Children and the Initiation of Force

Note to the Reader

Children are a touchy subject and as such nobody wants to be the first to bring to light the issues involving other people’s kids. With this issue seemingly missing in libertarian theory and most prominent works I will attempt to rationalize the NAP and how it Applies to children. Note anything said here can equally apply to those that could be seen as mentally unstable. This is my first attempt at creating an argument on such a scale and as such I ask for heavy criticism so that I may improve this theory. Please pull no punches and be as brutal as possible.

The Dilemma

Humans as autonomous beings own their bodies and through extension their actions. As such to infringe upon their self ownership would thus be immoral both according to the NAP and most commonly held belief systems when applied consistently.

When Applied completely the Non Aggression Principle leaves open a variety of issues in the case of humans that can’t be seen as wholly responsible for themselves. When the NAP is consistently applied with children the parent is left unable to properly care for them. If a child of 3 is seen to have the same rights as full grown adults then even something as simple picking up your child rather than letting them wander in the street is initiation of force. Yet cry as they may we do in fact know our act of preventing them from doing what they want in this case is better for their well being. I don’t think even the strictest of libertarians would disagree with this conclusion. I aim to rectify this contradiction by arguing that the humans rights over their own actions are determined through their own responsibilities.


Few would say that a child of 3 is wholly responsible for their actions. As such this responsibility falls onto a third party; The caretaker. When a child acts they are not held accountable but rather the caretaker. Because the caretaker is responsible for the actions of the child and the consequences that those actions bring, the caretaker retains certain rights over the child.

Taking a child into your care by either natural or artificial means could be seen as sort of a quasi contract between caretaker and the child. The caretaker agrees to the responsibility of the child’s welfare the moment they take the child under their care. As the child ages and gains more responsibilities they gain the freedoms that come with. Once the actions of the child can be called their own so too shall they be held responsible for those actions and The caretaker is then relieved of responsibility. In this case an attempt to control or confine the actions of the individual would be an infringement of their autonomy and thus a violation of the NAP.

Abuse and Neglect

But just how much right over the child exactly should the caretaker have? If the caretaker punishes the child through physical beatings would that be within their rights? If the child comes to serious harm or death is it merely the caretaker’s right to allow such a thing?

No, the caretaker may retain responsibility over the actions of the child however they do not retain ownership of the child itself. beating or mutilating the child would infringe upon their self ownership and thus be a violation of the NAP. The body of the child is always their own and it is the duty of the caretaker merely to preserve the the child not damage them.

As part of their responsibility the caretaker is charged with providing the amenities of survival such as Food, Water, Shelter, and education. Locking the child in a room for years on end may not be a direct violation of the NAP however by withholding the amenity of socialization the child faces immense psychological damage. It should thus be argued that it comes within the duties of the caretaker to provide at least minimum socialization to the child. Failing to provide these amenities would violate the implied contract that the caretaker is bound to.

Children own themselves

  1. Humans Have ownership over their bodies
  2. Children are humans
  3. Therefore Children Have ownership of their bodies.

Physical harm Violates the NAP

  1. Children have ownership of their bodies
  2. Physical harm violates self ownership
  3. Violation of self ownership is a violation of the NAP
  4. Physical harm against children is a violation of the NAP

Children do not own their actions

  1. The responsibility of a child’s action falls on the caretaker
  2. Ownership implies responsibility
  3. The actions of the child may thus be controlled by the caretaker


There may be a case in which the caretaker may chose to relinquish their own responsibility over the child. They may chose not to feed, cloth, or take care of the child in any way. However so long as the child falls under their responsibility such actions will thus be neglect and a violation of the NAP. The caretaker must transfer responsibility to a third party before ridding themselves of it.


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