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Proposed Spanking Legislation

California assemblywoman Sally Lieber (D-San Francisco) has proposed a law that would prohibit parental spanking of children under age four. The law, not yet drafted, would make spanking a child under the age of three a crime punishable by a fine and/or jail time.

“I think it’s pretty hard to argue you need to beat a child three-years-old or younger,” said Lieber.

I agree with that. In fact, I’ll expand that to include any age child. But of course Lieber is using “beat” to mean any swat to a child’s rear parts, and in so doing she is revealing a predilection for emotional hyperactivity, the province of the demagogue.

Every state in the Union prohibits the beating of children. To make the claim that a spanking constitutes child abuse is nothing short of stupid, but then the argument over spanking has devolved into a shouting match between adherents of two equally untenable, stupid positions. On the one hand, find zealots like Sally Lieber; on the other, find zealots who do not take the time to do proper Biblical study and believe therefore that spanking is a demonstration of Christian faith.

While a recent guest on “Good Morning America,” I was informed by a fellow participant in the shout-fest that the research shows a clear link between spanking and violent behavior. Yes, that’s true, but the primary researcher in question, Murray Straus, is an ideologue who uses “science” as a front for his political agenda, which is to see spanking outlawed world-wide. Straus’ bias pollutes his research and caused his former graduate research assistant, Robert Larzelere, to openly break with him.

Larzelere, now research director at Boys’ Town, Nebraska, has conducted some of the most objective research going into the subject. He finds no adverse effect of occasional spankings delivered by parents who cherish their children. Another prominent and non-ideological researcher, Diana Baumrind of the University of California, finds that children who are occasionally spanked score higher on measures of adjustment than children who have never been spanked. As for the link between spanking and aggression, one group of researchers found that the most reliable predictor of child aggression was parental permissiveness. Since 1965, as the number of parents who spank has declined, so has child mental health. So much for Lieber’s argument. But we should not expect her to listen to reason. She is, after all, a zealot. Facts will not matter to her. To demonstrate this, I hereby offer to debate her on neutral ground (the floor of the California state legislature?) at my own expense. I won’t hold my breath.

Lieber probably believes herself to be a champion for children. In fact, she may be doing children a grave disservice. In a study conducted ten years after implementation of anti-spanking laws in Sweden, Bob Larzelere found that child abuse had actually increased. Along the same lines, Baumrind has found that parents who do not believe in spanking are more likely to explode abusively at their children than parents who believe spankings are okay.

The proposed law only targets parents who spank kids three and under, but it’s a sure bet that if it passes, Lieber and her cronies will immediately set about to expand its parameters, and other states will begin to follow suit. For anti-spanking hysterics, California is only a test case. The real intent is to insert government into the parent-child relationship and eliminate parental discretion in discipline. Lieber’s law, if passed, will put us on a slippery slope leading straight to Ms. Clinton’s collectivist “village,” where the elite few—as wryly expressed by columnist Thomas Sowell—“impose their superior wisdom and virtue on parents.”

A warning from Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis (1856-1941) seems particularly appropriate: “The greatest dangers to liberty lurk in insidious encroachment by men of zeal, well-meaning but without understanding.”

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