How the State Contributes to Child Abuse

LCC reader Andrew recently asked me,

“Norman, in your opinion, how would child abuse like the recent incident where a baby was found nearly starved by his lazy parents be prevented in a libertarian society? How would children such as this be protected?”

Andrew, there will always be evil people in the world. Government will not solve that, neither will a world without government. Children are not “protected” now in the sense that 100% of all potential abuses are thwarted, as is evident from this stupidity. Additionally, nobody can promise that a libertarian society is a utopia full of puppies and rainbows.

However, I am quite confident that child abuse or neglect such as this terrible incident would be reduced in a free society, relative to the current state of affairs. Right now, the government basically incentivizes irresponsibility in child-rearing through welfarism and the public school system. How so? When the State provides “free of charge” certain services that make it possible to have sustained unemployment and to remove a parent from a central component of a child’s life – his/her education – then it is no surprise that certain parents will be inclined to laziness, and even to abuse.

With those things out of the way, I think that habitually irresponsible people will actually be less likely to have children precisely because they will have to be 100% responsible for their family – they cannot just assume the government will pick up the slack. Yes, there will still be problems, but I would expect the problems to be far fewer in number than what we experience now.

Also, a free society would probably have much more active adoption opportunities. The government has essentially monopolized adoption, and as a result the costs are high and the efficiency low. In a free society, the incentives would be aligned so that irresponsible parents would be much more likely to put their baby up for adoption once it becomes clear that it is more in their interest to divest themselves of the responsibility rather than keep it.

As it is, governments have thoroughly messed up the world with respect to children. The United States has made it difficult to adopt without the state getting its cut, of course, but adopting a child from another country in the United States is even more difficult because of the multiple states involved in the process. People assume that the state puts the interests of children first, yet not only do they do no such thing but they also exacerbate pre-existing problems with excessive regulation and stifling of the marketplace.

A lot of people dislike the idea of a “paternal” or “nanny” state, but the state playing the “parent” game with real children is truly tragic.

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