I found that photo on Facebook a while back, with the following caption:

This photo was posted on STFU, Conservatives Tumblr page last night [here]. The reason why I’m sharing it is not because of the photo itself (which is epic in it’s [sic] own right), but for the comments it generated.

One person wrote, “but then again, its kind like putting a meat suit on and telling a shark not to eat you”.

STFU responded (with bolded text):

We (men) are not fucking sharks!

We are not rabid animals living off of pure instinct

We are capable of rational thinking and understanding.

Just because someone is cooking food doesn’t mean you’re entitled to eat it.

Just because a banker is counting money doesn’t mean you’re being given free money.

Just because a person is naked doesn’t mean you’re entitled to fuck them.

You are not entitled to someone else’s body just because it’s exposed.

What is so fucking difficult about this concept?

Bravo.

Indeed. Also, Laura Jedeed has some really excellent comments on rape and this image too.

Happily, the rights of women in western countries are more widely recognized and better protected today than at any other time in human history. That’s a huge achievement, and part of why I’m grateful to live in modern America.

However, more progress awaits us. One example was in the news last year:

A recent court case just exposed a barbarity in California law, namely that it’s not rape to trick an unmarried woman into sleeping with you by pretending to be her boyfriend.

Julio Morales was convicted and sentenced to three years in state prison for entering an 18-year-old woman’s bedroom and instigating sex with her while she was asleep after a night of drinking at a house party in 2009. According to prosecutors, it wasn’t until “light coming through a crack in the bedroom door illuminated the face of the person having sex with her” that she realized Morales wasn’t her boyfriend. Holy shit.

But a panel of judges overturned the conviction this week because of a law from 1872 that doesn’t give women the same protections as married women because, as we all know, single women are always down for nonconsensual sex, even when they’re asleep and/or purposefully tricked into the act.

The court admitted that “If the woman had been married and the man had impersonated her husband” it would be rape. But since there was no ring on her finger, it’s not!

Eugene Volokh had some comments here. I agree that rape by fraud shouldn’t be a punishable offense, except in cases of impersonation of a lover or spouse. (I’m not sure of the case of mere friends.) As Eugene says of such impersonation:

It is, thankfully, apparently a rare sort of lie; it is very far outside the normal level of dishonesty that people expect might happen in their relationships; it is one for which there is no plausible justification or mitigation; and criminalizing it is unlikely to sweep in the garden variety lies that, unfortunately, often appear in people’s sexual and romantic lives.

California law obviously needs to be updated.

Here’s another example. The 2012 election was replete with politicians making ridiculous and offensive comments about rape in order to rationalize their across-the-board opposition to abortion. Most notable was Todd Akin’s justification for denying abortions to women pregnant due to rape:

… from what I understand from doctors, that’s really rare. If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down. But let’s assume that maybe that didn’t work or something. I think there should be some punishment, but the punishment ought to be on the rapist and not attacking the child.

Conservatives need to recognize that forced pregnancy — not just pregnancy due to rape but any unwanted pregnancy — is a morally abhorrent violation of rights, not a gift from God.

Alas, the third example hits closer to home for me. In a February 2012 podcast, Leonard Peikoff said that a man is entitled to force himself on a woman if she has a few drinks with him and then goes up to his hotel room. Thankfully, he corrected that a few weeks later, but only in part. By a rather strange analysis, Peikoff concluded that a woman cannot withdraw consent after penetration. In reality, that means that the man can do whatever he pleases to the woman after penetration, even as she kicks and screams and yells and cries in protest. That’s seriously, seriously wrong — and dangerous too.

On a more positive note, you’ll find my own views on the nature and limits of consent in sex in this podcast. (It’s a pretty lengthy discussion… about over 40 minutes.)

Ultimately, my point here is that the rights of women matter — and they’re not yet fully protected. The image at the top of this post reminds us of that. The fact that she’s half-naked doesn’t make her any less of a person with the absolute right to forbid another person access to her body.

That’s a lesson that some people still need to learn, unfortunately.

Sep 172013
 

In last Sunday’s radio show, I answered the following Rapid Fire Question:

In his 1977 essay “Political Freedom and Its Roots in Metaphysics,” Moshe Kroy argued that Ayn Rand’s advocacy of government, in contrast to the libertarians’ advocacy of anarchism, stemmed from her having a different view of the nature of man than Murray Rothbard did. Is Kroy right?

I skimmed the article in advance of the broadcast, so I knew that the Kroy’s analysis was based on utterly ridiculous — as in, fabricated — claims about Ayn Rand’s philosophy. I quoted a bit of the article in the broadcast, but I thought I’d blog a bit more commentary. The first example that Kroy offers is long and complicated, so I’ll skip that. Let’s look at the second:

A Randist judge would demand compensation whenever a promise was unilaterally made and broken (i.e., a promise of a gift, or of charity service). A Rothbardian judge would not consider these legal matters — though he may privately advise the victim to advertise the fact of default as much as he can, so as to make the defaulter realize that breaking promises is bad for your business reputation.

Nothing in Ayn Rand’s writings — fictional or philosophical — supports this claim that mere promises constitute contracts. In fact, as William Stoddard observed, Hank Rearden’s thinking about his abysmal marriage — when Lillian drags him to Jim Taggart’s wedding — suggests the opposite view:

Then, as if a single, sudden blow to his brain blasted a moment’s shift of perspective, [Hank] felt an immense astonishment at what he was doing here and why. He lost, for that moment, all the days and dogmas of his past; his concepts, his problems, his pain were wiped out; he knew only — as from a great, clear distance — that man exists for the achievement of his desires, and he wondered why he stood here, he wondered who had the right to demand that he waste a single it-replaceable hour of his life, when his only desire was to seize the slender figure in gray and hold her through the length of whatever time there was left for him to exist.

In the next moment, he felt the shudder of recapturing his mind. He felt the tight, contemptuous movement of his lips pressed together in token of the words he cried to himself: You made a contract once, now stick to it. And then he thought suddenly that in business transactions the courts of law did not recognize a contract wherein no valuable consideration had been given by one party to the other. He wondered what made him think of it. The thought seemed irrelevant. He did not pursue it.

Basically, because Hank received no “valuable consideration” from Lillian in their marriage, Hank ought to consider that marriage to be a mere promise and not a binding contract. Hence, he’s not obliged to endure it, come what may — and ultimately, he doesn’t. In fact, when Hank divorces Lillian after the debacle with the “Gift Certificate” for Rearden Metal, he goes to considerable lengths to prevent her from benefitting from the marriage. He bribes judges and others to prevent any property settlement or alimony. That’s because Hank aims to leave Lilliam without another cent of his — whatever the promises of the marriage — precisely because she’s offered him no valuable consideration in the marriage.

If I read Atlas Shrugged through from beginning to end, I suspect that I could find more than a few promises broken by the heroes (mostly due to changed circumstances) that wouldn’t ever result in any kind of court case. Contracts are a kind of promise, but they’re not mere promises.

As for the third example:

A Randist judge would have to defend, in court, a contract in which a man sells himself to be a slave: once a man made a contractual commitment to be a slave, and to forego any further freedom of choice, he has to abide by his promise. A Rothbardian would consider the contract cancelled the minute the slave refuses to be a slave any more (thereby implying that the contract was never valid). At the same time, if the slave got some money, which he has been capable to continue to control independently, for becoming a slave, then he no more legally holds the money: the money belongs to the deceived, purported slavemaster. Thus, the institutions of justice should remedy the breach of control and ownership incurred.

Again, that’s a complete fabrication. Nothing in Ayn Rand’s writings would ever support that position. In fact, another example from Atlas Shrugged suggests that Ayn Rand held the opposite view — namely, when Dagny attempts to convince Dan Conway to fight the “Anti-Dog-Eat-Dog Rule.”

“Dan, you have to fight them. I’ll help you. I’ll fight for you with everything I’ve got.”

Dan Conway shook his head.

He sat at his desk, the empty expanse of a faded blotter before him, one feeble lamp lighted in a corner of the room. Dagny had rushed straight to the city office of the Phoenix-Durango. Conway was there, and he still sat as she had found him. He had smiled at her entrance and said, “Funny, I thought you would come,” his voice gentle, lifeless. They did not know each other well, but they had met a few times in Colorado.

“No,” he said, “it’s no use.”

“Do you mean because of that Alliance agreement that you signed? It won’t hold. This is plain expropriation. No court will uphold it. And if Jim tries to hide behind the usual looters’ slogan of ‘public welfare,’ I’ll go on the stand and swear that Taggart Transcontinental can’t handle the whole traffic of Colorado. And if any court rules against you, you can appeal and keep on appealing for the next ten years.”

“Yes,” he said, “I could … I’m not sure I’d win, but I could try and I could hang onto the railroad for a few years longer, but… No, it’s not the legal points that I’m thinking about, one way or the other. It’s not that.”

“What, then?”

“I don’t want to fight it, Dagny.”

She looked at him incredulously. It was the one sentence which, she felt sure, he had never uttered before; a man could not reverse himself so late in life.

Dan Conway was approaching fifty. He had the square, stolid, stubborn face of a tough freight engineer, rather than a company president; the face of a fighter, with a young, tanned skin and graying hair. He had taken over a shaky little railroad in Arizona, a road whose net revenue was less than that of a successful grocery store, and he had built it into the best railroad of the Southwest. He spoke little, seldom read books, had never gone to college. The whole sphere of human endeavors, with one exception, left him blankly indifferent; he had no touch of that which people called culture. But he knew railroads.

“Why don’t you want to fight?”

“Because they had the right to do it.”

“Dan,” she asked, “have you lost your mind?”

“I’ve never gone back on my word in my life,” he said tonelessly. “I don’t care what the courts decide. I promised to obey the majority. I have to obey.”

In the rest of the scene, Dagny continues her attempts to persuade Conway, but without effect. Notice, however, that Dan Conway embraces the view of the supposedly “Randist judge” in the example from the article. He agreed to abide by the majority, so he has lost all right to fight their ruling now. Dagny, on the other hand, vehemently asserts that Dan has every right to fight for himself and his railroad. Dagny’s view is clearly Ayn Rand’s view.

(For anyone interested in more direct discussion of this question of whether a person can sell himself into slavery, check out this podcast segment: 12 March 2012: Selling Yourself into Slavery.)

Ultimately… is it too much to ask that critics of Ayn Rand refrain from that time-honored traditions of “ignoring the text” and “making stuff up”? Apparently so.

On the “Marginal Humans” Argument

 Posted by on 19 July 2013 at 10:00 am  Animals, Rights
Jul 192013
 

On Sunday’s Philosophy in Action Radio, I’ll discuss the “marginal humans” argument against uniquely human rights. The nature of that argument is a bit confusing. So to help you wrap your head around it, I thought I’d blog the opening paragraphs of my graduate paper on the topic, On the Margins of Humanity.

In the current philosophic debates about the moral and legal standing of animals, one of the most common arguments for equality between humans and animals is the appeal to the problem of “marginal humans.” The basic claim of that argument is that because no morally significant feature is common to all and only humans, the standard view on which rights apply to all and only humans is arbitrary and unjust. In particular, rights cannot be in any way based upon the uniquely human capacity to reason since some humans lack that capacity. While normal adult humans can think and act according to abstract knowledge and moral principles, newborn infants cannot yet do so, permanently comatose adults can no longer do so, and the severely retarded never do so. Such “marginal humans” lack the rational capacities of normal adult humans, yet we still grant them the moral and legal protection of rights. Meanwhile, far more sensitive and intelligent animals, such as chimps, dolphins, and even dogs, are used and abused as humans see fit.

From the perspective of the marginal humans argument, limiting rights to humans seems like an unjustifiable form of discrimination in favor of our own human species, i.e. “speciesism.” To protect all humans under the umbrella of moral and legal rights without lapsing into logical incoherence, the criterion for rights must be set lower than the capacity to reason. Yet once that it is done, logic demands that we extend rights to all those who meet that criterion, whether human or not. In short, the marginal humans argument claims that the price of rights for all humans is rights for some animals.

In recent years, this line of argument for granting moral standing and legal protections to animals has proven to be both compelling and resilient in both academic and cultural debates. It seems to effectively demolish the traditional understanding of rights as all and only human rights by forcing a hard choice between rights for only some humans and rights for all humans plus some animals. To many philosophers and laypersons, the latter seems like a more palatable option than the former, in that banning medical testing on mice and rabbits would be preferable to tolerating it on orphaned infants and senile octogenarians. Moreover, the marginal humans argument does not demand allegiance to any particular moral or political theory: it is compatible with Peter Singer’s utilitarian “animal liberation,” Tom Regan’s deontological “animal rights,” and more. Finally, attempted refutations of it often seem to miss their mark by failing to squarely confront the question of why and how all those individual humans without the capacity to reason still deserve moral standing and legal protections.

In this paper, I will critically examine the argument from marginal humans to determine whether it is as powerful and persuasive as it often seems at first glance. I will first review the particular form of the argument used by the two major advocates of moral standing and legal protections for animals: Peter Singer and Tom Regan. (I will not be concerned with the failings of Singer’s utilitarianism or the mysteries of Regan’s appeal to inherent value, but only with the way in which each uses the argument to advance his case for animal liberation or rights.) Then, I’ll hone in upon the fundamental thrust of the argument by distinguishing it from a borderline case problem. Finally, I will examine the merits of two attempted refutations of the marginal humans argument, as well as consider three basic types of marginal humans in relation to the argument for human-only rights. My basic contention will be that marginal humans are not relevantly similar to animals–meaning that the argument from marginal humans cannot force an either-or choice between rights for just some humans and rights for all humans plus animals.

I hope that the “marginal humans” argument is a bit more clear now… and you’re certainly welcome to read the whole paper for a preview of what I’ll say on Sunday’s Philosophy in Action Radio!

The Onion Is Not Satire

 Posted by on 25 June 2013 at 4:00 pm  GLBT, Law, Marriage, Politics, Rights
Jun 252013
 

… not this piece, anyway: Impatient Nation Demands Supreme Court Just Get To The Gay Stuff:

WASHINGTON—Following the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in an ongoing affirmative action lawsuit Monday, the impatient American public reportedly demanded that the nation’s highest court stop jerking around with all these other cases and just get to the gay stuff already.

The last line put me into stitches of laughter, such that Paul had to remind me to breathe:

At press time, the nation had thrown up its hands in frustration upon learning that the Supreme Court was currently preparing a 46-page opinion addressing the jurisdictional conflicts raised by Mutual Pharmaceutical Co. v. Bartlett.

 

On Sunday’s Philosophy in Action Radio, I’ll discuss Judith Thomson’s classic “violinist” argument in favor of abortion rights. It’s an engaging and accessible article which has been widely read and reprinted. If you’ve never read it — or you’ve not read it in a while — you might want to read or re-read it before Sunday’s broadcast. You can do so here: Judith Jarvis Thomson: A Defense of Abortion.

Here’s the introduction to whet your appetite.

Most opposition to abortion relies on the premise that the fetus is a human being, a person, from the moment of conception. The premise is argued for, but, as I think, not well. Take, for example, the most common argument. We are asked to notice that the development of a human being from conception through birth into childhood is continuous; then it is said that to draw a line, to choose a point in this development and say “before this point the thing is not a person, after this point it is a person” is to make an arbitrary choice, a choice for which in the nature of things no good reason can be given. It is concluded that the fetus is. or anyway that we had better say it is, a person from the moment of conception. But this conclusion does not follow. Similar things might be said about the development of an acorn into an oak trees, and it does not follow that acorns are oak trees, or that we had better say they are. Arguments of this form are sometimes called “slippery slope arguments”–the phrase is perhaps self-explanatory–and it is dismaying that opponents of abortion rely on them so heavily and uncritically.

I am inclined to agree, however, that the prospects for “drawing a line” in the development of the fetus look dim. I am inclined to think also that we shall probably have to agree that the fetus has already become a human person well before birth. Indeed, it comes as a surprise when one first learns how early in its life it begins to acquire human characteristics. By the tenth week, for example, it already has a face, arms and less, fingers and toes; it has internal organs, and brain activity is detectable. On the other hand, I think that the premise is false, that the fetus is not a person from the moment of conception. A newly fertilized ovum, a newly implanted clump of cells, is no more a person than an acorn is an oak tree. But I shall not discuss any of this. For it seems to me to be of great interest to ask what happens if, for the sake of argument, we allow the premise. How, precisely, are we supposed to get from there to the conclusion that abortion is morally impermissible? Opponents of abortion commonly spend most of their time establishing that the fetus is a person, and hardly anytime explaining the step from there to the impermissibility of abortion. Perhaps they think the step too simple and obvious to require much comment. Or perhaps instead they are simply being economical in argument. Many of those who defend abortion rely on the premise that the fetus is not a person, but only a bit of tissue that will become a person at birth; and why pay out more arguments than you have to? Whatever the explanation, I suggest that the step they take is neither easy nor obvious, that it calls for closer examination than it is commonly given, and that when we do give it this closer examination we shall feel inclined to reject it.

I propose, then, that we grant that the fetus is a person from the moment of conception. How does the argument go from here? Something like this, I take it. Every person has a right to life. So the fetus has a right to life. No doubt the mother has a right to decide what shall happen in and to her body; everyone would grant that. But surely a person’s right to life is stronger and more stringent than the mother’s right to decide what happens in and to her body, and so outweighs it. So the fetus may not be killed; an abortion may not be performed.

It sounds plausible. But now let me ask you to imagine this. You wake up in the morning and find yourself back to back in bed with an unconscious violinist. A famous unconscious violinist. He has been found to have a fatal kidney ailment, and the Society of Music Lovers has canvassed all the available medical records and found that you alone have the right blood type to help. They have therefore kidnapped you, and last night the violinist’s circulatory system was plugged into yours, so that your kidneys can be used to extract poisons from his blood as well as your own. The director of the hospital now tells you, “Look, we’re sorry the Society of Music Lovers did this to you–we would never have permitted it if we had known. But still, they did it, and the violinist is now plugged into you. To unplug you would be to kill him. But never mind, it’s only for nine months. By then he will have recovered from his ailment, and can safely be unplugged from you.” Is it morally incumbent on you to accede to this situation? No doubt it would be very nice of you if you did, a great kindness. But do you have to accede to it? What if it were not nine months, but nine years? Or longer still? What if the director of the hospital says. “Tough luck. I agree. but now you’ve got to stay in bed, with the violinist plugged into you, for the rest of your life. Because remember this. All persons have a right to life, and violinists are persons. Granted you have a right to decide what happens in and to your body, but a person’s right to life outweighs your right to decide what happens in and to your body. So you cannot ever be unplugged from him.” I imagine you would regard this as outrageous, which suggests that something really is wrong with that plausible-sounding argument I mentioned a moment ago.

In this case, of course, you were kidnapped, you didn’t volunteer for the operation that plugged the violinist into your kidneys. Can those who oppose abortion on the ground I mentioned make an exception for a pregnancy due to rape? Certainly. They can say that persons have a right to life only if they didn’t come into existence because of rape; or they can say that all persons have a right to life, but that some have less of a right to life than others, in particular, that those who came into existence because of rape have less. But these statements have a rather unpleasant sound. Surely the question of whether you have a right to life at all, or how much of it you have, shouldn’t turn on the question of whether or not you are a product of a rape. And in fact the people who oppose abortion on the ground I mentioned do not make this distinction, and hence do not make an exception in case of rape.

Nor do they make an exception for a case in which the mother has to spend the nine months of her pregnancy in bed. They would agree that would be a great pity, and hard on the mother; but all the same, all persons have a right to life, the fetus is a person, and so on. I suspect, in fact, that they would not make an exception for a case in which, miraculously enough, the pregnancy went on for nine years, or even the rest of the mother’s life.

Some won’t even make an exception for a case in which continuation of the pregnancy is likely to shorten the mother’s life, they regard abortion as impermissible even to save the mother’s life. Such cases are nowadays very rare, and many opponents of abortion do not accept this extreme view. All the same, it is a good place to begin: a number of points of interest come out in respect to it.

Again, you can read the whole article here: A Defense of Abortion by Judith Thomson. Then… please join us on Sunday morning for the live broadcast of Philosophy in Action Radio — or listen to the podcast later.

 

On May 2nd, John McCaskey emailed me the following awesome bit of news:

Tonight in Manhattan, I went to hear Brad Thompson speak at NYC Junto. There were announcements before he spoke. A woman got up to alert the audience to a new development in libertarianism, the moral shift from Rand to Hayek and Rawls. She spoke for only a minute or two and then handed out copies of this:

Awesome, no? If you’ve not yet heard my interview with John P. McCaskey about “Libertarianism’s Moral Shift” from 10 April 2013… don’t miss out!

For more details, check out the episode’s archive page.

 

Bob Levy, the Chairman of Cato’s Board, comes out in favor of background checks in the New York Times: A Libertarian Case for Expanding Gun Background Checks.

Extending background checks to unlicensed sellers shouldn’t be cause for alarm. Background checks are already required for purchases from federally licensed dealers, whether at stores or gun shows, over the Internet or by mail. Moreover, gun buyers would be exempt from background checks if they had a carry permit issued within the last five years.

That’s all the argument that he gives on that point, which shows a remarkable lack of concern for the well-grounded fears that background checks lead to registration, bans on sales, and then confiscation. On the other hand, we have this compelling argument:

Gun-rights advocates should use this interval to refine their priorities and support this measure, with a few modest changes. If they don’t, they will be opening themselves to accusations from President Obama and others that they are merely obstructionists, zealots who will not agree to common-sense gun legislation.

GRRR.

Granted, many Objectivist intellectuals have been lukewarm on gun rights, and they’ve said far worse. Still, I think that libertarians like Bob Levy know better — and that’s what makes this kind of aggressive compromise-peddling so worrisome to me. Based on my interview with John McCaskey on libertarianism’s moral shift, I have to think that we’ll see even more such calls for compromise in future.

Reasons for Gun Control

 Posted by on 6 March 2013 at 10:00 am  Firearms, Rights
Mar 062013
 

I got a chuckle out of this:

I would have written “ignorance” instead… because wow, the most vocal advocates of gun control often seem to be woefully ignorant of the basic nature and workings of weapons, let alone the law and demands of self-defense. It’s just as embarrassing as seeing a creationist rant about how mere randomness couldn’t have created an eye.

But, as my friend Monica noted in reply to my remark:

Sometimes it’s ignorance, sometimes it’s stupidity, sometimes it’s because people really don’t believe the public can be trusted with weapons, and sometimes it’s because people don’t *want* the public to have weapons. I recently was involved in a thread in which a former military member rambled on about how much he loves operating rocket launchers but your average redneck shooting watermelons from the back of his truck simply can’t be trusted to operate firearms safely. That sort of attitude is fairly uncommon among members of the military, but it exists, and it has nothing to do with ignorance. It has to do with prejudice. I believe such a person belongs in the third or fourth category listed above (I’m honestly not sure which).

Indeed, I’ve definitely seen that kind of prejudice too. That’s part of why I think it’s so important for respected and trusted people to speak out to their friends and neighbors about guns, self-defense, and gun rights. Also, you might want to listen to — and share — tonight’s interview with Ryan Moore on How Guns Save Lives!

Feb 222013
 

Here’s some very bad news from North Dakota, particularly for couples suffering from infertility:

North Dakota’s Senate approved two anti-abortion bills on Monday that would ban the destruction of human embryos and outlaw abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy based on the disputed premise that at that point a fetus can feel pain.

Senators voted 30-17 to ban abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy. The measure is a challenge to the 1973 U.S. Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade ruling that legalized abortion up until viability, usually at 22 to 24 weeks.

The embryo measure narrowly passed 24-23, with the full Senate present. The measure’s aim is to prohibit the intentional destruction of embryos and to regulate in-vitro fertilization, in which a woman’s egg is fertilized outside her body. The bill defines a human being as “an individual member of the species homo sapiens at every stage of development.”

For more on what’s wrong with such “personhood” laws, read The “Personhood” Movement Is Anti-Life: Why It Matters that Rights Begin at Birth, Not Conception by Ari Armstrong and myself.

Also, worse might be coming from North Dakota:

The North Dakota House this month also passed a bill that would ban doctors from performing an abortion if a fetal heartbeat were detected. The House also has passed a bill would prevent women from having abortions based on gender selection or a genetic defect, such as Down syndrome.

Every restriction on abortion means forcing the burdens of pregnancy — and likely motherhood — on unprepared, incapable, and unwilling women. That’s a violation of their right to life, and it’s a serious moral evil.

Child Beaten by Dollar Store Employee

 Posted by on 11 February 2013 at 10:00 am  Children, Crime, Parenting, Rights
Feb 112013
 

This news story is just flabbergasting:

A Dollar General employee arrested in Wrightsville [Georgia] last week for hitting a child with a belt has now been charged with two felonies, aggravated assault and cruelty to children. The charges were upgraded from simple battery because according to the police chief, store video shows the woman hitting the 8 year old at least 25 times.

… Wrightsville Police Chief Paul Sterling said [the child] Logan was running around in the store and got into a confrontation with [the employee] Bell, 39. Bell told investigators that Logan threw a cookie at her and that’s when she removed her belt, chased the boy down and spanked him behind the counter.

It’s bad enough for a parent to spank his own children, let alone to beat a child with a belt 25 times. (I discussed why on Philosophy in Action Radio in this June 2012 segment: Corporal Punishment of Kids.) It’s sheer insanity for a stranger to do that, and I’m glad that it’s being prosecuted as a serious crime.

The incident reminds me of an exchange that I had with an older check-out lady at Wal-Mart a few years ago. I was buying a really thick and heavy wooden spoon. (I needed it down in the barn to prepare food for the horses.) On scanning the item, the woman fondly remarked that she used to beat her children with such a spoon in order to “teach them respect.”

I was floored. My shock wasn’t so much due to the fact that she’d done that, as I certainly know that many parents still beat their children as punishment. I was shocked because she saw fit to gloat about it to a perfect stranger. She was completely unaware that anyone might be morally opposed to beating children, let alone doing so with a heavy wooden spoon that could only cause severe pain.

I replied that I didn’t think that parents needed to beat their children to teach them respect. I wish that I’d said more. Perhaps I should have even spoken to the manager. But at the time, all that I wanted to do was take my wooden spoon and leave!

Suffusion theme by Sayontan Sinha