California's attempt to expand the nanny state

  • 29 December 2016
  • NormanL
California's attempt to expand the nanny state

California is noted for setting trends, including political trends that can reshape the national scene.  Tax revolts, term limits, Ronald Reagan – all got their start there.

A recent California proposal however, would set a disturbing trend, if it takes hold. It’s a proposal to create a bill of rights for children. On its surface, the idea seems relatively harmless, making broad statements about general ideas that few would find reason to oppose.

But as this item notes, if adopted, the proposal opens the door to a vast array of nanny state meddling that could give the state reason to curtail just about anything it finds objectionable:

The most contentious "rights" in Pan's list are the ones that imply second-guessing of parental decisions and interference with family relationships. S.B. 18 says children have a right to "live in a safe and healthy environment," to have "parents, guardians, or caregivers who act in their best interest," and to "form healthy attachments with adults responsible for their care and well-being." Since it's not clear what happens when a parent's idea of a healthy environment, healthy attachments, or a child's best interest conflicts with a legislator's or a bureaucrat's, you can start to see why the bill's opponents call it "an attempt by power-hungry California legislators to further degrade the rights of parents," argue that it "will eventually make the State the top-dog controlling force over all children in California," warn that "it's extremely problematic to allow a very small group of people to decide what constitutes 'best' for...millions of families," or worry that Pan's dubious, undefined rights "could easily be manipulated to make a case for confiscating your child."

While these dangers are theoretical at this point and might remain so even if Pan's bill passes, the state does (and should) impose limits on parental authority, as illustrated by laws against child abuse or the debate over mandatory vaccination. A legislature that takes this vacuous list of rights seriously would be more inclined to err on the side of intervention, with potentially pernicious implications for parental prerogatives and children's welfare. Does homeschooling qualify as "appropriate, quality education"? Is a household that contains firearms a "safe and healthy environment"? Is a strict religious upbringing consistent with "optimal cognitive, physical, and social development"? Are parents who let their child eat junk food, walk to the playground by himself, or participate in risky sports acting in his "best interest"? People's opinions on such subjects vary widely. Pan's bill invites legislators to enforce their opinions under the pretense of protecting children's rights.

Pan seems oblivious to these concerns. His spokeswoman told Snopes critics of S.B. 18 "don't want to understand the bill and instead choose to make up lies about the legislation and the senator." In opposing the bill, she said, "they oppose an effort to empower parents and ensure children and families get the support they need to succeed." Common Sense Kids Action, which backs S.B. 18, likewise sees only good intentions. Beverly Kumar, a spokeswoman for the group, says Pan's bill would begin "the process of laying out a vision of the kinds of comprehensive and research-based supports every one of our state's children should have a right to access." Who could object to that?

Kumar is one of those activists who says "our children" when she is referring to other people's children, betraying a busybody mindset that slides easily from coercively funded "supports" to bans and mandates enforced at the point of a gun. Pan's bill perfectly embodies that mindset, which only wants to help and can't imagine how that attitude could cause any harm.

All the more reason to watch this legislation very, very carefully as it winds through the notoriously liberal California General Assembly.