Biotech and repugnance

Biotech and repugnance

Re: MIT Technology Review: China’s CRISPR twins might have had their brains inadvertently enhanced.

Imagine there was a vaccine that pregnant women could get that would make their babies immune to HIV/AIDS, make their brains more resilient to suffering a stroke, and make it easier for them to learn and form memories.

We would rightfully regard someone who reacted with “visceral repulsion and sadness” to healthy, happy twin baby girls whose mother received this vaccine as, well, viscerally repulsive and sad. He’d be lumped in with hardcore anti-vaxxers and we’d all move on.

We would call for steps to make this vaccine universally available, but wouldn’t want it banned because not everyone would have access—after all, the distributional effects of new technology are something we can usually address. Almost all (all?) technology becomes democratized over time. It’s why Jeff Bezos’ phone is probably not that much better than yours, if it’s better at all. Read more

Hayek was not a conservative. Here’s why.

This post originally appeared on 22 April, 2016 at (Mostly) Free.

Hayek’s essay ‘Why I Am Not a Conservative‘ is often misremembered as a defensive claim that says conservatives are invested in traditions while liberals want to move forward, and since Hayek considers himself a liberal (in the original sense of the word), he does not want to be mistaken for a conservative. Because Hayek was an advocate of emergent orders who argued against remaking them wholesale, this argument would set him up to fail. But it’s not his argument.

‘Liberal’ and ‘conservative’ as they’re used colloquially don’t fit Hayek’s definitions. As political identifiers, both are increasingly vacuous. These terms need to be defined, not because one is good and the other is bad, but because both are useful. The essay isn’t mounting a defence, it’s setting out definitions.

If you could say to Hayek, “But you aren’t describing what conservatives believe now!” I think he might respond, “Of course not. That’s why I wrote the essay.” Conservatism has real meaning, but it doesn’t imply a timeless set of concrete policy proposals. Read more