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

Idiotwoman makes grovelling apology…

…whilst keeping a stiff upper lip at all times.

[photo of Sarah Lawrence]

Sarah Lawrence: distinctly red-faced

Dear Friends,

I regret to announce that my little comment yesterday was not aimed in entirely the right direction. Specifically, the writer whose conspiracy theory I was discussing was not the George Smith I found so delightful at the Youth 4 Liberty Summer Camp, but another George Smith (Just how many George Smiths are there anyway?). The writer I quoted was in fact, George F. Smith, and not in fact, “my” George Smith, who is in fact, George H. Smith.

Deepest apologies George F. Smith and particularly George H. Smith! I am so embarrassed! What a complete idiot!(1)

George H. Smith has been very gracious in his response to my gaffe, and has not even drawn to my attention the fact that I, with my almost-as-common name, should jolly well know better. It is mortifying to find that I have done to George H. Smith what so irks me myself that I occasionally think that no reasonable jury would convict if I were to take some small action – with a Colt M4A1 with M203 grenade launcher.

Well at least this clears up the otherwise quite inexplicable mystery of why my Y4L speech appeared to have made such little impact on the writer of the piece I quoted!

Sarah NO, NOT THE COLLEGE Lawrence

(1) I stress that the word “idiot” refers to myself and not to the friend who drew my attention to “our” George Smith’s alleged article. I may not be able ever to face appearing in public without a paper bag over my head or ever again, but I am, as one would expect from an English woman such as I, keeping a stiff upper lip and taking responsibility for my own actions (and those of my friend, whom I’ll never trust again… I’m sure he did it on purpose to make me look silly… not that I hold with paranoid conspiracies or anything).

Nefarious character or gullible fool?

[photo of Sarah Lawrence]

Sarah Lawrence: clearly up to no good

In May this year, I had the pleasure of meeting George Smith when we were both speaking at the Youth 4 Liberty Summer Camp in Orono, Ontario, Canada. I found him interesting, learned and charming, but my speech, which was an anarcho-capitalist argument for the war on terrorism, apparently made little impact on him, if a recent article of his is anything to go by. In The Laissez Faire Electronic Times, Vol 1, No 31, he says darkly:

If a crisis presents an opportunity, an endless crisis presents endless opportunities. With bin Laden off the radar, the administration is setting sights on Hussein. Is he now the linchpin of world terror or just the one we might get away with killing? Have we reviewed all tyrants and found him the most imminently threatening?

What is this conspiracy theory asking you to believe about yourself?

Suppose you think that Saddam Hussein needs to be disarmed, deposed and replaced by a democratic government. George Smith is asking you to believe one of two things:

  1. You are a nefarious character (in league with the US government and other reprehensible scoundrels) who thinks that Saddam Hussein is not a bad chap who should be taken out to protect the people of the world from whatever dreadful wrongs he might do next, but merely someone “we might get away with killing” OR

  2. You are a gullible fool who has been taken in by the dastardly US government’s anti-Saddam rhetoric.

If you came to this conclusion long before the US/UK governments did (and let’s face it, only a matter of ten days ago, Tony Blair seemed unconvinced), (2) would imply that you were taken in by people who did not themselves hold that opinion. So it follows that George Smith is asking me to believe (1) – that I am an immoral person who wants Saddam taken out merely because he is someone “we might get away with killing.”

George, George! Tell me you don’t really think this!

Fancy a quick burial (alive)?

Question: if someone wanted to swathe you in cloth dipped in turmeric water and then bury you alive in a pit, what would you say? Awww, c’mon, it’s only for a minute or so, and in the 400 years of this tradition, no one has died yet (they say). Actually, the participants on the sharp end (or is it in the deep end?) are typically young children, it being far too terrifying a procedure to subject adults to. They say it’s completely consensual, and after all, if the gods are not appeased, who knows what might happen! Naturally, the police don’t want to intervene, because no one is calling them to do so.

Hang on a minute, one of those little children is bound to place a call to her local police station or submit a complaint in writing if there is any problem, isn’t she? The fact that her parents are making her submit to being buried alive by putting the fear of the gods into her is neither here nor there, is it?

Cooked Kids

Following a news item about a mother in Ohio whose children suffered second degree sunburns at a fair, some folks on a private Libertarian List have been busy theorising about want should happen. Obviously, the children would not want hideous sunburn or skin cancer, and nor would they want the extreme discomfort of baking in the sun. At this point, people leap to the conclusion that the answer is for the parents to impose their will on the children,and not take them to the fair.

Dare I mention the existence of such everyday things as sunscreen, hats, sunshades, tea tents (oh all right then, beer tents), and, for slightly older children, the solving of problems through pleasant conversation? There is absolutely no reason for a child to get fried or miss out on the fair.

Luckily, children don’t have to understand the physiological effects of baking in the sun, any more than I have to understand anything about any number of things that significantly affect my life. Just as I might have a doctor, a dentist, surgeons, tax/investment advisors, and so on to advise me, children have their parents (and others) to advise them.

It is a mistake to assume that there are only two options, one being to say nothing and let the child rot, and the other being for parents to coerce their children. That is a false dichotomy. If you think of it that way – just like statists think that bad things will happen without the government benevolently coercing citizens for their own good or the good of others – it will indeed seem as though force is the best option. But in fact, there is a third option, which people use all the time with friends: reason, persuasion, the creation of new knowledge.

When you fail to persuade your friend of something, you may think that he is stupid and foolish, but you do not leap to the conclusion that it is right to impose your will on him for his own good (or whatever). Even if you could persuade the entire world that your friend is making the biggest mistake of his life, you still would not think that gives you any right whatever to impose your will. You would think that (1) you might possibly be mistaken, and (2) it is his life and his mistake to make, not yours.

If you want to use a different standard for children, you need an argument that isn’t circular. No one has come up with one so far.

I shall be speaking about such matters (title: Unreasonable Parents – why spanking won’t help!) in San José, California, USA, on 28th August. See my web site for details.

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]