Woodman. DailyWire+. Michael Knowles.
Woodman. DailyWire+.


Why Humans Are Not Commodities


This is a portion of a speech delivered by Michael Knowles at Clemson University on Wednesday, December 6, 2023.  

Kids are not commodities to be bought and sold. People are not property and children have rights.

This issue has come up recently because same-sex couples have begun to purchase children through surrogacy and in vitro fertilization. Liberals celebrate this novelty. Most conservatives find it instinctively abhorrent. But even some self-styled conservatives celebrate it too. The reason for this unusual degree of confusion and controversy is that the issue is entirely new. Nothing like this has ever happened before in human history. 

And the reason for that is two-fold: first, our political order has, for the first time in the history of our civilization, denied the necessity of sexual difference to marriage — that is, our system of law has, for the first time ever, denied the difference between men and women. The second reason is technological: For the first time in the history of the world, we can create and gestate human life outside of the conjugal act. For the first time ever, we can make babies without sex.

Unfortunately, technology and ideology have outpaced bioethical inquiry. To quote Jeff Goldblum’s character in “Jurassic Park,” “Your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could that they didn’t stop to think if they should.” The full quote from that scene is even more apt. Goldblum’s character says, “The lack of humility before nature that’s being displayed here staggers me.” He describes the scientists’ actions as “a violent, penetrative act that scars what it explores.”

Entirely true. And in the case of surrogacy and IVF, what the discovery — both technologically and politically — explores and scars is people, specifically, innocent little babies.

WATCH: The Michael Knowles Show

The case of homosexual men purchasing children through surrogacy is particularly and most obviously egregious because it involves creating babies with the express intent of denying them their mothers. The bond between babies and their mothers is the most intimate bond human beings ever experience. The mother is the very environment in which a baby forms. The mother’s voice is the first voice the baby ever hears. Mother and child share the nutrients that sustain them, both before and after birth.

Many children grow up without mothers. For all of history, motherlessness has been a rare and unfortunate event in a fallen world that leaves a wound to be healed as best it can be. Today, motherlessness is an intentional political program undertaken with the blessing of the law, which now holds the presumed right of men to children trumps the actual right of children to their mothers.

Sadly, this phenomenon, though recent, has now occurred for long enough we can read the accounts of children who lament the trials that accompany this unnecessary hardship. The writer Katy Faust has detailed such anecdotes in The Federalist. The biological hardships: Children conceived through surrogacy and IVF face more health problems and they tend to be born premature and underweight. Worse still, there are the psychological and spiritual hardships: Envy of their friends with mothers, the hatred of Mother’s Day, the pressure not to express their anguish because it might make the men who raised them sad. The social adjustment issues. The difficulties bonding with the non-biological father. The identity issues. The constant wondering about half-siblings, the existence of whom they are legally barred from knowing. The increased risk of depression. The increased likelihood of being prescribed antidepressant drugs. The total neglect of their reasonable suffering by a society more concerned with stamping out imaginary phobias than with protecting the natural rights of children. The basic, universal longing of children for their mothers because moms and dads are different.

It’s ghastly, absolutely horrific. It is just about as rotten a thing as a society can possibly do to a child. But unlike many who have opined on this issue, I don’t even really blame the homosexuals. It’s easy to look at the situation and accuse these adult men of selfishness. And they are selfish — obviously. They put their own desires — their natural desire to have children along with their disordered desire to exclude women from the process — ahead of the rights and interests of their prospective children. But I suspect most of them don’t know it. In their defense, they’ve been told by the culture for some 60 years now that men and women really aren’t different. And if men and women aren’t different, then moms and dads aren’t different. And if moms and dads aren’t different, then why would anyone need or even want to have both? What’s the difference between a family and a couple of fellas?

I don’t mention these harsh truths to make the men who have fallen for this lie and temptation feel bad. I don’t suggest we take away their children, though we might endeavor as best we can to introduce these children to their mothers. But this is a fallen world. There is no way to undo the terrible crime that has been perpetrated on many people — the children, most of all, but even the men who were told they were doing nothing wrong. The men who sincerely believed that and who might now be listening to this speech thinking in horror, wondering, “What have I done?” It’s a terrible feeling. We’ve all made mistakes — some, of course, more egregious than others. But there’s no sense in trying to undo the past. There’s no sense in dwelling on past sins after we’ve seen the error of our ways. The reason I mention all of this is to stop this crime from spreading. To prevent it from happening again in the future.

I don’t primarily blame the homosexual men for the growing evil of surrogacy and IVF. I don’t blame the women either. We all know the statistics about children who grow up in fatherless households: the significantly higher risk of behavioral problems, of going to prison, of abuse and neglect, of drug and alcohol abuse, and so on. Kids need their fathers. It isn’t complicated, and, at some level at least, we all know it.

I don’t primarily blame the homosexuals of either sex for this awful situation. They are simply following a 60-year series of delusions our culture and politics have promoted to their logical conclusion. The primary culprit will likely surprise my critics: The culprit is capitalism. More precisely, capitalism unconstrained by morality. More precisely still, the commodification of people. And the Left loves the commodification of people.

The socialists don’t actually hate capitalism. It was Karl Marx himself who popularized the word “capitalism.” Ironically, the socialists who pretend to hate capitalism actually love it, inasmuch as capitalism makes everything, including people, about money. And just as ironically, the conservatives who purport to love capitalism actually hate it, inasmuch as we know that life is about much more than money. The Left might worship mammon, but we don’t. What we actually love is morality, which entails the protection of things like property rights, but which crucially recognizes that people aren’t property.


We outlaw slavery because we recognize that people are more than property to be traded. We outlaw the sale of organs for the same reason. A true free market absolutist — the most extreme capitalist — might endorse the organ trade. Reasonable people, however, recognize that it is wrong to harvest the organs of the poor. This is the same reason we outlaw prostitution. The true free-market absolutist has no problem with prostitution. Most people, however, recognize that it’s wrong to entice poor women in terrible circumstances to sell their bodies as meat. We recognize that people are more than property.

Free markets can be a wonderful thing. In the words of Pope John Paul II, “The free market is the most efficient instrument for utilizing resources and effectively responding to needs.” But efficiency is not morality, and human beings are not mere “resources” to be “utilized”: human beings are the subjects for whom resources are utilized. Capitalism circumscribed by morality is as fine a method for producing material prosperity as has ever been discovered; capitalism unconstrained by morality is a monstrosity — as efficient an instrument as ever, but efficient in the degradation of people by denying their very humanity and the rights that go along with it.

This, ultimately, is the problem with IVF and surrogacy. The chief problem with IVF and surrogacy is not that the icky gays use it, as some selectively outraged critics would seem to suggest. The chief problem with IVF and surrogacy is that it commoditizes human life.

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