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Samizdata quote of the day

To hear conservatives indicate that a husband is not the person best qualified to decide what his wife would have wanted indicates a view of what marriage constitutes that seems rather at odds with the usual conservative obsession with the importance and gravity of that institution.
Perry de Havilland

35 comments to Samizdata quote of the day

  • S. Weasel

    My mama always told me, if you quote yourself, you’ll go blind.

  • Makes you wonder if those “gay” would-be marrieds really know what they’d like to be getting themselves into. If Terri had never wed Michael, she wouldn’t be in all this trouble.

  • David

    I agree with Perry. As a conservative I believe that my power and authority over both my wife and my children is such that at no time should the state interfere in that relationship. It’s good that us libertarians can all agree on a husband’s absolute familial authority.

  • gravidx

    David, does your wife allow you to say this?

  • Johnathan

    I thought Perry’s original quote was on target. I just cannot fathom how so many people, who have never met the persons involved, feel free to make all manner of claims and counter claims about the fitness of this or that person to decide on a life or death issue. One would think the irony of that would have been clear to readers of what is supposed to be a libertarian blog.

  • S. Weasel

    What on earth does “meeting the people involved” have to do with understanding issues and trying to affect public health policies that could — and indeed have — affected my own life? This isn’t a personal one-act play performed in a vacuum, and it isn’t a matter so lofty that we should wait at the foot of the mountain for the clay tablets.

    I never thought I would see so many libertarians cringing to the heel of judges.

  • You expect consistency from conservatives? These are the people who are oh-so-concerned about the rights of a fetus, yet when that fetus is born into a poor family suddenly have no concern about it.

  • Winzeler

    We’re not “cringing to the heel of judges.” We’re expecting that if the state is going to forcibly intervene in the natural order of things, it has to demonstrate “beyond doubt” that the natural “transfer of power” (in this case from individual to spouse) has been in some way perverted enough to justify intervention.

    Phil, your comment doesn’t match my experience at all. I came from a conservative background (switched to libertarian due to abhorrence of statism -tyranny by the majority) and the majority of conservatives I know (particularly the religious ones) are steeped in caring for poor people. The difference is they prefer to do it charitably at their own discretion instead of forcibly at the whim of the for-profit state. (Don’t even ask me to defend conservatism when it comes to moral freedoms.)

  • Bolie Williams IV

    So marriage is sacred and should never be questioned? No one is permitted to challenge the authority of a husband? There is no way that a husband could demonstrate that he is not a fit guardian for his wife?

    It’s one thing to say that Michael Schiavo has done nothing to bring his guardianship of Terri into question. It’s quite another to say that no one should dare question the authority of any husband over the fate of his wife.

    As a libertarian, you should respect the right of people to ask questions and speculate. There are people who go off half-cocked thinking that they know everything from having read one news article. There are other people, though, who are conservative but who do not believe that anyone is beyond question.

    The “State” didn’t come in and tell Michael he wasn’t fit to be guardian of his wife. People, also related to Terri, have asked the State to help them do what they believe is the right thing for her. The Judicial branch has consistently ruled in favor of Michael. The legislatures in Florida and Washington, D.C. have passed laws that may or may not be appropriate but which have generally been to change the way the case is handled in the courts, not to make a decision one way or another.

    Having browsed through some of the court documents and affidavits, I believe that this whole thing has been handled badly by the judiciary. The final decision may be right, but the Judge has not left me with the impression that he is really thoroughly examined all of the evidence (or even allowed all of the evidence to be acquired).

    Having said that, I’m not going to Florida to stop anything. Nor do I advocate rebellion or violent resistance. I hope that this case spurs a debate on end-of-life issues and issues of judicial power.

  • Jacob

    The issue of marriage, guardianship, court interference are side isssues here.

    The main issue is this: is Terri Schiavo a person with full rights or just a living corpse ? ( Supposing it’s true that most of her brain was destroyed 15 years ago).

    An analogous question is the abortion question: is a foetus a full living person or somewhat less than that ?

    Tough questions.

  • Jacob

    Here is a link to a CAT scan photo with explanations about the state of the brain.

  • toolkien

    She’s gone now.

    A sad situation has now concluded. Our opinions didn’t really change much of anything. Maybe there’s something in this alone.

  • Johnathan

    S. Weasel, the point I was making, as ought to be obvious, is that a lot of the commentary is from people making all kinds of assumptions and innuendos about the husband and family of this poor woman as if they knew them well, which strike me impertinent, to put it mildly.

    I can see some general conclusions stemming from this case. One conclusion: hard cases make crap law. Another: keep religion out of it. Another: get yourself a living will to spare others, be they relatives or judges, the agonies of this sort of case.

    I am certainly not “cringing at the heels of judges”. But in the absence of law, on what authority are you going to rely on a case like this?

  • Verity

    Jonathan, once again you err on the side of emotion rather than taking a rational stance. I don’t recall anyone who had doubts about this awful case who affected to know the family or any of the players.

    You don’t have to know any of the players to have read about Michael Schiavo and, from his history, wonder whether he is/was a loving husband intent on conveying the real wishes of his wife. That is all. I would challenge you to produce one commentator who pretended to know a single one of the players personally, or even one or two steps removed.

    Do you, on a libertarian site, sincerely believe that no one should question the judgement of a court?

    Husbands do murder wives. Wives do murder husbands. Many get away with it.

    S Weasel mentioned on another thread that anyone who commented that maybe, in the case of doubt, Terri’s life should be spared would immediately be tarred with the brush of “conservative” – code for religious right. And this is what this thread is doing. Those of us who harboured a niggling doubt are being trashed as being Christian right wingers.

    Personally, I can never hear a baby crying without being obliged to stifle an urge to place a pillow over its face. When I visit a new city, I never step inside cathedrals or old churches because I find the atmosphere creepy. I resent being co-opted into Christianity – and extreme Christianity at that – by people who are too lazy to think of a less facile insult.

    Give those of us who voiced concern for a helpless stranger a break. I am baffled by the anger and contempt. What is the point of running a blog if opposing views infuriate you?

  • Winzeler

    Johnathan’s comments don’t read like he’s infuriated. I’m not even sensing anger or contempt, much less fury. I’m not sure where you’re getting that from, Verity.

    Do you, on a libertarian site, sincerely believe that no one should question the judgement of a court?

    No, we just don’t think the court should question the judgment of the next of kin without PROOF of wrongdoing.

  • I agree wholeheartedly. Michael Schiavo was the right guy to decide his family’s fate – whether it involved Terri Schiavo, or his common law wife and kids.

    Only a hypocritical right wing christian crank would fail to support the sanctity of polygamy after spouting all that stuff about how marriage is good…

  • So marriage is sacred and should never be questioned? No one is permitted to challenge the authority of a husband? There is no way that a husband could demonstrate that he is not a fit guardian for his wife?

    Far from it and in any case, I am not a conservative. Read the whole comment I made to which the Illuminatus linked. The reality is the husband in question has had the legal system put him under a microscope and yet it did not find him unfit, so clearly it is his call.

    Yet many conservatives, when it comes down to it, would rather ditch their supposed attatchment to the ‘sacred vows’ because the guy did not elect to keep his wife’s animated corpse alive. I find that… interesting.

  • Winzeler

    hypocritical right wing christian crank

    Let’s just resolve something here. There are four descriptive phrases in this comment and they all do not have to go together. I (as James and I have discussed at length) am a rather serious Christian. I find the abuse of that term a little unsettling (athough not always unwarranted). If you read my comments on this thread and the others regarding Schiavo you will find that I am not hypocritical, not right wing, and not a crank. Anyway, I just wanted to point out that those descriptions can go together, but they don’t always have to.

  • GCooper

    I’m having some trouble following Perry de Havilland’s reasoning here.

    From what I have seen, it is the soi disant libertarians who have been making a fuss about rights endowed by marriage and others (conveniently bracketed together as “conservatives”) who have been arguing that those rights cannot be absolute in all cases. And certainly not in this one.

  • Bolie Williams IV

    So… you trust the State in the person of the Judiciary, mostly embodied by Judge Greer (who has ties with Michael’s lawyer and the Hospice where Terri is being kept)? Their conclusions are unquestionable just because the case has been going on for 15 years?

    The appeals courts and Supreme Courts generally make very narrow rulings. Their rulings do not necessarily reflect a review of the entire case or all the evidence, only the specific parts brought up in the appeals. Judges also have personal feelings and it wouldn’t shock me to find that a bunch of judges in Florida have similar biases.

    I don’t claim to know anything about Michael. But the fact that the Courts haven’t taken away his guardianship does not convince me that he is worthy of having kept it.

    I’ve seen too many cases where I thought the Law was dead wrong and where judges made decisions I found repugnant to consider the legal system as a guide to right and wrong.

    My personal feelings are that Terri shouldn’t have been killed. Whether the process taken to kill her was entirely legal and Constitutional or not, the outcome sucked.

    Maybe there’s no good way for a government to handle this without taking away too much freedom. If so, then that sucks, too. But as has been mentioned before, tough cases make bad law, so hopefully this case can serve as a warning but not an example.

  • Johnathan Pearce

    Verity, you are the one playing the emotional card here, judging from your vocabulary. Really? What in my comments suggest that? I have made it clear in several comments that I can see the terrible conflicting issues in this case but am concerned that hastily drawnup legislation can produce undesirable outcomes, something which ought to concern anyone worried about the State’s thrusting its tentacles into every aspect of life, however personal.

    Of course courts make mistakes. Husbands, wives, parents and children make them. And, amazing though it may seem to some, so do politicians and priests.

    Opposing views don’t infuriate me, Verity. Ones which impute motives to me where there is no proof do, however.

  • Jon H

    Jacob writes: “An analogous question is the abortion question: is a foetus a full living person or somewhat less than that ?”

    Not quite analogous. A healthy fetus has lots of potential, is still developing, etc. It’s quite different from a grown adult who has suffered massive irreversible trauma and is on a slow downward spiral towards death.

    The future of the fetus is unknowable. The future of someone in a condition like Terri Schiavo’s is all too predictable.

  • Verity

    Jonathan, you make a fair point: Ones which impute motives to me where there is no proof do, however. Quite.

    We who were arguing for caution in this case have had bizarre motives thrown at us, including being rightwing Christians. I am not going to go back and reread through the threads to cite instances and bore myself and everyone else to death, but you have weighed in with a couple of lofty, dismissive comments, as though we were ill-schooled simpletons because we differed from the view that you appeared to assume would be the received opinion on this blog.

    I am more than willing to admit that you weren’t one of those who became angry in the defence of Michael Schiavo, but we had to put up with vehemence that rendered some posters almost incoherent for simply posting well articulated opposing views.

    I don’t mind being on the receiving end of insults in a knock-down drag out, but like you, I do mind having motives that exist only in the accuser’s head thrown at me.

    It strikes me, though, that you were among those who simply refused to entertain any of the arguments some of us arguing for caution were putting forward. You all kept repeating the mantra “he’s the husband, he’s the husband” (as though we had failed to grasp that point) and dismissing any doubts that some of us had about his suitability for making this decision as vicious character assassination.

  • Jon H

    Verity writes: “dismissing any doubts that some of us had about his suitability for making this decision as vicious character assassination.”

    Assumptions that Terri’s bulimia was caused by her husband’s controlling, abusive behavior, without evidence of any sort, is not vicious character assassination?

    Anyone, at any time, could find themselves in Michael Schiavo’s position of having to decide to end life support for a loved one. Your rhetoric suggests that they, too, will be subject to baseless slander if you don’t approve of the decision.

  • Verity

    Regarding the post by Jon H directly below mine: I rest my case.

  • Jacob


    “Yet many conservatives, when it comes down to it, would rather ditch their supposed attatchment to the ‘sacred vows’ because the guy did not elect to keep his wife’s animated corpse alive. I find that… interesting.”

    Throwing an (implied) accusation of hypocrisy or inconsistency at (relogious) conservatives is too simple minded.

    I can imagine how one can be sincerly torn between two principles: the sanctity of life and the sanctity of marriage, and decide, correctly, that sanctity of life is the more important one, that trumps the other in this case.

    As I said before, the main question isn’t about Michael Schiavo and his marriage, but: under what circumstances is it justified to deny medical treatment (and tube-feeding) to an unconscious person.

  • Willard

    Conservatism assumes that spouses generally ought to be permitted to represent each other’s interests. But that concept never went so far as granting chattel ownership of one spouse to the other. And it assumes good faith on the part of the representing spouse. Mike Shiavo doesn’t meet the test of having his wife’s best interests at heart, and its not hypocritical for conservatives to demand that authority be taken from a faithless husband. Shiavo has been shacked up with a second common-law wife for years, having children with her. Depositions have him asking nurses “When is that b***h going to die?” and gloating about how he planned to treat himself with the proceeds of the settlement money received as compensation for Terri’s condition. Conservatives properly reject Mike’s self interested and bad faith representation of his wife’s wishes. There’s no inconsistency here.

  • Stehpinkeln

    The casting of this issue as conservative or Liberal is spin. I’m as conservative as it gets, although I did vote once for a liberal. But bomb’em back to the stone age LeMay was Goldwaters running mate and I voted more for him then Goldwater.
    I would have pulled the plug on Terri a decade ago.
    The whole deal is a red herring being used by the MSM to divert attention from the OIL-4-Fraud pogram at the UN. How many children stareved to death the last 10 days in Sudan? 100? 1,000? Closer to the latter I think.
    Meanwhile the Trade War between the US and the EU is about to get serious. What happens when the USA withdraws from the WTO and slaps a 20% Tariff on EVEYTHING that enters the USA? That will lower our 5% unemployment to record levels. It would be a rough few years for the US, but not as rough as it will be on Europe. How high does the unemployment have to go before governments fall? That is not a concern in America, our government will fall in 3.5 years no matter what. Right on schedule.

  • Exiled to Oxnard

    That will lower our 5% unemployment to record levels.

    Let me get this straight, trade barriers will LOWER our unemployment? Whoa dude, roll me one of what you’re smoking!

    I take it you failed economics 101

  • Johnathan

    Verity, I gladly accept your point and am grateful you accepted mine. Things have gotten too heated.

    I am getting a living will. I don’t want my fellow citizens, my fiance, my parents, or god help me, the NHS and Tony Blair, to decide my fate if I get into a situation like this. I consider that a public duty to avoid dumping such awful choices onto my fellows.

  • Mr X

    Mr Schiavo has been living with another woman, and has had children with her. Is he seriously thought to retain – morally – the custodianship of his (for all intents and purposes) ex-wife’s ongoing existence?

    If his new de-facto wife finds herself in a similar state, does he then enjoy a polygamous right to terminate both spouses?

  • Dr Crippen writes:
    “I am the best placed person to decide whether my wife should live.”

    Facile argument, to say “it’s the husband’s choice” especially when the husband in this case has abandoned his wife.

    On the subject of “Permanent” Vegetative State, or “Persistent” Vegetative State, it depends if you’re a eugenics fetishist or not. The very name of PVS changes according to which side one takes.

    See Robert Wendland(Link)‘s case reported by Mark Steyn.

    Basically, people sometimes do come out of comas after years. To deny this, as some people who call it “Permanent Vegetative State” do, is very strange.

  • Stehpinkeln

    “I take it you failed economics 101”
    No, I got a pass by pointing out that ALL economics is theory. There are no hard facts. The closest is “Supply and Demand”, and that is manipulated by almost everyone who desires wealth.
    I based my logic on the simple fact that the USA had close to full employment before WW1. Look it up.

    “The Employment Act of 1946 made the eradication of unemployment a federal government priority. Yet during the first thirty years of the twentieth century, when government assumed absolutely no responsibility for employment, the mean unemployment rate was less than 5 percent and stable. Throughout the most recent thirty years (1960-89), in contrast, the average has been one-fourth higher and is rising.”
    -Out of Work
    Unemployment and Government in Twentieth-Century America
    By Lowell E. Gallaway, Richard K. Vedder

    While there were brief periods where unemployment hit the levels they are at now, they never lasted long because the Americans of that period either worked or starved. Stick and the carrot.
    Modern economic theory says that once a society becomes more urban then rural, a certain level of unemployment is inevitable. No evidence is ever presented to support that somewhat dubious notion.
    The USA exports JOBS (which doesn’t directly count in the balance of trade figures. Manufacturing jobs don’t add to the export figures when they are transferred abroad, but the goods manufactured there do count as exports when they are sold in America) . America has been very successsful at creating new jobs and exporting the old jobs to the third world. There is absolutly no reason to think that those jobs can’t be brought back to the USA, if we want them.
    Look at your classic widget. The widget factory in East Smalltown happly cranked out widgets for decades. As the time passed, the widgets became more expensive. Increased productivity compensated somewhat for the increase in Labor and materials cost. But the problem with Productivity increases are that they are a ‘process’, not a product. If a new widget mill is invented, it is protected by Law here in the States, but not in the far abroad. But something such as a more efficent way to account for the profits of the widget company is not covered by Law. So a foreign compnay can reverse engineer the widget mill and copy outright the ‘soft’ imporovements and with the lower overheads undersell the widget company. Then the widget company goes under and the employees look for new jobs.
    Cutting off the import of widgets will NOT stop the demand for widgets. Since there is a demand for widgets and no supply, someone will build a new widget factory. If you don’t understand that then you need to go back to school.
    Once the Jobs that have been exported overseas start to come back, there will be a serious shortage of workers. That will lead to higher pay, which will increase the demand for goods and services.
    While free trade is better, it is not just because of ecomomics. The Widget doesn’t care where it is made or where it is sold. While economics and politics are joined at the hip, Free trade is more a POLITICAL IDEA, then an economic one.
    The theory is that nations which trade with each other, don’t go to war with each other. That is a bogus theory. Germany’s #1 trading partner in 1939 was France. One POV is that Hitler saw a Panzer Division as a trade tool. If your economics professor didn’t point out to you that a mugging is an economic transaction, then you need to see about getting a refund of you tuition.
    Are you familiar with the concepts of ‘critical mass’ as applied to economics? Once a buisness reaches a certain point, competetion becomes irrelevant. The beast either swallows it or crushes it. It is possible that the USA has reached that point. We will soon find out.
    Lets see what happens when Congress slaps a 25% tarriff down in responce to the 15% that has been placed against selected US Products. Eventually one side will get tired of incrmental increases and go to an embargo. Then it is just one small step to war.
    That is what happened in Asia in 1940. The Japanese felt they had no other choice after the USA slapped an embargo on Japan in a futile attempt to cutail the Japanese behavior in China. The rest, as they say, is history.
    The EU is using the WTO as a weapon against the United States. The Obvious solution is to withdraw from the WTO. With the UN dead and buried next to the league of nations, the WTO castrated and NATO on life support, the USA will be as close to returning to it’s Pre WW2 isolationism as is possible in the 21st century. That will leave a bunch of nuclear armed despots running amoke. I would be worried if it wasn’t for the WBW.

  • S. Weasel

    Antoine: I would’ve sworn nobody could make me laugh on this thread. You have to admit, he was as faithful to Ethel le Neve as anyone could ask.

  • Michael Schiavo is keeping a mistress, has two bastard children, and most likely is using money that normally would go to his family to support them instead. This is a person with a seriously attenuated fidelity to his wife. In short, he has betrayed her in every conventional sense of the word.

    Is his open and undisputed betrayal of his wife irrelevant to his suitability as a guardian for his wife? I really can’t see how you can make a case that it isn’t relevant, certainly not a libertarian case, certainly not a conservative case.

    Terri Schiavo had a reasonable expectation that she would be cared for in sickness and in health, and that if she needed a guardian, she would get one that would not betray her. Her expectation was not met. The court had an obligation to repair that fault. It did not.

    The legislature has an obligation to change the law so that the court does not have the freedom to leave such an obviously conflicted person to have the power of life and death over a very inconvenient spouse. I hope that it, at least, will do its duty.