Abandonment of the Autistic Boy

Dear R: Thanks for your long and very thoughtful, no, extraordinarily thoughtful, criticism of my recent post on Lew Rockwell blog.

Sorry, I can’t answer each and every point you make. However, I think I cover both of your main points in previous publications.

On the gray area, or the continuum between a park and an orphanage, see this:

Block, Walter E. and William Barnett II. 2008. “Continuums” Journal Etica e Politica / Ethics & Politics, Vol. 1, pp. 151-166, June;http://www2.units.it/~etica/http://www2.units.it/~etica/2008_1/BLOCKBARNETT.pdf

On the proper libertarian rejection of all positive obligations:

Block, Walter E. 2016. “Forestalling, positive obligations and the Lockean and Blockian provisos: Rejoinder to Stephan Kinsella.” EkonomiaWroclaw Economic Review. http://ekon.sjol.eu/category/22-3-2016-529

Block, Walter E. 2004. “Libertarianism, Positive Obligations and Property Abandonment: Children’s Rights,” International Journal of Social Economics; Vol. 31, No. 3, pp 275-286; http://www.emeraldinsight.com/Insight/viewContainer.do?containerType=Issue&containerId=18709http://www.walterblock.com/wp-content/uploads/publications/block-children.pdf;https://www.emeraldinsight.com/doi/full/10.1108/03068290410518256;https://www.emeraldinsight.com/doi/abs/10.1108/03068290410518256?fullSc=1&journalCode=ijse

From: R

Sent: Saturday, June 08, 2019 9:57 PM

To: Walter Block <wblock@loyno.edu>

Subject: your post on Lew Rockwell blog

Good evening, Walter.

I saw the three criticisms and your responses to them in your post. I have written a response to the third one, the abandonment of the autistic boy, R

Walter, you say this:

“Criticism 3.  Mrs. Jones decides she’s really tired of taking care of her autistic four year old, so she takes the kid to the park on a nice day, gives him a basket of sandwiches and soda pop, tells him to sit right here by the swingset and puts up a sign that says, “Autistic four year old, free to a good home” and walks away.”

“The Libertarian view:   She’s perfectly within her rights.  She left the kid in a safe place where many other adults can see his plight.    If someone wants him, they’ll take him home and if no one wants him, oh, well, in a week or so he’ll die and stop bothering people.”

“Response 3: Jones can’t leave him in the park. She’s gotta go to an orphanage, hospital, church, where people will very much more likely take care of the kid.   Remember, under libertarianism, ALL property, land and water, will be privately owned. The parks, too. Don’t you think the park owner would object to this sort of thing?”

Here is my response to you:

This response sounds to me very much like a positive obligation, which according to previous assertions on the subject, cannot happen under libertarian law.

“..it implies the acceptance of positive rights, anathema to this entire philosophy. In this perspective, people only have negative rights; the right not to be murdered, the right not to be raped, the right not to be enslaved, the right not to be stolen from, etc. There is no such thing in this viewpoint as positive rights…” (http://ekon.sjol.eu/category/22-3-2016-529)

As I remember, you have stressed that the placement of an abandoned child must be where there is a good probability, perhaps a near certainty, that someone will see him and rescue him. It is not good enough to put him outside in a blizzard nor to leave him to starve in a back room where no one can hear his pitiful cries. He MUST be placed where there is a reasonable expectation that he will be found in a reasonable amount of time.

Now, Mrs. Jones, who presumably lives in a well-populated area, takes her kid to a park on a nice day and leaves him there. Since it’s a nice day, there will be other people at the park as well who will see the kid and either take him home or tell someone else, even the proper authorities, about the situation. On a nice day, there might even be hundreds of people at the park, so it’s not likely that no one will see him. Since she placed him by the swing set, it is obviously a park which young children and their mothers frequent.

Why do you say that a park is not good enough? Why must she go to an orphanage, hospital, or church where the odds are better for the lad? Isn’t this just a matter of degree? Isn’t this like saying that Mrs. Jones must advertise in a newspaper for two weeks, but only if it has a readership of 50,000, which eliminates the newspaper in her town which might only reach 3500 people? What if she has no car? What if the park is within a short walking distance, but the nearest church is 1-1/2 miles away and there is no hospital nor orphanage within 20 miles?

It seems to me that taking the kid to a park on a nice day would raise his chances of survival considerably. Other mothers and young children would be there as well. Mothers of young children are probably the very people who would be most inclined to have compassion on an abandoned child. They would be highly likely to take up his cause and either adopt him themselves or see to it that someone else does.

Ownership of the park is irrelevant to this discussion. It does not matter to this lad or his mother whether the park is privately or publicly owned. All she is concerned about is leaving him where someone else can find him.

However, even if all property is privately owned, then the owners of the orphanages, hospitals, and churches could also object to abandoned children being left there, just as well as the park owner. Do they have a positive obligation to accept the child while the park owner does not? If so, why? If not, can they prohibit the abandonment of children? If owners of orphanages, hospitals, churches, and parks prohibit leaving abandoned children on their property, then what is Mrs. Jones to do? Leave him at a busy intersection, perhaps, or a school, all likewise privately owned and subject to the owner’s distaste for abandoned children? Or, maybe, decide that it’s easier and more convenient to starve him to death in a back room of her home.

According to your statement, “We can insist that the law compels the mother to offer her unwanted baby to someone else…” (http://ekon.sjol.eu/category/22-3-2016-529), all that Mrs. Jones has to do, the only thing she can be compelled to do, is to place her son in an area where someone else can find him within a reasonable amount of time. A park frequented by small children is as good as anywhere and maybe better than most. Telling her that it’s not good enough and she must go elsewhere is a positive obligation.

Thank you, R


1:56 am on June 11, 2019