Dirk Nowitzki is currently at the height of his profession. He just led the Dallas Mavericks to a huge upset in the NBA Finals over the much-disliked Miami Heat, who happen to feature 2 of the best 3 basketball players in the world. In comparison to LeBron and Wade, Dirk was much praised by the media for staying loyal to the Dallas Mavericks and valuing the team over his personal egotism. And yet, when offered the opportunity by the media to declare himself a role model for how basketball should be played, Dirk demurred, saying “Still, I’m also not going to play the big man and try to convert other players. Who knows if my way is the right one?”
When I read that quote, I thought of two policy dilemmas, one of which is currently an issue in the media and one of which is only an issue in my mind.
First, sex-selective abortions.*
In Asia, there are over 163 million girls missing from the population in comparison to the normal gender rations. The reason, of course, is that parents abort female children because they would prefer to spend their resources raising males instead. Of course, to most Westerners, even pro-choice ones, this seems horrific and discriminatory.** I myself find it despicable. But if the right to choose is really about a woman’s right to determine what kind of life she will have-whether that life will contain a child or not-then why does that right to choose not also extend towards choosing not to have a baby of a certain gender if she feels that baby will negatively affect her lifestyle?
There may be a moral case against choosing to abort a baby because of its gender, but if you’re a firm believer in the legal right to choose, then I don’t see how there can be a legal case. The whole point of the right to choose is that it’s YOUR right-no one else has the legal right to judge your reasons and determine them inadequate. If a the government were to have the ability to determine some abortions to be morally justified and others unjustified, then the right to choose would be a mere sham.
In 2007, women in the United States spent $1.7 billion dollars on breast implants. Over $14 billion was spent in the US on cosmetic surgery more generally. Male preferences aside, I find this money to be very poorly spent. I think, boringly enough, that this money would be much better spent if it were to be given to charity, or really to almost any other purpose than feeding the vanity of the beneficiaries of this surgery. But yet, if you are a supporter of capitalism (as is nearly everyone in Western society, whether you realize it or not), then you believe that people have the right to spend their money as they see fit. You should accept that as a consequence of capitalism, people will choose to spend their money in ways that you disapprove of, such as breast surgery.***
In both cases, favoring capitalism or the right to choose means that you’re affirming, whether you admit it or not, that you are not sure that your way is the right one. Or at least, you’re not sure enough to impose your views of morality on others. I found it quite admirable when Dirk made that admission (for some people, confidence is sexy-for me, it’s admitting self-doubt), but I’m not as sure that pluralism’s acceptance of injustice in either instance is quite as admirable. Perhaps it’s the price we pay for living in a free society.
*Put aside for just a moment the argument over whether or not abortion is the taking of a life.
**Nota bene, while gender-based abortion is currently not a major issue in the United States or Western Europe, I predict that very similar issues will arise here once we are medically able to detect a “gay gene.”
***Of course, breast surgery is not nearly as momentous a decision as abortion. I’m just making an analogy, peoples!