L. Neil Smith's
THE LIBERTARIAN ENTERPRISE
Number 40, July 9, 1998
Defending My Individual Rights
Honorable Mention Winner, Teen Category
By Alberto Mingardi (age 17)
Special to The Libertarian Enterprise
In my opinion, it's impossible to express the essential rights of
young people apart from this fact: for the Italian State (I live in
Italy), until 14 years old a person is mentally incapable, so
absolutely subjected to an authority qualified for deciding for him,
as the family or a teacher or maybe a coach that he is totally
responsible for his small team.
This thing, from a particular point of view, may be "right", from
another I think it's "wrong".
In order to show why, I'll cite an actual instance mentioned too
by David Friedman in his book, The Machinery of Freedom. It isn't a
legend. It's history.
During the 60s, a 12-year-old child ran away from home. The
police found him again after some months; at that time, he was dressed
up, he lived on his own salary, he was well-liked by his neighbours.
The police carried him home by force. Now that boy is in a mental
Usually, where the people think of an episode in which the youth's
rights are ridden roughshod over, the people move away with the mind:
the hard work in the mines, the sexual tourism in Latin America or in
South-Eastern Asia. What does it unite those episodes with the first
It's simply, in both the cases, the boys aren't free (really
because he is "mentally incapable"), in the first case he is enslaved,
in the second he isn't free to choose where and how to grow up.
Then, of course the boys that are able to live alone at 12 years
old are a very few number. Their life isn't certainly nice, sure it
is rough, it's harder than the life a child who lives with his parents
and has their moral and economic support.
Nevertheless, I believe that when a boy runs away from home and he
doesn't return after a few days, then he hasn't done it for whim,
there's behind a real malaise we can't answer it simply to return the
child to two characters he doesn't want and they perhaps don't want
Another story David Friedman cites is this: in the U.S.A., a girl
asked for being in the custody of her aunt. Her parents were still
living. Well off, the girl has reached the choice when the aunt has
reproved her bad manners. Her parents very probably haven't ever
reproved her before.
Here another essential right is!
The right to have an education based on moral values. It seems
discounted to the people as me have had it, but really it is
granted -- the right to study is fundamental too, it has to have at
anyone's disposal, but at condition it hasn't become a simple and
Another decisive factor is juvenile work: if it's exploitation,
it's of course "wrong", it goes against the rights.
Nevertheless the juvenile work has been in Italy too a resource of
the peasant culture, in which it wasn't exploitation but a system to
teach the sons, starting since they're very young, usually as a game,
This kind of work isn't to criminalize as some often do, at
condition that it doesn't clash with our freedom to choose.
To study, to have a moral education, to be free: also to work?
Can we speak about a right to work for young people?
In my opinion, we can, at least since a minimum age as long as it
doesn't become an imposition and a duty.
I think there's another right, that I've deliberately left as the
last: the right to love.
Now all people speak a lot about pedophilia, but in my opinion we
have to examine our conscience about the fact a youngs' sexuality
exists or doesn't. At 14 years old (when for the Italian state I was
too "mentally incapable"), in my opinion but as the facts teach, it
exists of course.
I can't believe all the girls pregnant at that age were ravished.
A part, of course, but not all.
Right to love for young people I think means at first the right to
have parents who love sons, but the right to discover, according to
one's own will and ripeness the sex and the Love with capital "L",
one's own to be man or woman.
The pedophilia kills that right, but it isn't right to say that
youngs' sexuality doesn't exist gives the problem's solution. Our
days' problem is that these rights are everyday trod on, in our civil,
Western homes too: children's exploitation, pedophilia are terrible
things, but it's terrible too to create a myth of innocence, that is
only an absurd request of "authority".
My generation needs "authority", but moral authority. And the
(often invoked) state's cudgel can't help us in this situation.
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