As part of my “You Be the Judge” series, I periodically share stories that presumably create moral quandaries for libertarians and other advocates of limited government and individual liberty.
Though I’ve been lax in this regard since my last iteration in the series was about drug legalization back in April.
Time to atone for this oversight. Today’s thorny topic deals with the reasons that government must provide before taking children from their parents.
We had an example of this type of quandary earlier in the year, which actually resulted in parents fleeing to Cuba.
Our new example comes from the other side of the Atlantic Ocean. Here are some details from a story in the UK-based Daily Express.
Britain’s obesity epidemic…sees NHS hospitals dealing with 1,000 cases every day… Increasingly social workers find youngsters being fed a high-fat, sugary diet, which can be just as bad for their health. The phenomenon is known as “killing with kindness” because the child craves the unhealthy food and a loving parent feels unable to say no. Professionals say they have to make complex decisions in care proceedings and a family’s gross over-eating can be one of the factors that leads to them losing their children. A Sunday Express survey of councils found that in the past year five children were taken from their families for that reason: two in Wake-field, West Yorkshire, one in Oxfordshire, one in Salford and one in Hounslow, London. The previous 12 months saw five similar cases in Sheffield, Portsmouth, Lincolnshire, Slough and Harrow, London. …Ex-Chief Medical Officer Sir Liam Donaldson warned in 2006 that health chiefs would look at removing children from their families if they became super-sized, risking their health. The first reported case took place in 2007 when an eight-year-old girl from Cumbria, who had to wear size 16 clothes, was taken into care.
I confess that this story leaves me conflicted.
Since I surely would favor the government taking kids if they were being starved to death, shouldn’t I support taking kids if they’re being fed to death?
Even if they’re not being fed to death, they are probably being condemned to lives of obesity, which is associated with all sorts of bad outcomes. Don’t I want to save them from that fate?
On the other hand, do any of us think that kids generally are better off in a foster care system?
Moreover, do you trust the government to make wise decisions? That’s an especially relevant question in the case of the United Kingdom, where kids actually have been removed from a home because the parents didn’t believe in unlimited immigration.
And what’s the cut-off point? Maybe if the government starts with seizing grossly obese children, that eventually will lead to raiding homes with mildly chubby kids.
These slippery slope arguments are important because most examples of government abuse have relatively benign beginnings (today’s monstrous income tax, for example, began in 1913 as a very simple, two-page tax with a top rate of just 7 percent).
I don’t know the right answer, but I look forward to reading the comments.
P.S. If you want additional challenging examples of “you be the judge,” peruse this list.
- Is it appropriate to put politicians on trial for economic malfeasance?
- Is it excessive vigilante justice to set your daughter’s rapist on fire?
- Should prisoners with AIDS be segregated from other convicts?
- Which tax collection tactic is more brutal and unjust?
- When a wheelchair-bound guy uses a baseball bat to punish his granddaughter’s molester, what’s the right response?
- Should politicians set pay levels at government-owned firms?
- Is sharia law sometimes appropriate?
- Is the Netherlands right to segregate troublemakers from the general population?
- What do you do about self-destructive behavior in a government-run healthcare system?
- Should there be laws against incest among consenting adults?
- Should motorists be allowed to warn other drivers about speed traps?
- Is jury nullification the right approach for victimless crimes?
- Was this angry father wrong to take matters into his own hands?
- Should drunk-rafting be a crime?
- Should rich people pay higher speeding fines?
P.P.S. On a separate matter, I gave a speech earlier this year while visiting the Citadel in South Carolina. I gave it the grandiose title of “Everything You Ever Wanted to Know about Economic Policy.”
I don’t know if this is a positive sign, but that video has been translated and posted in China. Considering that my blog is blocked in China, I assume this is progress of some sort.
You won’t be surprised to learn, though, that I have no idea how to embed this type of video, but if you have a bizarre desire to watch me pontificate with Chinese subtitles, feel free to click on the image.
I have no idea whether I’ll change any minds in China, but I hope the country moves more in a free-market direction. As shown by Hong Kong and Singapore, Chinese people are very productive when freed from the shackles of big government.
Moreover, some Chinese bigwigs seem to understand. I was very impressed, for instance, when the head of China’s sovereign wealth fund made some very accurate observations about the failure of the European welfare state.