Rothbard Must Be Understood In His Context

From No Comuna.

A subtle criticism of criticism of Rothbard.

Children and rights

In the Ethics of Liberty Rothbard explores in terms of self-ownership and contract several contentious issues relating to the rights of children. These include women’s right to abortion, the prohibition of aggression of parents against children, as well as the question of the State forcing parents to take care of children, including those with serious health problems. He also argues that children have the right to “escape” of parents and seek new guardians so choose to do so. Suggested that parents have the right to place a child for adoption, or even sell their rights to the child in a voluntary agreement. He also discusses how the current juvenile justice system punishes children for making “adult” choices, removes children unnecessarily and against their will from their parents, often putting them under bad care. In other writings Rothbard also supports the right of children to work at any age, in part by supporting his release of parents or other authorities.


Rothbard was trying to create an internally consistent theory of rights. He was successful in doing so. However, as with any theory of rights, we are certainly able to bend or break those rights to suit our tastes. There is a difference between perfection and pragmatism. But one must have a theory in order to make decisions.

I think it is useful to understand Rothbard in this light. He succeeded in creating an internally consistent theory of rights. If we deem it practical to violate those rights in order to achieve some good, then that is our choice.

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