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Minors: Rights And Children

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The question is, who is responsible, and to which children?

If a woman has a child voluntarily, she is obligated to provide for that child or find someone that will. If there is no one, she must provide for the child if she is capable. If she is incapable of providing for the child her desire to do so becomes immaterial; if someone else is willing to provide for the child the child's right to support means that the government may remand the child to their custody.

Children do have a right to support, a derivative right, because no human can achieve adulthood, i.e. self-sustainance, without some sustainence early in life. Rights do not ignore the requirements of human survival.

However, "we", (if by that you mean everyone in general) don't have any obligation to other people's children. As in all other forms of charity, if we WANT to, we can decide to assist, but the real moral (and legal) obligation only devolves on the person that assumed ultimate responsibility for the child by bringing it into the world; the mother. If, due to a combination of circumstances such as a.) involuntary conception and b.) no ability to terminate the pregnancy the woman is forced to carry the child to term, she is absolved of this obligation.

Oh, I'm excluding men from this consideration because the obligation devolves on the mother, who has automatic custody of a newborn, if the father has decided to leave, and these rights of children questions assume the worst-case-scenario.

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The only way to prevent the father from deciding to leave if he so chooses is to put him in chains, make him a slave. It takes two people to START a pregnancy but it only takes ONE to finish it. STARTING a pregnancy doesn't constitute voluntary assumption of responsibility.

Oh, I made an error above; a woman can morally choose to terminate her relationship with a child (the ancients did this via exposure) even if it isn't the product of rape simply if no means of terminating the pregnancy is available. I.e. the assumption is that at some point she must actually choose to have a baby, and choosing to have sex is NOT the same as choosing to have a baby.

Apologies.

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Oh, I'm excluding men from this consideration because the obligation devolves on the mother, who has automatic custody of a newborn, if the father has decided to leave, and these rights of children questions assume the worst-case-scenario.

Sorry, I misunderstood this sentence before, which is why I was replying in the wrong context.

I was assuming that both the mother and the father agreed to have a child in the first place, in which case it would be unimaginably cruel (that is, immoral) of the father to simply "decide to leave."

I would also note that, with the consent of the mother, it should be possible for her to give birth to the child, but be relieved of the custody, if it is the father's wish (and within his ability) to take care of the child.

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I would also note that, with the consent of the mother, it should be possible for her to give birth to the child, but be relieved of the custody, if it is the father's wish (and within his ability) to take care of the child.

Oh, absolutely. In fact, if she chooses to give birth and then refuses to care for the child her consent is not necessary. You have to earn the right to your children by providing for them.

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  • 4 months later...

(Mod's note: Merged new thread with existing topic.)

Ok, so we agree that no individual has the right to another's property. The unfortunate fact of human biology, however, subjects the human to a period where it is incapable of earning its own way: childhood.

In the case where a parent wants a child, this is a voluntary transaction; it's the parent's pleasure to spend their earnings in exchange for the property of a son or daughter. However, what is the right of a child in the case where it is unwanted? To force a parent to care for a child that they don't want to care for is immoral; it involves the use of force. This leads to the conclusion that the child should be left to fend for itself, as this is the only way that no one's rights are being violated.

This would lead to the necessity of repealing child labor laws, which violate reason in the strictest sense; they use the physical force of government mandate to prohibit an individual from earning their worth. This would provide an opportunity for unwanted children to be able to earn their own way.

But what of the infant? Up until a few years into its life, a baby is utterly incapable of survival. To avoid forcing a parent to bear the expense of rearing it, the baby would have to be left to die.

This is epistemologically correct...I hate to bring feelings into any Objectivist discussion, but...

Edited by softwareNerd
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Whether a parent wants their child or not - they have to bear the responsibility for having created it (unless it is a mother who has been raped, and I should imagine this is actually very, very rare).

The interesting thing is - should a child be punished for his parents mistakes. That is to say - it is not a child's fault if his parents are gambling alcoholics who allow him no access to healthcare or education and squander all their earning on rum and lottery tickets. Where, from an Objectivist viewpoint I wonder, can the right of that child to medicine and schooling be justified?

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The interesting thing is - should a child be punished for his parents mistakes. That is to say - it is not a child's fault if his parents are gambling alcoholics who allow him no access to healthcare or education and squander all their earning on rum and lottery tickets. Where, from an Objectivist viewpoint I wonder, can the right of that child to medicine and schooling be justified?

The only person in relation to whom a child has any moral right to demand anything is his parents. It is not a matter of punishing the child if no-one else is willing to take care of it, it is a matter of whether that child can demand that it be taken care of by third parties on the basis of its need. It cannot.

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child can demand that it be taken care of by third parties on the basis of its need. It cannot.

But surely we cannot abandon the children of the stupid and immoral to a life on the streets. I am not saying the those who are not stupid or immoral have an obligation to bring up the offspring of the idle but there should be some sort of recognition that a child (for a better example an infant) should not be expected to fend for himself. Until he can, let us say until he is sixteen or perhaps eighteen, something should be there to recompense him for the unhappy accident of his birht. What I do not know, does anyone have any suggestions, or am I perhaps just completely wrong. The only alternative I can see is some dickensian tableau of match-girls, chimney sweeps and under-age turnip pickers!

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But surely we cannot abandon the children of the stupid and immoral to a life on the streets
"We" are not doing anything of the kind. "We" have not abandoned anyone in your example. You are trying to forge a duty where no such duty exists on the basis of another person's need. The fact that another innocent person needs something, does not give him a claim over anyone else.

The only alternative I can see is some dickensian tableau of match-girls, chimney sweeps and under-age turnip pickers!

Aside from the hyperbole, there is another alternative called charity. Why do you assume that no-one would volunteer to help such children? From the sounds of it, you would, and I suspect that there may be others who would do the same.

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"We" are not doing anything of the kind. "We" have not abandoned anyone in your example. You are trying to forge a duty where no such duty exists on the basis of another person's need. The fact that another innocent person needs something, does not give him a claim over anyone else.

Aside from the hyperbole, there is another alternative called charity. Why do you assume that no-one would volunteer to help such children? From the sounds of it, you would, and I suspect that there may be others who would do the same.

Quite right. On the point about chairty I read an interesting fact today that in the US where the government takes around 30% of the nations wealth citizens on average give £17 a month to charity, in the UK where the government takes around 40% its only £7 a month.

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However, what is the right of a child in the case where it is unwanted?  To force a parent to care for a child that they don't want to care for is immoral; it involves the use of force.  This leads to the conclusion that the child should be left to fend for itself, as this is the only way that no one's rights are being violated.

First, just to clarify, no child born in this country (assuming that the mother is of sound mind and body=conscious and mobile) is "unwanted". It is a choice solely on the part of the mother to bear a child to full term.

Thus, is a child is born and then thrown in a dumpster for example, or neglected, this breaks laws. Parents take the responsibility to care for another human life and must give the things necessary (within their power) to keep their children alive.

To avoid forcing a parent to bear the expense of rearing it, the baby would have to be left to die.

This is epistemologically correct...I hate to bring feelings into any Objectivist discussion, but...

No epistemologically this is not correct, because you are assuming the false premise that child birth is not a choice. It is a decision that once made, one must follow through with. Nobody forces a person into having children (under normal circumstances)

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But who could force you to bear responsibility for that decision? What are a child's rights? If it's a child's right to be fed, then one must ask, at whose expense? It's the same notion being put forward in Rand's essay on Man's Rights, but with a different application. You choose to bear a child, but that choice simply covers the labor process. What happens after is a parent's choice.

However, the idea of charity is a very viable one. I'm batting around the "hows" and "what ifs" in my head, I'll be back with problems if I find any. Thanks! :thumbsup:

For anyone else thinking about this with me, I already solved the "how would we make sure it was working well, and how would we decide who to help" dilemma with the "whoever did it best would be most successful" approach. :P

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Oh! If you make it a law that one must provide care to their child, you could prosecute and place a third party in charge of the child's care at the parent's expense. This would be state controlled retalliatory force, as we can agree that the parent violated the child's individual rights, and therefore doesn't go against the idea of non-coercion. :thumbsup:

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Aside from the hyperbole, there is another alternative called charity. Why do you assume that no-one would volunteer to help such children? From the sounds of it, you would, and I suspect that there may be others who would do the same.

And what if no-one did volunteer? You can't leave those who cannot help themselves at the mercy of the goodwill of others. What if that goodwill is not there. For example (and I know this is an extreme case) a child is born with no parents (father is nowhere to be seen and mother dies in childbirth -quite rare in the West but pretty common I should imagine elsewhere) and this child has serious birth defects. What then? Surely a child, 'though he has rights, does not have the responsibility to fend for himself. How does he protect himself from exploitation?

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And what if no-one did volunteer?
OK, I'll bite. The child would probably die.

You can't leave those who cannot help themselves at the mercy of the goodwill of others.

Yes I can.

Surely a child, 'though he has rights, does not have the responsibility to fend for himself.

That does not give the child, or anyone else, the right to force me to fend for him.

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I find these answers interesting. I am very interested in Objectivism (I would not yet call myself an Objectivist - only because I do not feel I yet know enough). I am just trying to reconcile Objectivist viewpoints with what I have already been taught. By the way - I have found another forum which has answered many of my questions (some I had not yet asked) about the case of children unable to fend for themselves. I suppose sentimentalism is many people greatest hurdle to overcome when it comes to Objectivism.

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I suppose sentimentalism is many people greatest hurdle to overcome when it comes to Objectivism.

This is not right. Objectivism would not, in my view tell you that you should not value children or want to help innocent victims. It would tell you that you have no right to force anyone to value or help them. It would also tell you that you should understand the reasons that you value children and the reasons that you want to help.

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Having children is a choice that has consequential obligations. Knowing that you would have died without the care of your parents is obvious evidence to this fact. The obligations are mostly comprised of the requirements of rearing a child into self-sufficiency. That is a time frame that will be different for every child. Some kids will (at least have the ability to be, if not legally) be self-sufficient well before 18, while others who have inexperienced or uneducated parent will sometimes never be of self-sufficiency.

How long should a parent be obligated to a child? As long as the child takes to become physically and, as a moral standard, economically self-sufficient. As soon as a child is, and recognizes and admits his or her self-sufficiency or is obviously taking advantage of the situation by not doing so (a civil matter) is the point where actual obligation is severed.

By my evaluation, this covers the essentials.

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How does he protect himself from exploitation?

How about a loan from the state, to be paid back with interest, set at market rate, with a reasonable payoff plan starting when the child comes of age. Nobody is coerced then, the child pays for itself.

Heck, why would it even need to be the state? A bank might give such a loan, or a corporation might sponsor the child if it thought it could profit... The possibilities are endless, and there's no reason to force anyone!

Edited by Inspector
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