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Do "True Libertarians" spank their children?

Over the years, I've had many libertarians tell me that spanking my children doesn't mesh with the non-aggression principle. By most accounts, I like to consider myself just as libertarian as the next guy, maybe stopping just short of Penn Jillette style anarcho-capitalism. However, I just don't seem to have any trouble reasoning out a very simple justification for spanking my child. That's not to say that it is my preferred method, or that I think everyone should use this method, but it seems to work in some occasions and seems fitting for some children.
Simply put, parenting is force. There really isn't any way around the fact that to be a responsible parent, there are times when you must use force on your children. For those of you who take this harshly, remember, all force means is that you are controlling the actions of another. I "force" my two year old to go to bed at a certain time. I "force" my ten year old to go to school. I "force" my kids to eat, or to live at my house instead of running away with the circus.
By any account, if they were adults and I forced them to do these things, then I am a tyrant. But they are not adults, and as much as I'd like to rid them of the shackles of my oppression as soon as they are ready, they just aren't at this point. Having said that, the force I use to make them go to sleep on time is really only marginally different from the force I use when spanking them as a punishment for not accepting the earlier force I attempted with my words.
I've put a link to a good book about the topic at the top of this article. If this post isn't enough to satisfy your thoughts on this topic, and you don't want to shell out $2.99 for the book, let me know. Coincidentally, I own the rights to the book so if you want it for free, let me know and I'll email it to you. Not a great way to sell books, but I get much more enjoyment out of the debate, so feel free to lambast my pseudo-libertarian ideology on this topic. Hopefully it will make for some lively conversation on the topic of libertarians raising libertarians.

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If the kid was smart enough

If the kid was smart enough to call social services, isn't he a bit past the age that spankings are "effective." Sounds like reason and persuasion would have been a better alternative.

As a recipient of homeschooling...

with three, THREE, older sisters... I can say I got 'the paddle' plenty of times. It works, so much so, I still cringe when my mother grabs a ladle for soup!

Nah, discipline is the way of instruction - It's better to raise a child right than to rebuild an adult.

They that give up liberty for security deserve neither.

I agree with discipline

I don't agree with spanking. They are not synonymous.

Defend Liberty!

Some probably...

...so and some don't. Every family is different and every child has a different personality. Some might need it sometimes and some may not. Some might be too scared to tell you if they do! Mine is already in adulthood. A spank was a very rare thing(because the personality just tended to listen well) and I spent a lot time giving love and teaching proper way of life and of faith in God(in which was questioned, tried and chosen in adulthood without brainwashing). That child taught me about Paul. Hah! Who would ever guess that!?

if you worked with kids you would be for spanking

I can tell within 5 minutes the kids that do not get spanked, and the ones who do. The ones who do not get spanked are little tyrants who yell, scream, hit, steal from the kids that know better. basically the use of force is necessary at times. causing some minor discomfort to the hindquarters at an age where the force will teach them a lesson they will learn is much preferred to a stranger using force to seriously hurt them.

The kids who were spanked

just know how to hide it better. They may be taught not to steal also, but the spanking would have nothing to do with that. The spanking teaches them not to get caught. It's actually a distraction from the real reasons you need to teach them that stealing is wrong.

And I don't believe that you are really telling which are spanked and which aren't. You were raised to believe that you'd have been out stealing, etc., if your parents didn't spank you. But it's not true. You're applying a misconception from your childhood to children you see. I guarantee you the most violent criminals in jail were beaten in much greater percentages than the average population. That whole "so you don't end up in jail" thing is just rhetoric.

You can come around. You were raised by loving parents who chose to use that tool. It's hard for you to accept that they would have used that when it wasn't necessary. They just didn't know it wasn't necessary. It's okay to disagree with their methods to that degree. They won't be spanking you for it. You really do have the heart to get past how this aspect of culture (believing in spanking) gets passed down through the generations.


Ah, I just saw how old this recently bumped post is. My apologies if you've already come around.

Defend Liberty!

to quote my mom

"I tried grounding, but it was so much work, your brother and sister (I am the youngest) would keep asking me over and over again for permission to do what I just told them they were not allowed to do, finally I had it and spanked them, its so much easier just to get it over with".

the tool my mom used was bamboo. Maybe she should have used a switch or a belt, but the spanking was necessary. my mom is the only one out of 5 siblings to spank her kids and lets just say we have our problems but they are not like my cousins problems.

In all honesty you sound like one of those kids that never got a spanking. I am sorry. you can over come that problem.

if spanking causes violent crime why is it that violent crime went up in the late 60's when people stopped spanking their children?

Nope, I got lots of spankings

I was paddled nearly daily for three years in a church school.

And I grew up not knowing that there was another way. I was nearly 30 before I realized it wasn't necessary. I just figured my negative feelings about it were because of individual episodes where I don't think I was treated fairly and all I had to do was be more just and that was "the right way".

I was putting it off because my oldest seemed pretty anxious and some of his behaviors seemed so central to who he was and the only way I knew was to win once you start (and that applied to any confrontation, what was modeled to me, basically) and it seemed it would take a morbid amount of spanking to "fix" him. All that would be left of him would be an anxious husk. I was still simply re-directing him when the Holy Spirit finally got through to me and showed me it was wrong. Thank God for getting to me before I let my upbringing get to him. He's diagnosed with autism now, but it's not so obvious with toddlers so if you went into it with an adversarial mentality, you wouldn't interpret autistic behaviors as anything but stubbornness and someone who just needed an escalation of "discipline".

James Dobson is a good example of how the spanking mentality and statist mentality can mesh together. He's all about considering himself so right that whatever he does to get his way is justified and no matter how ridiculously he'd escalate, he considered it the fault of whoever wasn't giving him his way. That's why my statist mentality and punitive mentality all had to melt away in the same moment.


And who said people stopped spanking their children in any significant numbers? I've only heard that in the context of people claiming the correlation you're suggesting. I haven't seen any evidence of it.

Defend Liberty!

went to a church school too

my first grade teacher hated me. Mom says on the first day of school I sassed her in front of the entire school, and sad to say she held a grudge on a six year old. Got lots of paddlings and didnt see recess much that year.

I think that that kids especially boys need a lot of play time and that it is not fair for adults to expect them to sit still all day and to spank them when they dont. I am in favor of spanking but that is certainly not your only job as a parent, in fact that should be a very minor job. One preacher I know described it like this, when he was a child he would get spankings and his parents would say this hurt them more than it hurt him and he would think liar liar pants on fire, but when he became a parent and spanked his kids it always broke his heart. his take on it was spanking is something that is necessary that you should hate doing.

Got a nephew when he was little his attitude on everything was either make me, or he would break something on purpose just to see what you would do, he grew out of it but unfortunately my sister still treats him like he was as rebellious as when he was little. its sad.

with james dobson all I can say is that you need to eat the meat and spit out the bones, theres a lot he says I dont agree with and theres a lot he says I do agree with.


meant as a reply

Defend Liberty!

"The ones who do not get

"The ones who do not get spanked are little tyrants who yell, scream, hit, steal from the kids that know better."

So, according to you, all libertarians were spanked as children?

I don't think she/he did say that,

but I raised 6 children, and they are all adults now, and I did spank them, and they are all libertarians now. Of the grandchildren (who were also spanked) who are old enough to know what a libertarian is, are all libertarians too. I am not saying that this is what made them libertarians, but it is true in our case, nevertheless.

Libertarianism is the philosophy of reason

Libertarianism is the political philosophy of reason. All other political philosophies endorse violence rather than reason. If we cannot spread the philosophy through reason, then we ought not to spread it at all.

In my opinion, libertarianism has everything to do with parenting. Raising a child amounts to teaching him or her to be rational -- about their bodies, about their lives, about their interactions with other people ... No amount of force is going to teach the child to be rational. At best, it might give the parent a small modicum of rest/peace/satisfaction.

But sure, I'd love to take in your arguments. Libertarianism is the philosophy of reason, after all. So please do send me a copy of the e-book :-)

Agree 100%

Agree 100%

Interesting view.. I tend to prefer other types of discipline

such as time-out, natural consequences, (if you break something belonging to someone else, you either pay for it's replacement, or you give a similar item of the 'owner's' preference), creative solutions..(Lisa Welchel has a great book on this). To me, spanking is a 'last resort', and must be done with a mind toward the goal - not revenge or anger release, but to remind children that there are limits to their behavior that will not be tolerated. (such as harming others, especially younger folks, and putting themselves or others directly in danger)

"Hence, naturally enough, my symbol for Hell is something like the bureaucracy of a police state or the office of a thoroughly nasty business concern." ~~C.S. Lewis
Love won! Deliverance from Tyranny is on the way! Col. 2:13-15

Cyril's picture

My take, FWIW

Spanking is fine for little kids, when it's about teaching against home or outdoors threats and the kids' recklessness. I'm talking about serious dangers for them, of course.

Also, against unacceptable disrespect for adults or other kids, or pets. And wrong behaviors/cruelty. Little kids test us more or less often/regularly in their early age, and it's normal I think. Some are just easier than others, as individuals.

I find slapping in the face way too much and unnecessary too violent, IMO. I've never had to go that far.

Also, past 10 year old of age, if you're not able to educate the kids without physical contact but only language and using their intelligence and natural love, something is probably going wrong already.

Finally, I think the kids gender shouldn't matter about applying this.

My .02.

"Cyril" pronounced "see real". I code stuff.


"To study and not think is a waste. To think and not study is dangerous." -- Confucius



tasmlab's picture

Childhood prisons

If you have the time, Molyneux's take on the force relationship, childhood prison, and power differentials amongst children and parents is interesting, although might be hard to understand without understanding a lot of his other points of view:


I have three children and would consider it nightmarish to ever strike them or cause them physical pain. But it's probably true that ultimately my ability to hurt them matched with the possibility of abandonment gives me my power over them.

But the closer I can make most interactions about love, collaboration, example, cooperation, good sense, rational decision making, etc., the happier and freer I hope we will be.

Currently consuming: Gatto: "Underground history of education..", FDR; Wii U; NEP Football

Paradigm altering

Thanks, I haven't heard him before, though I already had some of his view points. I kind of wish his traffic jam had been longer. ;)

Just open the box and see

ACinMA's picture

much more on this

He has done many, many more shows on this subject, if you want to hear more about it.. Heres a few..

Fall River, Bristol County, Massachusetts

"When one gets in bed with government,
one must expect the diseases it spreads."
‎"It's not like I'm a powerful person. My ideas are."

ACinMA's picture



Fall River, Bristol County, Massachusetts

"When one gets in bed with government,
one must expect the diseases it spreads."
‎"It's not like I'm a powerful person. My ideas are."

thanks for posting this link

thanks for posting this link

A lot depends on the Child too

We use dozens of techniques, from getting down to their level, explaining, agreeing on rules and procedures and responsibilities and expectations to "Check Off" boards to stern warnings, to time outs, to "take aways" all the way to a warning of a coming "Butt smack", and actually getting one coupled with a 30 minutes in your bed time out followed by a come and explain to me what you did wrong in order to get out of the bed..... etc.

Yet, a lot really depends on the Child too. For example, our 3 boys have different personalities and each seemed to illicit different results for us. Each took things from us differently and each learned from us differently.

Thus, Our 1st boy only needed a raised tone in our voice to get him to "think twice" about what he was about to do or doing. He was a "dream" as a child and so far, a "dream" teenager. Its amazing really.... but his senior years starts in August so we'll see how that turns out.

Now our 2nd boy from the age of ONE on needed more than a raised tone to "get it". He needed than getting down on his level, he needed strong fiercely watched boundaries REGULARLY guarded and enforced with a 'Swat on the butt' as a clear result of his wrong doing. He has received more "butt smacks" then the other two times ten. What concerns us is not butt smack, its the 'what happens when that is not enough?' Fortunately, is 8 year old age combined with our "power of placement" has really worked better than anything combined. Our parental power of PLACEMENT has worked. We can put him into flag football, chess club, wrestling, hiking groups, music, etc...and as long has he wants those things, fears being pulled out, then "we've got something"...as in, "Well until your homework is done, we can't go to ________, sorry".

Meanwhile Our 3rd boy only needs no raised voice all to be effective. He needs only a consistently applied "result", such as No ___ for you for 10 minutes. A raised voice is "Terrifying" and "horrifically received" by him. No need telling him twice.

So, the 2nd boy has taken the "brunt of it" in the spanking dept. But his strong minded ways has benefits. In sports, he never quits. He drills himself until he feels he's the best, "I'm the best at it now

Finally as they age and change, so do we adapt and adjust. Its a give and take. We think that now at 8, our butt smack days may be over with the 8 year old, hopefully.

Now onto the NAP and Children. We do not own our children, but we do have a 18 year lease, sort to speak. And during that 18 years and perhaps to 21 or more (each kid is different), we parents to the best at guidance as we can. We guide, advice, corral, coax, adjust, adapt, accommodate, make consequences, enforce agreements, etc.

But if I could go back and somehow give my young libertarian father self advice, it would be this. Your Daddy/Mommy Parenting job comes in 3rd. That is THIRD. Third in influence, not first or second, but third. That can be humbling or troubling news. It can deflate our big headed "all important is me the parent" attitude. But we are 3rd. In first in influence is the child's "born with" personality & gifts & propensities. In STRONG second is the child's peer group. Notice that immigrant children do not speak with their parents accent, but rather that of their peer group? Thats just one example from many. In third is "the parents". If the parents do want bigger influence power than it rests in "The Power of Placement Into the Peer Group". Decisions of where you live make your child a "new yorker" or a "Valley girl" or a "Texas cowgirl who loves to ride horses", "a chess champion", "going to music school", "into football"....etc. The power of placing your child into the master peer group and all the subset peer groups thereof, REALLY influences your child, more than YOU and your example. Its true, humbling, and at the same time relieving at the same time. That time "just lost it" and that time "you screwed up and ___" did this or did not do that with your child is 3rd, third in importance towards influencing your child. Your childs own in born personality & gifts & talents AND the peer group(s) that you place them into, is perhaps 85% or MORE. Our parenting is -- if we are lucky -- 15% of the influence we have to how the child "turns out". And if you reflect about your own self, you will find this true as well. And you will find that the most influential thing upon you was PEER PLACEMENT. We moved from here to there and I got to do this and NOT this with my friends.... etc. vs the fact that my Mom did or did NOT do this or this or my dad Spanked or neglected or left....

And when the 18 year lease is up, your power is up. And it is as it should be. They are adults now, and the NAP applies. The last thing you have in terms of power is YOUR VALUES to them. And that is where we as parents cannot neglect our own personal development and selves.
We should not be "All parents" and put aside being who we are, maximizing our life and personal dreams.

I know that "ITS AN HONOR" to have been your dad, to each of my 3 boys. At every step, that is how I feel. If you can't wrap your mind around that one, then think of it this way. Think of someone you greatly admire and love from a distance. Say its someone famous. Lets pick Ron Paul for this example. Well imagine that little baby Ron Paul was born into your family, "ITS AN HONOR" to "be" his parent. "IT'S AN HONOR" to be the one placing boy Ron Paul into baseball, the track team, guiding and advising and yes, if he got out of hand, taking away his teenage car keys..... Its an 18 year lease, and "ITS AN HONOR" to "be" his dad.

You know I was listening to Bill Cosby and I think he said, "do you know when I was a young kid and my dad was spanking me, he did not know then that I was going to be 'Bill Cosby' the comedian, and if he did, he might have given me one more lick just for that!". Yes, it would have been an honor, to get to be Bill Cosby's dad. What is great about life and parenthood is this, we parents all are given wonderful 18 year leases to raise the Bill Cosby's and Ron Pauls of this world. But in the end, its NOT us who make the child, and that is nice to know to, because kids sometimes become not so great people. So take comfort in being 3rd....


Yes, please BUY this wonderful libertarian BOOK! We all must know the History of Freedom! Buy it today!

"The System of Liberty: Themes in the History of Classical Liberalism" ...by author George Smith --
Buy it Here: http://www.amazon.com/dp/05211820


Natural rights don't have an age exclusions. The right to life, liberty, and property does not begin at 18 years. The NAP does not exclude humans who have not yet completed their 18th year.

It is unbelievable to me how the NAP could be interpreted like this. If anything, a small person, just like a women, is more fragile and should be treated with softer kid gloves.

There are lots of ways to teach. Violence is an archaic method with unintended consequences. It is baffling to me that a self-professed libertarian, generally deep thinkers, could conclude that violence on children is 'right'.

Not only does it have unintended consequences,

but it does not remedy the desire to do the unwanted behavior. If the child is old enough to understand that the violence is retaliation for a specific behavior, the child will only learn not to repeat the behavior when the parent is present.

Many an owner of a puppy has learned that swatting the animal when it is eliminating inside the house only causes it to go in the house in odd places, or when the owner is not watching. So they wind up with a pet that not only is not house-broken, but is fearful of them.

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"Fully half the quotations found on the internet are either mis-attributed, or outright fabrications." - Abraham Lincoln

Give me some examples....

...of how to care for your 3 year old without using force. I'll start you off:
1. Your 3 year old doesn't want to sleep in his bed, he wants to stay on the couch and watch tv all night.
2. Your child doesn't want to go to school when he is 5.
3. Your child won't eat his breakfast because he'd rather have candy.

Solve these issues (if you think they are issues) without force.

Free market capitalism isn't right for America because it works better. It's right because it's free (and it works better).

Strictly speaking,

Strictly speaking, restricting access to something that is yours to others is not force, but legitimate exercise of property rights.

1. It is perfectly acceptable, as the owner of the tv, to introduce the rule "no TV after 10 o clock" or whatever time. Watch if your child wants to remain on the couch and out of bed.

2. And rightly so! Don't send your child to school then :-) Homeschooling is a terrific option. Not having the time or skills is a terrible excuse.

3. It is perfectly acceptable, as the owner of the candy, to restrict access to it until after the breakfast is eaten or indefinitely. Let hunger work in your favor.

Strictly speaking, none of these solutions apply force illegitimately. However, I will concede that this strict application of property rights leads in some cases to absurd conclusions. You cannot say "this is my house and you are free to leave if you want but as long as you live here, you must submit to beatings at my every whim."



1. Get rid of the TV entirely. Read the child a bedtime story, or sing to the child in bed.

3. Do not bring candy into the house.

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"Fully half the quotations found on the internet are either mis-attributed, or outright fabrications." - Abraham Lincoln

If we are going that rout..

....then what are the legal ramifications for making the child leave your property (kicking your 3 year old out of the house). Or restricting food from your child. Since he is his own person and you have right to your property and they to theirs, shouldn't you have the right not to be enslaved to them to feed them? I realize these examples sound absurd and this isn't realistic, but applying property rights and individual rights to my 3 year old seems just that absurd to me.

Free market capitalism isn't right for America because it works better. It's right because it's free (and it works better).

Punishment has blowback

Rewards are always to be preferred. One way to stop unwanted behavior is to substitute a better behavior, and reward the child for that. Of course, if the child is doing something that must be stopped, stop it with as little force as possible.

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"Fully half the quotations found on the internet are either mis-attributed, or outright fabrications." - Abraham Lincoln