Re: Rights (Was Re: Violence in schools)

From: J. R. Molloy (
Date: Tue Oct 03 2000 - 11:52:00 MDT

David Lubkin wrote,

> It's not clear that the kids *have* First Amendment rights while they're at
> school. Courts have generally found that they have some civil rights at
> school, but far more curtailed than an adult would have.

Sounds good to me. Reminds me of the old jape, "When does an embryo become a
human being?"
"When it votes Libertarian."

> Kids today are more indignant. (I am reminded of the study that found that
> American kids lagged behind other developed countries in all academic areas
> but led the world in self-esteem.)

I wonder if that's more true of American girls or boys.

> The trouble with asserting rights as a kid (or as a parent, on behalf of your
> children) is that after you've made a stink, you have to go back to the same
> school, to the same teacher. And won't they be glad to see you....

Then again, American parents have the right to move their kids to Montana and
home school them.

> And kids want to blend in, not stick out. They worry not just about how the
> teacher will retaliate but whether the other kids will tease or harass them.

Very true. Peer pressure probably does more to form young minds than does the

> When I finish that book on libertarianism for kids, my next book may be on
> children's rights, also for kids. What their rights are, and how to assert
> them -- in school, at the mall, against their parents, etc. It's their call
> as to whether to act against an injustice; I'd like them to know what their
> options are.

All right! A children's liberation advocate. I like that.

> The tough issue for me: Kids come in all stripes and colors. Some are mature
> and responsible, some are wild animals, and some are in-between. From my POV,
> the rules, particularly those in school, give adults broad discretion with
> little recourse and few repercussions for treating children in a way that
> be wholly unacceptable if applied to adults. On the other hand, inner-city
> teachers complain that, in this oversensitive, litigious age, they feel
> powerless to deal with disciplinary problems.

I think they should not only "feel" powerless to rule and control kids, they
should *be* powerless, and let the kids evolve to autonomous responsibility of
their own device. That's probably the best way to provide an environment in
which a Siddhartha Gautama, Moses, Lao Tzu, Galileo, Socrates, et al., can grow

> I think children are the one of the hardest issue for a libertarian to grapple
> with. What rights should children have?

Basically, I think they should have the right to think for themselves, and to
choose whatever philosophy (philosopher, science, school of thought, etc.) suits
them best, regardless of the personal opinions of parents and teachers.

> Where do the rights of a parent end?

Parents rights ought to end where children's rights begin, IMO.

> What right does the rest of society have to interfere with how I raise my

If your child becomes a serial killer, society has the right not only to
interfere, but also to hold you responsible. This kind of policy would have the
added benefit of discouraging many people from becoming parents, thereby helping
to alleviate the overpopulation problem. (All social problems derive directly or
indirectly from overpopulation.)

> Should the rights be age-based, or is there a reasonable way to assess
> intelligence, maturity, and judgment?

I'd say children (and everyone, for that matter) should be evaluated on the
basis of their actions, their behavior, and their social conduct, rather than on
the basis of age or whatever psychotropic substances they choose to put into
their bodies.

> The Libertarian Party platform takes a stab at it, but some of their
> conclusions seem absurd. They feel that "children always have the right to
> establish their maturity by assuming administration and protection of their
> own rights, ending dependency upon their parents or other guardians, and
> assuming all responsibilities of adulthood." Sure.... How about three-year-
> olds who don't want to take a nap?

If you focus on waking the 3-year-old from its naps at a regular and specified
times instead of trying to make them take a nap at a specific time, this problem
evaporates. Kids will go to sleep when they get sleepy enough. When kids get
mature enough to object to being awakened at a particular time (selected by a
parent or caretaker), then kids can decide for themselves what time to begin
their naps.

> Animal rights are also hard. Why is it a property crime to kill Koko, the
> gorilla with an IQ of 70, when it's murder to kill a human with an IQ of 70?

Given today's atmosphere of animal rights versus human rights, I'd guess it
would be easier to kill a retarded human than to kill a healthy gorilla. As for
laws which pertain to this comparison, remember that the 70 IQ human probably
has parents capable of litigation, but the gorilla does not. The old saw still
rings true, "It's not what you know that counts, but who you know."

> We already have a system of fractional civil rights -- certain rights for
> adult citizens vs. felons vs. children vs. non-citizens vs. retarded -- why
> not extend it to non-humans?

I'd be more in favor of moving in the opposite direction on this. Instead of
extending the concept of rights to non-humans, why not give rights only to those
who demonstrate that they know what to do with them?

> It seems to me that the issues surrounding children and animals are worth
> exploring in depth because how we deal with them illuminates how we can
> incorporate new variants into our society -- transhumans, transanimals,
> clones, AIs, aliens, uploads, downloads, reanimated cryonauts, etc. Without
> the component of BS inherent in any discussion of the latter. Children and
> animals aren't speculative developments; they're here now, and we have
> thousands of years of experience with them.

In the future, as in the past and present, the real law of the land (and the law
that really decides things), is that anyone can do anything they want as long as
they can back it up. IOW, you can do anything you can get away with. Obviously
special interest groups get away with modifying this natural law to suit their
own purposes, but that only confirms the validity of natural law as it extends
to special interest groups and other entities.

--J. R.

"Whoever undertakes to set himself up as a judge in the field of Truth and
Knowledge is shipwrecked by the laughter of the gods."
--Albert Einstein

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