Wednesday, May 23, 2007

The Perils of Parens Patriae, or When the State Becomes Daddy

“Children belong to the general family, to the state, before belonging to private families."

French Revolutionary leader Bertrand Barere, whose memory was later invoked by French parents to scare disobedient children (I'm serious)

"In our dreams, we have limitless resources, and the people yield themselves with perfect docility to our molding hand."

Frederick Gates, chairman of the Rockefeller-created General Education Board, 1902.

For those of us who love and understand individual freedom, it sometimes seems as if the Atlantic just isn't wide enough to impede the collaboration of Anglo-American elites seeking to re-mold the world closer to their hearts' desire.

That last phrase, incidentally, assumes that those elites, who look at us with “bright, dead alien eyes,” could be said to have human hearts.

The government of departing British Prime Minister Tony Blair has announced a new initiative entitled the “Nurse Family Partnership” that would (in the words of the Guardian of London) “intervene as early as possible in troubled families, first-time mothers identified just 16 weeks after conception [who] will be given intensive weekly support from midwives and health visitors until the unborn child reaches two years old.”

This program could be considered a form of pre-emptive parens patriae; that phrase refers to the fatherhood of the State. The Guardian captured the essence of the British early-intervention initiative in its headline: “Unborn babies targeted in crackdown on criminality.”

The Blair government, summarized that left-leaning periodical, “is prepared to single out babies still in the womb to break cycles of deprivation and behaviour.... Under the programme, which has been copied from the United States, young, first-time mothers will be assigned a personal health visitor at between 16 and 20 weeks into their pregnancy. They will continue to have weekly or fortnightly visits until the child is two....” (Emphasis added.)

The objective is for these intruders, who are clothed in the supposed authority of the State (the “coldest of all cold monsters”), to instruct mothers how to care for their own flesh and blood. The program is “voluntary,” for now. It will not remain so.

As noted above, the Nurse Family Partnership (NFP) was devised in the United States by Dr. David Olds of the University of Colorado. It has been implemented in 22 states, and legislation proposed by Senators Ken Salazar (D-Colorado) and Arlen Specter (R-Pennsylvania) would “expand access” to the program to all 50 states and the District of Columbia “through the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) ... providing at-home nurse visits for up to 570,000 first-time mothers each year.”

For more than a century, collectivist social engineers have extolled the merits of home visitations by State-assigned social workers as a way of circumventing parental authority and establishing a proprietary claim on children. The most notorious recent examples – on this side of the Atlantic, in any case – are Hillary Clinton and Janet Reno, the latter demonstrating her solicitude for children by immolating more than a dozen of them at Mt. Carmel and sending stormtroopers to seize another from his Miami relatives at gunpoint.

"Home visitation" ala Janet Reno in Miami....

... and in Waco.

In her ghost-written opus It Takes a Village, Madame Hillary rhapsodized that she “can't say enough” about the merits of home visitation programs. The Nation's Alexander Cockburn, whose household acquaintances in England included members of the Fabian Socialist movement, has pointed out that Hillary's blueprint for social engineering bears a familial resemblance to Fabianism.

"Time and again, reading … It Takes a Village, I was reminded of [Fabian founder] Beatrice Webb," Cockburn has observed. "There's the same imperious gleam, the same lust to improve the human condition until it conforms to the wretchedly constricted vision of freedom that gave us social-worker liberalism, otherwise known as therapeutic policing."

ZZ Top they ain't, but they are one of history's most notable power trios, "The Therapeutic Police": Fabian founders Beatrice and Sydney Webb (from the left, appropriately), and Fabian popularizer George Bernard Shaw.

In his 1919 book New Worlds for Old, Fabian activist H.G. Wells (better known for his science fiction offerings), laid out the basic premise of “therapeutic policing”: “
Socialism regards parentage under proper safeguards as 'not only a duty but a service' to the state; that is to say, it proposes to pay for good parentage - in other words, to endow the home.”

By making the mother dependent on subsidies, the State became the surrogate father. And, as Wells pointed out, the State claims the right to raise “its” children, should the natural parents be found unsuitable. This is the tacit but unmistakable threat that accompanies every State official who is permitted to violate the sanctity of the home.

The Blair regime's NFP Action Plan makes this quite plain, at least to people alert to the nuances of State-speak:

*Section 1.2 of the Action Plan claims a mandate for the government to assure that nobody is permitted to “waste” his “human potential,” since this is “bad for the whole country.

*Section 1.6 asserts the State's right and capacity to take “preventative action” within the home in order to “tackle problems before they become fully entrenched and blight the lives of both individuals and wider society.”

*Section 1.9 attempts to cast “wider society” as a victim of unregulated families, since “the behaviour of some people – particularly some of the most challenging families – causes real disruption and distress in the community around them.”

Thus the need, as the Blair regime and its American consultant describe it, to “develop and promote better prediction tools for use by front-line practitioners” and take measures “to ensure that those identified as at risk are followed up.”

Some sense of the purpose of “following up” on “at risk” families can be found in the British Government's Policy Review paper, “The Role of the State”:

The state ... has the legitimate monopoly of force in a given territory,” that paper begins, immediately laying a totalitarian foundation (from Lenin – the State exercises “power without limit, resting directly on force”; from Mussolini -- “Everything within the State, nothing outside the State, nothing against the State”).

The NFP initiative, the paper continues, is inspired by the vision of a “strategic and enabling state” which would be “less about command and control and more about collaboration and partnership.”The state will “focus on ends, not the means by which [its] goals are delivered,” working through “a new partnership between the State and the citizen.”

Ah, but remember that the “collaborator” and “partner” offering its assistance to the citizen claims “the legitimate monopoly of force,” which means that in the event of a dispute, it is the citizen, not the State, that will be compelled to yield.

The Fabian Socialist crest depicts a wolf in sheep's clothing -- a suitable symbol for that subversive movement, and an apt metaphor for government "home visitation" programs.

To anyone even slightly familiar with the tenets of the Clinton-era “Third Way,” or the nostrums of the attenuated variety of Marxism called “Communitarianism,” none of this will be new. It may strike some as remarkable that the American version of the NFP program has become so deeply entrenched during the reign of George W. Bush, but this wouldn't be considered odd by those who understand “compassionate conservatism” to be politically enharmonic with Clinton's “I Feel Your Pain”-style corporatism.

Furthermore, as much as it pains me to admit it, the British Fabian Socialists have nothing on their American counterparts regarding the long, patient campaign to subvert the family.

“Since the 1840s … American social history could be written as the deliberate dismantling of the home-centered economy, and the consequent decay of the foundations of our liberty,” observers Dr. Alan Carlson. “[T]his turn against the home was not a natural consequence of industrialization or the emergence of a modern economy. Rather, the change derived from the application of statist ideology and consciously-made political and legal choices.”

"The first direct assault on family autonomy grew out of the reform school movement during the 1830s," whose influence was particularly strong in New York and Pennsylvania, continues Dr. Carlson. In 1839, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, acting on assumptions inspired by the reform school movement, invoked the concept of parens patriae to justify the state's actions in supplanting parents it found "unequal to" or "unworthy of the task" of educating children.

In 1882, the Illinois Supreme Court ruled: "It is the unquestioned right and imperative duty of every enlightened government, in its character of parens patriae to protect and provide for the comfort and well-being of its citizens.... The performance of this duty is justly regarded as one of the most important governmental functions, and all constitutional limitations must be so understood and construed so as not to interfere with its proper and legitimate exercise." (Emphasis added.) The principle of parens patriae, properly understood, requires the demolition of all constitutional limitations, rather than their “redefinition.”

In 1913, Dr. Arthur W. Calhoun published A Social History of The American Family: From Colonial Times to the Present, which would become an authoritative text for American social-service and welfare workers. Calhoun was remarkably unabashed in promoting a perspective on State supremacy that could have been offered by Marx and Engels (who brazenly called for “abolition of the family!” in the Communist Manifesto):

"American history consummates the disappearance of the wider [or extended] familism and the substitution of the parentalism of society.... The new view is that the higher and more obligatory relation is to society rather than to the family; the family goes back to the age of savagery while the state belongs to the age of civilization. The modern individual is a world citizen, served by the world, and home interests can no longer be supreme."

By 1930, the year that President Herbert Hoover convened the White House Conference on Child Health and Protection, it was possible for an American president to describe, in public, the individual child as someone "who belongs to the community almost as much as to the family," and a citizen of "a world predestinedly [sic] moving toward unity.” The latter phrase seems to foretell, by roughly six decades, the claim contained in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child that government is the primary custodian of all children, with the UN itself at the head of a global system of parens patriae.

For more than a century and a half, collectivist cliques on both sides of the Atlantic have been engaged in a kind of dialectical pas de deux where State control over the family is concerned, each side propelling the other to ever-greater heights of presumption. As I said, sometimes it seems a pity that England is just one ocean away.

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Mister Spock said...

Will -

I have quite a few quotes related to this issue. Here are just a few:

"I advise no one to place his child where the Scriptures do not reign paramount."
- Martin Luther

"Wherever is found what is called a paternal government, there is found state education. It has been discovered that the best way to insure implicit obedience is to commence tyranny in the nursery."
– Benjamin Disraeli, British Prime Minister

"I don't want my children fed or clothed by the state, but if I had to choose, I would prefer that to their being educated by the state."
– Max Victor Belz

"I don't believe in public schools at all. I believe education is corrupted by being turned into a state function."
- Joseph Sobran

"[T]he child should be taught to consider his instructor...superior to the parent in point of authority.... The vulgar impression that parents have a legal right to dictate to teachers is entirely erroneous.... Parents have no remedy as against the teacher."
– John Swett, Superintendent of California Public School System (1860s)

"We who are engaged in the sacred cause of education are entitled to look upon all parents as having given hostages to our cause."
– Horace Mann, first secretary of education in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts

The education of all children, from the moment that they can get along without a mother's care, shall be in state institutions at state expense.
– Karl Marx, "The Communist Manifesto"

"Give me four years to teach the children and the seed I have sown will never be uprooted."
– Vladimir Lenin

"Far from failing in its intended task, our educational system is in fact succeeding magnificently, because its aim is to keep the American people thoughtless enough to go on supporting the system."
– Richard Mitchell, "The Underground Grammarian"

"Government schooling is the most radical adventure in history. It kills the family by monopolizing the best times of childhood and by teaching disrespect for home and parents.... "
– John Taylor Gatto, New York State Teacher of the Year, "The Underground History of American Education"

"In keeping Americans ill-educated, ill-informed and constitutionally ignorant, the education establishment has been the politician's major and most faithful partner. It is in this sense that American education can be deemed a success."
– Walter Williams, Professor of Economics, George Mason University

zach said...

Anyone intrigued by the death of Britain and by extension Western Civilization, might find interesting Theodore Dalyrymple's Life at the Bottom and Our Culture, What's Left of It. A former British prison and slum doctor, he incisively details how the modern left liberal intelligentsia has ravaged our world with their unending plans for social welfare. He is also one of those people who can delight the reader with elegant ly worded insights into human nature.

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

Zachary.... Good reference there! Lets not forget that the "Conservative - Liberal" dialectic is meaningless in light of the fact that both wings working vigorously together to bring about the society we see around us. Anything else is merely "bread and circuses" for the ignorant masses.

The quotes from Mr. Spock are very good. I love pouring over snippets like those because they're like warning signs on the highway to Hell.

Anonymous said...

Here is another observation. Have you ever noticed how so many utopians have such terrible relations with their own families? They can't even get their own lives straight but by God!... they'll see to it that everyone else follows their diktats!

William N. Grigg said...

Dr. Fix -- That's a very telling observation. I'm reminded that Jean-Jacques Rousseau had a series of illegitimate children (five, if my memory serves), all of whom he placed in foundling homes or orphanages for others to raise. THEN he wrote "Emile," his guide for the "natural" education of children.

It's an old saw, but an irrefutable truth, that those collectivists who most passionately profess their love for mankind in general tend to be deficient in their affection for individuals, including their own flesh and blood.

Anonymous said...

If you don't mind my asking, Mr. Grigg, who's profiting from all this? Are there (politically connected) companies in Colorado and Pennsylvania that are looking to have government contracts steered their way? Someone should follow up on this.

Andy in New Orleans

Anonymous said...

Now, as a public high school English teacher myself, I must ask the question: "How for any of you at all can say this about public education? Government controlling education does not stifle families. The state provides premere instruction for everyone, no one is excluded, with social benfits for all to prepare to become workers in a productive world. Parents' Pate' has worked for the betterment and not the worst of the public at large.

Anonymous said...

Thats a trick question. Right?

Mister Spock said...

I'm sure the anonymous teacher is a joke. As far as the decline of England, most of us recognize this battle is ultimately spiritual.

If I can plug a Christian ministry (if not, remove this), Answers in Genesis ( has a great dvd called Genesis: The Key to Reclaiming the Culture. In it, Ken Ham shows that what is happening in America has already happened in England, and we will ultimately go down the drain just as England has if we lose our spiritual roots. While his focus is on the spiritual rather than the political/economic, there is a definite link there, and, as we all know, where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.

Anonymous said...

One question: If we were to leave schooling to the parents and parents alone, what would be the repercussions? As far as I can see, none..... save promoting racism, sexism and sundry other "isms" in some families. Oh, and increasing the hardships of those coming from less educated parents. And, let us not forget, ensuring that those parents and guardians who abuse their children do not have to worry about someone who does not share their parenting ideals interfering. I personally believe in balance in near everything. All I ask, is look to the what effects the opposite situation would have. Find a balance between the two. After all, a horse with blinders on will never see to the right or left, and may indeed miss a better path.

William N. Grigg said...

Who is this almighty "We" to whom you refer? What numinous entity is it that would condescend to permit parents to raise their children as they see fit? To what enlightened quorum do you refer, its members miraculously cleansed of the fallen and reprobate attitudes of lesser folks like ... well, the rest of us?

The most pernicious "-isms" -- such as militarism, nationalism (as opposed to a commendable -ism, patriotism), and collectivism of any kind, are nurtured by the state, not by the family.

This is emphatically true of racism, when that attitude is properly understood (it tends to be a by-product of war propaganda). "Sexism" is a content-free pejorative and unworthy of the attention of serious people.

Why should we assume, given the absolutely abhorrent record of the State in cultivating collectivist attitudes and harvesting huge body counts, that it should have any role in influencing the lives and minds of children?

There is no case to be made for "balancing" this responsibility between parents on the one hand, and state-employed strangers on the other; any role played by government of any kind should be purely and entirely subject to the parents' discretion.