There is a large body of Objectivist writing on the proper role of government for adults. What about towards children? Or more specifically, adults who are raising their children? Since the children are presumed to be in the sole and total care of their parents, what role would government have to protect the rights of children in an Objectivist society? What exactly are those rights?
A parent may believe they are acting in the best interest of their child. Or they may not be putting much thought into it at all...at what point would the State have the right to interfere? What principles should guide these laws and actions?
There might be clear principles of physical life-threatening harm to a child. What about threats to the mind of a child (which is his or her basic tool of survival after all.) If a parent has a pattern of action or abuse or disinterest that can objectively be shown to permanently sabotage the growing mind of a child, does the state have the right to remove the child from the parent's custody?
If anyone can provide links to existing Objectivist essays on the role of government vis-a-vis parenting, that would be much appreciated.
This question is prompted by the question and subsequent discussions circumcision for a minor .
The question asks for "links to existing Objectivist essays on the role of government vis-a-vis parenting...." For a concise, essentialized statement of applicable philosophical principles by Ayn Rand, the two best references that I know of appear in the book, Ayn Rand Answers, pp. 3-4. In a 1962 radio broadcast, Ayn Rand was asked, "Does the state have a right to interfere with parents who abuse their children?" Ayn Rand devoted most of her answer to physical abuse (including gross neglect), and explained that it's "an issue of protecting individual rights" and the fact that a child, by its nature, must depend on its parents. (Not mentioned but also applicable is the fact that bringing a child into the world imposes chosen obligations on the parents, just as entering into a contract imposes obligations on those who have chosen to accept the contract. Objectivism classifies unilateral breach of contract as an indirect form of physical force.)
The end of Ayn Rand's 1962 answer also mentions "intellectual issues" and emphasizes that the government has no proper role there. (Not mentioned but also applicable: a child has free will and can eventually reject whatever intellectual mis-guidance he receives from his parents, as long as he hasn't been physically traumatized, i.e., subjected to abusive physical force going far beyond the bounds of reasonable discipline or restraint.)
Twelve years later, in 1974 (Ford Hall Forum), Ayn Rand was asked, "How do the rights of chidren differ from those of adults, particularly given a child's need for parental support?" She answered by explaining that children and adults alike have the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, but the implementation of these rights depends on one's faculty of reason and one's level of knowledge. Ayn Rand's full answer is primarily aimed at delimiting alleged "children's rights" going beyond basic support and sustenance. By implication, the role of government is to protect the rights of children as well as adults, to the degree and in the form that rights apply to children.
If the broad philosophical principles are unsatisfying as to details, remember that there is a division of labor regarding philosophy. Philosophy sets the broad principles, but the details of their application need to be worked out by specialists in other fields such as law or philosophy of law. This is true of indirect physical force, too, as Leonard Peikoff explains in OPAR, pp. 319-320:
The task of defining the many forms of physical force, direct and indirect, including all the variants of breach of contract, belongs to the field of law.
There is also a very recent reference specifically on circumcision: Leonard Peikoff's 4/25/11 Podcast, which can be located on his website under choice. He explains very forcefully why circumcision of a child has no rational merit whatsoever and should be outlawed as utterly unjustifiable physical abuse.
answered Jun 21 '11 at 01:36
Ideas for Life ♦
As human beings, children have the absolute right to life. Implicit to that right is the right to live free of physical and/or mental assault. One of the few fully justified actions of a government is to protect members of its society from such assaults.
answered Jun 23 '11 at 21:32