(As I mention in my About section, there will be times when I lay out well-crafted arguments, rooted in months or years of deliberation and research, and there will be other times when I work things out on the fly. This will be a combination of both.)
Libertarianism is perpetually complicated by the reality of children—by their temporary condition of helplessness and inability to have full communion with their rights, and by the natural realities that grant parents temporary authority over them. Libertarian formulations that can easily be applied to adults become more challenging when applied to children. In spite of this, we do need to craft rights-based arguments for children too. They are sovereign beings, even if they cannot enjoy full expression of every aspect of that sovereignty from their first breath.
Conservatives intuitively sense that a person dressed in drag, wearing a cartoonish prosthetic penis, taking a child by the hand and parading him or her around the room is—somehow—a violation of rights.
Even drag-queen story-time, with its general air of hyper-sexualization, crosses a clear line. Parents understand that this is about more than telling children a story. Putting drag queens in front of kids is the point of the exercise, not telling them a story that could otherwise be read by anyone.
So how can this be understood to be a violation of either the child’s rights, or the parents’, or both? Ultimately, I think the argument hinges on consent. So let me try my hand…
First, consent is central to the core rights of all humans. In the months ahead, I will be laying out formal proofs for this, but in brief…
You have exclusive and inalienable self-ownership as a natural fact of your existence, and coercive force exercised against the enjoyment of your self-ownership is morally (and ontologically) impermissible. Thus, things done directly to you against your will—things to which you do not consent—are impermissible.
But children cannot competently consent to anything. Normal human beings recognize this, and most of those charged with acting in loco parentis (teachers, daycare minders, etc.) don’t push anything so far that consent becomes an issue. They do normal things: they feed them, stop them from sticking forks in electrical sockets, and so on. The kids cannot exactly consent to those things either, but normal people try to do only those things that a parent would also do—reasonable things that a child needs. But leftist activists, I am sorry to say, are not normal. And at this point, neither are those who are seduced by the easy path to leftist-style “virtue” offered by the activist: “Letting me come to your preschool in drag and read weird stories to the children under you care will make you a better person.”
This then raises a problem: we don’t exactly have a hard-and-fast rule for the consent of children. Just like their parents have temporary authority over their children and can forcibly stop them from electrocuting themselves, or even make them clean their rooms, those acting in loco parentis have some of this authority too.
But surely they have this authority by proxy. Surely the parents are granting this authority, provisionally and temporarily, to teachers and others acting in loco parentis. So how, then, do the parents get this authority? There is not space for all the sub-arguments here, but the facts are pretty simple. It boils down a specific form of responsibility.
If you get drunk and drive through your neighbor’s fence, you have initiated a kind of force against his property. His property is, of course, an extension of his self-ownership, which means it was an act of force against your neighbor. Your act has made you responsible fix the fence. The same is the case, of course, if you drive over your neighbor’s foot rather than his fence.
This is also the case if you are a signatory to a contract. A contract involves the exchange of alienable property (or labor, which is an extension of self-ownership). If the other party abides by the agreement but you do not, you are essentially stealing from him (an act of force). You have taken an action—signing the contract—that makes you responsible to its terms.
If you are a parent, you are responsible for your child’s existence in the world. You have taken an action which produces a person who requires your help in order to exist. You are not responsible if a homeless person starves somewhere; you did not cause that homeless person to be. But you are responsible if your child starves because you are responsible for the existence of your child.
It might not feel, at first blush, as clear-cut as your responsibility for the hole in your neighbor’s fence, but the reasoning, and justification, are the same.
The natural facts of reality—specifically the temporary helplessness of the child—are such that in order to meet this fiduciary responsibility, you must exercise authority over the child. Common sense, Common Law, and the laws of nature all recognize this. Ideally, a parent eases this authority at a pace commensurate with the child’s growing ability to enjoy full communion with his own rights and sovereignty, and then, at a certain age, releases a free human being into the world. It’s not always easy to get the timing perfectly right, but the facts of nature make this the only logical and moral system to use. This authority places exclusive, dispositive decision-making power in the hands of the parents.
This is the essence of a right.
A child’s consent is thus placed, pro tempore, in the hands of the parent. A child cannot consent to being led around by the hand by a drag queen wearing a giant phallus. Period. Doing so violates the child’s rights. But since the decision about consent is temporarily in the hands of the parent, then doing so is a violation of the parent’s rights as well.
To sum up…
- Parents’ fiduciary responsibility to their children grants them temporary authority over their children.
- This authority includes the right to hold the child’s right of consent in proxy until the age of majority.
- Anything to which the child is subjected without the consent of the parent is a violation of the rights of consent of both parent and child.
Again, this is not an issue most of the time, because most of the time, outside forces do not act against the wishes of children or their parents. Normal people will teach children math, read them a nice story, or keep them from getting hit by a bus, and parents are fine with things like that. But we’re not dealing with normal people; we’re dealing with leftists. And now we’re also dealing with people who have substituted the left’s idea of “virtue” for their own—people who have become so addicted to the narcissistic frisson they get from thinking they’re one of the BeautifulPeople™ that they actually think it’s okay to do this to children. And weak-minded, compliant narcissism addicts are just as dangerous as the leftists giving them the drug in the first place.
Drag queen story-time and similar activities are clear violations of the right of consent of both parent and child. They are acts of force against self-ownership, and are thus actionable. If the system does not punish these acts, then the system has failed. If the system allows them to occur—or worse, abets their occurrence and prevents recourse by the parents—then the system itself is committing an act of force against children and parents alike.
This too is actionable.