Free Capitalist Network - Community Archive
Mises Community Archive
An online community for fans of Austrian economics and libertarianism, featuring forums, user blogs, and more.

Problems with Self-Ownership

This post has 19 Replies | 4 Followers

Top 150 Contributor
Male
Posts 645
Points 9,865
James Posted: Sat, Jan 21 2012 1:03 AM

 

Do people always have self-ownership? When and how do they acquire it? Do parents ever own their children?

These are the questions I have been wrestling with lately, and the problems I perceive arising from the various possibilities. Maybe you can help me come up with some solutions for a free society.

  • Is there a single age of sudden self-ownership that everyone always attains? e.g. 18 or 21 years?

Problems:

1. It's arbitrary, and it applies a single standard to different people. One does not change dramatically on any particular birthday anniversary, nor is everyone of the same age of the same maturity. The only birthday on which there's dramatic change of a kind that could, to my mind, potentially justify the sudden recognition of full self-ownership, as opposed to all days before, is the day someone is actually born; when they no longer share their mother's body. Is the physical separation from the mother's body sufficient? Is abortion allowable on the basis of the foetus not having self-ownership? I've read Block, and although it seems to be easily refuted, he provides an alternative “eviction” justification for abortion. He clearly assumes the foetus to have self-ownership.

My refutation of Block's eviction justification for abortion goes something like this, if you're curious. If I take you on a ride in my helicopter, is it not murder if I evict you at 5000ft? In all cases of pregnancy, other than those resulting from rape, the parents voluntarily consent to expose themselves to the risk of becoming pregnant. No one consents to be conceived, carried and born into this world, as far as anyone I know can seem to recall. Even with regards to rape, if someone forced you to take an innocent 3rd party up to 5000ft in your helicopter, and then jumped out with the only parachute, would it not be murder if you evicted the 3rd party before landing the aircraft? (I admit that a potential lifeboat scenario exists where the pregnancy threatens the life of the mother, which is the only situation in which I'm uncomfortably “pro-choice” regarding abortion.)

2. It's a special case of property treatment. In no other situation would it be justifiable for someone to lose title without their consent, except in situations where it is necessary to compensate one of their victims for a tort. What if the parents don't want to give up ownership of their child on one of the child's birthday anniversaries? Who has standing to force them to, and why?

  • Is there a case-by-case age of majority, which may differ between individuals?

3. Who gets to decide, and on what basis? Should it happen if and when the parents unilaterally decide to emancipate or abandon their child? Should someone make a judgement about whether the child is capable of supporting themselves, as Rothbard suggested? If so, who exactly, and on what basis would they derive their authority? Wouldn't it be a subjective valuation, and uncertain speculation, no matter who made it? It can't logically be the child who decides, if they don't yet have self-ownership - if my pig escapes, it does not somehow acquire self-ownership, no matter how well it can survive on its own. What if the parents never make the decision to emancipate or abandon their child? Problem 2 still seems to apply – you can't force someone to give up their property if they don't want to. What if they abandon the child as an infant, and she's adopted? Do the adoptive parents acquire ownership over her, based on their unilateral, subjective evaluation that she's not yet ready to sustain herself? What if she were emancipated as a teenager, or even older, and someone decided that this was actually an abandonment, because they don't think she can yet sustain herself ? May they lasso her, and claim ownership over her on this basis?

4. What if the parents decide that it is impossible for their child, or anyone else, to sustain themselves in a voluntary context, so they hand over ownership of their children and descendants, in perpetuity, to a state? If one's parents, or parents' parents, ever decided that the state was necessary – if they ever consented to the social contract, as it were – on what basis can one ever claim self-ownership? In short, if one is directly descended from even a single statist, how can one justify being a libertarian who believes in self-ownership?

5. If parents ever own their children, couldn't they justifiably batter their children, forcibly engage in sex with them, kill them, or sell them into chattel slavery for others to do these things, all on a whim? It's all very well to say that I can shun someone if I don't approve of their behaviour, but if I have self-ownership, then I have a right to associate with whoever I like, to the precise extent that I like, for whatever reasons I like. I could shun you if I didn't like your hairstyle, your accent, or if I simply wanted to be alone for a while. I could justifiably shun you for things which are not unlawful, for which I could not justify using force against you for the purposes of preventing your behaviour, and for which I could not justifiably demand compensation. If someone has their children chained up in their basement, starving, living in their own filth, and subject to daily beatings and sodomies with an iron poker, don't you kind of sort of want to be able to step in and justifiably stop that from happening, as you could if it were an adult who had not consented to such an arrangement? Why in the name of all that desires freedom would you want a situation where attacking someone your own size, or even larger, is a crime, but attacking a defenceless child the same way is not? To suggest that one would be a criminal for intervening to remove those hypothetical children from their parents' clutches, by force if necessary, strikes me as utterly insane. If that's morality, go ahead and send me to Hell right now. It would entail less suffering than living in this awful place.

  • Do people always have self-ownership? Is it synonymous with a person being described as a person?

6. This would mean that the initiation of force against a child is always unlawful. “Corporal punishment” would be always be unlawful, no matter how mild, as would be the commission of fraud against a child – it would be unlawful to induce a child to act by way of intentionally misinforming them. Technically, you could not even use tales about Santa Claus to induce good behaviour, unless you genuinely believed in Santa Claus yourself. In theory, a child should be able to sue and claim compensation for such violations of their self-ownership. This would entail a radical change in what is considered by most people today to be appropriate parenting. In terms of negative reinforcement, a parent's ultimate power would be a variation of “my roof, my rules – if you don't like it, leave” - their power to unilaterally abandon their child.

7. Parental consent would not always be required in place of, or in supplement to, consent by the child. This has dire ramifications. If a child consensually acquired a tattoo, contrary to their parents' wishes, would the parent have any recourse against the tattoo artist? Maybe a decent tattoo artist wouldn't do it without parental consent. Maybe you could tell all and sundry about how disreputable he is to tattoo a ten-year-old without parental consent, and hope this would result in his business and person being shunned. But could you justifiably claim compensation from him, or use reciprocal force of any kind against him? I don't think so. He didn't use force against your property.

Far more worrying than that, consensual sexual relations between people of almost any age would never be unlawful. The ramifications here are stupendous to ponder. It's trite to say that below a certain level of maturity, people don't have the capacity to consent, but what age is that, exactly, and who gets to decide? If the same ten-year-old from above consents to sex instead of getting a tattoo, does the parent have any recourse against the 3rd party that he wouldn't have against the tattoo artist? If so, how? He didn't use force against your property.

8. If children had a right to associate freely, in accordance with their self-ownership, it would mean that a child could leave their parents on a whim, and the parents could not use force against them or anyone else to regain their custody. Hence, if a child wanted to leave their parents, and a 3rd-party was willing, they could essentially choose to become the adoptive child of someone else, and their biological parents would have no say in the matter. Tying in to problem 7, if a child of any age wanted to leave their parents and enter into a marriage or other kind of sexual relationship with a consenting 3rd-party, at any age, the parents could do nought to stop it besides shun them and complain about it to others.

9. If parents don't own their children, they need some other, relative, property claim to justify their guardianship status over anyone else's when the child is indisputably too young, or otherwise unable to give their own consent. This is not a major problem, as far as I can see. If my (hypothetical) spouse were to fall into a coma, I get automatic next-of-kin status without anyone suggesting that I own them. It's simply presumed that I have been placed in the best position to execute decisions regarding their body, while they are unable to.

Sorry for the long read, but you folks are very smart, and I don't know what to think about this all any more. I sometimes hear self-proclaimed libertarians claim that they own their children, and I think wtf, these hypocrites claim self-ownership too? On what basis? Not that the alternative ramifications aren't mind-boggling, though they still seem preferable to me. Any help?

Non bene pro toto libertas venditur auro
Top 500 Contributor
Posts 225
Points 4,195

You have ownership over something when you can show an objective link with the object and yourself. So I own myself because I can move my body. I also own myself because I was the first person to act with my body so anybody else taking ownership of me would be an infringement upon my property rights.

As for the question about children; I don't know. As far as I do know this is an anomoly as of yet. To learn more you could search for books about ethics on the website.

'' The greatest enemy of knowledge is not ignorance, it is the illusion of knowledge.'' Stephen Hawking

  • | Post Points: 35
Top 75 Contributor
Male
Posts 1,008
Points 19,520
Eric080 replied on Sat, Jan 21 2012 5:15 AM

Some of your points are interesting, but think of parents as being custodians as in #9.  They don't own the children, they just have legally recognizable legitimacy in making decisions on the child's behalf.  If the child wishes to refuse the decisions of the parent and wants to leave their care, there is nothing the parents can really do.

 

Regarding your issue about the child disobeying the parents, keep in mind that the parents don't have to take care of the children.  They could just rescind their custodial rights and banish the child from home if they did something in the nature of brutally beating up on a sibling constantly or something.  It's sort of the "my household, my rules" thing.  It rarely happens, but implicit in that statement made by parents is, "if you wish to live in this household, you have to follow my rules or else you don't get electricity, the bed you sleep on, plumbing, tv, family insurance, etc." This sounds cruel and could be abused (take for instance an insane religious household that thinks tatoos are from Satan and will not take care of their child because of something like that), but consider that most parents feel a special attachment to their children and would only do this in extreme cases and that such children would likely be placed in an orphanage or a foster home of some variety.  Not much different than what happens today.

 

Regarding your concern about voluntary sexual relations, yes this is a bit of an uncomfortable position to be in, but child molestors would be shunned by society because they are seen as exploiting youth in some fashion.  Again, they could view it as ghastly and immoral but not illegal in the sense of violating the NAP.  Keep in mind also that defense/legal agencies do not have an obligation to provide defense on the molestor's behalf.  It is probably a bad business strategy to protect child molestors.  A legal agency that covers the villian could say, "pay damages and/or go to prison and/or go through this rehabilitation exercise or else we won't renew your subscription per the contract you signed".  So this would make child molestation, even voluntarily entered into, de facto illegal.

"And it may be said with strict accuracy, that the taste a man may show for absolute government bears an exact ratio to the contempt he may profess for his countrymen." - de Tocqueville
  • | Post Points: 5
Top 150 Contributor
Male
Posts 645
Points 9,865
James replied on Sat, Jan 21 2012 9:32 AM

You have ownership over something when you can show an objective link with the object and yourself.  So I own myself because I can move my body

I quote Autolykos' signature...  Non parit potestas ipsius auctoritatem.  Power does not amount to authority.

I'm not really worried about proving it.  I just assume that whatever is moral must be whatever 'maximises happiness', i.e. what gets one into Heaven.  Of course the only way to quantify happiness, since it's subjective in itself, is to measure the number of subjects who can potentially be happy - to measure the potential for happiness.  If there are two people, and one imposes their preferences onto the other, only one can potentially be happy...  If they don't impose their preferences onto each other, they can both potentially be happy.  Ergo, aggression is always, a priori, immoral.  Hence, self-ownership always and forever.

I also own myself because I was the first person to act with my body so anybody else taking ownership of me would be an infringement upon my property rights.

Mmm.  If you look at the situation objectively, your parents and the other adults around you almost certainly exercised far more actual power over you as a newborn than you did yourself. They were probably doing medical procedures on you when you were learning how to use your eyes.

Regarding your issue about the child disobeying the parents, keep in mind that the parents don't have to take care of the children.  They could just rescind their custodial rights and banish the child from home if they did something in the nature of brutally beating up on a sibling constantly or something.  It's sort of the "my household, my rules" thing.  It rarely happens, but implicit in that statement made by parents is, "if you wish to live in this household, you have to follow my rules or else you don't get electricity, the bed you sleep on, plumbing, tv, family insurance, etc." This sounds cruel and could be abused (take for instance an insane religious household that thinks tatoos are from Satan and will not take care of their child because of something like that), but consider that most parents feel a special attachment to their children and would only do this in extreme cases and that such children would likely be placed in an orphanage or a foster home of some variety.  Not much different than what happens today.

Yeah, my theory is that if a child is capriciously exiled, in the eyes of most people, there will surely be actual adoptive parents in a free society.  It's not like there'd be any paperwork, or fat Social Services cow, or army of psychiatrists forcing their mind-frying drugs down their little human guinea pigs' throats.  The government wouldn't be involved, so it will not be anything like it actually is now.  It would be immeasurably less terrible.  The state has completely fucked how society deals with this, no question about it.

I'm not worried about most people voluntarily doing good.  I know that it's all we've got; if it's not enough, then there's no point worrying about anything.

Keep in mind also that defense/legal agencies do not have an obligation to provide defense on the molestor's behalf.

Yeah, they have right of association like everyone else.

Of course all the pedos have to do is organise to protect themselves.  The weird can get organised too, you know.  I can see that dispute arbitrators, like other risk insurers, would ask a million-and-one questions, but I can't imagine all the gun shops getting away with it.  I don't want to be asked a million-and-one questions just to buy a gun, dunno about you...

Also, I don't subscribe right now, but I have in the past to private police (I live in South Africa).  They don't ask too many questions.

Non bene pro toto libertas venditur auro
  • | Post Points: 20
Top 500 Contributor
Posts 225
Points 4,195

I quote Autolykos' signature...  Non parit potestas ipsius auctoritatem.  Power does not amount to authority.

No, but this power, in this case, implies ownership. Although someone else may claim authority or ownership over me this would be unethical because it would be based on arbitrary and subjective reason. They might say they own me because I have brown hair. But I could just as easily claim ownership over them because they have blonde hair. This would of course be arbitrary, subjective, and non-sequitur. It is for this reason, that you can only show your ownership through objective means, i.e. self control.

I'm not really worried about proving it.  I just assume that whatever is moral must be whatever 'maximises happiness', i.e. what gets one into Heaven.  Of course the only way to quantify happiness, since it's subjective in itself, is to measure the number of subjects who can potentially be happy - to measure the potential for happiness.  If there are two people, and one imposes their preferences onto the other, only one can potentially be happy...  If they don't impose their preferences onto each other, they can both potentially be happy.  Ergo, aggression is always, a priori, immoral.  Hence, self-ownership always and forever.

Well under sound property rights any transaction would be made on a voluntary basis, which means that it must increase an individuals utility, otherwise they would not engage in the transaction. This, however, is a flawed way to look at ethics. If something was ethical just because it increased social welfare, a poor man would be excused of theft when stealing a rich man. This is because the poor mans utility of a certain sum of money would be greater than the rich mans utility.

Mmm.  If you look at the situation objectively, your parents and the other adults around you almost certainly exercised far more actual powerover you as a newborn than you did yourself. They were probably doing medical procedures on you when you were learning how to use your eyes.

Yes, but they did not control my action. Asserting power over someone is not the same as someone acting. For example, I could kick in the womb. Only I had the ability to do this. They may have been able to do things which had an effect on me and I acted as a secondary effect, but it is not the same.

'' The greatest enemy of knowledge is not ignorance, it is the illusion of knowledge.'' Stephen Hawking

  • | Post Points: 35
Top 150 Contributor
Male
Posts 645
Points 9,865
James replied on Sat, Jan 21 2012 10:41 AM

No, but this power, in this case, implies ownership. Although someone else may claim authority or ownership over me this would be unethical because it would be based on arbitrary and subjective reason. They might say they own me because I have brown hair. But I could just as easily claim ownership over them because they have blonde hair. This would of course be arbitrary, subjective, and non-sequitur. It is for this reason, that you can only show your ownership through objective means, i.e. self control.

Would I be incorrect in saying that a baby horse kicks in the womb?  Is a human's power over a horse not substantially less than its own power in certain situations?  Is it not the case that the human must induce the horse's behaviour?

Well under sound property rights any transaction would be made on a voluntary basis, which means that it must increase an individuals utility, otherwise they would not engage in the transaction. This, however, is a flawed way to look at ethics. If something was ethical just because it increased social welfare, a poor man would be excused of theft when stealing a rich man. This is because the poor mans utility of a certain sum of money would be greater than the rich mans utility.

First of all, something can't maximise utility and not maximise utility at the same time.  Either the NAP does, or it doesn't.

Secondly, there's no objective measure by which to verify your prognosis that the poor man invariably becomes happier by turning to a life of crime.  If that were the case, would not all poor people be criminals?  You can objectively know that if he doesn't impose his preferences on another, both of them will be demonstrating their own preferences to the best of their abilities.  The potential for happiness is objectively greater than if he did not abide by the NAP.

Non bene pro toto libertas venditur auro
  • | Post Points: 20
Top 500 Contributor
Posts 225
Points 4,195

Would I be incorrect in saying that a baby horse kicks in the womb?  Is a human's power over a horse not substantially less than its own power in certain situations?  Is it not the case that the human must induce the horse's behaviour?

Animals are incapable of reasoning, therefore, they have no rights. The only time people have rights is because they wish to solve arguements non-violently. If a horse wanders onto my land and I want to remove it, I cannot reason with a horse. It follows that I must remove it through violent means.

If a human wanders onto my land however, I can solve the argument peacefully through reason. I can argue that it is my land because I bought it in a peacefull transaction and I am currently growing crops on it. I have showed my link to the land objectively. The only purpose of ethics is to resolve arguments peacefully.

First of all, something can't maximise utility and not maximise utility at the same time.  Either the NAP does, or it doesn't.

I think you misread my post, I never said that.

Secondly, there's no objective measure by which to verify your prognosis that the poor man invariably becomes happier by turning to a life of crime.  If that were the case, would not all poor people be criminals?  You can objectively know that if he doesn't impose his preferences on another, both of them will be demonstrating their own preferences to the best of their abilities.  The potential for happiness is objectively greater than if he did not abide by the NAP.

You missed the point. I was merely saying that if a poor man steals from a rich man, this may increase social welfare due to the law of deminishing value. 

'' The greatest enemy of knowledge is not ignorance, it is the illusion of knowledge.'' Stephen Hawking

  • | Post Points: 20
Top 150 Contributor
Male
Posts 653
Points 13,185

What all these issues with libertarian theory and kids show, is that there is at least one type of authoritative relationship which is desirable but unable to be justified in terms of ownership or being voluntary.  The power that parents wield over their children is legitimate simply because they are the parents, and thats all.  It can't be reduced any further without leading to absurd conclusions. 

they said we would have an unfair fun advantage

"enough about human rights. what about whale rights?" -moondog
  • | Post Points: 5
Top 150 Contributor
Male
Posts 645
Points 9,865
James replied on Sat, Jan 21 2012 11:58 AM

Animals are incapable of reasoning, therefore, they have no rights. The only time people have rights is because they wish to solve arguements non-violently. If a horse wanders onto my land and I want to remove it, I cannot reason with a horse. It follows that I must remove it through violent means.

 
Exactly.  Animals are incapable of reason because they don't think consciously.  They only think subconsciously.  They only feel lower-order emotion in reaction to immediate stimuli, such as fear, joy, anger and indifference.  They are incapable of feeling advanced emotions that aren't in reaction to an immediate stimulus, such anxiety, guilt, hatred, or happiness.
 
They don't recognise themselves, metaphorically, or literally, in a mirror.
 
Morality only applies to the animals who can also think consciously; who feel higher-order emotions.  The purpose of morality is to maximise their happiness, which is a higher-order emotion that only they can feel.
 
If a human wanders onto my land however, I can solve the argument peacefully through reason. I can argue that it is my land because I bought it in a peacefull transaction and I am currently growing crops on it. I have showed my link to the land objectively. The only purpose of ethics is to resolve arguments peacefully.
 
You abide by the NAP because it is known to produce the most utilitarian outcomes in the long run? :p   Why else solve arguments peacefully?
 
I think you misread my post, I never said that.
 
You said that every voluntary transaction increases the happiness of both parties, otherwise they would not engage in the transaction.  It follows that if everyone engaged only in voluntary transactions, everyone's happiness would be increased.
 
If that's the case, then you cannot use utilitarianism to justify aggression.
 
You missed the point. I was merely saying that if a poor man steals from a rich man, this may increase social welfare due to the law of deminishing value.
 
The relative purchasing power he recieves shall indeed be greater than the relative purchasing power lost by the rich man.
 
However, purchasing power is not happiness.  Lost utility comes in the form of the rich (and therefore presumably powerful) man no longer seeing any reason to be peaceful...
 
Non bene pro toto libertas venditur auro
  • | Post Points: 20
Top 500 Contributor
Posts 225
Points 4,195

 

You said that every voluntary transaction increases the happiness of both parties, otherwise they would not engage in the transaction.  It follows that if everyone engaged only in voluntary transactions, everyone's happiness would be increased.
 
If that's the case, then you cannot use utilitarianism to justify aggression.

Having an efficient increase in social welfare doesn't equate to a maximum increase.

 

The relative purchasing power he recieves shall indeed be greater than the relative purchasing power lost by the rich man.
 
However, purchasing power is not happiness.  Lost utility comes in the form of the rich (and therefore presumably powerful) man no longer seeing any reason to be peaceful...

This could be true in some circumstances, but the opposite may also be true in others.

'' The greatest enemy of knowledge is not ignorance, it is the illusion of knowledge.'' Stephen Hawking

  • | Post Points: 5
Top 150 Contributor
Posts 659
Points 13,305
Gero replied on Sat, Jan 21 2012 4:36 PM

Multiple excerpts:

“You have not distinguished between liberty for adults and children. How much liberty should children have?”

“I define adulthood as economic independence. I disbelieve an arbitrary age and/or intelligence best define adulthood. There are many alleged adults who are ignorant and stupid about things that significantly affect them. I believe if you can be economically independent then you are an adult. A child becomes an adult when the child leaves home and is able to support itself. Child labor criminalization prevents non-adults from becoming adults. If one dislikes one’s parents, one should have the choice to leave home and be able to find work. A counterargument is some people, like children, will make a choice they will regret. That is part of being free, the ability to make a regrettable choice.”

“What is your view on the age of consent for sex?”

“Children cannot give informed consent to sex. A child does not understand the potential costs of sex like pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases. As children grow, their mental abilities improve, allowing them to consider benefits and costs. Telling youngsters to not have sex is likely to be as effective as telling depressed people to have a nice day. The U.S. has decided to punish age of consent violations by imprisoning youngsters and putting them on sex registries that include pedophiles and rapists. Teenagers that are 16 and 17 years old are allowed to drive cars, yet they are forbidden to have sex. The legal difference reflects cultural anxiety toward sex, not the teenagers’ abilities to consider costs and benefits. If a teenager violates an age of consent law, what should the punishment be? No proportional punishment exists for ‘do not have sex for your own good’ because that is the law. If teenagers indicate that they weighed the risks of pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases against the benefits of pleasure, then they should not be punished because informed consent was attained. One may disagree with the teenagers’ choice, but they made it knowing the risks.”

“You defined a child as someone financially dependent on an adult, but you just defined a child as someone who lacks the ability to weight benefits and costs. Why do you have two definitions? One could be a teen adult, work, spend all the money earned, get sick, and lack the savings to take care of oneself, showing a bad weighing of costs and benefits, but you could say part of being free is making regrettable choices. So, why does your adult age of consent definition include weighing costs and benefits?”

“The teen adult who made a bad financial choice only affected himself. Sex involves another person so informed consent is required which means the ability to weigh costs and benefits.”

“What is your view of animal experimentation?”

“Animals are private property that can be treated in any way by the owner. Some treatment may be cruel and I would not advocate it, but animal cruelty should not be illegal. Some animal rightists believe any animal use is bad. Using that reasoning, to treat a fly any different from an elephant is bad. To obey this belief would be to be a vegan. If one is a vegan one would still violate the liberty of animals to survive. If one dug a hole to plant crops that would disrupt an ecosystem for an animal. If one sought to gather berries one would be violating the private property of animals like bears who already claimed the land. The moral difference between killing a fly and an elephant is in the empathy of the killer. Humans have different levels of empathy for different animals. While one may believe being cruel to an animal is bad, to criminalize animal cruelty is to enforce an arbitrary treatment code.”

“I believe humans should not be harmed, unlike other animals, because of their rationality or intelligence. Humans think at a greater level than other animals. The counterargument I have heard is that there are humans who are not so intelligent like children or coma patients or humans with brain damage. My response is that a defective human is still a human.”

“Your reasoning is since most humans are rational or intelligent, they should not be harmed. A human who does not have a fully functioning brain (a defective human) should not be harmed since the person belongs to the human group. In other words, how someone should be treated depends on what species that person belongs to. Imagine there is a chicken that exceeds the intelligence of its fellow chickens. It can speak your language and discuss history, literature, math, science, or anything you like to discuss. What if a human wanted to eat this superintelligent chicken? The chicken would likely protest and your empathy for the chicken would make you oppose such treatment, but since most chickens are not rational or intelligent, does that mean all of them (including the superintelligent one) should be treated the same, as subordinate to humans? Your argument judges how an individual should be treated not on their individual qualities, but on the qualities of the majority of their species. Many qualities have been suggested to distinguish humans from non-humans. Proposed qualities have included ‘developing family ties, solving social problems, expressing emotions, starting wars, having sex for pleasure, using language, or thinking abstractly . . . Both scholarly and popular work on animal behavior suggests that many of the activities that are thought to be distinct to humans occurs in non-humans. For example, many species of non-humans develop long lasting kinship ties—orangutan mothers stay with their young for eight to ten years and while they eventually part company, they continue to maintain their relationships. Less solitary animals, such as chimpanzees, baboons, wolves, and elephants maintain extended family units built upon complex individual relationships, for long periods of time. Meerkats in the Kalahari desert are known to sacrifice their own safety by staying with sick or injured family members so that the fatally ill will not die alone.’”

“How would you treat the superintelligent chicken?”

“I would hire the chicken because it would be smarter than many of the people that work for me. Empathy matters. Humans have slaughtered other humans because they did not empathize with them. The intelligence and suffering of the exterminated humans meant little to the exterminators. I do not empathize with most chickens, thus I do not care about their human caused deaths. Empathy expansion is difficult on a large scale, but free trade would incentive peace. Killing one’s customers, employers, and/or employees is bad for business.”

“What if someone did not empathize with anyone? What if someone sought to kill people because it was fun?”

“That violates the human-based ideology I advocate.”

“What if the person did not care?”

“The person you imagine would be a psychopath. Psychopaths are born and created. Born psychopaths have abnormal, brain chemistry. Created psychopaths are caused by traumatic experiences. Those who do not know their feelings likely have little to no conscience. A painful childhood and adolescence can cause people to escape the pain by blocking it. Since they do not experience their own pain, they do not empathize with the pain of others. Psychopaths ‘seem to have perfectly functioning minds. Their working memory isn't impaired, they have excellent language skills, and they don't have reduced attention spans. In fact, a few studies have found that psychopaths have above-average IQs and reasoning abilities; their logic is impeccable. But the disorder is associated with a severe moral deficit . . . the intact intelligence of psychopaths conceals a devastating problem: the emotional parts of their brains are damaged, and this is what makes them dangerous. When normal people are shown staged videos of strangers being subjected to a powerful electrical shock or other painful stimulus, they automatically generate a visceral emotional reaction. Their hands start to sweat, and their blood pressure surges. But psychopaths feel nothing. It's as if they were watching a blank screen. Most people react differently to emotionally charged verbs like kill or rape than to neutral words like sit or walk, but not psychopaths. The words all seem equivalent. When criminologists looked at the most violent wife batterers, they discovered that, as the men became more and more aggressive, their blood pressure and pulse actually dropped. The acts of violence had a calming effect . . . Neuroscientists are beginning to identify the specific deficits that define the psychopathic brain. The main problem seems to be a broken amygdala, a brain area responsible for secreting aversive emotions, like fear and anxiety. As a result, psychopaths never feel bad when they make other people feel bad. Aggression doesn't make them nervous. Terror isn't terrifying. (Brain imaging studies have demonstrated that the amygdala is activated when most people even think about committing a "moral transgression.") This emotional void means that psychopaths never learn from their adverse experiences: They are four times as likely as other prisoners to commit another crime after being released. For a psychopath on parole, there is nothing inherently wrong with violence. Hurting someone else is just another way of getting what they want, a perfectly reasonable way to satisfy their desires. In other words, it is the absence of emotion—and not a lack of rationality—that makes the most basic moral concepts incomprehensible to them.’”

“Your thought relates to how libertarianism applies to the child-parent relationship, so I will address that broader topic while also addressing your specific concern. Libertarian legal theorist Stephan Kinsella said, ‘self-ownership is more fundamental than rights in external resources — one must own oneself in order to own other things — self-ownership is rendered meaningless if the right to own private property is not also respected.’ Defending the foundation of self-ownership upon which libertarianism rests, Kinsella said, ‘what is wrong with relying on first use as the basis for self-ownership? To be sure, with respect to most claimants to one's body — a robber or state trying to conscript, say — one is indeed the "first user," and thus has a better claim to the body than the outsider. But what about one's parents? Is one really the first user of one's body? Was one's body simply lying around unowned, in state of nature, waiting for some occupant to swoop down and appropriate it? No, obviously not. It was (one was) in the care of — and produced by — one's parents. So if we maintain that "first use" always determines the answer to the question "who owns this resource?", for any resource at all, then it would seem that parents do own their children. The mother owns the physical matter and bits of food and nourishment that assemble into the zygote, embryo, fetus, and then baby. So, when does the child become a self-owner? Or does he? The libertarian seems to be faced with a dilemma . . .  the libertarian could argue that the parent has various positive obligations to his or her children, such as the obligation to feed, shelter, educate, etc. The idea here is that libertarianism does not oppose "positive rights"; it simply insists that they be voluntarily incurred. One way to do this is by contract; another is by trespassing against someone's property. Now, if you pass by a drowning man in a lake you have no enforceable (legal) obligation to try to rescue him; but if you push someone in a lake you have a positive obligation to try to rescue him. If you don't you could be liable for homicide. Likewise, if your voluntary actions bring into being an infant with natural needs for shelter, food, care, it is akin to throwing someone into a lake. In both cases you create a situation where another human is in dire need of help and without which he will die. By creating this situation of need you incur an obligation to provide for those needs.’ Kinsella’s analogical reasoning omits a crucial distinction: by pushing someone into a lake, one committed nonconsensual initiatory aggression against someone whereas one did not commit nonconsensual initiatory aggression against a child. Libertarianism allows passive infanticide (allowing an infant to die), but in a free-market anarcho-capitalist society that would not likely be tolerated since humans have great sympathy for children. I will not protest that likely restriction on liberty of requiring parents to care for their children, however, the popular belief parents must care for their children is not logically required by the libertarian principles of property and contract. One could argue creating a child entails the obligation to provide for that child, but where did that obligation originate? The parent never agreed with anyone to provide for the child. This emotionally cruel reasoning will likely not sway popular opinion, but to start requiring people to care for others, in the absence of a contract, allows infinite exceptions to liberty. While children were made with the materials provided by parents, initial ownership of the materials that made one’s body does not continue for if it did that would justify slavery which is unacceptable to liberty. Thus, one retains property ownership of one’s egg, sperm, and other baby-making materials until a baby is formed. Why? Libertarianism could not exist if each generation is the slaves of its parents. Ultimately, liberty rests on empathy for other humans. Libertarianism, like other ideologies, is about how we should act. How one should act cannot solely be deduced from what exists. For example, if a person is injured, nothing can be deduced about how one should act toward the person. Whether to harm, help, or ignore the person, no choice is required. Children are neither parental property nor independent adults. Parents are guardians. Guardianship can be relinquished by having someone else assume parental responsibility.”

  • | Post Points: 5
Top 100 Contributor
Male
Posts 853
Points 17,830

Great questions.  I have wrestled with a lot of these myself.  I think Block's abandonment paper and Kinsella's article How We Come To Own Ourselves are important here.

I have written about some of the more practical concerns here.  Some of your questions are addressed there.  I'll address the others here, not point-by-point, but by explaining how I see things.

It's important to remember that political philosophy is about avoiding/resolving conflicts, and conflicts have two parties.  In the case of abortion, in all issues relating to very young children, and in many issues relating to older children, the conflict is NOT between the parents and the child, but between the parents and some third-party taking it upon themselves to "stand up for" the child.  It is useful to bear in mind when we're talking about a conflict between adults about a child, and when we're talking about a conflict where the child is one of the parties to the conflict.

It is also important to remember the limits of 'armchair' philosophy.  Take the homesteading principle.  The libertarian can give a general idea of what practical steps must be taken in order to establish the necessary objective inter-subjectively ascertainable link between the first-user and a previously unowned object such that he can be called the homesteader and first-owner, but the libertarian cannot be too specific.  For example, what are the necessary practical steps that must be taken by a man who wants to homestead a field.  Is a sign enough?  With a fence?  How about ploughing the field?  When has enough been done, exactly, for him to have legitimately homesteaded the field?  The libertarian can give no concrete answer, except to say that the 'boundary' will be drawn by the courts, in cases of conflict, i.e. where two parties are claiming to own the same field.  It is the very nature of applying theoretical principles to reality that some things will be 'arbitrary,' in that there's no particular reason for where the boundary is being drawn.  Where courts are private, where they draw the line will be ultimately be determined by the customs of society, where consumers in general believe is the appropriate place for the line to be drawn.

Libertarianism can be boiled down to the homesteading principle, but the abandonment principle is just as fundamental.  Homesteading and abandonment are really two sides of the same coin.  Just as you can have conflicts over what exactly constitutes homesteading, you can have conflicts over what exactly constitutes abandonment.  And the boundary line will once again be determined by courts based on custom, and can only be arbitrary.  Take the example of a newspaper.  A man dumps a newspaper in a rubbish bin and five seconds later another man takes it out and claims it as his own.  But the first man turns round and claims that he had not abandoned it, he had merely placed it there temporarily, meaning to return to it.  He accuses the second man of theft.  Here is a case where a court must decide whether or not the first man's actions constituted abandonment.  They must decide whether the second man is guilty of theft, or whether the first man is guilty of forestalling (preventing the homesteading of an unowned object). 

One more example: take a field which has been neglected for some time, and the owner cannot be found.  When does it become acceptable for someone else to start using the field as their own?  Not one day, that would be simple trespass.  What about a year?  10 years?  100 years?  At some point, the field must be considered abandoned, even though the owner has not actively abandoned it.  The courts might draw the line at 5 years.  Then, if the owner of the field comes back to find someone else is now controlling and claiming ownership of the land, he is out of luck.  The land is no longer his.  His actions, or rather lack of actions, constitute abandonment of the field, so the new owner was homesteading unowned property, not trespassing.  This means that ownership must be actively retained by taking certain actions, or else it will be considered abandoned.  It would be accurate to refer to this as a positive obligation, though that term is often associated with something else entirely.  It would be accurate to say that the owner of the field had a positive obligation to not neglect his field for five years, if he wanted to still be considered the owner of it.

Now to the subject at hand. 

I take Kinsella's view that a child acquires rights to "own themselves", i.e. rights to decide what happens to their bodies, gradually through childhood. "Growing up" can be thought of as the process of a child acquiring more and more rights to their bodies, as they develop and start using their body faculties, until they are a "grown up" or full self-owner. From our armchairs, we can say that at conception the new "body" is fully owned by the mother, and at some point (probably during teenage years) the new body will be fully self-owned. There may be conflicts between the child and the parents. This can be interpreted as the child accusing his parents of forestalling (preventing him from acquiring new rights to his body) and the parents accusing their child of trespass (invasion of rights that still rightfully belong to them, for now).

As I said before, abortion is not a conflict of this sort, but a conflict about the child between the mother and some third-party. The court must decide who is the rightful "owner of the child" out of these two parties. That is, the court must decide which of the two parties owns the rights that the child has not yet "grown into" or homesteaded. That is, which party owns the parenting rights, or rights to "raise" the child, or, more precisely, the right to selectively exclude others from providing support to their child.

Just like all ownership rights, there are certain actions (that may be called positive obligations) that must be taken if these parenting rights are to be retained, and there are certain actions that constitute abandonment of parenting rights, meaning the parenting rights become unowned and available for homesteading. In my post I referred to the most obvious case calling for abandonment of parenting rights: child abuse. I showed how a court might award ownership of the parenting rights to a third-party rather than a clearly abusive parent, by taking the view that the abuse constituted abandonment of the parenting rights, so if the abuser refused to give up the child to a third-party, he would be forestalling, or preventing the homesteading of unowned property.

In the same way they decided 5 years neglect constitutes abandonment of a field, the courts must decide what constitutes abandonment of parenting rights, i.e. what actions justify the parenting rights being awarded to someone other than the parents. (Naturally, it will also depend on who that third party is; close relatives who are willing to take in the child will be given preference over unrelated parties, and if there are no related parties, the unrelated parties will be strictly vetted.)

This is the framework I use to view disputes relating to children.  I think most of the problems you raise in your post can be solved by looking at the subject through this framework. 

James:
My refutation of Block's eviction justification for abortion goes something like this, if you're curious. If I take you on a ride in my helicopter, is it not murder if I evict you at 5000ft? In all cases of pregnancy, other than those resulting from rape, the parents voluntarily consent to expose themselves to the risk of becoming pregnant. No one consents to be conceived, carried and born into this world, as far as anyone I know can seem to recall. Even with regards to rape, if someone forced you to take an innocent 3rd party up to 5000ft in your helicopter, and then jumped out with the only parachute, would it not be murder if you evicted the 3rd party before landing the aircraft? (I admit that a potential lifeboat scenario exists where the pregnancy threatens the life of the mother, which is the only situation in which I'm uncomfortably “pro-choice” regarding abortion.)

I question whether the analogy is close enough to the real scenario to be relevant.  To make it more accurate, I must come into existence for the very first time during the helicopter ride, and the ride must last 9 months, during which time I'll be kicking you and consuming a considerable part of the nutrients of your body.  Now, I would not necessarily think it unethical for you to push me out the helicopter and retake control the first chance you get.  You would be ending a kidnapping situation, the only way you could.  I think this analogy is closer.

  • | Post Points: 20
Top 100 Contributor
Male
Posts 792
Points 13,825

This is because the poor mans utility of a certain sum of money would be greater than the rich mans utility.

The validation of this statement requires interpersonal utility comparison, which is impossibe.

 

EDIT: Fixed a typo


faber est suae quisque fortunae

  • | Post Points: 20
Top 200 Contributor
Posts 467
Points 7,590
I define self ownership as unalienable. No one can coerce an infant to breathe. I define evidence of ability to consent as non-reliance upon charity.
  • | Post Points: 5
Top 500 Contributor
Posts 225
Points 4,195

My refutation of Block's eviction justification for abortion goes something like this, if you're curious. If I take you on a ride in my helicopter, is it not murder if I evict you at 5000ft? In all cases of pregnancy, other than those resulting from rape, the parents voluntarily consent to expose themselves to the risk of becoming pregnant. No one consents to be conceived, carried and born into this world, as far as anyone I know can seem to recall. Even with regards to rape, if someone forced you to take an innocent 3rd party up to 5000ft in your helicopter, and then jumped out with the only parachute, would it not be murder if you evicted the 3rd party before landing the aircraft? (I admit that a potential lifeboat scenario exists where the pregnancy threatens the life of the mother, which is the only situation in which I'm uncomfortably “pro-choice” regarding abortion.)

Would it be legitimate to think of an unwanted baby as nothing more than a parasite that is denying the mother of her property rights by trespassing inside her body?

'' The greatest enemy of knowledge is not ignorance, it is the illusion of knowledge.'' Stephen Hawking

  • | Post Points: 20
Top 50 Contributor
Male
Posts 2,940
Points 49,115
Conza88 replied on Sun, Jan 22 2012 6:06 AM

Vladimir Ulyanov:

My refutation of Block's eviction justification for abortion goes something like this, if you're curious. If I take you on a ride in my helicopter, is it not murder if I evict you at 5000ft? In all cases of pregnancy, other than those resulting from rape, the parents voluntarily consent to expose themselves to the risk of becoming pregnant. No one consents to be conceived, carried and born into this world, as far as anyone I know can seem to recall. Even with regards to rape, if someone forced you to take an innocent 3rd party up to 5000ft in your helicopter, and then jumped out with the only parachute, would it not be murder if you evicted the 3rd party before landing the aircraft? (I admit that a potential lifeboat scenario exists where the pregnancy threatens the life of the mother, which is the only situation in which I'm uncomfortably “pro-choice” regarding abortion.)

Would it be legitimate to think of an unwanted baby as nothing more than a parasite that is denying the mother of her property rights by trespassing inside her body?

Pathetic. "Refutation"? Haha. I suggest you actually read or re-read Walter Block's journal article.. because he anticipates your "objection" and sets it straight. Your example is the same as the "aeroplane" one. Search that.

As for the rest of your 'objections' they aren't problems with self-ownership at all... and are strawmen.

It is worth mentioning that the ownership right stemming from production finds its natural limitation only when, as in the case of children, the thing produced is itself another actor-producer. According to the natural theory of property, a child, once born, is just as much the owner of his own body as anyone else. Hence, not only can a child expect not to be physically aggressed against but as the owner of his body a child has the right, in particular, to abandon his parents once he is physically able to run away from them and say "no" to their possible attempts to recapture him. Parents only have special rights regarding their child - stemming from their unique status as the child's producers - insofar as they (and no one else) can rightfully claim to be the child's trustee as long as the child is physically unable to run away and say "no."[8]

Hoppe, A Theory of Socialism and Capitalism, n.9 to ch. 2, on p. 212; emphasis added.

Ron Paul is for self-government when compared to the Constitution. He's an anarcho-capitalist. Proof.
  • | Post Points: 20
Top 500 Contributor
Posts 225
Points 4,195

I was quoting James you pleb. For whatever reason google chrome won't allow to quote on this forum. I probably should have put in inverted commas but I forgot. But even if it was something I wrote, people are on here to learn, not be sneered at. So a less condecending tone would be appreciated.

'' The greatest enemy of knowledge is not ignorance, it is the illusion of knowledge.'' Stephen Hawking

  • | Post Points: 20
Top 50 Contributor
Male
Posts 2,940
Points 49,115
Conza88 replied on Sun, Jan 22 2012 7:30 AM

Ah I see. Yeah, not actually quoting at all even by inverted comma's is 'plebiful'. My apologies, consider the laughter re-directed to the OP. A whole lot of time would have been saved if they actually read the journal article, as well as well known associated ones.

Ron Paul is for self-government when compared to the Constitution. He's an anarcho-capitalist. Proof.
  • | Post Points: 5
Top 25 Contributor
Posts 3,739
Points 60,635
Marko replied on Sun, Jan 22 2012 8:23 AM

6. This would mean that the initiation of force against a child is always unlawful. “Corporal punishment” would be always be unlawful, no matter how mild, as would be the commission of fraud against a child – it would be unlawful to induce a child to act by way of intentionally misinforming them. Technically, you could not even use tales about Santa Claus to induce good behaviour, unless you genuinely believed in Santa Claus yourself. In theory, a child should be able to sue and claim compensation for such violations of their self-ownership. This would entail a radical change in what is considered by most people today to be appropriate parenting. In terms of negative reinforcement, a parent's ultimate power would be a variation of “my roof, my rules – if you don't like it, leave” - their power to unilaterally abandon their child.

This is like thinking that in libertarian society people would not save a drowning man if it entailed tresspassing. Ie, that people would not be willing to make themselves rightfully liable for mild punishment in order to save the life of a human being.

Yes, by persisting with conventional parenting methods parents would make themselves rightfully liable for retaliation, however, most would nonetheless do so provided they thought it in the best interest of their children, and most of them would not get sued for it.

It would not entail a radical change in what is considered appropriate parenting. Everything else being equal, most parents would decide the benefit to their child outweights the small danger to themselves.

 

  • | Post Points: 5
Top 25 Contributor
Male
Posts 4,922
Points 79,590
Autolykos replied on Sun, Jan 22 2012 11:51 AM

James:
Do people always have self-ownership? When and how do they acquire it? Do parents ever own their children?

I'd say that people always have self-ownership, and that they acquire it when they're born (if not earlier). Thus parents never own their children. Thinking otherwise is what seems to have given rise to the state.

James:
Is there a single age of sudden self-ownership that everyone always attains? e.g. 18 or 21 years?

Given what I wrote above, my answer here is no. There could be a case made that, until a person demonstrates reasoning faculties equivalent to the "reasonable person" standard, he must have one or more guardians to speak and act on his behalf. This is akin to the Roman-law concept of tutela.

James:
Problems:

1. It's arbitrary, and it applies a single standard to different people. One does not change dramatically on any particular birthday anniversary, nor is everyone of the same age of the same maturity. The only birthday on which there's dramatic change of a kind that could, to my mind, potentially justify the sudden recognition of full self-ownership, as opposed to all days before, is the day someone is actually born; when they no longer share their mother's body. Is the physical separation from the mother's body sufficient? Is abortion allowable on the basis of the foetus not having self-ownership? I've read Block, and although it seems to be easily refuted, he provides an alternative “eviction” justification for abortion. He clearly assumes the foetus to have self-ownership.

My refutation of Block's eviction justification for abortion goes something like this, if you're curious. If I take you on a ride in my helicopter, is it not murder if I evict you at 5000ft? In all cases of pregnancy, other than those resulting from rape, the parents voluntarily consent to expose themselves to the risk of becoming pregnant. No one consents to be conceived, carried and born into this world, as far as anyone I know can seem to recall. Even with regards to rape, if someone forced you to take an innocent 3rd party up to 5000ft in your helicopter, and then jumped out with the only parachute, would it not be murder if you evicted the 3rd party before landing the aircraft? (I admit that a potential lifeboat scenario exists where the pregnancy threatens the life of the mother, which is the only situation in which I'm uncomfortably “pro-choice” regarding abortion.)

I could be wrong here, but I think I remember Block stating that abortion-as-eviction would only be moral if the evicted could survive afterwards. Typically a person "evicted" from a flying airplane and a fetus evicted from its mother's womb cannot do so.

Regarding abortion, I think it could be much reduced in a free-market, stateless society. I think there would be financial incentives for women with unwanted pregnancies to carry their children to term, because the right of legal guardianship could be bought from them by people who want to adopt children.

James:
2. It's a special case of property treatment. In no other situation would it be justifiable for someone to lose title without their consent, except in situations where it is necessary to compensate one of their victims for a tort. What if the parents don't want to give up ownership of their child on one of the child's birthday anniversaries? Who has standing to force them to, and why?

Indeed, I don't think such a notion is consistent with the self-ownership and non-aggression principles. And again, I think the notion that parents own their children was the genesis of the state itself.

James:
Is there a case-by-case age of majority, which may differ between individuals?

3. Who gets to decide, and on what basis? Should it happen if and when the parents unilaterally decide to emancipate or abandon their child? Should someone make a judgement about whether the child is capable of supporting themselves, as Rothbard suggested? If so, who exactly, and on what basis would they derive their authority? Wouldn't it be a subjective valuation, and uncertain speculation, no matter who made it? It can't logically be the child who decides, if they don't yet have self-ownership - if my pig escapes, it does not somehow acquire self-ownership, no matter how well it can survive on its own. What if the parents never make the decision to emancipate or abandon their child? Problem 2 still seems to apply – you can't force someone to give up their property if they don't want to. What if they abandon the child as an infant, and she's adopted? Do the adoptive parents acquire ownership over her, based on their unilateral, subjective evaluation that she's not yet ready to sustain herself? What if she were emancipated as a teenager, or even older, and someone decided that this was actually an abandonment, because they don't think she can yet sustain herself ? May they lasso her, and claim ownership over her on this basis?

In Roman law, the authority of a father over his children was called patria potestas ("fatherly power"). Initially, at least, this authority was unlimited. A father was allowed to go so far as to kill his own son or daughter. If this isn't a de facto property right in one's own children, I don't know what is. Thus, if a father was considered to own his children, his children could not be considered to own themselves - at least as long as their father continued to claim ownership over them. A Roman father could legally release his child from patria potestas, and this was termed emancipatio ("emancipation"), the same word that was used for releasing slaves.

One can see the state, in its original tribal form, as patria potestas writ large and carried across multiple generations. A tribal elder would be considered to have patria potestas over all of his descendants who he had not yet emancipated, which may be none of them. It almost goes without saying that this is entirely incompatible with the principle of self-ownership.

Like I mentioned above, I think the only possible leeway that the self-ownership principle can allow is in relation to a "reasonable person" standard. If a person can't demonstrate a reasoning ability beyond a certain minimum that's considered sufficient to establish him as a "reasonable person", he could be considered to have mens rationis incapax ("a mind incapable of reason"). However, depending on the minimum requirements, a person could satisfy them at a very early age. For example, the Roman Catholic Church historically set what it called the "age of reason" at seven years old.

James:
4. What if the parents decide that it is impossible for their child, or anyone else, to sustain themselves in a voluntary context, so they hand over ownership of their children and descendants, in perpetuity, to a state? If one's parents, or parents' parents, ever decided that the state was necessary – if they ever consented to the social contract, as it were – on what basis can one ever claim self-ownership? In short, if one is directly descended from even a single statist, how can one justify being a libertarian who believes in self-ownership?

Indeed, the notion of parents owning their descendants gives rise to the notion of "permanent agreements". Such agreements aren't between/among individuals per se, but between/among mystical collective entities which, at any given time, consist of the people who originally entered into them and/or their descendants. This seems to be the basis for treaties and other forms of international law. It's also been the basis for slavery and other forms of legal/social status being considered to be inheritable.

James:
5. If parents ever own their children, couldn't they justifiably batter their children, forcibly engage in sex with them, kill them, or sell them into chattel slavery for others to do these things, all on a whim? It's all very well to say that I can shun someone if I don't approve of their behaviour, but if I have self-ownership, then I have a right to associate with whoever I like, to the precise extent that I like, for whatever reasons I like. I could shun you if I didn't like your hairstyle, your accent, or if I simply wanted to be alone for a while. I could justifiably shun you for things which are not unlawful, for which I could not justify using force against you for the purposes of preventing your behaviour, and for which I could not justifiably demand compensation. If someone has their children chained up in their basement, starving, living in their own filth, and subject to daily beatings and sodomies with an iron poker, don't you kind of sort of want to be able to step in and justifiably stop that from happening, as you could if it were an adult who had not consented to such an arrangement? Why in the name of all that desires freedom would you want a situation where attacking someone your own size, or even larger, is a crime, but attacking a defenceless child the same way is not? To suggest that one would be a criminal for intervening to remove those hypothetical children from their parents' clutches, by force if necessary, strikes me as utterly insane. If that's morality, go ahead and send me to Hell right now. It would entail less suffering than living in this awful place.

As I mentioned above, the Roman-law concept of patria potestas originally did justify a father battering his own children, selling them into slavery, killing them, and - at least theoretically (I haven't read anything about this) - forcibly engaging in sex with them. This initial notion of patria potestas was only eroded in the face of the growing power of the Roman state over that of the Roman familia. Once again, I consider all of this to be incompatible with the principle of self-ownership.

James:
Do people always have self-ownership? Is it synonymous with a person being described as a person?

6. This would mean that the initiation of force against a child is always unlawful. “Corporal punishment” would be always be unlawful, no matter how mild, as would be the commission of fraud against a child – it would be unlawful to induce a child to act by way of intentionally misinforming them. Technically, you could not even use tales about Santa Claus to induce good behaviour, unless you genuinely believed in Santa Claus yourself. In theory, a child should be able to sue and claim compensation for such violations of their self-ownership. This would entail a radical change in what is considered by most people today to be appropriate parenting. In terms of negative reinforcement, a parent's ultimate power would be a variation of “my roof, my rules – if you don't like it, leave” - their power to unilaterally abandon their child.

Indeed. I personally do consider it to be unlawful for a child to be subjected to corporal punishment or even fraud. The "my house, my rules" doctrine would actually gain more prominence this way, as a child who runs away from home wouldn't necessarily (and, in most circumstances, I think would not) be captured and taken back there anyway.

As an aside, in the Fritzl case, Elisabeth Fritzl did run away from home as a teenager. She was subsequenly captured and returned home, enabling her father to subsequently imprison, torture, and rape her for years.

However, if a parent evicted a child from his house and the child was unable to care for himself outside it, I think that would constitute criminal negligence.

James:
7. Parental consent would not always be required in place of, or in supplement to, consent by the child. This has dire ramifications. If a child consensually acquired a tattoo, contrary to their parents' wishes, would the parent have any recourse against the tattoo artist? Maybe a decent tattoo artist wouldn't do it without parental consent. Maybe you could tell all and sundry about how disreputable he is to tattoo a ten-year-old without parental consent, and hope this would result in his business and person being shunned. But could you justifiably claim compensation from him, or use reciprocal force of any kind against him? I don't think so. He didn't use force against your property.

No, I don't think the parent would have any legal recourse against the tattoo artist, and this would be as I think it should be. The only way I think they could have recourse is if the child was injured by the tattoo artist, at which point they would be acting on behalf of the child. On the other hand, even the mere possibility of publicity and/or shunning can have a powerful influence on people's behavior.

James:
Far more worrying than that, consensual sexual relations between people of almost any age would never be unlawful. The ramifications here are stupendous to ponder. It's trite to say that below a certain level of maturity, people don't have the capacity to consent, but what age is that, exactly, and who gets to decide? If the same ten-year-old from above consents to sex instead of getting a tattoo, does the parent have any recourse against the 3rd party that he wouldn't have against the tattoo artist? If so, how? He didn't use force against your property.

Here as well, I don't think the parents would have any recourse unless the child was injured. I know that's a very unpopular opinion these days, but so be it. Then again, I also consider any unwanted sexual advances to technically constitute sexual assault.

James:
8. If children had a right to associate freely, in accordance with their self-ownership, it would mean that a child could leave their parents on a whim, and the parents could not use force against them or anyone else to regain their custody. Hence, if a child wanted to leave their parents, and a 3rd-party was willing, they could essentially choose to become the adoptive child of someone else, and their biological parents would have no say in the matter. Tying in to problem 7, if a child of any age wanted to leave their parents and enter into a marriage or other kind of sexual relationship with a consenting 3rd-party, at any age, the parents could do nought to stop it besides shun them and complain about it to others.

That sounds about right. I don't consider this, #6, or #7 to be a problem though.

James:
9. If parents don't own their children, they need some other, relative, property claim to justify their guardianship status over anyone else's when the child is indisputably too young, or otherwise unable to give their own consent. This is not a major problem, as far as I can see. If my (hypothetical) spouse were to fall into a coma, I get automatic next-of-kin status without anyone suggesting that I own them. It's simply presumed that I have been placed in the best position to execute decisions regarding their body, while they are unable to.

Here it sounds like you're essentially talking about power of attorney. I think this is an important legal principle that would not only survive, but thrive in a free-market, stateless society. Indeed, the civil aspect of relationships such as marriage and parenthood would involve exactly this concept. One addition to power of attorney in a free-market, stateless society might be the ability for people to purchase it. This might only be allowed in certain circumstances, such as a person wanting to adopt a child or to keep someone alive longer than the current agent wants to (cf. the Terri Schiavo case).

James:
Sorry for the long read, but you folks are very smart, and I don't know what to think about this all any more. I sometimes hear self-proclaimed libertarians claim that they own their children, and I think wtf, these hypocrites claim self-ownership too? On what basis? Not that the alternative ramifications aren't mind-boggling, though they still seem preferable to me. Any help?

I hope the above helps! Thanks for the thought-provoking post. smiley

The keyboard is mightier than the gun.

Non parit potestas ipsius auctoritatem.

Voluntaryism Forum

  • | Post Points: 5
Page 1 of 1 (20 items) | RSS