Thursday, 7 July 2011

Involuntary Sterilisation

Dedicated to CM and Stacy, thanks for rectifying my views.
"but if you believe that it's okay to use force to prevent people from murdering others, then the same reasoning should apply to using force to prevent births (because birth entails death, plus a whole lot of other shit, so in most cases it's actually worse than murdering someone" - CM

It is 2110. Not everyone is in favour of antinatalism yet, but thankfully, the bulk of politicians constituting every world government are. Even with fervent opposition from several pronatalist pressure groups, the Last Law is passed on Earth and on Mars alike by every major world power: sterilising chemicals are to be introduced into the water supplies, and into the commercial food products available. People have no say in this matter at all, just as perhaps, the politicians would say, their children have no say in the matter of being born. Riots break out, terrorists detonate explosives under parliament buildings - but not for their own sakes, for the sake, they think, of the entire human race. The politicians believe however, that what they are doing is also for this sake. Who is right?
      As you may have seen from the comments on this, my views have taken a complete U-turn on this matter. I used to believe that consent was King, but I didn't particularly understand why. The thing is, people do not give consent for the police to stop them when they commit some wrongdoing - the point is, they don't have to, because they SHOULD NOT have those rights. For consent to matter you must deprive someone of something they are entitled to, and as I learnt from Stacy recently, no one should be entitled to breed. If you sterilise someone against their consent the only harm you are doing is the harm of wasting some of their leisure time. No one has the right to bring a child into this world, for the simple reason that this action, as we antinatalists have already established, is completely and utterly immoral. You do not have my consent to stop me punching you in the face. If you do it, you will be violating my rights! That is exactly how I would have thought about such an action as I have described in the above scenario - I just had a knee-jerk response to the whole thing, which was, in hindsight, almost eerily similar to my previous knee-jerk response to abortion. "It's just wrong", comes to mind.

However, though I would definitely support, now, the above scene, I wouldn't exactly think it the best thing to do, anyway. It's a morally justifiable action, yes. But it isn't really a smart action - better wait until antinatalism gets more popular before you do something like that. Or else bloodshed could be on your hands.


  1. Wow, thanks for the dedication, est! <3<3<3 You can come to interesting conclusions when you start questioning the idea that established views are correct by virtue of having been around for a long time. The sad thing is that plenty of people already support involuntary sterilization for whatever group(s) they happen to hate the most, often citing concerns for the potential offspring of these groups. But anyone who wants to prevent the suffering of everyone's offspring is obviously a villain of some sort.

    Of course, I don't foresee us ever being in the position to forcibly sterilize anyone. But accepting it as a morally justifiable action could have practical ethical implications with unsavory undertones of their own. For instance, you could incentivize sterilization. The most efficient way to go about it would be to target drug addicts (a la Project Prevention) and other poor people, which would surely generate a lot of backlash. But it's actually something that can be done.
    Now, where to find the cash for it?..

  2. Thank you for dedicating your post to me, estnihil. I really like your blog. You are very intelligent, and I appreciate how you think about ideas.

  3. I'm trying to work out in my head how pronatalists would respond to the concept of involuntary sterilsation, particularly the kind who appeal to the "non-identity" argument which says that you can't talk about the rights or welfare of non-existent people.

    1) People are involuntarily sterilised.
    2) People complain about their rights having been violated.
    3) When pressed, they say that their right to create people has been violated.
    4) But these theoretical people don't and can't exist, and to speak of them is nonsensical according to the proponents of the non-identity argument, so therefore there is nothing to complain about!

    Doubtless there are quibbles with that chain of thinking, but it might be worth pursuing.

  4. Ah Karl your Devil's Advocate argument there is a lot like what I tried to do a while back, in 'How Could You Possibly Counter Antinatalism?'. Just like Theistic arguments, Pronatalist arguments often result in internal contradictions - the signs of a view that is wrong to the core.
    To CM and Stacy, no thanks necessary. It's thanks enough to be able to understand and correct the flaws in one's own viewpoint.

  5. Fair enough, but first we need to prove to people that there's no such thing as reproductive rights, from a secular standpoint. And that's an uphill battle. But I agree with what you're saying.

  6. So, to put it bluntly, the reason one would not go through with the law in this scenario would be appeasement to a minority of pronatalist terrorists? ;-)

    But of course I agree that the morally right thing in theory is not always the best thing to do in practice.

    All the best,

  7. Karl, the connection between 3 and 4 doesn't go through. Using the verb phrase "create new people" is not to talk, de re, about non-existing people. And de-re-talk about non-existing people is what would be prohibited by non-identity, not de-dicto-talk.

    The argument goes like this: Due to non-identity, you can't harm anyone by bringing them into existence. Since you don't harm anyone with it, you have a right to reproduce. Since you have that right, you mustn't be involuntarily sterilized.

    That's not inconsistent. It's just that the person-affecting conception of harm, on which the non-identity argument relies, is too narrow and as a result allows for horrible consequences.