Libertarianism is a political philosophy based on the principles of self-ownership and non-aggression. The self-ownership principle holds that individuals have a right to use and dispose of their own bodies and the fruits of their labor as they see fit. The non-aggression principle holds that individuals are only entitled to use force in defense of life, liberty, and property against force or fraud initiated by others; and that this defense must be proportional to the threat and avoid harming the life, liberty, or property of innocent parties.
Libertarians embrace free markets and personal freedom, including sexual freedom. In principle, libertarians would support allowing sex between adults and children, certainly if it could be proven that children are competent to consent to sex, and possibly even without such proof of competence. Murray Rothbard's The Ethics of Liberty suggests that children should be allowed to run away from home as soon as they are able to do so, and that parents should not be legally required to provide for their children. (According to Hans-Hermann Hoppe, "these pronouncements were used in conservative circles in the attempt to prevent a libertarian infiltration and radicalization of contemporary American conservatism.")
Thus, radical libertarianism not only embraces liberty but personal responsibility of children to look out for their own well-being. This implies that if children consensually engage in sexual acts that cause them harm, the other participant is not to be held criminally liable. Mary Ruwart's Short Answers to the Tough Questions states, "Children who willingly participate in sexual acts have the right to make that decision as well, even if it's distasteful to us personally. Some children will make poor choices just as some adults do in smoking and drinking to excess." Hoppe notes the ability of children to exercise correct moral judgment, noting "Even primitives and children intuitively understand the moral validity of the principle of self-ownership and original appropriation."
The 1972 Libertarian Party platform stated, "We hold that no action which does not infringe the rights of others can properly be termed a crime. We favor the repeal of all laws creating 'crimes without victims' now incorporated in Federal, state and local laws -- such as laws on voluntary sexual relations, drug use, gambling, and attempted suicide." Up until 1994, the platform stated, "Children should always have the right to establish their maturity by assuming administration and protection of their own rights, ending dependency upon their parents or other guardians and assuming all the responsibilities of adulthood." It was not until 1996 that the LP's advocacy of sexual freedom was limited to adults: "We believe that adults have the right to private choice in consensual sexual activity."
- "These individualists typically support the Libertarian Party, whose 2000 platform, Mitchell informs us, 'is a pedophile's dream.' (After all, it affirms a right Murray Rothbard long argued that we should respect — every child's right to run away from his or her parents; also, as Mitchell notes in a tone of shocked horror, it "would bar the government from restricting private adoption services, which would effectively legalize the buying and selling of children for sexual service.")" Riggenbach, Jeff (29 July 2011). The Libertarian Option. Mises Daily.
- "Hence, not only can a child expect not to be physically aggressed against but as the owner of his body a child has the right, in particular, to abandon his parents once he is physically able to run away from them and say 'no' to their possible attempts to recapture him." Kinsella, Stephan (7 September 2006). How We Come to Own Ourselves. Mises Daily.
- "Once the children leave or run away from their parents (which they have an absolute right to do), the same principles of right ought to apply to them as apply to another person, including the right to make mistakes in self-regarding actions." Evers, Williamson M. (1978). Rawls and Children. Journal of Libertarian Studies.
- "Children and Rights". The Ethics of Liberty. 12 January 2007. https://mises.org/rothbard/ethics/fourteen.asp. "The absolute right to run away is the child's ultimate expression of his right of self-ownership, regardless of age."
- Hoppe, Hans-Hermann (12 January 2007). Introduction to The Ethics of Liberty.
- Hoppe, Hans-Hermann. "Introduction". The Ethics of Liberty. http://mises.org/rothbard/ethics/hoppeintro.asp.
- Long, Roderick (25 April 2008). Ruwart on Children’s Rights. Austro-Athenian Empire.
- Rockwell, Llewellyn H. (30 April 2008). But What About the Children?. Mises Daily.