Dennis Hackethal’s Blog

My blog about philosophy, coding, and anything else that interests me.

Published · revised (v3, latest) · 7-minute read · Pro article · 2 revisions

Success! You can now read the full article below. Be sure to save it to PDF before leaving or refreshing the page!

Need help? Email me and be sure to include this reference number:

Unwanted Protection is Oppression

John Ruth: I’m gonna take your gun, son.
Joe Gage: You are?
Ruth: Yes, I am.
Gage: I feel kinda naked without it.
Ruth: Oh I still got mine. [Reveals the gun on his belt.] I’ll protect you.
Gage: [Laughs.]

Many children and teenagers don’t get to make their own movie-viewing decisions. They are prevented from watching certain movies if they aren’t ‘old enough’ – not in their own eyes, but in the eyes of lawmakers and adults around them.

This understandably frustrates them. While movie ratings are (presumably) designed to protect, they are oppressive instead: it’s a kind of protection children are seldom allowed to refuse. It thus violates their autonomy and agency. If a movie really is bad for a child, it should be easy to persuade him of that – and, failing that, he should get to watch it; he should get to make the mistake, if it even is one, and then learn from it. The adults in the child’s life should be his friends, not obstacles. Luckily, children often find other ways to watch what they want, but then have to do so secretly and lie.

The same age restrictions extend to video games as well. The idea is that games depicting violence might harm children. The games children do get to play are often restricted by arbitrary screen times, both in blatant disregard of their property rights and, in some cultures, in reference to the false claim that their eyes will turn into rectangles – not cubes, but rectangles! – if they stare at a screen for too long. (Even if adults don’t understand the difference between two and three dimensions, they must know this claim to be false, but that doesn’t stop them from enforcing screen times.) Bedtimes are also enforced rigorously for some children, which has similarly oppressive effects, although the intention is to protect them from the harms of not getting enough sleep.

The titular idea of this post, that unwanted protection is oppression, builds on this quote from Taking Children Seriously (TCS):

It is usually taken for granted that the best way to protect children, both in law and in education, is to override their wishes for their own good, for instance by preventing them from doing things that they may regret later. I shall criticise this assumption. I shall argue that while such policies are intended to protect children, the effect is to oppress them, and that any policy whose effect is to disregard children’s wishes in regard to their own lives, is likely to harm children.

One particular example from my childhood should clarify further what I mean. I was over at a grade-school friend’s house; we were playing a game with small plastic figures. The details of the game aren’t important here – suffice it to say that, at the end of each round, the winner got to keep all of the figures used in that round. Normally, you’d bring your own figures to wager, but I hadn’t. My friend and I both agreed that we still wanted to play; we both understood that he might lose all of his figures to me while I could not lose any to him at all; and yet we decided that it was worth the fun of playing the game.

But wait, there’s more!

You’re reading a preview of this Pro article. Pro articles are written with exceptional care and provide additional value. Purchase the full article for only USD 0.99.

Clicking this button will load the payment form. Stripe, the payment processor, may use cookies or cookie-like technology.

Learn more
Is this secure?

Yes. Your credit-card details are handled securely and in a PCI-compliant manner using the trusted payment processor Stripe.

What about privacy?

Your privacy matters to me. For this reason, I’ve decided to provide one of Stripe’s payment forms that’s more complicated to implement but increases your privacy. When you purchase an article, I do not see your name or contact information. However, Stripe does show me your card type, expiration date, issuing financial institution, country, last four digits of your credit-card number, your postal code (if you’re in the US), IP address, internet service provider, operating system, browser, device brand, device model, your card’s average transaction amount, the standard deviation for your card, and ancillary information, including but not limited to whether your card is a debit and/or prepaid card. I will not sell that information. I can’t even associate it with you unless you send me an email that divulges your name. If that is a concern, email me from an anonymous email account. If divulging your IP address is a concern, use a VPN before purchasing an article. Stripe may show me more information about payments in the future, and I’ll have no control over that. They may also have more visibility into your data. I recommend checking their privacy policy.

What if something goes wrong?

If, say, due to technical issues, or for whatever other reason, you cannot see the full article after purchasing it, simply email me and I’ll send you a copy. Please include your reference number starting with ‘pi_…’, if you have it. That reference number is shown to you right after you make the purchase.

Can I get a refund?

Yes. If you purchased an article and didn’t like it, email me and you’ll get a full refund, no questions asked. I will need the reference number starting with ‘pi_…’ to process the refund. That reference number is shown to you right after you make the purchase. Write it down carefully – I am unable to issue refunds without this reference number.

Can I share the full article with others?

The full article is copyrighted and only for your own, personal use. As such, you may not share it with others beyond what’s previewed before purchasing it. However, you are more than welcome to share a link to this page so others can purchase the article, too.


This post makes 4 references to:

There is 1 reference to this post in:

What people are saying

What are your thoughts?

You are responding to comment #. Clear


Markdown supported. cmd + enter to comment. Your comment will appear upon approval. You are responsible for what you write. Terms, privacy policy
This small puzzle helps protect the blog against automated spam.