The State Does Not Protect Children

This week it emerged that a family in California had held their children captive and tortured them. The disturbing case of the Turpin children, dubbed the ‘shackled siblings’ by the media is truly horrifying. The fact that parents could treat their children in such an appalling way should send shivers up our spines.

The state we currently live in is enormous. There is not a part of our lives that the government does not touch. Yet still, such horrendous abuses happen. The myth that the state protects the most vulnerable in our society is a pernicious lie.

This case and others like it (the Fritzl children spring to mind) raises some chilling questions about Libertarianism. The victims of David and Louise Turpin, were not adults but their own children. In a society with a night watchman state, how would such abuses of parental power be averted? It seems obvious that in a Libertarian society children are the concern of their parents, but what if parents choose to torture their children?

I believe the answer lies in creating not just a free society, but a freedom-loving culture. I am being deliberately vague here. It is often heard that ‘Libertarianism has nothing to say about culture’. Well, I would argue that cases such as these prove otherwise.

One Comment

  1. This was debated long ago – long ago even by my standards.

    Children do not “belong” to their parents as they belonged to their father under old Roman Law (“where is Marcus? Oh I had him raped to death by horses, for talking back to me”) – but they do not belong to the state either.

    Parents have a trustee relationship with their children – they are in charge, but they do not “own” their children and may not murder or abuse them. And if any person knows of such abuse it is their duty to intervene.

    A man raping a women in his house – say he has left the blinds open and he is tearing her clothing off and beating her with obvious intent to rape, it is your duty to intervene to stop him. And if he says “you do not understand, she is my daughter – so that makes it O.K.” that does NOT make what he is doing better (it makes it worse).

    It was not compulsory to have government police forces in counties of England and Wales till 1856 – I assure that crime was not just ignored before then (whatever that lying Benthamite Edwin Chadwick suggested). People did intervene against criminals.



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