Credit where credit’s due

In my recent post on Rothbard’s position on children’s rights, I lodged a pretty broad complaint against paleolibertarian writing on the family, paternal authority over children, and parental violence against children. In particular I mentioned the paleo crew’s embrace of conservative ideas about child-rearing, their fevered praise for parental rights over their children (which is really nothing more than the states’ rights argument writ small), and their occasional supportive shout-outs to conservative child-beating advocacy. But here’s a couple of cointervailing points of light, in the interest of fairness.

First, I had some fairly harsh things to say about Hans-Hermann Hoppe’s writing on the so-called traditional family, and the internal layers and ranks of authority within it. Given that this was in the context of a discussion on the Rothbardian view on children’s rights, David K. was right to point out that the discussion needs a bit of complication — because Hoppe has actually defended the plumbline Rothbardian view on children’s rights to run away:

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. (A Theory of Socialism and Capitalism, ch. 2, fn. 9)

… which is worth noting in Hoppe’s favor. Hoppe’s problem — and it is a serious problem, worthy of exactly the sort of criticism I’ve directed against it and more — is not with his view on parental coercion but rather his views on parental authority — apparently to be defended by means bullheaded cause-I-say-so unilateralism, deliberate cruelty, withholding, browbeating, guilt-tripping, bullying, and so on, rather than by resort to physical violence or legal coercion. Which is an advance, no doubt, over efforts to enforce it by physical violence or legal coercion. But still not much in the way of civilization, and certainly not (as Hoppe would have it) a bulwark for resistance to governmentalism. However, it is worth noting that while Hoppe’s writing on parental authority is some of the worst that contemporary libertarianism has to offer, it is in an important respect different from someone like, say, Karen De Coster, who writes openly in favor of beating children in the name of discipline. (I’d offer a good link, but her recent post on the topic seems to have gotten shredded by her blog software.)

Secondly, in a far more positive note, I’d like to take notice of a fine post Ryan McMacken put up recently at the LewRockwell.com blog, against institutionalized schooling. Opposition to creeping authoritarianism in government schooling isn’t actually that exceptional — it’s one of the things that even fairly conservative homeschoolers tend to get right — but what I really appreciate here is where he mentions, inter alia:

It turns out that children are rational beings who should not be coerced and hounded every second of their waking lives. Indeed, children have an innate sense of the importance of learning and the importance of justice. Unfortunately, most adults beat these impulses out of children as soon as they can. Besides, a free spirited individualist of a child is harder to control, so it’s all the better that we ship them off to school where they can be taught to obey, and where they can be taught that learning is an onerous task that is to be completed when demanded by some unbearable schoolmarm.

… Incidentally, if you ever want to see me fly off the handle, just start in about how children don’t pay their elders enough respect or that kids these days are more rotten than during the good ‘ol days. I’m sure you’ll see that vein on the side of my forehead really get going. In my experience, most adults get all the respect they deserve: virtually none at all.

— Ryan McMacken, LewRockwell.com Blog (2009-06-14): The evils of preschooling

So, like I said: there’s a lot of awful stuff coming from paleos and more conventional conservatarians about parenting and children’s rights. But, hey, credit where credit’s due.

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1 reply to Credit where credit’s due Use a feed to Follow replies to this article · TrackBack URI

  1. Discussed at bleedingheartlibertarians.com

    The Distinctiveness of Left-Libertarianism | Bleeding Heart Libertarians:

    […] of respecting children’s rights to control their own bodies and possessions—rejecting both attempts to treat children as their parents’ property and paternalistic state action that interfer…—and emphasize the degree to which the state is not the protector of children but is responsible […]

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