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.