Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Libertarianism + child protection FAIL

I don't often agree with Letters from a Tory, but he managed today to craft a completely comprehensive demolition of libertarianism. He did this by the brilliantly subtle maneuver of writing a post asking libertartarians to explain how their philosophy could help to protect vulnerable children.

Always willing to rise to a challenge, libertarians from all corners of the internet converged to give their answers. In no particular order (and remember that these are their ideas about how to protect children) here are their answers. The bits in bold are my summaries, the bits in brackets are actual, genuine quotes :

Child abuse is the welfare state's fault, stop paying benefits to parents (Part of the problem was that the mother’s fecklessness was rewarded by the state...I suspect far too many social workers believe their “clients” - for want of a better word - are victims of a lack of state resources...Naturally, this ignores the welfare state that funds feral irresponsible lifestyles in the first place!

Give charities, instead of the state, the power to investigate cases of child abuse and ban people from having children, require licenses for having children as for having pets (In the Baby P case and in many others it seems that charities can have a lot more power than government. For example, the RSPCA has the right to remove neglected/abused animals from their owners and to ban them from keeping animals...It always struck me as funny that you needed a license to have a dog but anyone could have a kid)

Social services would do a better job if they were less well funded and if there were fewer people involved, all of whom had a sense of personal responsibility (Do I want bigger and better funded social services? No I don’t. I’m fairly certain a smaller number of people who all have a sense of personal responsibility, who take ownership of issues they come across and didn’t rest until they were resolved one way or another, and possess the ability to get away from the bureaucratic, box-ticking, buck-passing mentality of the civil service could do a significantly better job in all walks of life, never mind social services.)

Cut taxes (I would argue that not only does the state do most jobs badly (children in care for example), but the constant and increasing demands it puts on people’s resources (via taxes) mean that people will not have enough time/money/energy/etc left, to volunteer or work or contribute on those problems via charities or associations.)

Extend abortion and adoption to stop people who are 'of low intelligence' from bringing up children (I do not vilify all poor people or single parents, as that would be unfair in the extreme. It is only really those who are of very low intelligence. But they are the people least likely to exercise restraint, so what to do? I think this is an indicator of why abortion may, regrettably, need to be legal, & adoption should be extended. [the same poster goes on to argue that there should be 'more humanity and less bureaucracy' - DP]) UPDATE: see 'asquith's' response in the comments - apparently he's not a libertarian.

Child protection should be the job of the police, not social services (Killing children is against the law. Libertarians believe in upholding the rule of law. Preventing crime is the role of the Police, not State social services.)

In an anarchist, family law society, friends and neighbours would intervene (I’m not sure I can see how in an anarchist, private law type society, it could be any worse than relying on the economically disincentivised civil servants to whom we contract out our social and neighbourly awareness “duties”.)

Seven very different policies, all united by their total certainty and total ignorance, ranging from the unworkable and utopian to the extremely nasty. It's not the arguments against libertarianism that are most devastating for its adherents, it's their own attempts to apply their beliefs to the real world.


At 9:55 am , Anonymous Tom said...

"ban people from having children, require licenses for having children as for having pets"

"Extend abortion and adoption to stop people who are 'of low intelligence' from bringing up children"

I don't claim to be a libertarian, but I'm struggling to see what's libertarian about either of these proposals, which are infinitely more authoritarian than anything ZaNuLieBore has ever come up with. Is it possible that these people are not only stupid and wrong in absolute terms, but don't even believe in libertarianism at all?

At 10:07 am , Blogger Letters From A Tory said...

Not sure you've fairly characterised some of their viewpoints, although this is made more complicated by the fact that libertarians don't always agree with each other!

At 5:03 pm , Blogger asquith said...

I wrote the "of low intelligence" comment, & am a vocal critic of libertarianism, as a visit to my blog will surely confirm.

I live on an estate & am a council tenant, so I wouldn't dream of vilifying poor people, single mothers or welfare beneficiaries en masse. Most of them do an amazingly good job.

But some don't. A small minority, & you can talk all you like about extending the "help" available, but I question what it will really do.

If mothers think they cannot cope they should be allowed to have abortions, as I do not glibly give adoption as a panacea due to awareness that it isn't easy.

I also implicitly argued against cutting benefits: many who receive them want to get off & should be helped. I am a bitter enemy of the welfare reforms unveiled by the government of which you are generally a supporter.

I like a lot of what you say, but you've messed this one up.

At 5:10 pm , Blogger asquith said...

My observations about "humanity" & "bureaucracy" stem from a feeling that, in child protection & other matters (I cited immigration), it should surely be easy to see what should & shouldn't be done.

Which immigrants we admit (that includes a lot of asylum seekers whom New Labour have deported), which we don't.

Whether or not a child is at risk & whether the enormously important decision to take him into care should be made.

It is a bit of a trite, general phrase. But it stems from my frustration at unwieldy bureaucracies, which exist not only in the government but also in large, private-sector corporations which are dominated by mindless protocol & deference to head office in defiance of the real situation & the needs of the individual.

At 6:48 pm , Blogger donpaskini said...

Hi asquith,

Fair enough - I've amended the post to draw attention to your comments. I agree with what you've written here, though I still don't agree with what you wrote on the letters from a tory blog!

At 7:54 pm , Blogger asquith said...

Fair enough. You are doing a good job in berating libertarians as far as I'm concerned :)

My comment may come across badly but what I mean is that most poor people are fine, I should know as I'm poor myself (& was on JSA for a fair while) but some seem beyond the reach of anything.

It is born out of frustration at seeing people have children whom they surely knew in advance they couldn't provide for in any reasonable sense. I didn't & wouldn't say they should be forcibly stopped, & obviously the culture of low horizons traps some.

But I do think there are people of low intelligence who are left floundering in the modern world. 50 years ago they could have got an unskilled job & a council house, but what now?

We can't really dodge the idea. I'm talking about people of very severe mental limitations, an IQ below 80-85 (ie. only a small minority of the poor). I believe I said in the original post that I didn't really know what to do as cutting benefits would do harm, yet harm is done with things as they are...

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