Sunday, January 21, 2007

The Left Coast

Although the Republican Party has been an easy target in recent years, it’s important to remember that there is plenty of criticism to go around. My last post dealt with the feasibility of a third party having any realistic hope of influencing national politics in any kind of meaningful way. I more than alluded that no real difference exists between the Republican and Democratic Parties; a position I still hold. However, in respect to isolated policies, certain positions can be attributed to one party or another.

Even with a Republican governor, California is a state dominated by the Democratic Party. Indeed, in many respects, it has earned the moniker, the “left coast.” In fact, had Governor Schwarzenegger originally run in a conventional election with the closed primary system California uses, it is highly unlikely he would have gained his party’s nomination - he’s far too moderate to have made it to the general election. It was only because of the nature of the recall that he was able to appeal directly to the more moderate masses in the recall election.

Last week, as reported in the Sacramento Bee, Assemblywoman Sally Lieber (D, Mountain View) proposed a law that would criminalize the spanking of any child under four years old. Her proposal would make it a misdemeanor punishable by up to a $1000 fine and/or one year in jail. "To my mind, there's no amount of physical force that's appropriate on a child 3 years old or younger," Lieber said. For the record, Lieber has no children.

My youngest child is 17. His brothers are 19 and 22. They are too old to be spanked and quite frankly, financial coercion is far more effective at their age. Whether they were spanked as children or not isn't relevant. That I had the legal right to choose how my kids were disciplined without government intervention, however, is. Lieber claims, “"The only thing a child learns by being beaten is that it's OK to beat or dominate children or animals that are smaller." Apparently "beating" is the same as spanking, at least under four years old.

Besides taking the legislature’s attention off the real problems that this state faces, her proposal is aimed at addressing child abuse, which, by the way, is already illegal. Her agenda is, of course, myopic and not so hidden - her law is an attempt to redefine abuse. It's based in the firm belief that we, as individuals, do not know what’s good for us and if the state doesn’t regulate our behavior, all hell is going to break loose. Coincidentally enough, she is also in favor of a recent ruling in California that lethal injection might be cruel or unusual. And of course, according to Planned Parenthood, she has a “100% pro choice” rating.

The contradiction is striking, but not surprising. And it’s interesting that each party has its own set of issues about where to get involved in our personal lives. On both the right and the left, our elected officials just know what’s best for us. I’m all for protecting the defenseless, especially children, but it could easily be argued that restricting parents’ ability to discipline their children is harming the children even more. And as far as those many, many laws already on the books that are for my own good - don’t even get me started.

I don’t like being told what to do; not as a parent and not as an individual. Where my actions in either capacity might harm my children or another person, there is moral and legal justification for society to provide consequences for such behavior. Those bases, however, are pretty well covered. Our civil liberties are constantly being threatened by not only those that mean us harm, but also by those that mean only the best for us. I don’t want to live in a bubble. I don’t want to be insulated from risk. I don’t need to be told not to abuse my children and I understand that if I do there are consequences. Spanking is not abuse, whether Lieber thinks so or not.


Pat said...

In my day it was left to the parents. There were times when i would have spanked my two scamps but they were too quick for me and it usually ended in giggles.
Michelle sent me.

LanternLight said...

Well it to the parents I say.
(Michele sent me :-) )

Jean-Luc Picard said...

Spanking is very divisive. It can put people right id done correctly, or assult if thrashed.

Michele sent me here.

carmilevy said...

There are so many things the government CAN be doing to improve the lives of citizens. Meddling in the minutae of their lives doesn't seem to be the optimal strategy.

Don't they have bigger problems to tackle? If not, what next?

Bobkat said...

As you know from my last comment I hate the nanny state we seem to have in the Uk and am absolutely pro people having a choice. The govermenment needs to stop telling people how to lead their lives and promote social and individual responsibility and then tackle those who do abuse their children, which as you say is already illegal.

Bobkat said...

Michele sent me btw - I often get so interested in someone's post that I forget to say!

Anonymous said...

Mike - I agree with you. What else is the government going to try to control in our lives?

this says it all:

Our civil liberties are constantly being threatened.

I am saddened to think of what society will be like for our kids when they are our age if this keeps up.

Unknown said...

I do think spanking is abusive but I understand why some parents resort to it. The problem is, parents that spank do so out of anger and it doesn't teach a child anything but to strike out in anger, too.

I'm not a big supporter of left coast positive disipline either. I think we're going to be ruled by a generation of spoiled brats, even worse than Bush pretty darn soon, and that freaks me out.

You sound liberatarian to me.

Here from Michele

David Edward said...

less government ( intrusion) equals more happy citizens

here from michele to cheer on your clear thinking on this issue

Anonymous said...

I guess I have to go with Margalit on this one. I also believe that spanking, when used by a parent whose anger gets the better of him/her, can get out of control and go beyond the realms of basic obedience. This is a pretty tough topic. I also don't think that a parent should get a fine for giving their kid a light wack if the kid gets out of control. I guess it's good that I only have a puppy and not a kid! Here via Michele today.

Michael K. Althouse said...

Now we're talking!

The way I see it, there are idealistic and realistic positions in every ideology. For instance, from a purely Libertarian ideology, there should be no government involvement in education, health care, welfare and a host of other social services the we depend on the government to provide and/or regulate. On paper, perhaps, if everyone behaved as they "should" this wide open free market approach to social well being might work.

Unfortunately (or not), the real world doesn't behave as it "should" and there are a number of areas that government should be and is involved. My problem, as a realist, is that that line is constantly being pushed further and further into what is not the governments business under any circumstances.

Why, for instance, is suicide illegal? If one is successful, of course, the only consequence is the resulting success. If unsuccessful, however, any number of a host government interventions can be unleashed - including incarceration.

I don't want to be told what is safe and what is not - it's my life. Very basically, if I don't directly harm someone else, then I should be permitted to freely engage in whatever activity I wish. Realistically, how one is harmed and what defines harm might need to be legislated, but if left to the "do-gooders" of the world, I'd be living in a bubble.

Anonymous said...

Oh yes, The people who know whats good for us better than we do ourselves, so commited to saving us from ourselves! Arrgh! Drives me nuts. I just saw on the news last night where some state wants to make it illegal to smoke in your car with your kids in the car. I don't even smoke & I think that's crazy!
Here from Micheles.

Anonymous said...

Hi Mike. Michele sent me.

The thought that spanking is abuse is rediculous. Yes, it can cross a line, but that is in a parent who is striking out in anger; I've been that child. But when used judiciously and for certain reasons and not in anger, it has tremendous success. Sweet Girl has been spanked about 3 times in her life. She doesn't beat other children or think that it is a good way to deal with her issues.

And don't get me started on the contradiction that spanking is child abuse but killing an infant in utero isn't.

I don't want my government telling me how I can or cannot parent my child. That said, we do need help teaching some people to break the pattern of abuse they grew up in and learn to make better choices in their own parenting. A law can't do that; it generally takes counceling or clergy or some other private intervention.

awareness said...

Well this is a wasp's nest.....

So, what about the fools who have children and don't have a clue as to how to properly and respectfully raise him or her..........??....the millions out there who take their power too literally, who don't know that unconditional love, especially when the child is a newbie, who don't know that consistency and communication and the teaching of positive virtues and morals......who live in the realm of violence.........what about these wingnuts out there who believe they have EVERY right to spank their children HARD and OFTEN?

So many wackos are aloud to breed, and get away with harming the psyche and the body of their children like they are animals..... how do we deal with these people.

on the other hand........... too much legislation is plain intrusive...........

Instead of formulating a law redefining abuse, what if made it imperative to make future and present parents take a course in how to be a healthy role model parent?


there are some days when I am working with a parent whose behaviour is completely clueless and irresponsible with respect to their role as a parent (AND THEY ARE HOLDING A NEWBORN IN THEIR ARMS LIKE IT'S A INANIMATE OBJECT) when I want to take the baby and run the other breaks my heart that these little innocent babies are doomed!!!

I don't know what the answer is, new laws aren't it......... but how can we ensure that every child has the same opportunity.......the same access to unconditional love???

utenzi said...

I tend towards the Democratic Party, Mike but my true political philosophy is Libertarian. Less government is more. I think Sally Lieber is frickin' nuts for advocating this legislation on any number of grounds. Even if a quick swat was abuse, which I don't think it is, does Lieber really think the average kid would be better off with their parent(s) in jail or a thousand bucks poorer? That's just nuts.

Michele sent me over, Mike.

Anonymous said...

Lieber gives me the chills.

The thought that "there are people out there who do not know how to discipline children correctly so we the government will show them how it is done" is so wrong that it is beyond my ability to grasp it.

You know gang, if this kind of thinking is allowed to take root you don't really believe that government's ability to decide who should have children is far behind do you? Crazy talk? Do you think our grandparents would have believed this anti-spanking legislation would ever even be seriously considered?

Yes there are people out there who have got it wrong...they are abusing, not simply disciplining their children. It is a travesty and they should be stopped. However the answer is NOT to let the government become Big Brother and save us from ourselves. That has never worked in history and it won't magically begin to work now.

Oh yeah...Michelle sent me Mike.

Anonymous said...

I'm a strong advocate for children, having worked in day care for many years and as mother, but I'm also a strong advocate for civil liberties. I was against the seatbelt law (The Massachusetts in me). I would fear parents being prosecuted too friviously with a law like that.

I do see a difference in the parties. It can be generalized or boiled down to one is more for the corporate world and the other for the regular Joe. I don't belong to either party and describe myself as in Indpendent who votes Democratic because they represent my interests in labor rights, woman's rights, civil rights, and environmental protections better than their counterparts.

Mass and Rhode Island Republicans would be considered liberals here in Virginia, similiar with California I would guess.

WooleyBugger said...

I can't stand it when some person who DOES NOT have children thinks that they somehow are all seeing and knowing. Frnkly, I think that if more children had had a spanking or two that there would not be so many spoiled brats running around. How in the world can a spanking be considered child abuse in the first place? Just imagine where the world would be now had this been a law during world warI and world warII. I'd just bet that if you talked to any of those old war veterans they'd tell you they had a few spanks when children.
Spare the rod, spoil the child. Now where did I hear that from in my youth?
A spanking is one thing but a beating is entirely different.

Belizegial said...

In other countries, outside of the scope of the US, the disciplining of children are left to the discretion of the parent.

Child abuse does exist, however, and is addressed by varied non-governmental bodies who are both privately and publicly funded and are staffed by professionals trained to deal with this type of situation.

Anonymous said...

I'm posting this anonymously, Mike, although you can certainly see from my IP address who I am. It's just that I'm about to address the biggest hot-button item here, in a likely unpopular way. Sally Lieber, like other bleeding hearts, is more concerned about a 4-year-old's rights being violated by a swat on the butt than the taking of an unborn human life in the name of 'choice.' Pity.

Helene said...

I dont agree with spanking (not that I havent done it.. just that I am not proud that I have) I think it is so degrading to the child and really is just a matter of a parent not being able to handle the situation without violence. I have seen kids being hit for hitting someone else... what kind of message are we really sending?

Again... I am not sitting her being holier than thow... I have hit my children but try hard not to do so... I have a temper and know I need to control it so I dont continue a cycle of it in my family.

I dont agree that the government should involve itself in it other than educating people. If you were spanked as a kid you will probably do the same... education will help break that cycle.

Carli N. Wendell said...

I completely agree with you, Mr. Althouse. There's a difference between child abuse and meeting out punishment to a child to deter their bad behavior. What a waste of the taxpayer's money it will be to try to enforce this lame-ass law.

I love that you're from Sacramento. That's where 8 is Enough took place.