Divorcées and Social Engineers
Cathy Young bends over backward to be fair in "Divorcées and Social Engineers" (December), and as usual she mostly succeeds. But we may be missing an opportunity to probe deeper into a perversion of government power without precedent in our history.
Young characterizes some of my views as "extreme." But my argument that government's ever-expanding family machinery has developed a vested interest in removing children from their fathers was recently documented in Political Science and Politics, a peer-reviewed journal of the American Political Science Association not known for airing extremist opinions. The argument is in fact a commonplace of political science: Bureaucracies often perpetuate the problem they are created to address.
My charges are corroborated by a feminist insider. In the October issue of the same journal, St. Olaf College political science professor Jo Michelle Beld confirms that the livelihoods of child support officials depend on broken homes, that these same enforcement officials set the child support levels they collect, and that "high child support orders, in combination with other child support enforcement policies, have a negative effect on contact between non-custodial parents and their children."
Perhaps it is not my rhetoric but what the government is doing to its citizens that is extreme. We are talking here about the forced removal of millions of children from parents who have done nothing wrong; mass incarcerations of those parents without trial; forced confessions; government seizure of the private papers, property, and homes of citizens accused of nothing; children used as government informers against their parents; doctored court records; involuntary litigants shaken down on pain of incarceration for the fees of lawyers and psychotherapists they have not hired; and much more.
Oddly, nobody has written more eloquently on many of these abuses than Cathy Young. But now she asks blithely, "Is there any way to avoid that?" and expresses a truly astonishing pathos for "people forced to choose between losing their children and remaining in an emotionally intolerable marriage."
No one today is "forced" to contract a marriage agreement, which is designed to provide an emotionally tolerable environment for children. To avoid this intolerable choice for parents who lack grounds to break their contract, parents who remain faithful currently must lose their children without being given any "choice" in the matter. They may then be expropriated for not only everything they have but most of what they will ever earn, coerced into signing a confession, criminalized in ways they are powerless to avoid, and jailed indefinitely without trial.
By the way, I have never advocated that a parent should have no access to his or her children. What I advocate is bringing questions of justice, rather than therapy or social engineering, back into courtrooms. This certainly includes the joint custody (properly understood) that Young proposes. But any solution will effectively minimize divorce damage only by identifying the interests inflicting that damage and vigilantly monitoring them.
Reason and Cathy Young deserve credit for opening a dialogue, but they would be doing a greater service through a more extensive investigation into this hijacking of the justice system.
Jacob Sullum rightly suggests that the strongest argument in favor of letting Rush Limbaugh keep his freedom after he admitted abusing prescription painkillers is that, so long as he's not hurting anybody else, it's nobody's business what he puts in his body ("Drug Rush," December). Drug abuse is a personal medical problem just like alcoholism, and we should treat it the same way.
Regardless of the total social harm attributed to alcohol (which is considerably higher than that attributed to all illegal drugs combined), attempting to jail anyone who consumes or possesses alcohol in order to redress that harm would be inconceivable. The government's interest in protecting the health and safety of its citizens is better served by simply prohibiting public intoxication, driving while impaired, or selling alcohol to minors. Likewise, focusing on irresponsible drug users, rather than all of them, would save our nation billions of dollars every year -- money that could be better spent on realistic drug education and treatment on demand.
As a police officer, I would rather go after public safety threats, like drunk drivers, than Rush Limbaugh. As a taxpayer, I don't want to pay for him to go to prison; I want my tax dollars to help the schools. As a humanitarian, I want Rush to get medical help for his addiction, using doctors, not prison guards.