Perhaps Roe v Wade should be reversed? Credit Donor, CC-BY-SA-4.0

Argentina’s Senate has just voted down an attempt to liberalise the country’s abortion laws. It’s possible to celebrate this as an advance in the rights of the unborn – perhaps a failure to weaken them – equally so we could insist that it’s a failure to recognise those of women. There will be those arguing either side. My own views, well, I’m agin’ it always. For whatever fractional value above none my opinion has. What does interest though is the manner in which this asks us a difficult question about the limits of democracy.

Argentine senators on Thursday voted against legalising abortion in the homeland of Pope Francis, dashing the hopes of women’s rights groups after the bill was approved by Congress’s lower house in June.

According to an official tally, 38 senators voted against, 31 in favor, while two abstained.

The Senate session spilled over into Thursday as the debate stretched past 12 hours.

Argentina now allows abortion only in cases of rape or risks to a woman’s health, and activists say 3,000 women have died from illegal abortions since 1983.

Opponents, meanwhile, insisted life begins at conception and complained the bill could force doctors to perform the procedure even when they believe it is hazardous.

Think on the American situation on this subject. It’s – to the point that those who do not support abortion rights risk being thrown out of the party – largely a Democratic phenomenon that abortion is a right, granted under the Constitution, and no democratic process should be allowed to interfere with this. The people can vote all they like to ban, restrict or even just put barriers in the way and yet it’s still a human right that must be allowed to continue.

Who knows, they may even be right. This argument is about logic, not the specifics of abortion.

Then there are people like me. Us neoliberals, classical liberals perhaps. A certain core belief being that economic freedom is something just as much a basic human right. We might even have noted that the desire to truck and barter is the very thing which makes us human in the first place:

There must be something that led to that ability to outcompete of course. That being:

“Dr Brian Stewart, study co-author said:”Non-kin food sharing, long-distance exchange, and ritual relationships would have allowed populations to ‘reflexively’ adapt to local climatic and environmental fluctuations, and outcompete and replace other hominin species.””

The first two of those both being trade, that propensity to truck and barter.

Observation of modern humans tells us that this is something that we do, the best we know of proto-humans tells us that those who succeeded did it too. Voluntary exchange seems to be at the heart of our very identity – a fact which makes it very odd that so many people wish to protect us from trade.

That very essence of what it is to be human, not ape, well, that’s a human right, isn’t it? Yet what is it that those very same Democrats insist must be curbed and regulated? That trade and barter of course.

Please do note, we can change the subjects discussed here a little and come up with exactly the same logic using right wing arguments. Even be a little more subtle than just insist that to be able to exchange without hindrance is a human right and being able to abort so isn’t.

The point is that we all agree that there are things beyond democracy. We do insist that certain areas of life are to be beyond the whims of the mob. Or even the considered views of the electorate. From my, classically liberal, view that’s what makes “democratic control of the economy” such a disgusting phrase, I regard non-third party harming actions of consenting adults to be beyond, separate from, what other people get to ban by law or even vote. Just as there are plenty out there who will insist that the visceral disgust killing the unborn inculcates in some is not a good reason why voting should have anything to do with whether people can do it or not.

We all agree that democracy has limits, that there are things beyond what we allow ourselves to vote upon. The problem seems to be that we disagree upon what those things are. Such disagreements being the one thing that democracy, voting, is rather good at sorting through, finding a majority, even a plurality, that agrees to a compromise. All of which just returns us to the top of the page, doesn’t it?