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Minors: Rights And Children

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Why is it not merely a right to "help with asking for help"? Why does it inherently expand to include a "right to material support"?

Are you saying that the police will send out the word there there is an orphan, but that the orphan must provide his own lodging, food, clothing, etc. etc? (or that the staff of the police will fund it out of their own pockets or that the police will have a hotline to a private charity to provide these things?)

There only exists a right to material support from the parents until the child is able to function as an adult.
What about the material support the police provide him? Because it is coming from the government, it is by definition coming by right and the last time I checked, those funds are not those of the parents.

If you fail to donate to the government, then "assets other than yours" will be used to pay the police that come to your house when there is a break-in. Does this mean that you are "asserting a right to assets other than yours"? No, it means that you're benefiting from assets volunteered by others; it does not mean you have a right to them.

But it does, in a roundabout fashion. You have a right to be free from the initiation of force. The police come to your house because they are enforcing this right.

If the child has the right to support from the parents and only from the parents, then the police may enforce this right against the parents and only against the parents. To use their own funds to support the child would be to assert a different right; one which does not exist.

Why is an infant's right to ask for help not a right the government should protect?

The infant has rights vis a vis the parents and ONLY from the parents. The infant does NOT have the “right” to ask for help from anyone else. Since an infant is not capable of “asking for help” in the sense you put it by itself, this “right” of yours imposes obligations on other people (that is, in this case, people OTHER than the parents).

But the child can impose NO obligations on anyone other than the parents, by the definition of rights themselves.

It can cry out, and if anyone notices and chooses to help, they can help. A policeman could choose to house the infant in his own house and on his own dime. A charity could choose to take in the infant. But the infant cannot impose obligations (that is, rightful claims) on anyone besides its parents for material support.

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To all:

My position still remains that care for the infant is the scrupulous responsibility of the parent(s) who brought the infant into existence. My position still rests on the nature of choice and chosen obligations, in which the parent(s) become gaurdians of the child's rights (man's rights) and in so doing, have chosen to either care for the child, or find someone willing to care for the child. This can include instances of it being proper for the state to become involved in cases of abandonment or neglect.

I acknowledge that some have argued against this position, but I have not seen argumentation that has compelled me to abandon that position. I think the primary reason for disagreement by those who may still oppose my position is the difference in how we interpret choice and responsibility.

Those using this standard have to concede that in a society which sanctions abortion the Mother is ultimately the only party involved in willfully bringing an infant into existence. It is her choice alone not to have an abortion. It is this choice (not intercourse itself) which seems to most clearly express the will to become a parent and most directly relates to an acceptance of parental obligation.

Edited by Poor Richard

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Those using this standard have to concede that in a society which sanctions abortion the Mother is ultimately the only party involved in willfully bringing an infant into existence.

That is unless the woman and the man have a contractual agreement.

It is her choice alone not to have an abortion.

It IS her choice alone, unless she has entered a contractual agreement.

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AisA,

I'd just like to add that although I am frustrated that you don't seem to be understanding me, I very much respect you as a person and don't mean anything here to be taken as offensive and I apologize if this has gotten out of hand. By explicit statement, we both want the same results here! :thumbsup:

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(RationalCop @ Nov 24 2005, 07:34 PM) *

This is quite simple. Go around murdering or assaulting people and see how long others will respect your rights. Go around stealing from others and see how long others will respect your rights. To vary a phrase, you can't have (take) the other guys cake and expect him not to take yours.

But is that a sufficient reason to respect the rights of others?

Living my life to the fullest requires I observe the right of other men to be free from initiated force. I can't flourish if I as a principle prefer the lesser gains from force to the greater gains from allowing other men's free action.

OTOH if the threat of retialiatory force were the basis for respecting the rights of others, then I would be justified in not respecting others in cases in which I could overpower or otherwise escape the threat of retaliatory force.

One shouldn't necessarily always observe the rights of others if the reason to observe rights doesn't always apply. If sometimes there is no repercussion from force, then one would justified in weighing whether or not to violate another's rights in those instances.

Would the argument be then that this threat of force does always apply, or that rights are justified only to the extent to which it is in our objective best interest to observe this right? Or something else?

I had a similar dilemma about Rational Selfishness a couple of weeks ago. However, it was pointed out to me that:

It is never rational to violate another person's rights for the sole reason that you could get away with it. If you steal someone's car for example, you have violated that person's right to property - therefore it is irrational to claim your OWN right to property, because A is A. Therefore, with rights as concepts, Rational Selfishness demands that you respect the rights of others.

Nick

Edited by NickMunro

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RationalCop, one point of disagreement between us is the notion that all of the parties in this situation -- the child, the parents, other adults -- have identical rights.

The "initiation of force" against the child's wishes is justified by the fact that the parents are responsible for insuring that the best rational interests of the child are sought while the child is incapable of making that decision for itself. That represents a proper guardianship of the child's rights. It is not their right to do that, it is their DUTY to do that because they are responsible for the child.
I agree the parents have a moral responsibility (a duty) to control the child's activities, but surely this also gives them the right to do so. It would make no sense to assign a legally enforceable duty to someone and then declare that they do not have a right to discharge that duty.

This would also apply to the moral responsibility to be a guardian of the child’s rights; such a responsibility would necessarily demand the right to act as that guardian, which would be another right possessed by the parent and not by the child.

I really see no way around the fact that the child-parent relationship is a special case requiring different rules and hence different rights for those involved. But I don't see why this is a problem.

Regarding the "compensation theory" of rights you advanced in post 299: that theory rests on the idea that the parents are the cause of the child's helplessness. While there is no question (in my mind) that they are responsible for his existence, I have trouble with the notion that they are the cause of his various characteristics after birth. That is why I asked the question about the child with the defective heart. But I didn't phrase the question properly. I asked if the parents were "responsible"; what I should have asked is: "Did the parents cause the defective heart condition?"

In some cases, they might be the cause, but if they did nothing wrong during pregnancy, I don't see how one can say that they caused the defect. Likewise, I don't see how you can say they are the cause of a healthy heart, either.

But let's ask about a more normal condition: Are the parents the cause of the child's ability to see? Or is the ability to see, like the possibility of a defective heart, something that is inherent in the nature of an infant?

The fact that one knows, with 100% certainty, that an infant will be helpless does not necessarily make one the cause of that helplessness. One knows with almost equal certainty that the child will get sick at some point; that does not make the parents the cause of the child's sickness, does it?

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RationalCop, one point of disagreement between us is the notion that all of the parties in this situation -- the child, the parents, other adults -- have identical rights.

This may just have to remain a point of disagreement between us. At this point, I have put forward the best explanation of my position that I can and if you remain unpersuaded, I'm not sure what else to say. I may not respond again for a while unless I think of some new information to add.

Likewise, I don't see how you can say they are the cause of a healthy heart, either.
Then we have two point of disagreement. :)

Again, I have explained this as best I can, and you remain unpersuaded. The only thing I will say, which is mostly redundant, is that the parents caused the existence of the child, and in so doing they have caused the identity of that child (it's identity is everything that it is) at birth. I add "at birth" because as the baby starts to develop it's conceptual faculty, take actions, etc., it begins to assume more causal responsibility of it's own identity.

I have already distinguished how cause and culpability are impacted by knowledge and intent. One can be the cause of some problem or defect in the child (or anything) unknowingly and unintentionally. I may be wrong, but I think you are hung up on the idea that cause has to involve more specific intent. Defects and health problems may simply be caused by the parent's bad genes, but sex+conception+birth=helpless baby every time.

However, as a last ditch effort, I'll reverse the question. If you do not think that the parents have caused the child's helpless condition by the very fact that they caused it's existence, who or what has caused the child's condition? Are we to dismiss the idea that the parents DNA or other hereditary issues are involved? Are we to dismiss that the mother's nutritional intake has had an impact on the development of the child? Are there not other biological processes going on inside the mother that impact the child's prenatal development? What mysterious force is acting to be the "cause" of this child's condition, if not the parents? Is the child's helpless states causeless? If you simply reply, "nature", then I refer you to the above biological factors I just mentioned.

One knows with almost equal certainty that the child will get sick at some point; that does not make the parents the cause of the child's sickness, does it?

Why not go for the hail-mary and ask, "Since the parents know that bringing a child into life necessarily involves that the child will eventually die, have they caused the child's eventual death?" ;)

Seriously though, isn't this dangerously close to attacking a straw man? They know, without a doubt, the child WILL be helpless when born, period. They know the child MAY get sick SOMETIME in it's life, MAYBE. They do not know the context under which the child will get sick, or that the POTENTIAL illness may be caused by something COMPLETELY unrelated to the parents or their actions, because now the child has to deal with a much larger environment than the mother's womb. It has to deal with far more factors than the aforementioned nutritional and biological factors I mentioned above. The proper question is, "CAN they cause the child to get sick", and the answer is yes. The answer to the question "have they necessarily caused the child to get sick just because they are responsible for it's existence", is no.

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AisA,

I'd just like to add that although I am frustrated that you don't seem to be understanding me, I very much respect you as a person and don't mean anything here to be taken as offensive and I apologize if this has gotten out of hand. By explicit statement, we both want the same results here! :)

No problem, Inspector. I respect you as well, which is why I spend a lot of time thinking about your points before I respond.

I think a big part of our disagreement is the premise stated below in our previous exchange (Emphasis added)

Inspector said: What about the material support the police provide him? Because it is coming from the government, it is by definition coming by right and the last time I checked, those funds are not those of the parents.

AisA said: If you fail to donate to the government, then "assets other than yours" will be used to pay the police that come to your house when there is a break-in. Does this mean that you are "asserting a right to assets other than yours"? No, it means that you're benefiting from assets volunteered by others; it does not mean you have a right to them.

Inspector said: But it does, in a roundabout fashion. You have a right to be free from the initiation of force. The police come to your house because they are enforcing this right.

Are you saying, then, that not only does one have a right to be free of the initiation of force, one has a right to have that right defended at someone else’s expense? The defense of that right, including the cost of providing that defense, is yours by right? Since other people's money is not yours by right, that cannot be correct.

You have the right to be free of the initiation of force. And you have the right to contribute to the government to pay for the protection of that right. And if you pay, then you do have the right to police protection. But if you have not paid for the protection, you cannot invoke any sort of “right” to demand that others pay the cost of your protection – you can only hope that others will pay and if they do, you will be the beneficiary.

Thus, while it is true that government’s function is to protect rights – it does not follow that everything that comes from government comes by right.

So one cannot say, as a matter of principle, that if the state provides any sort of material support to the child, it means the child has a right to it at someone else's expense, just as one cannot say that if the state protects you against the initiation of force, it means you have a right to that protection at someone else's expense.

I have more to say about the "right to ask for help", but I think the issue above is more fundamental to the discussion, so I will withhold additional comments until we resolve this.

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No problem, Inspector. I respect you as well, which is why I spend a lot of time thinking about your points before I respond.

Glad to see we’re on the same page.

Are you saying, then, that not only does one have a right to be free of the initiation of force, one has a right to have that right defended at someone else’s expense? The defense of that right, including the cost of providing that defense, is yours by right? Since other people's money is not yours by right, that cannot be correct.

In a way, yes. Sort of. It’s not that other people’s money is yours by right. It’s that you are a citizen of that government, and as a citizen you have a right to whatever police protections that government provides, whether or not you pay for them. This is because your contract with the government states it as such, and that is because it is in fact in the self-interest of the paying citizens to have an established “law of the land” that prevents the initiation of force, even against those who don’t or can’t pay for the police.

I agree that you don’t have the right to demand that others pay for your police protection. However, if they have paid for the police, and therefore there are police, you do, as a citizen, have the right to their protection whether or not you have paid.

This hinges upon the fact that having a “law of the land” is in the self interest of every citizen, even if it means that some get a “free ride.” After all, if there wasn’t universal police protection, it would allow for a criminal element to exist, that would inevitably prey upon even the taxpaying citizens (due to the nature of the criminal mind).

Therefore, I still think that everything that comes from the government comes by right. That did make me think about it, though. Thanks.

I agree that we should deal with this issue first before going into anything else.

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I agree that you don’t have the right to demand that others pay for your police protection. However, if they have paid for the police, and therefore there are police, you do, as a citizen, have the right to their protection whether or not you have paid.
If this is true, then when you (who have not paid) call the police, you cannot be said to be "imposing an obligation on others". Nor are you asserting any right to the "support" of others.

Would it not follow, then, that if the state provides support to a child, the child cannot be said to be "imposing an obligation on others". Nor can it be said that the child is asserting any right to the support of others. He is entitled to nothing except what others voluntarily contribute.

In comparing these two situations, I would note the following distinction: If a department of children's services is voluntarily funded, then no one is required to pay for "free riders" in order to obtain a needed government service. The same cannot be said of the police department; I cannot think of any way to avoid funding the "free riders". (I don't consider the issue of "free riders" a significant problem; I just wanted to note this difference.)

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AisA:

I see the problem now. It isn’t that your conception of “children’s rights” is wrong (which it is):

There are no “rights” of special groups, there are no “rights of farmers, of workers, of businessmen, of employees, of employers, of the old, of the young, of the unborn.” There are only the Rights of Man -- rights possessed by every individual man and by all men as individuals. [bold emphasis added]

It is that your conception of rights is wrong:

I think you are taking “rights pertain only to action” out of context. There are clearly situations in which we have rights to objects. [...]

A child has a right to objects like food and clothing, to be provided by his parents, because he deserves it; he is not responsible for his helpless condition; they are.

[...]

It is clear that Miss Rand did not mean that rights apply only to actions, and not to the consequences of those actions. She would not say that a man has only a right to the action of working, but not a right to the product produced by that work.

And is contradicted by the following Ayn Rand quotes:

Bear in mind that the right to property is a right to action, like all the others: it is not the right to an object, but to the action and the consequences of producing or earning that object. It is not a guarantee that a man will earn any property, but only a guarantee that he will own it if he earns it. It is the right to gain, to keep, to use and to dispose of material values. [bold emphasis added]

[...]

The concept of a “right” pertains only to action -- specifically, to freedom of action. It means freedom from physical compulsion, coercion or interference by other men.

Thus, for every individual, a right is the moral sanction of a positive -- of his freedom to act on his own judgment, for his own goals, by his own voluntary, uncoerced choice. As to his neighbors, his rights impose no obligations on them except of a negative kind: to abstain from violating his rights.

The source of this error is in how you derive and define rights. From a previous conversation I know that you do not consider ethics a requirement in deriving the concept of rights. This error is now causing a ripple effect (logically so) in your conception of “children’s rights”.

Ethics is essential in the derivation of rights: you must know what is good for the individual before you can know what is good (right) for him in society. Every right has a source in the Objectivist ethics.

Ethics is a code of values to guide man’s choices and actions. Value is that which one acts to gain or keep. A code of ethics tells us what values to pursue; and then we must pursue them. Rights protect this pursuit. Ethically, we each have a responsibility to act to achieve our values; to act in our rational self interest. That responsibility is carried through to our rights. To have determined a code of values and not acted to achieve them is as immoral as not following a code at all.

However, my rights are not contingent on any actions on my part (except to respect the rights of others) If I fail to take any action in support of my life, I will eventually die. But that does not mean that I have surrendered my right to life. I continue to possess that right until my last breath.

Rights are moral sanctions to positive action. Whether you are a citizen of North Korea or the US no one can morally violate your rights, you have that sanction. However, people have been enslaved despite their unalienable rights, what do you do then? How do you overcome the inadequacy of a moral sanction to provide for your happy life? You take action, by right. The moral sanction requires no action be taken by anyone. But in order to realize the full benefit of your rights, action must be taken by you. What else could the pursuit of happiness possibly mean?

To sum up: Ethics tells us how to act; Rights protect that action.

I won’t answer your entire last post to me because it is fraught with strawmen and assertions of consequences I have already shot down; the following excerpt is indicative of the entire post:

Furthermore, if a child only has a right to the action of support on the part of the parents, but not a right to the goods, then that means the parents are only required to try to support the child; it would mean that, if the attempt fails, the child must be allowed to die of starvation; there would be no basis for government intervention because no rights have been violated.

I have already said a failure of action by the parents is a violation of the child’s rights, so this paragraph may be dismissed out of hand. However, in addition I would ask: what more could the parents do but try their hardest? Are you saying that the right of the child to material support will somehow magically cause the parents to try even harder?

I have expended considerable time, effort and study here in an attempt to correct your mistaken view of rights. The only reason I have done so is because I appreciate much of what you write on this forum. In this case however you are wrong. Please take this advice in the spirit with which it is intended and rethink your conception of rights.

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If this is true, then when you (who have not paid) call the police, you cannot be said to be "imposing an obligation on others". Nor are you asserting any right to the "support" of others.

But you are asserting the right to protection from the police. While this is not an unchosen obligation under your model of government (a model which I do not accept), it is an assertion of a right, as all government actions are. This means, as I have said, that the child is receiving material support, by right, from an entity other than its parents.

I'd like to point out that police protection is only a consequence of the right to be free from the initiation of force, not a positive right to goods and services. The fact that police must be paid does not change this into a right to goods and services.

In comparing these two situations, I would note the following distinction: If a department of children's services is voluntarily funded, then no one is required to pay for "free riders" in order to obtain a needed government service.

First, I would like to state that it is by no means a necessary condition of LFC that the government lets you pick and choose which departments to give funds to. In fact, I have given at least the beginnings of an argument as to why it should not do this.

But assuming for the sake of argument your model, where an extra layer of bureaucracy exists so that the citizen can “pick” where their funds go to, why is this department of children’s services is a government institution at all? If the children are not, as you say, receiving the care by right, then in what way could this “department” be said to be performing a government function? (The actual government functions - those of prosecuting the parents and such - are in no way tied to the “child welfare” activity and can be performed by an entirely separate entity, such as a private charity.)

Do you have an argument to present as to why this “department” should be a government entity and not a private charity?

Edited by Inspector

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I'd like to point out that police protection is only a consequence of the right to be free from the initiation of force, not a positive right to goods and services. The fact that police must be paid does not change this into a right to goods and services.

Perhaps I have been misstating this. It is not that a person has a right to the "service" of police protection, as much as a criminal does not have a right to engage in the initiation of force. The police are not a positive good that the individual recieves, but rather a negative force that prevents certain actions from taking place.

I think this ties in nicely to Ayn Rand's words on the nature of force.

A holdup man seeks to gain a value, wealth, by killing his victim; the victim does not grow richer by killing a holdup man. The principle is: no man may obtain any values from others by resorting to physical force. The only proper, moral purpose of a government is to protect man's rights, which means: to protect him from physical violence -- to protect his right to his own life, to his own liberty, to his own property and to the pursuit of his own happiness.

(Emphasis mine)

To paraphrase, the criminal seeks to gain a value through his crime, but the man who defends himself isn't gaining anything by stopping the criminal. He merely seeks to retain his rights/rightful property. (Thus, the police aren't a "good" provided to the citizen in the way that welfare is)

Edited by Inspector

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AisA:

I see the problem now. It isn’t that your conception of “children’s rights” is wrong (which it is):

(Ayn Rand from “Man’s Rights” @ “VOS”)

There are no “rights” of special groups, there are no “rights of farmers, of workers, of businessmen, of employees, of employers, of the old, of the young, of the unborn.” There are only the Rights of Man -- rights possessed by every individual man and by all men as individuals. [bold emphasis added]

It is that your conception of rights is wrong:

(AisA @ Nov 23 2005, 12:58 PM)

I think you are taking “rights pertain only to action” out of context. There are clearly situations in which we have rights to objects. [...]

A child has a right to objects like food and clothing, to be provided by his parents, because he deserves it; he is not responsible for his helpless condition; they are.

[...]

It is clear that Miss Rand did not mean that rights apply only to actions, and not to the consequences of those actions. She would not say that a man has only a right to the action of working, but not a right to the product produced by that work.

And is contradicted by the following Ayn Rand quotes:

(Ayn Rand from “Man’s Rights” @ “VOS”)

Bear in mind that the right to property is a right to action, like all the others: it is not the right to an object, but to the action and the consequences of producing or earning that object. It is not a guarantee that a man will earn any property, but only a guarantee that he will own it if he earns it. It is the right to gain, to keep, to use and to dispose of material values. [bold emphasis added]

[...]

The concept of a “right” pertains only to action -- specifically, to freedom of action. It means freedom from physical compulsion, coercion or interference by other men.

Thus, for every individual, a right is the moral sanction of a positive -- of his freedom to act on his own judgment, for his own goals, by his own voluntary, uncoerced choice. As to his neighbors, his rights impose no obligations on them except of a negative kind: to abstain from violating his rights.

Question 1: Why do you quote everything Miss Rand had to say about rights except the statements in The Objectivist Newsletter that specifically address the child-parent relationship and which clearly state that the child has a right to food, clothing, etc. from the parent?

Do you think Miss Rand simply did not read that article and let a glaring contradiction go unnoticed and uncorrected? Or, do you think Miss Rand considered children a special case?

You tried to construe that article to mean the child only has a right to an effort on the part of the parents.

But you did not respond to what I said in post 283:

Here is what the article says:

"In accepting the basic necessities of food, clothing, etc., from his parents, the child does not incur an obligation to repay that support at some future date. The support is his by right."

There is no way to construe that as anything other than a statement that the child has a right to food, clothing, etc. It does not say that, “in accepting the actions of his parents”, it says, “in accepting … food, clothing, etc”.

Question 2: Is it your position that, come payday, you do not have a right to a paycheck if you have done your job properly?

Question 3: Is it your position that Miss Rand would say that man has the right to the action of working, but not a right to the object that work creates?

Question 4: Isn’t the property you create yours by right? How is that not a right to an object?

The source of this error is in how you derive and define rights. From a previous conversation I know that you do not consider ethics a requirement in deriving the concept of rights.
I have no idea why you would say this. I have said at least 5 times (maybe 10?) that “rights are conditions of existence, vis-à-vis other men, that must exist for man’s proper survival. “ The method and manner of man’s proper survival are defined by ethics. Why, then, do you think I believe rights can be derived without reference to ethics?

This error is now causing a ripple effect (logically so) in your conception of “children’s rights”.

Ethics is essential in the derivation of rights: you must know what is good for the individual before you can know what is good (right) for him in society. Every right has a source in the Objectivist ethics.

Ethics is a code of values to guide man’s choices and actions. Value is that which one acts to gain or keep. A code of ethics tells us what values to pursue; and then we must pursue them. Rights protect this pursuit. Ethically, we each have a responsibility to act to achieve our values; to act in our rational self interest. That responsibility is carried through to our rights. To have determined a code of values and not acted to achieve them is as immoral as not following a code at all.

(AisA @ Nov 23 2005, 12:58 PM)

However, my rights are not contingent on any actions on my part (except to respect the rights of others) If I fail to take any action in support of my life, I will eventually die. But that does not mean that I have surrendered my right to life. I continue to possess that right until my last breath.

Are you disagreeing with the quote above? Does my right to life disappear if I fail to act to support my life? Am I entitled to kill the next bum I encounter because his failure to support his life means he has forfeited his right to it?

Rights are moral sanctions to positive action. Whether you are a citizen of North Korea or the US no one can morally violate your rights, you have that sanction. However, people have been enslaved despite their unalienable rights, what do you do then? How do you overcome the inadequacy of a moral sanction to provide for your happy life? You take action, by right. The moral sanction requires no action be taken by anyone. But in order to realize the full benefit of your rights, action must be taken by you. What else could the pursuit of happiness possibly mean?

To sum up: Ethics tells us how to act; Rights protect that action.

Okay, I agree with all of that. But what does ethics tell us about how children and parents should act? The only action that a child can take with regard to supporting his existence is to accept support from his parents. The right thing for the child to do is to accept support from his parents. The right thing for the parents to do is supply that support. Why, then, do you deny that the child has a right to support?

I won’t answer your entire last post to me because it is fraught with strawmen and assertions of consequences I have already shot down; the following excerpt is indicative of the entire post:

(AisA @ Nov 23 2005, 12:58 PM)

Furthermore, if a child only has a right to the action of support on the part of the parents, but not a right to the goods, then that means the parents are only required to try to support the child; it would mean that, if the attempt fails, the child must be allowed to die of starvation; there would be no basis for government intervention because no rights have been violated.

I have already said a failure of action by the parents is a violation of the child’s rights, so this paragraph may be dismissed out of hand.

So, rights are rights to actions, not objects, but if the child fails to receive certain objects (food, clothing, etc) it is a violation of his right to action? The child does not have a right to objects, but if he fails to receive them, this violates his rights? Marc, that is a flat-out contradiction. If I do not have a right to an object, how can depriving me of it be a violation of my rights?

However, in addition I would ask: what more could the parents do but try their hardest? Are you saying that the right of the child to material support will somehow magically cause the parents to try even harder?
No, I don’t think the right to material support will cause the support to fall from heaven. But that is not the purpose of rights. The purpose of rights is to define the nature of the relationships that must exist between people for man’s proper survival. I don’t see how “man’s proper survival” can mean starving to death as an infant because the parents fail to provide material support.

I have expended considerable time, effort and study here in an attempt to correct your mistaken view of rights. The only reason I have done so is because I appreciate much of what you write on this forum. In this case however you are wrong. Please take this advice in the spirit with which it is intended and rethink your conception of rights.
I don’t question your sincerity, Marc. I simply do not see how the failure to receive certain objects (food, clothing) is a violation of the child's rights if he doesn't have a right to those objects.

One of the frustrating things in this discussion is that nothing ever gets settled. For instance, in our last exchange of posts, you rejected my argument that a child’s rights stem from his nature as an infant rational being, on the following grounds:

I’m sorry, I cannot agree with you on this. Beginning life as an infant is something common to all animals, not just rational animals. All animals start with a blank slate. And therefore it cannot be used as the essential characteristic which confers rights.
I responded in post 283:

“Rights have nothing to do with the characteristics of animals. The reason that the fact of rationality gives rise to rights is not because animals don’t have it; it is because the fact of rationality has implications for man’s relationships to other men. If some animal were discovered to have the ability to reason, this would have no implications whatsoever for man’s rights. Men would not suddenly forfeit all of their rights just because rationality is no longer unique to man. (There might be implications for the animal, but man’s rights would not disappear.)

Therefore, “unique to man” cannot be a requirement for deriving rights. The fact that the survival requirements of childhood are mirrored in the animal kingdom is irrelevant. The question is whether infancy is inherent in man’s identity as a rational being and whether that fact has implications for his relationships with other rational beings. “

I believe I have effectively shown why your objection does not hold. Yet, you neither answered it, agreed with it, or argued against it. Thus, my derivation of a children's right to material support gets ignored and drowned out in a chorus of quotes to the effect that there can be no rights to objects, only to actions -- while ignoring the statement from the Objectivist Newsletter that clearly says the child has a right to material support. Why is that?

It's like your attempt to construe the artice from TON to mean that the child only has a right to an effort on the part of the parents. When I show that this is not true, you just drop the issue. Why is that?

The Objectivist ethics tells us that if man is to survive (paraphrasing Miss Rand), it is right that he think, it is right that he act on his judgement, it is right that he work for his values and to keep the product of his efforts. Why, then, is it not also true that as an infant, it is right that he be provided support by his parents? What is the rational alternative? Starvation?

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Inspector, I am not sure what your position is. You seem to be saying the following:

When the government provides police protection to a "free rider", the "free rider" is not receiving this protection by right, this protection does not constitute "goods and services", and the receipt of the protection does not represent a claim to support from anyone. But if the government provides material support to a child, the child is receiving it by right, it does constitute "goods and services", and the receipt of this support does represent a claim to support from everyone.

Is that what you are saying?

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Inspector, I am not sure what your position is. You seem to be saying the following:

When the government provides police protection to a "free rider", the "free rider" is not receiving this protection by right, this protection does not constitute "goods and services", and the receipt of the protection does not represent a claim to support from anyone.

But if the government provides material support to a child, the child is receiving it by right, it does constitute "goods and services", and the receipt of this support does represent a claim to support from everyone.

No, that's close but not quite what I am saying. But I think your approach of trying to understand my position first is a very good one. I will attempt to clarify:

When the government takes any action, it does so in the defense of a right. When the police act, it is in fact a rights-affirming action. The police, however, do not constitute "goods and services," and "police protection" is not a form of "support" and so is not a "claim to support" from anyone.

Material support provided to a child is a form of support. When given by the government, it must represent a rightful claim to support since the government, by definition, acts only to protect rights.

If the child has the right to claim material support from the government, then it is accurate to say that the child has the right to claim material support from an entity other than its parents.

The child having a right to claim material support from anyone besides the parents is specifically what you have denied that your proposed rights derivation would result in. Whether this represents a claim on “everyone” is not really material to this argument.

Your model of government, with its “choose what to fund” process makes this whole thing very confusing. But it doesn’t change the relevance of the facts that I have illustrated.

Finally, could you provide an argument as to why the “children’s services” organization must be a government entity and not a private charity?

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When the government takes any action, it does so in the defense of a right. When the police act, it is in fact a rights-affirming action. The police, however, do not constitute "goods and services," and "police protection" is not a form of "support" and so is not a "claim to support" from anyone.

Material support provided to a child is a form of support. When given by the government, it must represent a rightful claim to support since the government, by definition, acts only to protect rights.

I see no basis for this distinction. "Police protection" and “food for a child” both cost money. Why is one a "form of support" but the other is not? Granted, the police only protect your existing values, not give you additional values, whereas giving food to a child is a grant of an additional value. However, that does not change the fact that both government actions cost money; neither is free, and the same question applies to both: do the recipients of government protection have a right to that protection at someone else’s expense? I say they do not. Neither the “free rider” nor the orphaned child can claim a right to government assistance or protection at the expense of others.

They may receive protection if, and only if, others are willing to pay for it. This is the sense in which an orphaned child has a right to ask for assistance – it is the same right exercised by a "free rider" when he calls the police. It can only be a request, not a demand. And, provided others are willing to finance it, I think it is appropriate for the government to respond to both requests.

Thus, while it is true that government always acts to protect rights, it is not true that everyone who receives that protection receives it by right. Some recieve it based on the contributions of others.

Accepting police protection, without paying for it, does not mean one is claiming the right to that protection at the expense of others; likewise, a child's acceptance of government help does not mean he is claiming a right to it either.

Your model of government, with its “choose what to fund” process makes this whole thing very confusing. But it doesn’t change the relevance of the facts that I have illustrated.

I don’t see what is confusing about it. Either people would be willing to pay for this government service or they would not. I would pay for it, because I would view it as an insurance policy for my own child, whom I do not want falling into the wrong hands should I die accidentally. More on this below.

Finally, could you provide an argument as to why the “children’s services” organization must be a government entity and not a private charity?
Not everyone has a right to act as the child’s guardian. For instance, convicted pedophiles, drug dealers and religious cults should not be allowed to declare themselves the child’s guardian. If the government does not police the adoption process, what is to prevent these types from taking control of a child?

Regarding rights, a child is a special case in a number of respects. If an adult’s rights are violated, he generally has the capacity to contact the police and ask for help. Even in an extreme case, such as murder, the police are likely to find out about it; someone -- friends, spouses, co-workers – is likely to miss the person and report it to the police.

In addition, the law gives us the right, in emergencies, to use retaliatory force in self-defense, including the use of lethal force to ward off attackers.

A child, however, has recourse to neither of these remedies. If the government does not participate in his adoption and care, the child has no realistic recourse against some of the individuals that might seek to get their hands on him – and he has no way to defend himself or contact the police after they get control of his life. Leaving this process to the private sector means the child has less protection of his rights than an adult; why should the child be penalized in this fashion for something that is outside his control?

Yes, the same potential problems exist with any child's birth parents, but pedophiles, drug dealers and cults generally don't create their victims by birthing and raising children -- that is far too much trouble; instead, they look for victims elsewhere. We should not make orphans an easy target for them.

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do the recipients of government protection have a right to that protection at someone else’s expense? I say they do not. Neither the “free rider” nor the orphaned child can claim a right to government assistance or protection at the expense of others.

What I do know is that the "free rider" has the right to not have anyone initiate force against him, whether there is any government present or not. Would you agree with this point? That he has that right, which is inalienable: i.e. people can violate it, but not rightfully?

From another angle, look at it this way: the job of the police is to see to it that force is not initiated within their domain; whether the actions involve paying citizens or not. Police protection is not a "service" that is assigned or denied to any individual person, free rider or not. It is in everyone's interests that no force is initiated in their country. (and elsewhere, which is where the army comes in...) Whether or not a given victim is paying for the police, it is in the selfish interests of the paying citizens to have the police stop the crime. Not specifically for the sake of the victim, but instead because crime is a threat to them and their rights.

To summarize, the police are not a form of welfare, in which a service is paid for by everyone and then granted only to those who are victims of crime. Everyone is a beneficiary of their services, whether or not they are ever the victim of a crime.

If this was not so, then you could rightly say that the police should send a bill to the victim of any crime that they stop.

When the police act to stop a crime, they are protecting not only the rights of the victims, but those of all citizens.

it is not true that everyone who receives that protection receives it by right.

What I do know is that a man has the right to be free from the initiation of force. When the government acts to protect any man, they do so in the defense of a right.

A child, on the other hand, only has a right to the support of his parents. Nobody else.

[edited to fix sentence structure]

Edited by Inspector

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I’m going to reply to this issue separately… maybe we should even have a different topic for it. I’ll leave that to the mods.

Not everyone has a right to act as the child’s guardian. For instance, convicted pedophiles, drug dealers and religious cults should not be allowed to declare themselves the child’s guardian. If the government does not police the adoption process, what is to prevent these types from taking control of a child?
I’d say that even if the organizations and funding were private, the police could still police the adoption process. They could give out a license to organizations only on the condition that they meet certain fitness criteria. (On convicted pedophiles, I believe they are already barred from working with children, under current law.)

If the government does not participate in his adoption and care, the child has no realistic recourse

I never said the government couldn’t participate in a child’s adoption; only that they could not provide material support for the child.

Regarding rights, a child is a special case in a number of respects. If an adult’s rights are violated, he generally has the capacity to contact the police and ask for help.
I don’t understand… how does an agency allow a child to contact the police?

and he has no way to defend himself or contact the police after they get control of his life. Leaving this process to the private sector means the child has less protection of his rights than an adult; why should the child be penalized in this fashion for something that is outside his control?

I think this is the fallacy that a government agency is inherently less corrupt or fallible than a private one. Suppose that it was a government agency: then who watches the watchmen? Do you think we’re better off with the FDA, for example?

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AisA, I have a question:

Consider the model of LFC government in which the citizen cannot "pick and choose" the departments that his funding goes to...

Would you agree it would be necessary to restrict the funding for this "children's services" departement to those given through direct donations; i.e. that it would not be allowed to draw from the "general fund?"

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I’d say that even if the organizations and funding were private, the police could still police the adoption process. They could give out a license to organizations only on the condition that they meet certain fitness criteria.
That makes sense to me. As I am sure you do, I generally oppose the notion of government licensing, but in this case we are essentially talking about assigning the responsibility for exercising another person's rights (the child's) to someone else (the guardian or adopting parents), so I think it is justified

I think this is the fallacy that a government agency is inherently less corrupt or fallible than a private one. Suppose that it was a government agency: then who watches the watchmen? Do you think we’re better off with the FDA, for example?
No, I don't think we are better off with the FDA. Regulation of drug production, for the alleged purpose of protecting the public, is wrong and fallacious on (at least) four counts. First, it constitutes the initiation of force by declaring that drug production and trade between consenting adults requires the permission of the government. Second, it assumes that the government knows more about drug manufactuing than the actual manufacturer, which is especially preposterous considering the vast array of technologies involved in drug manufacturing, technologies spanning so many different fields that no bureaucrat could possibly be an expert in all of them. Third, it assumes that private individuals are passive, unthinking beings incapable of making decisions about product safety and risks, but once hired by the government, they become experts. And fourth, it assumes that businesses can make a profit by making and selling defective products, an assumption possible only to those without the faintest grasp of how the free market works.

But I don’t see that this is analogous to the situation of an orphaned child. The relationship between a child and a (potential) guardian or charity is not one that involves two consenting parties. The child has no capacity to consent, nor does he have the capacity to judge which charity or guardian would be best for him. There are no market forces to reward those who exercise guardianship properly and punish those who do not. And unlike an adult that purchases a product that is defective, the child does not have easy access to the courts to redress any grievances he might have with an abusive guardian. So, I don't see this situation as analgous to the FDA and drug production.

As to who “watches the watchers”, the same may be asked of any police action: who polices the police? The citizens must do this through their elected representatives.

I agree that an orphaned child should be turned over to a private charity and put up for adoption as soon as possible (provided the charity is prepared to take proper care of the child and not engage in religious or otherwise irrational brainwashing). However, I can imagine that in some situations, it might take some time to arrange this – perhaps a few hours or days. There is no guarantee that a charity will be immediately available 24/7. If there is no one immediately available to care for the child, I cannot imagine that the proper thing would be for the government to simply walk away and leave the child to starve or freeze.

AisA, I have a question:

Consider the model of LFC government in which the citizen cannot "pick and choose" the departments that his funding goes to...

Would you agree it would be necessary to restrict the funding for this "children's services" departement to those given through direct donations; i.e. that it would not be allowed to draw from the "general fund?"

Yes, in principle I agree it should depend on donations. However, the more I think about it, the smaller this problem seems. What I mean is that I don't think there will be many instances where the government has to provide anything more than a few hours or days of support. Thus, the incremental cost will be small. Still, to avoid requiring anyone to support someone else's child, it should depend on donations.

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Okay, I think I am satisfied with your answers. I don't know that I necessarily agree with everything, but the disputes are becoming more and more a factor of practicality, rather then a dispute of principles.

If I think of anything else to contribute, I'll post up.

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AisA:

I apologize for the delay. This is a long post with many quotes, so I will split it in two.

Question 1: Why do you quote everything Miss Rand had to say about rights except the statements in The Objectivist Newsletter that specifically address the child-parent relationship and which clearly state that the child has a right to food, clothing, etc. from the parent?

The only way to understand “children's rights” is to first understand rights. Remember that Objectivism is an integrated whole, thus all of Ayn Rand’s writings must be taken together, none contradicting another. I have interpreted the TON article consistently within the context of Ayn Rand’s writings on rights. The real question is why you refer only to the article while ignoring and directly contradicting Ayn Rand’s other writings.

No, Ayn Rand didn’t contradict herself. Of course there is another possibility to consider: you are wrong. You really must explain your understanding of the following Ayn Rand quotes:

“There are no “rights”[...] of the young,”

“Rights pertain only to action”

“the right to property is a right to action, like all the others: it is not the right to an object

You tried to construe that article to mean the child only has a right to an effort on the part of the parents.

I not only tried, I succeeded in correctly construing the article. Let me show you again how to summarize the following two paragraphs from the article within the context of everything we know about rights:

“The essence of parental responsibility is: to equip the child for independent survival as an adult. This means, to provide for the child’s physical and mental development and well being: to feed, clothe and protect him; to raise him in a stable, intelligible, rational home environment, to equip him intellectually, training him to live as a rational being; to educate him to earn a livelihood.

In accepting the basic necessities of food, clothing, etc., from his parents, the child does not incur an obligation to repay that support at some future date. The support is his by right.”

The essence of parental responsibility is: to take the action the child cannot in support of its life.

The action taken to support the child is his by right.

Question 2: Is it your position that, come payday, you do not have a right to a paycheck if you have done your job properly?

Question 3: Is it your position that Miss Rand would say that man has the right to the action of working, but not a right to the object that work creates?

Question 4: Isn’t the property you create yours by right? How is that not a right to an object?

Knowing that rights pertain only to action I would carefully word any description or definition of a right as a right to action:

You do not have a right to an object, you have the right to earn it and then to keep it, or to dispose of it.

I have no idea why you would say this. I have said at least 5 times (maybe 10?) that “rights are conditions of existence, vis-à-vis other men, that must exist for man’s proper survival. “ The method and manner of man’s proper survival are defined by ethics. Why, then, do you think I believe rights can be derived without reference to ethics?

At the end of the thread: “A Challenge to Yaron Brook” in the Current Events, Terrorism and Islamic... Forum, my stated position was that ethics is a requirement in a definition of rights. You seemed to be arguing against that position. However, if you say here that ethics are required in order to define rights, then that is good enough for me -- one less hurdle (in my mind at least) to overcome.

Does my right to life disappear if I fail to act to support my life? Am I entitled to kill the next bum I encounter because his failure to support his life means he has forfeited his right to it?

The answer to your question appears two sentences further along in the quote you cited:

[...] no one can morally violate your rights, you have that sanction.

To sum up: Ethics tells us how to act; Rights protect that action.

Actually it is the key to understanding the nature of parental obligation... according to the TON article you quoted:

The key to understanding the nature of parental obligation lies in the moral principle that human beings must assume responsibility for the consequences of their action.

Continued in next post ...

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... continued from previous post ...

The only action that a child can take with regard to supporting his existence is to accept support from his parents. The right thing for the child to do is to accept support from his parents.

If the ”only” thing a child can do is accept support from his parents how can it be the ”right” thing to do? Don’t rights pertain only to ethical actions, that is, freely chosen actions?

The right thing for the parents to do is supply that support.

I can agree with this as long as you recognize that rights pertain only to freely chosen action, in this case: "supply".

I don’t question your sincerity, Marc. I simply do not see how the failure to receive certain objects (food, clothing) is a violation of the child's rights if he doesn't have a right to those objects.

Rights protect the action you must take to support your life. You must always think of rights as describing action:

- a child has a right to act

- it cannot, so someone must act on the child’s behalf

- we cannot force anyone to be that actor

- someone must freely choose to be the actor

- once you have chosen to be the actor it is your responsibility to act

- failing to act in support of the child’s life violates the rights you chose to exercise on their behalf

One of the frustrating things in this discussion is that nothing ever gets settled. For instance, in our last exchange of posts, you rejected my argument that a child’s rights stem from his nature as an infant rational being. [...] I responded in post 283:

[...] Yet, you neither answered it, agreed with it, or argued against it. Thus, my derivation of a children's right to material support gets ignored and drowned out in a chorus of quotes to the effect that there can be no rights to objects, only to actions

Because, frankly, this part of your argument is completely irrational. I didn’t explicitly state this before in order to be kind. Instead, I answered the argument and then tried to determine from where it originated to address the root problem.

I tried to get you to see that the concept we are dealing with is rights. You cannot derive the concept of rights by looking at children. Since children are not completely rational this would be like saying: “I am going to logically determine how a rational being should act in society by observing the nature of non-rational beings.”

You really should listen to the chorus. It is a good idea, when trying to understand Objectivist principle, to study what Ayn Rand had to say on the subject.

********************

These long posts are getting redundant and monotonous; let me suggest a way forward?:

It is my position that in order to understand the concept of rights as applied to children, you must first understand the concept of rights. If you agree, then you should explain your position with regard to the principles that: rights pertain only to action and that there are no rights to objects.

Let us also agree that each of us has certain responsibilities with regard to our rights, namely that each of us must take the action protected by our rights in order to realize our happy lives.

Let us refrain from discussing rights as applied to children until we settle the issue of rights.

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If you agree, then you should explain your position with regard to the principles that: rights pertain only to action and that there are no rights to objects.
My position is simple: the principle that rights are rights to actions, and not rights to objects, is not an axiom. Since it is not an axiom, it cannot be invoked acontextually, i.e. it cannot be invoked regardless of context or situation.

Since it is not an axiom, it is a derivitive. Specifically, it is derived by reference to man's adult nature as a rational being -- and what that nature implies about the conditions that must exist between men for man's proper survival. The derivation supplies the context to which the principle applies: relationships, under normal conditions, between rational, adult human beings.

(How do we know the derivation is based on man's adult nature? Because it is only as an adult that man is capable of taking those actions he has a right to take.)

The principle of rights, including the notion that rights are rights to actions, and not to objects, cannot necessarily be invoked outside this context. This is why it is improper to refer to "animal rights"; animals are not part of the context in which rights are derived; they are not the entities whose nature formed the basis for deriving rights.

If one considers situations other than "relationships, under normal conditions, between rational, adult human beings", then one cannot automatically assume that the same rights apply. For instance, consider the following situation:

Suppose, through your negligence, you injure another human being, such that they can no longer support their own existence; as a result of their injury, they can no longer take the actions necessary to support their life. In this situation, the injured party has the right to some amount of material compensation at your expense. He has a right to some portion of your assets or money. Clearly, in this situation, his rights are not limited to "rights to actions, but not to objects".

Now, I will go out on a limb here and predict that you will assert that the injured party only has a right to expect the other party to take "action on his behalf". But this is clearly false; if the party that causes the injury is killed in the accident, and can no longer take any sort of action, the injured party's rights do not die with him. The injured party would still have a right to a portion of whatever assets or money the other party left behind.

The relationship between child and parent is a significantly different situation than the one used to derive the principle that rights are rights to actions and not to objects. That is why you cannot automatically invoke that principle in this situation.

Since I don't expect you to agree even to this much, I don't see any point in going further. You wanted to know my position on the principle that "rights are rights to actions, but not to objects". My position is that the principle applies to a certain context, but not necessarily to every context.

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