Gordon’s comments have been useful. To address his first blog, I elaborated the theory. In that reply, I suggested that parents control their children, and I referred to that as a “form of ownership”. I did not say that they own them or homestead them, a claim that Gordon rejects. I thought that the words “form of” allowed latitude for describing the reality, but that phrase is not essential or critical to the argument. I was thinking along the financial lines of ownership conferring control, so that if there is control, there is some sort of ownership going on. I still think this, but surely that control is not total. A child has a degree of freedom, but it co-exists with parental control over many aspects of a child’s behavior. The critical fact is the existence of this control, not the term “own” or “ownership”. In the specific case being discussed, it’s control over food. A child too young to fend for itself or find alternative food supplies depends on its parents. The parental control is there because the child belongs to the parents in the food department. This is surely true of infants. The child belongs to itself in the crying and smiling departments.
Gordon doesn’t argue against my arguments, not that he says he accepts them either. He’s non-committal. Instead, he raises a question that I in no way addressed or intended to address. His question is this: “But what are the legal obligations of parents?” It is a good question; but my not addressing it with a theory covering all possible instances of parental obligation and their sources doesn’t undermine my argument, because I only set out to show that parents had the legal obligation (under libertarian law) not to murder their children by means of starvation.
Does Gordon think that parents do not violate the non-aggression principle by letting a baby die of starvation, as Rothbard thought? Rothbard’s position is that the parents have no right to aggress against their children, but simultaneously are not legally obligated to feed them. This leads him to an untenable conclusion, that allowing a baby to die is not an aggression: “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.”
Rothbard’s saying that it is not violating non-aggression to allow a baby to die because parents are not obligated to feed the baby. I am saying that, sure as shooting, an aggression has occurred, as this intentional murder is. A death by not feeding is no accident, and someone must be responsible. It’s the parents. The parents are obligated by the condition of dependency that they have themselves generated as parents. They have created the situation in which if they allow the baby to die, they’ve committed murder.
No person under libertarian law has a right to aggress, which means all persons, parents included, have an obligation not to murder anyone, and this includes babies under their care.
Gordon agrees in part, writing “Certainly, if you have voluntarily taken up a position that carries with it obligations, you have those obligations.”
He then raises something of a straw man “against Rozeff” by raising a general question. “But what are the legal obligations of parents?” He notes “That question isn’t answered just by saying that people have voluntarily become parents.” Agreed, but I did not “just” say that. I did provide arguments. Gordon doesn’t address them because he’s interested in something else, which is how to determine legal obligations of parents generally. I’m pointing the way in the case of murder. Questions of parental obligation under libertarian law are indeed not answered by simply referring to the status of people as parents or not. One must connect the parental status, the relations of parents to their children, to acts of aggression. Rothbard starts out doing this. He tells us “Even from birth, the parental ownership is not absolute but of a ‘trustee’ or guardianship kind.” He deduces “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.” Likewise, it’s aggression to let a child die. There can be no right of parents to allow a child to die by not feeding it or by placing it in a trash can or by letting it freeze to death. This means that doing any of these things violates the child’s rights.
David Gordon is a philosopher. One does not expect to win an argument with a philosopher. They can unsettle any question that one might consider reasonably or sensibly settled by all sorts of means. Consider these two sentences of his: “Can you hold that they [parents] do have positive obligations and also hold that all positive obligations to others are voluntarily undertaken? My claim was that Rozeff has not shown this.”
Fine, I didn’t show it, but I didn’t need to show it, and I didn’t set out to show it. If I find that parents in this particular case have a positive obligation not to murder their children (which hardly seems controversial except to Rothbard and perhaps Gordon), because of their voluntary position that establishes them as the child’s parents, am I for some reason obligated to show that all positive obligations are likewise the result of voluntary activities? It may be true or not true, but one does not have to show the truth or falsity of a general case in order to show the truth or falsity of a specific case. I do not need to show that every U.S. Army fort is surrounded by barriers in order to show that Fort Bragg is surrounded by 25 miles of 8-foot high barbed wire fencing.4:45 pm on January 15, 2019 Email Michael S. Rozeff