Strict Liability For Parents

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4 Responses

  1. John says:

    To my mind, the larger concern is the enormous amount of discretion the ordinace would give to local officials. Note from the link that the ordinance technically would apply to parents who allow their two teenage minor children to drink wine at dinner with the family. (But not to parents who have only one child!) It also would apply to a teenager who has one or two friends over to drink beer and watch TV while parents are out. And, of course, it would apply to large parties that parents claim not to approve of, yet which their children appear to throw or attend with regularity. (Many of the parents probably went to similar parties as teenagers, and they probably only get mad when “something happens.”) In any event, three rather disparate sets of cases, all eligible to be treated the same way — when one might think they should be treated differently. I’d argue that only the third should be the concern of local lawmakers, particularly in light of the potential for abuses. But even so, the deterrence issue that you raise still remains. Isn’t part of the answer that the proposed ordinance is (hopefully) largely symbolic?

  2. John Armstrong says:

    Actually, this does more than strong-arm parents into controlling their children’s behavior. It strong-arms them into controlling their behavior a certain way.

    As my brother and I were growing up, as we got to the point that alcohol wasn’t repulsive[*] our parents allowed us wine with dinner, for instance. It was only done when it would be responsible for anyone else to have had that drink if they were of age. I can’t even count the number of misdemeanors they’d have been guilty of.

    So, what’s the upshot? Alcoholic beverages were seated within an appropriate social context, and they weren’t demonized. If you tell a teenager that they absolutely, positively cannot have something they’ll want it, and when they gain access to it they’ll gorge themselves, especially since you’ve been spending all your time prohibiting it and no time teaching how to have an appropriate relationship with the forbidden fruit.

    I actually think this ordinance will change behavior. Parents will crack down and punish children for throwing house parties. Children will realize that they don’t need a house to have a party and go get absolutely wasted out by the old quarry — or some other such out-of-the-way place — where there are more dangers and help is harder to come by when a danger does arrive.

    [*] Try giving a 5-year-old a sip of beer next time they’re clamoring to see what the grown-ups are drinking. Most don’t take to it

  3. JP says:

    Addressing the negligence issue: Wouldn’t the reasonable parent who has been fined for her kid(s) having hosted two parties take different and more drastic steps than the reasonable parent whose kid(s) have never yet hosted a party? Even short of the kind of drastic actions that most of us agree we’d not want to see a parent take (e.g., the abuse and neglect to which the post refers), some serious/continuous supervision and constraint of the two-time offending kid(s) becomes eminently reasonable.

    Setting aside John Armstrong’s wholly rational objection to the possible enforcement of the law against a family sitting down to dinner with wine, as a parent, I think I have a reasonable expectation that other parents will get a handle on repeated parties taking place at their homes. After the second party, I don’t think it’s asking too much for a parent to deprive her child(ren) enough unsupervised time to organize and host a party. And I think it’s negligent for her not to do so. I’m sympathetic to your students’ sentiments that it’s difficult to keep kids from sneaking a beer now and then. That’s a wholly different dynamic than providing kids the unsupervised time and access to host a kegger at your house. The latter may not be painless to accomplish, but its much more readily achievable than the former.

  4. French sensible says:

    As a resident of French origin, I agree with Mr Armstrong. I also want to point out that it has apparently been proven that familiarity with legally held firearms is correlated with lesser crime overall….my main point here though is that the PC nanny state enforcement-bound (enforced by local police forces that are usually no role-models, or role-models of a kind that will not propel a society forward) of this country is now approaching a level of paranoia and loss of purpose that is worrying. If everything is suspect (thoughts, speeches, attitudes) what is left to enjoy ? rap and sex on TV I assume. Welcome to the Matrix.