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From: N
Sent: Thursday, February 18, 2016 8:17 PM
To: walter block
Subject: The Law of Diminishing Marginal Utility

The Law of Diminishing Marginal Utility: Each successive unit of a good grants its owner less utility than the previous unit.

Counter Example: I have a bike missing it’s two tires, surely the first tire I buy would grant me less utility than the second.

Did I go wrong? If so then where? N

Dear N:

For most economic issues, the proper unit is one apple, or one chicken. For shoes, it is two shoes, or a pair, at least usually. With regard to bike tires, the proper unit is two of them, also. Ditto for cars: four.

I suggest you read this:

Rothbard, Murray N. 1982. “Law, Property Rights, and Air Pollution,” Cato Journal, Vol. 2, No. 1, Spring; reprinted in Economics and the Environment: A Reconciliation, Walter E. Block , ed., Vancouver: The Fraser Institute, 1990, pp. 233-279; http://mises.org/story/2120; http://www.mises.org/rothbard/lawproperty.pdf;
https://mises.org/library/law-property-rights-and-air-pollution-0

and search for “technological unit.” Not only will this help solve your problem, it is also the very best essay ever written on environmental economics.

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7:27 pm on January 4, 2019

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Centralism Versus Decentralism? Neither, For The Libertarian

From: J
Sent: Tuesday, February 09, 2016 4:06 AM
To: Walter Block
Subject: Jim Crow & States’ rights

Do you believe that the repeal of state-forced segregation (not the illegalisation of private discrimination, of course) in the American South should’ve been handled at the state level, instead of in Washington? In other words, should certain been allowed to retain such laws of forced segregation if they wished, as their right as sovereign states?

Dear J:

I am neither a federalist nor an anti federalist. I don’t favor the states of the feds, nor the reverse. I’m a libertarian. So, I pick and choose on the basis of the specific issue. For example, when President Reagan threatened the NYC mayor that unless he got rid of rent control, the federal govt would withhold funds from NYC, I favored the federal govt vis a vis the city government. On the other hand, when the federal governemnt is in the wrong vis a vis the states, I favor the latter. For example, the feds should not own land in the 50 states. But, out of context, if I didn’t know the specific issue, I incline toward decentralization; states prefereed to the feds.
On the segregation issue, I don’t think govt has a right to impose this. So, regarding southern state segregation, I favored the federal govt that wanted to stop this. On the other hand, suppose the fed govt wanted to impose state segregation on a state. Then, and only then would I support the “sovereign” states, not because they are sovereign (for the anarcho capitalist libertarian, only the individual is sovereign) but because, then, they would be more closely promoting justice.
Best regards,

Walter

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2:23 pm on January 4, 2019

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Murder, Attempted Murder? Part II

The other day, I attempted to answer a philosophical, legal, puzzle from a libertarian perspective (as is my wont). See here for this attempt: https://www.lewrockwell.com/lrc-blog/murder-attempted-murder-i-need-help-on-this-one/. This concerned poisoned water, and who was the murderer.

In this essay, I called for help, since I didn’t think I had nailed it. I received two very insightful responses, from S (he says both X and Y are the murderers) and P (he says X is the murderer). See these responses below. I agree with S, both X and Y are guilty, but, for different reasons. S’s reason is that there really is no relevant difference between actual and attempted murder. I cannot see my way clear to agreeing with that. I see a gigantic difference, from the vantage point of libertarian punishment theory, between someone who tries and fails to murder someone else, and someone who succeeds in this evil deed. Yes, they both had equal mens rea, guilty intent, bad motive, but one succeeded in this, and the other failed.

Why, then, to I think both X and Y are guilty of murder? I think so because suppose both of them were in league with each other. They conspired, together, to murder the innocent victim, and, yet, each of them would be charged, if found, only with attempted, not actual, murder. We libertarians can’t allow them to get away with that! True, we can posit they each acted alone. But, intriguing, challenging, questions call for desperate responses. The point is, if they acted in concert, clearly, both are murderers, neither is merely an attempted murderer. If they did not, still, in baseball, the tie goes to the runner. Here, I think the “tie” (or better yet, the irrelevancy) should go to the Draconian end of the spectrum. Hang ’em both high, X and Y, say I!

Again, I don’t quite think I’ve nailed this one. All I can do is the best I can, in the hope that my (and S and P’s) attempt(s) will call forth an even better answer.

Isn’t this a great way to start off the new year!!!???!!!!

From: S
Sent: Thursday, January 03, 2019 7:51 AM
To: wblock@loyno.edu
Subject: RE: Murder? Attempted murder?

Dear Walter,

You listed these options:

X guilty of murder, Y guilty of attempted murder
Y guilty of murder, X guilty of attempted murder
X and Y both guilty of attempted murder

I speculate that Solomon in his wisdom would instead pronounce them both guilty of murder. For what is the moral difference between successful and unsuccessful attempts? Both X and Y intentionally took (normally) adequate steps to ensure the victim’s death – only by fluke did X’s attempt fail, yet he was still murderous in his heart (as Christ condemned). Both X and Y desired the victim’s death, and were willing to arrange it by their own hands, thus both ought to be punished accordingly.

The distinction between attempted murder and actual murder is a legal one (and, obviously, a practical one). How various legalists would assess the case, though, I wouldn’t dare to speculate.

Regards,

S

From: P
Sent: Wednesday, January 02, 2019 10:37 PM
To: wblock@loyno.edu
Subject: Poisoned Water Problem

Hi Walter,

Regarding the poisoned water, before Y appeared on the scene X had already sealed your fate, barring some supposedly highly unlikely intervention by man or nature (I won’t mention any god, as you are an atheist). Therefore if someone needs to be charged with murder, it should be X. Y should be charged with attempted murder, since Y’s action did not affect the ultimate outcome (your death).

BTW it was a pleasure meeting you at the Mises Circle in Seattle a couple of years ago, even though you seemed to not like my comment that philosophy makes my teeth hurt (that is not strictly true – I agree with many other libertarians that lack of a coherent philosophy is a serious failing of many “conservatives”). I just find theoretical mathematics to be less “slippery” to grasp than abstract philosophy.

In Liberty,

P

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2:28 pm on January 3, 2019

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Murder? Attempted Murder? I Need Help On This One

From: A
Sent: Wednesday, February 24, 2016 11:55 PM
To: Walter Block
Subject: Murder question

Dear Walter,
A friend asked me this question. Any ideas?

=======
Suppose you are traveling through the desert with just enough water to get to the other side. X wants to kill you and poisons your water in the middle of the night. A few minutes later, Y, who also wants to kill you, dumps the water, not knowing it was poisoned. You then die of dehydration. Who gets charged with murder?
=======
Thanks a lot! A

Dear A:

X is guilty of attempted murder. He tried to murder you, but failed. You didn’t drink the poisoned water, due to Y’s act. Had you drunk it, X would have been guilty of murder. Y is guilty of murder. He poured out your water. Of course, had you drunk it, than, as I said, X would have been guilty of murder. On the other hand, Y did “save” you from drinking poisoned water, even though it was not an attempt to help you. So, he was also guilty of attempted murder? No. You’re dead. We can’t have two attempted murderers, X and Y, and no actual murder. Someone’s gotta be guilty of murder. I vote for Y.

An economist was once asked, “How’s you wife?” Came the answer, “Compared to what.” Your question is really a difficult one. If it were easy, you wouldn’t be asking me about it. So, I vote for Y, as murderer, even though it is not clear that he is in fact, actually a murderer. There is a strong case for calling Y, also, merely an attempted murderer. But, that would leave us with two attempted murderers, X and Y, and no actual murderer, which I think is highly problematic. So, my first vote is for Y as murderer. If, somehow, God got into this and rejected my analysis, I’d then vote for both X and Y as murderers, even though, a strong case can be made for considering not only Y, but also X, as merely attempted murderers.

Sorry, I can’t do better on this. I wish I could. But, the best way to deal with difficult challenges, I find, is to do the best you can, and hope that what you write will help someone else come up with a better answer. Maybe, without my imperfect attempt, this other person would not be able to definitively answer the question, and with it, he can. So, my attempt, imperfect as it is, will still be of help in getting that proverbial one millionth of an inch closer to the Truth.

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7:20 pm on January 2, 2019

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Is Voluntary Socialism (“From Each, To Each”) Compatible With Libertarianism? Yes.

Is Voluntary Socialism (“From Each, To Each”) Compatible With Libertarianism? Yes.

Dear R:

Yes. This already occurs.

All of these organizations live by the “Marxist” notion of from each according to his abilty, to each according to his need. But, they do so on a voluntary basis, so they are all in accord with libertarianism: nunnery, convent, kibbutz, commune, collective, syndicalists, cooperatives, monastery, abbey, priory, friary, religious community; family.

In all of these cases, people live by the philosophy of “from each, according to his ability, to each according to his need.” Since this is done, at least ideally, on a voluntary basis, yes, voluntary socialism of this sort is indeed compatible with libertarianism. However, socialism is also defined as “Government ownership of all the means of production.” And this version of socialism is of course not compatible with the freedom philosophy.

Bob Wenzel is a brilliant libertarian, and he and I agree on, oh, 99% of all issues in political economy. But not on that one.

Best regards,

Walter

From: R
Sent: Thursday, March 03, 2016 4:49 PM
To: Walter Block; rw@robertwenzel.com
Subject: Re: Thoughts on the Farmer Delimma

Walter,
I am excited to see your presentation on minimum wage, and meeting you will be a true honor, Dr. Block! I heard from Bob that he will not be there, unfortunately.

In your latest response to Bob, you say of Wenzel’s conception of the PPS that “…it cannot rationally be claimed that it is compatible with libertarianism, much less a paradigm case of it…I go further; this is a grotesque misunderstanding of libertarianism.” Later, you say, “…the NAP is the sine qua non of this philosophy. And, yet, Bob’s position does not allow for the centrality of the NAP. He allows it to be over-ridden by property owners.”

I would like you to consider something I heard on an episode of the Tom Woods show this morning, where Tom interviews Jason Brennon on the topic “Why Capitalism is Morally Superior to Socialism”. This interview is fascinating throughout with Brennon dissecting Gerald Cohen’s moralistic defense of socialism, but what really caught my attention was Brennon’s contention starting around 22:10, Here is an excerpt from the exchange:

Tom Woods: “…I like one of your points: that within the capitalist system, you can set up- there’s nothing stopping you from setting up voluntary, or so-called intentional communities that organize themselves according to very different values if you choose. As long as you don’t hurt anybody else, you can have a commune if that’s what you want. Or, you can have means of production that are commonly owned- you can do any of these things. Whereas, in the socialist system we can’t have our little capitalist enclave.”

Jason Brennon: “Yeah, that’s right…Gerry Cohen’s first major book, the one that really made him famous, was a critique of the libertarian philosopher Robert Nozick. Nozick, at the end of Anarchy, State, and Utopia, argues that one of the reasons that libertarianism is Utopian, or the best system, is because it is actually a framework that allows lots of different kinds of voluntary communities. And, that’s important because there is no such thing as “Utopia”, per se. There’s no such thing as the one best social system for everybody. There’s so much variation among people, that your best system will be different from me, and we might want to live in very different communities. What libertarianism is, is a framework that allows these kinds of communities to coexist…”

In your view, would a society that does not prohibit people from organizing into socialist communes if they so desire be compatible with libertarianism?

R

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7:14 pm on January 1, 2019

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Full Secession, Down To The Individual Level, Is Equivalent to Anarcho-Capitalism. Mises’ View?

From: T
Sent: Friday, March 04, 2016 10:10 AM
To: Walter Block
Subject: Re: [POSSIBLE SPAM-PMX] Re: Question on Reparations

Dear Walter,

Here’s my question: if the United States government surrendered its monopoly on force by permitting individual Americans to secede at their discretion, would it then be OK with you for the US to implement anti-discrimination statutes?

Best,T

Dear T:

It would be ok for the “US” to do whatever it wanted, since under these conditions it would no longer be a government. (I assume that when it allowed, declared, secession it gave back to everyone their own property, and that an anarcho-capitalist society arose). Full secession, down to the individual level, is equivalent to an-cap. Was Mises an an-cap? In some of his writings, clearly not. But he also favored full secession, down to the individual level, so in that regard he was. I guess he was ambivalent about this.

Best regards,

Walter

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7:39 pm on December 31, 2018

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Conversation About Fractional Reserve Banking

Here is an interesting informal conversation about fractional reserve banking between me and S. Read from the bottom up, in order to get the gist of this material.

From: Walter Block [mailto:walterblock@business.loyno.edu]
Sent: Friday, March 11, 2016 12:33 AM
To: S
Subject: RE: Against Fiduciary Media

There’s also the fact that I am on record in maintaining that people can only own property, but not its value:

Hoppe, Hans-Hermann and Walter E. Block. 2002. “Property and Exploitation,” International Journal of Value-Based Management, Vol. 15, No. 3, pp. 225-236;

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7:05 pm on December 29, 2018

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I believe stop and frisk can be justified. This is certainly true from the anarcho capitalist libertarian point of view. Here, all streets would be in private hands,

Block, Walter E. 2009. The Privatization of Roads and Highways: Human and Economic Factors; Auburn, AL: The Mises Institute; http://www.amazon.com/Privatization-Roads-And-Highways-Factors/dp/1279887303/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1336605800&sr=1-1

and the owners might well employ this policy in order to safeguard their customers.

What about from the minarchist point of view? Here it is more difficult to make this case, but I think it can be done, stipulating that the purpose is not to stop victimless crimes like drug selling, but, rather, crimes with victims such as rape, murder, theft, etc.

Suppose members of gang X are raping a woman, and members of gang Y stop the Xers from so doing. Are the Yers justified in protecting the woman? I claim they are. Are the Yers good guys? No, they are gang members too, and often engage in just such depredations. But, in this single isolated case, if you ignore their other crimes, they are good guys.

A similar analysis applies to government police. From the an cap perspective, they are just another gang. Says Mr. Libertarian on this (Rothbard, 1973, p. 49): “if you wish to know how libertarians regard the State and any of its acts, simply think of the State as a criminal band, and all of the libertarian attitudes will logically fall into place.” Rothbard, Murray N. 1973. For a New Liberty, Macmillan, New York; http://mises.org/rothbard/newlibertywhole.asp

Therefore, the government cops are in the same position as the Y gang is. In this one instance, they are justified. They frisk someone they deem suspicious, he has weapons, he was about to commit a crime, and cannot do so because he is arrested.

Certainly private police may stop and frisk dangerous looking people on the private property they are hired to protect, as in an-cap. That is an easy call.

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1:52 pm on December 28, 2018

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—–Original Message—–
From: J
Sent: Thursday, December 27, 2018 11:30 AM
To: wblock@loyno.edu
Subject: Rhetorical Style

Walter —

In the libertarian movement, there are many different ways to approach rhetoric. Your tone, calm and instructive, differs from (say) Tom Woods, who is snarky and direct, and Tom DiLorenzo, who is opinionated and forceful. All three styles are effective, especially to specific ears. So, in your post, Trump, Afghanistan, Syria (https://www.lewrockwell.com/lrc-blog/donald-trump-syria-afghanistan/), are you implying that we libertarians need to always adopt your tone in debates. Isn’t their a place for snarky and forceful, without giving ever opinion a thoughtful hearing? J

—–Original Message—–
From: Walter Block
To: ‘J
Sent: Thu, Dec 27, 2018 3:54 pm
Subject: RE: Rhetorical Style

Dear J:

What evidence do you have for the claim that I think that “(all) libertarians need to always adopt (my) tone in debates?”

Best regards,

Walter

From: J
Sent: Thursday, December 27, 2018 1:14 PM
To: wblock@loyno.edu
Subject: Re: Rhetorical Style

Walter —

Based on both your and M’s comments regarding Tucker and his unwillingness to openly debate issues.

Please do not take this as a defense of Tucker’s changing views — I agree with your position. But is it the case that libertarians, such as myself, need to openly and actively engage debates on social media? In other words, can’t we sometimes — a la Tucker — say, “Shut up, moron”?

J

—–Original Message—–
From: Walter Block
To: ‘J
Sent: Thu, Dec 27, 2018 4:41 pm
Subject: RE: Rhetorical Style

Dear J:

Ah, now I see your point. It is not a totally unreasonable one. We are not now discussing praxeology, or deontology, or, even, general utilitarianism. We are confining ourselves to the limted question of, How best to convert people to libertarianism? Some few masochists might be open to a libertarian dismissing a socialist on the “ground” of: “Shut up, moron.” But, surely, there would be precious few people who would be convinced by this sort of “argument.”

Ayn Rand was surely one of the most acerbic spokesmen in terms of converting vast numbers of people to libertarianism (she didn’t consider herself a libertarian, but that is another, irrelevent, matter). But even she never came within a million miles of saying to, or about, the socialist, “Shut up, moron.” Instead, she carefully, thoroughly, exhaustively, gave REASONS why socialism was a moral and economic disaster. I think that if she had contented herself with “Shut up, moron” she wouldn’t have converted a single person to our banner; ok, ok, maybe one or two masochists.

But Jeffrey Tucker’s position is far worse than that. He is not in effect telling a socialist “Shut up, moron.” Rather, he is saying that to me, a fellow libertarian, a fellow member of the Austrian movement he himself, presumably, subscribes to.

Murray Rothbard has been properly very critical of Milton Friedman:

Rothbard, Murray N. 2002. “Milton Friedman Unraveled.” Journal of Libertarian Studies, Vol. 16, No. 4, Fall, pp. 37-54; http://www.mises.org/journals/jls/16_4/16_4_3.pdf

How far do you think Murray would have got if instead of penning this brilliant critical and rational essay, he limited himself to saying to Milton: “Shut up, moron.” Murray would have been a laughingstock if he had come anywhere close to saying that. Tucker said precietly that, in so many words. QED

Best regards,

Walter

From: J
Sent: Thursday, December 27, 2018 2:17 PM
To: wblock@loyno.edu
Subject: Re: Rhetorical Style

Walter —

Thanks for your clarification. I did not have all the background on Tucker.

I do think social media tends to regress to variations of Godwin’s law. And in frustration, I have resorted to, “Shut up, moron,” rhetoric, but only when all hope of conversion (in my opinion) has passed. Almost exclusively when the debate is no longer a discussion, but repetitions of undefended positions.

Seems I need to reconsider my approach. Since debates in social media are not timed / refereed events, how do you walk away without “shut up” rhetoric?

It is an interesting thought to consider what Rand would have done if anyone could tweet a response to a debate she thought had played out.

Hey, keep up the good fight!

J

Dear J:
Just say something along the lines of:
“We’ll have to agree to disagree.”
Best regards, Walter

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1:41 am on December 28, 2018

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Is Spanking Children Compatible With Libertarianism? Yes.

Is Spanking Children Compatible With Libertarianism? Yes.

Dear N:

I spanked my kids once, just once, lightly. It so traumatized me, not them, that I never did that again. But that is just my personal experience.

Obviously, there’s ALL the world of difference between a light swat, and, God forbid, child abuse.

The former can be defended on libertarian grounds, but certainly not the latter:

December 9, 2013. Debate: Walter Block and Stefan Molyneux, Freedomain Radio on spanking children. Michael DeMarco; operations@freedomainradio.com; skype: michaelmdemarco; 716-533-2171; Video: http://youtu.be/EgCmoVbdYtE;
MP3: http://cdn.media.freedomainradio.com/feed/FDR_2552_Walter_Block_Debate.mp3; http://libertariannerds.com/2016/11/19/wizardly-wisdom-reality-anxiety-ep-4-darien-sumner-from-bumblingbees-net/

Block, Walter E. 2016. Starving Child, Part III: Spanking Children; November 5;

Starving Child, Part III: Spanking Children

Mosquito, Bionic. 2016. “Walter Hits One Out of the Park.” November 5;
http://bionicmosquito.blogspot.com/2016/11/walter-hits-one-out-of-park.html

July 16, 2017. Vancouver, BC, Canada. Walter Block debates Tim Moen, Leader of the Canadian Libertarian Party. https://www.facebook.com/events/1800169280300222/
436 W Pender Street, downtown Vancouver at 2:30pm. Topic: Is spanking children compatible with libertarianism? Contact: Victor Pross: artpross@hotmail.com; or go here:
https://www.facebook.com/events/1800169280300222/1831218550528628/?acontext=%7B%22ref%22%3A%2229%22%2C%22ref_notif_type%22%3A%22admin_plan_mall_activity%22%2C%22action_history%22%3A%22null%22%7D&notif_t=admin_plan_mall_activity&notif_id=1498028247599964. Open to the public. https://youtu.be/J6Kto38tk1I

July 21, 2013. Interview with Steve Patterson, FEE
http://libertariannerds.com/2016/11/19/wizardly-wisdom-reality-anxiety-ep-4-darien-sumner-
from-bumblingbees-net/

Thanks for your lovely letter on this matter:

From: N
Sent: Sunday, November 06, 2016 4:19 PM
To: Walter Block; Walter Block
Subject: thank you for defending spanking!
Dr. Block-
I just wanted to thank you for defending this difficult position.
I’ve come full circle on the topic myself, as I did suffer what I view as “abuse” level of physical “discipline” from my father.
As a result, with my children I had a “no spanking” policy, much to the chagrin of my wife.
I finally succumbed to the notion of spanking as my first became older and I didn’t like the direction I felt she was headed. It started when she refused to go to her room for a “time out”(the favorite method employed by most anti-spanking parents) during one episode.
She was defiant to an extreme, which was the last straw.(she was 9, this was about 4 years ago) I told her, “I’m going to have to physically put your in your room and I’m going to spank you if you don’t obey.” She said, “I’m not going to my room”.
So I picked her up, threw her over my shoulder in a fireman’s carry why, delivered a stout “whack” to her rear, and put her in her room.
I then announced to the whole family that I had failed them as a parent, and that the new policy going forward on disobedience would include spankings. (she has three younger sisters)
My oldest is particularly willful, I had to spank her 3 or 4 more times over the next 2 months.
4 years later…I haven’t had to spank her since, but I do send her to her room on occasion or pull privileges…she just doesn’t disobey anymore.
My other kids all received 1 or 2 spankings after that moment, but none have been needed for some time. (I still use “time outs”, but I get no push back now)
So spanking has been effective and I dare say important in my raising my kids.
I think the reason many people take an “anti-spanking” attitude is because they themselves were victims of physical abuse from a parent. (I know this is subjective) I know this is the case with Stefan Molyneux, aside from myself.
It is difficult to know what “normal” discipline(spanking) looks like when you received something more than that and often times you are so emotionally scarred by it you want nothing to do with the notion of inflicting pain on your child(even if it’s for their own good).
I will so leave open the possibility that there are some kids that might not need spanking, but that certainly isn’t my progeny.(and I take responsibility for passing the “defiant” gene, 🙂 )
Lastly, I’ve thought about the topic quite a bit because there is a tendency to vilify those spanking their kids by many in the libertarian community.(which is why I appreciate your defense so much)
I find the argument “for” spanking very similar to the notion of whether animals/aliens/us deserve NAP rights:
If an animal could elucidate and understand the NAP, and is capable of entering into a contractual understanding along those lines that they would be entitled, but they aren’t, like kids aren’t- until they are able to “homestead” themselves and can achieve a mental/emotional maturity to understand and abide by the notion of the NAP.
Some kids might be able to do this as 14, some at 18 some not until 22- some kids might never be able to (retarded) and they will need a caretaker accordingly.
It is an undisputed fact that the part of the brain responsible for rationality doesn’t develop in children for some time(though variable) and on that basis you are correct, you would be a deficient parent if you didn’t teach your child how to avoid danger(or a host of other important life lessons) even if it required a “spank”.
Keep up the great work Dr. Block!
N
PS. I also loved your example of having to change the diaper of an old/infirmed person who might be resistant out of some inability to reason anymore, like Alzheimer’s)

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1:38 pm on December 27, 2018

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