Activist state, concentrated harm.

Following on from yesterday’s post, in which I talked about the dispersed benefits of Libertarian policies, cutting special interests’ programs to the greater good of the economy and, indeed, liberty of the population. The costs of that policy are obvious: the people delivering and consuming the service provided, and these will scream loud and clear about the “Cut” to their “vital” service.

But there are concentrated harms in the statist policy closet too. Dick Puddlecote highlights a problem of an over mighty state: in the example a Teenage boy has it explained to him, calmly and professionally by a social-worker and the police that he can no longer stay with his father. The same boy would be subject to the law and found responsible were he to break it, but isn’t thought responsible enough to decide where to live. The police are clear: they will use violence if necessary to enforce the decree on the piece of paper. And they do. A lot of it. It gets quite disturbing from about 8 minutes in.

Now I am sure the police believe in this instance that they are doing a good job, and the social worker believes he’s helping people. But when the state is prepared to use this level of force to over-ride the free decisions of autonomous people who, it should be noted don’t appear to have broken the law, that is a “concentrated harm” of an over mighty activist state that seeks to interfere with your decisions and the way you live. That it does so “for your own good” is neither here nor there: the road to hell is paved with good intentions, and for this family at the moment in question, it is hell – the father does well to stay as calm as he does.

How many Victoria Climbies or Peter Connellys are there? Or more importantly how many such cases do the intrusive Police/social-worker/local-authority care system prevent? Not all, obviously, because such an outcome is impossible. How many children are snatched from adequate and loving homes into an environment that is NOT conducive to a happy upbringing as a result of that system? How many parents are forced into the Kafkaesque nightmare of the family courts where the burden of proof is reversed and justice is anything but public? And more importantly is the cost – forcibly broken loving homes worth the attempt to save a few extra lives? You cannot stop all bad people doing terrible things – should we risk using the awesome power of the state to destroy the lives of innocent people in order to reduce the risk of a tiny number of terrible things?

When the left calls for more “investment” in social workers, the cost is not only borne by the taxpayer, the costs are borne by the families ripped apart as that social worker’s mistakes & misjudgements. This is not a criticism of social workers, but an observation that they are merely human, like the rest of us. If you put an army into a city, civilians get killed. The more soldiers, the more accidents. Why does the left not accept the parallel? That More social workers mean more interventions and therefore more mistakes, which higher staffing and lower case-loads do not and cannot eliminate.

Back to the boy (he’s 16*, young man, surely?) being snatched from a home just before Christmas. I have No idea of the back-story. I don’t know why the social-worker needed three police officers to invade this man’s home. I’ve no doubt there’s a mother, fighting for custody amid allegations and recrimnations. It’s none of my business. What’s more important. I don’t know why the police officer thought it unreasonable that he should be filmed. But nothing suggests that anyone’s being arrested for breaking the law, so why enforce the piece of paper with such alacrity? So there is a concentrated harm of the policy of allowing the state to interfere deeply in people’s lives right there.

Liberty is, in part the right to not have 4 agents of the state enter your home and remove your children in the week before Christmas when it is perfectly clear that the child in question is there of his own free will. This happens to hundreds of people daily and I’ve no doubt it does some good for some of the people involved, by allowing families to sort out issues or children be saved from abuse. But no-one it seems counts the cost. The enormous costs of an over-mighty state are not all economic.

*Update: It appears the boy is 12. Still responsible should he get caught breaking the law, but not responsible enough to decide where and with whom he lives. Perhaps you could argue it makes the court order more legitmate But it does make the violence deployed rather more shocking.

7 replies
  1. mister_choos
    mister_choos says:

    I had very similar thoughts about social workers after Panarama a couple of weeks back.

    I wonder what a cost benefit analysis of social work would show?

    Obviously some more children may be badly abused, but would alot more end up having much happier lives because they had no involvment with social workers?

    I don't know the answer, but it would be interesting to find out.

  2. Weekend Yachtsman
    Weekend Yachtsman says:

    If the boy in question is sixteen how does the State get to say where he lives?

    He can join the army, get married, etc etc, but can't decide where he lives?

    What madness is this, and what law permits it?

    Can they suddenly turn up and tell me where to live? I wouldn't be surprised; it'll be in the small print of some law that was never intended to be used for that purpose, no doubt.

  3. English Pensioner
    English Pensioner says:

    I had a run-in with a social worker some thirty years ago and have never trusted them since.
    My eldest daughter, then aged about ten didn't want to go on a school trip abroad and we supported her. Rather that let the school put pressure on her to change her mind, I said that I couldn't afford the trip.
    A few days later, a young social worker called on my wife and started to make enquiries about our finances and accused my wife of "neglecting my child's wants" because she didn't go out to work, but preferred to be at home and available for them. She threatened to have them both taken into care as my wife was neglecting them, and my wife in a panic called me home from work.
    Fortunately, sense prevailed somewhere at a higher level, particularly when I pointed out "wants" are not "needs" and we met all of our children's needs. But we never got an apology for the stress this all caused, just "we're not taking the matter any further".
    My view is that they deal with the easy cases (like the police chase motorists) and ignore anything difficult, which accounts for the tragedies that we get from time to time.

  4. subrosa
    subrosa says:

    What a horrific story EP but not a particularly surprising one. Thirty years ago was roughly when all this was starting. The video shows you how well it has developed.

  5. Eva
    Eva says:

    JFC – I have a 21 year-old son, and was unable to finish watching the video.

    In the face of the teenager's obvious distress, no sane or responsible social worker would have persisted with what they were doing, regardless of what piece of paper they were holding. Forget the police – they seem to be beating up people in wheelchairs lately.

    I wonder – should all social workers who deal with children be required to be parents themselves? Then at least there would be the remote possibility that they might have a clue about these young humans whose lives they seem to control?

  6. Anonymous
    Anonymous says:

    *I wonder – should all social workers who deal with children be required to be parents themselves?*

    That would probably make them worse, not better.

    The issue isnt the social workers, it's the undue power they have been given.

  7. banned
    banned says:

    I lived in 'childrens homes' until adopted @9 years old.
    The final part of the adoption process (which incidentally had no involvement with Social Wankers whatsoever) was a private meeting between my nine year old self and a Judge In Chambers, in Old Carey, off The Strand. The purpose of this was to assess whether I really wanted the adoption to go ahead.
    I understand that this practise has now been abandoned.

    The 12 year old in this horrific vid makes his feelings plain and should be dealt with similarly.

    The adults in the vid, except dad, need killing a.s.a.p..


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