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Parents May Not Be Licensed Essay

1810 words - 8 pages

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 an activity could be precisely defined as potentially harmful to others, what specific competence would be required for an activity to be done safely, and how reliably such competence could be determined. In this paper, I will argue that the difficulty of clearly defining the three criteria for an activity to be licensed undermines LaFollette’s assertion that parenting ought to be licensed. After describing LaFollette’s basic rationale for licensing parents, I will indicate that parenting may not meet the three criteria that LaFollette proposes for an activity to be licensed, under certain situations in the real world. In addition, I will show that even though parenting satisfies the standard 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 some ways in which the range of the applications of his idea might not be as wide as LaFollette thought.
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 desirable that we regulate any activity that is potentially harmful to others and requires certain demonstrate competence for its safe performance. Also, if we “have a reliable procedure for determining whether someone has the requisite competence”, the activity ought to be regulated (183). LaFollette further solidifies the necessity of licensing hazardous activities by claiming “even though denying a license to someone can severely inconvenience and even harm that person” (183), “innocent people must be protected even if it means that others cannot pursue activities they deem highly desirable” (184), and although “available competency tests are not 100 percent accurate” (183), “where moderately reliable tests are available, licensing procedures should be used to protect innocent people form incompetents” (184). Consequently, because “parenting is an activity potentially very harmful to children” (184) and “a parent must be competent if he is to avoid harming his children” (185), LaFollette concludes that the general criteria for regulatory licensing can be applied to parents. However, there are several theoretical and practical objections to LaFollette’s proposal, but he argues that they all fail to undermine the proposal.
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