Boundary cases

The earlier post on doggy death benefits got me to thinking: what are the debates that I recognize as legitimate pluralistic disagreements? There are lots of issues where I am pretty sure that I am right, but recognize that the people on the other side have valid value judgements that they are calling differently from me. I'm not talking about technocratic disputes over adverse selection or regulatory capture--I mean core arguments about deeply held values.

On my list:

1) Abortion. I'm pro-choice, but I think that it's a really, really difficult call between the rights of women to control their bodies, and the rights of fetuses to get born. I think there are narrow, self-obsessed ideologues on both sides of the debate, but I think that most people in the middle are doing their best to wrestle with a hard issue.

2) Gay marriage. I'm basically pro, but I take the Burkean arguments seriously.

3) Immigration. Again, I'm pro--but while I think the anti-immigration side makes often ridiculously ahistorical arguments about how current immigration differs from past waves, I think that more-open-borders folks like me don't give enough respect to the real cultural frictions that immigration causes.

4) Affirmative action. I think it's a bad idea, for multiple reasons. But I also understand those who think that we need to do something about the racial mess that slavery has left us in, and think that this is the best something we're probably going to get.

5) Taxes. I don't have any very well thought out position on the optimal level of taxation in society. I take seriously both the justice arguments of the libertarian absolutists, and the notion that anyone living in a wealthy society owes their prosperity at least as much to the wealthy society as they do to their own skill and hard work--and if you doubt this is true, I suggest you go try to deploy your rugged individualist talents in Zimbabwe. I think society has a duty to care for those who genuinely can't care for themselves, but I am against an ever-expanding notion of what constitutes "can't".

6) Intergenerational equity. I don't mean social security, which I think is largely a stupid program. I mean questions about how we should privilege the interests of people who exist now over those who will exist in the future. The environment is the most obvious, but not the only, area where these questions come up. To me, health care is another one; the core issue is that we can probably help some people by moving to a single payer system today, but only by destroying the innovation machine that will help many many more people down the road.

7) Humanitarian intervention. I am often tempted by the isolationist stance, the cool purity of its single-rule decision making. Then another Darfur rends my heart. I don't mean to address the prudential, utilitarian calculus, but rather the question: if there's a good chance that we could make things better, should we? And under what circumstances?

8) What value to put on art? Nature? These are intangibles. Yellowstone would not exist without substantial government intervention. Am I libertarian enough to think that's a bad thing? Ask me an easy one . . .

I'm sure there are others. What about you?