Topic: Sports & Entertainment

The Despicable “Baby Borrowers”

One of the most famous and attractive tenets of philosopher Emmanuel Kant’s ethics pronouncements is the so-called “Humanity Formula,” which holds that human beings must never be used as a means to an end. It does not require slavish dedication to a dead German absolutist, however, to figure out that it is wrong to use human beings as props for popular entertainment. And worse still to use humans as mere props without their consent.

So if you were an NBC television executive and were asked if it would be ethical to bribe parents to allow their infant and toddlers to be taken care of for three days by clueless teens in a reality show competition, you would answer yes or no? Why, the answer is obvious!


Welcome to “Baby Borrowers,” the ethically offensive new reality show adapted by NBC from its equally revolting British predecessor! In this stunning new low for the already well-submerged genre of reality shows, teenage couples compete to see who can be better parents to, in succession, infants, toddlers, and teenagers, all of whom are borrowed from their loving parents to be handed off to two kids who might not be qualified to care for a goldfish. NBC justifies this exercise in child abuse by pointing out that the parents can observe the care of their offspring via video camera, as if parents so clueless as to loan out their helpless infants and toddlers to be cared for by strangers could even identify mistreatment if they witnessed it. As was pointed out by The American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, taking a baby away from its parents is itself mistreatment. “A child’s sense of security should not be gambled with,” said Robert Hendren, the president of the Academy. Research demonstrates that infants need to be with trusted caregivers to thrive. Separation from parents can have significant negative effects, ranging from the sadness at missing their parents to experiencing sleep and feeding problems.

Hey…but they get to be on television!

This should be an ethics no-brainer, really, which I would define as conduct that a committee of O. J. Simpson, Tom Delay, Bill Clinton, Barry Bonds and Karl Rove could agree is wrong in the time it takes to list Paris Hilton’s accomplishments in computer technology research. But clearly, after such reality show atrocities as “Kids Nation” and “Temptation Island,” there is no such thing as an ethics no-brainer in the world of television production. These people can’t see an ethical problem if it is the size of Mount Rushmore and lit up like a Christmas tree, as long as there’s the faint chance that ignoring it will achieve profits and ratings.

So they are beyond hope…forget about them. The only value in reaching consensus about what precisely is wrong with producers paying parents to sign over the care of their non-consenting and totally dependent offspring to teenaged fame-obsessed kids is that it might discourage some people from actually watching such eyeball offal. So at the risk of stating what should be obvious, here it is:

  1. Babies are not props. It is wrong to use them as props.
  2. Taking babies and toddlers from their parents for an extended period is stressful and inherently harmful to the children. Even if one eschews the Kant absolute standard that the welfare of human beings may never be used in trade for even worthwhile goals, the making of a cheesy reality show with no redeeming social value whatsoever is such a paltry and pointless objective that it would not justify giving a moment’s anxiety to a mole rat.
  3. Like the parents of the victimized children in “Kids Nation,” the parents who have pimped out their helpless children for questionable fame and stained cash have earned a visit from their local child welfare agency. They have put material considerations over the best interests of their kids, who could not, legally or cognitively, give informed consent to being used in this way.
  4. The fast talking, checkbook and release-wielding TV execs who induce weak-valued and venal parents to endanger their own children are, of course, agents of pure greed and callousness

All of which most normal, sensible individuals with functioning ethical instincts can figure out without the Scoreboard’s assistance.

So why is “Baby Borrowers” on the air?


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