Essay:Child abuse

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Why do people talk about "child abuse" rather than "aggression against children"? I think the latter terminology would promote more productive discussions because "abuse" is a very subjective term. What constitutes the improper use of something depends on what the ultimate goal is. Who decides what the objective should be? Isn't it just a matter of opinion?

Different people might have different ideas of what a child should experience, do, and become. Anything that works contrary to that goal would be a misuse of the resources at hand, from the perspective of the resource user; if the child himself is treated as a resource, then "child abuse" is anything that's counterproductive to the master plan. So then, if your goal was to raise a child who doesn't have a taste for sweets, for instance, then giving him a lollipop would be child abuse.

Some might say "That's ridiculous; something as minor as that can't be considered abuse." How does one objectively draw a line between what is merely inexpedient/inappropriate and what is abuse? It's arbitrary; "child abuse" is just a term of opprobrium to indicate strong social disapproval of a behavior deemed to result in very bad outcomes. But who decides what's bad?

It's the same way with "alcohol abuse". How much, or what kind of, use is excessive or inappropriate? It depends on what you're trying to accomplish. Why not instead speak of aggression -- that is, force or fraud in which you commit unjustifiable violence while drunk, or violate a contractual obligation to, say, refrain from driving while impaired? As for the rest, it's merely a case of someone possibly acting inexpediently from a certain perspective, e.g. short-sightedly seeking a fleeting pleasure at the expense of long-term well-being.

Radical libertarians say that the child is entitled to choose his own destiny, that it is his responsibility, and that no one is required to help him. Others say that the care of children is a fiduciary responsibility; the parent, as custodian, is required to safeguard the child in much the same way that the board member of a corporation is required to safeguard its assets. The difference is, the child cannot choose his parents, while the shareholder can choose his board members or can refrain from investing his funds in that company.

Therefore, a major safeguard against abuse is lacking here. The government can exercise oversight, but then it's a question of Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? Mises spoke of "Plato's illusion that preventing people from knowing which children's parents they are will inspire them with parental feelings toward all younger people. It would have been wise if the welfare school had been mindful of Aristotle's observation that the result will rather be that all parents will be equally indifferent to all children." Why would a government made up of strangers be more solicitous toward the needs of the child than those whose familial ties give them a natural affinity toward him?