The Argument for Licensing Parents Needs Revisions

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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 parenting could be precisely defined as potentially harmful to children, what specific competence would be required for parenting to be done safely, and how reliably such competence could be determined. In this paper, I maintain that, since LaFollette’s argument does not provide an adequate clarification of the definition of harm and the attributes of competence, his argument needs serious revision. After describing LaFollette’s basic rationale for licensing parents, I will indicate that LaFollette’s ambiguous explanations for harm and attributes for competence are problematic. In addition, I will show that even if parenting satisfies LaFollette’s 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 that if LaFollette offers a better definition of harm and an adequate explanation for competence, his argument will be stronger with a greater feasibility. 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 desira... ... middle of paper ... ...to avoid LaFollette’s conclusion is finding special reasons why licensing parents is not theoretically desirable, I have demonstrated that it is actually possible to find such evidence to undermine his conclusion, because he does not consider the distinct nature of parenting. Consequently, licensing parents seems to be LaFollette’s creative approach to look at our society in a non-intuitional perspective. Although this paper does not prove LaFollette’s argument to be false, the deficiencies discussed in this paper could lead to various false interpretations of his argument. Hence, if LaFollette could offer a clearer argument to get rid of the misunderstanding of what he really meant by harm and competence, his argument would harvest more support than objections. Works Cited LaFollette, Hugh. 1980. “Licensing Parents.” Philosophy & Public Affairs 9:182-97.

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