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Ep. 180 After Further Review, It’s Still Wrong for Adults to Sleep With Kids

On a recent episode of the Unregistered podcast, Thaddeus Russell interviews philosophy professor Stephen Kershnar on his controversial books. Bob strongly critiques their claims that (a) pro-life people ought to be killing abortionists and (b) adult/child sexual relationships can be healthy.

Mentioned in the Episode and Other Links of Interest:

The audio production for this episode was provided by Podsworth Media.

About the author, Robert

Christian and economist, Chief Economist at infineo, and Senior Fellow with the Mises Institute.


  1. Bob on 02/11/2021 at 4:17 PM

    Christian or not, pedos are wrong. I’m an atheist and not a pacifist. I think we need more holes and less cells for these people. I support sending them into the wood chipper. With any luck we can eliminate the genetics that underly this scourge. Anyone who defends them is at best confused, and possibly much worse.

    • Matthew on 02/11/2021 at 9:28 PM

      From what I’ve read, recidivism isn’t higher with this crime than others, and “pedos” is a broad range. I don’t think anyone should be quick to call for executing people.

      • Bob on 02/12/2021 at 7:11 PM

        “recidivism isn’t higher with this crime than others,” The recidivism rate is appalling. It only seems comparable with other offenses because the statistics are categorized and aggregated in unhelpful ways that mixes rapists in general and/or non-pedos (e.g. an 18 year old with his 17 year old girlfriend that gets arrested for it). Actual pedophiles are incurable and most have the urge from a young age and are themselves often victims of pedophiles when they were kids.

  2. Bob on 02/11/2021 at 4:51 PM

    One issue I didn’t hear you raise is the extent to which utilitarian thinking underlies their approach to ethics. It really lays bare the dangers of not following principles if it can get a person to defend sex with children.

  3. James Taylor on 02/12/2021 at 12:11 AM

    I defended Hornberger against the MiCaucs for saying uncontroversial things and I applaud Bob here as well.

    Also, I am 100% a lyricist. I came up just as “conscious hip hop” was getting started in the mid to late eighties and I grew along with it. From KRS-One and Public Enemy to Brand Nubian, A Tribe Called Quest, Pharcyde, Saul Williams, Talib and Mos, and The Roots. But by the turn of the millennium that was starting to change as the lyrical content was more and more materialist and focused around money and sex. I hated Lil Wayne in the early years when he was with Cash Money Millionaires but he did later redeem himself. But at least they were lyricists. Now the lyrics have NO content. It doesn’t deserve to be called rap. It is in fact harkening back to an older form- scat. Which isn’t all bad. It is aiming at different ends. But I still dont like it.

    Quote: “Scat singing has never been universally accepted, even by jazz enthusiasts. Writer and critic Leonard Feather offers an extreme view; he once said that “scat singing—with only a couple exceptions—should be banned.”[36] He also wrote the lyrics to the jazz song “Whisper Not,” which Ella Fitzgerald then recorded on her 1966 Verve release of the same name. Many jazz singers, including Bessie Smith, Billie Holiday, Jimmy Rushing, and Dinah Washington, have avoided scat entirely.”

  4. Steppy on 02/12/2021 at 4:12 PM

    You absolutely WENT OFF in this one.

    More “Contra-Russell”!

    • Not bob on 02/15/2021 at 7:49 AM

      Bob is definitely a great counter puncher 🙂

  5. clort on 02/12/2021 at 6:02 PM

    Bob makes his case thoroughly and with great care; Nothing to which I can object.

    I’d like to submit extending comments to Bob’s presentation of exploitation here: “It’s because the kid had no idea what that sacrifice was going to entail.”

    This type of exploitation exists in other areas where there is information asymmetry in transactions.

    I feel the same way about companies like Microsoft and Intel who sell operating systems and CPUs that are objectively insecure and have actually implemented backdoors, to non tech-savvy customers who don’t understand the costs and implications of their purchase. There are serious costs and harms in selling spyware and insecure operating systems to people who don’t know what they are sacrificing. It’s immoral.

    The Mises crowd’s decades of cheering big tech and Microsoft in particular has belatedly but thankfully begun to wane in the face of the obvious. I had an email exchange with Walter Block who simply refused to see the moral case. While taking advantage of a naive person may not be a prosecuteable crime, it’s not ‘just fine’ in the moral sense.

    If the software industry hadn’t been indemnified from lawsuits decades ago, we’d have more rule of law and less exploitation of tech-children.

    • Bob on 02/13/2021 at 8:18 AM

      @clort I don’t agree that mere insecurity is enough to view a technology as morally deficient. If you take that viewpoint then 99.9999% of all software is morally deficient because security vulnerabilities are the norm and not rare. However you’re very right about backdoors. Microsoft definitely has backdoors they don’t disclose, most famously the embedded 3 letter agency keys. Same for Intel running a copy of minix in the ME. It’s not the insecurity that’s the issue, it’s the failure to disclose intentionally-created backdoors.

    • Not bob on 02/15/2021 at 7:51 AM

      Block is infamously immune to arguments. His argument for abortion is absurd on its face, yet he’s defended it for decades, simply ignoring every refutation.
      A real drag on the libertarian movement, this guy.

    • Mobert Rurphy on 09/14/2021 at 12:56 AM

      You’re saying that people don’t have the right to make bad decisions, and that the person who profits off bad decisions should be punished by government. This is not compatible with libertarianism.

  6. Cornelius van Kloon on 02/15/2021 at 1:15 AM

    Probably going to be an unpopular comment, but I really felt Bob missed the mark on this episode, and I usually really enjoy this podcast. He was obviously “triggered” by these subject(s) and it upset his objectivity. Here are a few points:

    (1) On abortion, Bob straw-manned his opponents. He presented their position as “because pro-lifers aren’t going around murdering abortion doctors, well, they must not believe it’s murder”. Bob then went on to present (valid) reasons why one might not engage in vigilante justice despite a perception of wrongdoing.

    But this is at best an uncharitable take on Kershnar’s position. A stronger version is that pro-lifers in general don’t seem to think that the law should treat abortion doctors equivalently to murderers, nor do they seem to think abortion is morally equivalent to killing an infant. For instance, suppose a vigilante car-bombed (a) an infant serial-killer who had escaped justice on a technicality; or (b) an abortion doctor. I’m guessing the typical pro-lifer (like the typical Westerner in general) would consider (a) more justified than (b). Most people would see (a) as an exceptional instance of vigilantism for a “scum-of-the-earth” evildoer; and (b) as terrorism, which should be disavowed.

    (2) On adult-child sex, Bob made a whole point of talking about how the point of this episode wasn’t merely to chest-beat and virtue-signal, but rather to present arguments. Yet he really didn’t present any arguments as to why adult-child sexual relationships are harmful. His whole position boiled down to point-and-sputter and question begging. This fails badly when the entire point is to engage people with different moral intuitions than yourself.

    And certainly a huge portion of the modern population has different moral intuitions than Bob, particularly around sex– at one point, Bob blithely asserts that you “shouldn’t have sex with a woman after only meeting her two times”. Now, surely Bob is aware that many, many people (me included) sees nothing wrong with one-night stands etc. We obviously have a less sacralized view of sex than does Bob. For us, Bob’s finger-wagging on sexual chastity added nothing. It was devoid of reason, purely an appeal to some visceral moral sense. And this was also the problem with Bob’s critique of pedophiles.

    Now, I too find the idea of an adult man with a five-year-old disgusting. I also find the idea of drowning kittens for fun disgusting. And yet, disgust is not the be-all-end-all moral guide. There are other cultures across space and time where the majority population find other things disgusting. So if we are going to engage this philosophically, we can’t just appeal to shared disgust. We have to be able to explain *why* something is wrong.

    And when it comes to adult-child sexual relationships, if we put aside our disgust, there are many complexities. Is it impossible to imagine a child enjoying a sexual experience with an adult? To me, it is not. So what then makes such an episode wrong? Does it psychologically “damage” the child, even if the child enjoyed it in the moment? That’s an empirical question, and exactly the one that Bob dodges. Similarly, per Russell/Kershnar, parents make their kids do things they don’t want to do all the time. Maybe some parent makes their kid play piano 4 hours a day, and the kid hates it. It’s not clear to me that some kind of coerced sexual activity is necessarily worse than this sort of coerced drudgery.

    And even if we grant the wrongness of adult-CHILD sex, there is a spectrum between childhood and adulthood. Different cultures draw the line in different places, something discussed by Russell/Kershnar. Similarly, individuals mature at different rates. Maybe you think no relationship between a 13-year-old and a 30-year-old could possibly be OK. Alright, well what about 14/15/16/17? There is no clear place to draw the line here, and simply because individuals differ, there is going to be some age at which becomes case-by-case. I would’ve liked to see Bob approach this complex territory with some nuance.

    This is one of my favorite podcasts and I’ve learned a lot from it. I offer my comments here in the spirit of constructive criticism.

    • Martin N Brock on 02/16/2021 at 8:56 PM

      I thought Bob represented Kershnar’s abortion argument (or anti-anti-abortion argument) well enough. Kershernar was uncharitable toward the pro-life position seems to me. So what if pro-lifers are hypocrites? Who isn’t? The hypocrisy is irrelevant to the validity of their position.

      On the adult-child sex topic, I agree that Bob spends most of his time virtue signaling and never confronts the difficult question of where the harm lies and where the line should be drawn. He interprets Russell’s words as uncharitably as possible and puts many words in Russell’s mouth. An age of consent is necessary, regarding the decision to have sex and many other things, but the line is necessarily arbitrary. That it’s arbitrary is no argument against it. Legal standards frequently draw arbitrary lines.

      Bob doesn’t understand post-modernism either, and he seems to confuse faith with truth. Faith is valuable to many people, and we all act on faith assumptions routinely, but faith by definition is belief without sufficient evidence. If you have sufficient evidence of the truth of a proposition, you don’t need faith in it.

      • Bob Murphy on 02/16/2021 at 10:16 PM

        Martin wrote: “On the adult-child sex topic, I agree that Bob spends most of his time virtue signaling and never confronts the difficult question of where the harm lies and where the line should be drawn. He interprets Russell’s words as uncharitably as possible and puts many words in Russell’s mouth.”

        Martin, please provide me examples of where I put words in Thaddeus’ mouth.

        • Martin N Brock on 02/22/2021 at 11:30 PM

          “She said she said ‘no’ … you know how those thirteen-year-olds are.”

          Anyone can listen to the podcast for other examples.

    • Bob Murphy on 02/16/2021 at 10:15 PM

      Cornelius, I absolutely did not strawman their arguments on abortion. You’re right, I didn’t critique ALL of Kershnar’s claims about pro-lifers; I merely focused on some of them. Incidentally Cornelius, here is the blurb Thaddeus himself wrote when describing the conversation: “We talked about his many books in which he argues with scholarly rigor and precision that veterans don’t deserve our gratitude, that if it were logically consistent the pro-life movement would be killing lots of people, that there is no basis for morality or responsibility, and that many adult-child sexual relationships should be defended.”

      So no, I didn’t misrepresent them, and Thaddeus himself singled out the particular claim that I did too.

  7. Algernon Sydney on 02/15/2021 at 4:44 PM

    You know, it started as a meme on a website I don’t go to, but I’m slowly being convinced that it is true. We are living in 🤡🌎

  8. Stockraz12 on 02/15/2021 at 9:07 PM

    Thanks for doing this episode Bob, sometimes it feels like the world is losing its mind.

  9. Brendan Shelton on 02/17/2021 at 4:24 AM

    It is an interesting question whether parents have a right to force children to do things they do not want them to do. I do not understand why Russell and Kershnar do not try to answer that question, unless they just really want to reach that particular conclusion. This might seem like a situation in which libertarian principles do not apply and which shows the failure of deciding morality by logically applying abstract principles. Children ought to obey their parents whether they want to or not and parents ought to take care of their children whether they want to or not. However, it is still interesting to see how far one can go while staying consistent with libertarianism. If it is possible to imagine a stateless society with law enforcement and defense, then surely it is possible to imagine parenting which does not violate anyone’s rights. Obviously, it is wrong to beat children for disobedience, but it is possible for parents to impose other consequences, such as taking away their toys, for example. As Matt Walsh pointed out, this would not violate the child’s rights, but rather the parents, the owners of the toys, would be exercising their own property rights. By this logic, parents also have a right to stop feeding children or remove them from their houses. As Bob Murphy mentioned Murray Rothbard wrote that parents do not have a positive obligation to their children. However, I think Rothbard’s logic actually says they do. As I understand, he also wrote that those who commit crimes are obligated to compensate their victims for the damage caused to them. My idea is that, because children do not consent to being conceived, parents are obligated to do what they can in order to ensure that they can survive and function in society.

  10. D. C. on 02/20/2021 at 3:43 PM

    I am strongly believing that Postmodernism, Critical Race Theory, and others are just versions of Luciferanism and Satanism.

    I suspect many of these people promoting these crazy ideologies are actually satanists.

  11. Tyler on 02/27/2021 at 5:58 PM

    I should keep a log of how many Bob Murphy show episodes could be summarized as “Bob explains first grade concepts to professional thinkers.”

  12. Galgus on 03/10/2021 at 7:39 AM

    Thad’s postmodernism was always a huge flaw to me, but I never thought he’d take it this far.

    The fact that kids cannot truly consent to sex and that non consensual sex damages the psyche should be obviously intuitive.

    To me this shows the dangers of making sex so casual and open: they get to a point where raping a child is seen as morally equivalent to making them do something meant for their own good that they do not want to.

    Postmodernism seems to lead to tearing down the concepts of truth and morality when taken to its anti-logical conclusions.

    • Undercrown on 03/13/2021 at 9:46 PM

      I’m just waiting until he fully embraces nihilism at this point

  13. Luigi on 06/23/2021 at 8:33 AM

    Thad Russell spent a little too much time in academia. Screwed up his mind.

    Many such cases!

  14. Matt on 05/18/2023 at 1:14 AM

    I feel like most of Bob’s arguments centered around exploitation. Exploitation being a trade that in retrospec you wish you had more leverage and information. He also goes on to say that sleeping with a woman on the 2nd date is wrong. Perhaps agreement could be had around the idea that the courting period should be on a sliding scale with the persons age. Otherwise you get into weird situations where you end up condemning a guy that married and had kids with an 11 year old, but everyone lived happily ever after and wouldn’t have done anything differently.

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