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Semiformalishmaybe

Semantics of Gears

Portal 2 came out, and I have beaten it, sustaining moderate damage to my sleep schedule. It was fantastic, and has very heavy doses of plot, well-defined characters with an interesting backstory, awesome gameplay, a heavy dose of humour, and good music. I wish it had been much, much longer, but it wasn't a short game, and in a few weeks I imagine I'll be making my way through a second, relaxed play.

OLPCs have arrived, and I'm starting to look for low-hanging fruit in terms of improving system performance/reducing the image size for the XO's sugar-ised Fedora. I'll be playing with kernel tweaks soon. One thing I've noticed about OLPC folk is that they don't have a very practical mentality. I might need to hang around a bit longer to be sure, but it feels like they're more easily swayed by deciding a person's awesome than deciding a person has a project idea that's well-defined and likely to succeed. Maybe this is appropriate for nonprofits?

In the PDF on medical ethics I finished recently, there was some British case law mentioned, where a mother sued NHS attempting to bar them from offering contraceptives to her daughters. One of the judges expressed well what I've felt for a long time; that parents don't have an unlimited right to control their children; parental custody is instituted for the benefit of the children, and if and where parents fail to do so, intervention (up to termination of custody) is sensible.

In general, I'm very comfortable with (government) social services having considerable leeway in nudging/requesting/demanding changes to parenting, under the right circumstances, and I don't believe the family should be considered sacrosanct; However, there are the high emotional costs that come from changing custody of a child. The state's obligation to serve society extends to children, and its only shyness with intervention should stem from concerns with:

  • Not knowing the deep history of a conflict or child; not knowing well all those more involved
  • Cost/time of social workers
  • Not permitting relationships of nurturing authority to develop properly due to all parties involved looking over their back
I reject the idea of families having a fundamental right to be free from intervention. In the normal course of affairs, I expect intrusive personal intervention to be limited to a few families that really need it. For example, parents who refuse to give their children needed medicines out of religious reasons should expect to land in jail (as they often do in our legal system).

Comments

Didn't the Communist Manifesto explicitly state that one of its goals was to destroy the institution of the family? (I realize this sounds like anti-communist propaganda, but I really think I read this from a good source)
There is talk of the destruction of the institution of the Bourgeois Family and the transformation of family relations. I don't think Marx goes into a lot of detail about what he means by that though.

Without more details, I imagine this may be an area where I disagree with Marx (or alternatively remark that his ideas were relevant to a social reality that has long passed, or both). There are a number of aspects of Marxian social programmes that had no strong tie to anything I care about, and where their imposition would impinge on Enlightenment Liberalism without any good justification. While I do believe, for example, that home and private schooling should be abolished (except as optional supplements to universal mandatory public education), this is based on a set of arguments on what it takes to maintain a society (these arguments justify sufficiently, in my mind, the departure from the general idea that parents will consider the interests of their children in all their decisions). I would not attempt to abolish the family in the general case (unless I were really really confident that there were a far better general solution to raising society's children), and would be reluctant to do so in specific cases unless the parents really cannot be nudged/persuaded to somehow do a decent job. Parents are generally willing to raise their children; society gets that for free (at whatever level of care is actually provided). Wholesale replacements are likely to take a lot more resources and be difficult to manage (imagine a boarding school for every single child from, say, age 4-18). Additionally, I believe that in many cases people get a lot of fulfillment out of raising kids. Taking that away in the general case would (probably) make people's lives worse.

I'm willing to consider that communism may change some parts of the family dynamic, and that some changes may be worthwhile, but I see no justification at present moment to directly and deeply modify families, and a lot of good reasons not to. (Not really a big deal to me to disagree with Marx; I am a non-marxian communist, even as I have general respect for him)