The family and the state

Recently, a friend of mine posted a link to an article which details how Sweden views corporal punishment.

KARLSTAD, Sweden, November 30, 2010 (LifeSiteNews.com) – A Swedish district court has sentenced a couple to nine months each in prison and fined them the equivalent of US $10,650 after they admitted to spanking three of their four children as a normal part of their parenting methods. Corporal punishment of children by parents was made illegal in Sweden in 1979, an early step in what a U.S. parental rights lawyer called the nearly total take-over of parenting by the state in Sweden. Court documents, quoted by Sveriges Television, said that the parents, who have not been named in the press, “explained that they had used, what they themselves described as spanking, physical punishment as part of their methods for raising the children.” There is no indication of abuse by the parents in the released documents, with the court noting that the parents “had a loving and caring relationship with their children.”

Families are the building blocks of society, and so it logically follows that parents are sovereign over their (plural possessive) children. Now some might object that this sounds like slavery and that they “don’t think anyone has sovereignty over anyone, whatever the status of any given institution in society. Responsibility, yes, and certainly parents have authority over their children, within the constraints of what is morally and socially acceptable.” However this poses a couple of problems.

Parental sovereignty

Humans are contingent beings. As such we cannot be our own sovereigns. Children in particular are dependent. The question is “dependent on whom?” Naturally, I would argue, they are dependent on their parents, the beings responsible for their existence. So when I say that parents are sovereign over their children I am simply pointing out their unique relationship with their offspring.

Social acceptability

As I’ve written elsewhere, a standard of morality based on societal norms is, by definition, not a standard. The reality is that the sovereign gets to make the rules. That means God as our ultimate sovereign, parents as their childrens’ sovereign and government as the sovereign of free men1.

Government serves families, not the other way around

Here in the US, during our “wild west” days, a constraint was placed on lawmakers and courts to honor that unique relationship above all else. Consequently state intervention in family matters was rare and required a great deal of justification on the state’s part. And even then it was seen as a failing all around if the state had to intervene because that meant violating the societal flow of families being the building blocks of society and consequently government. So when we look at cases like the article above we can confidently say that Sweden is a bad place to live because it has a wrong view of how societies are built. It is not the government’s job to raise children, it is the job of their parents. At best the government can and should encourage and equip parents to form healthy and stable families, but under no circumstances should governments or voters be tempted to think that it is anyone other than the parents who get to decide what is best for their children. Signed, A father of three and a husband of one.

  1. It may shock some people to think about children as not being free, but that’s life. In fact, I would argue that a human child’s extended dependent status provides a clear rebuttal against Darwinian evolution. []
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One response to “The family and the state

  1. Pingback: Wounding children | Reason To Stand

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