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Free children are safer

After the recent abduction and murder of two young girls, Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman, parents everywhere fear for their children’s safety. This morning’s TV news was full of related items. There was an attempted child abduction just yesterday morning near where I live. And in another item, a Huddersfield University researcher reported that one in five children have been subjected to unwanted sexual advances outside the home. On GMTV yesterday morning, in an item about how to keep children safe, a National Society for the prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC) representative said that parents should tell children that they don’t have to do everything an adult tells them.

But what are children to think, when in the next breath their parents demand complete obedience? TCS (Taking Children Seriously) parents don’t give these mixed messages. Unlike many parents, they do not impose their will on their children, but instead resolve disagreements with their children rationally, by consent.

In my Taking Children Seriously article, Questionable Motives?, soon to be re-published by the Libertarian Alliance, I argued that:

Large imbalances of power, such as that of adults over children, make it easy for the powerful to coerce the powerless in a thousand ways, from the most overt to the most subtle. Slaves were commonly raped by their masters. Yet even where this was illegal, the slaves could do little about it. The cure – the only effective cure and the only morally justifiable one – was not harsher penalties for miscegenation; it was to free the slaves: to give them equal rights. Generally, were children accustomed to being in control of their own lives, they would be far more likely to complain about any ill-treatment they received.

[Editor: Samizdata.net welcomes Sarah Lawrence's first post as a contributor]

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