These opinions warrantied for the lifetime of your brain.

Loading Table of Contents...

Monday, November 24, 2008

Correcting Revisionism Re: Ruwart

Starchild wrote:
SC) During the 2008 campaign for the Libertarian presidential  nomination, there was controversy about how to handle the topic of  teens, children and sex, with some Libertarians being fearful that an  LP candidate applying the usual libertarian stance in favor of more  personal freedom to this particular issue would harm the party's popularity. (SC
Ruwart's stance was hardly "the usual libertarian" one.  Your revisionism here can be corrected with some quotes from the LP Platform, from Ruwart's writings, and from my blog postings at the time.

The Platform said then (and now): "Government exists to protect the rights of every individual including life, liberty and property. [...] Consenting ADULTS should be free to choose their own sexual practices and personal relationships." (emphasis added)

Ruwart's stance was different from both of these propositions. As an anarchist she denies that there should be any government protection of children from sexual predation. She wrote that "Children who willingly participate in sexual acts have the right to make that decision as well, even if it's distasteful to us personally. Some children will make for choice is just as some adults do in smoking and drinking to excess; this is part of life."  And: "A libertarian society would not have laws that discriminate on the basis of age." 

BH on Apr 25: Let's not pretend that the reason Ruwart's in trouble is for opposing bright lines in state legislation for protecting minors.  She's in trouble for opposing any state legislation that isn't completely age-blind -- i.e., that doesn't make the same default assumptions about 3-year-olds as it does about 30-year-olds.  She further said -- in the context of child pornography, child sex, and children's contractual rights, mind you -- that the readiness of children to enter contracts should be determined not by the judgment of their parents, but by the risk tolerance of the strangers seeking to contract with those children: "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?" The only role she mentioned for parents is that they can decline to drive the child to her chosen workplace.  In Mary's defense, she might not know that pedophiles sometimes have their own cars...
Still, I'm confident this child pornography issue would no more affect a general-election Ruwart candidacy than the various smears on Root would affect his candidacy, or than Badnarik's driver's license affected his 2004 race.  The Ron Paul newsletter episode demonstrated that the MSM just isn't interested in knocking people off of pedestals that are only an inch high.  The scalp of a L/libertarian candidate just isn't a valuable addition to a mainstream journalist's resume.
The real concern here is that the potential attack on Ruwart is not about some aspect of her past from which she's moved on, but rather is about her current position on a fundamental question of libertarian ideology -- the role of the state in protecting unemancipated children from adults such as their own guardians.  The anarchist Ruwart clearly believes there should be no such role whatsoever. Ruwart's supporters are holding up her anarchism as the gold standard of "pure"/"plumbline" ideology, but the LP has grown and evolved beyond such a pinched and narrow vision of libertarianism.

BH on May 1It'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."

BH on May 8: It took Ruwart eight days to back off from her book's position that the rules should be age-blind, but once she endorsed a sliding rebuttable-presumption standard, there was no longer an interesting controversy here about "age of consent".  (She's still vulnerable for her mistaken claim that "desire" can be the only reason for a child to competently want to engage in sexual activity, but that's a technicality that most of her critics, and all of her supporters, will overlook.)  Even the question of whether the rules about consent should be established by legislation vs. markets doesn't make for a truly novel controversy among libertarians -- although this is surely the first time that a serious LP presidential contender had a written record on this extremely sensitive subtopic. 
No, the most intellectually interesting remainder of this controversy is the question of how children's rights are balanced against the rights of parents as guardians.  Ruwart's book clearly suggests that she sees parents having no rights whatsoever to constrain their children's choices, except by denying them e.g. transportation to the child's pornography photo shoots.  This is a topic that Ruwart and her supporters aren't touching with a ten-foot pole.  And with good reason, because it leads directly to an unanswered question I asked of Ruwart ten days ago: "Do you agree with Rothbard that it should not be a crime for parents to starve their children, or do you hold that the legal system should require a positive obligation of parents not to starve their children?"