Saturday, January 28, 2012

The way to neuter opposition to intrusive government measures is to present them as being “for the children”

Imagine a law in America that could set children against their parents, centralize power away from the states toward the federal government, mandate increases in government spending regardless of taxpayer wishes, bypass the House of Representatives, and abrogate constitutional limitations on government power
wrote Stephen Baskerville in an issue of Touchstone last year (he is the author of Taken Into Custody: The War Against Fathers, Marriage, and the Family whose latest article is "The Rape of Justice" (PDF), published in the Salisbury Review ).
Such a measure may soon come up for ratification by the US Senate: the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC).

Children have become today’s favorite political weapon. From gun restrictions to mandatory seat-belts, the way to neuter opposition to intrusive government measures is to present them as being “for the children.” But the first casualties in the politicization of children are parents and therefore the family. Professionals who advocate for other people’s children inevitably do so at the expense of those whose first responsibility is their own children.

The CRC illustrates how radically human rights law has turned from its fundamental purpose, to be a shield protecting individuals from government intrusion, to being used as a tool of government intrusion.

…Geraldine Van Bueren, a law professor and one of the drafters of the CRC, … bluntly states that “the CRC provides an ideology for state intervention” into social and economic life. It is not a limitation on state power but a rationale for expanding it.

Subverting Sovereignty

… in America a ratified treaty becomes by constitutional stipulation the “supreme law of the land,” equal to the Constitution itself. That means that domestic courts are automatically required to enforce its provisions, without recourse to international tribunals. Treaty-making thus presents a loophole through which various interest groups can effectively legislate American domestic policy while bypassing the people’s elected lawmakers in the House of Representatives and in state legislatures.

… Anyone who doubts this need only glance at the family policy of the European Union. The EU has no legal authority to legislate in areas of family law or policy, which theoretically are left to national governments. Yet in practice, the EU sponsors many activities that undermine parents and traditional families. Driving much of this activity is EU collaboration with the CRC. …

The Dubious “Best Interest” Standard

One seemingly unexceptionable requirement of the CRC is that governments ensure the “best interest of the child.” In fact, however, the “best interest” standard is highly destructive of parental rights, because it allows government officials to decide the “best interest” of other people’s children, usurping that prerogative from parents.

Traditionally, legal authority over children has been recognized as residing with their parents, unless they somehow forfeit it. In Parham v. J. R. (1979), the Supreme Court recognized “that natural bonds of affection lead parents to act in the best interests of their children.” As Justice Potter Stewart observed in that case, “For centuries it has been a canon of the common law that parents speak for their minor children. So deeply imbedded in our traditions is this principle of law that the Constitution itself may compel a State to respect it.”

This principle has been so eroded in American domestic law that it is now the norm to assume precisely the opposite: that “the child’s best interest is perceived as being independent of the parents,” as family law practitioner Robert Williams writes, “and a court review is held to be necessary to protect the child’s interests.” …

More Dubious Provisions

Then there is Article 12, which provides that signatory governments

shall assure to the child who is capable of forming his or her own views the right to express those views freely in all matters affecting the child, the views of the child being given due weight in accordance with the age and maturity of the child.

This provision essentially institutionalizes the right of children to rebel against their parents’ authority and puts the state on the side of the child, with the backing of international law. “The Children’s Convention potentially protects the rights of the child who philosophically disagrees with the parents’ educational goals,” writes Van Bueren.

Any parent can recognize the threat. What makes the disagreement “philosophical”? What is the difference between a child who “philosophically” disagrees with his parents and one who simply doesn’t want to do his homework?

Consider also the provision regarding children’s “privacy.” Article 16 says that “no child shall be subjected to arbitrary or unlawful interference with his or her privacy, family, home, or correspondence” and that “the child has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks.” But against whom is the child’s privacy being protected? His parents?

Ironically, authorizing the state to protect a child’s “privacy” justifies massive state intrusion into family privacy. This illustrates how the concept of privacy—while valid (and in my view undervalued by many family advocates today)—is meaningless outside the context of the family.

These types of provisions might be innocuous when used to protect adults against government repression. But when applied to children, they have the effect of abolishing parental and all other authority between children and the state. This starkly illustrates how the family is essential to freedom, and how the state, when it claims to be protecting “freedom” and “privacy” and “rights”—without the mediating authority of the family—is the fox protecting the henhouse.

Out of the Mouths of Lawyers

The CRC’s provisions allow government officials to pose as the mouthpieces and defenders of other people’s children, children they do not know and do not love. The altruism of these officials is assumed without question, while parents are depicted as selfishly promoting their own interests, which are cast as contrary to those of their own children. …”

Payoffs & GONGOs

The CRC also allows UN and government officials to demand that expenditures be made to implement certain of its policies. … Thus, under the guise of “human rights,” the UN is trying to control the spending priorities of sovereign nations.

This paves the way for patronage payoffs to favored clients, in this case groups professionally involved in child welfare. … [For instance] UN officials are attempting to funnel Moldovans’ money to their cronies, who become extensions of the government.