Thursday, October 18, 2007

Child Care Politicized

Tibor R. Machan

Gail Collins writes for The New York Times pleading that the presidential candidates address child care as one of their main topics, that they promise us that the government will address and confront the task of child care. As she puts it, “Right now, the only parents who routinely get serious child-care assistance from the government are extremely poor mothers in welfare-to-work programs. Even for them, the waiting lists tend to be ridiculously long. In many states, once the woman actually gets a job, she loses the day care. Middle-class families get zip, even though a decent private child care program costs $12,000 a year in some parts of the country.”

Collins writes as if it were simply self evident that a proper government take over child care from parents. She never even raises the issue of why this should be the case except to say that “You need certification in this country to be a butcher, a barber or a manicurist, but only 12 states require any training to take care of children. Only three require comprehensive background checks. In Iowa, there are 591 child care programs to every one inspector. California inspects child care centers once every five years.”

One may assume, then, that Gail Collins thinks parents, too, need certification and that there should be government inspectors checking on how children are being raised. Her argument, if you can call it that, is simply that government has gotten into nearly everything else in people’s lives, so it should be involved big time in child care as well.

But this is all question-begging. Just because government messes with nearly everything, it doesn’t follow by a long shot that it ought to do so nor that it should expand its role in people’s lives. Collins is upset that when in “1971, Congress actually passed a comprehensive child care bill . . . it was vetoed by Richard Nixon.” She frets that “The next time the bill came up, members were flooded with mail accusing them of being anti-family communists who wanted to let kids sue their parents if they were forced to go to church.”

The only person she believes is addressing the issue to some rather minimal extent is, of course, Hilary Clinton. After all, Clinton wrote a book titled “It Takes a Village And Other Lessons Children Teach Us.” Collins fails to mention that the claim that Clinton’s statism about raising children was inspired by a UC Berkeley educated Marxist thinker, “Rabbi” Michael Lerner, editor of the Left Wing Jewish magazine, Tikkun and that the it takes a village idea is indeed communist.

I don’t raise the point because I hope to scare people, as Collins claims must be the case with those who make the charge that Clinton’s is a communist notion. I raise it because it is a rotten idea to remove responsibility from parents for the care of their children and to transfer it to the state. It was a bad idea when first suggested in Plato’s famous dialogue, Republic, even though Socrates only advocated this policy for the supposedly ideal society—thus it was for him only a kind of model, not a practical recommendation. But it was a very dangerous notion, envisioning leaving strangers, especially politicians and bureaucrats, in charge of bringing up the young.

I lived in a country during my early years where it was taken as a given that the government is responsible to raise children, to “educate” them, care for them, to nourish them. The result was, not just there but throughout the Soviet bloc, the alienation of children from their parents, the widespread snooping by children who were taught to turn in their parents for political incorrectness, and, of course, the eventual collapse of the society.

Child rearing is a serious challenge, which is why the lesson folks like Collins and Clinton should be teaching is for people not to have children unless they are well prepared for doing so, economically, psychologically, morally, and in all the other ways required to be good parents. It is no answer to avoid this personalized approach to parenting and to bring in government which, as should be known by all, including columnists for The New York Times, is pretty bad at nearly everything it sets out to do. Never mind it isn’t its proper task in any country, let alone in America.

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