A funny thread from years ago, which riled up the gadflies at a now-defunct site: Kinsella Wants To License Breeding; also spawned a thread on anti-state.com. The posts that sparked this. N.B.: of course I was not serious, but was making a point about children’s rights and parental responsibility (both moral and legal); one I elaborated on later in How We Come To Own Ourselves.
Posted by Stephan Kinsella on September 29, 2004 01:09 PM
Court: Deadbeat Dad Can Have More Kids — The Ohio Supreme Court on Wednesday overturned a judge’s order that a man avoid having more children while on probation for failing to pay child support.
The court ruled 5-2 in favor of Sean Talty, saying his sentence was too broad because it did not include a method for lifting the ban if Talty caught up with his child-support payments.
Talty, 32, has seven children by five women. He was required to make “reasonable” efforts to avoid conception during his five-year probation after being convicted of not supporting three of the children.
Well it may not be the predominant libertarian view, but if I had to side here, I’d go with the lower court. This guy should be banned from having children. I’m sure this’ll give the chattering punks at Not Reason and libertines something else to chatter about. I am tempted to favor banning anyone without a job from having kids, but I guess that’s over the line.
I also differ from most libertarians in believing that by creating a child you incur enforceable obligations to the child, such as child support, etc. Libertarianism does not oppose “positive rights”; it simply says they have to be voluntarily incurred. One way to do this is by contract. Another is by trespassing against someone’s property: by doing this you incur liabilities, obligations toward that person. If you pass by a drowning man in a lake you have no enforceable (legal) obligation to try to rescue him, nor should you; but if you push someone in a lake you have a positive obligation to try to rescue them. If you don’t you could be liable for homicide. Likewise, if your voluntary actions bring into being a baby with natural needs for shelter, food, care, it’s 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 he will die. By creating this situation you incur an obligation to provide for those needs.
To hell with hedonistic, libertine, atomistic, non-reality-based libertarianism if it robotically monotones that the child has no rights.
Re: License to Breed?
Posted by Jesse Ogden at September 29, 2004 03:26 PM
Stephan, how exactly do you justify a court order to bar someone from breeding? This has nothing to do with “the chattering punks at Not Reason and libertines something else to chatter about.” Am I a libertine for opposing your idea that the courts can bar someone from breeding?
The idea is nothing new, since it’s akin to the ideas presented by the eugenics movement. The eugenics movement in the United States did not favor any kind of mass cleansing or murdering of “inferior” people, but merely believe that certain kinds of people be sterilized and banned from reproduction, so it should not be confused with the eugenics practiced by the Nazi government.
In the early 20th century, the sterilization of “imbeciles” was an accepted practice, upheld by the Supreme Court in a 1927 Supreme Court case (that Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. presided over): Buck vs. Bell. The court case is most remembered for Holmes’s infamous phrase that “Three generations of imbeciles are enough.”
Stephan, with all due respect, when you empower the courts to decide if someone is or is not fit to breed, you not only open the doors for the abuse of such rulings, but you also empower the government to have control over someone’s liberty. I don’t care if it were a temporary measure, you cannot let the courts have that power.
I know that a lot of us will jokingly say “Oh, there should be a law that bans that person from breeding” (like the Libertarian Jackass jokingly did), but your comments hardly seem to indicate that this is any joke.
Stephan, I strongly suggest you reconsider your view on the matter.
Posted by Stephan Kinsella on September 29, 2004 03:42 PM
Jesse–well, if you think about it, three generations of imbeciles are enough, aren’t they? Just kidding. I’m just making a general point, and of course realize how flawed the state’s courts are. The general point is that you can incur a positive moral and legal obligation to a child by procreative actions, and that I side with the child, whom I view as the victim, rather than deadbeat parents.
I will say that although you are right that state courts are likely to abuse their power over deadbeat dads, there’s an easy way to avoid being ensnared in that net. Namely, don’t be a deadbeat dad. Just because it’s unwise to empower state courts to decide such matters does not mean the deadbeat dad deserves sympathy. The state is not the only malfeasor on the block.At least I’m resisting the temptation to favor criminalizing fornication among the unemployed.
BTW I used to oppose my home state’s regime of forced heirship, whereby you must leave part of your estate to your children; you cannot disinherit them except for a few enumerated reasons (some funny or antequated, such as (6) The child, being a minor, has married without the consent of the parent. (8) The child, after attaining the age of majority and knowing how to contact the parent, has failed to communicate with the parent without just cause for a period of two years, unless the child was on active duty in any of the military forces of the United States at the time). The Louisiana Constitution was amended a few years back to provide that forced heirship only lasts till the kid is 23 years old, but still, the idea behind it is that the parent has a positive obligation to care for the child he brings into the world. Louisiana also has the covenant marriage which bugs libertines and liberals.
CODA: a reader writes:
Stephan, I am with you in your anger. If this guy has a right to dump his children off on the welfare system, then I should have a right as a taxpayer to make him stop producing more of them. It’s no different than the EPA stopping polluters.
PS, Of course, this view only makes sense if you believe he has a right to produce children to be raised at taxpayer expense, which I contend he certainly should not. Ahem.
Re: License to Breed
Posted by Casey Khan on September 29, 2004 02:55 PM
I would have to object with any assertion that the state should ban anyone from having children. While I would argue that fathers do have an absolute moral obligation to care for their children, I would not seek the vicissitudes of some “lower court” of the state to enforce it.
Knowing how creative the state is in using its tools of tyranny, the state will find ways to ban the reproductive efforts of more than just deadbeat dads. And as far as enforcement of such a ban is concerned, I don’t want to think about what kind of vile instruments and tactics the state would have in store.
Posted by Jesse Ogden at September 29, 2004 03:51 PM
Ok Stephan, but that’s not what I was arguing about. I agree with you on the point about someone having an obligation to their child, I was arguing against your point that the courts could actually have the right to take away someone’s liberty when nothing they’ve done merits that.
Also, you say “I will say that although you are right that state courts are likely to abuse their power over deadbeat dads, there’s an easy way to avoid being ensnared in that net. Namely, don’t be a deadbeat dad. Just because it’s unwise to empower state courts to decide such matters does not mean the deadbeat dad deserves sympathy. The state is not the only malfeasor on the block.”
I have a problem with that too. You’re not addressing the point that the courts can and will abuse their position. All you’re saying is that “don’t be a deadbeat dad and it won’t happen to you”, which is a lot like saying “if you’re not guilty, then you don’t have anything to worry about.” I’m not providing any sympathy for the deadbeat dad, rather I’m fighting against what I see as the worst threat? What’s a worse threat Stephan, a deadbeat dad who will have a lot of trouble forcing you to do something, or the empowered courts who suddenly have decided that they have the right to deprive you of liberty on a flimsy pretext. They’re not equal threats to liberty, and that’s why I resented your position. On the premise that these are not good individuals, you saw no problem with empowering courts to deprive someone of their liberty.
Posted by Chris Dominguez at September 29, 2004 05:23 PM
The forgotten parties in this whole mess are the mothers, specifically #3, #4, and #5, who put such a low value on their virtue, seeing as how they had no problem in lying down for a man who was already a two-time loser. Ever heard of waiting for marriage? The corollary to “Don’t be a deadbeat Dad” might be “Don’t be foolish, ladies.” And what about the respective families? Those are the people who should pick up the slack–not the taxpayer–insofar as their wayward fornicating children are unable to. And keep the State out. If this idiot gets in deep enough debt I suppose he’ll eventually end up in jail, thereby putting a stop to his fruitfulness.