Ezra Klein’s Vox endeavor is a mixed bag. Sometimes it has some really intelligent articles. But with 30-some posts a day, it occasionally posts some really dumb shit with very little critical thought. For example, they recently posted about a deeply flawed study claiming female-named hurricanes kill more people than male-named hurricanes because sexism (a notion I debunk here). And today, they post this article arguing that we should ban spanking.
The stupidity of the article is revealed in the first two sentences:
The law prohibits you from spanking your boss, your employee, your spouse, your best friend, or a stranger you walk past on the street.
But in the United States, it’s still perfectly legal to spank your own children.
What … I … you … but … for …
(Sounds of Hal banging his head on the keyboard)
The reason we can spank our kids is because they are our fucking kids. We’re expected to exercise discipline and teach kids how to live and behave properly. The rules are different when we deal with adults. It’s true, you can’t spank your boss. You also can’t force her to eat her vegetables. You can’t make strangers to go to bed on time. If you told your employees they were grounded, they would laugh at you. And frankly, I’ve known some people who probably would enjoy a good spanking. Hell, there are some people who will pay strangers to spank them.
The article gets worse. It cites some research showing that spanking doesn’t work and that it causes long term damage. I have no doubt that abuse causes long-term damage. But the research on spanking is actually somewhat mixed. The reason is that children who grow up to have problems as adults often had problems as children too and therefore earned more physical discipline. There is some hint in the literature that spanking does benefit younger children, at ages when they are less amenable to reason and other forms of punishment.
The scientific case is not nearly clear enough to ban spanking, least of all (I guess) arrest or fine parents who do it. In a country where parents can be arrested for leaving their kid in a car for five minutes on a cool day, do we really want CPS arresting every parent who swats a kid’s bottom?
The rest of the article uses “everyone else is doing it” logic to say we should join other nations in banning spanking. But everyone else is not doing it. France hasn’t. The UK hasn’t. Australia hasn’t. Italy hasn’t. Canada hasn’t. This isn’t like the metric system where we are practically the only country in the world not doing it. This is clearly something that many countries have different opinions on. If Tunisia has banned spanking, good for them. I’m not using that as a basis for our domestic policies.
More countries outlaw abortion than outlaw spanking. Is Vox going to advocate that we should too? More countries use some form of Sharia Law than ban spanking. Is Vox going to advocate that we should adopt it? Well … I shouldn’t give them ideas.
To me, this just boils down to parental freedom. Spanking is not nearly so abusive and and not nearly so damaging that it mandates government intervention. If you don’t want to spank your kids, don’t spank your kids. But don’t come into my house and tell me how to discipline my offspring. Joseph Stromberg, who wrote the Vox article, clearly has a much lower threshold for government barging into our houses than I do.