…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.