I am very comfortable with my libertarian philosophy, which propounds individual sovereignty and Liberty for freemen and women, with the natural right to live their lives as they choose to live them, as long as they do not forcefully interfere with or violate the natural rights of others. I have carefully worked out in my head, how such free individuals can live at peace with their neighbors, meeting in the commons for commerce and fraternity, as free traders giving no more than they take, in entirely voluntary value for value exchanges, which enrich each other's lives.
Thus, I regard one's home as his castle, and his real estate as his sovereign domain, where he gets to make the rules, which visitors are bound to abide. When he steps off his private property, however, he must abide by the standards, social customs, and rules of the community. If there were no social compact and universally accepted basic rules, to insure that any vehicle coming around the next bend would be on the other side of the road, it would be chaos. I am fine with that, and wouldn't have it any other way.
Where my philosophy falls completely apart, however, is when it comes to the welfare of children. Having discussed this issue with folks of all political persuasions, I can assure all that empathy for an innocent child is a sincerely held universal human trait, The question becomes, what are parental rights and responsibilities vs. any sort of societal rights and responsibilities vs. children's rights.
Do parents 'own' their children as chattel, or do they have natural rights from birth, as we like to say they do? If parents are held responsible to feed, clothe, and shelter their progeny, shouldn't they be able to establish the rules and demand unquestioned obedience from them? What right does any outsider have to interfere in their affairs?
This is by no means a simple issue to resolve, particularly for a laissez-faire-minded libertarian, who eschews busybodies, and I have been unable to satisfactorily do so in my own mind. E.g. what should I do, if I discover that the bastard in the castle next door, is abusing his young child on his sovereign estate? What business is that of mine, or anyone else's?
Technically, it is none, of course; but somehow that does not get me off the hook morally, does it? I suppose it is less of a conundrum for those who accept the altruistic principle that the good of society supersedes the natural rights of individuals; but only marginally so, because the competing versions of altruism vehemently disagree over how children should be raised and acculturated, or what constitutes child abuse.
Both camps in the Left/Right culture war, are convinced that the other is spawning another uncivilized generation, which their own progeny will have the unpleasant chore of having to deal with one day as adults. Either side would, if they could, 'save' these unfortunate children from the clutches of their irresponsible and/or wrongheaded parents, and make sure they got a 'proper' education (indoctrination), so they would grow up to be responsible adults with the 'correct' (politically or piously) worldview.
While 'for the children' often appears to be little more than a rhetorical political weapon in the culture war, it is a potent one, because of our natural empathy for helpless children. Is there a way to stop using them as pawns in our ideological struggles; and what exactly are their rights? When must the absolute tyrannical power of parents yield to them? Does this amorphous mental construct we call 'society,' have any business interfering in the parenting process? If so, who gets to decide at what point, and how much? ◄Dave►