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Married to the State

By Stephen Baskerville September 25, 2009

This came into my in-box today and I thought it makes some interesting reading on the development of law and the state and family. I have not converted the spelling to Australian.

How government colonizes the family
By Stephen Baskerville
Stephen Baskerville PhD Associate Professor of Government Patrick Henry College

In 1947, with the baby boom in its infancy and few disposed to hearing of family crisis, Harvard sociologist Carle Zimmerman saw the long-term reality: the family had been deteriorating since the Renaissance and was nearing the point of no return. Whenever the family shows signs of dysfunction, Zimmerman observed, the state helps to break it up. During the 19th century, law piled on law, and government agency upon government agency until by 1900 the state had become master of the family. The result, he wrote in Family and Civilization, was that the family is now truly the agent, the slave, the handmaiden of the state.
Today we might regard 1947 as a golden age for the family. Without perceiving it, each generation has become acculturated to family deterioration and added to it. We now accept as normal what would have shocked our grandparents: cohabitation, illegitimacy, divorce, same-sex marriage, daycare, fast-food dinners. Indeed, shocking the previous generation is part of the thrill of filial rebellion.
What should shock even the liberal and the young but today does not much disturb even the conservative and the old, are destruction of constitutional protections and invasions of personal freedom and privacy by the governments family machinery. Some four decades ago, the Western world embarked on the boldest social experiment in its history. With no public discussion, laws were enacted in virtually every jurisdiction that ended marriage as an enforceable contract. Today it is not possible to form a binding agreement to create a family.

Few stopped to consider the implications of laws that shifted the breakup of private households from a voluntary to an involuntary process. Unilateral divorce involves government agents forcibly removing legally innocent people from their homes and seizing their property. It inherently abrogates not only the inviolability of marriage but the very concept of private life.
The most serious consequences involve children. Through involuntary divorce, a legally unimpeachable parent can be arrested for seeing his own children without government authorization. He can be charged with domestic violence or child abuse, without evidence that he has committed either crime. He can be hauled before a judge for not paying child support without proof that he actually owes it. He can even be arrested for not paying an attorney or psychotherapist whom he has not hired. No formal charge, no jury, no trial required.
To justify this repression, the divorce machinery has generated hysterias against fathers so inflammatory that few dare question them: child abuse, wife-beating, nonpayment of child support. The accused parent simply loses his family and finds himself abandoned, with everyone terrified to be associated with an accused pedophile, batterer, or deadbeat dad.

Our passivity before repression this serious is stunning and the starkest example yet of the erosion of that civic virtue that has been integral to American political thought since before the founding of the Republic.
Conservatives have labored this idea into a clich. We preach that people must be more virtuous, less selfish, and more devoted to the public good. But these exhortations earn us nothing but contempt when we remain silent in the face of real tyranny, which, as usual, has appeared where we least expected it and are least equipped to resist it. Instead of resisting, we lament a decline in culture and declare there is very little we can do.

But as Linda McClain writes, families are seedbeds of civic virtue and have a place in the project of forming persons into capable, responsible, self-governing citizens. The family is where parents and children learn to love sacrificially, to put others needs before their own desires, to sacrifice for the welfare and protection of the whole. If this does not begin with ones own home and loved ones it, does not begin at all. People unwilling to sacrifice for their own flesh and blood will not do so for the strangers who comprise their country. In the family, children learn to obey authorities other than the stateGod, parents, clergy, teachers, coaches, neighbors. By accepting these, some of whom they love, children learn that government is not the only authority and is one that can and must be limited.

Conservatives have recently been eager to declare marriage and the family to be public institutions, largely in response to homosexual insistence that families are purely private and therefore may be defined according to the whims of individuals. But it is more precise to say that the family mediates between the public and the private, ensuring each its proper sphere. In the family children learn to distinguish and defend private life from encroachment by public power. Involvement in public affairs, which is important, begins as an extension of private responsibilities as parents, homeowners, neighbors, and parishioners. Citizens participate in public life as amateurs with a stake in their families, homes, and communities, not as professionals with a stake in a government program or ideology.
Children raised without intact families do not as readily absorb concepts such as family privacy, sacrificial love, parental authority, limited government, or civic virtue. For their rules and values come not from parents but from government officials, who have ultimate sovereignty over their lives: courts, lawyers, social workers, forensic therapists, public-school bureaucrats, and police. These are the figures they must obey rather than their parents. Thus children whose authority figures are government officials cannot distinguish the private from the public and come to see the public sphere as a realm not of civic duty and community leadership but of abstract ideology, government funding, professional employment, career advancement, and state power, in whose growth they acquire a vested interest.
It is no accident that the traditional family is described as patriarchal and that civic virtue traditionally suggested masculinity. It is also no coincidence that fathers are the ones marginalized by family decline.

Enormous attention has been devoted to the crisis of 24 million fatherless children, a phenomenon directly linked to every major social pathology from violent crime to substance abuse and truancy. Because these ills justify almost all domestic government spending, fatherlessness has resulted in a huge expansion of state power. The Obama administration aims to promote virtue with programs preaching responsible fatherhood and nagging men to practice good fathering. The Bush administration used similar schemes to argue for the importance of marriage. The result is the same: bewailing other peoples moral failings at taxpayer expense.

There is certainly truth in the connection between fatherhood and civil society. Fathers play a key role in developing and sustaining the kind of personal character on which democracy depends, writes Don Eberly of the National Fatherhood Initiative. Government therapy, on the other hand, cannot create virtue because it requires no sacrifice. Federal funding only gives officials incentives to perpetuate problems, so it is hardly surprising that not only have these programs done nothing to improve either fatherhood or marriage, they have exacerbated the breakdown of both.
Eberlys point connecting fathers and freedom contains a larger truth. While families require sacrifice from all members, it is fathers whose sacrifice may extend to their very lives. Children deprived of their fathers by state officials therefore lose more than a parent. They lose the parent who connects them with the civic order. When the father protects and provides for his family, he will resist the states efforts to assume those roles. Under his leadership, the family is a force for limiting state power.

The single mother does not resist the states encroachment. On the contrary, she is our societys principal claimant on a vast array of state services, without which she cannot manage her children. When the state usurps the roles of protector and provider and disciplinarian, the state becomes the father.

This is the story of modern politics: increasingly centralized police, plus the regulatory and welfare states that also promise various forms of protection. These paternaland increasingly maternalsubstitutes brought massive bureaucracies, fulfilling Tocquevilles prophecy that democracy would lead to increasingly bureaucratic intrusion into private life. These agencies expanded by creating problems to solve. As police functionaries, they had to create criminals and newfangled, nonviolent crimes that most people (such as juries) could not understand and required experts to adjudicatecrimes that were safe for female police, crimes that could be committed only by men.

Fathers whose children are taken away by state officials do not heroically rescue them or organize opposition to the divorce machinery because the enervating power of the bureaucratic behemoth makes resistance pointless. Men are thus politically neutered and, as a result, often despised by their own children and the rest of us.
That most people do not regard these practices as tyrannical may be the most alarming aspect of all. Government agents seize control of children and property of vast numbers of law-abiding citizens through literally no fault of their own, and we accept it because of jargon that makes it all appear banal: custody battle and division of property. Fidelity to ones wordlet alone ones spouseis disdained. Basic civilities become irrelevant because family members can be made to obey through court orders. Family wealthtraditionally used to leverage both obedience from children and limits on governmentis useless for both purposes. In divorce it is simply confiscated.

So vast numbers of children now grow up believing from the earliest age that it is normal for government officials to assume control over their family life, to order their parents about as if they were naughty children. This is causing more than social chaos. It is destroying our freedom and our will to defend it.
Stephen Baskerville is associate professor of government at Patrick Henry College and author of Taken into Custody: The War Against Fatherhood, Marriage, and the Family. A longer version of this essay will appear in The Family in America: A Journal of Public Policy.
Secretary SPCA said
If readers are interested in seeing Prof Stephen down here in Australia next year let us know and we will see what can be arranged.

Executive Secretary - Shared Parenting Council of Australia
 Was my post helpful? If so, please let others know about the FamilyLawWebGuide whenever you see the opportunity
I'd be interested in hearing Prof Baskerville if he can get to Brisbane. For the past 50 or so years men have allowed ourselves to be defined as a class enemy of women, ever since Betty Friedan used the language and dialectic of Marxism (with a Stalinist flavour) to describe the relationships between the genders and cast women as heroic victim proletarians while men were portrayed as the evil holders of all social capital and oppressors. It was a genuine stroke of genius from the point of view of a political activist, because unlike in the case of Capital vs Labour, where the interests of one are intrinsically at odds with those of the other, men actually WANT to share their lives, their assets, their time, their love with women. The Marxist feminist has had almost a free kick, with few men bothering to argue the toss, since it seems so obviously wrongheaded and we love our Mums, sisters, wives and daughters. Meanwhile, the rhetoric of victimhood appeals to any woman who feels her life is not ideal, so she doesn't notice that she's traded a life spent doing the things she actually values for a job doing things she probably doesn't, while someone else gets paid to do the stuff she would have done if she didn't have to work, including watching her kids grow up.

We men don't see women as enemies but as a precious part of our lives! Marxist feminists have been able to push men to the margins of family life, academic opportunity, legal rights, work opportunity, political importance and men have stood by and allowed it to happen, even assisting in some cases.

Most women, in my experience, want one thing above all else: a well-kept home of their own and a couple of kids to fill up the empty rooms, ideally with a strong, well groomed, high earning man on the other side of the bed (not a State paymaster on the other side of the counter). Most men want something similar, which some feminists might find surprising. Despite the best efforts of the Marxist feminists, this remains the majority norm. Even if we make a bad choice of partner and things go awry we try again.

I am confident that Marxist feminism has nearly run its course.It's no surprise that it arose in the golden age of plenty that was the 60s, since it's a product of abundance. Every aspect of the Marxist feminist program requires subsidy, since it's not seeking to make it easier for people to do what they want, it's seeking to drive people to do things they wouldn't do without subsidy. It's incredibly wasteful and destructive and creates enormous unhappiness in women, men and their children. It can't last.
Craigo said
I'd be interested in hearing Prof Baskerville if he can get to Brisbane.
  Craigo its all about money, someone has to finance his trip and unfortunately guys will not cough up a few dollars each to get a real speaking tour going.
That's a shame, Conan, but not terribly unexpected. It's much easier for those many feminist groups that have large Government-provided budgets and can access grants to pay to import speakers in the name of "building networks".

If Prof Baskerville does decide to come I'd be happy to pay for a ticket to hear him speak. I've followed his writing with interest for some time.
Both myself and my husband would have great interest in hearing Prof Baskerville speak on this topic, which, unfortunately is more than relevant to Family Law in Australia at present. We would also be happy to donate what we can to help make it happen.

A child is a gift, not a weapon. To be a parent is a privilege, one which unfortunately some parents do not deserve.
Craigo said
That's a shame, Conan, but not terribly unexpected. It's much easier for those many feminist groups that have large Government-provided budgets and can access grants to pay to import speakers in the name of "building networks".

If Prof Baskerville does decide to come I'd be happy to pay for a ticket to hear him speak. I've followed his writing with interest for some time.
  Someobe might need to correct me but I believe that a Baskerville visit was on the cards several years ago and that fell through due to a lack of funding. He was even offering to stay at people's places to eliminate hotel charges.

I have been conducting intermittent research for several years on funding for organizations and you might be surprised that the Women's groups are not as well or over funded as some seem to believe. What they are very good at is internal fundraising. I keep raising the issue in these forums that the majority of guys want to whinge, but when it comes to sticking their hands up to actually help or throw in a few dollars - to use a mixed metaphor - there is a deafening silence.

(I did receive a whisper from the senior mod that you personally had stuck your hand up)
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