Some libertarians believe that an arbitrary age of consent is not compatible with libertarian philosophy, because it doesn't respect the clear differences in young people's development, and as such 'punishes' the fast developers in order to protect the slow developers. This is the point at which I usually get Jefferson thrown at me to back up their argument:
"The man who would trade freedom for security deserves neither."
However, none of my opponents in these arguments seem to believe that children need no protection, they just can't put an arbitrary line on it. We all (I hope) accept that a newborn child is dependant upon those around it to feed it, to clothe it and to make sure it's warm, but where we differ is on our perception of how to protect a child as they are growing up.
Some alternative theories which have been proposed by libertarian friends:
- An adulthood test - whilst this option is probably better than some of the others I'm going to go into, one would have to argue that holding any would-be adult to community standards before they can drink, smoke weed or have sex is not particularly libertarian, the test makes no account for the physicality of the person (laborious work or sex could be harmful to young people, even if they are very intelligent and capable), and would-be predators would find a way to cheat the test if one existed. The test also seems to make no provision for the fact that most children, regardless of cognative ability, are fairly easily led by adults.
- 'After puberty' - not only is this line somewhat arbitrary in itself, it is very difficult to prove whether puberty has started or not in borderline individuals. This would lead to all sorts of court cases being thrown out because it couldn't be proven one way or another (unless we were willing to assume guilt unless innocence could be proven). Even if it could be proven, most scientists wouldn't say a person beginning puberty is ready for sexual intercourse.
- Removing the age of consent altogether - this is the strangest and least practical of the would-be solutions. Some libertarians seem to believe that the best way for children to become adults is to decide for themselves when they become adults. Not only would this allow abusive parents to coerce their children into never doing anything to stop the abuse, it would legitimise their actions in a court.
Whilst I do consider myself to be a libertarian, and even to some degree, an anarcho-capitalist, I would always support an arbitrary age of consent unless something better can be found as a solution.
I'm not sure what the age of consent should be. The world has many opinions on that, and they very rarely meet. From the very low age of consents in the middle east, to the very high ones in some parts of the west, I feel like there's no real consensus. I don't think 16 is too bad, as they go.
This is one of those subjects that tends to get shut down in mainstream conversation by unintelligent people who think anyone who opposes the current age of consent must be a predator, but the fact is that the current age of consent harms young people. A fifteen year old girl having sex with her seventeen year old boyfriend is treated the same as a twelve year old having sex with a fifty year old man.
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