When it comes to family matters, people seem to get naturally defensive, especially if the context involves child-rearing, typically because they view such public discussion of it as a potential violation of their privacy. Understandably, many of them will retort by asking questions such as, “What business is it of yours how I raise my own children?” The answer to that question requires one to understand that government agents have to come from somewhere, so perhaps if we were to explore their childhoods we might actually learn something useful. Nevertheless, because of the emotional volatility surrounding differing parenting techniques, I can’t help but be initially skeptical as to the veracity of the claims being made regarding the effects it has on children, particularly that of spanking.
Right from the beginning, the author declares that there is “a conspiracy of silence” regarding the scientific community’s avoidance of how spanking affects children. Attributing this purported conspiracy to what he considers to be horrendous American cultural values, Dr. Straus blames these cultural norms on why his book wasn’t well received. Needless to say, the amount of page space he dedicates his book towards elaborating on this alleged cover-up is reminiscent of the oxymoronic sovereign citizens.
After obfuscating for about the first half of the book regarding his intentions, Dr. Straus finally takes off the mask when he admits his true feelings about spanking. He says:
“I think that corporal punishment is really just a milder, culturally permissible form of physical abuse. Since this is the case, the research on ‘real’ physical abuse (severe and illegal violence against a child) also should apply to corporal punishment. One reason to think that corporal punishment tends to make things worse in the long run is because many studies have shown that physically abused children have high rates of violence and crime later in life.”
Although he is equivocating disciplining with criminal battery, Dr. Straus, more specifically, equivocates spanking with wife beating. What is troubling about the comparison he makes here is that he is insinuating that violence used against adult women is somehow equivalent to the force used against violent children. Putting aside that it is insulting to the dignity of a woman to imply that she is just as immature and helpless as a child, it is intellectually dishonest to give some sort of moral or ethical leeway to children who commit torts against other children or even adults, such as their own parents.
Following his statistical playing around with every possible demographic combination you can think of with regards to spanking, Dr. Straus next declares that if parents spank their child, no matter how infrequently, those children are at much higher risk of becoming suicidally depressed, criminally violent, sadomasochistic loners with no money (or some combination thereof). Despite jockeying the reader back and forth regarding the veracity of the several studies Dr. Straus is relying on, he then goes on to boast that:
“The first Surgeon General’s report on smoking had to rely on studies that, individually, were not definitive. Although none of the many studies they reviewed were definitive, the defects of one study were not applicable to other studies, which in turn had still other defects, but also other strong points. The triangulation of findings from different studies led to the conclusion that smoking does increase the risk of lung cancer, even though no single study was definitive.”
In other words, even though there are serious methodological and operationalization problems with the data sets (not to say anything how one would go about interpreting them), Dr. Straus expects the rest of us laymen to just sit back and take his word for it, because he thinks his hypothesis on spanking is going to be the next big revelation in public opinion since smoking was declared cancerous (although, that too, is still disputed, even today).
What concerns me the most though, is that Dr. Straus appears to be a total control-freak statist. The reason I say that is based upon his multiple statements regarding the Swedish 1979 anti-spanking law. As he says:
“The most dramatic change occurred in 1979, when Sweden became the first country to make spanking children illegal. The movement has since spread to the rest of Scandinavia, with Finland following in 1984, Denmark in 1986, and Norway in 1987. Austria followed in 1989. In 1985, the Council of Europe recommended that its member nations limit or prohibit corporal punishment by parents.”
Even before the formation of the European Union in 1992, those formerly national governments were already coercively social engineering their respective populations by way of legislation (very much in a domino like effect, I might add). So, what happened in Sweden with the implementation of what “their” politicians thought was a good idea? Dr. Straus claims that:
“Today, 71 percent of Swedes favor managing children without corporal punishment. There are a number of reasons for the change in public opinion. One is that the public has come to accept and welcome the no-spanking law because it is part of the civil code, not the criminal code. There are no criminal penalties for punishing parents who spank. The fear was that thousands of parents could be hauled into court, but obviously that never occurred. Rather than dole out punishment, the Swedish law was intended to establish a new national standard, to educate, and to help parents and children. After the law was passed, for example, the government sent all parents of children under age three a booklet on discipline without corporal punishment.” [emphasis added].
What’s rather interesting here is that the Swedish government treats spanking as a mala prohibita crime against the State, but in such a manner as if it were a breach of contract (much like how the Austin government here penalizes dumpster diving, pursuant to the Code of the City of Austin § 15-6-111, § 15-6-116, & § 15-6-132, which makes dumpster diving punishable anywhere between $100 – $2,000 per offense), hence the civil penalties. Dr. Straus continues:
“The help for parents provided by the no-spanking law is another reason for the change in public opinion. Parents who use corporal punishment are not labeled and defined as mean or cruel under the Swedish law. The law assumes that all parents occasionally have trouble managing their children and need help in this difficult task. Many kinds of assistance are available to help parents learn how to manage their children without hitting. Since most parents can use help at one time or another, the law has come to be appreciated rather than resented.”
Oh, I guess he means the same type of “help” and “assistance” Russian parents received from the communist government when their children ratted them out to the secret police, am I right? Dr. Straus also said:
“When a law forbidding parents to hit children is mentioned, almost everyone believes it will result in the expensive and humiliating arrest and prosecution of parents, including parents who are struggling to do their best for their children, even if it is in misguided ways. If a non-spanking law has a policy of informing children and parents that spanking is prohibited, the specter arises of children informing on their parents. There is also a fear that welfare authorities will take children from their parents.”
No criminal penalties, huh? Tell that to Azizul Raheem Awalludin and his wife, Shalwati Nurshal, both of whom were arrested by Swedish police last December 18th and have been incarcerated since then because they slapped their 12 year old son’s hands for not praying. Because their child told a school counselor about the incident, the Swedish government is currently prosecuting these Muslim immigrants; I fail to see how the legalized kidnapping and caging of this Malaysian couple could possibly be allowed in Sweden’s civil code, but hey, I guess that’s “diversity” and “multiculturalism” for you. Dr. Straus reveals that:
“The United States is committed to minimum government interference in family life. But, although that is not the intent, this commitment denies help to many families who need it. The ironic result is more drastic intervention in the long run, such as removing the child to a foster home. Sweden is committed to looking after the health and well-being of all children. All new parents are visited by a public health nurse, there is a compulsory medical examination at age four, family leave is extensive and paid, and so on. The long-term effect of this government ‘interference’ is, not surprisingly, that things rarely get so bad that a child has to be removed from his or her home.”
Notice that there is a “compulsory medical examination” the child must eventually undergo. How does coercing a child, or their parents, seem humane to anyone? If that’s their idea of “looking after the health and well-being of all children,” then Annie needs to get her gun…oh, wait, Sweden banned all unlicensed firearms, didn’t they? And not only are the police armed, but they have their own militarized SWAT-type units, too? Gee, anybody notice the stink of hypocrisy in the air yet?
As if that wasn’t enough to turn your stomach, here is where Dr. Straus’ statism gets really dangerous for Americans:
“Another sign of progress, even if not yet a turning point, was a bill introduced into the 1992 Wisconsin legislature to ban corporal punishment by parents. This is probably the first bill of its type to come before an American state legislature, and that is more important than the fact that the bill did not progress beyond a committee hearing.”
Why does Dr. Straus consider a bill that died in committee a “sign of progress?” Nothing got done on his side, so is he assuming that the fact that the bill was introduced was valuable only symbolically? Regardless, thank Providence that Wisconsinites were able to dodge that bullet! Unfortunately, Dr. Straus gleefully details that:
“Children are next on the agenda, including the right of a child to be free from the risk of physical assault by parents. The basis of this change is not evidence that corporal punishment harms children, just as the abolition of slavery was not fundamentally based on evidence that slavery hurt the economy, although in both cases there is an underlying connection. Instead, the change is in moral principles or beliefs. More and more people believe that it is immoral to hit children, just as they have come to believe that it is immoral to own slaves or to ‘physically chastise an errant wife’ (the old common-law right of husbands).”
Again, notice how the not-so-good doctor equivocates spanking with wife-beating, and with race slavery as well for pure emotional effect. Except for a few scattered references that it’s sometimes okay to engage in “literal physical self-defense,” Dr. Straus seems to conveniently avoid the very real possibilities that wives can be physically abusive towards their husbands, and that children can be violent towards other children and adults. Of course, American fascists don’t like me too much, partly because I’m antiwar, yet, to paraphrase Henry Thoreau, as a man, I recognize the right of revolution, so I am no pacifist. The reason I am that way is because, to paraphrase John Locke, I seek to preserve mankind, especially from its most deadly predators, those vampiric beasts running around calling themselves a “government.” If there was ever a reason to disobey an unjust law, it would due to the fact that these hypocritical control-freaks think they know better than parents do on how to raise their own children.
So, what exactly is it that Dr. Straus recommends parents to do, if spanking is so awful? Here is what he says to do:
“Firmly condemning what the child has done and explaining why it is wrong are usually enough. When they are not, there are a host of other things to do, such as requiring a time out or depriving the child of a privilege, neither of which involves hitting the child. Suppose the child hits another child. Parents need to express outrage at this or the child may think it is acceptable behavior. The expression of outrage and a clear statement explaining why the child should never hit another person, except in self-defense, will do the trick in most cases.”
Expecting an emotionally volatile human to act rationally is usually a recipe for disaster, no matter what your age. There is also quite a bit of debate about the efficacy of time-outs from the scientific community and parents alike who actually use it. The “deprivation of privileges” is rather dangerous territory to even play around with as a disciplining tool, for it teaches the children, quite literally, that they have no natural liberties, because everything they enjoy is at the behest of some authority figure, who, like the Lord, can giveth and taketh away. I’m not saying spoiling the child is the proper route to go either, but what I am saying is that if the child can learn to respect property rights consistently, they’ll be much better off than most adults I personally know. When coupled with the pride they enjoy when they actually earn something, I think, is a truly ethical approach to take involving the use of property, and if done right with the parents supervising (not controlling) the child’s use of that property, then a good dose of personal responsibility can be learned as well.
Dr. Murray Straus’ Beating the Devil Out of Them: Corporal Punishment in American Families and Its Effects on Children is a insight into the creepy mind of a social engineer. As he says:
“A society that brings up children by caring, humane, and non-violent methods is likely to be less violent, healthier, wealthier, and wiser. This will occur partially as a direct effect of not hitting children, but also because caring, humane, and non-violent child rearing can only predominate in a society that nurtures those characteristics. This book may be appearing at a point in history that is about to experience a social change that may seem minor to most people – the elimination of corporal punishment – but which will have profound and far reaching benefits for humanity.”
Of course, what he really means is that such “caring, humane, and non-violent methods” include government coercion, in his Orwellian brain. He is using the Hegelian dialectic to manipulate his readers – he uses a genuine problem (abusive parents) to justify a reaction (support for government intervention) in order to implement the Establishment’s preordained “solution,” which was something they had wanted to do in the first place (namely, breaking up families for money and power). That is why the abusive beating of Hilary Adams was used to spark public controversy over spanking, even though Miss Adams wasn’t actually spanked by her father (who interestingly, is a Texas judge). Judge William Adams was positioned as the fall guy by the corporate media lapdogs who have constructed this ongoing narrative about spanking using Miss Adams’ genuine tort she suffered as the basis for a pseudo-justification against any parents who spank their children. Besides the fact that one of the anti-spanking advocates has already admitted that all abuse against children has historically been going down gradually, if there ever was a genuine solution to the problem of bad parenting techniques, it would lie in the private production of parenting services, much like the private production of security and arbitration services Molinari has argued for in the past. The last thing, I think, that any of us who love liberty would want to encourage, is for the State to gain even more power than it already does, which if it were ever successful enough, it isn’t unrealistic to assume that at some point, it would be inclined to grow children in laboratories and then raise them to serve itself, much like how the Bokanovsky Process was used in the World State.