“To punish me for my contempt for authority, fate made me an authority myself.” ― Albert Einstein
This week Netflix quietly rolled out a feature on many of it’s kids and family friendly films and ‘TV’ series – the new addition involves the unlocking of ‘Patches’, a type of e-Sticker, as a reward for watching; the ‘Patches’ can be shared among friends and be used as a talking point for fans of shows and series available online.
On the surface it appears as if Netflix have adopted this feature to try to create a ‘buzz’ around certain series or as an incentive to watch shows by tapping into the popular sticker or card trading culture in the playground and on kid’s social media.
But the feature hasn’t gone down well with parents and commentators. Many were quick to jump on Twitter and Facebook to condemn Netflix for the feature, claiming that it encourages ‘binge watching’ and will only add to the time kids are spending in front screens; which they claim, when in excess, is detrimental to the development of a child.
But this reaction, to what I see as a harmless marketing feature to generate buzz around certain shows, instantly irked me. Increasingly parents, commentators and social activists alike expect the government or private business to act as Mother and Father; seemingly so they don’t have to.
Be it with the Netflix ‘Patches’ furore or bans on advertising certain sweets or ‘unhealthy’ snacks during family friendly shows, it feels as if parents want to pass the burden of parenting onto someone other than themselves, to make their lives easier. But newsflash Mum’s and Dad’s of the world, parenting is hard. Enforcing bans on perfectly reasonable advertising or marketing schemes only serves to damage commerce and puts unnecessary financial burdens or regulations on private businesses – Which to all libertarians is a given.
However, what actually needs to be addressed is the weakness and failure of the parent to resist the nagging of the child who wants the candy, sugary drink or extra screen time. If these parents are informed and aware that they need to limit intake of certain foods activities, why is resisting the pestering or nagging of the child so hard? Do we not care about our children enough to say “No!”?
Would we give in to a teenager who wanted to attend a party in the rough parts of town with potential criminals? Of course not. We realise that when it comes to safeguarding our children, we must make decisions that are going to make us unpopular for the evening, or at the worst, the week. But we realise its necessary to protect our children from running into danger or potential harm.
By side-stepping the conversation with our children about reasons why excess’ of certain foods and activities is important, we are avoiding the valuable opportunity of teaching our children important lessons about consequences, healthy lifestyles and how to live a rich and happy life. We are simply circumventing those conversations by asking for bans on private business’ operating normally and hiding their product like it’s a dirty magazine off the top-shelf.
All this will serve to do is produce a generation of people who think’s the world owes them something and that it is the job of others to regulate their actions, and by extension their lives. Or even worse, if we give in, a generation who think if they cause enough of a fuss, people will bow to their will and give them everything they want, even if they don’t deserve it. Essentially a band of mini-Socialists.
Not only are the measures we enforce on companies to do our parenting for us a total violation of Libertarian principles, they are allowing parents to shirk their duties towards their children and continue the march towards the replacement of the family unit by the State.
Some Libertarians however would argue while they agree banning things and slapping regulations on everything is not Libertarian at all, becoming an authoritarian figure in the eyes of your child is equally as undesirable and that a relaxed and Laissez-Faire approach to parenting will empower the child with liberty and personal responsibility.
While I understand that just saying “no” to your child for the sake of it, and without explanation is undesirable and counterproductive; the Laissez-Faire approach to parenting will not a Libertarian child make. Even libertarian leaning philosophers like John Stuart Mill believed it to be a moral crime to not have authority and charge over your children, as a parent.
The mistake is often made to understand Libertarianism as Anarchism – In fact, I would suggest that Libertarianism is one of the most highly prescribed rule-based ideologies going. We have rules regarding the respect of the property and rights of others, strict economic prescriptions as well as the Non-Aggression Principle – our entire ideology is ruled by rules!
Studies also show that a more authoritarian style of parenting that allows for exploration, but within strict boundaries, actually produces the healthiest and most self-reliant children. These children will also tend to be more successful in every aspect of life and have a deep respect for rules and certain boundaries; which is key in Libertarianism as we need to respect the personal, and property boundaries of other individuals.
By contrast and as per my above assertion, Laissez-Faire parenting is shown to produce children with little respect for the rights and boundaries set by others and tend to be needier with a diminished sense of personal responsibility. They end up wanting, or indeed needing, to be spoon-fed both physically and emotionally, throughout life and turn into adults who are the least independent and are socially unsuccessful.
So, while we should resist statist intervention in our lives and businesses, being an authoritarian for your child is probably the most Libertarian friendly thing to do, and the most likely scenario for you to produce successful children who are respectful to the rights and autonomy of others. I know it may feel unnatural as lovers of freedom to choose authoritarianism, but it really is the kindest and safest thing to do to make sure you don’t end up with a miniature Jeremy Corbyn living in the nursery.