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Is It Legal or Just Fair?

February 10th, 2011  |  by  |  Published in Uncategorized  |  2 Comments

Most of the time when I write a post about another publication’s work it is with the intent of making fun. Today, though, I’m in a good mood, perhaps due to the success of my burgeoning Theodore Ross media empire—please see here and here (oh, and to the New York Times commenter named Charles Bronson who suggested I “man up,” “pretend that [I] have something remotely resembling testosterone in my blood,” and go “cry in my grande soy latte,” thank you, sir, you made my day). Instead of my usual lazy, critical fare, I want to write a minor appreciation of an article by Dahlia Lithwich at Slate.

Basically it’s a satirical take on how children seem to have an innate sense of legal complexities. I’ve written a bit about this in the past, but I think Lithwick does a more precise job of capturing it:

Children have an amazingly intuitive grasp of complicated legal rules. And a freakishly inventive ability to improve on them. My first criminal-law professor taught us everything we needed to know about criminal intent by reminding us of the kindergartener’s hierarchy of self-defense. First: “I didn’t do it.” Second: “I did it but I didn’t mean to.” Third: “I meant to do it but I didn’t plan it.” And finally: “I was upset at the time and I promise I won’t do it again.”

My one quibble with this article, which is well worth reading in its (not overlong, okay, Matt?) entirety, is that I don’t know that kids really understand legality innately so much as they really, really get the difference between fair and unfair.

It’s something I always remind myself of in my myriad wrangling, haggling, and Cold War maneuvering with JP. He knows the fair when he sees it, he’s keeping score, and in the future, when the psychologist’s bills come due (I may be paying), I’ll have to account for all my parental injustices.


  1. Joan Kay says:

    February 10th, 2011at 11:27 am(#)

    Reading your link about the Harper’s Union and I currently am reading Rodger Hodge’s book with appropriate anger. I had a similar experience with participating in union organizing and subsequent “lay off” It must be rather common. (like unemployment!)

  2. Poor Princess says:

    February 10th, 2011at 12:41 pm(#)

    We have 3 boys (two of whom speak), and we are fascinated by their very powerful, very intuitive sense of justice, which translates, mostly, to “That’s not fair.” Remarkably, “That’s not fair” applies almost (but not quite) as much to a brother being screwed over as to the self (“How come the baby didn’t get a new Lego set?? That’s not fair!!”–which probably just means that the oldest boy wants another set to play with since the baby would just try to eat the Lego–but still).

    Thanks! I’m sending your blog along to my husband; mostly he gets all his dad reading out of the Sports Guy (aka Bill Simmons) and Michael Lewis, another sports-ish writer. I think you would suit his sensibility.

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