Teach Your Children Well

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I write about politics, people are forever asking me the best way
to teach children how our system of government works. I tell them
that they can give their own children a basic civics course right
in their own homes.

In my own experience
as a father, I have discovered several simple devices that can illustrate
to a child’s mind the principles on which the modern state deals
with its citizens. You may find them helpful, too.

For example,
I used to play the simple card game WAR with my son. After a while,
when he thoroughly understood that the higher ranking cards beat
the lower ranking ones, I created a new game I called GOVERNMENT.
In this game, I was Government, and I won every trick, regardless
of who had the better card. My boy soon lost interest in my new
game, but I like to think it taught him a valuable lesson for later
in life.

When your child
is a little older, you can teach him about our tax system in a way
that is easy to grasp. Offer him, say, $10 to mow the lawn. When
he has mowed it and asks to be paid, withhold $5 and explain that
this is income tax. Give $1 to his younger brother, and tell him
that this is "fair." Also, explain that you need the other
$4 yourself to cover the administrative costs of dividing the money.
When he cries, tell him he is being "selfish" and "greedy."
Later in life he will thank you.

Make as many
rules as possible. Leave the reasons for them obscure. Enforce them
arbitrarily. Accuse your child of breaking rules you have never
told him about. Keep him anxious that he may be violating commands
you haven’t yet issued. Instill in him the feeling that rules are
utterly irrational. This will prepare him for living under democratic

When your child
has matured sufficiently to understand how the judicial system works,
set a bedtime for him and then send him to bed an hour early. When
he tearfully accuses you of breaking the rules, explain that you
made the rules and you can interpret them in any way that seems
appropriate to you, according to changing conditions. This will
prepare him for the Supreme Court’s concept of the U.S. Constitution
as a "living document."

Promise often
to take him to the movies or the zoo, and then, at the appointed
hour, recline in an easy chair with a newspaper and tell him you
have changed your plans. When he screams, "But you promised!,"
explain to him that it was a campaign promise.

Every now and
then, without warning, slap your child. Then explain that this is
defense. Tell him that you must be vigilant at all times to stop
any potential enemy before he gets big enough to hurt you. This,
too, your child will appreciate, not right at that moment, maybe,
but later in life.

At times your
child will naturally express discontent with your methods. He may
even give voice to a petulant wish that he lived with another family.
To forestall and minimize this reaction, tell him how lucky he is
to be with you the most loving and indulgent parent in the world,
and recount lurid stories of the cruelties of other parents. This
will make him loyal to you and, later, receptive to schoolroom claims
that the America of the postmodern welfare state is still the best
and freest country on Earth.

This brings
me to the most important child-rearing technique of all: lying.
Lie to your child constantly. Teach him that words mean nothing – or
rather that the meanings of words are continually "evolving,"
and may be tomorrow the opposite of what they are today.

Some readers
may object that this is a poor way to raise a child. A few may even
call it child abuse. But that’s the whole point: Child abuse is
the best preparation for adult life under our form of GOVERNMENT.

Sobran (1946–2010), conservative turned libertarian, was one
of the most significant American writers of his time. See his
and his
intellectual journey

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