Tuesday, December 04, 2012

Abortion, human sacrifice, and property rights

The stock argument for abortion is essentially a property-rights argument. A woman’s body is her property. She has the right to dispose of (in every sense of the word) her body as she sees fit. And the baby is counted as part of her body, or relevantly dependent on her body–which, by extension, makes the baby her property.

Let’s grant this justification for the sake of argument. Property-rights arguments have wider implications. For instance, here is, in all seriousness, a justification for human sacrifice based on property-rights:

Human Sacrifice

Peter T. Leeson

George Mason University - Department of Economics

November 12, 2012

This paper develops a theory of rational human sacrifice: the purchase and ritual slaughter of innocent persons to appease divinities. I argue that human sacrifice is a technology for protecting property rights. It improves property protection by destroying part of sacrificing communities' wealth, which depresses the expected payoff of plundering them. Human sacrifice is a highly effective vehicle for destroying wealth to protect property rights because it's an excellent public meter of wealth destruction. Human sacrifice is spectacular, publicly communicating a sacrificer's destruction far and wide. And immolating a live person is nearly impossible to fake, verifying the amount of wealth a sacrificer has destroyed. To incentivize community members to contribute wealth for destruction, human sacrifice is presented as a religious obligation. To test my theory I investigate human sacrifice as practiced by the most significant and well-known society of ritual immolators in the modern era: the Konds of Orissa, India. Evidence from the Konds supports my theory's predictions.

Does the logic of abortion entail the corollary logic of human sacrifice? If that conclusion is deemed to be morally unacceptable, does that, in turn, invalidate the stock argument for abortion?

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