One more thing…

Wednesday, May 28th, 2008

…given this, I think I probably owe the American Spectator’s Phil Klein an apology.

I’m relatively new to movement libertarianism. I’ve always known that LP people and grassroots libertarians can be eccentric. And there’s nothing wrong with that. I just wasn’t aware that a significant faction was flat-out nuts (I knew some were, of course, just not a large portion).

I got snarky with Klein because no libertarian I’ve ever spoken to personally has ever argued the line on child sex that Mary Ruwart argues in her book. At least not with me. But I’ve never been to an LP convention. Sadly, it looks like Klein was right. Apparently, there really is a subset of libertarianism that takes a pretty horrifying position on children and sexuality.

There are legitimate discussions to be had about the wisdom of sex offender registries, the reach and scope of sex crime laws, differentiating between pre- and post-pubescent minors in categorizing age of consent laws, and whether mere possession of child porn should be a crime on par with distribution and production.

There are no arguments in favor of adults having sex with children. None.

It’s true that Ruwart was coy in the passage about child porn in her book. She didn’t explicitly say that adults should be able to have sex with children. Here’s what she wrote:

Children who willingly participate in sexual acts have the right to make that decision as well, even if it’s distasteful to us personally. Some children will make poor choices just as some adults do in smoking and drinking to excess. When we outlaw child pornography, the prices paid for child performers rise, increasing the incentives for parents to use children against their will.

I suppose you could interpret that extremely narrowly, and presume that Ruwart was merely saying that if two minors decided to get together and make a video of themselves having sex, that shouldn’t be illegal (and I agree–they shouldn’t be prosecuted).

I also think that’s an incredibly naive interpretation of what she wrote. The third sentence gives her away. She’s actually making an economic argument for legalizing child porn. It would be foolish to argue the supply/demand issue and believe that children are capable of fulfilling the demand on their own, with no adult participation. Ruwart here is making the same argument against child porn that you’d make against the prohibition of any vice. The difference is that smoking a joint or having consensual sex with a prostitute doesn’t take any direct victims. Putting your penis in a child most certainly does. This isn’t a difficult issue. There’s no room for ambiguity.

This also wasn’t a case of misspeaking or getting caught off-guard. Ruwart presumably proofed and edited that passage several times before allowing the book to go to press. She has since issued a statement saying she opposes the abduction of children for the purposes of forcing them to produce child porn. Well, great. But that isn’t what she’s accused of supporting. Her book passage indicates she thinks children should be free to consent to appearing in porno. Her statement does nothing to walk that back. And she came in second place for the LP nomination.

As far as I’m concerned, this isn’t debatable. If that makes me a “fake libertarian” then “fake libertarian” it is.

As for the Barr-Root ticket, I’m no fan of Root, who I gather is still pro-war. Barr has come a long way, and though I think he’s far from ideal, he’s also far better than anyone the LP has nominated in a long time (remember Michael Badnarik, who wanted to chain convicts to their beds until their muscles atrophy?). That’s not necessarily a huge endorsement of Barr as it is a statement on the LP. There’s a reason why most libertarians describe themselves as “small-L libertarians.” That said, Barr isn’t nuts, and he’s orders of magnitude better than McCain and Obama.

One other thing. This talk of a Cato/reason takeover of the LP actually made me laugh at loud. I’ve worked at both places. I can assure you, the LP is little more than a source of amusement for “Beltway Libertarians” As is party politics in general. You also have to wonder, to what end? Let’s say the “takeover” rumors were true. Then what? We combine the party with the GOP? We run pro-war neocons on a third party ticket (because the uniting theme behind the whole “Beltway Libertarian” conspiracy stuff is that we’re all secretly pro-war)? We expend all that “takeover” energy so we can give Republicans an extra fraction of one percent of the vote each election? Does anyone who has read this site or reason magazine really believe that?

I have to say, it’s been rather enlightening being on the receiving end of these conspiracy theories. The leaps the “Orange Line Mafia” crowd makes to tie it all together are so absurd they’re funny.

Anyway, back to the point of the post: apologies to Phil Klein for my snark.

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77 Responses to “One more thing…”

  1. #1 |  UCrawford | 


    According to the Louisiana Age of Consent law, the teacher has actually committed no crime since Louisiana recognizes a “minor” as somebody 17 or below. So, either the news station reported the wrong age for the kid or the police department and school district improperly charged her because according to Louisiana statute she hasn’t actually committed a felony charge.

    Therefore invalidating your gripe with age of consent laws in this particular instance.

  2. #2 |  David Nieporent | 

    UCrawford: When have people of principle begun caring about what an institutional statist like Bob Barr thinks matters? Did I miss the memo on “Party of Principle Switches to Gradualist Strategy”?

    There’s nothing unprincipled about gradualism.

    And from your “don’t vote” page, it appears that you’re an anarchist, not a libertarian, so this whole discussion seems somewhat academic. (I don’t say that pejoratively, just descriptively.)

  3. #3 |  Les | 

    #48 Yes, what’s your point? The average age for a first period is under 13.

    I misunderstood Ben’s comment at #25 that, “Children, both boys and girls, become capable of reproducing 5-7 (maybe more than that) years before the law allows them to have sex.” I thought he was saying that kids could reproduce at 5-7, which was silly of me.

  4. #4 |  Garrett J | 

    “I am very much opposed to age-of-consent laws, if by those you mean blanket, arbitrary, prohibitions against behaviors that are illegal the day before a birthday and the legal the day after.”

    So you mean like laws about when you can legally sign a contract or laws about when you can drive a car?

    Of course it’s arbitrary and has consequences, but it’s a hell of a lot simpler and far less expensive to taxpayers than the alternative. Now that doesn’t mean the ages we set are at all correct (Maybe it should be 16- maybe 14- whatever- debate it), but we sure as hell need some sort of age of consent. It just makes more sense to have the law say that it was wrong for that adult to have sex with that 13 year-old girl rather than have a trial to sort out the intimate details of the relationship. Having an age of consent just plain makes sense- there are no realistic alternatives.

  5. #5 |  JustinC | 

    There are so many horrible things going on in this country that we could try to fix. But no… you jerk-offs would rather sit around and debate sex with children and remain irrelevant within our government. The LP will never amount to anything until they get rid of the Mike Gogulski’s and will likely never see a dime of my money.

    Cato, Reason, and IJ, on the other hand… money well spent.

  6. #6 |  Dave Krueger | 

    #54 Garrett J

    “I am very much opposed to age-of-consent laws, if by those you mean blanket, arbitrary, prohibitions against behaviors that are illegal the day before a birthday and the legal the day after.”

    So you mean like laws about when you can legally sign a contract or laws about when you can drive a car?

    No, that would be age of majority.

  7. #7 |  supercat | 

    How about this for a proposal: any “consent” for sex given by a minor ‘n’ months before they turn 18 may be retroactively revoked at any time and for any reason the person chooses until ‘n’ months have elapsed after the person turns 18. I should think that would seem pretty fair from a libertarian standpoint.

  8. #8 |  UCrawford | 


    The problem with that solution is that you’d be treating pedophilia as a contract between consenting parties (which you’re proposing the younger party should be able to revoke for a set period of time)…but in most cases it’s not a contract between consenting parties. It’s an assault where an adult takes advantage of a child incapable of granting informed consent or resisting the advances (not to mention that the perpetrators are very often family members who can use all manners of coercion to force continued compliance and prevent prosecution). It just doesn’t break down as simply as your solution suggests…that’s why I don’t think you can get by without the age of consent laws. Although, as Garrett J has noted, the actual age used in those laws is probably open to some debate as are some details about who should be punished under those laws. But I also don’t think the creation of those laws should be directed by the federal government.

  9. #9 |  C. S. P. Schofield | 

    I don’t like child porn, but I don’t like censorship either, and as a childless adult I’m more scared of governments than of pedophiles. This has lead me to dream up a way to go after child porn publishers and buyers without allowing the government a category of publication to censor (somehow when you do, everything the government doesn’t like ends up in that category)

    Photographic or video representations of sex with or between children is evidence of a serious crime. Persons in possession of such should have a legal duty to turn it in to the police for investigation, and such investigation should be thorough and annoying enough to make publication or possession of child porn seriously unattractive.

    This would also draw a bold line between drawings of chid sex and porn produced with actual children. The first is creepy, but I’m damned if I can see why it should be illegal.

  10. #10 |  Dave Krueger | 

    I tend to blindly vote for whatever candidate the Libertarians put up for President. That’s just my own apathetic uninformed automatonic brand of civic involvement. I know very little about most of the candidates aside from my gut feeling that they are most likely to be several orders of magnitude more appealing than the major party candidates.

    But, while we’re on the topic of protecting children from the sadistic predatory world around them, it should be noted that most abuse is perpetrated by friends and relatives, while the hysteria-happy media like to portray it as random attacks by strangers conveniently listed in a state sex-crime directory registry.

    Since many folks seem to think that the LP is on the skids and irrelevant (etc, etc, etc), it would probably not be a great loss for them to, just once, offer a candidate who isn’t afraid to alienate the zillions of voters who think nothing of indoctrinating children from the time they can walk with the terrifying mandate that they must worship an imaginary infallible super-being and obey his laughable and contradictory edicts or suffer perpetual earthly guilt followed by incineration in hell for eternity. And, of course, that only scratches the surface.

    Since I believe parenting is better left up to the parents rather than the state, I would be opposed to any attempt to outlaw such teaching. On the other hand, the fact that so many people practice it doesn’t make it any less an abusive practice. As long as it doesn’t involve sex, you’re mostly free (and even encouraged) to do whatever you want to their little pliable trusting minds. When an element of sex comes into the equation, you are suddenly transformed into the evil spawn of Satan.

    If I weren’t an alien from another planet, this would probably all makes sense.

  11. #11 |  UCrawford | 


    The first is creepy, but I’m damned if I can see why it should be illegal.

    I could agree with that…drawings of kids having sex is creepy and I wouldn’t buy them or associate with anyone who had them, but I don’t consider it criminal because there’s not a victim in that instance. Child porn or sex involving actual kids is very much different.

  12. #12 |  UCrawford | 


    Unless there were models involved in the drawings, I suppose…some enterprising creep would definitely try to push that limit.

    No easy answers, I guess.

  13. #13 |  Dave Krueger | 

    The opposition to child porn that does not use children in its creation is based on the idea that it feeds the evil appetite and will ultimately lead a pedophile to go after the real thing, the same way adult porn turns everyone onto a practicing rapist. In fact, it’s gotten so bad that rapists are now tripping over each other when they’re out hunting prey and it’s not unusual to see several of them fighting for same victim like a bunch of squirrels after the same nut.

  14. #14 |  UCrawford | 


    The opposition to child porn that does not use children in its creation is based on the idea that it feeds the evil appetite and will ultimately lead a pedophile to go after the real thing

    I’m well aware of how ridiculous the “porn creates rapists” argument is. That’s not what I was saying…just that determining which child porn is using children and which isn’t is not going to be as clear cut as some people think it might be.

  15. #15 |  Dave Krueger | 

    UCrawford, I wasn’t really addressing your post. Just kind of making a general comment. Since somewhere someone referred to you as an anarchist, so I have now decided to treat you with more respect. :)

  16. #16 |  UCrawford | 


    Actually Dave Nieporent was calling somebody else an anarchist but he used a quote that had my name at the front of it. I’m definitely a minarchist, although I’ll admit to dreaming of a world someday in which people are able to live in peaceful anarchy. I just don’t believe that world is possible with people as they are now.

    Hope that doesn’t change your opinion of me too much…I agree with most of what you have to say. :)

  17. #17 |  Steve Verdon | 

    Look this issue of age of consent is really a side issue to what RedTailQuack has been writing. He is arguing the case for pedophiles pretty much across the board. He is not saying, “A mature 16 year old…” or “A 15 year old with an 18 year old….”. Instead he is speaking in general terms and I’ll point out that he has NOT limited himself to children who are in or past puberty.

    As for the age of consent laws, sure there are always going to be cases where the law is just flat out dumb. That is the way with any law that addresses something that is a “gray area”. However, in such cases you can’t base the laws on the rare exceptions because then you’ll be allowing far more cases that are damaging that beneficial to occur. Having a law that is flexible would be great but can have its own issues.

    And to be quite clear here, Radley has already stated at least once probably several times that discussions of issues such as age of consent, sexual offender lists, etc. are wide open for debate. Hence, it is not all that unreasonable to conclude that when Radley says “child” and sex with said child is “violent, manipulative, and exploitative”, etc. he is talking about pre-pubescent children. It isn’t that fucking hard to understand people. Read what he has written and engage your brain.

  18. #18 |  Steve Ely | 

    Amen to #67. Good points well put.

  19. #19 |  supercat | 

    UCrawford: The idea, perhaps not expressed terribly well, would be that the person wouldn’t really ‘consent’ until after age 18. Perhaps the ‘limbo’ state (where the person hasn’t yet given adult consent, but hasn’t affirmatively indicated non-consent either) needs to be better defined, but I see no particular reason someone who is 18 shouldn’t be allowed to give adult ‘consent’ to acts performed shortly before the 18th birthday. Nor do I see any particular basis for a rule that would say an adult can give retroactive consent to actions performed after a certain point, but not those before.

    I would fully recognize that there could be some difficulties with intimidation; I’m not really sure how those would best be handled. Fundamentally, though, in cases where the alleged victim is an adult now I think that person should have broad latitude to decline charges whether or not the person was an adult at the time of the alleged offense.

  20. #20 |  Dave Krueger | 

    I must be old fashioned. I think laws ought to be designed to ensure those “rare exceptions” are avoided rather than just freely sacrificing the occasional innocent in the name of ensuring we don’t miss any of the bad guys. That goes double when the so-called rare exceptions get so common that they don’t even really raise an eyebrow anymore.

    By the way, most of the events discussed on this site are supposedly “rare exceptions”.

    My standards are incredibly high and probably naive. Regardless of the age of anyone involved, before you put someone in prison, there must be an actual identifiable injury to an actual identifiable victim. Independent of anything in the law, the prosecution must have to prove that much. You are never going to get all the bad guys. And you are certainly not going to get more of them by locking up good guys.

  21. #21 |  UCrawford | 


    I discussed this with a commenter on the other thread touching on the topic as well, but I just don’t see how this retroactive consent system could work…particularly when you take into account how difficult it is to prosecute a rape case (especially one involving a minor or incest) to begin with. In many of the cases you wouldn’t have evidence, the case would be hinging on testimony that could be coerced or perjured (from either side), testimony would be compromised by time and all sorts of weird pressures (let’s not even think about what effect this would have on divorce proceedings). It would be almost impossible to prosecute unless you let the prosecutors turn it into a complete witch hunt (meaning you’ll have more debacles like the McMartin daycare center trials). I just can’t see this working at all.

  22. #22 |  UCrawford | 


    I see what you’re getting at, but child molestation is really just a form of rape because it’s taking sexual liberties with someone who can’t give consent (and, like rape, it’s not really about sex…it’s about power) so the laws are necessary. Like Radley said, we can argue a bit about ages of consent with teenagers and special cases, but when it comes to children (especially those who are pre-pubescents or just entering puberty) there’s no case to be made that adults having sex with them is acceptable. It’s no different than having sex with someone after you’ve spiked their drink or found them passed out unconscious…there’s no argument for consent to be considered there. And it’s not something to be ignored simply because we would rather not make laws…unless you’d rather we just handle the situation by mob justice (something I think would be worse than a law).

  23. #23 |  WMB | 

    Shame you Radley. I lost some respect with your first distortion of Ruwart’s views but to repeat it is outside the bounds. I have now lost all respect (and we have worked together but I suspect not anymore). Ruwart wrote a series of question on the issue of children and the entire series provides the context which you are leaving out. Roderick Long, who appears to be your intellectual superior, went through the whole series of questions to see what Mary was saying. His conclusion was that Mary doesn’t say what you pretend she is, that ignoring the context distorts the conclusions and that Mary’s worst sin in the matter was being unclear in a couple of places but generally right on the issues.

    Mary herself wrote a reply to the smear from the Barr/Root campaigns on the matter explaining precisely what her position was. Yet you neither quote from her longer response on the matter or any of the other questions that put this one paragraph in context. You take the paragraph as an isolated one and interpret based only on what is there. That is intellectually dishonest.

    I don’t know who said there was a Reason/Cato takeover. I’m close to both Reason and Cato and I was a supporter of Mary (because I also know her actual position not your distorted view of her position). The people were talking about a take over by conservatives led by Barr and Richard Viguerie — and that seems very true. The main people involved from within the LP got some nice pay offs from Viguerie in the process and that is now public knowledge.

    I am ashamed of you Radley. Read the full context of all the questions, read Mary’s remarks on the questions and read Roderick Long’s essay investigating Mary’s views in context. You are wrong and helping conservatives like Barr smear libertarians in the process. I thought better of you but you have taught me I was wrong to do so.

  24. #24 |  Radley Balko | 

    WMB —

    Don’t come on my site and talk down to me as if I were your child, particularly if you’re going to be too cowardly to do so under your own name. I linked to Ruwart’s longer statement. I read Roderick Long’s defense. I found them both unconvincing. I’ve also since spoken with people who were at the LP convention. I’m told that child porn was the topic of choice among Ruwart supporters, and that this was the issue for which they chose to rally around her. Way to to draw a line in the sand, gang.

    I’m sorry, but when it comes to sex with young children, there can be no debate. And if there is a significant faction of the LP that’s going to defend that crap, the LP is never, ever going to be taken seriously. Nor do they deserve to be.

    You’re “ashamed” of me? Please. Why the hell should I care what you think of me? Go elsewhere then. No one is forcing you to read this site. Of all the work I’ve done over the years, if taking a stand against an LP candidate who wrote ambiguously about child porn makes you “ashamed,” then I really don’t want your support, anyway.

    Go read Roderick Long, if you find him to be my “intellectual superior.”

    Tell you what, while the LP nuts are debating the merits of child porn, I’ll keep working on wrongful convictions, police misconduct, and the drug war.

  25. #25 |  Brian N. | 

    In what sense did Ruwart use the word “child”? In its legal definition? That would include anyone under 18. In the biological definition? That varies from person to person, of course. If she used it in the first sense, which is unfortunate, Ariel Durant and Virginia Poe would have qualified as children. If you’re going to say Ariel Durant was exploited by her husband Will…well, there is no answering that, is there? If that’s the case you’ve defined a concept in your mind, and you will wrap reality around it, like a Jacobin or a Marxist, and you won’t stop until reality monolithically conforms to it. It’s a combination of ideological berserkergang and a bizarre case of “rationalism” run amok. What may have been a simple failing of language has provoked endless controversy. That’s a conditional statement, of course.

    Let us start (and it’s impossible to speak directly to Ruwart’s position right now) with an agreed-upon definition of child as a pre-pubescent. Let us further stipulate (as I think you’ll agree, with some justification on my part) that all pre-pubescents ought to be considered incapable of giving consent. Let us further add that after puberty the question is up to debate, and must be considered in a case-by-case basis. Further, recognizing the positive law, we’re forced to accept an impasse; on the one hand, the law stipulates that anyone below the age of 18 is a “child” though this does not answer to reality. The problem is really that consent is not contextually bound to the age of the participants; but their capacity to understand and choose to participate. An aside; using that same litmus test, robbery, rape, taxation, murder, conscription, enslavement and many other things are shown to be equally criminal, but there’s no shifting context; they’re always wrong. We’ve already stipulated (if you’re still with me) that no pre-pubescent child can consent. If you wish to hold to the model of a state, it’s obvious that the positive law needs to be reformed to consider the problem as it actually exists. If you don’t then we can only speak of individual judgment and speak of what to do, as an individual, if one knows of such a thing taking place. It’s unnecessary to go into any detail on that. I will say, however that, like you, I’m completely uninterested in the silly consequentialist/pragmatist/utilitarian arguments on such a question. The moral question comes first, always.

  26. #26 |  JOR | 

    Since I could never support a couple of useless clowns who supported, and still support mass murder, I can’t vote for Barr&Root (as for the LP – they were always a joke).

    If the battlecry be, “They’re better than McCain and Obama!”, well, isn’t that inspiring. I still think I’ll pass.

  27. #27 |  Wirkman Netizen: Insert ideas into head; observe at safe distance. | 

    […] as I followed links, I came to a page that is typical of libertarian argumentation, a blog comment page where the disputants almost seem […]