Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Brooke Shield Doesn’t Need Congress

Tibor R. Machan

When Tom Cruise belittled Brooke Shields some time ago for resorting to medication, in her effort to cope with her postpartum depression, it was one celebrity’s meddling in another’s affairs. Shields may well needed some help but, in any case, it wasn’t Cruise’s business. Such matters are not easily generalized and who can tell whether what ailed Shields ought to be dealt with by way of medication. Was Cruise qualified to advise Shields? I doubt it.

Now it is Shields, however, who is doing some meddling herself, asking that the United States Congress provide “an easy gift to give to women everywhere” by way of legislation that would, as one report has it, “address post-partum depression education, detection and treatment.” The lady seems to think that it is Congress’s task to come to the aid of those who are finding it difficult to cope after having given birth. All this following thousands of years of women managing quite well at this task on their own, with help from family and friends instead of politicians and bureaucrats.

What are the sort of problems Congress ought to address in a free country? They have to do with crime—with some people violating the rights of other people. Even there it isn’t the federal government that needs to step in. Rather, it is the business of local law-enforcement to address such problems.

In any case, coping with post-partum depression certainly does not qualify as a problem that politicians and bureaucrats should address. For one, the Constitution doesn’t authorize them to enter this area of concern. More importantly, the Constitution is right about this—a political body has no business meddling in medical matters unless they involve public health concerns, such as might be the case with contagious diseases. Post-partum depression is by no stretch of the imagination some kind of general medical malaise. It is rare and highly individual, differing significantly from one case to another.

What is especially annoying about Ms. Shields’ call for Congressional action is that she herself could do plenty to help those whom she seems to care about. She has experienced this malady and she is a pretty well-to-do citizen with the resources needed to, say, launch a campaign in support of others who are facing the problem. She has connections in the publishing industry, having penned a book or two herself, and could easily write and publish something about the problem that could be read by those afflicted with the malady. Why bother getting all of us involved when the target audience is relatively small? Why promulgate the notion that when some folks need help, they cannot get it from their fellows but must run to the Nanny State for help?

It is specially worrisome that a rich and famous individual like Brooke Shields hasn’t the fortitude to address a problem she knows about with her own ample resources. It must be that she takes it for grated that in our society whenever there is some problem, turning to politicians and bureaucrats is the most natural way to seek a solution. If such a prominent, sophisticated individual doesn’t even consider seeking non-political solutions to such problems, no wonder that millions of others with far less clout will turn to government with every problem they have.

The approach Ms. Shields is taking to this matter is also inconsistent with how so many people in her industry quickly yell “censorship” when others want the government to regulate the content of TV programs and movies, content that they believe contributes to undermining the quality of life in this country. Somehow it is nasty censorship to want government to remedy matters in one area but public service to want to remedy matters in another. In fact, of course, in both kinds of cases citizens in this country have all the opportunities to help themselves and their fellows without bringing in the government.

Ms. Shields could set a fine example to all her fans and others who keep on eye on her by addressing the phenomenon of post-partum depression on her own initiative. Not only would this be a more informed approach but it would also leave those not involved in the problem of post-partum depression free to address issues that they are facing.

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