The Incredible Cruelty of Dumping Permissively Raised Children into the USA's Brutal Legal Environment
The Mother of all Bait and Switch Routines!
by Leon Felkins

There is a diabolical twist to American society that has, strangely, received little attention. On the one hand, we raise children with little discipline and we allow them the freedom to be virtually as wild and unruly as they please. Then when they become adults we suddenly require rigid adherence to a mountain of harsh laws with very severe penalties for the most trivial of indiscretions. It is like training for tight-rope walking by crawling through a sandbox!

After the provision of security, food, and shelter, the primary function of parents is to prepare their children for the adult environment. That's what other animals do and that is what we should do. But we totally miss the mark in preparing our children for being adults in the harsh legal environment we have today.

The American criminal justice system that we prepare our children to live in is probably the cruelest, most unfair, and least compassionate of any of the major countries of the world today (we have at least 6 times the incarceration rate of the other "Free World" countries!). While our system may not match some of the totalitarian regimes of the past for torture and the taking of life, it is certainly among the worst for harshness of sentences for minor crimes and the extended length of sentences.

In this essay, I will examine the current legal swamp of horrors our adult society has drifted into and then look at how this same society prepares its children to live in it. I will follow that with my recommendations for how we could get out of this mess by maybe just following the examples set by our leaders (with just a tad of cynicism!).

Let us start with identifying some of the really monstrous characteristics of our so-called "Criminal Justice System":

The end result of all this is a very hard and cruel system of justice for the adults and young adults in the US. If a young person makes a slight error in judgment they can easily find themselves facing 15, 20, 30 years in prison or even life -- without any opportunity for parole. There is virtually no way out except to snitch on someone else (see the above mentioned PBS series, "Snitch").

So How have we been Preparing Our Children for this Brutal Legal System?

Strangely, we have been doing just the opposite of what would be reasonably expected. Instead of making life somewhat strict for our youth, we have gone the opposite direction and become extremely permissive with them! It is as if we were intentionally enticing them into a behavior mode that will insure disaster for them later when they are dumped into the adult legal environment at age 21 (or thereabout -- see Note 2 below).

Let us look at how we actually raise our children and then how they are treated as adults:

What can We do About This Mess?

This whole process is a big "bait and switch" routine, just like some of the big department stores used to practice. And just like for the department stores, there are large economic rewards for the perpetrators. That is, by raising children permissively and then suddenly laying hard justice on them as soon as they are legal adults, there will be a large and steady crop of prisoners. This in turn results in jobs for lots of folks, management positions for fat bureaucrats and large profits to be made by the associated industries.

So, what can we do? Well, we can either attack the adult hard justice side of the problem or the child raising side of the problem or both.

As far as doing anything about correcting the corrupt "justice" system we have, there is little hope. I know this is a hard pill to swallow but we have just waited too long and it is now highly unlikely that any significant effort can be mounted to thwart the incredibly powerful forces that want to perpetuate the status quo. The "justice problem" is really just an extension of the notorious "Drug War", and in spite of major criticism of that monstrous and destructive boondoggle, I see no real progress being made there. It is a disaster, big time.

So let us backup and see if we do something about the "child raising" side of the equation. Here we have a dilemma. From all indications, it appears that the majority in our society believe that permissive child raising is best. Yet, in that same society, the government believes that a hard line is best for adults. We have a major contradiction and something has to give. It seems obvious that we would have a better chance to change our ways of raising children than we would in changing the ways of the government!

In view of that, the obvious thing to do is follow the example of our exalted government, adopt their techniques, and bring hard discipline back into the home. We need to:

All right, I got a little carried away. But I was only half jesting. If we must have this cruel and corrupt legal system that every child must move into at maturity, then surely it would be far more compassionate to give them a little preparation for things to come -- while they are still children. 
Notes and References:

Leon Felkins is a retired Engineer, Army officer and former teacher of Computer Systems. He now maintains a web page on Political Philosophy, "A Rational Life", and a "Political Almanac."

Copyright 1999 Leon Felkins. All rights reserved.