|Montréal, 13 mai 2000 / No 62||
by David MacRae
Every libertarian knows in his heart that welfare causes poverty. What is less well known is that it is also one of the most important causes of child abuse. In fact, every government social program is a major cause, often the major cause, of the particular evil it was set up to eradicate. Child-protection services kill children. Women's shelters cause domestic abuse – of women, children and, yes, men too. The War Against Drugs causes drug abuse. Child support collection agencies create deadbeat dads. Divorce courts cause divorces. More commonly, they turn family squabbles into wars. As with all wars, there are only two possible outcomes: either both sides get hurt or one side is utterly destroyed. Some die.
destruction of families
This will be the first in a series of articles about the havoc induced in ordinary people's lives by government social
This destruction of individuals and families takes place behind closed doors (supposedly to protect the children), in front of secret tribunals that are not open to the public and whose records are almost impossible to obtain. The press is not allowed to identify the victims. The rule of law is completely ignored. Family courts are considered to be civil courts so the legal safeguards of the criminal system are not available. Yet they have the same powers to strip people of their rights and even to imprison them, sometimes for years.
This series of articles will argue that the solution to social problems, from child abuse to drug abuse to divorce and single motherhood, is not to eradicate the problem using the heavy hand of government and the courts nor to mitigate them using the taxes of people who have never met neither the supposed perpetrators nor the supposed victims. Rather people should be forced to take responsibility for their own decisions. They should suffer the consequences of their mistakes. And they should benefit when their decisions are right. Occasionally, the answer will appear to be that the state should nudge people into the
To start, we will need to see what happens under the current system of State control. We shall meet a clergyman from Massachusetts who was jailed for the crime of opening a door for his son. We shall meet a mother in Ohio who lost her 18-month-old daughter to foster care because she made the mistake of calling a government hotline for help. We shall meet another father from BC who was jailed because he refused to pay
How could this situation arise? Well, part of the explanation is clearly the incompetence of government. As the economist David Friedman (son of the Nobel prize winner) has said,
While government is certainly incompetent, the full answer is worse than that. It is not only incompetent but also self-serving. All social services need victims to justify their existence. If there were no victims, there would be no reason for these
In 1985 the then-Governor of Hawaii had a fit of rationality in which he ordered its child protection service abolished and replaced by a simple non-intrusive program. Handled through the obstetrics wards of hospitals, this Healthy Start program cost about 15% of the price of the monster it replaced. Some observers have concluded that it eliminated 99% of child abuse. Not found 99% of child abuse, eliminated 99% of child abuse. Yet Healthy Start has not been copied anywhere in the world. The Ontario child protection service has been
According to one study that managed to get behind the normally closed doors of the so-called
More to the point, Erin Prizzey, founder of the world's first such shelter in 1971, says that
Meet our new monster
Another new service for which a need has been recently discovered is child support/alimony collection agencies. In the US, an army of
It takes quite an exercise in doublethink to believe in the need for this. Men have always supported their children throughout history; the number who abandoned their kids before the divorce explosion of the seventies was negligible. Year after year, when surveys ask men what they think best defines manhood, they don't say that it means having a big dick or a trophy wife. They answer – by a huge margin – that manhood means providing for a wife and a family. It's as true today as it was fifty years ago.
So how did it happen that men suddenly turned into such heartless monsters? Well, the short answer is that they didn't, but to understand the problem we need to turn our attention to the Divorce Industry, which together with Welfare, is the driving motor that generates clients for all the others.
Divorce and its effects
When no-fault divorce was enacted in 1969, the idea was to allow unhappy couples to separate without having to go through the nasty process of accusing each other of adultery or some other beastly thing. But the law did not stop there. Instead, it instituted what Maggie Gallagher, author of the book The Abolition of Marriage, calls unilateral divorce, the right of either spouse to tear up their marriage contract over the objection of the other. Furthermore, the law explicitly states that bad conduct, whether adultery, spousal abuse or wilful destruction of marital property, is not to be taken into account in the divorce proceedings (domestic abuse can be a factor in deciding custody but not the break-up itself). As a result, 95% of divorces take place against the wishes of one of the two parties.
It is possible to simply divide marital property down the middle, even if this is obviously unfair to the spouse who worked hard to make his marriage work and who didn't want the divorce, but when children are involved the situation becomes much more complicated. Solomon not withstanding, you can't divide a child in two, and children are the most important assets of any marriage. When either party can unilaterally break the marriage contract without being called to account and then claim possession of the children whose homes they are destroying, the result is often a war in which everyone is utterly destroyed.
Unsurprisingly, the divorce industry rewards belligerence. Proceedings can take years, during which time the family's lives are kept on hold and their savings accounts depleted. Custody adjudicators charge thousands of dollars to generate reports that incompetent judges don't read. Allegations fly between the parties and the children are used as weapons.
Because of our culture's deification of motherhood, the loser is almost always the father. It would be far fairer to him if the law simply said,
Of course, caught in the middle of this we find the children. Next we will look at what divorce and welfare does to the kids.
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