When it comes to my ideas about how to structure society, I have confident answers for most things, because they’re based on solid principles that I’m very comfortable with. But there are a few tough questions that I don’t have answers for. The toughest one — and the one that haunts me the most — is how to protect children with parents who are abusive or otherwise unfit. I honestly have no good ideas. Do you?
I started thinking about this Wednesday because of a video clip that a lot of people were linking to. Some were laughing. Some were shaking their heads. Others were angry. I’m just left frustrated at how no solution to this problem fits neatly into any of the things I believe in.
The video is a collection of several stories about a woman in Florida who has 15 children with three different men. She is angry because she thinks no one is doing enough to give things to her and her children. She’s not a sympathetic character, to put it mildly. At one point, she tells a TV reporter:
“Somebody needs to pay for all my children and all our suffering. Somebody needs to be held accountable and they need to pay.”
The state’s child service agencies had been trying to help her. They had been paying her rent, giving her furniture, and providing other services. But that wasn’t enough for this dysfunctional woman. When we meet the woman and her kids, they’re all living in a two-bedroom motel unit — after they had been evicted from a house that the state had been paying for. (The details of the eviction are unclear.)
It’s easy to turn this into just another opportunity to bash whiny people who believe society owes them something. That’s certainly the case with this woman. Ultimately, though, the question is what a truly free society can do about situations such as this one.
The absolutist answer is to simply say that people are completely on their own. If they have kids, they’re responsible for them and it’s not anybody’s else’s problem (or business). That’s not a satisfactory answer to me.
The other extreme is some variation of what we have today — a coercive system that says someone has the power to take children, but also has the responsibility to give things to dysfunctional idiots such as the mother in the video. (That’s some of her kids in a motel room with a reporter.) To me, that’s just a different kind of disgusting. That has devolved into a bizarre kind of system by which we enable dysfunctional people to be bad parents and expect the rest of us to pay for their irresponsibility. It’s not a solution, either.
So what do we do? Does a free society simply leave it up to individuals to take matters into their own hands when they see kids being mistreated — and handle it as well as they can if they have the physical force to enforce a solution? That’s a messy and unclear answer, so I can’t claim to like that one, either.
In every case, the kids are the ones who are hurt — and I don’t have any idea what to do about it.
So what do you think? Do you have a solution that I don’t have? This is one of those questions that any free society is going to have to deal with. Are you going to throw the kids overboard in the name of our principles of freedom? Are you going to allow an exception to be made to rules against coercion? Or is it going to be some kind of vigilante justice where people with the desire to protect children simply force their way in a free-lance sort of way?
I don’t have a good solution. Actually, I don’t have any solution, good or bad. How about you?