on Parents

“Perhaps one of the most important accomplishments of my administration has been minding my own business. Government shouldn’t play a part in everyday life. Jefferson said that the people should be left to manage their own affairs. His opposition will bear careful analysis, and the country could stand a good deal more of its application. The trouble with us is we talk about Jefferson, but we do not follow him. In this theory that the people should manage their government, and not be managed by it, he was everlastingly right.” Calvin Coolidge (1872-1933) 30th American President

This past week my husband and I had dinner with some dear friends and their three children ages 7, 3 and 1. Although we don’t have children, we understand that at our age, in order to see our friends, we often have to go out with the whole family. Watching them try to eat with one hand, corral with the other, stop mid-conversation multiple times to remind their little ones of manners or to say “no”, and apologize for their fussiness to the diners next to us, I have to say that I don’t know how they do it. Watching it all just wore us both out. It seems like such a thankless job to take on, especially when the good you do may not be appreciated for years, if at all. I think that parents are the unrecognized heroes of the great leaders we admire today. I believe that without strong, principled parents, we would not have strong principled adults. Most parents know what is best for their children, as they are the ones right there on the front lines.

I have been told that one of the pet peeves of many parents is when other adults, related or not, tell them what is best for their child, especially when that adult has no personal knowledge of their family issues, background, or even of their children. As a non-parent who is still a bit flummoxed at how the mini-people think, I know better than to try to tell parents how to raise their child. So, that is why I find myself at a loss as to why it has become acceptable for our government to do so.  How can anyone in Des Moines or Washington D.C. know what is best for your children? Have they met your child, or even you, for that matter? Are they not just fellow adults, human and imperfect, the same as you? Why then have they been given so much more authority over your children’s lives? From how children are educated, to what they eat, to how they are disciplined, to what they should think, feel or believe? Is that not the responsibility, not to mention the right, of parents? Are you not the real experts on your own children?

When we elect people to office, they are there to do our bidding, not promote their own. We did not elect them to be our surrogate parents, doling out rewards and discipline as they see fit. We certainly did not elect them to replace the role of parents over our own children. While I cannot speak to how to best raise smart, independent and honorable kids, I can speak to the right of parents as being the only ones who can best determine how to do it.  I can stand up for the value of allowing parents the liberty and freedom to raise their family in peace, without government intrusion and meddling. You certainly don’t have to be a parent to appreciate the importance of protecting parental liberty.

The TV character Jerry Seinfeld once said that “government is basically parents for adults.”  It sure seems to be a fair assessment, does it not? We have become comfortable with the infantilization of our nation’s citizens, where we are trained to turn to government for our basic needs, seek its approval for our desires, change our behavior to gain its rewards, and accept its discipline when we fail at the task. The problem with this is that it not the proper role of government in a Constitutional republic. Our representatives were elected to protect and expand the liberty of the people, not to manipulate the citizenry into living life a certain way. They were placed there not to determine, but to protect self-determination.

Do we want government to be our parent or our servant? To give some perspective, how many of you would consider letting a random politician or bureaucrat in D.C. raise your child? So why then do we think they are so much better at knowing how to “raise” us? Our government consists of imperfect, fallen, opinionated, selfish human beings like ourselves. They are our equals, not our superiors, and are no better adults than we are, who are trying to do their very best in life. Unfortunately, their very best in life is often just telling you how to live yours.

“People constantly speak of ‘the government’ doing this or that, as they might speak of God doing it. But the government is really nothing but a group of men, and usually they are very inferior men”. H.L. Mencken (1880-1956), American journalist, essayist and satirist.

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