Suffer the Little Children

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An anonymous commenter at the invaluable Third Party Watch posted a series of quotes on child sex allegedly from left-libertarian presidential candidate Mary Ruwart's book Short Answers to the Tough Questions. I've looked through the book, and, yes: This is Ruwart's response to the question "How can a libertarian argue against child pornography?"

Children who willingly participate in sexual acts have the right to make that decision as well, even if it's distasteful to us personally. Some children will make poor choices just as some adults do in smoking and drinking to excess. When we outlaw child pornography, the prices paid for child performers rise, increasing the incentives for parents to use children against their will.

The anonymous anti-Ruwartian's tone is pretty smear-y… nonetheless, it's accurate to say that Ruwart argued against at least anti-child pornography law and at most laws convering statutory rape. Ruwart is right up there with Bob Barr and Wayne Allyn Root as a frontrunner for the LP nomination, so I'm curious as to 1)who's digging this up and 2)who will turn against her because of it.

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  1. This is getting into some of the more distasteful logical conclusions of libertarian philosophy. While my personal philosophy would certainly disagree, it is obviously necessary for political philosophy to be detached from ones personal moral beliefs.
    That said, why the hell shouldn’t libertarians accept that children should not have the same rights as adults and that individual liberties should not universally apply to children. Babies cannot make decisions for themselves.

  2. I’m at a loss too. I can’t imagine anyone not agreeing with her, and I’m sure that this will lead to even more massive support for the libertarian movement.

  3. ‘pretty smear-y’

    Jesus Christ Weigel, put down the smelling salts.

    This ain’t an out of context quote nor is it one of her associates, past or present, close or casual.
    This is a verbatim complete quote from a candidate him/herself.

    I’m outta beer, so I won’t go into what ‘a real libertarian’ should think. But the demaracation what an adult can and cannot do withselves and what a child can and cannot do is pretty self evident.

    Kids have an insufficient experience level to understand choice and consequence. Where this line is drawn is indeed arbitrary, but it’s not zero, and probably not any younger than 12.

    And to borrow from another cliche, ‘when we outlaw murder, the prices paid to hitmen will rise, increasing the incentives for people to become ninjas.’

    Damn, now I need to go to 7-11.

  4. I really can’t respond to this without feeling the need to hurl all sorts of untoward words at Ruwart.

    Suffice it to say, this is the sort of inane navel-gazing that really, really makes the libertarian movement look like it’s populated by wackos.

  5. Most cultures have an arbitrary age where a child becomes an adult. Individuals do reach maturity at different ages, but I think that it is necessary to draw a line in the sand for when an individual is legally responsible for their own actions.

    Obviously we are not children that need to be coddled our entire lives, but neither are we capable of making responsible decisions the moment we are born.

  6. Has anyone checked her for colloidal silver or racist newletters? This might be the first time someone grabs that whole nambla block.

    Mary needs to make very clear that she was talking about _consensual_ acts, not rape or coercion. But also, does she believe it’d be ok for, say, a 25yo and an 8yo to hook up?

  7. Do you all think it should be illegal only for adults to have sex with children, or do you think kids should be punished for the poor decisions they make? It seems to me that punishing someone for exploiting someone else’s bad judgment is a lot more justifiable than hitting someone with all sorts of external bad consequences because you’re afraid that they don’t get the internal bad consequences of what they’re doing.

  8. “makes the libertarian movement look like it’s populated by wackos.”

    Seems, mediageek? Nay, it is! I know now “seems.”

  9. I know *not* “seems.”

  10. Where are all the sarcastic references to Helen Lovejoy and “for the children”?

  11. anyone with a brain should turn against her because of this..it is completely repugnant and shocks the conscious

  12. This ain’t an out of context quote nor is it one of her associates, past or present, close or casual.
    This is a verbatim complete quote from a candidate him/herself.

    I think he was being sarcastic.

  13. The term ‘child pornography’ applies to far too many things to be useful. At worst it is violent and exploitative. At best it is safe, informed, and consensual. Some of it may even be produced by children or teenagers with cameras, and not involve any financial incentives or adults. I have read about children being arrested for possessing sexual images of themselves or their peers. This isn’t child protection, it’s child prosecution.

    The things that could be considered child porn vary from culture to culture, and often include depictions of teenagers who are under an arbitrary age such as 18. In some places pictures of nude children are considered obscene and could get someone in trouble, even if they aren’t particularly sexual. In the US, laws are designed systematically to punish people for their erotic interest in children, not to protect the subjects. There is no other explanation for why mere possession of child pornography is such a severely punished crime, and is often equated morally with actual abuse of children. Any libertarian should be able to see that possession of child porn is really no worse a crime than possession of illegal substances such as marijuana, and as much as we may fear and loath those who do it, we cannot continue to ruin their lives with stigmatization and long prison sentences when they themselves have not hurt anyone.

    I don’t know if I accept the candidate’s line of reasoning, but I think that she does make an interesting point in that humans need the freedom to take risks as a prerequisite for, and not just as a benefit of adulthood. I’ve always wondered why we say young adults shouldn’t be exposed to ‘adult’ material (R rated movies for instance) at the exact time in their lives when they are trying to figure out how to be adults.

    If this woman were really courageous, she wouldn’t call for total legalization in the name of helping children, but would call for reason and sensibility in the midst of a mass hysteria surrounding child sexuality in general. One part of this would be arguing that not all children and teenagers involved in erotica are harmed or damaged. Some are. Some are not. Another would be an advocacy for less severe punishments for those non-violent offenders implicated in victimless child-pornography crimes. This would not earn her many votes, but it would be refreshing to have a politician more interested in honesty and nuance than in pandering to the angry mobs.

  14. I know i will hate myself for asking…

    But how does Europe deal with this stuff?

  15. I never knew Dr Ruwart was such a sophisticated economic thinker. I was also completely unaware that the child pornography industry was sufficiently advanced, extensive, and variegated as to allow a competitive market price mechanism to work.

  16. Old enough to bleed, old enough to breed.

    Old enough to jack off, old enough to consent to consensual sex.

    Ok that last one doesn’t really rhyme, but you get the picture.

  17. More importantly…

    Asked repeatedly whether he would run as a third party candidate, he would only say that he “can’t tell” what the next few months may hold for his campaign.

    Link: http://www.clarkforkchronicle.com/article.php/20080423072940540

  18. That’s still Ron Paul, btw. You know of him, I’m sure.

  19. Egads. This is why axiomatic libertarian thinking leads to absurd conclusions.

  20. “Any libertarian should be able to see that possession of child porn is really no worse a crime than possession of illegal substances such as marijuana,”

    you understand there’s a difference between a sentient being and a fucking plant, right?

    1. Since when has a picture or video been sentient?

  21. So – does this make Ruwart a less-desirable candidate than (say) Dr. Paul?

  22. you understand there’s a difference between a sentient being and a fucking plant, right?

    Similarly, there’s a difference between a sentient being and a video/picture of one.

  23. “you understand there’s a difference between a sentient being and a fucking plant, right?

    Similarly, there’s a difference between a sentient being and a video/picture of one.”

    I possess a plant – the plant has no rights, and neither did the soil, the water, the sunlight, and the closet it sits in. Thus, nothing that intersects with the interests of the state.

    I possess a video of a sentient being. The video camera, hard drive, firewire cable have no rights, but the sentient being does. And the sentient being before a certain point in its lifecycle, does *not* have the ability to give informed consent for one to take a sexually explicit video of it – any such video is therefore a violation of the sentient beings personal sovereignty. Thus, the existence of this video does intersect with the interests of the state, because the state’s (sole) purpose is to protect the inalienable rights of its component sentient beings.

    And, as a prebuttal, I generally take a hard line in that human beings post uterus are the only sentient objects in the current known universe. Nothing else has rights.

  24. I’m outta beer, so I won’t go into what ‘a real libertarian’ should think.

    That’s easy – a real libertarian thinks Americans should be free to have exactly what they don’t want shoved down their throats.

    So – does this make Ruwart a less-desirable candidate than (say) Dr. Paul?

    I dunno – where does she stand on the open borders thingy? That one is usually good for a get-out-of-jail-free card around these parts….

  25. 1) Whoever is digging this up is doing good, and 2) I’d sure as hell turn against her if I’d been for her to start with.

    There’s no such thing as “willingly” when it comes to small children. If a child is lured by a stranger with candy, does the child go willingly? No. It’s a form of coercion, and there’s nothing remotely libertarian about Ruwart’s despicable comment.

  26. ITT, pornography=sex=rape.

    Try to understand the distinction.

  27. It’s pretty obvious that she’s not talking about children who are too young to be interested in sex, which means she’s not talking about 50 on 5, she’s talking about 20 on 13 (which is still pretty oogy). In the context of the surrounding pages, this is pretty fucking clear to anyone with a functioning brain.

    It’s also pretty fucking clear that Ruwart is talking about uncoerced consensual behavior, not a small child who submitted to an adult’s authority. She brings up the same point about the unintended consequences of barring uncoerced consensual behavior that libertarians frequently bring up about drugs, gambling, and adult sex, though her example of unintended consequences is one of the more ridiculous.

    This is not to say that Ruwart doesn’t step in it big time. Tossing out a quick three short paragraph answer to child pornography is naive, stupid, and insensitive. She’s clearly relying on the intellectual head space that she’s established at that point in the book, but she really should have recognized that this is one of a very few issues that you make yourself completely fucking clear about. She didn’t. She kept it short and left herself open to the 50 on 5 accusation.

  28. ‘pretty smear-y’

    Jesus Christ Weigel, put down the smelling salts.

    RTFCs. The poster literally spams the thread with quotes over and over again, framing them with ample rhetoric that is easily described as a smear.

    Standing alone, the quote is an intellectually naive statement about the unintended consequences of barring teen sexual precociousness. In the Ruwarchy’s frame, it’s a call to rampant baby-rape.

  29. The whole point of an “age of consent” is to determine at what point a person can’t be coerced into sex due to natural childhood submission to adult authority. The trouble is that some people below that age will seek sex. The law allows no distinction between a 19 year-old who coerces a 15 year-old into sex and a 19 year-old who accepts a sexual proposal from a 15 year-old. I think that that is closer to Ruwart’s real point.

  30. Dave Weigel —

    Your questions, followed by my answers:

    1)Who’s digging this up?

    No one had to “dig this stuff up”. Mary Ruwart wrote and promoted the book herself. It is regularly advertised in LP News and other libertarian publications.

    2)Who will turn against her because of it?

    I will. I have so, so had it with libertarians discrediting and ultimately destroying libertarianism by making idiotic statements like the one in question.

    It makes it worse that she promotes herself as an exemplar Libertarian communicator. She has written some good things, but this wipes them out, I’m sorry to say.

  31. Ruwart’s ideas seem strange, but even Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg advocated reducing the age of consent to 12 at one time.

  32. That book is not promoted in LP News and hasn’t been at least in the years that I’ve read it. Advocates – who runs Ruwart’s column – was running spots for a period but now only candidates advertise.

    If they were smart they would dump her from the party before Fox News gets wind of it and links the entire LP to Scary Mary and her largely disgusting line of “reasoning.”

  33. Yep, Mary’s done.

    This is an appropriate line of discussion in an academic setting [you know, where you can take an extreme position just to explore it, and to see what kind of rebuttals you get] but once you employ rhetoric of this kind you have to realize that you can never gain any elective office, ever.

    But now to threadjack on the issue of youth and consent. I’ve been thinking about something in connection with the FLDS case in Texas for a little while, but we haven’t had a thread on that case in a few days, so I have to steal this thread.

    Some of the “children” being taken from their parents are actually pretty old. I can put myself in their shoes and realize that when I was 11 or 12 I would not have regarded the decision to put me in a foster home as one in which I should be a completely passive object. What do we think about the state’s claim to the right to dispose of “children” who are old enough to have a strong opinion on the matter?

    Frankly, if at 11 you had told me that the state was assigning me to a foster home regardless of my wishes on the matter, I probably would have told the judge to pick a foster family he didn’t like so that he wouldn’t have to feel bad when their house was burned down. And honestly, I think this would have been an entirely appropriate and fair attitude for me to take.

  34. No one is America is allowed to have sexual thoughts before their 18th birthday.

  35. I’m still in favor of the dutch system. It’s not “perfect”, nothing will be but it’s a hell of a lot more so than ours.

    To summarize:

    1) No one under 13 can give legal consent.

    2) Consentual sex at 13 or older is not a crime unless the child or child’s legal guardian filse a complaint.

    3) 18 anything goes.

    1. 4) The age difference may not exceed 5 years.

  36. Jesus. Talk about smelling salts. Get a grip, H&Rers.
    Ruwart’s points — while not something you’d want to build a political campaign around — when taken in context don’t seem all that bizzare and seem worth debating.
    Certainly, these views seem consistant with a certain brand of anarchy and something — wait, grab the salts!– not beyond the pale in Libertarian politics.
    And Fluffy, if you’re running as a Libertarian, you’re not going to win elective office in any case.

  37. Kids have an insufficient experience level to understand choice and consequence.

    That’s right, so if a young girl’s parents tell her she needs to marry the nice middle-aged man the sect leader has chosen for her, she needs to suck it up and put on that weddingdress.

  38. Citizen Nothing: These comments may not be out of bounds for a free, personal inquiry, but they sure as hell are out of bounds for Libertarian POLITICS. Politics means actually working to win an office, reach compromises, and enact solutions to all the things libertarians sit around and bitch about. It is not the time for a philosophy discussion.

    This shit about “LP won’t win so let people just represent the movement” is horseshit. Anarchists like Ruwart (or incompetents like Badnarik) take the reins and become the face of the WHOLE LP. That is unacceptable. I sure as hell won’t stay in the LP if this is the kind of crap that people really think represents the party.

    Ruwart is an anarchist, not a libertarian. There IS a difference.

  39. So DR, you’re saying an anarchist can’t be a libertarian. Interesting.
    I’d disagree. But I might agree that the LP, if it ever wants to achieve electorial success, may have to move in, let us say, a less anarchist (let’s not say more statist)direction.
    Given the choice, I’d pick a candidate falling toward the anarchist end of the libertarian spectrum over one trending the other way. But I realize I’m in a tiny, tiny minority and shall always be.
    I made my peace with that decades ago. I’m no longer seeking victory, just soothing my soul.

  40. or ELECTORAL success…
    (Why do I always catch the typos AFTER posting?)

  41. This is an appropriate line of discussion in an academic setting [you know, where you can take an extreme position just to explore it, and to see what kind of rebuttals you get] but once you employ rhetoric of this kind you have to realize that you can never gain any elective office, ever.

    I agree that this is the existing reality, but I’m disgusted that it’s so. It’s a shame that the electorate (and society in general) comprises such easily manipulated, ignorant fools.

    The “50 on 5” tack is no different from Santorum claiming that legalizing gay marriage between two consenting adults is equivalent to accepting polygamy, bestiality, necrophilia, pedophilia, etc.

  42. CN: An anarchist can by all means be a member of the Libertarian Party — although I’m not sure why that person would want to be, given that the LP works within a political system that can never have any legitimacy.

    However, ideologically, yes, I think the philosophical record would show that libertarianism and anarchism stem from different roots.

    Libertarianism is basically a dogmatic descendant of British classical liberalism. Locke, Burke, Smith, Hume, the “common sense” moralists, Madison, Jefferson: they all believed that government had a legitimate purpose — the protection of individual rights — that only government could accomplish. Nozick reaches the same argument from a rational choice/public choice perspective in Anarchy, State and Utopia.

    Hell, F.A. Hayek and Milton Friedman both made the case that society can protect liberty and still have a minimal social safety net.

    Anarchism, as far as I am aware, comes from the radicalism of Continental liberalism. This is why there are still to this day pockets of French anarchists. Jefferson was about as radical of an “anarchist” as you will find in the British tradition.

  43. Scooby: If Mary had wanted to make fine distinctions, why didn’t she just say “I don’t think 18 year olds should be prosecuted for having sex with 17 year olds.” But this is not what she meant. Doesn’t it seem likely that she really means there shouldn’t be ANY statutory rape laws? And that she really DOES think a 12 or 13 year old can “consent” to be with a 50 year old?

  44. I should revise my comments before I get my ass chewed by the Rockwellites:

    Von Mises was a dogmatic personality. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that his thinking is from the European continent. But as far as I’m aware, the line of thinking that traces itself from Rockwell to Rothbard to Mises is, yes, very radical. But I don’t think it’s fair to call it “anarchism.”

    And as for Rand: she endorsed Goldwater for president. I do not see her as an anarchist.

  45. I am still a Ron Paul Republican (Nevada State
    Convention this weekend). For this election cycle, I like Bob Barr. Just because I think he is the candidate who could take more votes from McCain.

    Yes, I am an anarchist. IN the sense I cannot see where Representative government really works, and can reasonably be expected to work. We will never really return to the Constitution, and even if we did, within a couple of generations we would abandon it again.

    The only long term solution is a market instead of clan based Kritarchy. No monopoly government based on the power to extract taxes by force, and claiming a monopoly of force over a geographical area. This will not come about in the US by electoral vote, at least not for a minimum few decades to come. So I won’t see it. But eventually technological advances and private property rights advances will enable people to see it as inevitable.

    In the meantime, I work to stop the encroachment of the collective Borg. You keep what you kill.

  46. “…I’m not sure what that person would want to be…”

    DR, although not an anarchist myself, I see no contradiction in working within the system as it exists in order to change that system.
    If I find myself in an unjust system not of my own making, why would I hesitate to use the rules of the system (which really are the only tools at my disposal) to bring it down?

  47. CHOMOS FOR RUWART 2008!

  48. DR,
    You’d have to ask her- I haven’t read the book in question, so I don’t know exactly what the context was.

    The book is called “Short Answers to the Tough Questions”. The problem I see is that tough questions don’t have short answers (that’s what makes them tough questions). “Short Answers” don’t leave any room for fine distinctions, and that is her error. Unfortunately, the masses crave short answers- anything else strains their atrophied minds.

  49. Has anybody bothered to measure the size of the nambla demographic? ‘Cause Ruwart has that constituency locked in tight.

    Also I don’t buy the fact that children can make fully consensual decisions. Yes, the age of 18 is an arbitrary number, but you HAVE to set the bar somewhere. If somebody reaches sexual maturity (which usually happens before the age of legal consent) and wants to marry some old dude, it must require parental consent. If there’s ANY abuse or coercion involved (hey kid want some candy?), that legal minor has full recourse to charge the dirty old man with a crime. I would even go so far as to say that the parents have the obligation to press charges for the crime if they discover it.

  50. Libertarianism is basically a dogmatic descendant of British classical liberalism.

    Um, yeah… pretty much in the same way Paris Hilton is a descendant of Conrad…

  51. Has Michael Jackson endorsed her yet?

  52. Ugh, in my fit of righteous typing I screwed up my screen name. Oh well, some poor fool will get a lot more spam email now.

  53. Rimfax, maybe you could provide some other Ruwart quotes to support what’s so “pretty fucking clear.” Instead of “children”, does she use ever the word teen, or minor? Does she say 20 on 13, not 50 on 5? Is a 20 year old making a porn film with a 13 year old girl just “kinda oogy?” WTF.

    If as you say her answer is limited to what you might be comfortable with, like 20 on 13, then she didn’t really answer the fucking question, did she?

  54. Oh for Christ’s sake. While I ardently believe age of consent laws should be low — say, 14, at least for sex within a range of 7 years from the 14-year-old — “child porn” generally means pre-pubescent, as in 5-year-olds. And if one is in possession of video of raping a toddler, that should be illegal for the same reason it is illegal to knowingly receive stolen goods. Doesn’t matter that one didn’t actually steal the widgets, one is supporting the illegal enterprise.

    (And if one wants to possess such garbage for purpose of studying it, go through law enforcement to get it.)

  55. Yes, Ruwart’s comments make it sound like a blanket support of any kind of consensual sex. On the flip side, the current attitude towards people under 18 engaging in sex is insane. Anybody remember the 17 year old kids in Florida that got charged with producing and distributing child pornography because they took pictures and video of themselves having sex and showed a friend? How in the fuck does that make any sense from the perspective of preventing harm to minors or society, or from the perspective of protecting individual rights?

  56. This flap is why if purists want to stay in the Libertarian (Political) Party that is fine, except only pragmatic libertarians should actually run for office, write the platform, etc. Most purists will find a more comfortable home in a libertarian educational or activist organization. From day one, a fair number of purists questioned Nolan’s call for a political party, knowing full well that fertile ground had not been prepared for Rothbardian anarchism and Randian macho flashing. Thirty five years of vote totals pretty much prove that out. That said, I expect to proudly vote Libertarian in November whether the candidate is Ruwart, Root, Barr, or even Milnes.

  57. Mona,
    “Child porn” currently seems to mean anything that a local prosecutor wants it to mean. See “T”‘s comment below yours.

  58. “How can a libertarian argue against child pornography?”
    Children who willingly participate in sexual acts have the right to make that decision as well, even if it’s distasteful to us personally. Some children will make poor choices just as some adults do in smoking and drinking to excess”

    This makes me sick, but for argument’s sake, if children (making no age distinction since she doesn’t) can willingly participate in sexual acts and kiddie porn, then they should be able to:
    1. drink, smoke and do drugs (old enough to drink and inhale, old enough for booze and drugs)
    2. vote (old enough to read, old enough to vote)
    3. own and use a gun (stronng enough to pull the trigger, old enough to own and use a gun)
    4. drive a car or truck, fly a plane (tall enough to step on the peddal and look over the steering wheel, old enough to drive/fly)
    5. work and pay taxes (strong enough to lift, old enough to work)
    6. join the armed forces (see #3)

  59. The age of consent in most states is 16. Even in a pure libertarian state you’d have to pick some number. Again, there is nothing libertarian, or even logical, about Ruwart’s comment.

  60. rana,

    The argument has been made by L. Neil Smith if not others. His comment was something along the lines of “Yes, I’m serious about wanting a world where an 11 year old girl can go to the store and buy a handgun and heroin with no id and no forms.” I’m paraphrasing pretty loosely, but it’s sure as hell how he thinks.

  61. Well, since it is illegal, then it doesn’t happen, right?
    In this very country, young women were often married off in their early teens. One libertarian columnist recounted how his grandmother married at the age of 13 and became the matriarch of the family.

    Children have been infantilized and childhood prolonged for reasons I have not fathomed, but I thing the result has been a prolonged delay of entry into adulthood. I think professional education has something to do with it.

    Homeschool your children and you’ll be their socialization model, not the other brats they have to associate with at government schools.

    Americans really do have a lot of emotional issues about sex. Kids are having sex with each other anyhow and there you have two ignorants taking risks.

  62. If a significant number of libertarian-leaning posters can jump immediately from Ruwart’s words to “But what about the five-year-olds who want to become porn stars?!!!!”, it’s no wonder that the whole “What about the children?” meme so resonates in the culture at large.
    We’re doomed. Doomed, I tells ya!

  63. “Child porn” currently seems to mean anything that a local prosecutor wants it to mean. See “T”‘s comment below yours.

    That prosecution was idiotic, because the “criminals” involved were two consenting teenagers. There ought be no statutory rape prosecutions for consenting teens or those within some reasonable age range relative to said teens.

    I’m addressing actual children. A 30-year-old having sex with a 3-year-old, or filming, selling and owning a video of it, should be criminal.

  64. Goddammit! I’d like to think that Ruart and all the other Libertarian Party candidates who have made idiotic statements like this are planted by the Republicans or Democrats or the Gub’mint. But the truth is that the Libertarian Party was infected early on with the meme that there is one true set of political answers that can be deduced solely by axiomatic reasoning.

  65. It’s not a jump. Ruwart is either including young children in her answer, or she’s evading the question she purports to answer.

    Axiomatic reasoning is not the problem. Arguing from the false axiom that young children can willingly consent to producing porn is the problem.

  66. “The age of consent in most states is 16. Even in a pure libertarian state you’d have to pick some number.”

    Bzzt. That’s exactly the problem — the notion that “childhood” versus “adulthood” can or should be determined by drawing a number out of a hat.

    It’s not that complicated — if a prosecutor believes that a person who had sex was not competent to consent, i.e. that that person was raped, then let that prosecutor prove the charge to a jury beyond a reasonable doubt.

    Do you think any jury on the planet would decline to convict a 50-year-old who had sex with a 5-year-old?

  67. This is kind of a touchy subject huh. People jumping to all kinds of conclusions.

    This is interesting how we have infantilized children. I mean 13 14 15 it’s kind of subjective. I mean I have seen some 12 year olds I would swear to god were 18. It’s interesting.
    Not to say I support it but I really don’t think the quotee was talking about 5 year olds. Nor I’m sure were they talking about forcable rape. Last I checked the age of reason was still 7.

    I am a little disturbed people see this quote and say “OMG they support child RAPE.” That’s quite a jump. No one supports rape. Well maybe rapists but even then probably not.

    I do like opening up the topic of what is mature and what age does childhood end? 11 12? I discovered masturbation at 11 years old. Sex was still a mystery but i found a womans form erotic. I understood sex. I understood an erection. I really didn’t so much connect though. At the time I’d like to think I was mature enough to handle it . I probably wasn’t. Though I’m sure a lot of 50 year olds think their 25 year old selves were immature and reckless too. The question still remains what we consider “children” and how we view consent. Those two terms need to be clearly defined for this argument and I’m not sure they were. I would rather Ruwart had clearly defined that because I’m sure she has an actual answer to that.

    Not to mention the question was how can libertarians argue against child porn laws. I’m not really sure that means she’s for child porn. It’s simply answering the question. Like if someone said to me “Name a good reason for thermo nuclear war.” I’m not for nuclear war but I would probably try to find a reason for it.

  68. You can abolish child porn laws if you want because I got my own enforcement mechanism, it’s a fucking 12 Gage.

    You can argue til the cows come home that my nine year old House Blond consented. Well, right up until the time your brains splatter all over the wall behind you, that is.

  69. But don’t video that action, TWC, ’cause then you’re in possession of an illegal snuff film. That might get you in some trouble.

  70. That said, why the hell shouldn’t libertarians accept that children should not have the same rights as adults and that individual liberties should not universally apply to children. Babies cannot make decisions for themselves.

    Most do. I’ve no philosophical problem with age of consent laws, the juvenile justice sytem, or the necessary differentiation between children and adults vis a vis rights and responsibilities.

  71. It didn’t post my comment above. The short of it is, at 12, if my science teacher had been interested, that would have been consensual. Age of consent laws are WAY too high.

  72. I’m also not opposed to child labor laws, children being denied the vote, court ordered child support, child neglect statutes, a miniimum age for marriage and military service, and a lot more* age dependent differences in how children are treated under the law.

    If you wish to discuss modifying the aforementioned laws we have something to discuss, if you want to eliminate them I will not waste my time debating you.

    *Those are just top of my head examples. I’m certain intelligent people can add to the list.

  73. J sub, I agree. I think 45 would be a good minimum for military service. And for marriage, too, come to think of it…

  74. Democratic Republican:
    Jefferson was about as radical of an “anarchist” as you will find in the British tradition.

    You might want to check out William Godwin. He was a Brit, and is often considered to be the grandfather of anarchist philosophy. Unlike Proudhon, who I believe came later, he didn’t call himself an anarchist, but his (anti)political philosophy was pretty important in his day (Late 18th, early 19th centuries).

    I’m not sure if you’d include him in the “continental liberal tradition,” but he was British. However, classical anarchism in general may be best described as libertarian/anti-state socialism, and so mostly at odds with US Libertarianism.

    FMI http://dwardmac.pitzer.edu/Anarchist_Archives/godwin/Godwinarchive.html

  75. Citizen Nothing, snuff film? Wow, varmint control plus residuals?

    Anon, I was so wanting my English teacher AND my science teacher. About age 13 or so. These chicks were ten years older than me. My dad came home from Back-To-School night a little short of breath as I recall.

    Not saying it as eloquently as J Sub (for one) but I agree that age of consent laws are overbearing on every level. Biologically we are ready to be parents at just past puberty. Culturally, we’ve pushed the age of good sense out to twenty-something over the last hundred years or so.

    I make a huge differentiation between a nine year old and a thirteen year old. It would be difficult to accomplish, because of the cultural baggage that we’ve acquired, but I’m okay with rights and responsibilities of adulthood at about 14-15. I mean vote, liquor, sex, marriage, contract, etc.

    Except, I’m never letting my boy get a driver license. That kid is way too impulsive. 🙂

  76. Pray for me, TWC. My 16-year-old is due in traffic court for a fender-bender next month.

  77. …due in traffic court next month because of a fender bender.
    Swear to Zeus, I’m losing the ability to write grammatical sentences. Guess it’s time to stop sniffin’ glue.

  78. We only had two teachers that year, and the other one was the wrong gender. I am sure I have developed a great deal since then (now in my 20s) but not enough that it would change my decision or actions on many issues.

    Maybe I was a mature 12 or am a really immature 24. Either way, having a legal difference doesn’t make much sense.

  79. “Maybe I was a mature 12 or am a really immature 24.”

    It’s the latter. Wait and live another 20 years. You will realize you didn’t know much at 12, and it seems little more at 24.

  80. I meant in comparison to others at the same age, if that wasn’t clear. Not in terms of lifespan maturity.

  81. Pick whatever age of consent you like. There is still child pornography being made with children younger than that. Some keep claiming, without any evidence, that Ruwart isn’t talking about that kind of child porn. Bullshit.

    Reframing the issue as a quibble about age of consent doesn’t change the fact that Ruwart made a vile analogy to consensual acts and used the standard economic argument against prohibition, where both do not apply.

  82. Thus, the existence of this video does intersect with the interests of the state, because the state’s (sole) purpose is to protect the inalienable rights of its component sentient beings.

    What inalienable right is compromised by someone owning a photograph or video that includes your image?

  83. why the hell shouldn’t libertarians accept that children should not have the same rights as adults and that individual liberties should not universally apply to children.

    Because of the idealistic tendency of libertarians towards the perfect rules-based society. The existence of children and some other sentient beings messes that up.

    The question is, if children aren’t allowed to do what they want with themselves, then what do you do with them? You can’t subject them to the absolute rule of someone else. You can’t formulate universal rules for them either.

    Of course this is a problem for all idealists, not just libertarians. Non-idealists can just say, “Use common sense”, in the full knowledge that such a sol’n isn’t perfect and that common sense isn’t so common.

  84. So, Robert, what happens when your idea of “common sense” and mine clash?

  85. Citizen Nothing, you go see a person called a “judge.” And that person applies something called “the law.”

  86. But David, that sounds suspiciously like a “rule” in a rules-based society. (see Robert’s post.)

  87. So, Robert, what happens when your idea of “common sense” and mine clash?

    Citizen Nothing, are you taking the position that we humans can come up with a legal or governmental system where nobody needs to use common sense, or in which all conflicts of common sense can be avoided?

    Otherwise, you’re question is the equivalent of asking, “What happens if people are involved?”

  88. ML, long story short: I was suggesting to Robert the possibility that, absent clearly stated rules — i.e. laws — the state or its officials would likely decide the outcome of our differences based on their own whims, his or my version of common sense notwithstanding.
    But I was just playing devil’s advocate. I find his suggestion that idealistic libertarians might be concerned with creating “the perfect rules-based society” to be something I need to ponder further.

  89. This is getting into some of the more distasteful logical conclusions of libertarian philosophy.

    You mean that even if the conclusion is cogent, you would still apply the Argument by Gut Feeling?

    While my personal philosophy would certainly disagree, it is obviously necessary for political philosophy to be detached from ones personal moral beliefs.
    That said, why the hell shouldn’t libertarians accept that children should not have the same rights as adults and that individual liberties should not universally apply to children.

    In order to rationally accept an argument, it must be logical and cogent. Why would I, for example, just accept that children do not have the same rights as I do? Which rights would you be talking about?

    Babies cannot make decisions for themselves.

    The “Kids do not have rights” premise cannot be used to argue against child pornography precisely because child pornography is a violation of the child’s right to his or her privacy and body.

    If we look at it from the premise that children do have rights, then it is clear that, as long as there is NO consent, then a pornographer violated that child’s rights. You may say a child cannot give his or her consent, but that would be to assume that a child cannot give his or her consent, negating his or her rights. Again, if we negate a child’s rights to give consent, then the pornographer would NOT have violated that child’s inexistent rights, and thus would not have committed a crime. There must be a violation of someone’s natural rights to say there has been a crime, and one violation would be that the person took a picture of a child’s naked body without that child’s consent.

  90. There are stark differences between common law, civil law, and criminal law.

    I think we could get along just fine without criminal law. Responsible parents or advocate organizations should pursue justice in situations where it appears (their) children have been coerced into a sex act that could appear consensual on the surface. Of course, obvious situations (i.e. 5 year-old) definitely call for retribution and restitution, but we don’t need a criminal justice system for this to take place.

    A Civil and Common justice system should work for the victim, not “society”.

    Definitely a quote from Ruwart taken out of context for the intent of a bludgeon.

  91. ShootingBaseballStar’s comment here is rational and deserves careful consideration. The basic point is that sometimes underage erotica is harmful and other times it’s not. This is undoubtedly correct and can be evaluated by considering some real examples from the mainstream movie, magazine, and book industries.

    If you own a copy of the film “The Godfather” you possess a scene of a topless 16 year old girl (Simonetta Stefanelli). It’s technically illegal under some state laws like Virginia and Pennsylvania, and amateurs *have* been arrested for doing nothing more than photographing a teenager topless. Do you think that actress considers herself a victim? Do you think she wants people who own “The Godfather” to be sent to jail?

    If your bookshelf includes “Playboy: The Complete Centerfolds” you possess pictures of at least 14 Playmates who posed semi-nude or nude when they were under 18. Of those, it seems that only one has regrets (E.A. Roberts – incidentally she’s the only one that Playboy staff admits to being underage) while most of the others tell journalists and fans that they’re still proud of what they did and gladly sign autographs of their old pictures (Cynthia Myers, Patti Reynolds, Penny Baker, Sue Bernard, and others).

    A law that presumes that a girl becomes a victim when a topless image is made of her should not be allowed to exist. If there is a real victim, usually there will be some element of force or fraud, and that element can be prosecuted. Maybe the girl was forced at gunpoint to pose. Maybe she was lied to about the purpose of the project. Maybe she was filmed without her knowledge using a hidden camera. Maybe she was told to keep the image a secret from her parents. Laws exist to prohibit voyeurism, nonconsentual photography, harrassment, and rape. Use those, rather than a “child porn” law that extends its reach too far.

    Provisions against images of mere nudity must go, while keeping in place provisions that prohibit images of sexual acts done on little children (under puberty). This would keep the focus on prosecuting real abuse, while preventing teenagers from getting raided for sharing harmless pictures of themselves and their boyfriends/girlfriends with their friends.

    It’s a thornier issue as to whether there should be bans on images of sex acts with consenting teenagers. Here’s a recent article from The Daily Telegraph about something that happened in Australia: “Classmates see footage of girl’s sex act” by Steve Gee, http://www.news.com.au/story/0,23599,23387585-2,00.html
    “Horrified relatives of the 15-year-old girl called New South Wales police after becoming aware she had been filmed and the footage had been sent to dozens of classmates at Woonona High School.”

    Did the girl herself have a problem with it? No. The article writer says:
    “The girl told police the act had been consensual and she did not wish to file a complaint.”

    But the police don’t care what the girl thinks so they didn’t stop their investigation right then and there. Police around the world are trained to automatically treat someone under an arbitrary age as a victim.

  92. Definitely a quote from Ruwart taken out of context for the intent of a bludgeon.

    You keep using that term, “out of context.” I do not think it means what you think it means.

    Please show us where Ruwart says, “well, yeah, the really bad kiddie stuff should stay illegal.”

  93. Of course, obvious situations (i.e. 5 year-old) definitely call for retribution and restitution, but we don’t need a criminal justice system for this to take place.

    Shotgun sings the song.

  94. A law that presumes that a girl becomes a victim when a topless image is made of her should not be allowed to exist.

    ZC, we’re not talking about “child” pornography, wherein the ‘victim’ is 15, 16 or 17. That’s not the connotative definition of “child pornography”, and you know it.

    And yes, at a certain age (the Age of Majority), one is unable to consent, meaning that sex acts with the underaged are, by definition, forced.

    one violation would be that the person took a picture of a child’s naked body without that child’s consent.

    STOP STOP STOP. God, I cannot believe we are even having this conversation. Children cannot consent, Francisco. Please stop treating them like they are fully rational beings with all of their faculties about them.

    I am stunned that anyone has to have this fucking conversation.

  95. And yes, at a certain age (the Age of Majority), one is unable to consent, meaning that sex acts with the underaged are, by definition, forced.

    So when two underage individuals have sex, neither has consented and both have been forced by definition?

  96. parse, I hope you’re just playing dumb.

  97. I personally think Root is slime. I was willing to consider supporting him if he got the nomination if he gave up his marriage apartheid position against gay couples. Now I just think he is a low-life. He’s got all the charm of a used car salesman and the sort of integrity I’d expect from a Right-wing Republican who suddenly became “libertarians” becasause the GOP went after gambling, which is how the prick makes his money. I find him beneath contempt.

  98. Check out this kitty porn!

  99. Remember, the realistic choice is not between a perfect set of rules and no rules, but between imperfect rules and no rules. You couldn’t adhere to the ideal that children can’t have anything done to them, because in the real world children must have things done to them — starting with being born! So you’ll have rules about that. The rules will always produce injustice in some cases, but unless you’re an idealist, you understand perfection to be unattainable by any means.

  100. Ayn Randian: “I am stunned that anyone has to have this fucking conversation.”

    I agree. The fact that Ruwart’s statement is being defended by *any* Libertarian reminds me of why I left the LP a few years ago. So, in that sense, I’m glad it came to light. How will Libertarians feel if Ruwart appears on Fox News and is accused by an aggressive pro-McCain host of promoting the legalization of adult/child sex? I *guarantee* that will happen if she wins the nomination.

  101. I’m in my early 20s and it wasn’t too long ago that I was not “legal,” so to speak. A friend of mine in junior high–so, 13 or so– had a boyfriend who was 19. They were having sex. They continued their relationship all through high school, and now they’re married 10 years later.

    By law, he was a rapist and should have been put in prison. In reality, they were in love and now are married, and there was nothing wrong with them being together. Throughout history, 19 and 13 is not that much of a difference in age. It is only recently when girls weren’t married off when they were 12 or 13– that’s when puberty happens, which shows that’s when you can start having sex and when girls throughout history have had sex.

    That is the type of relationship Dr. Ruwart is referring to. It has nothing to do with child pornography, although it is poorly worded.

    I have enjoyed her website and some of her great answers on libertarian ideas. JT, if some talking head on Fox News asks her if she supports child pornography, she can give a grat, coherent answer like she does on her website and they’ll be left stunned because they’re used to general talking points. Finally, one Libertarian does not represent all Libertarians, so your argument makes no sense.

  102. “Suffice it to say, this is the sort of inane navel-gazing that really, really makes the libertarian movement look like it’s populated by wackos”

    I dunno, if you have a son or daughter between 10 and 18, it’s not navel-gazing.

    When you claim to have a political philosophy that, if followed, would make your society a better one – it must be consistent and apply in all areas.

    The laws and attitudes we have now are so stupid that something must be said and something must be done. My grandmother married at 14, to an older man. Was she abused? Should her husband have been prosecuted?

    Reality calls, people, and it says that there is a disconnect in our society between the paradigm of sexing up our girls at ever-younger ages and telling them to be more aggressive like men (resulting in things like 6 on 1 gang beatings, with 2 boys on watch)

    and

    our obssession with preventing kids from having sex till older and older ages. If we were going to have statutory rape laws – they should have stayed closer to the onset of childbearing age – traditionally around 14 or so.

    What all the non-libertarian non-navel gazers out there, busily focused on making excuses for big government at every turn, have failed to notice, is that statism is progressive. Once you have the stupid statutory rape laws, naturally the busybodys want the age to increase to the point where the law becomes unreasonable.

    That’s libertarianism 101, and Mary Ruwart should be applauded for tackling a difficult subject. I know that when I was 12-13 years old, I really, really wanted sexual contact, and I was no victim.

    I’m sure there were and are millions like me, and just because people who want sex get it – such consensual interactions should not be a crime just because they offend someone else. There are some things you just can’t regulate with government.

    See Roderick Long’s take on the subject here:

    http://praxeology.net/blog/2008/04/25/ruwart-on-childrens-rights/

  103. Gina: “JT, if some talking head on Fox News asks her if she supports child pornography, she can give a grat (sic), coherent answer like she does on her website and they’ll be left stunned because they’re used to general talking points. Finally, one Libertarian does not represent all Libertarians, so your argument makes no sense.”

    Gina, did I “argue” that all Libertarians think adult/child sex should be legal? Nope. I said that if even one Libertarian thinks this, it’s horrifying.

    Regarding your idea that Mary Ruwart will give a great, coherent answer to the question on Fox News or similar media outlets, you’re dreaming. She won’t even get a chance. The host will say, “Yes or no, Ms. Ruwart: Should there be any laws against adults having sex with children or videotaping child sexual acts if the children say it’s okay?” She’ll say, “No, but…” And that’s as far as it will go before she’s hit by a hailstorm of moral indignation. The next day, headlines will read, “Kiddie Porn Should Be Legal, Libertarian Presidential Nominee Says.” Watch and see.

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