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. Mike H Coolidge
    Mike H
    @MikeH

    1.) Government destroys family.

    2.) Family values crumble.

    3.) Government asked to instill family values.

    4.) Government instead destroys more families.

    5.) Repeat ad nauseum.

    • #91
  2. Midget Faded Rattlesnake Contributor
    Midget Faded Rattlesnake
    @Midge

    C. U. Douglas:

    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.

    I suggested the safeguards were imperfect. That’s not the same thing as inadequate. That was my point.

    Noticing whether children are making off with your stash (whether it be your liquor or a prescription you rely on to function) and punishing them for doing so is already a normal part of parenting.

    • #92
  3. Tom Meyer Contributor
    Tom Meyer
    @tommeyer

    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?

    Fair point.

    On the flip side, I’d argue that prohibiting marijuana also makes it very difficult (and illegal) to model responsible use of it.  Many parents do this successfully with alcohol.

    • #93
  4. C. U. Douglas Thatcher
    C. U. Douglas
    @CUDouglas

    I think I derailed this topic. Sorry folks.

    • #94
  5. Midget Faded Rattlesnake Contributor
    Midget Faded Rattlesnake
    @Midge

    C. U. Douglas:

    I think I derailed this topic. Sorry folks.

    You didn’t entirely derail it. A so-called libertarian who advocated making parenting illegal without a license would then also have to come up with some sort of argument for why that license should not be denied to anyone who drinks, smokes, or has been prescribed an abusable substance, much less a suspected user of currently-illegal drugs.

    • #95
  6. Howellis Inactive
    Howellis
    @ManWiththeAxe

    Although at first blush I thought the statement that libertarianism is not compatible with children was incomprehensible, on further reflection I see a point or two.

    For one thing, a parent should not be able to behave in any way he wants toward that child, both for the protection of the child and of society. For example, a religious belief of a childless adult against blood transfusions or vaccines might be given its libertarian sway, but not when it’s a child who will either die or become infectious because of the parent’s failure. A parent has to be much more careful about having guns around than does a childless person. A parent has to even be more circumspect about how he spends his money than does a childless person.

    • #96
  7. Howellis Inactive
    Howellis
    @ManWiththeAxe

    Fake John Galt:  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.  

    That’s true as a political statement, but how could women trust that the man has actually taken the pill? Might as well rely on the old tried and (mostly) true latex method of birth control

    • #97
  8. user_517406 Inactive
    user_517406
    @MerinaSmith

    Tom Meyer, Ed.:

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

    About as hard as it is to reconcile social conservatism with adulthood. ;)

     What nonsense.  The question is, is our society ready to face adult realities, like that we must take the needs and requirements of children into account when fashioning our laws and social mores.  

    • #98
  9. Rachel Lu Contributor
    Rachel Lu
    @RachelLu

    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.)

     Right, so that’s the pragmatic question, but people arguing against drug legalization think that will happen. So that’s their motive, not the desire to infantilize adults.

    • #99
  10. Fake John Galt Coolidge
    Fake John Galt
    @FakeJohnJaneGalt

    Howellis:

    Fake John Galt: 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.

    That’s true as a political statement, but how could women trust that the man has actually taken the pill? Might as well rely on the old tried and (mostly) true latex method of birth control

     How does a man ever trust if a woman takes the pill?  Seems to be the flip side of the same question.  
    Of course in the view of this discussion there would be criminal charges for a man that did not take his pills and made a woman pregnant without either being licensed.   Then there is the license issue problem.  Should the license be issued to a couples or individuals?  Maybe individuals apply and receive a license then they can couple up with others that have been granted a license?  Or should couples be arranged by the state after each individual has been given a license?  This might be better since genetic mappings can be included in the license grant process.  Decisions, decisions…..

    • #100
  11. Mike H Coolidge
    Mike H
    @MikeH

    Rachel Lu:

    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.)

    Right, so that’s the pragmatic question, but people arguing against drug legalization think that will happen. So that’s their motive, not the desire to infantilize adults.

    If the consequence is to infantilize adults, is that not a reductio ad absurdum, whatever the motives may be?

    • #101
  12. user_331141 Inactive
    user_331141
    @JamieLockett

    Rachel Lu:  Right, so that’s the pragmatic question, but people arguing against drug legalization think that will happen. So that’s their motive, not the desire to infantilize adults.

     But the infantilization of adults is the result, no? How else do you explain the welfare state? 

    Let me tell you about intentions and the road to hell. 

    • #102
  13. user_517406 Inactive
    user_517406
    @MerinaSmith

    Jamie Lockett:

    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 .

     Jamie, I’m sorry if I offended you.  I respect libertarians in many ways, but I do think that there are issues when it comes to the needs of children and creating a society that is conducive to child welfare and the desires of adults.  Do you really think that is an unreasonable concern?  Every political philosophy has its limitations.  

    • #103
  14. user_331141 Inactive
    user_331141
    @JamieLockett

    Rachel Lu: Right, so that’s the pragmatic question, but people arguing against drug legalization think that will happen. So that’s their motive, not the desire to infantilize adults.

     I’d just like to point out that a form of this argument has been used by every progressive ever. 

    • #104
  15. user_331141 Inactive
    user_331141
    @JamieLockett

    Merina Smith:  Jamie, I’m sorry if I offended you.  I respect libertarians in many ways, but I do think that there are issues when it comes to the needs of children and creating a society that is conducive to child welfare and the desires of adults.  Do you really think that is an unreasonable concern?  Every political philosophy has its limitations.  

     Yes. It is not only condescending (well only we really care about kids) it is also ignorant of how libertarians actually live and behave (clearly Tom and I as married men planning families are attending bacchanals each night and shopping for BabysFirstBong on Castro street). 

    • #105
  16. user_517406 Inactive
    user_517406
    @MerinaSmith

    Jamie Lockett:

    Merina Smith: Jamie, I’m sorry if I offended you. I respect libertarians in many ways, but I do think that there are issues when it comes to the needs of children and creating a society that is conducive to child welfare and the desires of adults. Do you really think that is an unreasonable concern? Every political philosophy has its limitations.

    Yes. It is not only condescending (well only we really care about kids) it is also ignorant of how libertarians actually live and behave (clearly Tom and I as married men planning families are attending bacchanals each night and shopping for BabysFirstBong on Castro street).

     Not at all, Jamie.  I know perfectly well that most libertarians live responsible lives.  I’ve always assumed you do and I know Tom is a stand-up guy.  I’m not being condescending here and I’m not being personal.  I just think that there are trade-offs and that different philosophies have weaknesses.  If you legalize drugs, more teen-agers will take them.  It will affect children.  Consequently I don’t favor legalizing drugs, though I might decriminalize them.  You surely don’t claim that libertarianism has no limitations?  

    • #106
  17. user_331141 Inactive
    user_331141
    @JamieLockett

    Merina Smith: You surely don’t claim that libertarianism has no limitations?  

     No, I just don’t believe that they have the limitations you do. See here: 

    http://ricochet.com/libertarian-blind-spot-policing

    I’m more than willing to debate the effects of specific policy, but that is a matter of data collection and analysis, not philosophy. I object to your direct and incorrect blanket statements about libertarianism not being concerned with children. They are even more annoying given the libertarians you constantly interact with seem to run counter to your assertions.

    • #107
  18. Tom Meyer Contributor
    Tom Meyer
    @tommeyer

    Merina Smith:

    Tom Meyer, Ed.:

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

    About as hard as it is to reconcile social conservatism with adulthood. ;)

    What nonsense. The question is, is our society ready to face adult realities, like that we must take the needs and requirements of children into account when fashioning our laws and social mores…

    I respect libertarians in many ways, but I do think that there are issues when it comes to the needs of children and creating a society that is conducive to child welfare and the desires of adults. Do you really think that is an unreasonable concern? Every political philosophy has its limitations.

    Merina, we’re actually not that far off on this (at least I don’t think so).

    In its focus on the liberties of adults, libertarianism sometimes risks secondary harms to children, though these can be accounted for and corrected.

    Likewise, social conservatism’s focus on the needs of children sometimes risks infantilizing adults by denying them the liberty to do things so as to ensure kids don’t do it.  There are also ways to account and correct this within social conservatism.

    How one weighs these risks likely determines whether one is a libertarian or a SoCon.

    • #108
  19. user_517406 Inactive
    user_517406
    @MerinaSmith

    Tom, I don’t think we’re that far off. That’s why I wrote the post I did about the nuances of the law and how they can be used to allow freedom without encouraging bad behaviors. I’m not going to rewrite it, but that is how I think these things should be handled.

    Jamie–philosophy and stats matter.  I know you’re concerned with children to a degree, but I’d say the difference is that Socons put concern about children front and center and then try to figure out how adult desires can be accommodated, whereas in general libertarians put the freedom of adults front and center and then try to figure out how to fit children into the picture.  But I think we’re just going to have to agree to disagree about this.  

    • #109
  20. Tom Meyer Contributor
    Tom Meyer
    @tommeyer

    Merina Smith: Jamie–philosophy and stats matter.  I know you’re concerned with children to a degree, but I’d say the difference is that Socons put concern about children front and center and then try to figure out how adult desires can be accommodated, whereas in general libertarians put the freedom of adults front and center and then try to figure out how to fit children into the picture.  But I think we’re just going to have to agree to disagree about this.  

     For the record, I think this is a pretty good description.  I’m not sure why you took such umbrage at my equip about the difficulty in reconciling SoCons to adults, especially when you were quick to dish out the equivalent to us.

    • #110
  21. user_517406 Inactive
    user_517406
    @MerinaSmith

    Tom Meyer, Ed.:

    Merina Smith: Jamie–philosophy and stats matter. I know you’re concerned with children to a degree, but I’d say the difference is that Socons put concern about children front and center and then try to figure out how adult desires can be accommodated, whereas in general libertarians put the freedom of adults front and center and then try to figure out how to fit children into the picture. But I think we’re just going to have to agree to disagree about this.

    For the record, I think this is a pretty good description. I’m not sure why you took such umbrage at my equip about the difficulty in reconciling SoCons to adults, especially when you were quick to dish out the equivalent to us.

     Actually when I read this to my husband he said he thinks most Socons wouldn’t agree with that description, which I think is true.  I don’t even myself really, which I guess is why I objected earlier Tom!!!!  Anyway, I’m tired and hungry now, so…. maybe later.  

    • #111
  22. user_331141 Inactive
    user_331141
    @JamieLockett

    Merina Smith: I know you’re concerned with children to a degree, but I’d say the difference is that Socons put concern about children front and center and then try to figure out how adult desires can be accommodated, whereas in general libertarians put the freedom of adults front and center and then try to figure out how to fit children into the picture.

     And I’m telling you that you are wrong. Libertarians might not wish to use the heavy handed force of the State when confronting issues related to children, but that doesn’t mean we don’t believe they are important or that their needs should be placed above adult desires. Don’t mistake a reticence to use government to solve our problems as not caring about the issues. This is a progressive conceit. 

    In fact, given that the data overwhelmingly show that government intervention as weakened the family and harmed children more than it has helped it would seem to show that the libertarian philosophy on this topic is the correct one.

    • #112
  23. user_385039 Inactive
    user_385039
    @donaldtodd

    “I know perfectly well that most libertarians live responsible lives.”

    No attribution on this as I am not trying to incite anyone in particular.  I don’t know if most libertarians live responsible lives but then I don’t have my nose where it pretty much never belongs.  I would hope that most libertarians live responsible lives but then we have to get into a definition of “responsible” over a series of considerations.

    Of note, and these are not libertarians, a married couple I know well have arrived at a location from which there is no exit for “them.”  There is an exit for each, but not for “them.”

    They have a child. 

    They smoked dope to get over the hump of being within spitting distance of one another, but (like most of us who have been heavy duty dope smokers) discovered that they did not know what they had done the previous day, for a lot of days going backward.  No idea of what they did or where they went, but sure that they did not go together.

    The man stopped smoking dope.  He was covering a problem but not solving it.  He is spending time with his child.

    • #113
  24. Rachel Lu Contributor
    Rachel Lu
    @RachelLu

    So, let’s suppose that our society is in the sort of state where the family is weakening and (frequently) not exercising effective control over the young, and millions of kids will be highly vulnerable to drug abuse if we make it so that, say, cannabis brownies can be purchased at your local gas station. (Presumably there’s a theoretical age limit, but we know how effective those are.)

    Hint: I think we are in such a position. Wishing it weren’t so won’t change that basic fact.

    Now, if we refuse to legalize pot, we also prevent mature adults from legally obtaining it. Is that infantilizing them? Given the rationale, I’m inclined to say that they are inconvenienced but not infantilized. Restricting their pot access is a non-intended side effect; they’re not being treated as children. You can say that the intention doesn’t matter, but it does, because infantilizing can only be done intentionally. There’s nothing intrinsically insulting about just not having access to legal pot. 

    And here’s the final piece, which is important. Caring for the needs of the young is one of society’s most basic functions. Ensuring that adults have access to non-essential pleasures is not. If adults were being deprived of some basic liberty that was essential to their moral maturity, I’d agree that this was a serious problem, but at the end of the day, pot isn’t essential to anyone’s maturity or fundamental well-being. I appreciate that there are disadvantages to present enforcement laws and I’m happy to debate the cost-benefit analysis, but if, as I suspect, legal marijuana will blight hundreds of thousands or even millions of otherwise-productive lives, that should be acknowledged as a powerful argument against its legalization.

    • #114
  25. Rachel Lu Contributor
    Rachel Lu
    @RachelLu

    Tom Meyer, Ed.:

    For the record, I think this is a pretty good description. I’m not sure why you took such umbrage at my equip about the difficulty in reconciling SoCons to adults, especially when you were quick to dish out the equivalent to us.

    I’m not offended, but I just don’t think you’re right. It’s true that, in the name of virtue, I might sometimes want mature adults to sacrifice certain freedoms or entitlements that they might be prepared to handle. That’s not intrinsically infantilizing. It’s just inconvenient. When the freedom in question is a more vital part of a mature well-lived life (like having children) then regulating it is far more problematic.

    • #115
  26. Mike H Coolidge
    Mike H
    @MikeH

    Rachel Lu: I might sometimes want mature adults to sacrifice certain freedoms or entitlements that they might be prepared to handle.

     Wanting them to, asking them to, convincing them to “sacrifice freedoms” is wholly different than disallowing a freedom that you, yourself, would not evoke.

    • #116
  27. user_517406 Inactive
    user_517406
    @MerinaSmith

    Rachel Lu:

    Tom Meyer, Ed.:

    For the record, I think this is a pretty good description. I’m not sure why you took such umbrage at my equip about the difficulty in reconciling SoCons to adults, especially when you were quick to dish out the equivalent to us.

    I’m not offended, but I just don’t think you’re right. It’s true that, in the name of virtue, I might sometimes want mature adults to sacrifice certain freedoms or entitlements that they might be prepared to handle. That’s not intrinsically infantilizing. It’s just inconvenient. When the freedom in question is a more vital part of a mature well-lived life (like having children) then regulating it is far more problematic.

     Yes.  Exactly.  

    • #117
  28. Tom Meyer Contributor
    Tom Meyer
    @tommeyer

    Rachel Lu: I’m not offended, but I just don’t think you’re right. 

    I confess I mixed you and Merina up when I referred to the umbrage.

    • #118
  29. Rachel Lu Contributor
    Rachel Lu
    @RachelLu

    Tom Meyer, Ed.:

    Rachel Lu: I’m not offended, but I just don’t think you’re right.

    I confess I mixed you and Merina up when I referred to the umbrage.

     OK. Again, it’s not about umbrage, but “can’t deal with adult maturity” is a serious charge. Maybe not more serious than “can’t deal with children”, but pretty significant, so it’s worth answering. And I just think there’s a very big difference between laws that intrinsically undermine the process of moral maturity, and laws that just don’t allow mature adults every kind of pleasure they might possibly want. One shouldn’t be confused with the other.

    • #119
  30. user_136364 Inactive
    user_136364
    @Damocles

    Rachel Lu:

    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.

     You seemed surprised that you managed to start another socon/libertarian foofaraw.  I’m advising you how you did and how to avoid doing so in future. Cheekiness on Demand!  And I still think my advice to Marina is great.

    • #120
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