ISSUES IN FOCUS
Week of May 10, 1999
PUNISHING THE INNOCENT
For decades, statists have been preaching that you are responsible for others. Now, this notion is on the verge of taking a vicious and ugly turn: you are going to be held responsible for the criminal actions of another, if statists have their way.
In the wake of the tragedy in Littleton, Colorado, the White House has convened a conference to find ways to supposedly prevent such future violence. This conference is a sham since criminal behavior’s actual cause, the philosophy of statism, will never be discussed. One frightening proposal under consideration is the imposition of criminal penalties on the parents of children who commit a crime with a gun.
Following their tried and true tactic, statists are now seeking to cash in on the problems created by their ideas, laws and regulations.
For years, statists have been enacting legislation that has made it all but impossible for parents to control their children, especially the child who is going bad—the child who lies, cheats, steals and generally doesn’t mind, the very kind of child who is likely to become a criminal. There is no reasoning with a child who is in the process of rejecting reason. A parent has only one, proper recourse in such a situation: punishment of some sort, either a withdrawal of privileges or spanking.
With the proliferation, in recent years, of "child abuse" laws, parents have become increasingly fearful of punishing their children for misbehavior. An evil child can turn his parents’ lives into a living hell by simply claiming "abuse." A child can call a "child abuse" hotline or make a claim of "abuse" to his school counselor, bringing authorities, including the police, to the doorstep of his parents. Parents are subjected to investigations and intimidation. Most quickly learn to tread gingerly with their children. This effectively puts the child, not the parent, in the driver’s seat.
A child soon learns he can make it even worse for his parents if they don’t toe the line. The child can yell "sex abuse." The mere allegation, even though unsubstantiated, can result in the imprisonment of the parent. Indeed, this has already occurred in some parts of this country. Just ask some parents in Wenatchee, Washington, many of whom are still in prison.
Then add to this festering brew, the hundreds of tort laws that have permitted and encouraged the explosion of litigation in the last 20 or so years. Many teachers and school authorities treat school children with kid gloves, fearful of some lawsuit by an angry parent.
And now statists are threatening to tighten the noose around the necks of parents by making them criminally liable for the actions of their children, children who have become uncontrollable largely because of statist legislation. If a child now has the power to intimidate his parents, just wait until he discovers he can send his parents to jail if he commits a crime with a gun. As a juvenile, he knows he will likely get out of jail by the age of 18. But his parents could be in jail for years. The terror of parenthood will then be complete.
Once a few parents are sent to jail for the criminal acts of their children, statists will effectively accomplish another goal: to get rid of guns in your home. Parents, or any adult who ever has a child in his home, will begin to remove guns from their homes, out of fear of possible imprisonment. It will simply be too dangerous to have a gun in your home.
It is an individual’s acceptance of the idea that it is proper for him to personally engage in the initiation of force that prompts him to criminal action. But no one forces an individual to accept such an idea. The individual's power to think critically is the threshold across which no idea can pass without his permission, including the ideas of statism. This is why, in a free and rational society, the individual is held responsible for his criminal actions. In America, we are moving toward reversing this principle: you are to be held responsible for the criminal actions of another.
Once this precedent is established, it will not stop with parents. It will spread to others who might have some alleged role in the spread of crime. There will be calls for criminal penalties for the producers of violent movies. There will be calls for censorship of any medium of communication that provides access to information useful in the commission of a crime. There will be calls for jail time for anyone who sells a product that is used in a crime. The frenzy over crime will produce an avalanche of laws and regulations, all seeking to control anyone and anything.
And all of this will be done in the name of solving the problem of crime created by statists. Statism, the mother and father of crime, will use its own monstrous child as the justification for the continued decline of America’s freedom. Once enough Americans begin to understand this statist gimmick—create a problem, then rush to "solve" it with more of the same poison that created it—then this country can begin to turn in the direction of expanding freedom.
May 10, 1999
© Copyright 1999 Fulton Huxtable
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