I know it’s an old cliche, but to ask the question is to answer it.
Economist Walter Block recently had a discussion with libertarian blogger Stephan Molyneux on the subject of spanking children, and whether or not spanking violates the non-aggression principle. My first reaction was, “What are you, nuts?”
Walter Block said in his initial blog post that no, spanking doesn’t violate the non-aggression principle. But I tuned in to the video, posted a little way below, just to see what he had to say about it, as I was quite confident that nothing he could say would change my view on that.
(A few months ago, I wrote, “The Mommie Dearest Neocons,” in response to seeing a video of Michelle Malkin and Sean Hannity discussing various things and including their both proudly having been spanked as kids, and how proud they are that they currently spank their own kids. Now, I know that Walter Block is no neocon, and is very anti-war, but I still wanted to repost my post on the “Mommie Dearest Neocons,” which I will do below.)
But in their debate, first Molyneux began the debate by going on for several minutes with statistics regarding spanking behaviors, attitudes and polls.
At 9 minutes, Dr. Block asks, “Do parents have a right to spank” (their kids)? I assumed he meant when the kids are naughty. My answer: only if the kids have a right to spank their parents when they’re bad. And obviously we know the answer to that one.
And then, at 10 minutes Block says, “To me, children are not fully rights-bearing creatures. Children are sort of intermediate between animals and other adults.”
Doh! Sorry to sound like Felix Unger, but, “Walter, Walter, Walter …” No wonder a glitch occurred right after he said that. The gremlins in the computers were not happy about it either.
Block talks about “owning” the children not as slaves but as with “guardianship rights.” Well, sure, you can have guardianship rights, but initiating physical aggression against someone who hasn’t threatened you violates the “non-aggression principle.” And he goes on to assert various rationalizations for inflicting physical assaults against children.
Mind you, while I say that spanking violates the non-aggression principle, I will not discuss whether or not that should be considered a criminal assault by law.
In their debate, Block and Molyneux both go on for a while to discuss various forms of aggression, such as using aggression to save someone’s life (“without the victim’s consent”), but it still doesn’t seem to be relevant to the point of initiating aggression against children. Block does not seem to be seeing the difference between grabbing the kid to protect him from a suddenly dangerous situation (such as the kid’s going out into a busy street) and actually physically striking the child, which is what spanking is. In fact, they spend a lot of time talking about anything but the subject of actually spanking children. That was the most frustrating aspect of this video debate.
But I have a feeling that I’m just too simple-minded to understand these sophisticated debate guys. Oh, well.
Here is the video of their debate:
As I mentioned, after this discussion, below I will repost my post on the “Mommie Dearest Neocons,” whether it’s relevant or not. Actually, I think it’s very relevant.
But first, regarding the concept of “owning”: In this old September of 2009 post, When Does Self-Ownership Begin? I wrote,
Parents can’t own their offspring, regardless of their labor they exerted and “tools” they used, because their “product” happens to be another separate, individual human being.
Human beings inherently have natural, inalienable rights, among them the rights to life and liberty. Part of the right to life and liberty is the right of an individual to self-ownership. The right to self-ownership begins when the human being begins. But when does the human being’s life actually begin?
At the time of the Roe v. Wade decision, the concept of “personhood” was brought up by Justice Harry Blackmun:
“(If the) suggestion of personhood [of the preborn] is established, the [abortion rights] case, of course, collapses, for the fetus’ right to life is then guaranteed specifically by the [14th] Amendment.”
I’ve seen references to “personhood,” “viability,” “sentience,” and “consciousness, “ and I have some questions.
What is the viability of a born baby? If baby is left alone for a particular amount of time, one cannot survive for very long, because at that early stage of development one is dependent on one’s caretakers for feeding. The same can be said of a 2-year-old, maybe even older children, although the older the child, the more able one is to go out and seek food, unless one is locked inside and can’t get out. Is there a difference between the viability of a born individual and an unborn individual (at whatever stage of development)?
What about “sentience” and “consciousness?” How do we know whether or not a two-month-old “fetus” or a 2-day-old “fetus” can have any physical sensation or conscious awareness? If it is important whether or not that individual has sentience or consciousness in considering whether that individual has any right to life and liberty, and self-ownership, then, what about a born human being or a grown adult who has a neurological disorder and has no “sentience” or who is in a “persistent vegetative state” and has no consciousness, but is still “alive” (or can be kept alive via artificial means)?
And then in this March of 2010 post, Who Owns People? I wrote,
However, more recently I’ve seen in Murray Rothbard’s Ethics of Liberty, his comments on the abortion issue. Rothbard asks this question:
….when, or in what way, does a growing child acquire his natural right to liberty and self-ownership?
If one has a natural right to liberty and self-ownership, and “natural rights,” as far as I know, means “inherent” in us as human beings (i.e. from conception onward, or just a part of the human being’s “nature”), then how can you “acquire” a natural right to liberty and self-ownership?
Now, whether you believe that a human being’s life begins at conception, at some point during pregnancy, or after the child is born, my point is, if human beings have “natural,” inherent rights, among them the rights to life, liberty, and self-ownership, then all human beings have self-ownership rights, and have a right to be free from physical aggression being initiated against them.
But the issue of spanking is a related but different issue. Spanking is the act of the parents initiating physical aggression against the child. Spanking is striking the child with force. I don’t think it can or should be compared to grabbing the child to save him from danger. You can rationalize it all you want, but spanking definitely violates the “non-aggression” principle, in my view.
Anyway, here is my post from April of this year, The “Mommie Dearest” Neocons (By the way, this reposting and the points I made here are in no way referring to or responding to the points the aforementioned debaters made. This older post was addressing Michelle Malkin and Sean Hannity, and their fellow warmongering neocons, and the relationship between their having been physically abused — which is my interpretation of “spanking,” especially with a “belt” or other similar weapon — and their authoritarian brute force mentality):
April 7, 2013
The “Mommie Dearest” Neocons
Do you remember Mommie Dearest? That was a memoir written by Christiana Crawford, daughter of the control freak actress Joan Crawford. The book was made into a film by the same name, starring Faye Dunaway as the dreaded Joan. Well, we sadly have some self-proclaimed “Mommy Dearests” amongst the neocon pundit crowd: Sean Hannity and Michelle Malkin.
Hannity and Malkin chatted about the Rutgers basketball coach who was recently fired over his verbal and physical abuse of players. Hannity and Malkin defended the coach’s abuse. Hannity stated that we need more “discipline” in society, and should stop being such “wimps.”
Get this — Both Hannity and Malkin claimed that they had received that kind of physical abuse as kids — Hannity with a “belt” and Malkin with “more than a belt,” and they “turned out okay.” Further, Malkin admitted to being “much better at administering spankings now than receiving them.”
(Click the link to Mediaite to see the actual video clip.)
First of all, some might argue that, no, they did NOT “turn out okay”! They both became very devoted followers of centralized government in Washington, acting as blindly obedient media propagandists for the Bush Regime’s criminal actions in Afghanistan and Iraq, and the Bush-Cheney police state that goes totally against what the early Americans stood for, including and especially due process and the right of the people to their security.
The two child abuse supporters have also defended the Bush-Cheney torture-Gitmo regime, in which totally innocent human beings were abducted by CIA or U.S. military personnel, or turned in by CIA-paid informants in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and have been defending a torture regime in which the true purposes of torture are to extract false confessions and to satisfy the sadist lust of the torturers. (If you didn’t know those particular facts about this charade of a “war on terror,” see this article and the links I provided.)
These damn conservatives talking about “leftists,” when they themselves are not really that different! Both sides, Left and neocon, support authoritarian government controls, coercion and force. Certainly not peace, liberty, private property, Christian moral values, the rule of law, and the rights of individuals.
Hannity asked, regarding the issue of toughness and discipline versus being “wimps” in the military, if we then have to fire the military’s drill sergeants because they get “in the face” of cadets. I wonder what Hannity would say about all the sexual assaults in the military now. Are they deserved? And it’s not just assaults against female military personnel but male against male sexual assaults, as I noted here.
And what about all the murders of innocent civilians in Iraq and Afghanistan committed by U.S. soldiers? I’m sure that Hannity and Malkin do not believe that those murderer soldiers should be held accountable — because “there’s a war going on” — regardless of the victims being innocent civilians. (However, being of the self-centered nationalist-exceptionalist crowd, they probably would think otherwise if foreign government soldiers came over here to the U.S. and murdered American innocent civilians.)
And, being authoritarian government-worshiping nationalists, are these two among the neocons who have called Army Private Bradley Manning a “traitor” for releasing overly-classified documents to WikiLeaks? As I wrote in the article linked above, Manning wanted the American people – not jihadists or al-Qaeda, mind you, but the American people – to know about the crimes, incompetence and corruption of our rulers. The real traitors are the central planners who use U.S. government apparatus and personnel to intentionally provoke foreigners as an excuse to expand the size and power of the centralized federal government, for the sake of non-productive bureaucrat tax-eaters and their military-security-industrial complex minions.
But I don’t think that someone “turned out okay” if one would condone the cover-ups of the military crimes and bureaucratic bumblings that Manning and WikiLeaks revealed. Siding with the criminals of the government is really taking the side of the abuser. That’s not “okay.”
And what about the police state that we have now, and the government police neanderthals and their brutality against innocent civilians here in America? Do Hannity and Malkin approve of them, too? Just look through any one of William Grigg’s articles, or material by Radley Balko, the Cop Block blog, and especially this post by attorney Rick Horowitz on the police of today. As I indicated in my article, No More Police Socialism, the reason that we have neanderthals drawn to the apparatus of the socialist government police monopoly is that it provides the bullies, brutes and primitives with an excuse and a means to assault, beat and abuse innocents and get away with it with impunity.
So, if Hannity and Malkin approve of letting police continue to get away with their tyrannical and Nazi-like abusive treatment of others, then no, they did not “turn out okay.”
And also, I wonder if these supposedly “pro-2nd Amendment” conservatives who presumably believe in the individual’s God-given right of self-defense against aggression, believe that the individual’s right to self-defense also applies to when one’s assailants are wearing official uniforms and badges of the government. Many authoritarians, alas, do not believe in such a right of an individual to that much self-defense. But yes, we do have that right, as Judge Andrew Napolitano observed here, and as I wrote here.
And, as Larken Rose wrote in this article,
People don’t mind when you point out the tyranny that has happened in other countries, but most have a hard time viewing their OWN “country,” their OWN “government,” and their OWN “law enforcers,” in any sort of objective way. Having been trained to feel a blind loyalty to the ruling class of the particular piece of dirt they live on (a.k.a. “patriotism”), and having been trained to believe that obedience is a virtue, the idea of forcibly resisting “law enforcement” is simply unthinkable to many. Literally, they can’t even THINK about it. And humanity has suffered horribly because of it. It is a testament to the effectiveness of authoritarian indoctrination that literally billions of people throughout history have begged and screamed and cried in the face of authoritarian injustice and oppression, but only a tiny fraction have ever lifted a finger to actually try to STOP it.
But back to being abused as kids. I can see how Ms. Malkin brags about her “spankings” of her own little children, which goes with her defense of government agents abusing and torturing totally innocent human beings. In the case of a child, I don’t think that physically striking a child can ever be a just action — or are you saying that the child was such a threat to you physically that you had to use physical force to protect yourself? I don’t think so.
In other words, children who are not a physical threat have a right to not be physically struck. Even “misbehaving” children do not deserve to be physically struck by someone who is bigger, stronger and more powerful than they. I am referring to striking a more vulnerable human being who can’t fight back. Only cowards and primitives do that.
And I’m not talking about the more sophisticated parents who administer non-violent punishments such as withholding toys or games or “grounding” the child for a period of time. Those techniques of discipline are used by more civilized parents, not the violent ones like the Hannitys and the Malkins of the world. I don’t think that the fascists and authoritarians who love and identify with power figures understand the difference.
Regarding the support of these “Mommie Dearest” neocons of the aforementioned foreign policy of aggression and belligerence committed by the U.S. government, psychological theorist Alice Miller, author of Thou Shalt Not Be Aware and For Your Own Good: Hidden Cruelty in Child Rearing and the Roots of Violence, has written about such blind obedience to one’s government’s criminality and aggressions. In her article on ignorance and how we produce evil, Miller writes,
Children who are given love, respect, understanding, kindness, and warmth will naturally develop different characteristics from those who experience neglect, contempt, violence or abuse, and never have anyone they can turn to for kindness and affection. Such absence of trust and love is a common denominator in the formative years of all the dictators I have studied. The result is that these children will tend to glorify the violence inflicted upon them and later to take advantage of every possible opportunity to exercise such violence, possibly on a gigantic scale. Children learn by imitation. Their bodies do not learn what we try to instill in them by words but what they have experienced physically. Battered, injured children will learn to batter and injure others; sheltered, respected children will learn to respect and protect those weaker than themselves. Children have nothing else to go on but their own experiences. …
… Every dictator torments his people in the same way he was tormented as a child. The humiliations inflicted on these dictators in adult life had nothing like the same influence on their actions as the emotional experiences they went through in their early years. Those years are “formative” in the truest sense: in this period the brain records or “encodes” emotions without (usually) being able to recall them at will. As almost every dictator denies his sufferings (his former total helplessness in the face of brutality) there is no way that he can truly come to terms with them. Instead he will have a limitless craving for scapegoats on whom he can avenge himself for the fears and anxieties of childhood without having to re-experience those fears.
Miller cites Hitler, Stalin and Mao. I would add the Bushes in their bloodthirsty aggression against Iraq since 1991 as I noted in this recent article, and the 1 to 2 million innocent Iraqis slaughtered in the past 22 years by the Bush wars that neocons supported. I would also add Barack Obama, the current Dictator-in Chief, who wants to have the power to murder presumably innocent human beings without bringing evidence against the accused, apprehend, abduct and incarcerate innocent human beings (mostly protesters, critics of Obama and other government imbeciles) without charge and the power to detain them indefinitely, and Obama’s insatiable craving to confiscate all the guns and ammunition away from the people amongst the civilian population so that he can implement his dream of full socialist government control over and enslavement of the workers and producers of society, and without any possible resistance whatsoever.
In their obedient and blind support of the Bush-Cheney regime and its pre-planned “war on terror” following 9/11, and acting as some of the Regime’s most loyal media propagandists, Malkin and Hannity unwittingly supported the most unlawful, unconstitutional and immoral policies that would then be later used by Obama and others of his ilk against the people.
In my opinion, Hannity and Malkin are severely disturbed individuals, obviously self-admitted products of an abusive upbringing, and no they did NOT turn out “okay.” Even Malkin openly admitted that she herself hits (a.k.a. “spanks”) her kids, and she seems very proud of it, and I’m sure her kids will grow up to support the same kind of socialist authoritarianism and fascist police state that she herself supports.