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Child Labor

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JamieP
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I was having a tough time tonight when it came to thinking about the role of govt and force with concern to raising children and being a gaurdian vs. "being an adult and making decisions for yourself."

Being a parent means that you are liable for their actions up until some arbitrary age (which probably shouldn't exist), and then after this arbitrary age is reached they are "adults" and are responsible for their own actions and decision making.

How should child labor be viewed? At first thought, it's simple when you think of every individual as "an adult" and they are capable of making their own decisions. But when you are "not of the age to be able to make decisions for yourself" it becomes less clear to me. The reason I ask in this forum is because I remember reading about it I think in one of Ayn Rand's Q&As if memory serves but it's a little bit fuzzy for me. It seems to me that if a parent thinks that their child working is in their best interest and if there is no force being used then there is nothing wrong with this. Many could argue that working at a young age could be considered a very good learning experience.

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You may find this interesting.

Child labor is necessary in the developing world because given the low productivity of their parents, the alternative is starvation. According to a 1997 UNICEF study, 5,000 to 7,000 Nepalese children turned to prostitution after the US banned that country’s carpet exports in the 1990s, and after the Child Labor Deterrence Act was introduced in the US, an estimated 50,000 children were dismissed from their garment industry jobs in Bangladesh, leaving many to resort to jobs such as “stone-crushing, street hustling, and prostitution.” The UNICEF study found these alternative jobs “more hazardous and exploitative than garment production. The only way to eradicate child labor is the same as in was eliminated the West – by raising the productivity of adults sufficiently to feed their families.

http://forum.ObjectivismOnline.com/index.php?showtopic=9653

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This makes sense to me, but I was wondering more along the lines of morality with the relationship of parent and child. Sometime parents "force" their kids to do something like play a musical instrument. Is that wrong? Generally this would probably be looked as an OK thing because it's a wonderful/positive experience, but isn't the use of force involved (sort of)?

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This makes sense to me, but I was wondering more along the lines of morality with the relationship of parent and child. Sometime parents "force" their kids to do something like play a musical instrument. Is that wrong? Generally this would probably be looked as an OK thing because it's a wonderful/positive experience, but isn't the use of force involved (sort of)?

- First off, your example is kind of silly. Forcing your child to learn to master an instrument he has no interest in seems contra-productive and irrational. If you dont want to and have no interest in learning that instrument I have a hard time seeing how forcing you to go would create a wonderful experience in any sense.

That being said, the parent/child relationship should morally involve quite a bit of force, and there is nothing wrong with that.

Kids are kids, and if you made them there your legal responsibiliy - and you have to make they survive (legally) and get a decent upbringing (morally). This includes elements such as bedtime, restricting access to alcohol when there nine years old, etc. This is not a consequence of negotiations beetween equal partners, its the consequence of proper parenting.

When it comes to child labor, then your obviously also going to have to force your child to work.

If this is required for the familys survival it is clearly the morally and legally optimal choice.

Thankfully this is no longer necessary in the West, and I can see few morally legitimate contexts where you would make your adolecent child work to earn money for the family. All though im sure there are exceptions.

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- First off, your example is kind of silly. Forcing your child to learn to master an instrument he has no interest in seems contra-productive and irrational. If you dont want to and have no interest in learning that instrument I have a hard time seeing how forcing you to go would create a wonderful experience in any sense.

That being said, the parent/child relationship should morally involve quite a bit of force, and there is nothing wrong with that.

Kids are kids, and if you made them there your legal responsibiliy - and you have to make they survive (legally) and get a decent upbringing (morally). This includes elements such as bedtime, restricting access to alcohol when there nine years old, etc. This is not a consequence of negotiations beetween equal partners, its the consequence of proper parenting.

When it comes to child labor, then your obviously also going to have to force your child to work.

If this is required for the familys survival it is clearly the morally and legally optimal choice.

Thankfully this is no longer necessary in the West, and I can see few morally legitimate contexts where you would make your adolecent child work to earn money for the family. All though im sure there are exceptions.

Ok, this is getting more to my point. So if the parent/child relationship should morally involve quite a bit of force, how do you make a clear objective distinction between "good" force (bedtime, do your chores, etc) and "bad" force (something like child violence or sexual abuse)?

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Ok, this is getting more to my point. So if the parent/child relationship should morally involve quite a bit of force, how do you make a clear objective distinction between "good" force (bedtime, do your chores, etc) and "bad" force (something like child violence or sexual abuse)?

A good parent is trying to make decisions that are in his child's long-term interest. That rules out sexual abuse and child violence (presumably we're talking about real violence, not spankings).

In questions like this what is moral is much broader than what ought to be legal. in a sense, the law should see the parent as a agent of the child, making decisions on the child's behalf. The law has to be really careful about what minimal set of acts violate the fiduciary obligation a parent has toward his child.

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A good parent is trying to make decisions that are in his child's long-term interest. That rules out sexual abuse and child violence (presumably we're talking about real violence, not spankings).

In questions like this what is moral is much broader than what ought to be legal. in a sense, the law should see the parent as a agent of the child, making decisions on the child's behalf. The law has to be really careful about what minimal set of acts violate the fiduciary obligation a parent has toward his child.

Thank you for this response. It makes sense to me that what is "moral" is much more subjective in terms of parenting because different people can disagree on how best to raise a child.

Regarding the legal issues, is there an objective way of defining what acts violate the fiduciary obligation of a parent? How do you know if a line has been crossed?

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Regarding the legal issues, is there an objective way of defining what acts violate the fiduciary obligation of a parent? How do you know if a line has been crossed?
I think physical violence and physical deprivation are the most obvious violations. By deprivation, I mean locking a child up, or depriving them of food for extended periods.

Unfortunately, I don't have a slightly more concrete "line in the sand", i.e. an abstract principle that one can use as a "razor"). If I was seeking one, I would start by understanding the referents. This would mean listing instances that are okay and those that are not. Then I would try to conceptualize them: are there commonalities and differences?... are there sub-groups? Implicit in this process would be to formulate some tentative descriptions (proto-definitions) of the different groupings. Then, I would look at actual laws from various periods and see how this issue is framed in those laws, and whether there are some ideas that are useful. Typically, one might circle back and re-classify some referents, slowly formulating a proper concept.

Even in the basic areas of physical abuse, you'd run up against some tough issues. For instance, most people will agree that a spanking that stings for minutes is okay but a beating that breaks a bone is not. We know that there are some objective measures of severity: a broken bone is more bodily damage and it also lasts longer. However, compared to circumcision, a bone does heal. So, we'd have to ask whether circumcision is a worse crime. I would not be surprised if some Objectivists say it ought to be, but I'm not convinced (again, talking legality, not morality). However, to get the difference one has to move from judging by physically objective "damage" to considering the motivation, which is potentially a dicey area. So, it's tricky...and I don't have an answer when it comes to the middle-level abstraction.

Edited by softwareNerd
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This "line in the sand " could be the use of any physical force that goes beyond its use as a communication tool.

Basically, when you spank your child, the tone of your voice, your gestures, the appropriate context and ONE single spank is enough to convey a firm message.

It is the perceived meaning of the integrated "spanking episode" which makes the child understand who is in charge.

The physcial force exerted during the disciplinary intervention ( e.g. Spanking) should be enough to make a point, and nothing more.

It should not cause malfunction to any body structure, nor ascending or continuous pain. In a bone fracture, or an act of torture, pain is ascending, continuous, and tissues are damaged so that they cannot function properly once the disciplinary intervention has ended.

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  • 3 weeks later...

That being said, the parent/child relationship should morally involve quite a bit of force, and there is nothing wrong with that.

You are assuming that the child won't learn from a good, rational explanation. Most children will if and only if they are treated with respect from day one. Those that won't, and aren't diseased/deficient, may need to be forced; but then, if you find that the level of force INCREASES with time, something is very wrong. As the child grows, the frequency with which his/her actions contradict what is good for them ought to decrease ...

- ico

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