To Whom Does Your Child Belong?

Cover of "Brave New World"
Cover of Brave New World

One of the vices I try to foreswear in this forum is the singling-out of a single liberal voice. People on all sides of an issue have a right to their opinion, no matter how loony. But when something comes up that suggests a major divergence of values or perspective from the Bull Moose standpoint, it is worth highlighting if for no other reason than it offers an opportunity for us to stake out a claim.

Case in point: MSNBC’s Melissa Harris-Perry stepped into a very deep pile of something unpleasant when she said in a promotional spot last week:

…we have to break through our kind of private idea that kids belong to their parents, or kids belong to their families, and recognize that kids belong to whole communities.

This has provoked outrage among conservatives, and I think rightly so. William Bigelow, writing for Breitbart, fumed:

[Melissa Harris-Perry] may call those of us who know the value of parenting as opposed to being raised by the state trolls, but she shouldn’t be surprised by the furor over her remarks. To insult all of us who devote our lives to our children and also truly believe that we are completely responsible for their welfare is beyond offensive and repugnant; it is an attack on the foundations of western civilization itself.

I do not often agree with the Breitbart editorial line, but I have a hard time disagreeing on this one. It may take a village to raise a child, but that rearing is the responsibility of the parent(s.) To disagree is to do more than grant the state its right to act in loco parentis: it is to place on the community, and by extension the state, the responsibility for rearing children, and for the decisions about their health, welfare, education, clothing, feeding, and spiritual growth.

That statist approach to child-rearing is not only anathema to the principles that underlie this republic, they are the very precepts followed by totalitarian societies to ensure that the purpose of children is to support the state against all else. Indeed, leaving aside the implicit moral hazard of telling parents to have children without worrying about taking responsibility for them later, having the state assume that children become wards of the “community” places us on the road to fascism, to a brave new world none of us seek.

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