Rozeff on Parents’ Legal Obligations

In a recent and characteristically thoughtful post, Michael  Rozeff suggests that Murray Rothbard was incorrect when he argued that “parents have no legal obligation to feed their children that can be derived from the theory of rights of self-ownership.” Rozeff’s argument against Rothbard seems to me to beg the question.

Rozeff points outs that, in some circumstances, one can voluntarily assume positive legal obligations toward others. Are parents examples of people who have done so? Rozeff says they are: ”The key condition is that they are the parents. This means that they made the child. We may roughly say ‘You make it, you own it.’ Making a child brings the obligation or responsibility to feed it. No rights of the parents are lost due to people around them enforcing this obligation by law. That’s not an aggression of others against the parents. The parents limited their own rights when they made the child and brought it into this world.”

Rozeff is right that the parents made the child. They caused it to come into existence: they bear causal responsibility for it. But whether you bear legal responsibility for what you caused, and the extent of that legal responsibility, are further questions. Rozeff has not shown that, by bringing the child into existence, parents have the legal obligations he ascribes to them. He has merely asserted this, and in that way begged the question at issue.



7:16 pm on January 14, 2019

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