Under The Sun

Wednesday, February 04, 2004

Jane Galt sez:

"But whether or not spanking is good for children, I find it very hard indeed to imagine that this is a matter with which the federal government of a modern industrial state needs to involve itself."

I thoroughly disagree. If children have a right to be free from physical abuse--and they do--then if spanking constitutes physical abuse, the government should prohibit it. The claim that it's none of the government's business begs the question.

Furthermore, given the options, a full prohibition is vastly better than either a full permission or a line anywhere in the middle. A line in the middle would require the government to care about not merely the principles of parenting, but the details, and that would be very bad. A full permission would condone (some) child abuse, and that would be very bad. A full prohibition merely interferes with the right of some parents to use one particular parenting technique, and that's bad, but it's not very bad.

The only argument I can think of against a prohibition is that it's unenforceable, because enforcing it would require a spy-camera in every crib. But the same argument applies to laws against child abuse in general, and in that case it is deemed to lose: very little prevention of child abuse outweighs a lot of disrespect for the law. A law against spanking creates more disrespect for the law (because it's a more unpopular law) and prevents less child abuse (because spanking is usually only mildly abusive), so there's room for debate about which way the pacman munches ('<' , '>'). But I personally still don't think it's a close call; and in any case, debate about balancing rights is precisely the business of government.

So even if the law against spanking isn't a good idea--which I think it is--it's certainly an appropriate question for legislation.

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