License to Breed

 

On the last episode of the Ricochet podcast, our heroes discussed the difficulty of encouraging people — but especially impoverished minorities — to have and raise children under the right circumstances; i.e.,  in wedlock and within stable family structures. James mentioned the hypothetical possibility that we could require people to obtain a “parenthood license” before we permit them to breed. He figured such a thing could never happen. People would be outraged. It would be worse than the voter ID debate.

I’m inclined to differ. I think many liberals would love this idea. In fact, some of them already do, and sadly, some libertarians are happy to join the chorus:

What about parenting, then? Why require a license there? The first important point here is that the children who are going to be the recipients of the care (or “services,” though “customers” is clearly the wrong word) are not rationally autonomous and fully formed adults capable of making their own decisions. They are, by contrast, vulnerable beings that we hope will become fully formed persons. Until they do, they are decidedly vulnerable to those they come in contact with—and more (and more often) vulnerable to those they come in contact with regularly: parents. The duration of exposure to one’s parents is a factor. The intensity of the exposure is as well (see Note below). No one is in a position to harm a child as often as a parent. And the damage they can do is extreme. We know of a case of a father raping a two week old, a mother throwing boiling water on her daughter, another parent drowning her children, and the list goes on. These are the sorts of harms that a licensing program might avoid. As it is now, these are the sorts of harms that get the state involved—after the harm is already done.

For the record, I don’t think James was really recommending this kind of scheme, and I certainly hope he’s right that Americans wouldn’t stand for it. Let’s run a thought experiment, though.

Suppose some fiendishly clever researcher came up with a contraceptive that could easily and cheaply be added to our water supply. So long as they were on the drug, women would be infertile, but the effects could be neutralized temporarily with a kind of “antidote” drug that the government would control. Couples who wanted children could go through some sort of certification process, and, if successful, they would be issued a sufficient supply to enable a pregnancy. If they wanted more children, they could apply for more.

Wouldn’t this really be a liberal dream? The autonomous family has always been a thorn in the progressive side. With the help of parenting licenses they could neutralize the conservative breeding advantage. Require couples to receive instruction in good progressive parenting before they could even have a family. And needless to say, this would be the perfect way to ensure that everyone is perpetually available for sterile sex (whether or not they want to be).

I grant that it would probably take a little while to bring the general public on board. And even for liberals there would be some internal division about how to handle requests from impoverished single women (who aren’t in an optimal position to raise children, but who are reliable producers of Democratic voters). I definitely think, however, that liberals would go for it. What do other Ricochetti think?

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  1. Rachel Lu Contributor
    Rachel Lu
    @RachelLu

    Jamie Lockett:

    Merina Smith: I didn’t say they had, just that children are hard to reconcile with libertarian philosophy.

    This is quite possibly the worst comment I have ever read on Ricochet.

     Oh, for goodness’ sake.

    I didn’t start this thread as an attempt to reignite the libertarian wars. But, the fact is that incorporating the “properly non-autonomous” into one’s cultural and political scheme is more challenging for a person who places a high priority on individual autonomy. That doesn’t mean it’s impossible to manage that challenge, but, it’s a challenge, more than it would be for more naturally communitarian-minded thinkers. Natural rights libertarians obviously deal with this more skillfully than others. But it does seem to me like there are some oddities to that position too. Anyway, I think the “manly” way to promote a philosophy is straightforwardly, recognizing its less satisfactory or intuitive parts.

    And every philosophy has some of those. For social conservatives (or as I now prefer, virtue conservatives) the problem is not (as in Tom’s quip) “dealing with adulthood”. Social conservatives love maturity and do not, as in the stereotype, yearn for nanny statism.  But they do face challenges in dealing with the “legitimate oddity”. That is, their penchant is for promoting the good and natural and normative. But sometimes it’s difficult to distinguish the odd-but-not-in-a-bad-way from the genuinely pernicious. It can precipitate intolerance of a bad sort. That’s the challenge of the virtue conservative. 

    • #61
  2. user_2505 Contributor
    user_2505
    @GaryMcVey

    OK, cease fire, it’s time to doff my hat to Rachel for that comment, because it expresses the eternal decision point, not just for social conservatives but for all conservatives. 

    Rachel Lu: That is, their penchant is for promoting the good and natural and normative. But sometimes it’s difficult to distinguish the odd-but-not-in-a-bad-way from the genuinely pernicious. It can precipitate intolerance of a bad sort. That’s the challenge of the virtue conservative.

    In return, there are limits on “anything goes”, and the mirror image problem is we don’t know exactly where they are.

    • #62
  3. user_136364 Inactive
    user_136364
    @Damocles

    Merina Smith:

    I didn’t say they had, just that children are hard to reconcile with libertarian philosophy.

    You might want to stop commenting on “libertarian philosophy”  for a while.  You’ve got no idea what you’re talking about and you stir up all kinds of hard feelings with these incorrect statements.

    • #63
  4. user_136364 Inactive
    user_136364
    @Damocles

    Rachel Lu:

    I didn’t start this thread as an attempt to reignite the libertarian wars. 

    Then you ought not start quoting from some half-baked blogger.  As others have said, if someone is wanting government licensing of parents they’re probably not quite libertarian.

    I don’t participate very much here (although I’m a subscriber since beta days), mainly because it’s tiresome to hear people who should logically be my allies making unpleasant, disrespectful comments about my political beliefs.

    • #64
  5. Rachel Lu Contributor
    Rachel Lu
    @RachelLu

    Mark, I don’t see Ricochet as the sort of place where we should all sit around patting each other on the back for our enlightened ideas. But, I think your comment #63 is quite a bit ruder, and lighter on content, than anything Merina said.

    I personally have learned a lot about libertarianism, and about other forms of conservatism, from these conversations that we have on Ricochet. I respect libertarianism more than I did before coming here, but also feel like I understand its weaknesses better, and yes, I think we should be able to discuss those freely.

    At no time have I suggested that the blogger in question is representative of libertarianism as a whole. But he’s out there, he calls himself a libertarian, and the blog gets quite a bit of traction; telling me I’m not allowed to quote from it (lest I disrespect your beliefs!) seems awfully cheeky.

    • #65
  6. Mama Toad Member
    Mama Toad
    @CBToderakaMamaToad

    Rachel, reading your original premise makes me glad that Toad Hall has well water…

    • #66
  7. Mama Toad Member
    Mama Toad
    @CBToderakaMamaToad

    Those who pursue your theoretical ends, the poisoners of the water supply, believe they are making the world a more virtuous place. They will prevent a vice, the wanton breeding of children, just like we spay and neuter stray animals.
    I’d like to call your baby police the virtue progressives.
    Virtue progressives are horrible.

    • #67
  8. Fake John Galt Coolidge
    Fake John Galt
    @FakeJohnJaneGalt

    Petty Boozswha:

    I think there is a bright line distinction between requiring a license for any procreation and requiring those who are living a lifestyle so disorganized that they require government assistance – food stamps, Section 8,, welfare, etc. – to temporarily be required to take Norplant or some other effective contraception for the duration of the dole. And I believe perfecting a male contraceptive should be a top priority for the NIH and pharma industry as well. If the people that populate the Ricochet chattering class would be forced to have real contact with the underclass in this country – work a few years in child support enforcement, for example, as I did – your philosophical objections might be tempered by reality.

     I think you have a point here.  If a male birth control was created then politically it would be easier to require all men to take it.  At this time in history suggesting women control their reproductive urges is a non starter, but asking men to do the same would be no problem.  

    • #68
  9. user_331141 Inactive
    user_331141
    @JamieLockett

    Rachel Lu: I didn’t start this thread as an attempt to reignite the libertarian wars. But, the fact is that incorporating the “properly non-autonomous” into one’s cultural and political scheme is more challenging for a person who places a high priority on individual autonomy. That doesn’t mean it’s impossible to manage that challenge, but, it’s a challenge, more than it would be for more naturally communitarian-minded thinkers. Natural rights libertarians obviously deal with this more skillfully than others. But it does seem to me like there are some oddities to that position too. Anyway, I think the “manly” way to promote a philosophy is straightforwardly, recognizing its less satisfactory or intuitive parts.

     Its really not. Libertarianism is concerned with an individuals relationship to the state. This has been elaborated on countless times. If anything libertarianism places more importance on family responsibility for the “properly non-autonomous” as we wish for no state interference.

    This is not the first time social conservatives on Ricochet have made this mistake and its becoming quite obvious that it’s a simple debators trick to score cheap rhetorical points.   

    • #69
  10. user_331141 Inactive
    user_331141
    @JamieLockett

    Rachel Lu: At no time have I suggested that the blogger in question is representative of libertarianism as a whole. But he’s out there, he calls himself a libertarian, and the blog gets quite a bit of traction; telling me I’m not allowed to quote from it (lest I disrespect your beliefs!) seems awfully cheeky.

     I could head over to Stormwatch right now and find some people calling themselves “Social-Conservatives” spewing some vile and  hate-filled stuff. Can I therefore take that  as representative  of Social-Conservatives as a whole?

    Give me  a break. 

    • #70
  11. Mike H Coolidge
    Mike H
    @MikeH

    Petty Boozswha: If the people that populate the Ricochet chattering class would be forced to have real contact with the underclass in this country – work a few years in child support enforcement, for example, as I did –   your philosophical objections might be tempered by reality.

     They might be, but that doesn’t explain why that would be a good thing. *chatter chatter*

    • #71
  12. user_189393 Inactive
    user_189393
    @BarkhaHerman

    Mike H:

    Petty Boozswha: If the people that populate the Ricochet chattering class would be forced to have real contact with the underclass in this country – work a few years in child support enforcement, for example, as I did – your philosophical objections might be tempered by reality.

    They might be, but that doesn’t explain why that would be a good thing. *chatter chatter*

     There is difference between people intervening (in anything) and the Government intervening.

    *This* is the difference that we simply are not able to get through to the “us vs. them” crowd.

    It’s not “what is done” – it’s who has the monopoly on the doing that is at the heart here.
    Do we want to bring back benevolent kings?  Let’s assume that the king is question is the *best* human on earth.   Bar none.  

    Ditto for Gubmint (assuming your answer was no to the above question).

    The assumption that removing government from a problem means no solutions will ever be applied is a false premise.

    • #72
  13. user_385039 Inactive
    user_385039
    @donaldtodd

    Randy Weivoda: #52 “As I recall, Mitt Romney for years was pro-choice. That hardly means that Morman Republicans in general hold that view.”

    There are states which see the pro-abortion position as a winner.  Romney certainly lived in one of those states.

    The Mormon position is that abortion should only be permitted for rape, incest and life of the mother.  Not quite an anti-abortion position, and one might suspect that Mormons adhere to this position as rolled out by their hierarchy without giving it much thought.

    • #73
  14. Tom Meyer Contributor
    Tom Meyer
    @tommeyer

    Rachel Lu: And every philosophy has some of those. For social conservatives (or as I now prefer, virtue conservatives) the problem is not (as in Tom’s quip) “dealing with adulthood”.

    I dunno. Whenever we have a thread on drugs, it’s not long before someone starts arguing –in as many words — that, because drugs are dangerous to children*, we have to treat adult citizens like them.

    * If any libertarian has argued that children should be allowed to use intoxicants such as marijuana, heroin, cocaine, or alcohol (in sufficient amounts), I have not encountered him.

    • #74
  15. Rachel Lu Contributor
    Rachel Lu
    @RachelLu

    Jaime, there are different sorts of libertarians and they don’t always agree, but either way, individual autonomy is a high priority for them. That priority yields certain further prescriptions about our relationship to the state. But it would be ridiculous to deny that libertarians make a high priority of increasing individual autonomy, and I would further add that although libertine morality is not a necessary component of libertarian philosophy, it’s very common among the libertine crowd, which is hardly incidental to libertarian philosophy. Again, not saying that libertines are the *true libertarians*, only that this is further evidence that personal autonomy is a high priority, and the different flavors follow out that emphasis on personal autonomy in different ways.

    Children can be a real problem for people who want to prioritize personal autonomy. Their value and the demands they place on us seem totally disproportionate to the seriousness of the decisions we make in bringing them into being. And they themselves aren’t capable of exercising full autonomy for years, which means that they need to be under someone’s authority, and that introduces all kinds of wrinkles into an autonomy-based view. 

    Again, I am not claiming that this is an insurmountable problem for libertarian philosophies. But “deal naturally and intuitively with the obligations of family” is not their strongest suit.

    • #75
  16. Rachel Lu Contributor
    Rachel Lu
    @RachelLu

    Tom Meyer, Ed.:

    Rachel Lu: And every philosophy has some of those. For social conservatives (or as I now prefer, virtue conservatives) the problem is not (as in Tom’s quip) “dealing with adulthood”.

    I dunno. Whenever we have a thread on drugs, it’s not long before someone starts arguing –in as many words — that, because drugs are dangerous to children*, we have to treat adult citizens like them.

     Only in the sense of not permitting them to purchase legal pot. But that’s not in any sense a necessary or natural part of thriving adulthood, is it? The effect on mature adults is incidental, not intentional, which doesn’t show a “difficulty” in handling adulthood. 

    I would submit that any mature, wise adult should be happy to forfeit the opportunity to purchase cannabis at the gas station if this is liable to protect the lives and productivity of millions of young people.

    • #76
  17. user_385039 Inactive
    user_385039
    @donaldtodd

    Jamie Lockett: #70 “I could head over to Stormwatch right now and find some people calling themselves “Social-Conservatives” spewing some vile and hate-filled stuff. Can I therefore take that as representative of Social-Conservatives as a whole?

    Give me a break.”

    One can go to a lot of free websites and people can lay claim to anything they want to lay claim to, often with invective that one would not want in one’s own home.  That does not necessarily mean that those people are who they claim to be; nor does it necessarily prove your point.

    If you want to defend libertarianism, then defend libertarianism.  No problem there.  However using innuendo to undercut an argument by citing claims by possible social (moral or virtue) conservatives at another website does not defend libertarianism; nor does it help your argument.

    • #77
  18. Mike H Coolidge
    Mike H
    @MikeH

    Rachel Lu: I would submit that any mature, wise adult should be happy to forfeit the opportunity to purchase cannabis at the gas station if this is liable to protect the lives and productivity of millions of young people.

    Now all you have to do is show millions of young people would be harmed appreciably. Should we take alcohol and cigarettes out of gas stations? They do a tremendous amount of harm. (And I love the rhetoric that any mature adult is defined as someone who agrees with you.)

    • #78
  19. C. U. Douglas Thatcher
    C. U. Douglas
    @CUDouglas

    Mike H:

    Rachel Lu: I would submit that any mature, wise adult should be happy to forfeit the opportunity to purchase cannabis at the gas station if this is liable to protect the lives and productivity of millions of young people.

    Now all you have to do is show millions of young people would be harmed appreciably. Should we take alcohol and cigarettes out of gas stations? They do a tremendous amount of harm. (And I love the rhetoric that any mature adult is defined as someone who agrees with you.)

    Actually, considering how easy it was for my smoking friends to get cigarettes at a pre-eighteen age, and how easily I got booze in college before I turned twenty-one, yeah, we can make an argument against such things in gas stations. 

    • #79
  20. Mike H Coolidge
    Mike H
    @MikeH

    C. U. Douglas:

    Mike H:

    Rachel Lu: I would submit that any mature, wise adult should be happy to forfeit the opportunity to purchase cannabis at the gas station if this is liable to protect the lives and productivity of millions of young people.

    Now all you have to do is show millions of young people would be harmed appreciably. Should we take alcohol and cigarettes out of gas stations? They do a tremendous amount of harm. (And I love the rhetoric that any mature adult is defined as someone who agrees with you.)

    Actually, considering how easy it was for my smoking friends to get cigarettes at a pre-eighteen age, and how easily I got booze in college before I turned twenty-one, yeah, we can make an argument against such things in gas stations.

    Sure, there’s a lot of things you can make an argument for that would be an overreach of the state. Just look at all of liberalism.

    • #80
  21. C. U. Douglas Thatcher
    C. U. Douglas
    @CUDouglas

    Mike H:

    C. U. Douglas:

    Mike H:

    Rachel Lu: I would submit that any mature, wise adult should be happy to forfeit the opportunity to purchase cannabis at the gas station if this is liable to protect the lives and productivity of millions of young people.

    Now all you have to do is show millions of young people would be harmed appreciably. Should we take alcohol and cigarettes out of gas stations? They do a tremendous amount of harm. (And I love the rhetoric that any mature adult is defined as someone who agrees with you.)

    Actually, considering how easy it was for my smoking friends to get cigarettes at a pre-eighteen age, and how easily I got booze in college before I turned twenty-one, yeah, we can make an argument against such things in gas stations.

    Sure, there’s a lot of things you can make an argument for that would be an overreach of the state. Just look at all of liberalism.

    I know, but there seems to be a lot of piling on right now, so I’m taking the other side now. I’m sinister like that, but not left-handed. 

    • #81
  22. C. U. Douglas Thatcher
    C. U. Douglas
    @CUDouglas

    Jamie Lockett:

    Rachel Lu: At no time have I suggested that the blogger in question is representative of libertarianism as a whole. But he’s out there, he calls himself a libertarian, and the blog gets quite a bit of traction; telling me I’m not allowed to quote from it (lest I disrespect your beliefs!) seems awfully cheeky.

    I could head over to Stormwatch right now and find some people calling themselves “Social-Conservatives” spewing some vile and hate-filled stuff. Can I therefore take that as representative of Social-Conservatives as a whole?

    Give me a break.

    I’m not sure why you’re getting so prickly about this. She posted a quote from an article that was from someone claiming to be Libertarian suggested this, but also that she wasn’t certain if he was serious. That’s hardly a condemnation.

    We on the SoCon/VicCon side have had to stomach accusations of “Statist” by a couple of Libertarians because we believe the government shouldn’t be allowed to redefine marriage through politics or judicial fiat. This post isn’t even a condemnation of Libertarians.

    • #82
  23. Midget Faded Rattlesnake Contributor
    Midget Faded Rattlesnake
    @Midge

    C. U. Douglas:

    Actually, considering how easy it was for my smoking friends to get cigarettes at a pre-eighteen age, and how easily I got booze in college before I turned twenty-one, yeah, we can make an argument against such things in gas stations.

    By extension, why not make a similar argument about such things in parents’ homes? Sneaking slugs of alky-hol from Daddy’s liquor cabinet or purloining a parental cigarette when nobody’s looking is a common way for youngsters to get their first exposure to such things. I was the weird one for  not  trying these things, given that both my parents drank and one occasionally smoked until kicking the habit entirely when I was in college.

    • #83
  24. C. U. Douglas Thatcher
    C. U. Douglas
    @CUDouglas

    Midget Faded Rattlesnake:

    C. U. Douglas:

    Actually, considering how easy it was for my smoking friends to get cigarettes at a pre-eighteen age, and how easily I got booze in college before I turned twenty-one, yeah, we can make an argument against such things in gas stations.

    By extension, why not make a similar argument about such things in parents’ homes? Sneaking slugs of alky-hol from Daddy’s liquor cabinet or purloining a parental cigarette when nobody’s looking is a common way for youngsters to get their first exposure to such things. I was the weird one for not trying these things, given that both my parents drank and one occasionally smoked until kicking the habit entirely when I was in college.

    Exactly, and given we know teens will do this, legalized drugs will be a lot easier for them to obtain (when they steal from their parent’s stash). It’s hard to keep the legal substances from their hands if they want it. Why should we legalize some of the more dangerous stuff?

    • #84
  25. user_331141 Inactive
    user_331141
    @JamieLockett

    C. U. Douglas: We on the SoCon/VicCon side have had to stomach accusations of “Statist” by a couple of Libertarians because we believe the government shouldn’t be allowed to redefine marriage through politics or judicial fiat. This post isn’t even a condemnation of Libertarians.

     The only time I through around accusations of “Statist” is when SoCons wish to use the power of the state to achieve ends best left to private institutions like families and churches. Licensing of parenthood is a great example. 

    • #85
  26. C. U. Douglas Thatcher
    C. U. Douglas
    @CUDouglas

    Jamie Lockett:

    C. U. Douglas: We on the SoCon/VicCon side have had to stomach accusations of “Statist” by a couple of Libertarians because we believe the government shouldn’t be allowed to redefine marriage through politics or judicial fiat. This post isn’t even a condemnation of Libertarians.

    The only time I through around accusations of “Statist” is when SoCons wish to use the power of the state to achieve ends best left to private institutions like families and churches. Licensing of parenthood is a great example.

    Which Neither I nor Rachel Lu have advocated.

    I have to admit you have me scratching my head here. Are we reading the same thing? 

    • #86
  27. Midget Faded Rattlesnake Contributor
    Midget Faded Rattlesnake
    @Midge

    C. U. Douglas:

    Midget Faded Rattlesnake:

    C. U. Douglas:

    Actually, considering how easy it was for my smoking friends to get cigarettes at a pre-eighteen age, and how easily I got booze in college before I turned twenty-one, yeah, we can make an argument against such things in gas stations.

    By extension, why not make a similar argument about such things in parents’ homes?

    Exactly, and given we know teens will do this, legalized drugs will be a lot easier for them to obtain (when they steal from their parent’s stash). It’s hard to keep the legal substances from their hands if they want it. Why should we legalize some of the more dangerous stuff?

    On the other hand, why not prohibit doctors from prescribing adults easily-abused drugs like Valium, carisoprodol, or opiates if they share living space with kids or teens?

    Or just maybe being responsible for the potentially addictive (or otherwise dangerous) substances (no matter what they’re used for) in your own home is a natural part of parenthood.

    • #87
  28. user_331141 Inactive
    user_331141
    @JamieLockett

    C. U. Douglas: Which Neither I nor Rachel Lu have advocated. I have to admit you have me scratching my head here. Are we reading the same thing? 

    There are other’s participating in this conversation besides Rachel and yourself who have advocated for just this type of licensing. My objection to Rachel was her use of a “libertarian” in support of a side she did not agree with, and the later attempt by Merina to state that libertarianism isn’t compatible with children (it wasn’t quite as nuanced as Rachel’s later comment, but rather a flat statement). If you follow the thread I was actually in agreement with Rachel up until the point Merina started bashing libertarians and she started defending such a bald, half-baked assertion .

    • #88
  29. user_331141 Inactive
    user_331141
    @JamieLockett

    C. U. Douglas: Exactly, and given we know teens will do this, legalized drugs will be a lot easier for them to obtain (when they steal from their parent’s stash). It’s hard to keep the legal substances from their hands if they want it. Why should we legalize some of the more dangerous stuff?

     Are you saying that the family and parenthood are not robust enough institutions to handle this kind of thing? That we need the state to intervene because families are ill equipped to handle it these situations? 

    Who doesn’t value the strength of family again?

    • #89
  30. C. U. Douglas Thatcher
    C. U. Douglas
    @CUDouglas

    Jamie Lockett:

    C. U. Douglas: Exactly, and given we know teens will do this, legalized drugs will be a lot easier for them to obtain (when they steal from their parent’s stash). It’s hard to keep the legal substances from their hands if they want it. Why should we legalize some of the more dangerous stuff?

    Are you saying that the family and parenthood are not robust enough institutions to handle this kind of thing? That we need the state to intervene because families are ill equipped to handle it these situations?

    Who doesn’t value the strength of family again?

    Actually, it was MFR who suggested such safeguards are inadequate, and I took a reasonable conclusion from that. 

    • #90
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