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Is Spanking Your Child a Form of Aggression?

in Children's Rights, Liberator Online Archives, Libertarian Answers on Issues, Marriage and Family by Mary Ruwart Comments are off

(From the Ask Dr. Ruwart section in Volume 19, No. 13 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

QUESTION: It seems to me that spanking your child is a form of aggression. Would libertarians agree?

SpankingMY SHORT ANSWER: Many do, but some do not. I personally see spanking as an utter last resort, only suitable for situations where the child might otherwise be greatly harmed or do great harm to another. For example, with a child who keeps running out in traffic, despite taking away TV privileges or using other deterrents, physical censure might save his or her life. Most of the time, though, a parent has better options; for example, keeping a child inside until he or she recognizes the dangers of traffic.

When we spank or beat a child, we are teaching that might makes right. We are also teaching that hurting someone smaller and weaker can be a “loving” gesture. Surely, as parents, we should be able to come up with a better teaching tool almost all of the time. Some psychologists — rightly, I believe — fear that any kind of physical punishment can create grave problems later (see for example, http://alice-miller.com/video.php). Punishing a child with verbal abuse creates problems too.

Libertarians believe in making victims whole, not punishing the aggressor. If children hit a sibling, a better method of correction might be having the offender do something special for the one who was struck. Responsibility and discipline are important lessons for children to have, but it’s best to teach them as gently as possible. A correction with an overlay of aggression, belittling, or hostility, will eventually come back to haunt, not only the child, but those with whom he or she interacts.

SUGGESTIONS FOR FURTHER READING ON THIS TOPIC by Liberator Online editor James W. Harris:

* “Does Spanking Violate the Non-Aggression Principle?“ by Stefan Molyneux. Molyneux goes into lengthy analysis of this question in a thoughtful and provocative article worth reading no matter what your position.

EXCERPT: “It is only within the last few decades that serious moral and scientific objections to spanking have spread within society, and patience and persistence is the key to convincing others of this essential and actionable moral reality.

“That having been said, however, now that you have read this essay, you need to refute these arguments and disprove the science, or stop spanking. If you lacked knowledge and clarity before, you deserve sympathy. If you cannot refute these arguments, and continue to spank, you have no excuse anymore.”

* “The Natural Rights of Children“ by Walter E. Block, Ed Smith, and Jordan Reel.

Libertarian theorist Block and his co-authors explore this topic: “What does libertarian theory, Murray Rothbard’s theory in particular, tell us about the rights of children? The two foundational principles of Rothbardian libertarianism are the sanctity of private property and the rule of non-aggression. Persons, including children, are ‘self-owners’. Yet children, at a young age, are not yet capable of functioning fully as ‘self-owners.’” Spanking, and a number of other issues, are examined.

EXCERPT: “But children are different than adults. They are not (yet) full rights bearing entities. If we leave an adult to his own devices, he is presumably able to run his own life, at least to his own satisfaction. But if a child is not cared for, for example, a three-year old, he must perish, since he cannot (yet) care for himself. Paternalism is not justified for adults, but it is for such youngsters.”

VIDEO: Does Spanking Violate the Non-Aggression Principle?  Walter Block Debates Stefan Molyneux.” The authors of the above two papers debate in this one-hour video. 

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Great Libertarian Movie

in Liberator Online Archives, Libertarian Movies by Sharon Harris Comments are off

(From the President’s Corner section in Volume 19, No. 11 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

“Still Mine” (2013) is one of the best libertarian-themed movies I’ve ever seen. It’s based on a true story. Still Mine movie posterIn 2007 Canadian Craig Morrison, 88 years old, set out to build a small home where he could care for his wife, who was suffering from Alzheimer’s. He began building it himself, on his own land, with his own hands, using lumber he sawed himself — as he’d done other times in the past.

But this time he ran into trouble — from new restrictive building codes and oppressive bureaucrats who ultimately threatened to bulldoze his home and throw him into prison.

“I thought this was a free country, that we had liberties and freedoms like we used to have, but I was sadly mistaken,” Morrison told a local newspaper. “All I wanted to do is build a house, and I was treated as if I was some kind of outlaw.”

This film is based on that story. It’s a gripping tale of one fiercely independent man facing a soulless bureaucracy. It is more than a political story. It’s about families, about aging, about love, about responsibility.

“Still Mine” is marvelously done and has received rave reviews from critics. The Canadian Globe and Mail called it “a cautionary tale of the tremendous power of the state over the individual in an age of pervasive bureaucracy. It is, indeed, a profound parable of irretrievably lost independence and casually forgotten freedoms.”

“Still Mine” stars James Cromwell, renowned for decades as a character actor, in his first lead role. His performance is wonderful (as are the other performances in the film). I was curious if he had more than a passing interest in the politics in the story.

Turns out he did. Cromwell’s father, John Cromwell, was an award-winning actor and director — who was blacklisted during the McCarthy era. That left a mark on his son. In the 1960s James Cromwell did guerrilla theatre protesting the Vietnam War and fought segregation in the South. He was part of the Committee To Defend The Black Panthers, which worked to free unjustly imprisoned members of that group.

In an interview at RogerEbert.com, Cromwell said the following about the political message of “Still Mine.”

“My watchword has always been ‘Resist Authority’ and I have been involved with radical politics since the sixties…

“Somebody wrote a review [of "Still Mine"] where they said ‘Somebody who does not obey the law cannot be a sympathetic character.’ What about Gandhi? What about Martin Luther King? What about the suffragettes or those for gay rights or the people who have always stood up to oppose unjust laws and regulations?

“They have always been our heroes and in that respect, I personally think that Craig [lead character in "Still Mine"] is a hero. It is on a small scale but he says that this does not stand and cannot stand. It is not human and it is not caring. Those are the politics of this film.”

Although in one interview a few years ago he said he was a libertarian, in another more recent one he described himself as a progressive. Whatever his politics, he’s always been an outspoken champion of the downtrodden and the underdog, and in interviews he frequently urges people to “question authority.”

“Still Mine” is a beautiful film in many ways, and watching it is like seeing one of those great Institute for Justice ads about citizens resisting unjust government come to life.

It’s on DVD. I highly recommend it.