Montréal, 13 mai 2000  /  No 62
<< page précédente 
David MacRae is a software consultant who works out of his home in St. Laurent, Quebec.
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.
The 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 « services » and legal systems. This intrusion of government power into private lives is the most extensive abuse of human rights since the abolition of slavery. It is also the best hidden, almost unknown outside the rapidly expanding circle of its victims. Social workers and court psychiatrists are given virtually unlimited powers to decide the futures of families, often without so much as talking to the person who is supposedly at fault for what they term « abuse ». In consequence, fathers are sent to jail without even being so much as accused of a crime, let alone convicted. Children are taken from their parents based on anonymous accusations that lead to secret tribunals at which neither the parents nor the children nor even the accusers are allowed to testify. Parents find out the results when their children are abducted at their schools. 
          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 « right » direction. More often, it's simpler: that the state should simply stand aside and let people deal with the consequences, good or bad, of their actions. 
          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 « child support » for a daughter who was living with him. The mother's whereabouts were unknown and she had not talked to her progeny in over a year. But first we shall meet the kids, in whose name this war is fought. 
Imcompetent government 
          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, « government can't do anything right; it can't even give money away ». As proof that he's right, consider Indians. We Canadians pay $ 20,000 every year to support each Status Indian in this country. That's $ 80,000 for a family of four. Tax-free. What do we get for our money? Poverty. Squalor. Alcoholism. Drug abuse. Child abuse. Premature death. And, of course, we get ceaseless calls for still more money. 
          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 « services ». Consequently, they create victims from thin air while believing completely that what they are doing is helping the people whose lives they are destroying. 
     « All social services need victims to justify their existence. If there were no victims, there would be no reason for these "services". Consequently, they create victims from thin air while believing completely that what they are doing is helping the people whose lives they are destroying. » 
          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 « studying » it for eight years and is now « considering » pilot programs. One can only ask why. Could it be because Healthy Start would eliminate the jobs of the people studying it? 
          According to one study that managed to get behind the normally closed doors of the so-called « Battered Women's Shelters », one-third of their clients do not so much as allege that abuse took place. Two-thirds do not need any medical treatment whatsoever and only 3% require hospitalization. In Calgary, the slang street term for these places is « The Hotel », which shows what purpose they actually serve – aside from acting as what National Post columnist Donna Laframboise calls « one-stop divorce shops ». 
          More to the point, Erin Prizzey, founder of the world's first such shelter in 1971, says that « Feminists have hijacked the women's shelter movement and use them as bunkers in their war against men ». She goes on « I knew that once we were getting any form of recognition, but above all, any funding, we would be in serious trouble. » By this she means, in danger of being hijacked. In reality, the police can handle almost all of what these shelters claim to do. The rest is an appropriate job for charities like the one Prizzey established and was then forced out of. Yet calls for funding have exploded over the last decade, and have largely been met. In the course of our investigations, we will look at the differences between Prizzey's shelter and those that exist today. These differences are instructive. 
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 58 000 agents (for comparison, the Drug Enforcement Agency only has 3305) spends six billion dollars every year in a ceaseless war against the hated, but largely mythical, « deadbeat dad ». They are building a massive database in which the whereabouts, job history, and income of every man and woman in the country will be monitored, just in case one of them should turn out to be a slacker who is refusing to provide for the needs of his or her children. The situation is much the same here in Canada. Yet there is no evidence that they are collecting any money that wouldn't be paid anyway. 
          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, « mom gets the kids ». But such a declaration would unmask the system; it must maintain the pretense of objectivity. Actually most divorce lawyers are honest enough to explain this but some fathers simply can't accept losing their offspring so they fight what they rightly regard as injustice – at which time the vultures swoop in to get their hands on the couples' life savings. 
          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. 
<< retour au sommaire