What is the American Principles Project?: Jackson Hole 2015 Weblogging


As you will remember from yesterday, the grifter-goldbug conference featuring grifter-goldbug George Gilder, Steve Moore, Benn Steil, Peter Schiff, and Jim DeMint as its five top headliners is a production of the American Principles Project.

What is the American Principles Project? It says:

Robert P. George – Founder: Dr. George is the Chair of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF). He is also a McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence at Princeton University...

I have read one thing written by Robert P. George--one thing and one thing only:

Robert P. George: Killing Abortionists: A Symposium: "I am personally opposed to killing abortionists. However, inasmuch as my personal opposition to this practice is rooted in a sectarian (Catholic) religious belief in the sanctity of human life, I am unwilling to impose it on others who may, as a matter of conscience, take a different view...

...Of course, I am entirely in favor of policies aimed at removing the root causes of violence against abortionists. Indeed, I would go so far as to support mandatory one-week waiting periods, and even nonjudgmental counseling, for people who are contemplating the choice of killing an abortionist. I believe in policies that reduce the urgent need some people feel to kill abortionists while, at the same time, respecting the rights of conscience of my fellow citizens who believe that the killing of abortionists is sometimes a tragic necessity-not a good, but a lesser evil. In short, I am moderately pro-choice.

That is all that George wants to say about the topic of Killing Abortionists.

There are, of course, four readings of this text by Robert P. George:

  1. The literal reading: George thinks it should be up to individuals' consciences to decide whether to kill abortion doctors. He is in favor of legal restrictions that keep the decision to kill an abortion doctor from being carried out in haste and without thought. But those who kill abortion doctors should not be punished or liable in any way.
  2. The deniable reading: George thinks it should be up to individuals' consciences to decide whether to kill abortion doctors. He is in favor of legal restrictions that keep the decision to kill an abortion doctor from being carried out in haste and without thought. But those who kill abortion doctors should not be punished or liable in any way--but of course all this is a joke. (But the "of course this is all a joke" that makes the literal meaning deniable is not at the end of the text, but has to be supplied by the reader making this reading.)
  3. The thoughtless reading: George was trying to write a satire like Jonathan Swift's "Modest Proposal". However, he--thoughtlessly--did not include any of the references to Swift, to satire, or to "modest proposals" that he could and ought to have to include readings. George does not understand that good satire has to include literary devices to signal "but of course this is a satire!", given that a wide audience will approach the text from a great number of different directions with many different sets of background assumptions.
  4. The Swiftian reading: Of course ending the life of an abortion doctor is a shocking and horrible crime--nobody sane thinks otherwise. But since a forty-year-old doctor with a spouse and two kids is just like a fertilized ovum, ending the life of a fertilized ovum or a blastocyte or a first-trimester fetus is equally shocking and horrible. Pro-choice people do not condemn the terrible second thing. George is writing a Swiftian satire to try to make pro-choice people aware of how horrible are the deeds they do not condemn.

My reading? My reading is that George sees an opportunity here, and takes advantage of it. Texts, you see, take on lives of their own. Some readings will be (4), others (3), others (2), and still others (1). George knows and takes advantage of this. And he knows that he can, if challenged, simply claim that he meant (4) and (4) alone, and that all other readings--predictable readings--are misreadings that he will, if pressed, disavow.

And he will disavow other readings. He will do so even though the text, with its brevity and its flatness of affect, does not contain any clues that (4) is the sole reading George wants for people to draw, and that George would be horrified at anybody who were to read it in any other way.

So does George really intend only reading (4)?

I think not.

I believe George would prefer a world in which doctors were scared enough of terrorism that they did not perform abortions, women were scared enough of terrorism that they would not seek abortions, and a good firebombing or three of IVF clinics would make this a better world--with the deaths of the janitors regrettable but, still, part of making a better world.

That is my reading of George's text. It is as good as anyone's, and better than most.

The American Principles Project biography of Robert P. George continues:

One of America’s foremost scholars in the fields of constitutional law, ethics, and political philosophy, he has won numerous awards for his academic and civic work, including the Presidential Citizens Medal. He has served on the President’s Council on Bioethics and as a presidential appointee to the United States Commission on Civil Rights. He is a former Judicial Fellow at the Supreme Court of the United States, where he received the Justice Tom C. Clark Award. He is the author or editor of many books, including Making Men Moral: Civil Liberties and Public Morality and The Clash of Orthodoxies: Law, Morality, and Religion in Crisis, and co-author of Embryo: A Defense of Human Life.

But I think of Robert P. George somewhat differently. And I don't suppose that I will be reading anything else by him.

The American Principles Project, not surprisingly given the piece by its founder quoted above, says that it:

recognizes the dignity of the person as the basis of the founding principles of the United States. We are committed to the declaration made by the Founding Fathers, that we are all created equal, endowed by our Creator with certain unalienable rights, and among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. APP believes that local and national policies that respect the dignity of the person will lead to a flourishing society. As such, we educate and advocate for public policy solutions that respect and affirm: human life from conception to natural death; the union of one man and one woman as the definition of marriage; the freedom to practice and proclaim religion; authentic economic progress for working Americans; education in service of the comprehensive development of the person; and, the legacy of immigrants in contributing to the American story.

One question remains: where does the gold standard fit into all of this?