The Right to Life

John Derbyshire writes a long, playful, and often meandering book review of Party of Death, by Ramesh Ponnuru.

The book apparently claims that the Democratic party is the party of death. According to, the inside flap assures us that “It’s not just abortion-on-demand. It’s euthanasia, embryo destruction, even infanticide—and a potentially deadly concern with ‘the quality of life’ of disabled people.”

According to Derbyshire in his review, “disabled people” includes the like of Terry Schiavo. She was disabled to the point of not being conscious, but that doesn’t buy her a category any different from the guys in Murderball, or your Aunt Edna who uses a walker.

It’s a pretty good review, of the book and the book’s position, which Derbyshire considers dangerous and a little nutty. Actually, on a scale from 1-10, he gives the nuttiness of the position a 2.

This qualitative preciseness is part of what I like about Derbyshire. For example, he doesn’t say that one section is longer than the other two. He says, “their lengths in approximate ratio 3:2:2.” (He seems to have earned his mathematical chops. At the least, he’s written a couple of books on mathematics or mathematicians.)

I haven’t heard any buzz about the book, so I guess I’m not very worried about its affect on the masses. To me, the absolutist right-to-lifers (any kind of life) are still on the fringes and not to be fussed about. Hopefully, things won’t change any time soon.

[Link to review found on]

[Update: Ponnuru responds]

4 Responses to The Right to Life

  1. Kevin Priest June 12, 2006 at 3:06 pm #

    Derb is kind of a polymath freak, but he can be entertaining. The book itself is actually kind of interesting. I think Ramesh blew it with the title, as it’s much more “in your face” than anything in the book itself. Basically, Ramesh is a “bright line” kind of guy, and there’s only two places you can draw a line like that in the abortion debate (conception or birth). Anything else is splitting hairs. So, he takes the logical extreme position that anything that crosses that bright line will eventually lead us to killing people for being stupid (which, I must admit I’ve entertained at times). I don’t agree with Mr. Ponnuru, but I do think he’s makes his argument honestly, and is perfectly capable of seeing that he’s in the extreme, he just thinks he’s right (I don’t). Too bad Regnery stuck him with the Coulter-ish title, because I think he’s better than that.

    Back to Derb: He’s alright as long as you don’t get him talking about homosexuality. I think he’s got some unresolved issues in that area. 😉


  2. weeklyrob June 13, 2006 at 1:25 pm #

    “Derb” does pay Ponnuru the compliment of saying that he packs enouigh intellectual firepower to really make his cause dangerous.

    I think he mainly agrees with you that Ponnuru makes his case (more or less) honestly. He even likes the title.

    I’ll have to start paying more attention to both of these guys.

  3. Jeffrey June 21, 2006 at 10:04 pm #

    I just got Murderball from Netflix. I plan to watch it tonight. 🙂

    I find that both parties are sanctimonious and hypocritical. Either life is absolutely sacrosanct or it isn’t.

    If it isn’t, then abortion up until some abritrary point between conception and birth is okay (said point to be argued out until everyone’s more or less comfortable with where it lands). And capital punishment is fine (with multiple caveats about fairness, but there’s no overriding moral prohibition). I mean, how can people simultaneously argue that an 8-month pregnancy can be ended on a whim but killing vicious criminals is somehow repugnant?

    If it is, then abortion is wrong and so is capital punishment. So again, how can you argue against one and for the other?

    Which party is consistent? Neither.

  4. weeklyrob June 21, 2006 at 10:17 pm #

    I was a little disappointed in Murderball. I wanted to see more of the actual sport, but they’d always show a half second of it, then cut away.

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