Saturday, June 04, 2005

Libertarians for Infanticide!

How could a libertarian justify holding passive infanticide (e.g. leaving an infant exposed to the elements) to be illegal or even immoral? They hold that they have no duty to care for the poor or disabled, so how can they demand that a mother care for her child? If the poor don't have a positive right to be provided for at cost to others, then presumably neither do children. Your mother would have been within her rights to walk away and leave you to fend for yourself when you were still a baby. It's her choice -- you can't demand she sacrifice her own interests for the sake of others, whether the cripple in the emergency room or her baby down the hall in the neo-natal unit. That's what libertarians are committed to saying. Vote Libertarian, and support parental neglect!

18 comments:

  1. (Admittedly, some libertarians might hold that selfishness is immoral. But even those will fall victim to the legal point: a central claim of libertarianism is that tax-funded healthcare and other welfare is wrong, so they must also hold that the state has no business charging negligent parents with infanticide. For them it is, at best, a question of private morality.)

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  2. Many would surely say that it was wrong to force parents to look after their children, even though it may be regrettable for the child to be exposed. I think they would possibly say that people would be more likely to look after their children if they weren't compelled to do so by law - or at least that people would do it anyway. An interesting kind of argument to say the least.

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  3. Surely unwilling parents have a moral duty to arrange for others to care for the child if they are not willing to do so themselves. They could, for example, give it up for adoption. Surely it is reprehensible - and appropriately punishable - to freeze or starve their child to death.

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  4. I think it comes down to the flipside to power: responsibility. People should only have power over others if their primary motive is to take responsibility for these "others" welfare. An irresponsible use of power is immoral and therefore ought to be illegal.
    For it not to be illegal means the state is not taking responsibility for its charge, and so too should be removed from power.

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  5. sorry for 2 posts... to relate what I said above to Libertarianism, they believe that there should be no power in the state over the individual. Thus the state no longer exists as a power, and therefore there is no "player" who takes responsibility for making certain that the individual is lawful.
    In fact laws would have no punishments.

    So our irresponsible parent, whilst being immoral, is not punished. So yes -only private morality applies to them.

    Are libertarians similar to anarchists in this regard to power structures? Surely an anarchist would wish for a different kind of social stucture for dealing with these issues (if not a nation state), that a libertarian doesnt bother with.

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  6. Most libertarians allow for a "minimal state" with police and law courts etc. to settle disputes and enforce property rights and such. They'd still hold that active homicide should be illegal and punishable by the state. It's the more passive varieties that they have trouble with, and which this post is concerned with.

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  7. I don't really distinguish between some kinds of infanticide and some kinds of abortion anyway, so why should I be embarassed to admit supporting infanticide?

    Cheers,
    -MP

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  8. Yeah, me too, actually. But the libertarian seems committed to tolerating all forms of parental neglect. Surely you'd want to say that unnecessary infanticide (i.e. when adoption is an available option) is immoral. And even if one doubts whether infants are truly persons, there's no denying that older children are.

    Are you really willing to permit parents to neglect their children till they starve to death?

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  9. I think the libertarian would say: the parents won't do it for the most part anyway.

    You know, monkeys don't have laws against infanticide. Neither are there laws against it in the state of nature. That isn't to say that it didn't happen. It probably did, just as it does today. However, most parents wouldn't dream of doing such a thing - and here's an empirical claim - there arent many parents that have the means to look after their children, yet refuse to do it. Libertarians aren't going to give benefits to parents that can't look after their children. What sense would there be, disallowing parents to let their children die, when they had no choice anyway? The real question is, are you willing to permit the neglect by society upon *anyone*?

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  10. That's an interesting defence, but I don't think it will work. Empirical claims just aren't strong enough. It's not that libertarians are making a utilitarian argument that "there's not much point to such laws anyway, they wouldn't achieve much." Rather, the libertarian is committed to the more principled, a priori, position that parental neglect is permissible.

    The libertarian must say that even if parental neglect was widespread, but could be easily punished and prevented through state intervention, still it would be illegitimate for the state to intervene. Passive infanticide is, as a matter of principle, just fine.

    This is not a plausible position.

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  11. Yeah, I think thats exactly what they would say! I don't like it either... but they might not see the fact that they have to claim that as a criticism but rather as a fair conclusion of their theory :P

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  12. I think most libiterians (infact any aterians) are usually based on some sort of utilitarianism at their root. Ie they will try to say by rules work because they achieve the best outcome.
    A libiterian could also argue that there is some sort of age of consent thing going on here (although I havent talked to any hard core libiterians lately)

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  13. Personally I support any killing. Be it whole sale slaugter or just smothering your grandparents in their sleep. My support of Infancide is mearly a byproduct of my support for specicide! Besides childeren suck, one tried to draw me a picture of me one time, to immortalize how great I am, but then when I looked at it he had my nose all wrong, so I sent him to korea to work in a shoe factory the rest of his short life, that will teach the little bastard!

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  14. Libertarians are like utilitarians in that they are maximisers.

    If parental neglect really really maximised liberty, I might go for it.

    However, I can't see it impacting on anyone much other than the child and the parent, not to mention the mathematical complexities of calculating deaths and future earnings ... I mean future libertarings.

    Cheers,
    -MP

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  15. Libertarians most certainly are not maximizers. They're deontologists, and think it's wrong to tax people even if redistribution would give other people more opportunities.

    If you believe in maximizing freedom, that's cool.* But you're not a "libertarian" in the generally accepted sense of the word. See my post on self-ownership.

    * = though possibly incoherent, depending on how you define freedom. Suppose we take away traffic laws, but impose strict restrictions on speech. How are you supposed to weigh these benefits and costs to "freedom"? It seems unlikely that various freedoms can be quantified except in relation to how they impact upon our well-being, and then you're back at utilitarianism. (But this is getting a bit off topic. If you care to reply, feel free to do so on your own blog and leave a link here.)

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  16. See this post for a confused discussion of libertarianism according to me.

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  17. I've never heard of a Libertarian supporting passive infancide. The act of creating a living being inherantly brings along responsibilities. This is the same as signing a contract. It was a voluntary act that produced the child.

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  18. What a sensational claim. I can't help but feel that it's a hollow one, though.

    "They hold that they have no duty to care for the poor or disabled"
    - Not necessarily so, they hold that their persuit of their own self-interest is likely to be in the best interests of society in general. True or not, it's nevertheless a different proposition than you provide, and should be addressed as such.

    "If the poor don't have a positive right to be provided for at cost to others, then presumably neither do children."
    - I think the libertarian rejoinder would be that in having the baby, they consented to the obligation of providing for the baby.

    I suppose you could argue that any moral logic that permits abortion pre-term might permit post-term abortion in the same way, before the child reaches majority; I don't expect any libertarians to argue that, though, nor would I, it's pretty repugnant.

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