Right Opinion

Who Controls Your Kids' Lives?

Ben Shapiro · Apr. 25, 2018

Former Republican Sen. Phil Gramm of Texas was fond of telling a story about his time stumping for educational change. “My educational policies are based on the fact that I care more about my children than you do,” Gramm once said to a woman. “No, you don’t,” she replied. “OK,” said Gramm. “What are their names?”

Gramm’s fundamental premise is inalterably correct: Parents care more about their children than do the members of the bureaucracy. But parents are being gradually curbed in their authority by precisely those bureaucrats across the West.

On Tuesday, a British court condemned a not-yet-two-year-old child to die. Now, make no mistake: The child, Alfie Evans, is expected to die in the near future anyway; he suffers from an undiagnosed brain condition that has robbed him of much of his function. But his parents simply wanted to be able to transfer him from a British hospital to an Italian hospital to seek experimental care.

And the British court system refused.

Citing the expertise of Evans’ doctors, the courts declared that Evans’ best interests are not served by his parents’ attempts to save his life. Instead, the little boy would be deprived of life support, left to die without oxygen or water. The ruling, the judge said, “represents the final chapter in the life of this extraordinary little boy.” But that chapter was written by the British bureaucracy, not by his parents — the ones who will have to engrave his epitaph and visit his grave.

This appalling result isn’t the first of its kind; just last year, a little boy named Charlie Gard was taken off life support thanks to the British court system, which prevented his parents from sending him to the United States for further treatment. Again, the courts made the argument that the best interest of the child lay in his death.

All of this is the final result of a system of thought that places parental control of children below the expertise of bureaucrats on the scale of priorities. It’s one thing for the government to step in when parents are preventing children from receiving life-saving care. It’s another when the government steps in to prevent parents from pursuing potentially life-saving care. And yet that’s just what has happened repeatedly in the United Kingdom.

Why? Why would British society place parents’ wishes below the wishes of the state? Because a bureaucratic society of experts generally sees parents as an obstacle to proper development. Parents, in this view, treat their children as chattel to be owned and trained — but the state can treat children with the dignity they are due. This means placing parental wishes to the side in every case in which those wishes come into conflict with the priorities of the state.

The bureaucrats of Britain don’t merely usurp parental rights in the realm of life and death; they do so in the realm of upbringing as well. They have threatened religious Jewish schools for failing to inculcate children with LGBT propaganda; meanwhile, they have ignored the targeting of young women in Rotherham, Rochdale, Oxford and Newcastle because the perpetrators are disproportionately Muslim.

All of this is untenable, both morally and practically. Parents will not continue to give the power to control their children away to bureaucrats who do not know their children’s names.

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