Is any freedom more important, more sacred than the right to raise a family without government intrusion?
It’s a good question to ask this Independence Day weekend, as Americans reflect on the birth of a nation dedicated to the preservation of individual liberties: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
But as government grows bigger and more powerful, as politicians, bureaucrats and busybodies increasingly think they know best, American families constantly must fight interference in their most personal decisions and judgments.
Of all the threats to our freedoms — warrantless snooping, government secrecy, expanded police powers — none worries me more than the relentless march of the Nanny State, which not only assumes that all parents are unfit to raise children, but that parents themselves must be treated like children.
It’s not a stretch to say that this movement considers all children the property of the state. As proof, look at what’s happening in Scotland.
The Scottish government for years has pursued what amounts to state-sponsored surveillance of families. By August 2016 — unless a court or public pressure can stop it — the country will appoint an official state guardian for every child in Scotland. The jobs will be filled by teachers, social workers, health care professionals and the like. The feel-good part of the plan makes every guardian a personal resource to families, available to answer questions. The sinister part of the plan gives those guardians access to a family’s records, and requires them to monitor and report every child’s development and welfare and recommend household changes. Thus, legislation to expand free school meals and subsidized child care becomes the means to create the Family Stasi.
What happens when a family doesn’t return a guardian’s call to check in? What happens when a parent rejects an, ahem, friendly suggestion from said guardian using a few choice curse words? A knock on the door from police and social workers, that’s what. Can cameras in every home be far behind? To be fair, I can’t imagine many would-be guardians are thrilled with the idea of being appointed domestic spies, but orders are orders.
Don’t pretend to be shocked by this development. This is not a radical, new idea, but a perfectly logical progression of the Nanny State’s incremental child welfare policy achievements. And don’t be so naive to think that it couldn’t happen here. Plenty of legislative bodies have the votes to squash your personal liberties, and the stories of government overreach in the name of child safety have been legion for years, with parents being arrested for letting their kids walk outside unaccompanied. (Hat tip to blogger, author, speaker and reality TV host Lenore Skenazy for shining a light on this nonsense as part of her “Free-Range Kids” movement.)
You’re still not with me? Where do you think all the political agitation over childhood obesity and lack of parental involvement in schools is headed? The dominant political undercurrent holds that most parents stink, no matter how hard they’re working or how much they love their kids. And while everyone can agree that a select few parents are indeed unfit — are monsters — the end game of treating all parents as likely abusers in need of re-education and state supervision is an affront to this country’s founding.
Think about how far child welfare laws have come in the past 20 years. Increasing car seat requirements. Mandatory bike helmets. Limits on Girl Scout cookie sales and bans on Happy Meal toys. How free will we be, 10 years from now, to raise our children as we see fit? How free will our children be to raise their children? How much does the Nanny State grow by the end of our lifetimes?
I want your predictions. I want to know where you see the Nanny State headed. Email me what restrictions on everyday life you see coming. It shouldn’t be that hard. Just look at recent legislation. I’ll print the best responses in this space later this month.
Glenn Cook (firstname.lastname@example.org) is the Las Vegas Review-Journal’s senior editorial writer. Follow him on Twitter: @Glenn_CookNV. Resuming July 14, listen to him Mondays at 4 p.m. on “Live and Local with Kevin Wall” on KXNT News Radio, 100.5 FM, 840 AM.