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Thursday, May 1, 2008

Ruwart's Libertarian Journey

It's nice to see that Ruwart has backed away somewhat from her book's statement that "A libertarian society would not have laws that discriminate on the basis of age."  Apparently, what she meant to say was that a libertarian society would not have laws that draw bright lines regarding age, but that it's OK to have legally-binding court precedents -- and perhaps even laws -- that make the burden of proof a function of age.  She now says:
"Courts are likely to consider that pre-pubescent children had been coerced, since desire would be absent. The burden of proof would be on the pornography producer or older sex partner to show that coercion, e.g. rape, had not occurred. With older teens, the burden of proof would likely be to show that coercion had occurred."
So it seems she's answered my question #5 to her:  "Should there be no binding laws/rules that consider age to be any kind of rebuttable factor in sexual consent, or are you only opposed to "bright-line" age discrimination that creates crimes because of rigid calendar calculations?"   It turns out that she does, after all, think there should be laws/rules that consider age to be a rebuttable factor in sexual consent.
It's nice to see our candidates grappling with political theory and growing in their libertarian journey.  Of course, if she's against all bright lines regarding age, one wonders if she thinks children should be allowed to vote or hold elective office.  And Justin Grover's question is an excellent one: is there anything a parent or guardian can do to forestall an attempt by a pimp/pornographer to persuade the child, or does it violate somebody's rights if the pimp/pornographer is prevented from making his case?
Another question her press release didn't address is my #3: "In your ideal anarcholibertarian legal system, who would prosecute parents/guardians for aggression against their children?"  She used the verb "prosecute" twice, but as an anarchist she wants to fire all the government's prosecutors.  Perhaps she believes that the Red Cross and the local Baptist church and the Gotti Defense Agency would be (amicably?) competing to homestead the right to prosecute parents that these groups considered aggressors. (You could sell tickets to that one!)  All I see in her book about her preferred enforcement mechanism is the following.
In the "short answer" immediately after talking about "the incentives for parents to use children against their will", the only limit she identified to any child's rights is this: "In practice, children's rights are limited by their inability to take responsibility for their actions. For example, a child who wishes to work, but can't convince his or her parents to provide the necessary transportation, will be unable to exercise that right."  One wonders what recourse Ruwart would give to a parent if a pimp for 12-year-old prostitutes offered a ride-sharing service.  The very next "tough question" indeed asks generally "Would parents decide?"  The answer: "In practice, you would decide if a child is old enough to enter into a contract with you. Is the child willing and able to provide the contracted service to you?  If so, what kind of recourse would you expect from the courts if the child if the child refuses to provide the contracted service.  The age of majority for marriage, work, etc. is most often established by custom of the society and will vary with the individual's circumstances rather than being dictated by law."
So if you're a parent with a 12-year-old, you better hope you are more persuasive than the local pimps and pornographers and pedophiles -- or that none of them have cars.  If Ruwart does in fact say that parents and guardians have more legal standing than the neighborhood pimps and pornographers to guide their 12-year-old's choice about whether to engage in the sex trade, then I'd love for any of her supporters to quote her saying so.