A Modest Proposal for Preventing the Children of Poor People From Being a Burden on Their Parents or Country, and for Making Them Beneficial to the Public 2011
The latest little tempest in a teapot we’ve had here on the internets involves an essay on Parental Licensure written by Andrew Cohen at the usually significantly different kind of crazy Libertarian website Bleeding Heart Libertarians.
If you don’t feel like reading the whole thing, the argument in a nutshell begins with the insight shared by Keanu, of all people, from the movie Parenthood:
No problem so far, right? Well, the essay then goes from there to say: With a parental licensing program, if you get pregnant, you go to get a license to raise the child or you decide to give up the child. You violate no law by becoming pregnant. Once pregnant, you violate no law until the child is born—and only then if you decide to raise it without getting a license. And perhaps you are allowed to take the licensing test multiple times if you fail at first. Perhaps you do so after taking parenting classes.
This particular argument isn’t exactly one to get incensed about, particularly, as satires go, it’s fairly incisive… until you get to the point in the comments where Andrew points out: In any case, if anyone’s unsure: not meant as satire!
Upon reading that clarification of his, we are given a handful of choices including, but not limited to, the following:
- Head exploding and going nutzo and jumping on the inevitable dogpile
- … I have no idea what else there really is to do except have my head blow up and then jump on the dogpile
(No, I’m not going to post that scene from Scanners.)
Instead of wasting your time with yet another list of reasons that this is morally reprehensible and not-exactly-libertarian (I’m sure you wrote one in your own head by the time you got to this paragraph), I think it might be worth wondering if he’s not a harbinger of arguments that we need to prepare ourselves for hearing in the future made by serious people as part of a serious policy. That is to say: I’m not worried about arguing against Andrew on this one, particularly. I’m worried about the person who will give this argument again in a few years.
I’ve long argued that The War On Drugs, as it exists today, is an offshoot of Johnson’s War On Poverty. As part of the argument that “We All Have Responsibilities To Each Other”, it seems to me that there is very much an undercurrent of “if my responsibilities involve feeding you and sheltering you, your responsibilities to me involve trying to find a job and not wasting your time and potential by doing dope!” on the part of those who self-identify with tax-payers. In the same way that quite a few people experience outrage at the thought of food stamps being used for cigarettes, alcohol, or pre-packaged food with recognizable brands on them, many people similarly feel that their own good nature is being taken advantage of when folks on government assistance still have enough money to buy drugs and enough free time to enjoy them.
In recent history, the United States has passed a huge Health Care law that, it’s argued, will help provide health care for absolutely everybody. I had thought that the unintended consequences would manifest themselves in much greater social stigma (if not outright legislation) against such bad habits as smoking, fatty foods, and otherwise overindulging in things that are bad for you… but I’m now wondering if we will start seeing the seeds sown for arguments such as Andrew’s here to ultimately manifest themselves in restatements of Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. (ptooey) in Buck vs. Bell:
We have seen more than once that the public welfare may call upon the best citizens for their lives. It would be strange if it could not call upon those who already sap the strength of the State for these lesser sacrifices, often not felt to be such by those concerned, to prevent our being swamped with incompetence. It is better for all the world, if instead of waiting to execute degenerate offspring for crime, or to let them starve for their imbecility, society can prevent those who are manifestly unfit from continuing their kind. The principle that sustains compulsory vaccination is broad enough to cover cutting the Fallopian tubes.
Perhaps I’m being paranoid (I *AM* a little feverish), but I think that Andrew’s argument here is one that we will hear more and more often in the coming years… and the base of the argument will be how we *ALL* have responsibilities to each other.