Subject: SOC: Children's Rights (was: Tough Questions)

Edgar W Swank (
Mon Sep 13 06:43:03 1999 PST

In a msg dated Sat, 11 Sep 1999 09:33:26 EDT, wrote:

>In a message dated 99-09-07 12:58:04 EDT,
>(Edgar W Swank) wrote:
>> But an infant has nothing to trade and and obligations can't be
>> enforced against a child. So I agree with Crocker except that the
>> child has one right, to run away. This, I think, was also Murray
>> Rothbard's view, although I can't quote a source.
>I think this is an overly-static view of the status of children.
>Children don't remain children: Unless someone interferes with
>them, they become adults. Thus, with a child (as with any moral
>and legal subject) one is dealing not only with what the person
>IS, but what they have the potential to BECOME.

Of course, but how does this make any difference to the parent, absent the ability to enforce an obligation on the adult, for services rendered to the child?

>> The current situation, which I call a "cult of the child," where
>> children have all the "rights" and the parents have none, is just
>> slavery of the productive parents to the unproductive child and I
>> have a hard time justifying that!
>Again, I think you can only liken the parent's position vis-a-vis the
>to "slavery" by taking a completely static view of the
>relationship. You have to look backward in time to the point
>where the parents chose to put themselves into the situation of
>conceiving the child,

Assuming they even had a choice, especially for the male. See


>and forward in time to the point where the
>child is an autonomous moral subject. Only by putting on
>temporal blinders can you ignore the (to me) obvious moral
>responsibility parents have to their children.

Not obvious to me! I'm not talking about voluntarily assumed responsibility, which most parents undertake willingly. I'm talking about responsibility imposed by 3rd parties (i.e. the state) on parents who for whatever reason are unwilling to assume it.

I challenge you to defend the logical interest of such 3rd parties in initiating force. In prehistoric times, there was possibly an interest in species survival. But the human species, or any identifiable subgroup, is in no such danger (at least from unhindered parental neglect) in these times.

>> I think the problem of enforcing contracts made by/with children
>> can be solved if a court (of a government or defense agency)
>> approves it in advance, possibily with the advice of a lawyer or
>> advocate appointed to represent the child's interests. If the
>> court doesn't approve the contract, then the court won't enforce
>> it.
>I love it when bright people think through a problem and come up
>with the solution that specialists have developed. This is, in
>fact, how courts deal with this situation every day. The child's
>advocate is called a "guardian ad litem". I deal with them and
>the mechanism of court approval of contracts with minors all the
>time when I have to secure an enforceable release from a child or
>structure some other legal transaction involving a child. The
>other mechanism for dealing with the rights of children and other
>"legal incompetents" is a trust (a guardian ad litem is actually
>a "special trust").

You can speak as an expert then. Are you aware of any court-approved contract obligating a child to repay his parents once he becomes productive for their investment in him? I don't think so.

>> Children have the right to run away, and fend for themselves.
>> This works fairly well right now in many 3rd world countries.
>> c.f. "street children."
>I'm sorry, but I have to differ strongly with the
>characterization that this "works fairly well". The hordes of
>"street children" in the Third World result from a collapse of
>civil society and are a tragic mechanism for propagating
>dysfunctional societies.

The societies of most 3rd world countries look pretty functional to me, hardly "collapsed." Street children that manage to survive are mostly pretty well integrated.

>Such children are poorly socialized and
>become cannon fodder for tin-pot dictators and other slime.

Seems like an over-generalization. It seems to me in order to survive they have to become very well "socialized" and very fast.

>Where do you think the gun-toting armies of 12-year-olds who
>fight the civil wars in Africa come from? It's statements like
>this that make people think that libertarianism is all about the
>Hobbesian "war of all against all".
>> Another possibility is a "Kiddy Pound"
>> where parents can bring unwanted children or children can run
>> away to. Hopefully, an acceptable parent can be found for every
>> child brought in. But if not, then the child can be put back on
>> the street. Or, perhaps, if stray children become a pest, an
>> unwanted child can be "put to sleep" as we now do to unwanted
>> pets. I don't see how "society" has any motivation to protect a
>> child which NONE of its citizens wants.
>Just FYI, it was a situation like this that made 19th century
>England turn its back on classical liberalism.

... and sacrifice their natural freedoms on the altar of "suffering children." Other people's suffering children. Crazy.

>We've been paying
>the price ever since. If free people can't develop better
>institutions to deal with suffering children than this, they will
>get the kind of nanny-state they deserve.

If we don't enslave ourselves, then the state will do it for us. Sounds like a no-win situation to me.

>With respect, I
>suggest you try to see a performance of "A Christmas Carol" this

Saw it. The pre-transformation Scrooge is my hero. He presumably provided a better job for Bob Cratchit than he could find elsewhere. He was not responsible for Tiny Tim's problems. He did not initiate force against anybody.

Also, "Robert J. Bradbury" <> said,

>> If free people can't develop better institutions to deal with
>> children than this, they will get the kind of nanny-state they
>> With respect, I suggest you try to see a performance of "A Christmas
>> this year.
>Please sir, may I have some more?

But I think that quote is from "Oliver Twist."

Edgar W. Swank <>

Edgar W. Swank   <>
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Home Page: FAX: 810-277-7274

BTW; Of some relavance to this thread, did anyone read my brief post and web-references to Somalia as an example of a present-day government-free society?

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