There have been a spate of new laws restricting or banning certain kinds of abortion in several states and more are undoubtedly coming. The rationale behind these laws as far as I can understand them is that according to the laws’ sponsors abortion is murder. It is murder because their understanding of the Bible informs them it is. Abortion kills life. These interpretations of the Bible are usually associated with what we loosely call the Religious Right, that is people who view the Bible as the word of God and who believe that it is their duty to make the society conform to their beliefs. The Religious Right are also people who have been instrumental in implementing what they call religious freedom laws, for example, laws that mean that a health care practitioner should not be required to perform any action not consistent with their religious beliefs. Personally I do not object to anyone who holds those beliefs, to anyone who believes that abortion is murder. It is the advantage of living in a country where religious freedom still means something. But I do object of having the religious beliefs of some imposed upon me. What about the religious (or perhaps quasi-religious) freedom of people like me who do not share those beliefs? The body being formed in the womb is the vessel for life, not life itself. I believe that abortion kills the form that contains life—a huge difference, the implication being that that life would have to remain intact. Do these stringent new laws prevent me from the exercise of my own beliefs? The current law allowing abortion does not preclude anyone from exercising their beliefs. No one will have to have an abortion if they believe it to be murder. But the changes now in place in several states infringe upon the rights and beliefs of those of us who like me have a totally different view about abortion.
About two thirds of the world’s population, 5.1 billion do not have access to justice. Of these, 1.5 billion or one in five, have been left with justice issues they are not able to solve. That could be a land dispute, being the victim of a crime or a consumer debt. These figures come from a new report issued by The Task Force on Justice. The report indicates that 253 million people live with extreme injustice and are deprived of legal protections. They comprise 40 million modern day slaves, 12 million stateless, 200 million who live in countries which are so insecure seeking any kind of justice is not possible. The report points out not only the advantages of providing justice but also the fact that as a human right along with education and health care, it is actually cheaper. In low income countries, where most of the lack to access to justice exists, it costs $20 per person, universal primary and secondary education $41 and healthcare at least $76. These figures would certainly increase for the developed world, but the message that providing justice to those who need it is cheaper than we think remains.
It’s so easy to forget that providing justice is part of the infrastructure of security in any country, and that infrastructure is necessary for prosperity, a prosperity which in turn provides citizens with a modicum of quality of life.
The Guardian has been running a series they call Broken Capitalism, and have featured articles about Jamie Dimon, CEO of JP Morgan. Warren Buffet of Berkshire Hathaway or Ray Dalio, founder of Bridgewater, the world’s biggest hedge fund. Suddenly these and others have become aware that the way capitalism is currently practiced will soon affect their bottom line and possibly their future. It is not yet clear how serious they are in fixing capitalism, in making it more equal and in addressing the economic inequalities of our society, but the mere fact they are acknowledging it is hopeful. What I found of note in the article about Ray Dalio are the figures which are prompting his interest. Here they are.
- 40% of Americans would struggle to raise $400 for an emergency.
- The childhood poverty rate is 17.5% and has not meaningfully improved in decades.
- In the developed world the US scores lower than any country (except for Italy and Greece) in educational achievement.
- The US incarceration rate is nearly 5 times the average of developed countries and 3 times that of emerging ones.
- For the bottom 60% premature deaths have increased about 20% since 2000.
California Attorney General, Xavier Becerra joined Democratic presidential candidates Julian Castro and Beto O’Rourke in asking for the decriminalization of illegal immigration. Beccera says that civil penalties are enough that criminal charges demonize people whose only crime is seeking a better life. Castro had earlier made a policy proposal to eliminate the Immigration and Nationality Act Section 1325 which makes unauthorized entry into the country a federal misdemeanor. Section 1326 asks for further penalties for subsequent reentries. Those are the statutes used by the Trump administration to separate families and prosecute migrants. Becerra, Castro, O’Rourke and others who may subscribe to the idea know that it is not likely to succeed with this administration, that at best it is a good campaign slogan. And it does look like it is emerging as a Democratic Party talking point.
It’s an important idea, and although it is unlikely to bring relief to those now at the border, it nevertheless needs to be remembered and talked about so that its future as a reality can be that much sooner.