Kiwi Polemicist

November 29, 2008

Should children be taken into state custody at birth?

In what is a concerning trend, the NZ Herald has twice this week published opinion pieces advocating extreme forms state control that will supposedly reduce child abuse.

I have already written about Tapu Misa advocating forced sterilisations, so now let’s turn to Deborah Coddington, who quotes Bob Harvey as saying:

Enough is enough. We have to toughen up and say some people right now are just not fit to be parents … some children should not actually be allowed to go home. Doctors, nurses and midwives can tell, they know as soon as that baby is taken out the door it will go into a home of neglect and dysfunction.”

He blamed, in part, the Privacy Act which “stops us sharing information. We need to think carefully about whether our laws are putting individuals’ civil liberties ahead of the welfare of our children”.

Harvey is proposing that children be taken away from parents at birth, which is no less extreme than Tapu Misa’s idea of forced sterilisations.

I agree that some people would be doing everyone a favour if they didn’t have children, but the real issue here is whether or not the state should be taking children away from parents.

Here are my thoughts regarding this pernicious proposition:

1) Who gave Harvey the right to judge who is and is not a fit parent? He is displaying a totalitarian attitude and extreme arrogance when he says “some children should not actually be allowed to go home”.

2) This proposition of Harvey’s entails a presumption of guilt, thereby violating one of fundamental legal principles that protects citizens from the overwhelming power of that state.

3) what is the definition of “neglect and dysfunction”? There is no objective standard for this and the state has the guns and prisons, so the state will always decide. Harvey implies that “neglect and dysfunction” is the threshold for state intervention, which is worryingly low however you define it. This is yet another state attempt to take control of children away from parents.

4) This proposition is based upon the unfounded assumption that children will be safe and well when raised in state care. Experience will show otherwise: click here, here and here for examples. I believe, although I cannot prove, that these articles only show a fraction of what happens in CYF “care”. How many of the suicides were due to ill treatment? Looking after someone else’s children is like driving a company car: human nature is that we don’t give the same level of care for something that is not our own.

Apart from the obvious types of abuse, CYF “care” brings another type of harm to children: instability. Children want and need routine and security, but most children in state care go through many foster homes. This leads to anxiety and difficulty with forming close relationships, amongst other things. Children tend to act out their distress, so wards of the state are more likely to be ill-behaved and delinquent.

5)We need to think carefully about whether our laws are putting individuals’ civil liberties ahead of the welfare of our children”. People with this sort of attitude are such a menace to society that I’m tempted to introduce them to a firing squad.

Consider these points:

  1. Harvey clearly believes that civil liberties are a nicety that can and should be removed when they are inconvenient.
  2. this carries the implicit assumption that the state’s version of good child welfare is of higher importance than individual civil liberties.
  3. this is based upon the unwarranted assumption that it is the state’s job to intervene when child abuse is occurring or may occur.
  4. it is illogical to commit a mass injustice – the violation of civil liberties – in an attempt to right a small number of injustices perpetrated against children (the leftist mainstream media will always make the problem seem larger than it really is).
  5. the same reasoning was behind Sue Bradford’s anti-smacking law.
  6. the state will use any excuse it can to gain more control over individuals and this is a cunning way of doing it. By using child welfare to justify the violation of civil liberties, any objectors can be accused of aiding and abetting child abuse.

Samuel Dennis summed up the situation nicely with his comment on my earlier post (I am taking this out of context but I think that it is safe to do so – emphasis added):

I think we are being slowly indoctrinated that it is the State’s role to fix everything, and there are no moral absolutes, so people come up with these suggestions without even considering whether that is the role of the State or whether it is morally correct or not.

What do you think about this proposition from Harvey? Post a comment and share your thoughts.

Click here for a biblical perspective on child abuse.



  1. […] methods of state control that will supposedly help – I have written about these here and here. However, history will show that no human method of dealing with child abuse is entirely […]

    Pingback by Why can’t child abuse be stopped? « CCL: Christian Classical Liberalist — November 29, 2008 @ 6:17 am

  2. […] Click here to view a closely related post […]

    Pingback by Tapu Misa of the NZ Herald advocates forced sterilisations « Kiwi Polemicist — November 29, 2008 @ 9:41 am

  3. […] Click here to view a closely related post […]

    Pingback by Update to: Tapu Misa of the NZ Herald advocates forced sterilisations « Kiwi Polemicist — December 2, 2008 @ 2:10 am

  4. Your comment that we are being slowly indoctrinated that it is for the state to fix everything; there are no moral absolutes…is apt. But if there are to be moral absolutes, must the state, through the law of the land, not have a major responsibility for enshrining those absolutes and determining when they have been breached?

    Comment by Turlough — December 2, 2008 @ 9:18 am

  5. Turlough: I believe that the state has no business legislating morality. Furthermore, there are at least three problems that arise when the state attempts to enshrine moral absolutes in law:

    1) almost invariably the state will impose the morality of the rulers upon the population. E.g., I and about 83% of the population believe that giving children a swat on the rump steak is fine, but the government imposed the anti-smacking law upon us.

    (The state uses the police to impose their will upon us: )

    2) the state uses laws as a means of gaining control of the population. See:
    3) everyone winds up bearing the cost of crime, rather than the offenders bearing it (they get free board and keep)
    In summary, when you ask the state to legislate morality the state becomes a master rather than a servant. To put it another way, it’s like giving a pit bull a leash and telling it to go for a walk alone and behave itself.
    I believe that there should be no state police or state courts and that these things are best handled by private police and private courts. This isn’t some crackpot idea that I dreamed up, rather much better brains at the Mises Institute have worked it out (see my links page – For A New Liberty by Rothbard has a lot about the police).

    The basis for such a system is the non-aggression axiom:
    Feel free to ask further questions when you’ve recovered from the shock 🙂

    I’m sorry that this is such a rushed reply – I’m heading out the door shortly.

    Comment by kiwipolemicist — December 2, 2008 @ 10:56 am

  6. I don’t see why you consider encouraging some people not to have children to be a bad thing.

    I agree, coercing or ordering people is inconsistent with the values of a liberal democracy. But offering a financial incentive to someone who is already dependent on state assistance not to increase their burden seems sensible.

    Also, as Steven Pinker noted recently in the NY Times, behavioural traits, including intelligence are largely hereditary. As the economy becomes increasingly complex having a low IQ population will becoming more of a problem in terms of state dependency & child poverty.

    IQ predicts academic performance, occupational performance (on more complex jobs – this is why the US Army uses psychometric tests to screen people), health outcomes, and even criminality. So to avoid a number of social problems it makes sense to prevent stem the current dysgenic trends (in all Western countries the more educated a person becomes the fewer children they tend to have).

    Comment by Ben — January 30, 2009 @ 2:47 pm

  7. “the real issue here is whether or not the state should be taking children away from parents.”

    I think the problems are practical as much as philosophical. Are there quality caregivers available? If so, then yes it should in some cases. The state has a role to protect it’s citizens (well, it’s the primary reason we have a govt isn’t it?).

    Comment by Ben — January 30, 2009 @ 2:50 pm

  8. “I think we are being slowly indoctrinated that it is the State’s role to fix everything”

    i dont believe its a suggestion to fix ‘everything’.
    Its a suggestion to fix a very real problem! A problem that I do not see any alternative suggestions for on this blog!

    Perhaps the removal of DPB to unmarried mothers would be a start

    Comment by Patrick Starr — January 30, 2009 @ 5:53 pm

    • Patrick: “I think we are being slowly indoctrinated that it is the State’s role to fix everything” is a quote from Samuel Dennis and I heartily agree with him because the state clearly wants us to think that it alone can fix problems. This is part of agenda of making us dependent upon the state so that the state can control us.

      The DPB is responsible for many of the problems in our society and it does encourage abusive parents to have more kids.

      Thank you for reminding me that I should have written about my proposals for dealing with child abuse. Writing this is going to be quite a task but I hope to put something out in the next week or two.

      (Sorry for the delay in replying)

      Comment by kiwipolemicist — February 5, 2009 @ 2:44 pm

  9. “Ben at 2:47: I don’t know if you’re aware of it or not, but what you are describing is eugenics: this brings nothing but evil.”

    Eugenics per se is no more evil than dysgenics (which is the trend in all Western Countries as more educated have fewer children than less educated women). It is the coercion, or forcing people to do something against their will that is immoral. That’s why I suggested an incentive. Otherwise there will be an increasingly state dependent group of people & the associated crime & health problems that come with that.

    Hitler is always associated with eugenics, but as Seymour Itzkoff has pointed out – Hitler targeted Jews. Jews have the highest average IQ of any ethnic group. So he was actually practising a form of forced dysgenics.

    G. Cochran, J. Hardy, H. Harpending, Natural History of Ashkenazi Intelligence, Journal of Biosocial Science 38 (5), pp. 659–693 (2006).

    Comment by Ben R — February 8, 2009 @ 5:49 pm

  10. Ben:
    (1) Harvey is not talking about encouraging some people to not have children, he’s talking about state theft of children

    (2) You appear to believe that the state should be addressing the issue of eugenics and dysgenics. I believe that the state has no business getting involved in eugenics or dysgenics, including offering incentives to breed or not breed. In other words, the state should just butt out and let people make their own decisions (as well as wear the consequences of those decisions)

    (3) “It is the coercion, or forcing people to do something against their will that is immoral” by that definition taxation is immoral, and using taxes to provide incentives to not breed is also immoral

    (4) the state is currently involved in eugenics & dysgenics, and pays people to be shiftless and breed: surely there is room for improvement, i.e. removal of incentives


    (4) No issue in which the state is involved can be properly fixed, because the state wrecks everything that it touches. In other words, there are no simple solutions under our present Nanny State regime

    Comment by kiwipolemicist — February 10, 2009 @ 9:52 pm

  11. […] to deal with child abuse: Part 1 In a comment on my post titled Should children be taken into state custody at birth? Patrick Starr pointed out that I haven’t offered any alternative suggestions for dealing with […]

    Pingback by How to deal with child abuse: Part 1 « Kiwi Polemicist — February 12, 2009 @ 6:45 pm

  12. […] Should children be taken into state custody at birth? […]

    Pingback by • Communism from a cop « Kiwi Polemicist — July 9, 2009 @ 9:52 am

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