The State Makes a Lousy Substitute for a Parent

This particular blog will remain active while SABR Matt’s away. I can’t promise daily activity, but I do have new books to discuss and some other thinky-thoughts to share.

Speaking of which, here’s my first thinky-thought: The state makes a lousy substitute for a parent.

I bring this up because in my view, many of the moral panics of our age are driven by a cadre of activists who are asking the state to DO SOMETHING in the parent’s stead. Our kids are getting fatter? DO SOMETHING, mighty Leviathan! Smash all the vending machines! Ban all the bake sales and candy bar fundraisers! Or: Our kids are bullying each other? For God’s sake, DO SOMETHING! We need a federal anti-bullying initiative, and we need it right now!

Except in the first case, the vending machines and bake sales are sources of revenue for after-school activities. And in the second case, what can the federal government do exactly? Spend more money we don’t have on a program that will essentially be worthless?

Don’t get me wrong: I think obesity and bullying are serious issues for our children that require a serious response. But if you ask the government to step in, you will, by necessity, be saddled with an oppressive one-size-fits-all program – like a bake sale ban – that will leave no room for individual differences or individual judgment. Consider how the state has responded to school-based violent crime and sexual harassment. Thanks to “zero tolerance” programs, kids who bring butter knives in their lunch risk expulsion. And if six-year-old Timmy chases down a little girl and kisses her? Boy, will he be in trouble!

A parent, on the other hand, knows her children intimately and can tailor her approach precisely to their needs. For the record, while SABR Matt and I are heavy now, we were not fat when we were elementary-school-aged kids. That’s because we had a mom and a dad who insisted we eat our veggies before we got our one dessert and pushed us outside when the weather was decent.  And by the way, while they were at it, Mom and Dad also taught us to be nice. Consequently, SABR Matt and I both befriended kids who were not well-liked by the others. Since high school, for example, I’ve always had gay friends. While I believe gay marriage activists egregiously over-simplify the issues involved, I would never dream of expressing my disagreements through hateful mistreatment. Because I had two invested parents, I know that’s not the Christian thing to do.

Unlike the state, mommies and daddies can enforce healthy eating habits while also allowing for the occasional “special treat.” And unlike the state, mommies and daddies can teach their little ones that bullying is wrong without denigrating their religious traditions in the process. The problem is, our social policy is, at the present time, actively discouraging involved parenthood. And as people look upon the inevitable results of this insanity, they understandably cast about for “solutions.” If we rely on the government to swoop in and save the day, however, we will ultimately be handed “answers” that are dessicated and ineffective. No — the family is the best alternative. Unlike the plodding state, the family is vibrant, individual, and creative.   


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