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Block on child rights - powerful stuff

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Wheylous Posted: Tue, Oct 30 2012 8:14 PM

If I may quote him liberally:

 

The argument [...] that a parent does have some positive obligations toward the child, based upon the supposed contractual
nature, or voluntary decision on the part of the parents to bear
the child, may be easily shaken. Consider the following:
1. All children are equal in rights due them from their parents, regardless of the way in which they were conceived.
2. Specifically, the child who is a product of rape has as
many obligations due him from his female parent as any
other child. (We assume that the male parent, the rapist,
has gone.) No matter what views we have on rape, the
child who is a product of such rape is entirely guiltless of
this crime, or any other crime.
3. The voluntary nature of child rearing and conception
does not apply in the case of rape.
4. Therefore, the argument that the parent owes some obligations to the child which arise out of the voluntary
nature of the conception, or out of an “implicit contract,”
cannot apply in the case of rape, i.e., in the case of rape,
at least, the female parent owes no  positive obligation to
the child, because she did not consent to its inception.
5. All children, being equally guiltless of any crime, in spite
of any theory to the contrary, such as “original sin,” have
equal rights due them from their parents. Since all such
rights (supposedly) flow from the voluntary nature of
conception, and the children born of rape manifestly
lack this voluntary aspect, they, at least have no rights
due them from their (female) parent. But their rights are
equal to those of all other children. Therefore, no child,
whosoever, has any positive obligations due him from his
parents.
 

 

This is some powerful logic. If our argument for positive obligations arise from the voluntary nature of conception and we accept that all children have the same rights, then it must logically follow that no parents have positive obligations to their children.

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I've always wondered if its fair to say that parents "own" their kids.

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Wheylous replied on Tue, Oct 30 2012 8:28 PM

Block argues that it is, but only in a way. The "right" they have is one of caretaking. I am not sure how much I agree with him on that, though. Anyway, the point was about an argument about positive obligations.

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Marko replied on Wed, Oct 31 2012 11:14 AM

Actually I've always seen a giant hole in his argument in exactly the part you brought up here. Because the parent is obviously not in a contractual agreement to rear the child in the case of conception by rape he leaps from there to conclude that this is therefore the case in all instances of conception. I don't see where that comes from at all. The point isn't about child equality, the point is that you can not enter into a contract with an act of non-acting. A person who is raped is passive, it does not engage in anything. Therefore it couldn't have possibly made a deal with anyone. That is not necessarily the case with a person who takes action knowing it may lead to it concieving new human life.

Now I do agree with his conclusion that ultimately the de facto situation is as if there were no positive obligations owed, but that is only because I take the Rothbardian rathern than the Blockian view on voluntary slavery. I do believe concieving enters into an existence a contractual obligation not to take action that would lead to the death of this new human life, but as no penalty for not doing so is specified in the contract the parent, in keeping with the principle will is inalianable and people may change their mind at any time, may annul it at any time without reprecessions.

So actually I think it is inconsistent for a voluntary slaverist like Block to be an evictionist, only a Rothbardian can take that position without leaving gaps in their logic.

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Autolykos replied on Wed, Oct 31 2012 11:19 AM

Very interesting points, Marko. In my own opinion, an obligation doesn't exist without a penalty. So something like "You hereby agree to build me a house or else" is not enforceable at all, and therefore doesn't constitute a valid contract.

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Wheylous replied on Wed, Oct 31 2012 11:31 AM

If we are to assume that all children have the same rights, then it is the same conclusion.

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Marko replied on Wed, Oct 31 2012 11:49 AM

That's not really helpful. You simply repeated something, which is arguing by assertion.

Who cares who has the same rights? If we are talking about deals, contracts, promises... If I have the same basic natural rights Jennifer Lopez does does that mean I can show up at one of her concerts, climb on stage and sing a few songs and will then be owed bags of money from the organizers, just like she is? Of course not! Because nobody promised me anything like they did J Lo. Screw the children and their rights, that's a total non sequitur. You have to look at the other party.

If I pick up a hobo in town and drive him over to my farm to stay a night under my roof, there is an implicit promise involved that I will not then wake him up in the middle of the night and throw him out in the cold and the rain (albeit since no penalty for doing so has been specified in advance I can nonetheless later change my mind and do just that without legal reprecussions for myself*). There is no such promise, or expectations involved in the case that some maniac threw a hobo into my car against my will and forced me to drive him home. It does not matter if the two hobos have the same human dignity and rights and are equally guiltless and will be equally hard done by in each of the cases if I do not prove a good host. I accepted (at the time) obligation only toward the first, but not toward the second. I have no deal with the second and made no promises to him.


*But the reason I can do that is because I am with Rothbard on voluntary slavery. But Block would actually have to argue that the hobo, given I promised him to stay the whole night, now has a legal case against me and can sue me for damages, or alternatively forcefully re-enter my house and go back to sleep on my property until morning against my will.

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Marko replied on Wed, Oct 31 2012 12:14 PM

Very interesting points, Marko. In my own opinion, an obligation doesn't exist without a penalty. So something like "You hereby agree to build me a house or else" is not enforceable at all, and therefore doesn't constitute a valid contract.

I do not disagree. I am merely saying aborting human life that was not concieved through rape may, and in my opinion does, consitute breaking a promise. Now, breaking a promise does not mean much to you or me (in the objective sense, leaving aside estetics), however, it is technically very meaningful to a voluntary slaverist like Block (and like my former self) who believes a person may not go back on their word like that, without reprecussions even when these are not specified in advance.

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If our argument for positive obligations arise from the voluntary nature of conception and we accept that all children have the same rights, then it must logically follow that no parents have positive obligations to their children.

This is a valid argument. I question the premise "that all children have the same rights." It could be that all children have the same negative rights, and a child has positive rights when he or she is conceived without coercion. "[T]he same rights" is pretty broad, so I don't think it can be used to answer the question of whether or not children have (specifically) positive rights.

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I see what you mean, Marko. As in "everyone has the right to obtain property legitimately" but not "everyone has the right to this specific piece of property."

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Even if we accept your critique, then the statement that rape doesn't confer rights is still powerful.

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This is nuts. Just a few minutes ago I finished reading Defending the Undefendable, which I started while the power was out and before reading your post. I didn’t realize that’s where Block made this argument. Did we reach for the same book during the same storm??? XD

Anyway, if you have the chance, you should weigh in on this thread I started. Block defends "the employer of child labor." What about employers of child prostitutes/pornographers? Here it is: http://mises.org/community/forums/t/32280.aspx

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Sorry to ressurect another old thread of yours, but I decided to write a paper on the subject of positive rights for my Ethics class.

Even if we accept your critique, then the statement that rape doesn't confer rights is still powerful.

It could be that the child does have positive rights, only it is the rapist obligated to "meet" them (for lack of a better term; maybe you know one). Suppose the rapist does not or cannot fulfill these obligations. It doesn't mean that the child conceived in rape has no positive rights, it means that the child's positive rights are being violated by the rapist not sending child support, nurishment, etc.. Thus, Block's statement is unsound.

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Oooooh, I see. Ok.

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h.k. replied on Wed, Dec 5 2012 3:16 PM

QuisCustodiet:

Sorry to ressurect another old thread of yours, but I decided to write a paper on the subject of positive rights for my Ethics class.

Even if we accept your critique, then the statement that rape doesn't confer rights is still powerful.

It could be that the child does have positive rights, only it is the rapist obligated to "meet" them (for lack of a better term; maybe you know one). Suppose the rapist does not or cannot fulfill these obligations. It doesn't mean that the child conceived in rape has no positive rights, it means that the child's positive rights are being violated by the rapist not sending child support, nurishment, etc.. Thus, Block's statement is unsound.

 

There's no such thing as a positive right though, that's the basis of unsound economics.

 

A rapist has to repay the victim based on negative rights.

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I hesitate to mix the words right and economics. Not because they can't be synthesized, but because it's not what we're doing here. (I'm thinking Misesian utilitarianism and Hayekian social evolution).

I think QC has a valid point.

The argument for children's rights is usually that the act of voluntary conception creates an implicit contractual obligation to the child. However, why not argue that rapists do the same thing? They create contractual responsibility over the child. Sure, it's not the same kind as the voluntary one in the previous case, but while we're at making implicit contracts, why not run wild with it.

Hence, I think that Block might actually have been wrong. Should I write to him?

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Yeah, write to him. Be sure to ask if you can share his response with us 8-)

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h.k. replied on Wed, Dec 5 2012 3:55 PM

Wheylous:

I hesitate to mix the words right and economics. Not because they can't be synthesized, but because it's not what we're doing here. (I'm thinking Misesian utilitarianism and Hayekian social evolution).

I think QC has a valid point.

I disagree with Hayek? I hesitate to care at all dude.... He's someone I rarely cite in any discussion. Further Mises was not a purist either.

 I would argue you're being a little lazy. you can have whatever opinion you want on this issue, but if you use "positive right" in one of your posts it certainly gives the wrong impression.

The argument for children's rights is usually that the act of voluntary conception creates an implicit contractual obligation to the child.

To a very limited degree, you can give the child away but child support is not an Austrian idea. Women can have abortions all the time if they feel they can not keep up with child support, child support is just an act of aggression against men. Men and women come up with individual contracts for child support.

However, why not argue that rapists do the same thing? They create contractual responsibility over the child. Sure, it's not the same kind as the voluntary one in the previous case, but while we're at making implicit contracts, why not run wild with it.

Hence, I think that Block might actually have been wrong. Should I write to him?

 

 

I still don't see what this has to do with positive rights? The rapist violated the explicit rights of the woman, and as a penalty he should pay child support. Your argument is very classical liberal, if anything.

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Wheylous replied on Wed, Dec 19 2012 8:56 PM

QuisCustodiet - I came up with another scenario:

What if the rapist goes on to die? Does that mean no one is legally responsible for the child?

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Marko replied on Wed, Dec 19 2012 11:56 PM

That's very clever QC.

The victim is not acting and therefore can not be entering into a contractual arrangement, but that is not necessarily the case for the rapist who is taking action.

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Holy crap...

This is almost beyond non-sense.

Parents who have engaged in voluntary or accidental conception resulting from voluntary actions are considered thus responsible for the well being of their offspring at least until they reach a certain maturity level.

And parents (that is, mothers) who were raped cannot be held morally responsible.

What's wrong with that?

Putting another way...

All children have equal rights, but not with respect to equal things.

Each child has the right to be taken care by their legal guardians.

Unfortunately some kids don't have a legal guardian to be found, to whom that law can be enforced.

It's like saying that each individual has the right to dispose of his property as he wishes, but not every individual actually owns property.

The lengths to which some libertarinas want to stretch their arguments in order to justify their liberal predispositions towards nasty stuff like abortion and child abandonment is utterly disgusting...

 

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@Wheylous:

What if the rapist goes on to die? Does that mean no one is legally responsible for the child?

Hmm. Good point. If there was no prior arrangement for who would be responsible for the child in the event of the father's death, I suppose no one is legally responsible for the child (i.e. no one can be forced to take in the child). Of course, in a free society, I think orphanages would play a major role in child care/protection, and would likely jump to take the child in.

But I have another question about a party to a contract dying. What is the usual libertarian way to resolve that?

(As in, if today Joe pays Bob $50 to mow Joe's lawn Wednesday and Bob dies a day before he is supposed to mow Joe's lawn)

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@ToxicAssets

The issue is whether or not the implicit contract between two consenting biological parents (or only one in the case of rape [Edit: see A at bottom]) is a valid contract. A lot of libertarians (Rothbard, Block, etc.) argue that no implicit contract is valid.

Although, I agree that the conversation seems a bit repugnant. I think it's important to keep that in mind. I also agree with your conclusion that parent(s) do have positive obligations to his/their children.

[A] It is also possible that neither biological parent consented to the sex if a third party forced one to rape the other, or if the third party just threw them in a room and forced them upon one another. In this case, neither biological parent would have a positive obligation to the child; the third party -- the consenting party in this case -- would.

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Wheylous:

If we are to assume that all children have the same rights, then it is the same conclusion.

 

All children have the equal right to be taken care by their legal guardian. However some children don't have legal guardian to whom this right would apply.

 

It's exactly the same thing as saying all men have the right to paint their castles blue, but not every man has a castle to be painted blue.

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Interesting take. Just note: It's important to clarify what you mean by legal guardian (that you don't think a non-consenting party to the sex that resulted in a child's conception has to be a legal guardian, though can choose to be). That is capital.

I don't want to overload the thread with ideas, but what if the rapist himself was a child, and then died? Would the rapist's parents be responsible for the child who was conceived as a result of their kid raping a woman? Consider that parents are generally responsible for the actions of their children until adulthood.

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QuisCustodiet:

@ToxicAssets

The issue is whether or not the implicit contract between two consenting biological parents (or only one in the case of rape [Edit: see A at bottom]) is a valid contract. A lot of libertarians (Rothbard, Block, etc.) argue that no implicit contract is valid.

Valid to whom?

 

The judeo-cristian ethical tradition and foundation for the Western Civilization is based upon individual responsibility.

And individuals that engage in actions whose implications can be foreseen and prevented are considered responsible.

Although, I agree that the conversation seems a bit repugnant. I think it's important to keep that in mind. I also agree with your conclusion that parent(s) do have positive obligations to his/their children.

 

It's not my conclusion. It's the custumary notion. You are morally responsible for the consequences of your actions to the degree that those consequences were predictable and/or cautionary measures were known and affordable.

 

[A] It is also possible that neither biological parent consented to the sex if a third party forced one to rape the other, or if the third party just threw them in a room and forced them upon one another. In this case, neither biological parent would have a positive obligation to the child; the third party -- the consenting party in this case -- would.

I also agree here.

 

 

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QuisCustodiet:

Interesting take. Just note: It's important to clarify what you mean by legal guardian (that you don't think a non-consenting party to the sex that resulted in a child's conception has to be a legal guardian, though can choose to be). That is capital.

I don't want to overload the thread with ideas, but what if the rapist himself was a child, and then died? Would the rapist's parents be responsible for the child who was conceived as a result of their kid raping a woman? Consider that parents are generally responsible for the actions of their children until adulthood.

 

This will depend upon the custumary understanding and other circumstancial factors guiding the judicial mechanism invoked to solve the problem.

 

In modern western societies, most people will not consider a victim of rape responsible for any offspring resulting of the assault. And so they will give their support to a judicial mechanism that allow pregnancy abortion as lawful acquitance in such cases.

 

But this can become complicated if the allegations of sexual assault are introduced at later time and the circumstances are considered foggy or non plausible.

 

As for the kid rapist case, again the particular circumstances of a real case scenario would be of more relevance than a general principle.

The parents would probably be considered as potential culprits, but in any likely scenario a minor that is developed enough to sexually assault and sire will bear the larger amount of the responsibility by himself.

The rationale being that a kid that is forceful enough to carry out a sexual assault on a woman is likely to be beyond any reasonable control of his parents.

Of course, if the circumstances are such that the woman in the case is another child, or someone disabled, and the kid is just a puberscent boy and not a muscular drug-fueled thug aged 17, the burden of responsibility of any legal responsible increases accordingly.

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