The late Soviet Union was the first nation since pagan times to legalise abortion. The date was November 20, 1920, shortly after the consolidation of the Communist Revolution. The victorious ‘Reds’ intended to abolish the family and replace it by the State – a revolutionary agenda that gained the admiration of many ‘progressives’ in the West.
Radical Feminists also came to view Soviet intentions approvingly. Kate Millett, the American author whose 1969 book Sexual Politics became a world bestseller (and one of the ‘bibles’ of political Feminism), wrote: “After the revolution every possible law was passed to free individuals from the claims of the family,” including the legalisation of “free marriage and divorce, contraception, and abortion on demand.” As Millett explained: “Under the collective system, the family began, as it were, to disintegrate along the very lines upon which it had been built. Patriarchy began, as it were, to reverse its own processes, while society returned to the democratic work community which socialist authorities describe as matriarchy.”
The reality was that Soviet law was not subordinated to any higher ethical concept which transcended politics, but only to the political aims of the regime. Thus the law changed whenever state policy changed. When the prospect of war loomed in the 1930s, Joseph Stalin decided that the Soviet Union needed more people. So, in 1936, he outlawed abortion in first pregnancies. When World War II was over, the ravaged country definitely needed more people. So, in 1944, all abortions were declared illegal.
“Abortion was the first wedge, but other reactionary attitudes which had persisted soon began to reassert themselves,” says Millett about the 1936 and 1944 decisions, thereby implying that Joe Stalin’s totalitarianism only started when he forbade abortion. The genocide of the Kulaks, the induced famine in the Ukraine, the Great Purges, the mass killings of millions of people, all the atrocities of the 1920s and the 1930s, they all fade in comparison with the “reactionary” decision to temporarily restrict abortion.
But the restriction did not last very long: in 1955 abortion was again permitted. Of course, the Soviets’ temporary restriction on abortion between 1936 and 1955 had nothing to do with religious or ethical considerations, nor with a belief in the right to life of unborn humans. Stalin could not care less. He was at least as ruthless as his one-time ally Adolf Hitler, his counterpart in Germany. Indeed, their abortion policies were very similar – the similarities between the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany have long been overlooked, but it is no coincidence that Hitler’s ideology was called National Socialism.
In Nazi Germany abortion was forbidden for Germans, but it was permitted for non-Germans, such as Poles. The reason for the difference was purely political: Hitler did not like the prospect of many non-Germans living in his Reich. Although the Germans themselves did not have many rights in Hitler’s empire, non-Germans had far fewer. But if we apply Millett’s feminist logic we can only conclude that the non-Germans actually possessed more rights in Hitler’s Germany than the Germans, for the latter did not ‘enjoy’ any pro-choice rights and the former did.
A Nazi law of March 9, 1943, also stated that “persons who are not German State citizens belonging to the German people” could be exempted from punishment for abortion. This law applied to ethnic Germans who had formerly lived in Russia. They were not considered to be as racially pure as ‘German Germans’ and, hence, were granted the ‘right’ to abort their children. According to a document of October 25, 1943, from the Rasse und Siedlungshauptamt (RuSHA), the Race and Colonisation Department of the SS, the Nazis had a problem because “reactionary Catholic doctors” refused to cooperate in these unpenalised abortions. (Note that both the SS and feminists like Millett use the same word – “reactionary” – when describing anti-abortion attitudes.)
The SS decided to take action against doctors and nurses refusing to perform abortions. They were defamed and brought to court. In 1948 the Americans condemned RuSHA-Colonel Ulrich Greifelt as a war criminal in Nuremberg because of the 1943 document. Who could have imagined then that, barely 40 years later, not only in Germany but everywhere in the West, even in America, doctors and nurses would again be condemned by courts for the obstruction of legal abortions? Is World War II, as Irving Kristol has remarked, a war that Hitler lost but that his philosophy won?
The philosophy is of course moral relativism, a philosophy that goes hand in hand with the political theory of Socialism. When Socialism collapsed in eastern Europe in 1989, the world suddenly discovered that in the erstwhile Soviet Bloc the moral foundations of society had disappeared. Forty to seventy years of extensive government control over economic life had destroyed the work ethic and values such as thrift, self-reliance and initiative. But it had also dealt a fatal blow to basic ethical values, such as honesty, charity and courage, without which no society can exist. Socialism, as the famed Austrian economist Ludwig von Mises had prophetically pointed out in 1922, deprives man of his human nature.
The Burden of Debt
True, some pockets of ethical resistance had survived in the East, thanks mainly to the churches, which played a pivotal role in the collapse of the Socialist system. On the whole, however, eastern Europe had become a moral wasteland. In western Europe, however, the situation is almost as bad as in the East. Here too, for over four decades, Socialism – albeit under the milder form of the ‘social-democratic’ welfare system – has been undermining the moral order. The welfare state has deprived people of responsibility for themselves, with the result that they have grown accustomed to irresponsible behaviour. The way in which welfare states have been saddling future generations with the price tag for their own contemporary benefits most strikingly illustrates the immorality of the system. The welfare state simply does not care about the fate of posterity. Why should we care about the future? As John Maynard Keynes, the British economist who ‘fathered’ the welfare system in the 1930s put it, “in the long run we are all dead.”
But Keynes, a notorious promiscuous homosexual, was blind to an evident truth that has guided people’s behaviour all through history. Generation after generation, men and women have worked in order to provide a better future for their children because, though we may die, our children will live. Most people make every sacrifice necessary to ensure that their children will have a better life. As a homosexual and an atheist, Keynes never grasped the importance of this. The economy grows because people endure hardships in order to build a better future for those who follow. Throughout history, ordinary people have worked and strived not only for themselves, but for their children. Can mothers and fathers mortgage their children’s future? They would rather die. Such is the instinctive nature and also the moral order ruling human behaviour, at least until Socialism perverts it.
Today we are witnessing a serious moral crisis because the future has been sacrificed on the altar of the welfare state. The moral decay of nations can be read in their debt ratios. Most parents would be ashamed to leave their children an inheritance of debts. But this is exactly what governments in West Europe and North America have been doing over the past three decades. The average government debt of the seven biggest industrial nations in the world has risen to 75% of annual Gross Domestic Product (GDP), the sum of what a nation produces in one year. As debt must be reimbursed sooner or later, public debt indicates that the cost of present government expenditure is being transferred to the future. Taxpayers of the next generation will have to foot the bill of the present generation’s welfare benefits.
This is not merely a moral, but also a political problem. The western welfare states can hardly be called democracies any longer. Indeed, government debt is a violation of the fundamental democratic principle “no taxation without representation.” A future generation that has had no say in political decisions previously taken is forced to pay the bill for these decisions – a situation that calls for a new Boston Tea Party!
Hence, it is no surprise that all over western Europe the traditional parties which devised the current welfare systems are rapidly losing their electoral appeal among young people. The welfare systems themselves are on the brink of collapse because, as debt levels rise, public confidence in these systems swiftly erodes.
However, far more serious than the immoral level of government debt is the fact that the welfare state has deprived people of the one thing that protects them against the arbitrariness of the State: absolute and objective moral values that bind even the State. The Judeo-Christian moral heritage has taught mankind that there is a higher order to which even the rules of the people must submit. Once mankind became aware of this principle, slavery was abolished. People were free beings because they were created in the image of God. Because they were free beings, they were entitled to the fruits of their labour. Their right to hold private property guaranteed their freedom against the State. Hence, the obligation of the rulers to respect the property of those they rule is an ethical obligation.
Socialism has deprived mankind of this freedom. It did so directly in eastern Europe, and in more subtle ways in the West. The welfare state has deprived people of private property by depriving them of the value of money. Private property is measured in money, and the value of money used to be linked to gold. So long as money was linked to gold, it was linked to a norm restricting the abitrary power of the rulers. Philosophically, the link between money and gold was the economic equivalent of the principle that those governing the people were bound by higher, absolute, and objective norms. When the welfare state cut the link between money and gold, it cut the link with morality.
Nowadays the policies of state institutions, such as governments and central banks, decide what value money has. In a similar fashion, state institutions, such as Parliaments and Supreme Courts, decide what value human life has. If the State rules that killing the unborn is permitted, it violates the right to life of its unborn citizens. If the State rules that government debt will be reduced by printing more bank notes, it violates the right to property of its citizens. The rules binding the State have been lifted completely, while too many people have fallen victim to the State and to a relativism which is literally killing posterity.
The Politics of Sex
Societies in which government policies are no longer restricted by higher, objective, ethical norms ultimately destroy the future. It is no coincidence that the first political regime to deliberately wipe away the wealth of a whole nation was also the first since pagan times to legalise abortion and abolish the family. In 1917 the Communists began confiscating both private property and morality. According to Socialism everything of value – material as well as moral value – belongs to the State. As such it is subordinated to the political goals of the present.
Keynes’ most outspoken opponent, the Austrian philosopher and economist Friedrich Hayek, pointed out that liberty can only survive in a society so long as two basic institutions are respected: private property and the family. Hayek fled his native Vienna in 1931 because he saw Socialism – under the flags of both Communism and Nazism – gradually taking over central Europe. Hayek went to England. His tutor, Ludwig von Mises, left for America in 1934. Mises had pointed out, in the early 1920s (in his book Socialism) that Socialism demands promiscuity in sexual life because it consciously neglects the contractual idea: “Free love is the socialist’s radical solution for sexual problems […] The family disappears and society is confronted with separate individuals only. Choice in love becomes completely free. Men and women unite and separate just as their desires urge.”
The Socialist paradigm, which entails the deliberate neglect of any contract or moral principle that does not serve the present political objectives of the State, results in both the expansion of sexual liberty and the disappearance of economic liberty. Economic liberty and prosperity cannot exist unless people are true to their promises and the assumed set of moral rules by which partners are bound within a certain culture. As a consequence, Socialism leads to the disappearance of all forms of partnership. Nothing is left but the individual and the State.
In a society where sexual partners are not bound to each other, they are also not bound to the fruit of their union. Abortion is the logical result of the Socialist paradigm. In his 1992 book Sex and Reason, Richard Posner, a well-known University of Chicago professor and a U.S. Court of Appeals judge, observes that the U.S. Supreme Court in the 1970s became “aligned with those of the student radicals of the 1960s for whom sexual liberty and political liberty were, as they had been to their [Marxist] guru, Herbert Marcuse, two sides of the same coin, while economic liberty they considered a mask for exploitation.” Although Posner is a libertarian who agrees with the outcome of the Supreme Court decisions on moral issues, he disagrees with the Court’s arguments.
Commenting on the Court’s 1977 Carey v. Population Services International decision, which granted a constitutional right to contraceptives to children below the age of sixteen, Posner points to what he sees as an inconsistency in the Court’s positions, i.e., it advocates sexual liberty but is very ambivalent concerning economic liberty. Carey invalidated a New York law reserving the right to sell contraceptives to licensed pharmacists. However, laws forbidding opticians to replace eyeglass frames without a prescription from an optometrist or ophthalmologist and other similar regulations were upheld by the Court. “Why it should be thought a worse offense against constitutional principle for a state to raise the price of condoms than to raise the price of eyeglasses remains the abiding mystery of the Court’s brush with sexual libertarianism,” says Posner. “The answer the Court would have given if asked – that sexual and reproductive freedom is a ‘fundamental’ right and economic liberty is not – just relabels the question. One might have thought libertarianism indivisible.”
A Fatal Fallacy
In his book, Posner urges the Supreme Court to “rebuild Roe.” He is referring to Roe v. Wade, the 1973 decision legalising abortion. Posner wants the Court to rewrite its arguments in favour of abortion on utilitarian foundations instead of the present Marcusean cast of the Court’s arguments. “Sexual liberalism [has] become associated in the public mind with welfare-state liberalism, that is, egalitarianism,” he warns. He sees this as a danger to the abortion rights in the U.S. because he thinks that the implosion of Socialism in eastern Europe has discredited Marcusean and other forms of Socialist thinking.
But in western Europe and the U.S. the welfare state still lives on. After 1945 the nation-states of western Europe (and also, although to a lesser extent, the U.S.) gradually evolved into social-democratic welfare states. Hayek repeatedly warned against this evolution. In his 1944 book The Road to Serfdom he wrote that having lived in central Europe in the 1920s, he was now witnessing in the 1940s the same development in western Europe. He was, as he said, “twice living through the same period – or at least twice watching a very similar evolution of ideas.” Hayek observed that “precisely the lessons which the Germans learned from World War I and which have done much to produce the Nazi system,” the West was now learning from World War II. This lesson was “that the organisation of the nation we have achieved for purposes of defence shall be retained for the purposes of creation.” The society and economy of war, during which everything is subordinated to the urgent, immediate needs of the State, was taken as a blueprint for post-war society and economy. In order to justify this, new enemies like poverty and unemployment had to be found, so that the State could wage war on them by supervising, on behalf of society, the whole of society.
After 1945 Keynes was quite literally handed the pen to draw the blueprint of what the new post-war society – the welfare state – should be. Together with Nazi Germany and Communist Russia the social-democratic welfare states that evolved in western Europe after the war shared the basic principle that government policies regarding economics are not bound by any norms except the political necessities of the present. Keynes had always been very candid about the true nature of his design for society. In the preface to the 1936 German edition of The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money, the book in which he presented his economic theory, the father of the welfare state wrote explicitly that his “theory of [economic] output is much more easily adapted to the conditions of a totalitarian state” than to “conditions of free competition and a large measure of laissez-faire.”
In a study for the Brussels-based think tank Centre for the New Europe, the French economist Paul Fabra pointed out that Keynes “was lucid and outspoken enough to disclose the very nature of his own doctrine” and that “his influence was critical to the gradual undermining of the foundations for the splendid renewal of an open world economy after World War II.” Fabra is very clear in his moral condemnation of Keynes’ economic theory: “Most outrageous is the oft-quoted quip of his, a resume of the current philosophy: ‘In the long run, we are all dead.’ Before Keynes, economists – and people in general – would have said: ‘In the long run our grandchildren and/or grandnephews will take our place.’ To sum up the whole issue, unemployment is plaguing those nations which no longer care about their future.”
Fabra points out that the unemployment policies of all the governments in western Europe testify that the welfare state involves a wartime attitude. He studied the policies of the European Commission regarding employment and notes that the Commission’s texts are full of military terms and calls for new “strategies.” This “military approach to economic activity, so entrenched in our vocabulary and way of thinking, is precisely part of the problem,” says Fabra. In a war everybody’s requirements are sacrificed to the support of the relatively small fraction of the population that is best suited for the battlefield in terms of age, sex, mental/physical staying power etc., whilst the latter are themselves devoted to the supreme sacrifice. This is not so in an economy of exchange, i.e. a market economy. Exchange is by nature beneficial to both parties. A market economy is no zero-sum game. However, economic policies and managerial ‘strategies’ which, consciously or unconsciously, draw their inspiration form a command economy, tend to transform exchange into warfare, the marketplace into a battlefield where participants will be divided between winners and losers. The latter will join the number of those who, owing to age, psychological and/or physical ‘unfitness,’ etc., were more or less ‘excluded’ from the game from the start.”
In the age before the welfare state, governments only ran budget deficits in periods of war. Now they run them constantly. The Keynesian policies of the governments have created economic conditions which force people to mortgage their children’s future. People have grown accustomed to doing so. They have even sacrificed their own children. The welfare state has no qualms about killing a future generation because it does not care about the future. In effect, it has imposed the “In the long run we are all dead” cynicism of Keynes upon society at large.
This article is derived from a chapter in Dr. Paul Belien’s 1992 book “Abortus – het grote taboe,”(written in the Dutch language). Another English-language article based on this book appeared in The American Conservative of April 2, 2005.