with the JCPOA transcends its ineffectiveness to deter Iran’s nuclear program in the long term. Far more concerning is what the Iran deal fails to address at all. US-led implementation of the JCPOA represents a truly bizarre misalignment of priorities. The Iran Deal prioritizes potential threats over more real and current ones, which is the deal’s most fundamental flaw. This is especially true given that the last investigation into Iran’s nuclear program, conducted by the International Atomic Energy Agency (the UN’s nuclear watchdog), concluded in 2015 that there were “no credible indications” of Iranian nucle-
ar weapons activity.³ And yet the government of Iran continues to possess the power—in both fire and will—to launch attacks on its neighbors through conventional means. ASK THE EXPERTS: SANCTIONS ARE NOT ‘NOTHING’ Arguments against withdrawing from the JCPOA often revolve around a false trichotomy of strategic options which is over-simplified. Proponents of the JCPOA will claim that the options include signing a cooperational treaty with Iran (in which internationally-imposed sanctions are lifted), invading the country itself, or doing ‘nothing.’ This trichotomy is inherently problematic because it implies that enforcing economic sanctions as a strategic response is equivalent to doing nothing. Economic sanctioning is far from nothing, and its represents a wide range of response options. Research and analysis conducted by US Government Accountability Office documents a long (and often strategically effective) history of sanction utilization by the United States.⁴ As a matter of fact, the Obama administration is responsible for some of the “broadest and most robust” sanctions on Iran since the US policy began after the 1979 hostage crisis. These sanctions have been partially aimed at crippling Iran’s military capabilities—an understandable objective given the current regime’s history of aggressive rhetoric towards its neighbors and the United States. This is not really a disputable claim anymore; in October of 2018, Iran launched a series of ballistic missiles towards Syrian militants with slogans condemning the US and Israel written on the weapons systems. Iran state television publicly showed the phrases “death to America and death to Israel” clearly displayed on the missiles themselves. Foreign policy experts have voiced concerns over the disconnect between Iran’s rhetoric and targeting, labeling it as a sort of ‘whacka-mole’ strategy. This is likely referring to the fact that the targets of Iran’s military attacks do not seem to match up with its verbal rhetoric.⁵ This has not gone unnoticed by Saudi Arabia and Israel, two countries which find themselves both
geographically close to Iran and in dissonance with the country’s sweeping claims to regional power. The leaderships of both nations unsurprisingly applauded US cancelation of the JCPOA and the reapplication of sanctions on Iran.⁶ This is no coincidence—the continuation of sanctions on Iran will likely give many of its neighboring countries in the Middle Eastern theater some comfort, as it makes it more difficult for Iran to balloon its military power. A POORLY COMPOSED DEAL, A FALSE SENSE OF SECURITY In addition to lifting useful sanctions that serve as safeguards against Iranian militarism, the deal fails to accomplish other objectives that would be beneficial to the cause of securing peace in the region. This is because the JCPOA itself lacks legal teeth, denies its signatories continued political leverage and lacks long-term viability. The preamble of the JCPOA is where Iran’s promise to never “seek, develop, or acquire any nuclear weapons” can be found. However, investigating the structure of this document reveals that these words are less binding than those who favor arms non-proliferation might prefer. Most international agreements are composed of a preamble paired with numerous operative clauses. The preamble outlines the ultimate goals of the parties involved. However, like in most other international agreements, the preamble of the JCPOA is not legally binding.⁷ Just because the preamble statement that Iran won’t seek to “acquire any nuclear weapons” isn’t legally binding doesn’t mean that the JCPOA fails to carry official weight. Unfortunately, the active and binding part of the treaty states in Article X that if “events, related to the subject matter of this Treaty, have jeopardized the supreme interests of its country,” Iran is allowed to discount all provisions of the deal, and proceed as its leaders see fit. So here we have a deal that has no teeth to defend what America seeks to gain, nuclear non-proliferation, but instead guarantees Iran every legal right to opt out of upholding its end of the deal if it sees a need to use the money and resources for something other than energy production. 79
This is ok if we have total faith in Iran to do the right thing, striving for the goals outlined in the toothless preamble and not developing any nefarious goals or agendas that suit its own “supreme interests.” Unfortunately, as has been previously demonstrated, Iran’s “supreme objectives” may be more oriented towards the deaths of other people or groups than the international community is generally comfortable with. It would seem that in drafting a deal that prioritizes nuclear nonproliferation, adding a legally binding statement of intent not to develop would be step one in the drafting process, but not for the JPCOA. Aside from this glaring issue of composition and ability to enforce, the terms that the JPCOA does succeed in enforcing are far too lenient. While the deal allows for UN inspection of Iranian nuclear facilities to ensure compliance, significant portions of military infrastructure are off limits to inspectors. Getting clearance from
While the deal allows for UN inspection of Iranian nuclear facilities to ensure compliance, significant portions of military infrastructure are off limits to inspectors. Iran to conduct an inspection of approved facilities takes around a month at minimum. The treaty guarantees Iran 24 days foreword notice before inspection, but legal analysts have explained how this waiting period can be drawn out significantly longer.⁸ Add to this the fact that the UN body in charge of conducting such inspections has shown itself reluctant to do so and the US and her allies are left with little of the oversight capability originally prioritized when drafting the deal. Another problem with the JCPOA is its position on centrifuges. While the deal does require Iran to limit itself to only maintaining 6,104 of these devices, it doesn’t prohibit Iran from creating them to military standards. Just 7 years after the signing of the deal, according to its terms Iran is allowed to build IR-8 military centrifuges to the standard required to quickly create weapons grade nuclear material.⁹ Although this deal does have notable impact in reducing Iran’s enrich80
ment potential, this is a huge loophole that negotiators failed to close. There is a case to be made that Iran’s interest in keeping this possibility of creating such centrifuges open for themselves demonstrates interest in developing a weapon, a threat which the weak JCPOA is simply not equipped to counter. Similar to the expiration on centrifuge enforcement is the JCPOA’s stance on ballistic missile development, which allows Iran to develop nuclear-capable ballistic missiles after an allotted period of time (10 years).¹⁰ Further, the JCPOA only provides five years of restriction on the trade of non-nuclear missiles with Iran—a troubling fact for previous victims of Iranian missile aggression.¹¹ Finally, the JCPOA’s sunset clause guarantees a limit to the deal’s efficacy. This clause lifts restrictions on the production of weapons grade plutonium in Iran after just 10-15 years.¹² At that time, Iran is free to expand its program to a much larger scale, reducing its breakout time (time required to produce a nuclear weapon) “almost down to zero,” as former President Obama put it. Because of this clause, experts have described the JCPOA as a sort of nuclear control rent program, guaranteeing a short-term outcome for a high cost with a given deadline. When dealing in weapons of mass destruction with a country that has self-described as “impatient” to go to war against those it seeks to “annihilate,” it seems that a longer-term investment in peace might be preferable.¹³
When dealing in weapons of mass destruction with a country that has self-described as “impatient” to go to war against those it seeks to “annihilate,” it seems that a longer-term investment in peace might be preferable. The Iran deal is dangerous because of both what it is, and what it is not. The JCPOA is a weakly worded agreement with only short-term restrictions on possible Iranian nuclear ambitions. It also represents a misalignment of priorities by failing to account for Iran’s already threatening
conventional power. A sanction-based policy, on the other hand, can alleviate these concerns and address more immediate threats by allowing the US and its allies to reevaluate a plan for curbing the longer-term threat of a nuclear Iran. 1. Mark Landler, “Trump Abandons Iran Nuclear Deal He Long Scorned,” The New York Times, May 8, 2018. 2. “Remarks by the President on the Iran Nuclear Deal,” American University, obamawhitehouse. archives.gov/the-press-office/2015/08/05/ remarks-president-iran-nuclear-deal. (August 15, 2015). 3. Jeff Seldin, Steve Herman, and Nike Ching, “IAEA: ‘No Credible Indications’ of Iran Nuclear Weapons Activity After 2009,” VOA, May 2, 2018. 4. Committee on Foreign Relations, U.S. Senate, Economic Sanctions, Effectiveness as Tools of Foreign Policy, United States General Accounting Office, https://www.gao.gov/assets/160/151591. pdf. (February 1992). 5. Ali Arouzi and Brinley Bruton, “Iran Launches Missiles at Syria, but Message Is Aimed at U.S., Israel,” NBCNews, October 1, 2018. 6. John Irish, “Europe Licks Wounds as Saudi Arabia and Israel Hail Trump on Iran,” Reuters, May 9, 2018. 7. David S. Jonas and Dyllan M. Taxman, “JCP-NoWay: A Critique of the Iran Nuclear Deal as a Non-Legally-Binding Political Commitment,” J. Nat’l Sec., Law & Policy 9 (2017): 589.
8. Thomas Moore, “The Case for Dumping the Iran Deal,” War on the Rocks, https://
warontherocks.com/2015/07/the-case-fordumping-the-iran-deal/. (July 16, 2015). 9. Takeyh Ray, “The Nuclear Deal Is Iran’s Legal Path to the Bomb,” Politico, https://www.politico.com/magazine/ story/2017/09/22/iran-nuclear-dealbomb-215636, September 22, 2017. 10. Iran Business Risk, “Key Failings of the Iran Nuclear Deal,” American Coalition Against Nuclear Iran, https://www. unitedagainstnucleariran.com/whats-wrongwith-iran-nuclear-deal. (2008-2019). 11. Ibid 12. Ibid 13. Times of Israel Staff, “Top Iranian general vows to ‘annihilate’ Israel,” https://www. timesofisrael.com/top-iranian-general-vowsto-wipe-out-annihilate-israel/. (January 10, 2019).
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THE IRAN DEAL: Stay or leave?
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We proudly present our first issue! The topics include abortion, the Iran deal, voter ID laws, targeted killings by governments, Hamilton: A...
Published on May 22, 2019
We proudly present our first issue! The topics include abortion, the Iran deal, voter ID laws, targeted killings by governments, Hamilton: A...