Why parenting is invalid.

NOTE: I am quite aware that the following entry will be considered crackpot by pretty much everyone, so there’s no need to point that out in your comments. I was going to not allow comments, but I always hate when other people do that on their blog, so just be aware that my deleting policy is gonna be pretty stringent on this one.

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If there is a clear-cut case of hierarchy and exploitation, we don’t need to look at government or religion. We only need to look at parenting, the foundation of our psyches.

Parenting takes place within a strict hierarchical system, with the parents at the top and children at the bottom. The parents are designated as being the people who had sex with each other and whose sperm and egg happened to meet and start the breeding process. Based on this process, it is agreed upon that these two people, who generally have absolutely no understanding whatsoever of how to raise children apart from the example of their own parents, will maintain virtually unlimited power over the new human being, within the private confines of their own home and within an intimidating psychological environment where the child’s livelihood depends on pleasing “his” parents, for a duration of approximately eighteen years.

This seems entirely normal to us because that’s what we’ve experienced our whole pre-adult life. But this idea is batshit insane. There is absolutely no reason to arbitrarily designate the people whose involvement stops at contributing bodily fluid (and in the case of the mother, nine months of purely involuntary cell growth) as being the owners of this new human being, not to mention the absurdity of owning a human being to begin with. There is absolutely no reason to make it as hard as possible for these human beings to be protected from abuse, and to keep them as vulnerable as possible to their possible abusers (which are, most of the time, family or extended family members). There is absolutely no reason to leave something as important as child-raising in the hands of people who have absolutely no understanding of child-raising. I think that, if you were to design a system that was authoritarian, as bad as possible for children, and making it as hard as possible for abuse to be prevented, you’d come up with something like what we have today. Add to this the mind-numbing, socially debilitating effects of the public school system and you’ve got a good portrait of the kind of battering a human mind takes during the first portion of its life.

From an Anarchist standpoint, I can see no possible value to such a system. It is highly authoritarian and highly hierarchical. It is also systemic exploitation because it keeps children captive to a lifestyle and a worldview not of their own choosing, basically molding their own life against their will. An extreme example of this is the Amish custom of rumspringa. The vast majority of Amish teenagers, despite the great attraction of outsider life, choose to stay within their community, because they would never see their family again and have been raised to believe that they would be going to Hell. Well, if most of them had the freedom of choice, they probably wouldn’t choose to be Amish wouldn’t they? While I’m sure some people join in voluntarily, the Amish don’t exactly get a lot of people knocking on their doors.

Parenting, even amongst Anarchists, is considered untouchable. This seems to me more like a hypocrisy than anything else. Anarchists, who are supposed to put forward a better way of life and a better sort of society, forbid themselves from examining the source of the psyche of the individuals that compose that society and the kind of consequences it has. This is like saying that we should find ways to improve computers but never question the idea of the transistor or never question the idea of using binary code. Well, why not?

The first objection people bring up is “little children need our help, they can’t take care of themselves, would you rather they die in the streets?” Obviously I don’t want children to die in the streets, and that’s a pretty transparent tactic. Like most objections I get, it’s a very statist tactic, of the “without X, we’d all be screwed” type.

Which leads us to the answer to this objection. If we accept this argument as the justification for parenting, then we must also accept that most people can take care of a child, and therefore it must be the case that anyone has the right to do it. Anyone could be a parent of any child. But this is obviously not how the parenting system works: it cannot exist without the exclusivity of the designated biological parents (or in cases of abandonment or death, foster parents). So obviously this exclusivity is not based on the needs of the child, but on the needs of the parents, and the objection is therefore irrelevant.

Another common objection is, “well you don’t have any clear alternative, so I reject your points.” That’s not a very good objection though, is it? Why do I need to provide an alternative for my points to be valid? That would be like a secular bloke in the Middle Ages going “well, Creationism is pretty wonky, but we have no clear alternatives so I might as well just believe in it.” That’s daft ain’t it? Obviously we don’t need to know every detail of what’s valid in order to figure out what’s invalid. I don’t know for sure what should replace jails and prisons, but I am still aware that the concept of jail is clearly immoral and stupid. So why shouldn’t I be allowed to say the same about parenting?

Now to the last major objection I get: “your position is unacceptable because it leads to the extinction of the human race.”

First of all, that’s bollocks. My personal belief that parenting is evil does not lead to any extinction of anything. Secondly, I don’t actually advocate that people stop breeding, only that unless we come up with a better system, it’s more moral to simply not breed at all. It’s better for society as a whole and it’s better for the individual. There is simply no rational reason that exists to justify someone breeding, and since it leads to an immoral hierarchy, then why do it?

But suppose that people actually believe what I say (which is extremely unlikely, seeing how many people actually listen to me right now) and adopt it on a widespread basis. Would that lead to the extinction of the human race? Obviously not. No matter the ideology, there’ll always be people who will disagree. Some people are still going to breed. So there’ll never be extinction.

And if you say something like “ah Franc so your ideology can only survive if some people don’t believe in it, that’s a contradiction mate.” To that I’d say that if humans did go extinct, it would not die off any faster than any other ideology, so the point is kinda moot. Besides, what’s so important about one’s ideas that they should survive at all costs? Can’t an idea serve its role and then be discarded, in historical terms? Why not?

The other thing is, what’s so bad about human extinction? This is a serious question, I’m not joshing around. I’m not saying I want humans to go extinct, but I don’t see what’s supposed to be so bad about it. Sure it would make one feel a bit depressed, but it’s not bad per se. How could it be? It has to be an amoral statement, because life is a necessary precondition for morality to even enter the picture. If no one’s alive, there’s no moral issue to begin with, there’s no good or bad (unless you include smart monkeys or alien civilizations in the picture). So yea, I’m not saying everyone needs to be a card-carrying member of VHEMT (they don’t have cards anyway), but I’m saying that there’s no reason to reject the idea prima facie.

Another argument I’ve heard is, “even if there’s still some breeding, most people would be old and ugly, society would cease to be productive, etc etc.” Well that’s rather bigoted isn’t it? Besides, that’s an esthetic preference, not an ethical proposition. So what if you think everyone’s ugly? Just masturbate to old pictures of porn models or something. I don’t really see how this is a big deal. Besides, by the time everyone was old, we’d have the technology to slow down aging, no doubt.

41 thoughts on “Why parenting is invalid.

  1. william December 22, 2008 at 23:18

    <3

    What’s crackpot is divvying up human minds and assigning exclusive ownership titles to them.

    There is nothing I despise more in the “Libertarian” movement than the premise that holding a monopoly position on mentorship over another human being, free of any market competition is somehow a divine right.

  2. billy December 23, 2008 at 01:34

    I do believe that you have a point with the parent-child dynamic being a hierarchical system with one at the top and the latter at the bottom, financially and morally responsible to feed, clothe, house, provide for all medical needs, and furthermore being charged with the child’s education, need for security, safety and protection. Truly a proletarian task those sperm and egg donors have taken upon themselves.

    Do you believe that it is a natural right of a woman to abandon her child, of any age, to the elements?

  3. Francois Tremblay December 23, 2008 at 02:09

    “Do you believe that it is a natural right of a woman to abandon her child, of any age, to the elements?”

    No, I don’t believe anyone has any natural right to shed a responsibility they have voluntarily signed up for, at least not without the consent of all parties involved.

  4. Richard December 23, 2008 at 02:36

    You make a good point about the current system of parenting, but I would like to ask why you do not try to offer an alternative? Surely your vision of a world without a State is more complex than the statement “there is no State”? Surely it includes alternatives, examples the sort of non-coercive social arrangements that could exist in an anarchy? Why, then, would you not try to envision an alternative to contemporary parenting?

    I’ll go ahead and name the obvious one: communal parenting, or the “it takes a village to raise a child” system. It’s far from perfect, but perhaps an acceptable system could be derived from it?

  5. Francois Tremblay December 23, 2008 at 02:56

    My short answer is that the whole area is so aberrated, and there is so much evolution that has simply not happened, that there’s no way a valid solution is going to emerge any time soon. Hence my extinctionist position.

    If I had to take a stab at it, I’d say a communal system, with substantial guarantees regarding child safety, well-being, and most importantly freedom, would be the best avenue to start on. But there is thousands of years of evolution missing in this area. I doubt we could come up with something workable.

  6. billy December 23, 2008 at 06:28

    “No, I don’t believe anyone has any natural right to shed a responsibility they have voluntarily signed up for, at least not without the consent of all parties involved.”

    This scenario is impossible because a child incapable of speech, ability to write, intelligently communicate or understand the ramifications and consequences of choice can not be fully able to contract with others.

    Should a parent, or any adult, allow a 6 year old to play in a busy street or a 9 year old hang from a electrical wire if it strikes their fancy?
    It is wisely considered to be an adult’s responsibility to use even coercion to remove a child from danger.

    To address the question of the mother giving up protection of the child, you deemed this task of protecting the child a ‘responsibility.’ And this responsibility is called ‘motherhood.’

    I fully agree that the age of 18 considered to be adulthood is spurious and, in many ways, serves to extend adolescence well into adulthood and makes these adult-children the property of their parents.

  7. olly December 23, 2008 at 10:34

    Franc — while I understand your points here, and I think it’s valid to question the automatic assumed control over children that parents have, I think that it’s throwing the baby out with the bathwater (no pun intended).

    Questioning hierarchical systems should be the modus operandi of each and every anarchist out there, of that there is no question. However, I am firmly of the opinion that hierarchical structures, in certain instances, are completely natural and unavoidable, and to call the immoral moves towards an absurdist view of life.

    Should parents ‘rights’ (I use that term loosely, trust me) over their children be inviolable? Of course not. I don’t have the right to harm my daughter, physically or emotionally any more than I have the right to harm my neighbor, and for all the same reasons. Do I have a responsibility to my daughter? Yes, as you’ve already mentioned.

    So here’s the conundrum, how do you balance the sovereignty of the child with the responsibility of the parent? How do I respect my daughter’s free will, when as a parent, there will be inevitable times that I must violate it? (As an example, I’m not going to let my daughter wander off in public, or into traffic, even if that’s what she wants to do).

    This is a situation where I don’t believe there IS a better way. The reason that we, as anarchists, can say that the State needs to be eliminated is that we can a.) point towards its flaws, and b.) point towards a better system (or lack thereof) as an alternative. The reason we, as atheists, can say that religion is a problem i that we can do the same.

    But I think that, in the end, if we take each and every argument to the extreme we run into a place where we are being absolutist ourselves. Are hierarchical systems bad? Yes. Are ALL hierarchical systems bad? I can’t honestly say yes to that.

    As anarchists, people are afraid to say that kind of thing, because inevitably some Statist crony will jump down your throat and say “well if one kind of hierarchy (aka parenting) is OK, then maybe Statism is too!”.

    This is no more valid than a Theist saying “you accept that gravity exists, even though it’s a theory and not a proven fact, so then it’s valid for me to claim that God exists.”

    Just thinking out loud here.

    -olly

  8. Anarcho-pragmatiste December 23, 2008 at 12:00

    Very interesting post François. I’m not sure that I agree with all but the more I re-read your post the most it makes sense for me.

  9. Anarcho-pragmatiste December 23, 2008 at 12:00

    I’m not sure that I agree with all but the more I re-read your post the more it makes sense for me.

  10. Zargon December 23, 2008 at 13:54

    The problem is definitely there. Even until adulthood and even until one of the parties dies, many (most?) people continue to act in the parent-child;owner-owned manner.

    I think the best chance of anything actually being done about the parent-child hierarchy is if a stateless society comes into existence. I don’t know what would happen, as I don’t know how most things would work in such a society, but I would think that in a stateless society, people would reject arbitrary authority (otherwise they’d just rebuild the government they lost). Perhaps that could carry over to the arbitrary authority in parent-child hierarchies.

    It’s true that the common parent-child hierarchy is an immoral one. But wouldn’t a person who was aware of that be able to not use that hierarchy of power, and instill in them a sense of morality instead? Granted, some parts of that hierarchy are currently outside the parent’s control, but that seems like a reasonably moral path of follow.

  11. Francois Tremblay December 23, 2008 at 14:32

    “This scenario is impossible because a child incapable of speech, ability to write, intelligently communicate or understand the ramifications and consequences of choice can not be fully able to contract with others.”

    That’s kindof my point, yea.

    “Should a parent, or any adult, allow a 6 year old to play in a busy street or a 9 year old hang from a electrical wire if it strikes their fancy?
    It is wisely considered to be an adult’s responsibility to use even coercion to remove a child from danger.”

    Yes… no one disagrees about that. So what? If you actually read my entry, you’d have seen that I already refuted that argument.

  12. Matt December 23, 2008 at 14:45

    There doesn’t need to be an alternative to parenting in order to continue breeding. Breeding does not imply parenting.

    On the issue of what to replace prisons with: how about nothing? Similarly, parenting need not be replaced with anything. Having a newborn human being share common shelter with it’s birth-givers does not imply parenting, or hierarchy. An adult-child relationship should be judged in the same fashion as adult-adult relationships. No monopoly on mentorship should be implied, the child can come and go as he or she pleases—that is, in a free world.

    I fully recognize the oppressive authority adults hold over youth in this world. But I think that a future of liberty—of anarchy—for humanity, is an infinitely more moral goal than the forfeit of humanity, just because we couldn’t think hard enough about alternatives.

    What should parenting be replaced with? With nothing. Young humans and adult humans should be considered equals. This is not a problem for anarchism, this is a problem for authority. The solution is anarchy.

  13. Francois Tremblay December 23, 2008 at 15:00

    “So here’s the conundrum, how do you balance the sovereignty of the child with the responsibility of the parent? How do I respect my daughter’s free will, when as a parent, there will be inevitable times that I must violate it?”

    She’s not YOUR daughter. She is a separate human being from you. It is your assumption of possession that muddles your reasoning.

    In an ideal society, you’d have no more responsibility towards her than society as a whole. Unfortunately, we do not live in such societies, and thus you are responsible for her. But that gives you no right whatsoever above and beyond the ones you already had as a human being.

    “(As an example, I’m not going to let my daughter wander off in public, or into traffic, even if that’s what she wants to do).”

    If she’s too young to understand the consequences, we can’t say that she’s making an informed choice. If she does understand what she’s doing, then you have no right to stop her.

    “Are ALL hierarchical systems bad? I can’t honestly say yes to that. ”

    Name one hierarchical system that is not bad. You yourself seem to believe that parenting is a “necessary evil.”

  14. olly December 24, 2008 at 11:58

    “She’s not YOUR daughter. She is a separate human being from you. It is your assumption of possession that muddles your reasoning.”

    I’m not claiming possession here, just using a common term “my daughter” as in “the daughter produced when my wife and I conceived a child”. Please let me know how you’d rather I present that, but assume that for the rest of this response, I’m using “my daughter” as a shorthand, not a possessive.

    “If she’s too young to understand the consequences, we can’t say that she’s making an informed choice. If she does understand what she’s doing, then you have no right to stop her.”

    Agreed — but let me ask this, does my responsibility as a parent end once the child’s ability to reason is fully formed? There is a separation to be made here I think: ‘control’ on the one hand, and ‘responsibility’ on the other. Control is the expression of hierarchy (whether that control is perceived or real), whereas responsibility is an expression of a biological urge (to protect one’s young) that transcends whether or not they are a ‘child’ or an ‘adult’ (no matter what arbitrary age is chosen for that).

    “Name one hierarchical system that is not bad. You yourself seem to believe that parenting is a “necessary evil.””

    Perhaps I need to clarify. I don’t see parenting as a ‘necessary evil’, so much as a natural part of life. One of the commenters above made the statement that ‘breeding does not imply parenting’… but I’d argue this isn’t necessarily true from an evolutionary standpoint. Part of what has given humans an advantage over other species on the planet is the longevity that we spend nurturing our young.

    I think that the real question here is not whether parenting itself is an evil hierarchy, but rather the difference between a natural hierarchy and an imposed hierarchy… or in other words, how exactly are we defining hierarchy?

    Is it evil that humans are more advanced, and thus capable of taking advantage of and using, animals and plants? Is this not a species hierarchy?

    Is it evil that some humans are more intelligent, more capable, and thus go further in life than others? Is this not an intelligence hierarchy?

    Or does a hierarchy ALWAYS imply subjugation of one persons will by another, in other words top down force?

    IF the last is true, then parenting could be said to be fine and moral up until the point when a child is capable of making their own, rational decisions, and then it’s no longer moral.

    If a hierarchy is a control of one persons freedoms and actions by another, and we make the claim that only someone who understands the consequences of their actions have the right to make those actions, then parenting is:

    a) not a hierarchy prior to the point where a child can make rational decisions, and

    b) an immoral hierarchy AFTER that point.

    So throwing parenting out as a whole seems rather ludicrous, and the only real question becomes ‘at what age is a child capable of making informed, rational decisions?’

    -olly

  15. Francois Tremblay December 24, 2008 at 12:09

    You didn’t read my entry either, apparently, since I already refuted the proof of parenting through child needs. The only “ludicrous” fact is that you’re still defending it.

    I already defined hierarchy as any social system where control is used in a way that is both systemic and directed. See this entry:
    https://francoistremblay.wordpress.com/2008/10/01/why-hierarchies-are-immoral/

  16. Richard December 24, 2008 at 12:17

    Olly–

    I see where you’re coming from, although I do believe a communal system of some sort would be better for safeguarding the liberty of children. However, I’d like to set that aside and address the question, ‘at what age is a child capable of making informed, rational decisions?’

    The problem here is that this age will be different for each individual, and thus cannot be assigned externally. Therefore, the child itself must be the one to make this judgment. I think the best way to deal with this is to simply wait until the child is old enough to declare itself “free” of its parents, at which point any attempt to restrict its freedom would be considered a “bad” hierarchy, or one that is contrary to anarchist principles. To misapply a quote by Voltaire: “Man is free at the instant he wants to be.”

    Of course, some parents might try to intimidate children into NOT “declaring their independence”, if you will. That’s where a communal system comes in; it would be much less likely to exert such an influence on the children.

  17. Azrael December 24, 2008 at 12:35

    If we lived in a free world I hope that would mean people were more mature and knowledgable. This should lead to better ideas and people to raise children. Currently though we have a world full of infant minded adults taking care of real infants.

  18. olly December 24, 2008 at 12:46

    @Franc — I don’t think you fully did refute parenting through child needs. If a child is incapable of taking care of themselves, is ‘parenting’ that child (as in providing shelter, instruction on survival, food, etc) immoral?

    As for the idea that the parenting system has some exclusivity to it: “But this is obviously not how the parenting system works: it cannot exist without the exclusivity of the designated biological parents (or in cases of abandonment or death, foster parents). So obviously this exclusivity is not based on the needs of the child, but on the needs of the parents, and the objection is therefore irrelevant.”

    I think you are colluding ‘parenting’ and ‘legal parental status’ here. ‘Parenting’ is a relational system between ‘rational adults’ and ‘pre-rational’ children. ‘Legal parental status’ is something conferred by the State, whether it’s biological or foster or whatever.

    So if you are arguing that the idea of some sort of recognized ‘legal parental status’ is somehow immoral, then yes, I’d agree. But parenting in and of itself doesn’t seem to be immoral.

    Parenting, as a way of helping young survive to the point where they are capable of their own survival (i.e. making rational decisions, protecting themselves, etc) would seem to be very different from control a la the State, which seeks to control people for it’s own gain (no matter how benevolent the State may claim to be, it’s own gain is always the end directive).

    Now, if you define hierarchy as “any social system where control is used in a way that is both systemic and directed”, then perhaps parenting would indeed, in my view, be a hierarchy that is acceptable and good… again, always with the qualifier ‘up until the point where the child can make their own rational choices’.

    @Richard — I think you are correct in how you stated it… there IS no set age (as that would always be arbitrary).

    -olly

  19. Francois Tremblay December 25, 2008 at 06:16

    “I think you are colluding ‘parenting’ and ‘legal parental status’ here. ‘Parenting’ is a relational system between ‘rational adults’ and ‘pre-rational’ children. ‘Legal parental status’ is something conferred by the State, whether it’s biological or foster or whatever.

    So if you are arguing that the idea of some sort of recognized ‘legal parental status’ is somehow immoral, then yes, I’d agree. But parenting in and of itself doesn’t seem to be immoral.”

    Kay, what in the hell are you talking about? There’s no distinction. The parenting system is enforced by law. You can’t legitimately claim to be any other child’s parent.

  20. olly December 29, 2008 at 01:06

    Franc —

    Parenting System: the way in which society imparts survival knowledge to the young of the species (that knowledge changes constantly, as what it takes to survive in a modern society is very different than 10,000 years ago, but the general way in which it is transmitted is the same).

    Legal Parenting System (or Legal Parental Status): protecting who is allowed to impart this knowledge to specific individuals (meaning that a biological parent has the right to limit who can impart knowledge).

    There IS a difference I’d argue. The first is simply the accepted way in which this works, and yes it could use some improvement, and definitely could use some re-examination, but the actual act of Parenting someone is not immoral. Again, all I’m saying here is that parenting itself is not the problem. The problem is that parenting was, at some point, rigidly enshrined in law as The Only Right Way (TM).

    Is the way in which people act as parents to the children they conceive flawed in some way? Sure, as is EVERYTHING that humans attempt– there is always room for improvement. But I’d argue that this isn’t a moral problem, just something that needs to be improved.

    The moral problem is when people stop being willing to question the system, and more importantly when that system is codified by the State into some holy scripture. The moral issue here is when somewhere along the lines, the State got its tentacles into everyday life, took a mono-cultural view of the adult/child relationship (in the case of N. American cultures, the idea of tribal/communal raising of children is anathema to the whole ‘nuclear family’ approach, as an example), and setup legal status, legal guardianship, etc, that specified ‘who’ could raise children and ‘what’ that entailed.

    In the end, I personally feel like it should be up to each community/parent/etc as to how children are raised. Once that child is capable of declaring themselves no longer in need of ‘raising’ (as was mentioned by another commenter) then there is no reason that a community/family/etc should have any say.

    In other words, trying to force anything from the outside is a very statist attitude, whereas letting the child/adult relationship develop naturally makes more sense.

    I said in my first comment that I largely see where you are coming from, and that hasn’t changed. I applaud you for questioning the system of parenting, as I think it is necessary (as I said, every system should be questioned by anarchists as a rule of thumb). All I am trying to get across here is that there IS in fact a difference between the moral status and validity of parenting as a social/cultural phenomenon, and parenting as a codified State system.

    -olly

  21. Francois Tremblay December 29, 2008 at 01:23

    Okay, that’s fine. You can make the distinctions if you want. I don’t really agree with it myself but to each his own.

  22. Aahz January 8, 2009 at 20:10

    Hey Francois!

    I know I’m coming late to the party, but here I am anyway…

    The problem with this entire post is a simple one: you didn’t Check Your Premises.

    You start out with the assertion that “Parenting takes place within a strict hierarchical system, with the parents at the top and children at the bottom.”. This is assertion is invalid as a truism. This may be how MUCH parenting takes place, but it is neither a definition nor a requirement of parenting per se.

    Zaira and I do not have a “top-down” relationship. We have one of mutual respect and admiration. She listens to my suggestions because she understands that, having lived longer, I’m more wise than she.

    Yes, there are times when “orders” are given, but these are no different than the orders an employer gives an employee. She is free to ignore or refuse those orders (and sometimes does), but then she must suffer the withdrawal of the benefits she receives from the relationship (both emotional and material).

    She is free to leave my “care” at any time, but (usually) recognizes that she does not yet have the necessary skill set to provide for herself, so she chooses to remain.

    Of course, in modern society the State will drag her back into my home should she decide to strike off on her own, but that is a problem with government, not with parenting.

  23. Francois Tremblay January 9, 2009 at 04:13

    “Yes, there are times when “orders” are given, but these are no different than the orders an employer gives an employee.”

    And by that single sentence you have neatly refuted the rest of your comment.

    Thank you for playing, though.

    “Of course, in modern society the State will drag her back into my home should she decide to strike off on her own, but that is a problem with government, not with parenting.”

    You can’t dissociate the two. You can’t talk about parenting without the State any more than you can talk about capitalism without the State. They are all interlinked.

  24. Aahz January 9, 2009 at 13:29

    So, you don’t believe in employees, Francois? Then how do you expect to accomplish anything? If you pay a gardener to mow your lawn do you not “order” him on how you would like it to be done? Do you not “order” food at a restaurant, instead just sitting and hoping the waitress will bring you something palatable in her own sweet time? Of course not. You’re being ridiculous simply because you refuse to entertain the possibility that you could be wrong. Not an attractive quality my friend.

    Anarchy does not mean a world without contracts and agreements. How would anything get accomplished if efforts could not be combined? The problem with government is force and monopoly of power. Neither exists in the parent-child relationship Zaira and I have established.

    And since when do you believe that nothing can be separated from the state? I was inspired by your book, Who Will Build The Roads, primarily because it makes several clear examples of how everything can be separated from the State. When did your outlook change, Franois?

  25. Francois Tremblay January 9, 2009 at 16:29

    “So, you don’t believe in employees, Francois? Then how do you expect to accomplish anything?”

    Spoken like a true capitalist.

    “You’re being ridiculous simply because you refuse to entertain the possibility that you could be wrong.”

    I didn’t know being a socialist was de facto ridiculous. You sure made me see the error of my ways. I’ll make sure to tell all my mutualist friends. I’m sure they will welcome your input as well as I did.

    “The problem with government is force and monopoly of power. Neither exists in the parent-child relationship Zaira and I have established.”

    Bullshit. You have a monopoly of parenting power over her and you have the freedom to use force at any time you wish. Your mealy-mouthed denials do not change the facts.

    Parenting does not become a “good hierarchy” because you happen to think you’re a “good parent.” Hierarchies cannot magically become morally good because of the people in them. Their properties are systemic and can only be eradicated by a systemic eradication.

  26. Aahz January 9, 2009 at 17:08

    First off, I didn’t mention socialism at all. When did you become a socialist? I thought you were a voluntaryist? In fact, I first discovered your site as a result of this quote:
    “that our ultimate goal is to promote society against the State, and not any specific ideal, and two, that victory can only be achieved by voluntary means.” So if that’s no longer your belief, then I’m curious why it changed. if you posted about this change a link would be much appreciated.

    As for socialism, here’s what you said about it back in March:
    “Socialism (mixed economy)- Control them. Redistribute wealth in accordance with political goals (such as the expansion of the welfare class and the dominance of nationalized industries). This is the ideal of the government as bureaucratic planner of society: man proposes, the State disposes.”

    And yes, I’m a capitalist. Why? Because it works where socialism fails. Neither of these economic systems contradict with the philosophy of anarchy.

    Once again, you didn’t answer my questions, Francois-
    You don’t believe in employees?
    You don’t place an order at restaurants and withhold payment if it doesn’t arrive?
    How do you expect to delegate ANY responsibility in order to accomplish things?
    Can you show me (and your readers) the respect of actually addressing the issues rather than batting them away with nonsensical one liners? please?

    I have no monopoly of power over Zaira. She has the power to do as she wishes, every time, all the time. Should I use force upon her I will be morally wrong, period, and she will have every right to defend herself against that force. Why do you insist that she does not? More importantly, where is the evidence to back up your premise?

  27. Francois Tremblay January 9, 2009 at 17:18

    “First off, I didn’t mention socialism at all. When did you become a socialist? I thought you were a voluntaryist?”

    You have apparently not been following my blog. It actually happened a couple months ago.

    “You don’t believe in employees?”

    Nope. It’s crap.

    “You don’t place an order at restaurants and withhold payment if it doesn’t arrive?”

    You are being disingenuous by equivocating on the two meanings of the word “order,” as being both a customer request and a command from someone higher then you in a hierarchy of work.

    Since I know you are smart enough to understand this, I think you are trying to troll me.

    “How do you expect to delegate ANY responsibility in order to accomplish things?”

    Non sequitur. There’s no relation between the delegation of responsibility and having a capitlaist or socialist structure of work.

    “Can you show me (and your readers) the respect of actually addressing the issues rather than batting them away with nonsensical one liners? please?”

    I already addressed these issues on my blog, so I don’t feel the need to address them here. Furthermore, I don’t debate people on comments sections, and it’s not really there for me to expound on issues that are irrelevant to the article itself. If you want to talk about them, write your own blog entry.

    Finally, since I don’t think you are being straight with me right now, I have even less intention of debating anything with you than I would otherwise. I’d be willing to debate capitalism and socialism, given the right venue, but not here.

    “I have no monopoly of power over Zaira.”

    Stop saying bullshit that you know for a fact is not true.

    “Should I use force upon her I will be morally wrong, period, and she will have every right to defend herself against that force. Why do you insist that she does not?”

    You are evading. I never said she did not, in fact, have the right to defend herself against your claims over her. But such right is not recognized by the capital-democratic society we live under.

  28. Aahz January 9, 2009 at 17:37

    No, I haven’t been following your blog. And I can’t find any explanation of the change. I’m curious why someone who went so far as to write and self-publish a book that speaks out against socialism would change. Again a link would be much appreciated.

    As for my supposedly being disingenuous, this is not the case. Nor am I trying to bait or even debate you. I’m trying to UNDERSTAND.

    The parenting relationship I have with my daughter is no different than the customer-employee relationship you have with your waitress. Do I make requests of Zaira? Yes. Does she HAVE to do what I ask? Only if she wants to receive the benefits. This is not a hierarchy – it’s a mutual agreed to relationship – the same as that of server and diner.

    You’re absolutely right that Zaira’s power is not recognized by the state, but that doesn’t cause its existence to cease. Remove the state and parenting relationships are perfectly valid. I’ve read your post several times and don’t see an argument proving otherwise.

    I’ve always said you’re a smarter man than I, Francois (which is why I paid my money for your book, to learn from your wisdom). So perhaps you can indulge me an rephrase that part of the post in hopes that I’ll better understand.

  29. Francois Tremblay January 10, 2009 at 12:15

    “No, I haven’t been following your blog. And I can’t find any explanation of the change. I’m curious why someone who went so far as to write and self-publish a book that speaks out against socialism would change.”

    I’ve never written any book that speaks out against socialism. If you mean my book on Market Anarchy, I may have mentioned it extremely briefly, but I was using the common definition, not the technical one.

    “Again a link would be much appreciated.”

    https://francoistremblay.wordpress.com/2008/08/27/the-profit-motive/

    “As for my supposedly being disingenuous, this is not the case. Nor am I trying to bait or even debate you. I’m trying to UNDERSTAND.”

    I definitely think your comments are being disingenuous. You are a parent, so you have no interest in being honest about this issue.

    Believe me, I have debated this issue a great deal, and the number of people willing to be honest about it is very small. It’s not a demerit on your part.

    “The parenting relationship I have with my daughter is no different than the customer-employee relationship you have with your waitress.”

    Wrong. The customer does not hold any power to fire, change the working conditions, or otherwise affect the livelihood of the waitress (or if so, in an entirely indirect manner). The customers cannot *give orders* to the waitress. The customer is not a superior to the waitress on her work hierarchy. There is no control being exerted by the customer (unless he is such an asshole that he is manipulating her emotionally or somesuch).

    “This is not a hierarchy – it’s a mutual agreed to relationship – the same as that of server and diner.”

    No, consent cannot exist where there is no viable way to opt out. You cannot “agree” to a parenting relationship, as a child, any more than you can agree to live under a State. See this entry for more details:
    http://radgeek.com/gt/2009/01/08/can_anybody/

    “You’re absolutely right that Zaira’s power is not recognized by the state, but that doesn’t cause its existence to cease. Remove the state and parenting relationships are perfectly valid.”

    No, not at all. Remove the state and there’s still a hierarchy. The only thing that changed is who is enforcing it. But of course you deny that the hierarchy exists in the first place, so we can’t talk about this until you first admit there is a hierarchy.

    “I’ve always said you’re a smarter man than I, Francois (which is why I paid my money for your book, to learn from your wisdom).”

    My intelligence has been vastly overestimated. What I do have is the ability to change my mind very rapidly when I’m proven wrong. It saves me from being embarrassed about my own mistakes.

  30. Aaron April 20, 2009 at 16:17

    Hi Francois,

    I’ve recently stumbled on your blog, so please excuse me if I entirely miss what you’ve written, and for commenting on an older post.

    First, I’ll get my bias out of the way. I am the parent of a 3 month old boy. Also, it is not my intention to debate you, or even really disagree per se, but I wish to better understand what you’ve written.

    With that in mind, I want to walk through my understanding of what you’ve written, and put forth the questions that I have, and hopefully you can tell me where I have missed your point.

    “Parenting takes place within a strict hierarchical system, with the parents at the top and children at the bottom. The parents are designated as being the people who had sex with each other and whose sperm and egg happened to meet and start the breeding process. Based on this process, it is agreed upon that these two people, who generally have absolutely no understanding whatsoever of how to raise children apart from the example of their own parents, will maintain virtually unlimited power over the new human being, within the private confines of their own home and within an intimidating psychological environment where the child’s livelihood depends on pleasing “his” parents, for a duration of approximately eighteen years.”

    I agree with that. I flat out reject the notion that because I had sex with my wife and had a baby, that I somehow was granted any sort of legitimate power or authority over that child to make him do my bidding. I have no more power to order that child to do something than I have the power to order you to do something.

    Now I can exercise power over that child, just like I can exercise power over an adult given the proper means. If I had a gun to your head, I can make you do a lot of things you don’t want to do. Similarly, I can coerce my child to do something that they don’t want to do, through yelling, hitting, and other intimidation tactics. Both of these relationships are immoral.

    When I exert power over you, I have established a hierarchy. When I exert power over a child, I have established a hierarchy. When an employer exerts power over employees, he has established a hierarchy. When people in the government exerts power over citizens, they have established a hierarchy.

    If I ask you to do something without coercing you, and you find the transaction beneficial, we can complete a ‘voluntary’ exchange. If everyone did this in every relationship, we have reached our anarchist goal.

    So my question is, can a relationship exist between an adult and a child without the adult coercing the child? If so, then shouldn’t the finger of reproach be pointed at the coercion and not “parenting” in general (and perhaps that is what you are doing, our definitions of “parenting” might not be aligning). If not, why not?

    Let’s draw the parallels to the capitalist employer-employee relationship. One could say, “well the if the employee doesn’t like the employer, then they can find a new job, and thus the relationship is voluntary, and no coercion exists.” I find that lacking, because the coercion and violence that underpins the system make it so that person does not truly have the freedom to opt out of that hierarchy. So the employer-employee relationship is coercive, not usually directly, but indirectly due to state violence.

    One could say regarding parenting, “well, if the child doesn’t like the parent, then they can find new parents. The relationship is mutual.” I find that lacking as well. The child cannot really do that, especially in this society. Unless he is amazingly resourceful, it’s unlikely that he will be able to provide himself food, shelter, clothing, etc. So in a sense, they have no choice out of the relationship. And a baby has literally no choice.

    So one could then say “see, the situations are similar. The parent-child relationship is as immoral as the employer-employee relationship.” I find that flawed. The employer-employee relationship is immoral because it is necessarily underpinned by violence. Remove the violence, and the relationship can dissolve into a voluntary exchange, or not exist at all. The parent-child relationship does not necessarily exist because of violence. Remove someone from providing at the least the necessities for living, and the child will die.

    I agree that the “institution where an adult exercises power over a child ‘for their own good'” is immoral. But only because it’s coercive. An adult providing at least the necessities for a child to live, is not immoral in and of itself. When I talk about being my son’s parent, I speak of the latter. A relationship where I provide him with the resources to flourish, without coercing him into my idea of what a son should be. Is that going to be easy? Hell no. Is it a tragedy when a parent does coerce a child? Absolutely. But I don’t think that because people have been violent towards children, and because the relationship is very exploitable, doesn’t mean that parenting is invalid or immoral. Exploiting the child is immoral.

    I appreciate your thoughts, and thanks for reading, Francois.

  31. Francois Tremblay April 20, 2009 at 16:24

    Thank you for posting, Aaron. As it turns out, we’re in agreement on pretty much everything! I am pleasantly surprised.

    However, your question itself is kinda puzzling. You agree that having two people be “parents” on the basis of having had sex is unjust, and you agree that hierarchies are unjust, but you’re asking me whether a parental relationship could be just if it wasn’t coercive? Do you see the problem here? Or am I not stating your position correctly?

    Of course one would prefer parenting to be non-coercive over it being coercive. I think everyone does. In the same way, we hope governments will be less coercive and leave people alone as much as possible. But it is the hierarchy itself that is the root problem, not the behaviour of individuals, who by and large do not question their status and act according to their self-interest.

  32. Aaron April 20, 2009 at 17:52

    “[Y]ou’re asking me whether a parental relationship could be just if it wasn’t coercive? Do you see the problem here? Or am I not stating your position correctly?”

    Perhaps a little of both. Reading back my post and I don’t think I was as clear as I could have been, so I’ll try again. (And this is still a work in progress in my mind, so I’ve doubtfully thought of all the implications/problems).

    My position to hierarchies (parent-child, employer-employee, state-citizens, etc, as normally defined) is similar to my position on monopolies, in that they don’t exist in the absence of violence. Just as a company cannot maintain dominant control of a market without the violence of the state, a hierarchy cannot exist in the absence of violence. If the state suddenly lost its power to enforce its laws, can we really call the relationship with citizens exploitive anymore? If an employer loses his violent control over employees, can that relationship be considered exploitive? In my mind, once you remove the violence, everyone is on an equal playing field (because there is no way to enforce someone’s preference over another without both parties mutually agreeing), and thus hierarchies disappear.

    So my position is that the raising of a child from birth to the point they can function on their own, is not a hierarchy (whether that relationship is the traditional two parent, or some communal or something entirely different) in the absence of coercion/violence. I can almost hear someone screaming, “but a two parent is relationship to a child is by definition a hierarchy! Don’t just redefine the word!” and I guess I can’t really fault them for saying that. But again, I assert that relationships in absence of violence are voluntary, and therefore cannot be hierarchal. “But children cannot choose! Therefore it cannot be voluntary!” Right, but the difference I see is that it’s not that children aren’t allowed to choose, it’s that they are biologically unable to choose (at least for a time). There’s a big difference between being physically incapable of choosing, and having a gun (or other intimidating mechanism) pointed at your head telling you can’t do something or have to do something. For example, I don’t think we can call a relationship with a person taking care of a mentally retarded adult who cannot care for himself a hierarchy and therefore immoral. If we do define it as a hierarchy in spite of the non violence (assuming there is no violence), then I find it difficult saying hierarchy is the root of the our problems (at least in that case!).

    So I guess it’s kind of a chicken before the egg dilemma. I’m thinking violence/exploits begets hierarchies, not hierarchies begets violence/exploits.

    I don’t know if that’s any clearer. Thoughts?

  33. Francois Tremblay April 20, 2009 at 20:27

    The piece of the puzzle that you’re missing is that without the coercion or exploitation, the system doesn’t exist any more. Without laws, the State would cease to exist. Without the land and money monopolies, capitalism would cease to exist. Without the enforced rules of parenting, parenting would cease to exist.

    I am your superior. I tell you what to do and you depend on me for your subsistence so you do what I tell you. Now an alternative opens up, where you can do what you want, not what I want. So naturally you decide that this system was wrong all along, that I have no power over you whatsoever, and that we’re actually both equal and so there’s no reason for anyone to order anyone else around. What would you do? You’d say “okay, bye now” and simply leave. Once the need is removed, there’s no reason for you to stay.

    You get what I’m driving at?

    I think the main issue here is that you say “voluntary relationships are not hierarchical.” But that’s not true at all! This whole society is voluntary, isn’t it? We agree to everything that is done to us because we have no other choice. We can’t resist, and we can’t fight, so we “consent.” Then we internalize fear of disagreement until we start lashing out at anyone who’s out of line. People internalize the “might makes right” principle and rationalize it because the alternative- that we actually live under a system of systemic coercion- is too frightening to confront.

    Control is the root of our problems. Hierarchy are a form of organized control. They are the expression of the control mentality in a society. So socially speaking, hierarchies are the root of the problem. When people put themselves up as superiors and try to subjugate other people’s moral responsibility while using that subjugation for their own class interests, that’s where the greatest evils come from. That’s where war comes from, that’s where starvation and poverty comes from, that’s where bigotry comes from, that’s where a lot of hatred and violence comes from. If you could just have people see each other as equals and go “oh yea, I am not this or that social role, I am actually a person with my own values and I should do anything I actually want, not because I was ordered or indoctrinated to do it,” then you’d have an incredibly moral and creative society.

  34. Aaron April 21, 2009 at 09:38

    I *think* I get what your are driving at. I am very curious about this statement though,

    “I think the main issue here is that you say “voluntary relationships are not hierarchical.” But that’s not true at all! This whole society is voluntary, isn’t it? We agree to everything that is done to us because we have no other choice. We can’t resist, and we can’t fight, so we “consent.””

    This sounds nonsensical to me, which usually means I’m missing the point. I guess I define the word ‘voluntary’ as a non-coerced decision, or “proceeding from the will or from one’s own choice or consent” (to quote merriam-webster). I guess I don’t see how because I pay taxes because I’m afraid I will be thrown in prison or killed, means I’m voluntarily paying my taxes. Yes, I did choose paying taxes over death, but I can hardly call that voluntary, otherwise we’ve stripped the word of its meaning so much that every conceivable action is deemed ‘voluntary’. A woman with a knife to her throat who is told “scream and I’ll kill you” can’t possibly mean she consented and voluntarily had sex with the rapist, right? I can’t see the use in making the phrase ‘voluntary action’ mean just ‘action’.

    To briefly sum up how I understand your parenting point: children are dependent on their parents, which is a form of control, which is bad. The dependency is largely biological, and until either our evolution fixes that, or we have a system that can overcome evolution, the only way we can avoid that control structure is to not participate in breeding. Does that sound fair?

    I guess my main point of contention is that you see the source of societies problem as the control structure, and I see that as following from either coercion/violence, or biological imperative (i.e., children have to be dependent on some sort of “parenting” structure). I do see the violence/control structure being a feedback loop, where the violence breeds hierarchy, and hierarchy breeds further violence/exploits. Maybe the control structure is the root of the problem, but if we say that, it feels like we are resigning the fight to saying “well, evolution fucked us over.” And I guess it probably did. :P

    Anyway, I’d agree that it’d be better if the control structure of the parent-child relationship (through the child’s dependency, not the parents’ coercion) were avoidable, however I can’t jump to the conclusion of no breeding as a solution (which may be my personal bias, which I’m ok with for now :)

    I’ll definitely keep pondering your position; I find it interesting. Thanks for chatting, Francois. Very thought provoking post!

  35. Francois Tremblay April 21, 2009 at 14:24

    Voluntary and consent don’t mean the same thing, at least as I understand it. Consent is an actual determined fact and implies the existence of viable alternatives. Voluntary choice implies nothing but non-coerced agreement. No one’s holding a gun to your head to hold a job or vote (I wouldn’t call rape or taxes voluntary).

    I think you are implying that hierarchies are evolutionary and thus part of our basic nature. I have no evidence of that whatsoever and I reject that wholeheartedly. We can build new ways of relating to each other that are not hierarchical and based on control.

    If you start from the premise that we can’t, anyway, what’s the point? We might as well just resign ourselves to being controlled. But I don’t accept that as a viable premise.

  36. Aaron April 21, 2009 at 14:56

    “I think you are implying that hierarchies are evolutionary and thus part of our basic nature. I have no evidence of that whatsoever and I reject that wholeheartedly.”

    I agree completely (that hierarchies DO NOT have to be)! So I must be either entirely dense to your point, or having a tough time communicating mine because an unborn child is dependent on something external to itself (obviously), and I was understanding what you were saying as that fact creates the hierarchy/control with a “parent” relationship, and therefore parenting is invalid (because control structures are invalid). So I thought it was you that was saying hierarchies are evolutionary and thus part of our basic nature, and that we should stop breeding until we figure something better out.

    Maybe an example of what you see as relationship where a child is dependent on external people that’s not hierarchical and therefore a viable system? (I’m asking as a way to help me understand, not as an objection to what you are saying).

  37. Francois Tremblay April 21, 2009 at 15:01

    No, I am not saying that a child depending on another person necessarily creates a hierarchy. Charity is not hierarchical. I am saying we need to stop breeding until a solution is widely implemented, or at least available to the individual. What form that solution should take, well, that’s not up to me to dictate, and I have no concrete plan of what it might look like. We have hundreds of thousands of years of lag on this one, and even the best genius couldn’t figure out how it SHOULD have been. We’re gonna have to create something entirely new.

  38. Sean August 26, 2009 at 04:12

    I don’t think there is anything “crackpot” about this post at all.

    Is it crackpot to try to get people to question things they may never have thought to question before?

    If this entry is crackpottery, then anarchists in general are all crackpots (and the mainstream culture certainly views it that way now), but of course I don’t believe we are.

  39. Francois Tremblay August 26, 2009 at 04:18

    Thank you for the nice comment. I’ve talked to people on this topic before, and I know what the general reaction is, so that’s why I try to put disclaimers. Still, it doesn’t seem to help much.

  40. […] this argument on this blog, so I will not repeat myself. You can read more about it in my entry Why parenting is invalid and in the second half of my entry The moral and ethical problems of childbirth. This argument, at […]

  41. […] it because of the hierarchical structure of parenting. But unless Broadsnark is ready to take an anti-parenting stance (which I very much doubt), this is a disingenuous response. Why even bring it up, except to divert […]

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