When people of “like minds” find themselves opposed to each other on certain specific issues, there is usually a fundamental principle or concept either missing from the debate or being misrepresented / misunderstood.
Recently, two seemingly unrelated issues have offered evidence of this epistemological dilemma: (1) prostitution, and (2) immigration.
On the prostitution front, the recent murder of sex worker Josie Glenn in London, Ontario, has renewed the local debate about prostitution and the sex trade. On one side of the debate are anti-sex feminists, as represented by Megan Walker of the London Abused Women’s Center. On the other side are pro-sex feminists as well as the women who work as sex workers (as represented by Safe Space).
Is prostitution best defined simply as “sex for money” or as something that is “intrinsically violent”? Are these views of prostitution contradictory or are they simply differing perspectives on the same activity? It’s an unusual divide: feminist against feminist; women against women.
On the immigration front, those on one side of the debate argue that to restrict free and open immigration into a free nation is to destroy the very notion and reality of freedom within that nation. Those on the other side argue that freedom can only be protected when a free nation has a right to exclude those it considers a threat to that freedom.
It’s another debate that has polarized itself in a way that finds all shades of left- and right-leaning ideologies on either side of the issue. Even Objectivists have strong disagreements with Objectivists when it comes to open immigration policies.
Do potential immigrants from outside a free nation have a “right” to become an immigrant? Or do the citizens of that nation have the right to decide who can/cannot enter their country? Is there a contradiction in either or both of these viewpoints?
Freedom’s dilemma over issues like prostitution and immigration presents an eternal question: how does one protect both the freedom of individuals within a nation and the security of those directly affected by the relevant activities?
On these issues, the polarization of views “within” each ideological camp (left and right) can often be as extreme as the traditional polarization between the actual Left and Right. This would suggest that within each camp, there is at work some idea or set of ideas that does not belong. Either one or both sides are operating on a false premise.
Many would dismiss these disagreements as mere semantics, but it’s far more than that. On these issues any change in definitions has immediate and severe consequences to the daily lives of those directly affected. As always in politics, the name of the game is to define or be defined.
Missing from both discussions is the principle of Consent.
Just as sex is properly distinguished from rape on the grounds of whether or not the condition of consent is met, so too a proper immigration policy should consider that the condition of consent be met by both immigrants and the citizens of the nation to whom they are emigrating.
Who’s right, and who’s wrong? What’s left and what’s right? How can we truly know?
The key to discovering the correct answers to these and many other questions is to begin by ensuring that our epistemology and definitions are Just Right.