We are developing the social individualist meta-context for the future. From the very serious to the extremely frivolous... lets see what is on the mind of the Samizdata people.

Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

Quis custodiet…and all that

In common with many classical liberals, I find the case against allowing the physical punishment of children by their parents to be a compelling one. After all, if assaulting an adult is wrong then why is it any less wrong to assault a child? In fact, it is arguably a greater wrong to assault a child since an adult (well, any adult outside of the UK at any rate) can at least make a decent fist out of defending themselves, whereas a five year-old has no such capability.

I am also aware that most parents who resort to physical chastisement do so by means of a light smack on the rump and therein lies a whole world of difference from that tiny number of parents who hospitalise or even kill their children by the application of sustained and quite brutal force.

In other words, the whole issue is messy, complicated and shrouded in grey arears. However, and that said, I do not approve of state intervention:

Ministers are preparing to help outlaw smacking in return for guarantees that parents are not prosecuted for giving children “a playful tap”.

The Government is desperate to avoid defeat at the hands of a powerful cross-party alliance building behind moves for an outright smacking ban.

Without having had an opportunity to peruse the proposes legislation, I am already deeply sceptical about the claim that ‘playful taps’ will not be acted upon. As with most law enforcement, it is rarely the most heinous that are punished but rather the most vulnerable and, therefore, the easiest targets.

The Association of Directors of Social Services recently wrote to its members supporting the proposed change to the law. “We believe children can and should be disciplined and made subject to clear parental controls but that this can be achieved without inflicting violence.”

However, the organisation did admit that the introduction of a smacking ban would have “resource implications”.

Yes, those old “resource implications”. Therein lies the key. For it is all very well to announce that assualts on children will no longer be tolerated but the real questions are, who enforces this measure and how?

The answer is, who else but for Social Services, the Police and the various child-welfare agences? Provided the “resource implications” are addressed to their satisfaction it will be up to these newly-appointed Guardians to investigate claims of child-assault and prosecute the offending parents.

This is a very bad idea. Quite aside from the extra powers that will be granted to these agencies (and they already have a cartload), the implication behind that investment is that thse public servants are wiser, more relaible and and more humane that those dreaful abusing parents. The record does not bear this out.

Because I live in a nation without memory, I very often find myself reminding people of what happended in the late 1980’s when all of the above agencies became convinced that parents all over the country were engaged in serious child abuse as part and parcel of ‘Satan-worship’ rituals. It was a flagrant and rank absurdity but nonetheless this hysterical fabrication shot through the entire public sector and fourth estate like an outbreak of the plague.

Eventually, (and only after these fictions became unsustainable) calmer heads prevailed and ‘Satanic child abuse’ canard was quashed. But nor before several families had been effectively destroyed by what was, to all intents and purposes, a witchhunt.

Far from being infallible, or even reliable, the agences of the state have proved by their track record that they are mendacious, self-serving and pernicious. To hand them even more power over family life than they have now is to invoke a ‘cure’ that will prove far worse than the disease.

10 comments to Quis custodiet…and all that

  • How are the churches being co-opted? Don’t they read their own damn literature? Spoil the rod and all that?

    Does no one think that the PC whack ban in affect has anything to do with such trendy pop culture as The Freak Nasty dance craze?


  • Verity

    This is (a) a plan to assert more control over the citizenry and take it away from civil society, as in neighbours and teachers, who have, for thousands of years, been quick enough to recognise the difference between a frustrated parental thump and nightmareish abuse; and
    (b) excuse themselves of the mind-boggling, Three Stooges ineptitude that has come to be their trade mark. I know it doesn’t make sense, but with a little Mandelsonian circumlocution, it could be made confusing enough for stupid people to be persuaded.

  • The Wobbly Guy

    “We believe children can and should be disciplined and made subject to clear parental controls but that this can be achieved without inflicting violence.”

    Sheer utter stupidity. How dumb can these do-gooders get? When all is said and done the fear of pain and the application of pain itself are excellent tools for encouraging good and proper behaviour. This works for criminals as well as for children.

    Can anybody tell me if the natures of children had changed enough for non-violent(aka physical) methods to work? The quick and short answer is no. Most, if not all, children will quickly seize on such legislation to protect themselves from the slightest of taps.

    What this will definitely(I don’t use this word lightly) lead to is a generation that is spoiled, ill-disciplined, and totally unable to take responsibility for their actions. In the end, it won’t be the parents smnaking them; it’ll be the state, which’ll have to expand to deal with the problem. I worked in a military prison; I saw that very clearly. Spare the rod and spoil the child, and all that.

    Any law or idea that ignores human nature is doomed to complete failure.

    There was a discussion here(Link) on this very topic.

  • John Harrison

    to all intents and purposes, a witchhunt.

    Well, to be pedantic, the Satanic abuse hunt was literally a witch hunt.

    On the other hand, David is right about people having short memories when it comes to the faiings of the state. There was a lot of evidence of real abuse being carried out in social services care homes in the 1980’s.

  • So these idiot do-gooders are doing anyone who happens to be around children in public to misery. There are some times that children will not listen. Smacking should be used rarely, but there are times when it is useful. I was probably smacked three or four times in my entire childhood. Each time there was a serious reason for it.

    Equating a shock smack on the rear and a beating (ala take belt off etc) is idiotic and way ott.

    If this is not an example of the nanny-state I don’t know what is…

  • Verity

    Andrew – I’m with you on this. I think I was smacked on the back of the legs around three or four times in my entire childhood and every time it was for being a little shit until my mother was driven to exert control with a sharp slap and a “Wait ’til I get you home” – when my mother had forgotten she’d been angry. I think normal children in normal households well understand that they have driven a parent to delivering a swat – a parental underlining of the word ‘no’ and don’t push it further.

    This is tragically different from children who are abused.

    I don’t agree with David. Three or four, during my entire childhood, sharp slaps against the back of my legs didn’t make me timid. It just made me a little bit wiser. As in, don’t push it too far, otherwise there may be a cosmic result.

    How is a multiculti socialist parent supposed to discipline his/her child? “Stop that or I’ll discuss it with you?” Or, OK, in the case of John Humphries, I could see that would be an effective disciplinary method.

    Or, “Ahmed’s sister – the one under the ambulatory black tent, never makes so bold …”.

  • Jacob

    “How is a multiculti socialist parent supposed to discipline his/her child?”

    And how is a multiculti socialist TEACHER supposed to discipline a pupil ?

    Smacking of any kind is of course strictly forbidden, as it may inflict irreparable damage on the poor brat’s soul.

    So the PC way is: Ritalin. You just drug him, dope him, turn him into a sedated zombie. Have him “diagnosed” and declared officially insane, and then, armed with a medical prescription, you drug him. That is going to save his fragile soul and turn him into a confident. successful adult. Whatever the outcome, the parent or teacher aren’t to blame, because they did it under a doctor’s prescription.

    Of all the insanities of our troubled age, this is perhaps the biggest one.

  • Gasky

    “How is a multiculti socialist parent supposed to discipline his/her child?”

    Stop, or I’ll say stop again.

  • “After all, if assaulting an adult is wrong then why is it any less wrong to assault a child?”

    Well we punish adults by either
    a) taking away their money (we also do that anyway and call it taxation)
    b) locking them up or
    c) sending social workers round

    we can’t do a) and I think b) would create many more problems than it solves, as would c)

    a smack, some tears, over and done with, all bills paid.

    After all, were all our forebears child abusers ?

    Perhaps we should accept that parents know better than the state how to bring up their kids. God knows the state has a pretty dreadful record.

  • I don’t know how it is around your parts, but here in Texas, “he needed a smack in the head” is a valid defense to an assault charge.

    (“He needed killin” is also a valid defense to a homocide charge, in case you were wondering. That’s why I love this state.)