Parents May Not Be Licensed Essay

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In the essay Licensing Parents, LaFollette argues that the state should require all parents to be licensed (182). Though LaFollette considers some theoretical and practical objections to his claim, he gives no particular attention to how an activity could be precisely defined as potentially harmful to others, what specific competence would be required for an activity to be done safely, and how reliably such competence could be determined. In this paper, I will argue that the difficulty of clearly defining the three criteria for an activity to be licensed undermines LaFollette’s assertion that parenting ought to be licensed. After describing LaFollette’s basic rationale for licensing parents, I will indicate that parenting may not meet the three criteria that LaFollette proposes for an activity to be licensed, under certain situations in the real world. In addition, I will show that even though parenting satisfies the standard criteria, there are special reasons why it should not be licensed. Though this does not prove LaFollette’s idea to be false, I will suggest some ways in which the range of the applications of his idea might not be as wide as LaFollette thought.
LaFollette starts his argument by presenting the fact that “our society normally regulates a certain range of activities” like driving, practicing medicine, law, pharmacy, etc. (182). In addition, the decision to restrict such activities derives from a plausible but inexplicitly formulated rationale that the restricted activities could be “potentially harmful to others”, “safe performance of the activities require a certain competence”, and “we have a moderately reliable procedure for determining that competence” (183). As a result, it is theoretically desirable th...

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...g parents, let alone a reliable competence test. In particular, I have shown that, without a clear definition of harm, parental abuse could essentially be beneficial to children, and licensing parents could be a prior restraint in which the potential for harm is minor, compared to the restraint to parents. Plus, since LaFollette mentions some ways to deny his conclusion such as finding special reasons why licensing parents is not theoretically desirable, I have demonstrated that it is actually possible to find evidences to deny his conclusion. Consequently, licensing parents is merely LaFollette’s creative approach to look at our society in a non-intuitional perspective, but is both theoretically and evolutionarily undesirable. Thus, parents should not be licensed.

Works Cited

LaFollette, Hugh. 1980. “Licensing Parents.” Philosophy & Public Affairs 9:182-97.

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