Nazi Parents and the State

Janet Keeping writes in the Western Standard:

The Manitoba government is seeking permanent custody of a brother and sister already in care. What’s wrong with the parents? Media reports have mentioned possible drug and alcohol abuse. But if press coverage is accurate, the main issue is that the parents have been teaching their children to hate non-whites and how to act on that hatred. Apparently, the seven-year old not only believes people of colour are inferior and ought to die, but knows how to kill them. (…)

What then about children brought up in a household that is relentlessly and hatefully racist? The generally applicable standard for guardianship decisions is “best interests of the child”. Given that foster care is often inadequate, we can’t justify seizure of children unless their best interests will be so served. Is ethical abuse – the systematic inculcation of hatred – enough? Does it differ so greatly from refusal to educate? How do you function safely, let alone even remotely successfully, in our highly diverse society, if you are taught from day one that people of colour (or Jews, Aboriginal people, or other minority populations) deserve to die?

And what if it isn’t just hate as an attitude that is taught, but also the ways in which hate can be acted upon? The seven-year-old girl in the Manitoba case – if the reports are correct – told investigators she knew how to kill black people and proceeded to explain.

To remove children from such a home does not strike me as ideological tyranny. Given such extreme ethical abuse, we would be justified, I think, in trying to give the children involved a better chance at a decent future. And in my book, the hate alone, even without the teaching of murderous technique, could sometimes warrant removal.

Indoctrinating kids in this way is certainly extremely harmful to them, and in this case probably to others as well. As I’ve said before, though, I don’t think the state should intervene to prevent even very bad parenting. Government action should be based on simple rules which delimit the scope of legitimate intervention. In general, parents are best positioned and motivated to advance their child’s interests, and so I prefer a blanket rule of parental sovereignty. I’m going to bite the bullet and say the government should leave this girl with her awful, awful parents.

That’s not to say the rest of us shouldn’t do anything peaceful in order to discourage the parents and expose the child to different and more reasonable points of view. I’m all for voluntary action to socially pressure parents into being more reasonable. Altruistic punishment to enforce illiberal norms can be very bad, of course, but the fact that it’s decentralised probably makes it more robust to bigotry than a centralised decision-making body like the state. A liberal state with the power to intervene in the parent-child relationship might be able to prevent small scale Nazism from being passed down the generations, but those same powers make possible the eugenic horrors of state Nazism we saw last century.

2 Responses

  1. […] * The classical kind, not the commie pinko kind. ** Or at least beating it with a jug-cord. *** Ok, some people seem to. Tags: child discipline, Christian Right, Deborah Coddington, Section 59, symbolic […]

  2. […] importantly, though, empowering the state to prevent bad parenting also empowers it to engage in indoctrination itself. We may be able to prevent a few instances of bad parenting, but only at the risk of recreating the […]

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