Child Prostitution

Letter 1

From: ed

Sent: Thursday, July 02, 2020 6:22 AM

To: wblock@loyno.edu

Subject: Ancap society

Dear Walter,

You mention that libertarianism is about what should be “legal” and not what is moral. What is the distinction between the two and what is the purpose of the distinction? I would argue that the no aggression principle is a moral argument rather than legal, because even in a stateless/rothbardian society where no “laws” exist, people still follow the NAP as it is the moral framework of the society.

Thanks in advance

Ed

To blog readers:

There are 9 letters here. I’m not sure I have answered this correct. Help would be appreciated

Letter 2

On 3 Jul. 2020 00:49, Walter Block <wblock@loyno.edu> wrote:

Dear Ed

Libertarian law prohibits murder, rape, theft, kidnapping, violations of the non aggression principle; these are to be punished by force. Morality opposes these too. But, morality also opposes drunkeness, laziness, disrespect for parents, which, at least according to libertarianism, are not to be punished by the use of violence.

Best regards,

Walter

Letter 3

From: ed

Sent: Sunday, July 05, 2020 8:36 AM

To: Walter Block <wblock@loyno.edu>

Subject: RE: Ancap society

Hi Walter,

I am trying to understand how I should view the Epstein case from the perspective of a libertarian. Would something like child prostitution be legal under libertarian law, assuming both parties were doing it voluntarily. As a society, we allow children to sell their labour in other parts of the economy (granted the parents permission). So under libertarian law, would what Epstein did not be punishable? Like you said, morally it sits very uncomfortably with me, but technically it wouldn’t violate libertarian law. I’m assuming here that the teenagers voluntarily sold their labour to Epstein as I didnt think that forceful sexual assault occurred in the strict libertarian sense.

If the issue is that children do not have self ownership, would the granting of permission by a parent make this transaction legal? In the Epstein case, this would mean that the issue would be more around not having been granted permission by a parent rather than anything to do with the deviant act itself.

I Understand that this is a touchy subject which I was I want to be able to be clear about how I should approach the situation as a libertarian.

Thanks

Ed

Letter 4

On 6 Jul. 2020 00:29, Walter Block <wblock@loyno.edu> wrote:

Dear Ed:

I think it all depends upon the age of the girls. If they were 18 or older, I think Epstein is totally innocent. If they were 12 or younger, he was guilty of child abuse. If they were, say, 14-17, then, I think, it is unclear if Epstein was a criminal. Read this on that:

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

Best regards,

Walter

Letter 5

From: ed

Sent: Saturday, July 11, 2020 5:17 PM

To: Walter Block <wblock@loyno.edu>

Subject: RE: Ancap society

Hi Walter,

Is there anything special about sexual conduct that differentiates it from selling one’s labour for other purposes? I would imagine if it is a legal for a 14 year old child to sell their labour at a sweatshop, there is nothing conceptually different to them selling their labour for prostitution voluntarily. Girls even younger than that were bearing children voluntarily in the past.

Cheers

Ed

Letter 6

From: Walter Block <wblock@loyno.edu>

Sent: Saturday, July 11, 2020 7:22 PM

To: ed

Subject: RE: Ancap society

Dear Edmund:

I think there’s a GIGANTIC difference between a 10 year old girl selling lemonade, and engaging in prostitution. I think there’s a GIGANTIC difference between a 14 year old girl baby sitting, and engaging in prostitution. Yes, if it is to save her life, I’d support child prostitution. But, otherwise, I think it is child abuse.

However, you make an excellent point when you ask, implicitly, what’s the big difference? Do you have any daughters? I have one. Maybe that accounts for my abhorrence.  But, I shouldn’t rest with that. Thanks to you, I’ll think about this. I KNOW there’s a relevant difference (apart from the danger, of course), but I can’t quite put my finger on it. I’m bccing this to several friends of mine who may be able to help me think about this.

Best regards,

Walter

Letter 7

On 13 Jul. 2020 01:15, Walter Block <wblock@loyno.edu> wrote:

Dear Ed:

Upon further reflection, I think the difference is that one of these tasks is intimate, fraught with all sorts of psyhological issues, the other two are not. Then, of course, there is a great difference in the danger.

Best regards,

Walter

Letter 8

From: ed

Sent: Sunday, July 12, 2020 5:36 PM

To: Walter Block <wblock@loyno.edu>

Subject: RE: Ancap society

Dear Walter,

While all those reasons are likely to be true, they still sound like utilitarian judgements. If anyone is to make a judgement like that it should be the parent of the child, not the state or some third party. I could make an argument that children should not work in sweatshops as they result in psychological damage but this seems subjective and I don’t feel I am in a place to make that value judgement on behalf of the child and the parent.

I think what it comes down to is that a child cannot give consent to sell their labour for any purpose without the parent’s permission as they are not full self owners yet and their parents are still partially responsible.

Kind regards

Ed

Letter 9

Dear Ed:

If parents allowed a 5 year old girl to prostitute herself, I’d put them in jail as child abusers. If they allowed her to sell lemonade, I think there’d be no crime.

I’m as extreme a libertarian as anyone else (I call myself Walter Moderate Block only in fun). But there’s an important difference between children and adults. Certainly, I favor the legalization of prostitution for adults (but still think it an evil).

Just because all libertarians favor the legalization of prostitution for adults doesn’t mean, under ordinary circumstances (eg not to save the child’s life), we have to favor child prostitution, just because we favor the legalization of 5 year old girls selling lemonade, or 12 year old girls getting paid to babysit.

I greatly appreciate you part in this discussion. It is really making me think about issues I was unaware of.

Let me conclude. I am tempted to tell you a joke: “Do you know the difference between a bathroom and a living room?” If you say “No” I respond, “Well, then, don’t come to my house.” I offer this joke not to make fun of you, but, rather, to make fun of me. I KNOW that I am right, that it is entirely ok for a 5 year old girl to sell lemonade, and for a 14 year old girl to be a baby sitter, but that it should be considered not only immoral, but also illegal, for the parents to allow either to engage in prostitution (with the proviso that this is not to save their lives, in some weird, concocted, contrived example; then, in my view all bets are off). I’m not telling you this joke at your expense because you are serious about this, you ask an important question, and, I readily confess, I don’t see my way fully clear to answer it.

I resort to utilitarianism, pragmatism, and that old standby, the continuum:

What’s wrong with a little utilitarianism? Libertarianism has to deal with the real world, and part of that real world is pragmatism. I regard any parent who allows their young girl to engage in prostitution as guilty of child abuse. Such parents should be put in jail. But it is not only my disgust with prostitution that leads me in this direction. Suppose a parent endangered a young child in a manner having nothing to do with sex: allowed the child to utilize cocaine or heroin; to walk on a tightrope 100 feet high with no safety net below; to work in a deep dusty coal mine with no air mask. I would still consider all of those cases to be child abuse, and hence criminal. I full well recognize that children worked in coal mines several centuries ago. But, then, that sort of thing was necessary to save their lives; now, it is not. Context is important for proper law.

I’m not fully satisfied with this answer. Hopefully, members of this blog will help me out to a better understanding, but that’s the best I can now do. Thanks again for raising this important issue.

Best regards,

Walter

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3:43 am on September 23, 2020