The House of Lords has rejected a ban on spanking. Like other “social issues” the question of legitimate parental chastisement provides food for thought, and in fact leads very quickly to basic issues.
The arguments in favor of the ban are that “[s]macking can lead to battering which can lead to death,” and “children must have the same legal protection from being hit as adults.” The first is the line of thought that says that “right to carry” laws mean shootouts over fender benders. The basic point is that formal public order is the only legitimate and reliable kind of social order, and everything else is a mixture of prejudice and stereotyping that can’t be counted on and on the whole makes things worse and should be rooted out. You just can’t trust people to do anything sensible on their own without supervision, and the people can’t supervise themselves. On that view, informal use of force is the same as uncontrolled private violence and should be strictly forbidden.
The second argument is that what’s valuable to children is not family care and discipline, backed when needed by the immediate rewards and sanctions that work in the setting, but equal citizenship in a formal legal order that—once again—is viewed as the only kind of social order that’s legitimate. The basic idea seems to be that realization of our humanity does not depend at all, even for children, on participation in a concrete society that involves the irregularities of specific human connections. Those irregularities always involve inequality and are just another name for oppression. Rather, our human dignity and worth depends solely on the sovereignty of the ego limited only by the equal sovereignty of other egos. Social arrangements—like the particular authority of parents—that don’t comply with the equal sovereignty of egos have to go, at least in connection with anything that begins to matter.
The Guardian comments that the vote put Britain “out of step on the issue with several European countries [meaning a few of the smaller Germanic countries] where all physical punishment of children is illegal” and which are notorious for their busybodies. It’s odd they don’t mention that it kept Britain in step with the much more numerous and populous contries that don’t have such laws. No doubt an oversight.