This is going to be very short, because I find myself in the curious position of still being mostly exhausted. It turns out that I’m just the sort of person all those doom and gloom writers write about–take away my technology, and I go completely to pieces.
Oh, I got all my stuff done, I even met all my classes–I think I may be the only person in the department who didn’t need to sign up for extra classroom space to make up for a day–but at the end of it, and nearly a week later, I find myself wanting to do nothing more ambitious than rolling myself into a ball and going back to sleep.
And I can’t. I have things to do. I have pieces of trees, still.
All that said, I think I would disagree on one very important point here: I think there is something inherent in bureaucracies that make them behave as they do.
And I think they all behave alike.
It doesn’t matter if they’re public or private, nonprofit or for profit, religious or secular. The first imperative of a bureaucracy is to protect itself. The second is to expand its power as far as it can possibly go.
The private sector bureacracies used to be less intractable because the people who worked in them were subject to being fired at will–they lacked the kind of job security the public sector bureacracies had through civil service laws.
These days, though, a complicated web of regulations and court decisions and law meant to “protect’ workers from everything from “sexual harrassment” to “discrimination” has made it politically impossible for any large organization with deep pockets to fire at will, so that they have developed internal controls meant to protect them from legal challenges that effectively make it difficult or impossible to fire anybody for cause.
Certainly, bureacracies often contain good people who want to do good jobs and even to help–but it only takes a minority for a bureacracy to behave like a bureacracy, and it always does.
Beyond that, my primary concern is with the relationship between citizens and their government, which SHOULD be that of an employer to an employee–that is, the citizens are the employers of government, and not the children of it.
“Preventive” and “protective” legislation and regulation of the kind some people have advocated here seems to me to be in direct violation of that concept of the relationship between a citizen and his government.
It assumes, rather, that the government possesses wisdom of a kind that the mere citizen–being not much better than a child, and probably both malevolent and self-destructive–cannot possess, and that government therefore must regulate for the citizen’s own good even behavior that is completely private. After all, if the citizen was a fully functioning adult human being, he wouldn’t make these silly choices.
I would say that governments should not be allowed to make laws “for your own good” at all, and should restrict themselves to what can clearly be seen to be behavior that harms other people, and even then only when it harms them in a significant way–except that I’ve spent the last thirty years watching governments embrace pseudo-scientific crap in order to produce a “significant harm” where none in fact exists.
If you don’t believe me, I suggest you find yourself a first rate math major and let him take you through the protocols of all those studies “proving” that secondhand smoke is going to kill you.
And no, I don’t smoke. And neither does anybody else in my family that I know of.
So let me go farther than that. Let me say that governments should not be allowed to make laws about private life at all unless they can show that such things are absolutely necessary to allow society to run at all. That would strike off not only all the anti-tobacco regulations, but the federal ban on bake sales in public schools, and most of the drug laws.
As for families and what happens in them, I think that the case of the person who used t knife to make an 8 year old’s vagina large enough to get a penis into should of course be prosecuted for assault. The laws for that kind of thing already exist.
But to assume that the fact that such people exist at all–they are not, obviously, common–is excuse for subjecting every family with a child to what amounts to the tactics of a police state is not just wrong, but worse than wrong.
A parent who has committed a crime against a child–or for whom there is probable cause to assume so–should be prosecuted like any other person accused of a crime, and that means with full due process of law and full recognition of both his right to the presumption of innocence and his other rights.
There should be no case in which a government should be allowed to mete out punishment to a citizen–and having your child taken away from you is punishment, as is having to attend “parenting skills classes” or being forced to interact with your child only under the obswervation of a social worker–until it can be proved beyond a reasonable doubt that such a crime occured and that the defendant has committed it.
It should certainly never be the case that supposed “social experts”–social workers, psychologists, teachers, nurses–should be allowed to require parents to make decisions for their children that are opposed to the parents’ own understanding of what is good for that child, such as whether or not to put him on Ritalin or sending him to one “therapy’ or another.
And laws about what constitutes a crime against a child should be passed by legislatures, not issued as regulations by departments and then given the force of law.
I am inherently suspicious of all forms of centralized power. But I am worse than suspicious of centralized power that claims it is only working “for my own good,” or that it is staffed by people so virtuous and well-intentioned that the danger of finding a Nurse Ratchet among them is close to nil.
Nurse Ratchets are drawn to bureaucracies like bees are to flowers, and in the end they run every bureaucratic organization ever built.
I have to go to the post office before it closes.
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