August 09, 2005


In response to this post of mine, comments pursuant to it, and this post of Toad's, I have attempted this analysis of the Child Protection Services and Government's role in the protection of children from a libertarian and Christian viewpoint. I encourage and value feedback and would love to develop this into a more cogent, longer, and cited work:

Having been given the unfortunate task of defending the necessity of the Child Protection Services (hereafter referred to as CPS), allow me to start with a couple of caveats. It should be noted that the author, as a Libertarian approaches the role of government from that perspective, and in particular, the view that there are some roles that cannot be entrusted to private organizations, such as anything with welfare of the entire public in mind. Thus, to a libertarian, these roles are accepted as inevitable, but limited to absolute necessities. That said your average libertarian (myself included) accepts police presence and military defense operations as necessities, along with judicial responsibilities and whatever (minimal) legislative needs arise. Obviously the laws will be up for grabs, but it's generally accepted that murder, rape, assault, kidnapping... etc are illegal.

In short, the question I have been given to answer is: "Should the public be entrusted with the protection of society's children in an ad hoc fashion, or should it be a governmental responsibility, bearing in mind that it is already tasked with the defense of the public welfare?"

Now, before any of you shout "theocracy" and I have to light you on fire, allow me another caveat: in an ideal Christian society, I can let there be no line between Church and State... but we do not have such a system so the point is moot.*

Now that we've gone and sighed about "wouldn't it be nice" (and this isn't too dismiss the idea that an ideal world and an ideal government wouldn't be nice), please allow me to address the pragmatic realities.

While I appreciate that a great many conservatives would really like the idea of private organizations handling items of public welfare, I would counter that, at least in the case of child welfare, governmental oversight is the lesser of two evils. Simply put, a government has the obligation to protect the rights of its citizens. In short, the rights of a child to be protected from torture, abuse and negligent parents supersedes a parent's right to custody of a child. To that end, I would argue that "taking someone's children is kidnapping", while true in lieu of outstanding governmental obligations, becomes moot when said parent has been legally demonstrated to be a risk to his/her child.

Now, as to Toad's solution of a privatized equivalent of the CPS, I think he admits that it won't work within the strictures of a modern government, but I'd like to explore further why it's a bad idea even within the confines of a typical libertarian government. In short, I believe that even within the traditionally libertarian understanding of government, it is held that police protection from other citizens who would attempt to break laws is acceptable. Further, because I doubt that anyone would argue that child abuse shouldn't be illegal, it falls to the government as a representative of all good citizens to protect these children from crimes perpetuated against them by criminals, EVEN IF THOSE CRIMINALS ARE THEIR PARENTS.

Now, this is where we get into the thorny issue of child custody. I wouldn't go so far as to say, like some Socialistic countries, that children are legally the wards of the State from the beginning and are only given to parents in trust... but I would like to point out that a child has to be looked after by someone. To that end, while I certainly appreciate Toad's notion of privatized Foster Services or the equivalent, the government has an obligation to see that the children in question are placed in good homes, should their own extended families (the next ideal step) be unable to do so, because government is protecting them in lieu of their parents and is protecting them FROM their parents. Now, I see Toad's general call for civic responsibility by Christians looking out for children in need as viable. Indeed, the fact of the matter is that Christians are obviously not fulfilling their obligatory role because there are still hundreds and thousands of children already in the system looking for permanent homes. To that end, I am willing to argue that government is doing a superior job to the Christian community in that it is at least dealing with all of the children in such a way as it can.

In short, the argument that the government is the ultimate evil is a nice thing to tell oneself, but it cannot be the end-all. In fact, while criticism of the government's methods has a legitimate place, it cannot operate in the vacuum of a failure to perform civic duties and attempt to work within it. To criticize CPS and the foster system and yet not seek to improve it by volunteering one's own resources falls dangerously close to hypocrisy (I speak to myself as much as others.) While far-reaching changes would certainly be welcome, the fact of the matter is that many Christians have failed to even work to improve the current system... opting instead to stand at a distance, point and ridicule. As the adage goes "If you're not part of the solution, you're part of the problem."

*At least to my mind it has been proven in modern times that God is not actively working as the head of a governmental system as per the Old Testament, even if said government claims otherwise, ergo, Holy Roman Empire, Papal States and kingship by divine right. Rulers may be divinely inspired, but God is not actively ruling any countries. In fact, even in the OT when God WAS ostensibly at the head of the State, things frequently go to hell in a hand-basket and all manner of idiotic religious and social mandates were issued, seemingly as "God's will" as stated by the current leader. Simply put, if you have an axe to grind on theocracy, don't start it in my comment system... either make a post of your own or send me an email and we'll go there.

Posted by Vengeful Cynic at August 9, 2005 10:37 PM | TrackBack