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Re: Repair Your Defective Robot


Rothbard’s plumbline position in “Kid Lib” (1974) and The Ethics of Liberty ch. 14 (1982) is that parents have a right to set household conduct rules, as the proprietor of the household, until children move out and take up living on their own; but that parents have no right to physically aggress against children [*], that children should be able to legally prosecute parents for injuries committed against them in the name of “discipline,” that children have an unconditional right to end their parents’ guardianship at any age where they are physically capable of running away, to strike out on their own or to take up with any foster parents who agree to take them in, and that neither parents nor the State have any right to force “runaway” children to return to the guardianship of any adult against the child’s will.

In “Kid Lib,” Rothbard aims to position his view as a middle-road between traditional coercive parenting and (his notion of) “Progressive” anything-goes parenting, with most of the rhetorical energy being spent on the latter, so he spends a fair amount of time grumping about kids “kicking adults in the shins” and discussing how he thinks that parents should insist on rules of conduct and a certain degree of unilateral authority, but that it must be on a “my house, my rules” basis and not on the basis of using physical or legal coercion to keep the child captive. But the last, which he views as “the fundamental tyranny” of the contemporary parent-child relationship, he denounces as “kidnapping,” and as “enslavement” of children by parents.

In “Ethics of Liberty” most of the stuff about theories of parenting and house-rules is dropped in favor of a more systematic examination of children’s rights, with a long section on the violation of children’s rights by statist law in particular, with highlights on the evils of truancy and other Fugitive Child laws, use of catch-all “juvenile delinquency,” inquisitorial proceedings without basic due process rights, the parens patriae doctrine, etc. to extend and intensify the power of abusive parents over “wayward” children, or to step in if a parent isn’t vigorously abusive enough, etc.

[*] Rothbard talks about “mutilating” and “abusing” children as aggressions and as violations of the parent’s role as trustee for the child’s self-ownership. I think his position logically implies that it’s illegitimate for parents to use any form of corporal punishment at all against children, but as far as I know Rothbard neither confirmed nor denied that in his writing on the topic.

As far as I know, even after his paleo turn, Rothbard never actually declared that his prior position on children’s rights was false. (He actually hardly ever repudiated any ideological positions, no matter how many strategic 180s he did; just swapped out his rhetoric and tended to write a if he had never said the things that he said before.) But by 1992, mainly in the interest of demonizing Hillary Rodham Clinton, he was scare-quote ridiculing any discussion of children’s rights, declaring that children should quote-unquote “get governed by their parents,” and denouncing Tibor Machan for supporting children who sued their parents for damages or for termination of custody. (I haven’t read any of Tibor’s stuff from that period, so I can’t be sure, but from the date and from what Rothbard writes, my guess would be that this was in response to high-profile cases like Kingsley v. Kingsley, in which a child was granted legal standing to sue for a transfer of custody from his biological parents to foster parents. Anyone know for sure?)

Anyway, after the paleo turn, Rothbard was looking to hook up with political allies who took rock-ribbed conservative positions on parental control, so all that stuff about the rights of wayward children and the use of state violence to keep children enslaved to their parents was pretty quickly dropped out, in favor of a line about the state’s meddling in parental rights, with folks like Hoppe throwing in paeans to the authority of the paterfamilias and the order of rank within the family, and the occasional supportive shout-out to the pro-child-beating conservatives from LRC.

Of course, after Rothbard’s paleo turn, there were still plenty of other non-paleo anarcho-capitalists who differed with Rothbard and with his newfound allies on all this stuff, and who generally took something more like the older Rothbard line. (George H. Smith, for example, defends the early Spencer’s position against parental coercion.) And the decline of paleolibertarianism (both as a strategic alliance and as an ideology) since Mr. Bush’s wars and the rise of Red State America has resulted in a pretty significant drop-off.

Most anarcho-capitalists, however, just don’t write about the issue at all. Presumably because they either don’t think about it, or don’t care, or both. Which is unfortunate but not surprising: most political theorists don’t spend much time discussing the status of children. Not because it’s unimportant to them (patriarchal authority is very important to lots of theories) but rather because they have reasons for wanting certain bedrock commitments to be left unspoken so that they cannot be identified, and without any explicit defense so that they cannot be challenged.

Re: Progress of the Revolution

Characterizing something as a “rant” may seem like a handy rhetorical way of waving it off without actually engaging with its argumentative structure. But that’s really uncharitable and not especially productive of reasoned discussion.

I think that LRC is more of a mixed bag than Aster does (not because I disagree with her particularly about the criticisms she lodges against some of the content and authors that appear there, but rather because I think that it’s important to keep in mind how many different authors post there, and that they are not all marching in lockstep, either in general or on the issues Aster has in mind). But be that as it may, the kind of responses she’s gotten from Tracy Saboe and Anon73 are just silly.

If the high readership ranking of LRC is being specifically mentioned as a sign of progress, and one believes that the high readership ranking of LRC is not a sign of progress, then it makes sense to reply with criticism specific to LRC, in order to show that its being widely read is not as good a development as was originally suggested. Replying to that criticism with “If you don’t like it, go start your own” is just a non sequitur. Aster was giving counter-evidence in reply to a particular claim that had already been made; this is just a change of subject.

Replying to her argument with “at least they’re attacking the State,” on the other hand, is like a cartoon of thoughtless “shoulder-to-shoulder” Popular Front rhetoric. At least Stalin was fighting Hitler. (And vice versa.) But, really, so what?

If you think that Aster’s comments are unfair to LRC or, you can try replying to that, but these kind of remarks, passed off as replies, don’t really even rise to the level of successfully replying.

Re: Walter Block Replies

Micha: I fail to see how the issue of immigration could be seen as complex, rather than for what it is ….

I think the short answer is this: calling border laws and internal immigration policing a complex issue for libertarians primarily serves a social function, not an intellectual one, in the Mises Institute / circle.

The issue is actually, obviously, extremely simple, and Hoppe’s and Ron Paul’s positions are actually, obviously, completely wrong. I suspect that most of those who criticize their positions but pass off the issue as a complex one realize this, but also reckon that it wouldn’t go over well in mixed company to say so in as many words.

Re: Smearbund Funnies

Have I been inducted into the Beltwaytarian Illuminati without having heard about it? If so, I eagerly await my imminent influx of cocktail party invites and Kochtopus cash.


The declarations of states are not reflective of their citizens …

No, but they are reflective of the opinions of the state governments at the time that those state governments determined to secede.

Of course, many if not most people in many southern states at the time felt differently. For starters, many if not most people in many southern states at the time were black slaves.

The white southerners who fought as common soldiers often had very different views of the import and justification for the war than those held by their governments. But of course it was their governments, and not they, who made the political and military decisions that we’re discussing here.

Charles H.,

I agree with you that any honest review of what the secessionists said (especially what they said at the time of the secession debate, rather than when they wrote their memoirs in the 1870s) would very quickly reveal that the perpetuation and expansion of race slavery was absolutely central to the Confederate cause. However, it would be an ignoratio elenchi to follow that evidence with the conclusion that ending or limiting race slavery must have been absolutely essential to the Union cause.

When people claim that the Southern states had the “right” to secede, what they mean is that a minority– adult white male landowners– had the right to decide for everyone else what form of government they would live under, and whether their basic human rights would be recognized.

I’m sure that when many people claim that, that is indeed what they mean, but I don’t think it’s at all fair to impute that meaning to most of the writers at or the Ludwig von Mises Institute.

Whatever faults they may have (and some of them have a lot), most of the people in question are anarchists, who believe that no government whatever, state, federal, or other, has any legitimate right to compel anyone’s allegiance. Their point about the right of secession is that adult white male Southern landowners had a right to determine for themselves (and themselves alone) what form of government, if any, they should live under, a right which any principled and honest believer in the principle of government by consent would have to concede they do have. The obvious and hideous atrocity of southern race slavery hardly justifies military invasion and bayonet-point Unionism; what it justifies is the (Garrisonian) strategy of embracing peaceful disunion, and then supporting southern slaves in their efforts to secede from the from the illegitimate government created by their quasi-secessionist slave-drivers.

If you’re not already familiar with it, I’d like to recommend J.R. Hummel’s excellent book, Emancipating Slaves, Enslaving Free Men, which ably defends the Garrisonian-disunionist position and presents a much more accurate and sophisticated libertarian analysis of the war than the stuff churned out by, for example, Tom DiLorenzo or Tom Woods.


I think the issues at hand are a bit more complex than cultural affinities. When I see Yankees like Tom DiLorenzo running around affecting a fondness for the ol’ Moonlight-and-Magnolias, I just find it ridiculous. But when I see them actively distorting history for polemical purposes, in order to whitewash rabid slave-driving statists like John C. Calhoun, Robert E. Lee, or Jefferson Davis (cf. for example 1, 2, 2, 3, etc., not to mention DiLorenzo’s periodic attempts to portray Lysander Spooner, the author of the Plan for the Abolition of Slavery and a conspirator in an abortive attempt to rescue John Brown from the gallows, as an advocate for “peaceful” gradualist emancipation, I think there is something deeper and nastier at work that needs to be exposed and confronted.

Of course, those people who, in the name of “moderation” or “compromise” or politesse, attempt to water down or dissemble about libertarian principles on hard cases, or who try to marginalize radical libertarians for simply for making uncomfortably libertarian points — a group that intersects with, but certainly does not exhaust and certainly is not limited to — the staff at Cato and Reason deserves nothing but contempt for that kind of hand-wringing opportunism. But I don’t think it’s true that that’s the only reason that the Paulitarians and the VMI/LRC crew draw the kind of flak that they draw from within libertarian circles, or even from the Cato and Reason crowds specifically.