Rand Paul’s Comment About Parents ‘Owning’ Children Was Not Random
I hang around libertarians more often than you might guess. Some of them are even nice! But they’re rare. Mostly I hang around libertarians to better understand how political intuition can go so far off the rails for some things.
Take Rand Paul on vaccines. You all probably heard (and couldn’t believe it) when he said the state doesn’t own the children, the parents own the children. Just in case you were wondering, this wasn’t some out-of-the-blue thing. The idea behind Paul’s utterance goes all the way back to the King of Asshole Libertarians himself, Murray Rothbard. In a chapter of his book The Ethics of Liberty Rothbard makes his case:
Even from birth, the parental ownership is not absolute but of a “trustee” or guardianship kind. In short, every baby as soon as it is born and is therefore no longer contained within his mother’s body possesses the right of self-ownership by virtue of being a separate entity and a potential adult. It must therefore be illegal and a violation of the child’s rights for a parent to aggress against his person by mutilating, torturing, murdering him, etc. On the other hand, the very concept of “rights” is a “negative” one, demarcating the areas of a person’s action that no man may properly interfere with. No man can therefore have a “right” to compel someone to do a positive act, for in that case the compulsion violates the right of person or property of the individual being coerced. Thus, we may say that a man has a right to his property (i.e., a right not to have his property invaded), but we cannot say that anyone has a “right” to a “living wage,” for that would mean that someone would be coerced into providing him with such a wage, and that would violate the property rights of the people being coerced. As a corollary this means that, in the free society, no man may be saddled with the legal obligation to do anything for another, since that would invade the former’s rights; the only legal obligation one man has to another is to respect the other man’s rights.
Applying our theory to parents and children, this means that a parent does not have the right to aggress against his children, but also that the parent should not have a legal obligation to feed, clothe, or educate his children, since such obligations would entail positive acts coerced upon the parent and depriving the parent of his rights. The parent therefore may not murder or mutilate his child, and the law properly outlaws a parent from doing so. But the parent should have the legal right not to feed the child, i.e., to allow it to die. The law, therefore, may not properly compel the parent to feed a child or to keep it alive. (Again, whether or not a parent has a moral rather than a legally enforceable obligation to keep his child alive is a completely separate question.) This rule allows us to solve such vexing questions as: should a parent have the right to allow a deformed baby to die (e.g., by not feeding it)? The answer is of course yes, following a fortiori from the larger right to allow any baby, whether deformed or not, to die. (Though, as we shall see below, in a libertarian society the existence of a free baby market will bring such “neglect” down to a minimum.)
The full excerpt (cached) was published on the Ludwig von Mises Institute’s blog Mises Daily. They also publish, annually, a post called “In Defense of Scrooge.” Because membership to the Libertarian Club comes with a free subscription to Troll Techniques Quarterly, I guess.
I think this is also a good time to point out that Rand Paul is a member of the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons, a group in the category of Fringe Wingnut Advocacy Organizations With Names That Sound Like Aliens Made Them Up. This is the selfsame group that denies the HIV-AIDS connection (in its very own journal, Vol. 12 No. 4 2007!), speculating on Obama’s possible use of Neuro-Linguistic Programming (cached), and, yes, scaremongering about thimerosal in vaccines (cached)!