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Patriot of Reason

Concerning the Rights/Status of Minors

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I for one am in firm support of fully expanding the rights of minors on grounds of not being able to quantify the opposing argument in a meaningful manner. Quite simply put, it's easy to say all minors are irrational (and therefore not entitled to the rights of a thinking man), it is a much harder thing to prove it seeing that the existence of 1 exception to the rule completely discredits it. I believe that if Rand had investigated the issue of minor vs. adult more closely, she would have come to the conclusion that volition and free will being the staples of the human faculty ultimately win out in terms of value debate, and from that we can conclude that if a child wills emancipation he ought be granted it (out of respect for the rights of said thinking individual), and of course that if a child wills to engage in sexual activity that we ought not prohibit it. Im short, the deconstruction of traditional parental roles. I assume that most children would vouch to stay with their parents in any case, and thus many problems are subverted.

In any case, in terms of ethics we cannot claim moral righteousness and all the while prohibit a free willed individual by way of brute force is the essential argument.

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You are incorrect for the reason that a Minor is a Dependant.

Even were they rational, a minor is reliant on his or her parents to provide for them. This means that the minor is unable to act as a trader and give value for value.

The only way to deem minors as adults is if they can be made completely independent of their parents.

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You would have to back that argument, and in any case the existence of "non-dependent" minors could render this moral guideline immoral seeing that it would be unjustly applied to them. I refer you to the early stages of the Industrial Revolution before regulations in regards to child labor was enacted by the liberals of the time, children often would work alongside their parents to help secure mutual benefits for them both, valuing both the offer of residency and guidance from the parental figure whilst also wielding the freedom to work and move about as they pleased. This also contributes to the claim I made concerning most children staying with the parent anyway, the only fundamental change would be in the degree of choice children are able to access.

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It is a fact that children are not adults. They are not as large. That's obvious. In the last 100 years scientists have quantified other, more subtle differences. Gushing about a college baseball world series game I watched a few years ago, I opined that they were better players than the major leaguers. One guy replied that he agreed with the heartfelt sentiment but it is not true. "The college pitcher, when he's in the windup, if he catches the eye of a pretty girl in the stands, he'll forget the sign. You gotta outgrow that. There's no other way."

That said, if you read, for example, Ragged Dick, one of the Horatio Alger stories, you will meet boys of 12 living on their own, renting apartments, and making do as best they can.

Our society did allow more gray area in the gray area. We had a paperboy in our neighborhood who built his route, collected money, created and managed a business. The Ann Arbor News closed last year, but their paper routes were managed by the central office: the kids only delivered. When I was in high school, circ 1964, it was the last of the days when you could quit after the ninth grade, age 16, and, get a job to support yourself.

Times change.

In the commercial world, insurance companies do not give policies to people under 25, as a general rule. Like being 35 to be President, there are some limits even over 18 ... and with drinking it's 21. My daughter is bartender. She pointed out that this person is old enough to enlist in the Army, old enough to choose the President of the United States, old enough to be married, but not old enough to drink -- and it's her problem if she serves it. Seems unbalanced, to her. She, however, felt that children should be allowed to drive, and did so at 10, taking the car for a 100 mile ride at 13. Her companion in crime, also 13, learned to drive the year before.

Do you have a right to sell yourself into slavery? Maybe you can argue that you do, but our society prohibits that as a basic principle. So, too, does the state have a compelling interest in the protection of children.

All of which is to say, that there is a lot of gray area in the gray area.

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It is a fact that children are not adults. They are not as large. That's obvious. In the last 100 years scientists have quantified other, more subtle differences. Gushing about a college baseball world series game I watched a few years ago, I opined that they were better players than the major leaguers. One guy replied that he agreed with the heartfelt sentiment but it is not true. "The college pitcher, when he's in the windup, if he catches the eye of a pretty girl in the stands, he'll forget the sign. You gotta outgrow that. There's no other way."

That said, if you read, for example, Ragged Dick, one of the Horatio Alger stories, you will meet boys of 12 living on their own, renting apartments, and making do as best they can.

Our society did allow more gray area in the gray area. We had a paperboy in our neighborhood who built his route, collected money, created and managed a business. The Ann Arbor News closed last year, but their paper routes were managed by the central office: the kids only delivered. When I was in high school, circ 1964, it was the last of the days when you could quit after the ninth grade, age 16, and, get a job to support yourself.

Times change.

In the commercial world, insurance companies do not give policies to people under 25, as a general rule. Like being 35 to be President, there are some limits even over 18 ... and with drinking it's 21. My daughter is bartender. She pointed out that this person is old enough to enlist in the Army, old enough to choose the President of the United States, old enough to be married, but not old enough to drink -- and it's her problem if she serves it. Seems unbalanced, to her. She, however, felt that children should be allowed to drive, and did so at 10, taking the car for a 100 mile ride at 13. Her companion in crime, also 13, learned to drive the year before.

Do you have a right to sell yourself into slavery? Maybe you can argue that you do, but our society prohibits that as a basic principle. So, too, does the state have a compelling interest in the protection of children.

All of which is to say, that there is a lot of gray area in the gray area.

I'll preface by saying I greatly appreciate this feedback and value the blunt manner it utilizes to really highlight the core issues at hand here, and I am hoping that with the help of the community we can at least draw fine lines in regards to what is right and wrong in terms of those grey zones.

I propose the following, if the child wills a line of action, it cannot by definition be called self enslavement seeing that they set it upon themselves to value said line of action, with the obvious exception of them subordinating their values to that of another. If the child is primarily influenced by coercion and state/parental action to work or act in a certain manner, that is not of virtue and ought be prevented for the sake of society. On this we no doubt agree. However, I must hasten to add that while all the examples of "advancements" we've made as a society are undoubtably true, there was no warrant on it being for the better. What is worth investigating here is not the outright ban or allowance of child labor/freedom of action, but an ethos that can pinpoint the exact nature of what is in actuality a free willed child or a coerced and unwitting "nobody" (that is devoid of any notion of what their own interest is).

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My girlfriend and I discuss this, at length, constantly. On a fundamental level of definition, what the hell is a minor? I agree with the OP's statement - that there are "minors" who make rational decisions and employ the faculty of reason. I shy away from discussions of a "line", or a certain age at which we become fully rational, simply because that seems to evade the still unresolved issue of definition. If a minor is defined as incapable of thinking rationally, then a child who does think rationally is not a minor, and should therefore be afforded the individual rights and freedoms of an adult, right? I suppose the real question at hand regards the measurement of rational faculty. How, and by whom? What determines full rational faculty, and who, officially, determines it?

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My girlfriend and I discuss this, at length, constantly. On a fundamental level of definition, what the hell is a minor? I agree with the OP's statement - that there are "minors" who make rational decisions and employ the faculty of reason. I shy away from discussions of a "line", or a certain age at which we become fully rational, simply because that seems to evade the still unresolved issue of definition. If a minor is defined as incapable of thinking rationally, then a child who does think rationally is not a minor, and should therefore be afforded the individual rights and freedoms of an adult, right? I suppose the real question at hand regards the measurement of rational faculty. How, and by whom? What determines full rational faculty, and who, officially, determines it?

^^Couldn't have put it better myself, under Rand's ethical guidelines it all comes down to what constitutes a "free willed, rational individual" and if there are different degrees of being rational that are to be treated in varying ways. And as the above poster brought up, how would we gauge these objectively? Perhaps Rand meant to leave this to us purposefully in hopes that further research would help illuminate the foggier parts of this whole debacle. Perhaps she had not thought of the more troubling aspects of the issue and assumed a clear distinction was prevalent to all rational actors. In any case, it is up to us to account for the lapse, a lapse that once filled will without a doubt define the entirety of Objectivist ethical practice.

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^^Couldn't have put it better myself, under Rand's ethical guidelines it all comes down to what constitutes a "free willed, rational individual" and if there are different degrees of being rational that are to be treated in varying ways. And as the above poster brought up, how would we gauge these objectively? Perhaps Rand meant to leave this to us purposefully in hopes that further research would help illuminate the foggier parts of this whole debacle. Perhaps she had not thought of the more troubling aspects of the issue and assumed a clear distinction was prevalent to all rational actors. In any case, it is up to us to account for the lapse, a lapse that once filled will without a doubt define the entirety of Objectivist ethical practice.

I suppose our work is cut out for us, then.

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A simply application of reductio ad absurdum is called for here. A 2-day old infant is a minor, because a 2-day old infant is under 18. If minors are the same as adults and have the rights of adults -- specifically meaning 'have the capacity to act on their own independent judgment' -- and if the law recognises that right, it also cannot grant any special privileges to the 2-day old infant. They must have the legal right to seek employment, and if they cannot grasp the concept of "work" or "money" or "buying groceries", then they must face the consequences of their evasion. This could get to be a serious problem, since at age 2 days, a child's ability to speak English or any other language is extremely limited (nonexistent), and they therefore cannot consent to any contractual arrangement.

As it stands, the age of majority is not a single thing, anyhow (compare marriage with parental consent, without, drinking, joining the military with and without parental consent, driving, forming contracts, being President).

Anyhow, if you can propose some kind of objective test that demonstrates a child's ability to grasp concepts of legal responsibility so that they can be legally bound by contract, that would be better than the statistical, age-based approach. So far, nobody has come up with anything decent. You might try searching the topic here, since this issue has come up a number of times.

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A simply application of reductio ad absurdum is called for here. A 2-day old infant is a minor, because a 2-day old infant is under 18. If minors are the same as adults and have the rights of adults -- specifically meaning 'have the capacity to act on their own independent judgment' -- and if the law recognises that right, it also cannot grant any special privileges to the 2-day old infant. They must have the legal right to seek employment, and if they cannot grasp the concept of "work" or "money" or "buying groceries", then they must face the consequences of their evasion. This could get to be a serious problem, since at age 2 days, a child's ability to speak English or any other language is extremely limited (nonexistent), and they therefore cannot consent to any contractual arrangement.

As it stands, the age of majority is not a single thing, anyhow (compare marriage with parental consent, without, drinking, joining the military with and without parental consent, driving, forming contracts, being President).

Anyhow, if you can propose some kind of objective test that demonstrates a child's ability to grasp concepts of legal responsibility so that they can be legally bound by contract, that would be better than the statistical, age-based approach. So far, nobody has come up with anything decent. You might try searching the topic here, since this issue has come up a number of times.

Agreed in regards to the "infant" argument. As for objective testing I'll attempt to pose a basic model and you can all bounce off of it as you will:

- Sexual activity is not to be prohibited seeing that there is no objective barometer of how one can be "ready" for it. (Same goes for drinking, smoking, and drug use?)

- In the case of legal contracts (property dealing, purchasing of common goods, etc;) a test akin to the naturalization test should be made ready for all who wish to access it, general grasp of mathematics, reading, and writing skills must be demonstrated to be at (?)th grade level (compiled based on national averages) or higher. Special provisions for matters of economics are to be included, concerning loans, property rights, and general legal terminology. Economics and related legal terminology are to be integrated into mainstream education.

- If parts of the test pertinent to certain rights are completed at passing level whilst others are failed, they are to be granted those specific rights.

*Highlighted segments that in my view are largely up to debate.

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- Sexual activity is not to be prohibited seeing that there is no objective barometer of how one can be "ready" for it. (Same goes for drinking, smoking, and drug use?)
There is no age at which use of cocaine is legal. Age laws on alcohol and tobacco are nose-in-the-tent attempts to outlaw the activities entirely. The reason for age limits on sex is not based on something hyper-abstract like "being ready for it", it is specifically being capable of using reason to chose to act or not act a certain way. There is an objective barometer: age. Assuming that you're arging like others before you have argued, you objection is not that there is no objective barometer, it is that the metric is not infallible. As such, the argument is an instance of the fallacy of imperfection (where any principle which does not work 100% of the time must be abandoned). It is beyond reasonable question that a 3 year old or a 6 year old is not capable of using reason and their experiential knowledge to judge whether to engage in potentially harmful conduct. The same is true of 8 and 10 year olds. As for whether the age of consent should be 15 rather than 16, that's not really a philosophical question.
- In the case of legal contracts (property dealing, purchasing of common goods, etc;) a test akin to the naturalization test should be made ready for all who wish to access it, general grasp of mathematics, reading, and writing skills must be demonstrated to be at (?)th grade level (compiled based on national averages) or higher. Special provisions for matters of economics are to be included, concerning loans, property rights, and general legal terminology. Economics and related legal terminology are to be integrated into mainstream education.
Perhaps this is possible, but I remain skeptical. Do you understand the legal meanings and consequences of "interest", "indemnify", "instrument", "implied warranty", "consideration", "several", without looking up the answer? I think you are proposing that tests be administered to determine "Does this person have the capacity to form a contract?" (meaning, most saliently, agree with the other party on terms) and "Does this person fully grasp the concept of 'legal obligation'?". Do you have a draft of such a test? Will you post one in the next day or so?

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Do you understand the legal meanings and consequences of "interest", "indemnify", "instrument", "implied warranty", "consideration", "several", without looking up the answer? I think you are proposing that tests be administered to determine "Does this person have the capacity to form a contract?" (meaning, most saliently, agree with the other party on terms) and "Does this person fully grasp the concept of 'legal obligation'?".

Of course, it is problematic that in our society a vast pool of people enjoy full majority rights despite not meeting that criteria either.

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There is one huge flaw in your test-based approach to determining legal adulthood.

All I would have to do is intentionally fail the test and I would thus be legal considered a dependant and not fully responsible for my actions, regardless of age.

As such, I could be a 25 years old serial theft offender and all I would have to do is claim that I was not cognizant my actions were immoral/illegal and use my failed adulthood test/s as proof.

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There is one huge flaw in your test-based approach to determining legal adulthood.

All I would have to do is intentionally fail the test and I would thus be legal considered a dependant and not fully responsible for my actions, regardless of age.

As such, I could be a 25 years old serial theft offender and all I would have to do is claim that I was not cognizant my actions were immoral/illegal and use my failed adulthood test/s as proof.

Let me point out a flaw in your reasoning. It goes like this: the test approach to determining adulthood/rights says "If you can do x, y, and z, then, you are an adult, regardless of age." Your scenario of the criminal who fakes his not being responsible due to not passing that test says "If you cannot do x, y, and z, then, you are not an adult, regardless of age." You are claiming that anyone accepting the former, must, logically, accept the latter. That relationship is of this form: If A, then B implies If not A, then not B. That is not valid. A implies B doesn't mean not-A implies not-B. Classical logic.

(Example: If it is a German Shepard, it is a dog. If it is not a German Shepard, it is not a dog.)

-- Mindy

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There is one huge flaw in your test-based approach to determining legal adulthood.
That would be a fatal flaw, if there were not also an obligatory determination of majority at age 18. Now, fortunately the system also has an asymmetry built in that requires taking responsibility first. Even without a test, it is a crime for a minor to steal, and they will under appropriate circumstances be tried as adults.

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If A, then B implies If not A, then not B. That is not valid. A implies B doesn't mean not-A implies not-B.

:worry: I may well be incorrect in what I am about to say, I have never studied logic - not in any formal/tangible sense at least, so feel free to correct me. However:

My point was that if we use *only* (or even primarily) the pass/fail results of a test to determine legal-adulthood, it creates a binary.

It is impossible to both pass a test and fail it. Yes? If it is a binary then wouldn't it have to be:

If pass = adulthood then not-pass = not-adulthood...?

Again, this is if you base it purely on the test results. Sure, you can say, well they failed their adulthood-exam, but they are 25years old, have a job, are able to understand basic social requirements etc.

But all these things have been introduced from outside the results of the test. My problem is that if you then want to start taking all these extraneous non-test things into consideration, then you are effectively declaring the test void/pointless.

If you take the Shepard Dog example, I think, in this situation, you would have to write it as: "This characteristic would define the animal as a dog but the animal doesn't possess this characteristic... thus this animal is not a dog" My reasoning is that I don't think your example was a binary?

Anyway... Like I said, I have never so much as read a wiki article on logic so it is quite possible you are right.

Either way, the only way the test-based appraisal could work I think, and David mentioned it above, would be by retaining the automatic classification of a person as a legal adult at a certain age regardless of their 'test results'

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