More on Bullying

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In response to my post about bullying, a reader writes:

“I like almost all of your columns and you’ve been educating me on property rights, but this business of suing the parents of bullies is childish and a symptom of the times; handing a state institution the means to intrude into ordinary disagreements between children. 90% of political correctness comes out of crap like this. Were you irrevocably damaged by your tormentors all those years, or are you a smarter stronger person today? It takes a little bit of trial to forge a character worth having.

“Read Farmer Boy by Laura Ingalls Wilder (got the idea from this site). Nice long episode on bullies there (complete with the murder of a teacher by bullies), but was their society so hopelessly horrid because of it?”

Re the society of Wilder’s time–I suppose, society was kind of horrible for that teacher who got murdered by the bullies.I don’t disagree that being the victim of violence can help shape one’s character; however, I don’t think this excuses the aggression. Some women survive rape too and become stronger, or other people survive muggings etc. But that does not excuse rape nor do we say we want just a little bit of rape in society to keep us on our toes. The ideal is the elimination of all aggression, even if this might make us more docile or something. It might be a good problem to have, to learn how to adapt to a violence-free world.

But in any event, if “adult” crimes like rape, theft, murder, etc. are condemned, why in the world is bullying excused? I agree, people need to be stronger, but bullying is not only wrong, and intolerable, it is aggression, pure and simple.

To me, the key to libertarianism is a paramount concern for the victims of aggression. I don’t have any sympathy for aggressors, even if they have psychological reasons for being thugs, and even if their acts of aggression end up helping their victims–the ones who survive, anyway–to “forge strong characters”. Bullies are nothing but thugs and should be physically beaten and imprisoned.

Therefore, I don’t see that it is childish to defend your children, or to hold people accountable for their violent, aggressive actions. Probably the best aproach would be to go to the dad of the bully. If he didn’t see reason and give his son a good, vigorous talking to and appropriate discipline–then, since corporal punishment or imprisonment or ejection from civil society is probably not possible, I would sue, yes, and also try to get the thug expelled from my kid’s school.

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In a followup, the reader writes: “I want to differentiate between clear lasting damage to a person (you hospitalize him) and getting nagged and pushed around. Learning how to deal with bullies is part of becoming an adult. Parents suing the parents of other children is the infantilization of society John Taylor Gatto was referring to in the link. Being ready to bring the family demolishing arm of the state in to solve your problems gives the other whiners the same tool they cry about all the time.

“What about the “emotional bullying” minorities claim on campus to the point where points of views aren’t even allowed (And that’s private speech codes a lot of the time)? Some people might be able to claim physical disability and damage from emotional distress. Other kids will shrug off some fisticuffs after school.”

I agree, that you can distinguish between more-severe and less-severe acts of aggression; the former should be punished more severely. But both are aggression (battery). It is a crime to use someone’s property or body wtihout his permission. Even if there is no “lasting damage”.

It is of course true, that “Learning how to deal with bullies is part of becoming an adult.” So is becoming aware of criminals and taking appropriate defensive and precautionary steps. But it does not mean the aggression should not be outlawed and severely condemned and censured by society.

As for “emotional bullying” claims–libertarians distinguish between “emotional bullying” and physical violence. Physical violence is simply impermissible, and it is a punishable crime, in my view. Regardless of the “lasting damage” it causes. I am firmly convinced that teachers should keep a close eye on bulllying and stop it. It is aggression. But they don’t, and parents don’t seem to mind. And, apparently, even some libertarians think some forms of aggression are okay–even necessary, and good for us.

I dissent!

1:07 pm on September 30, 2003