Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Should Liberty get a Spanking

In a recent article ‘Discipline Debate: Spanking gets a timeout,’ they discuss if spanking is a good or bad practice. Either good or bad, does making spanking illegal fall under the constructs of liberty? Do you think the new spanking law will motivate a change for the better, are we incapable of making changes for the better? Is it right to infringe on someone’s parenting techniques? All this and more in “Should Liberty get a Spanking?”

It is quite apparent what many libertarians would say about this new bill. They would feel that it infringes on their liberty as parents, while other libertarians might say, “hitting another human being is against what liberty stands for, and at that moment the child would have the right to defend themselves.” What if the child is too young and incapable to defend themselves, do they have the right to be defended by the government? After reading the presuppositions of the classical liberal as defined by Barnett he revolves them all around the pursuit of happiness. I feel it is the child’s right to grow up in a family that will encourage the pursuit of happiness, and that is best done without physical abuse. In this case I think Barnett might side with making spanking illegal.

If this truly is a “better” method of parenting wouldn’t the general public be inclined to ‘spare the rod and spoil the child.’ Why would the government need to interact? Apparently, the incentives have not been strong enough for parents to shift their rearing techniques. Even though many benefits of non-physical reprimanding exist, “they found that spanking seemed to be associated with more aggressive behavior and increased anxiety.” (Slade 1) Also, Researcher Paul Frick of the University of New Orleans in Louisiana warns, “Even children who are only smacked occasionally are more likely to show signs of depression or lower self-esteem” Frick and his team, who studied the impact of corporal punishment on 98 children and published their results in the Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology said “they couldn't find any positive effects for spanking. Children on the receiving end of a slap can learn that when they are upset and angry they hit, he says, rather than understanding their behavior was wrong and that they need to do better.” (Clayton) Saying it is the right for a parent to hit their children is implying that they own their children, that they are the property of the owner. I do not think this is right. Libertarians speak of unalienable rights, to me this means no matter what age, race or gender, you have the right to the pursuit of happiness as long as you are not effecting another’s pursuit.

On the other side of the argument “The association (between hitting children and aggression) was weakest in Kenya, where physical punishment is culturally accepted and common. It was strongest in Thailand, where the culture generally discourages spanking.” (Slade 1) This makes me think that if we discourage spanking then it will become more taboo and children will feel more victimized when hit. Theoretically, this law could exacerbate the current societal effects of spanking.

All in all, I feel spanking and liberty can live under the same roof.
Eric Slade, PhD
Can Spanking Cause Aggression?
Victoria Clayton
Discipline Debate: Spanking gets a timeout

1 comment:

Larry Eubanks said...

If we want to consider self-ownership, I'm not sure it makes sense to think of a 5 year old child having self-ownership.

I think there used to be frequent use made of a concept of adulthood, or maybe it was called "reaching the age of majority." I think the idea was at some age, in general, it was thought that a person reached adulthood, and this meant self-ownership.

On the liberty view (and I suspect pretty much any normative view) the idea of ownership is necessary. Because without ownership, anyone can act to appropriate for themselves. Either there is "open access" or we may say government regulates access, and this seems to me really to mean government is the private property owner.

Property is about a relationship between different people. It is not about a relationship between people and things. So, when we consider whether a parent owns a child, we are really asking about the relationship between the parent and other adults vis a vis the child. If a parent doesn't own a child, then surely some other adult does not own that child. And, if we decide to say the parent doesn't own, but the government can use force to constrain the choices of the parent with respect to the child, then that seems to me very much like exclusion. It seems very much like government is acting, vis a vis the parent, as though the government owns the child and not the parent.

But, of course, government does not want to own the child because government does not want to pay the parent for the child care services supplied by the parent.

It seems that liberty and the child is not an easy issue to deal with, but it seems to me the position that parents own their children is better than the other alternatives for ownership of children. It seems relatively easy to say certain parental actions are clearly abusive, and that others are not. Spanking does not seem clearly abusive. I think liberty supports government involvement only when parental actions are clearly abusive.