giovedì 28 luglio 2016

Abusi infantili

1. Never.  As Robert Filmer infamously argued, parents are within their rights to treat their children however they please.

2. Only if the parent has perpetrated a severe crime (attempted murder, rape, etc.) against the child.

3. If the parent is likely to perpetrate a severe crime against the child.

4. If loss of custody increases the expected welfare of (parent + child).  Or in other words, if the gain to the child exceeds the loss to the parent.

5. If the loss of custody increases the expected welfare of the child.  Notice: On this standard, losses to the parent don't count.

6. If the loss of custody increases the welfare of children in general.  Notice: On this standard, a child could be taken from his parents even if he'd be worse off as a result - as long as the deterrent effect on other potentially abusive parents made up the difference.

7. If the loss of custody increases expected utility of all non-child-abusers.  Notice: This standard doesn't just count the deterrent effect on potentially abusive parents; it also counts third parties' desire for retribution against abusive parents.

8. Zero tolerance: Loss of custody is the "mandatory minimum" sentence for any clear-cut act of child abuse.

I could be wrong, but I'd guess that current U.S. policy is somewhere between #3 and #4.  But where is the morally right place to draw the line?

Somehow I doubt that many people will take position #8.  It's expressively appealing, but even people who hate economics can't easily evade the fact that a kid's imperfect parents are usually his least-bad alternative.  But how much lower are you willing to go?