On The Rights of Children

Fee recently posted an article arguing that we should raise the voting age. A Facebook friend also posted recently, saying:

The most complicated issues for either libertarianism or anarchism is anything to do with children; from conception till they are legally an adult.

If every human has natural rights and authority is not natural than how do parents have authority over their children? When would this authority end? And what limit is there to this authority?

This article expresses my views. By the way, I recently had my first child. My son’s name is Samuel Luke Vandivier and he is now about 5 months old. He was born Sept. 21, 2018.

I think in the Friedmanian anarcho-capitalist view it’s not a very hard problem: Kids will be at the mercy of whatever system their born into until they can afford to do otherwise. It fits in nicely with the traditional route of being dependent on your parents until you can get a job and pay your own way and leave the house.

Now the Rothbardian argument and also the libertarian argument aren’t much more difficult imo, it’s just that they lead to undesirable results so we want to reshape them. On these views the parent has no right to coerce the child, but there are many cases where coercion are obviously good for the child. Children are unable to eat by themselves, or may eat poisonous things. They may try to crawl off of a raised surface or wander into a road. The use of force to restrict and guide their movement here is beneficial, not harmful. This is one key reason I don’t generally agree with the premise the non-defensive use of force is always bad, and as such I can only ground libertarianism/anarchism in the empirical views of Friedman rather than the, in my view weak, deductive approach like Rothbard and others.

Additionally, many libertarians are also religious. In this case the religious answer would likely dwarf the unclear libertarian answer, and I think most religions would say something like the parent is responsible for the child’s well-being until the point of autonomy, where being responsible for well-being may include correct use of discipline. It’s of course the meaning of ‘correct use’ which varies to a sometimes troubling degree.

I’d also ask “what do we mean by natural rights?” I think they only exist provably as de facto rights, which again devolves into the Friedmanian type of anarchism.

While I am a Christian and an anarcho-capitalist, I’m also a conservative and a gradualist. I don’t favor anarchism by violent revolution. Instead, I prefer privatization of everything, and the market’s natural overtaking of the government through peaceful, voluntary action and comparative efficacy, over time, heterogeneously, as determined by the peculiarities of time and place.

Relating to the Fee recommendation, I see less consensual action when the voting age is raised and more consensual action when it was lowered. As a teenager, I didn’t enjoy certain things including the ability to work, drive, and drink until later than I would have preferred. While I don’t vote today, turning 18 and being confronted with policy questions stimulated many thoughts and discussions which I wouldn’t have cared about prior. Lowering the voting age seems to be a move towards freedom, even if a move of questionable or low importance. I certainly prefer lowering the voting age to raising it.

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