Abandonment, Parental Responsibility and Other Challenges to the NAP

“E” questions the Rothbard/Block analysis of child abandonment. “E” concludes “In summary, it seems to me that leaving out these key concepts of authority (responsibility) and duty, when it comes to the nurturing or not nurturing, as the case may be, of our children gives us a flawed perspective of the issue.”

I agree with “E”. See here and here. These two blogs of mine try to “save” the non-aggression principle (NAP) by arguing that it does apply to the case of parents starving their children to death, which it has been said is because they have no obligation to feed them under the NAP. In contrast, I argue that parents assume that obligation when they bring children into this world. This elaboration of circumstances saves the NAP. Surely, if starving one’s baby or child to death is not murder, then nothing is; and if the NAP cannot address such a case, it’s sorely and surely defective.

If my argument fails, and if libertarian theory is unable to defend the parental obligation to feed one’s children by reflecting such a manifest obligation in its understanding of “aggression”, then so much the worse for libertarian theory. If libertarian theory cannot reflect such a basic moral obligation in its “law”, then again so much the worse for libertarian theory. It would then stand in dire need of revision, elaboration or extension.

Similarly, attempted murder is obviously a moral wrong. Because of this moral clarity, it’s my view that the NAP is only worth its salt if it can easily find that attempted murder is an “aggression”. Walter Block fortunately is able to locate this under the concept of “threat”, which is a valid analysis.

Some actions resist application of the NAP, however. If the New York Times repeatedly prints the falsehood that Walter Block is a racist and hate speech proliferator and this causes him to be fired and ostracized, does the NAP say that the newspaper has committed an aggression? Not according to either Rothbard or Block.

If the newspaper published these lies, it’s morally wrong in doing so. That’s crystal clear. It seems then that the NAP is too restrictive if it cannot support a moral obligation of the paper to print stuff in good faith, meaning it thinks it’s printing truth and not falsehoods. Does a newspaper assume a naturally lawful obligation by becoming a newspaper? Isn’t this analogous to parents assuming an obligation to feed their children?

The ethics of liberty is supposed to be based upon natural law, and it seems problematic that the NAP in this case, at least as it has so far been interpreted by Rothbard and Block, fails to be in accord with a natural law obligation, which is that one does not misrepresent what service one is providing. Again, it may be possible to save the NAP by not overloading it and requiring that it exclusively form a basis of legal judgment. We have to go outside the NAP and elaborate further.

Invoking fraud doesn’t do the trick in this case. Misrepresentation by lying is not fraud, according to Kinsella. If the NAP is restricted to physical force, it’s too restrictive. If it covers force and fraud, it still cannot handle the case of lies that damage a person in a variety of ways.

If fraud involves a theft of property, as Kinsella argues, then what has Block been robbed of in this hypothetical case? Not reputation alone, but his livelihood, plus his wealth to litigate the case, his time, and quite possibly the loss of family, friends and health.


8:13 pm on April 13, 2019

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