Posted by: bridget | 1 December 2007


A weekend round-up for your reading pleasure. 

Massachusetts moves to prohibit spankings.  Is there an exception for the S&M industry?  (Hat tip: In2theFray.) 

Massachusetts already has laws which prohibit child abuse.  What it does not have are laws which permit parents reasonable latitude in bringing up their children.  Spankings are unpleasant.  So is going to bed without supper, not getting dessert, or seeing supper again for breakfast when you failed to eat it the night before.  Spankings, administered daily, are a cover for abuse; administered rarely, they are the toddler equivalent of groundings or revocation of allowance.  The first stage of moral development involves acting so as to avoid punishment and gain pleasure; spankings are used because they are closely tailored to the child’s development, not because the parents want to harm their kids.


Ellen Goodman takes on the stem cell breakthrough and the idiotic pro-abortion rallying cry.  She criticises the Republican cheer over the latest in biotechnology:

When the good news was announced, the White House had the gall – an Oval Office alternative for chutzpah – to claim the victory as theirs. “This is very much in accord with the president’s vision from the get-go,” said policy adviser Karl Zinsmeister. Without the slightest hint of irony, he suggested that their stalwart opposition actually fueled the scientists’ success. Next thing you know, the president will nominate himself for the Nobel Prize in medicine.

This is illogical, all around.  If the only reason to use adult stem cells, or adult cells tweaked to become pluripotent, is to avoid the moral issues surrounding embryonic stem cells, this development is inextricably intertwined with the Right’s objection to embryonic stem cells.  There is no reason to spend money developing an equivalent method when an existing method is economical, safe, and feasible; without objection to the current method, and a corresponding withdrawal of public funds, these advancements would not be made. 

Ms. Goodman has the chutzpah to declare that the government’s lack of funding for stem cell research (a limitation which applies solely to embryonic stem cells and public funds) slowed down this discovery.  This is doubly irrational.  It implies that nothing happens unless the government pays for it, and, simulataneously, that had the government funded an existing method, the alternative method would have developed sooner. 

Addition: Neil, in the comments, mentioned Charles Krauthammer’s article in the WaPo on the same subject. 

Well, Ms. Goodman keeps going, into the insane issue that won’t die:

Indeed, the sleeper issue of this campaign may be the one found in a YouTube video called “Libertyville Abortion Demonstration.” There, pro-life protesters at an abortion clinic are asked what punishment should be meted out to a woman who has an abortion if it becomes illegal. Their answers: “I don’t know.”

For Heaven’s sake.  As per previous bloggings, the question is beyond absurd.  First of all, no pro-lifer really wants to imprison women.  The pro-life position is: we are compassionate towards your plight, so we’re not going to toss you in jail, but we’re not so compassionate as to allow this to be legal.  Abortion laws have always punished the abortionist, exclusively.  Second, if this is akin to murder, it’s like asking someone, “How should someone be charged for killing another person?”  Well, the answers are anywhere from getting a Congressional recognition (if it’s in war) to the death penalty. Why sould abortion be different? Third, no one thinks about it because Roe is preventing anyone from even starting to make such legislation. 

Finally, abortion bans do have very delineated punishments in them; it is doubtful, however, that most people who are familiar with the bans could name the punishment off the top of their heads.  Quick, what is the punishment for the violation of the 2003 PBA Act?  Anyone think these geniuses would say, “Fine, as per title, or not more than two years, or both” off the top of their heads?


In more “We don’t understand the fundamentals of economics” news, Detroit is fighting an effort by Congress to improve fuel economy by 40% in the next twelve years.  It claims that the cost of improving its fleet would be a crushing burden.  In an era of $3.50/gallon gasoline, conflict in the Middle East, and eco-psychosis, it is difficult to understand this complaint.  If the costs are imposed uniformly (i.e. all companies must meet these goals), Detroit will not be disadvantaged in the market, necessarily.  The companies that can meet this standard with the lowest increased cost will thrive; those which are inefficient will be weeded out of the market.  The real kicker, though, is that Detroit is allowed to make vehicles that are less fuel efficient than their foreign counterparts:

European auto companies, for example, must average 40 miles per gallon and China requires a 35 m.p.g. standard. Automobiles sold in those countries are generally smaller and less powerful than the most popular models in the United States, however.

Well, make the cars smaller and less powerful, and Americans will be happy that they can squeeze into parking spaces.  Note as well that this new standard will force Detroit to become remotely competitive in the global marketplace. 

Now, this elephant is the first one to say that regulation does not equate to innovation.  Yet, European and Japanese auto manufacturers are eating Detroit for breakfast. Instead of improving fuel economy to attract American consumers and remain competitive, the Big 3 simultaneously oppose increases in fuel economy and lobby the federal government for relief, due to poor performance in the marketplace.  It’s just perverse. 


A marriage penalty?  Women on welfare who receive child support from the fathers of the children are required to give some of that money back to the state to reimburse them for welfare payments.  The women complain because the money is badly needed.  It is understandable that the women would want to keep the child support, which looks like it is earmarked for them.   It also appears as if the welfare is earmarked for her, so it looks like she is being forced to surrender something owed to her. (Here.)

Social policy aside, allowing the women to retain the child support amounts to a marriage penalty, or, if you will, a never-married benefit.  Imagine a married couple with a child, who are ineligible for welfare as a married couple but eligible if single and paying child support.  In the former case, the income flowing to the family is only the income they earn.  In the latter, they would make their own incomes, plus welfare.  Should we provide an incentive for young, poor parents to not marry?  Pro-marriage is understandable.  Marriage-neutral, to a libertarian, is sensible.  Anti-marriage is insanity.



  1. I don’t remember being spanked, though I am sure I was when I was very small. I still think a good swat for trying to touch a hot stove or running toward the street is better than the direct experience of touching the hot stove or getting hit by a car.

    I do remember we all considered being spanked by Dad as a real possibilty, (I don’t know why since he never spanked anybody) and we all made sure that we never did anything that would cause that to happen. We were not terrorized, the pain of the spanking would have been his disappointment in us and knowing how much he would have hated to do it.

    I don’t know why people think passing more laws will help when we can’t enforce the ones we have now.

    I do have a proposal though. Why not just outlaw children altogether. This would ultimately solve all of our problems, it would start reducing global warming and eventually end even violent crime.

  2. Great roundup! Can’t believe I missed the S&M angle on the spanking thing!

    The threat of swats in school helped keep me in line as a kid. I knew they existed and that I didn’t want any part of it. They should bring those back.

    Goodman is pathetically desperate. Krauthhamer had a great piece on why this vindicates Bush. He had the guts to draw a moral line and defend why he drew it there. I was reminded of how when Bush first presented his case it was so even handed that people didn’t know which way he was leaning. Then the end result was shifting energy to research that not only worked but didn’t kill human beings. They really should give Bush the Nobel prize – he deserves it way more than Gore!

    Re. Detroit – they are pathetic as well. It is like they have given up trying to compete. Sad.

  3. Neil,

    You also missed the “Democrat” thing over on Queen of Sword’s blog. You’re slipping these days. :)

    I found the Krauthammer article and will add it to my post. Thank you. :)

    Then the end result was shifting energy to research that not only worked but didn’t kill human beings.

    As it should be.

    What I simply cannot understand is the idea that if you would prefer Y to X, you should give money to X, which will promote the development of Y, or that giving money to X will not influence Y.

    As for the Nobel prize – call me old-fashioned, but why not give it to the research team that did this? While I thoroughly admire Pres. Bush for making this an issue and promoting alternatives to embryonic stem cell research, the credit for the achievement ought to lie with those whose ingenuity, intellect, and work made this possible. (Essentially, I’m non-partisan in my idea that Gore doesn’t deserve the Nobel; he didn’t do anything so much as encourage others. It is much easier to tell people what to do than to actually develop new technology.)

    True that about Detroit. Not only have they given up trying to compete, they won’t even let the government nudge them forward. It’s like watching someone starve himself to death.

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