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Freedom's Orphans

Freedom's Orphans: Contemporary Liberalism and the Fate of American Children

David L. Tubbs
Series: New Forum Books
Copyright Date: 2007
Pages: 248
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt7t3b5
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  • Book Info
    Freedom's Orphans
    Book Description:

    Has contemporary liberalism's devotion to individual liberty come at the expense of our society's obligations to children? Divorce is now easy to obtain, and access to everything from violent movies to sexually explicit material is zealously protected as freedom of speech. But what of the effects on the young, with their special needs and vulnerabilities?Freedom's Orphansseeks a way out of this predicament. Poised to ignite fierce debate within and beyond academia, it documents the increasing indifference of liberal theorists and jurists to what were long deemed core elements of children's welfare.

    Evaluating large changes in liberal political theory and jurisprudence, particularly American liberalism after the Second World War, David Tubbs argues that the expansion of rights for adults has come at a high and generally unnoticed cost. In championing new "lifestyle" freedoms, liberal theorists and jurists have ignored, forgotten, or discounted the competing interests of children.

    To substantiate his arguments, Tubbs reviews important currents of liberal thought, including the ideas of Isaiah Berlin, Ronald Dworkin, and Susan Moller Okin. He also analyzes three key developments in American civil liberties: the emergence of the "right to privacy" in sexual and reproductive matters; the abandonment of the traditional standard for obscenity prosecutions; and the gradual acceptance of the doctrine of "strict separation" between religion and public life.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-2807-4
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. INTRODUCTION
    (pp. 1-17)

    Children depend on adults for many things, and this dependence encompasses more than material needs. Certain intangible goods—education, for example—are just as crucial to their well-being. These observations are hardly provocative, and any sustained commentary on human society that wants to be taken seriously is unlikely to deny this dependence.

    In this connection, consider the second of Ralph Waldo Emerson’s two epigraphs to his essay “Self-Reliance” (1841):

    Cast the bantling on the rocks,

    Suckle him with the she-wolf’s teat;

    Wintered with the hawk and fox,

    Power and speed be hands and feet.

    The irony of these lines serves...

  5. CHAPTER ONE How the “Moral Reticence” of Contemporary Liberalism Affects Children
    (pp. 18-45)

    Most reflective persons would admit that the welfare of children in a country greatly depends on the social conditions and intellectual currents within it. It is easy to imagine some societies being highly sensitive to the needs of children and others being far less responsive. In a dialogue from the first century c.e., the Stoic philosopher Epictetus asked his interlocutor whether it was possible to imagine “a city of Epicureans”:

    Where will your citizens come from? Who will educate them? . . . Who will manage the Gymnasia? Yes, and what will be their education? . . . Take me...

  6. CHAPTER TWO Children and the False Charms of Liberal Feminism
    (pp. 46-98)

    If the argument just presented is sound, then some liberal thinkers have oversimplified an important theoretical matter. To judge from the writings cited in the last chapter, these thinkers hold that the archetypal figure in political society is the adult citizen, living in a world where only adults are present. The pervasiveness of this imagery is important. If the imagery appears regularly, then we might conclude that contemporary liberalism has a bias against children.

    As a critique, the preceding chapter has something in common with feminism, since it also offers criticism of archetypal figures and images. According to many feminist...

  7. CHAPTER THREE The “Right to Privacy” and Some Forgotten Interests of Children
    (pp. 99-138)

    In the last two chapters, I explored some theoretical problems in liberal thought as they relate to the lives of American children. In this chapter and the next one, I add concreteness to the discussion by reviewing some cases decided by the Supreme Court of the United States.

    Several justices of the Supreme Court uncritically champion “negative” freedom while disregarding important interests of children. Without expressly endorsing the idea of negative freedom, some of the judicial opinions by these justices display a moral reticence akin to that of the liberal political theorists described in Chapter One. Given the critical role...

  8. CHAPTER FOUR Conflicting Images of Children in First Amendment Jurisprudence
    (pp. 139-196)

    The Supreme Court’s invention of a broad right to sexual freedom and its failure to discuss any responsibilities attendant upon its exercise show that jurists as well as political theorists can adopt a morally reticent outlook on matters of great public consequence. The analysis in the last chapter also raises questions. We might ask, for example, whether the Court has been justified in constricting the police power in other cases, especially when the law was used to advance other interests of children.

    In this chapter, I examine some legal controversies in which the interests of children are more conspicuous than...

  9. CHAPTER FIVE Looking Backwards and Forward
    (pp. 197-220)

    This chapter includes further thoughts on where American liberalism has been in recent decades and a slightly hopeful projection about where it might be going. The trends documented in this book may continue, but contemporary liberalism has some of the resources needed to resist them. This chapter may therefore be understood as an attempt to nudge liberal political and legal theory in a more promising direction.

    I begin with a familiar theme. I have defended the view that freedom in the positive sense remains a morally valid idea. We ought to mention, however, that some scholars—including Ronald Dworkin, perhaps...

  10. Index
    (pp. 221-234)
  11. Back Matter
    (pp. 235-236)