age of majority Though this expression refers to age, as being a rule of thumb, the real problem is finding the correct criteria for deciding that someone is mature enough for adult *rights and responsibilities for, most, legal purposes. This is problematic for all *ideologies, and there is no reason to think it particularly acute for *libertarianism.
Perhaps some rough criterion of a libertarian restriction on rights and responsibilities is possible here. Given that a child is not *proactively imposing on others, what is it likely that the, possibly untypical, child would agree was an acceptable restriction when he becomes clearly mature (insofar as he is likely to do so)? We might call this a Projected Maturity Criterion (PMC). Difficult cases might sometimes have to be decided in private courts, and would probably remain open to later revision. This standard should rule out for most *children what most adults would find unacceptable to have been allowed to themselves when children. Details might vary, though, with individual children and different social customs even within libertarian *societies. And people might consider that maturity is sufficient for some activities earlier than others. Thus the *age of consent is often distinguished from and set lower than the age of majority.
Thus there are two distinctive aspects with this particular libertarian approach: 1) the focus on not restricting a child’s rights and responsibilities except by reference to the PMC, and 2) that a child’s current view, in proportion as he approaches being that particular mature person, is more likely to be listened to (though not necessarily to be decisive). These should be an improvement in terms of overall, mature, *liberty and *welfare.
However, in the context of dependency, parental or guardian rules for children are broadly *contractually libertarian given that the child freely chooses to live with his parents or guardians (assuming that the child’s acceptance of those rules pass the PMC: to rule out sinister manipulation of the immature). And whether a child should be allowed to leave or stay should also be subject to the PMC.
See *age of criminal responsibility; *circumcision,
infibulation, etc. of children; *consent.
A Dictionary of Libertarianism