Boob-Job Conservatism

Boob-Job Conservatism

Boob-Job Conservatism

Science, technology, and life.
April 8 2008 8:23 AM

Boob-Job Conservatism

New piece this morning on the recession in cosmetic surgery. As I was writing it, I realized how completely it dovetails with the previous post about nipple rings. Both argue for a distinction between elective and necessary procedures. That's an old theme of bioethics, and it suits my conservative streak. Or maybe it's not conservative; maybe it's just hard-nosed. I do think some things in life are way more important than others, and both abundance and indulgence can make you forget the difference.

On the other hand, I don't want to become cranky. When I think of cranky, I think of Bob Dole, or at least Dan Aykroyd's caricature of Bob Dole, muttering bitterly about how easy some people now have it. In general, there's nothing inherently wrong, and there's usually a lot that's wonderful, about making things easy that used to be hard. That's certainly true of medicine. It's just important to keep in mind the relative value of the things achieved and the relative importance of effort in making a particular result worthwhile.

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I remember going to a transhumanist conference a couple of years ago. For those of you who don't know them, transhumanists are people who believe in the technological transformation of humanity into something greater . When I first left politics to cover this beat, I took a pretty conservative line on bioethics generally, and the transhumanists sounded pretty fruity to me. Well, they're still kind of fruity. But they certainly are interesting, if you treat them as a voice in the public dialogue rather than as a threat to dictate future policy and destroy human nature (whatever that is). And the more you listen to their assault on conservative assumptions, the more you find yourself asking questions about the way things are and whether they have to be that way. Those are good questions to ask.

I'm still trying to find my own blend of progressive and conservative, liberalism and discipline. Nipple rings? Just not that big a deal, either way. Face lifts? Ditto. But sex-reassignment surgery? That's pretty fundamental to who you are, and I'm inclined to listen to people who have lived in what they profoundly experience as the wrong body. I'll keep thinking about these things, and I'll try to keep my mind open to all ideas, including the idea of limits.