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The Defense of Orphans: A Libertarian Approach

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Tags Free MarketsLegal SystemEntrepreneurshipPrivate Property

03/03/2010Henry Richey

[The following is the third of a three-part series on the orphan crisis in Haiti.]

In the previous article, the economic forces guiding the market for the collection, transportation, and distribution of orphans were examined. Having accomplished this, we may now address the private defense of this market.

The Prevention of Fraud

Even those who acknowledge that private firms will be forced by the market to provide socially-acceptable treatment for the orphans under their temporary supervision may contend that a private market would be rife with fraudulent activity.

Specifically, some will doubtlessly argue that some slavery or child-prostitution ring may pose as a well-known private adoption firm and trick children and orphanages into doing business with them, and that the state police are necessary to prevent such fraud.

The first response to this half-baked contention is that such fraud remains possible under the government provision of guardianship transfers; there is no inherent difference between a uniform or badge wielded by a state official and one wielded by a private individual.

Therefore, this complaint does not deal with a disadvantage of the private market vis-à-vis the government, but rather with the ingenuity of fraudulent tricksters, who of course permeate all regimes.

Having acknowledged that this problem will indeed occur, however, it is worth examining which system of orphan-protective services — the private or the statist — will more effectively fight such fraud rings.

Private firms and networks offering the defense of children would, if allowed by state authorities, immediately spring up all around Haiti, simply because the general community demands their defense.

The first defense networks that would develop in the absence of state interference would likely be simple partnerships between hastily armed parents and adults who establish safe zones for children.

As the inadequacy of this arrangement became known by the outside world, however, well-equipped foreign security firms would begin to arrive. The funding of these firms would not come from impoverished Haitians, but rather from adoption firms and foreign donations.

Firm-Funded Security

First, it is to be expected that international adoption networks would take the security of the devastated island nation very seriously. Most important would be the protection of their own assets, and this provides incredible "externalities" for Haitian orphans and children, who, of course, are the most precious of these assets.

"Orphan's treatment as capital goods on the market would lead to far more just outcomes for them than will their treatment as political capital goods by statist monopolies."

Firms involved in adoption networks will find it in their best interest to provide for the security of regional orphan centers, transportation firms, medical staff, and other firms who protect and therefore increase the market value of the orphans in Haiti.

Indeed, while analyzing Haitian orphans' role as highly valued capital goods may be controversial, such an analysis reveals that their treatment as capital goods on the market would lead to far more just outcomes for them than will their treatment as political capital goods by statist monopolies.

Finally, adoption firms also have the incentive to pay defense firms to seek out and prosecute those tricksters who portray themselves as agents of the firm to kidnap and abuse Haitian children. This is because a brand name or uniform is meant to convey useful, positive information, and orphanages and parents will quickly become suspicious of doing business with any firm whose logo comes to be associated with trickery.

Because a state authority faces no such loss of profit due to trickery and fraud, it is economically irrational to expect it to provide for the innovative and proactive prevention of fraud and deceit.

Indeed, it is rational to expect the state authority to seriously defend only its own employees and property, with the security of orphans as a secondary concern at best, because the secure delivery of the orphans to their new homes does not produce significant new revenue for the state. Thus, while state security still confers defense externalities upon the orphans physically within the its property, it does not confer the same benefits upon orphanages and nonorphan children, as private defense would.

Charitable Security

While firm-funded defense is certainly preferable to state-funded security, there still may remain some gaps in security in those areas that are too dangerous and ridden with conflict to be profitable for adoption firms to secure.

Such dangerous zones will be pervasive and more numerous under state-provided security, because that statist security will seek to protect only its more narrow pool of assets, which does not include orphans around the country.

Tragically, the coalition of state forces currently in Haiti not only leaves great areas of the country without protection, it also prevents private firms from providing defense where state forces have failed.

In the libertarian society, the existence of dangerous zones in Haiti would create demand for Haitian security. This security would be provided by security firms, which would be funded largely by foreigners' donations. Such donations would serve as a form of involvement for those who wish to become involved in Haiti's protection and reconstruction but who are unwilling or unable to adopt.

Private adoption firms have no reason to antagonize such firms or prevent their entry. Indeed, they would have every reason to support their entry, as the security of additional sections of Haiti would provide them with new orphans to transfer.

For the state, however, the entrance of private security is a public-relations embarrassment that confers no additional benefit. Indeed, insofar as superior private security is an embarrassment to the state, it actually harms the state's ability to raise new taxes and march its armies throughout the world. In this inhuman political calculus, the plight of the orphans has little or no meaning.

A Note on Supply

It might be suggested that a market for orphans would only lengthen the orphan crisis by creating financial incentives for women to become pregnant and sell their babies, effectively turning Haiti into an orphan-welfare economy.

This, however, is incomplete reasoning. As the Haitian orphan market is cleared, the existing demand for Haitian orphans due to the visible crisis will be satisfied. The price offered by parents for guardianship of Haitian children will plummet accordingly, dissuading any such speculation in orphan-birthing. Thus, a free market will not create or even tolerate a sustained orphan crisis in Haiti.


Security, traditionally thought to be the primary realm of state monopolies, is in fact too important to be left to government authorities. Private enterprise guided by market incentives will better protect even the most precious of cargo.

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