The latest fashionable (and for good reason) outrage among conservatives is the state of Massachusetts’s kidnapping of 14- (now 15-) year-old Justina Pelletier from her parents in highly, if not obviously, dubious circumstances. After a year of wrangling with courts after an initial diagnostic coup by a young hot-shot med-school grad and the subsequent initial kidnapping, a court has now ruled that the girl will remain a ward of the state.
Justina had previously been diagnosed with mitochondrial disease by doctors at Tufts Medical Center, but doctors at Boston Children’s Hospital dismissed that diagnosis. They told the Pelletier family that she suffers from a psychological condition called somatoform disorder and that her symptoms are all psychologically induced [by the parents, by implication—JM]. Then, the hospital accused Justina’s parents of medical child abuse, and the state assumed custody of the teen.
For those who initially may think, “There’s got to be more to the story here. Surely these parents are truly unfit!,” a Liberty Counsel charitable defender has braved a gag order to assure Fox News this is not the case. Instead, the medical-child protective-state industrial complex is trying to cover its obviously inappropriate actions.
All of this is upsetting, sickening, infuriating, and more, but to anyone who understands 1) the medical establishment, 2) the psychology establishment, 3) child protective services, and 4) Massachusetts, will at least not be surprised.
More importantly, anyone who understands the history of the custodial (“nanny”) state, as I have discussed in regard to public schooling in Restoring America, will recognize the spread of the custodial principle beyond the original four institutions into the broader sweep of medical and familial life.
I have previously harped (and will continue to harp) on the disastrous foundation public schooling lays for society. The socialistic institution destroys hope of future freedom as long as Christians continue to accept it and to send their children into them. I have explained the foundational role of apostate puritan Unitarianism, and its beliefs which parallel later behaviorism, since the 1830s and the “father” of public schools, Horace Mann.
Mann believed that society as a collective is the basic unit of all social order. Individual rights are completely subsumed into the “rights” of the collective. Family authority is totally overruled by the state. All property rightfully belongs to society and is only held in trust by individuals and families. Consequently, children belong to the state, not their families, and are to be trained, educated, and raised by the state to be good citizens according to the state and for the state.
With such a system in mind, Mann could generalize thusly: “Massachusetts is parental in her government.”
The same Unitarian reforming spirit that gave us the institution of public schools also produced, in the same era, the penitentiary, the insane asylum, and the poorhouse. All of these were built on the same theory that society was the bed of corruption, and the proper way to train people was to put them into a controlled atmosphere in which the allegedly corrupt external influences could not affect them; and this very popular theory was applied to the reform of criminals, the insane, the mentally ill, the poor, and to the education of children. So in the same decades of the 1820s–30s, this nation witnessed the explosion of official institutions for all of these issues, and the growing prevalence of using taxation and government control for these institutions.
And yet, as decades went on, and it became clear that the theory was bogus, that no genuine reform was made in criminals or the insane, and that corporate interests came to dominate the schools—in short, that the whole system was a failure—the officials merely continued to blame failure on the lack of funds and/or greater control. This was true so much so that one of the few historians of the Asylum phenomenon concluded of its legacy, “Failure and persistence went hand in hand.”
What has happened instead, as we have allowed corrupt, tyrannical autocrats and bureaucrats to transform our whole nation into such a nanny state at nearly every level and area of life, is that instead of living a life of liberty, we have succumbed to the wards of nanny institutions and custodial masters in other areas as well: government, family services, child services, health care, jobs, stock exchange, finance, retirement, old age insurance, health insurance, transportation, environment, natural resources, etc., etc., etc. There is no end.
In short, once we allow that the state may act as a ward for one class of people in one area, the principle is established for all others. It is then only a matter of time. Ambitious and nosy would-be rulers and tyrants—whether politicians or school supers, principals, whether armies of lawyers, social workers, or doctors and psychologists—will fight and scrape to expand the role of the state to satisfy their libido dominatur. And as they do, the custodial state expands, built upon taxation, debt, and an administrative-mercantile court system.
For every ward there is a warden. The whole history of mankind since the fall is a strife between wards and wardens. The classic leftist Jean Jacques Rousseau—a patron saint among modern liberals—famously began chapter 1 of his The Social Contract with the sentence: “Man is born free, and everywhere he is in chains.” It sounded like a lament. The way this sentence is quoted and quoted, you would think The Social Contract is a manifesto of freedom. Hardly, because hardly anyone reads the rest of that opening:
One thinks himself the master of others, and still remains a greater slave than they. How did this change come about? I do not know. What can make it legitimate? That question I think I can answer.
He went on to explain, “[T]he social order is a sacred right which is the basis of all other rights. Nevertheless, this right does not come from nature, and must therefore be founded on conventions.”
I have not traced the intellectual history between Rousseau and men like Mann, but the thought is essentially the same, and modern liberals are enamored with Rousseau. “Social order”—that is, society—is taken to be the highest sacred right and mother of any other rights. Gone is any reference to God or individual rights. The collective becomes the sacred, and she (“her”) becomes our mother. Our rights are not natural—not God-given—but are founded upon convention (which means they are man-made and changeable). In order to enforce this parental government, we need these “conventions.” But conventions which are not natural can have only one means of enforcement: the state. And since they do not arise from or exist in nature organically, they can only come from an elite imposing them upon the rest of society through their institutions of the state.
The whole thing is perfectly coherent, even if tyrannical. And it explains why hot-shot young med school grads, child services kidnappers, and administrative judges feel perfectly justified in stealing children, and feel little remorse when they are obviously wrong but just need to cover for the system. All is perfectly consistent:
First, the decision to take the child was based upon the self-assured expertise of a doctor with the latest-greatest training. How could he be wrong? This is what he was trained to do. On top of his expertise, doctors in general are “mandatory reporters”—a series of laws that turn many officials into agent-snitches of the state who can get in trouble for not reporting potential cases of abuse. As a result, there is an incentive to over-report and to report non-cases just to be safe (for the doctor, that is). There is a sanction for not reporting, but no sanction for reporting non-cases. So doctors who have even the slightest suspicion, no matter how it is triggered, even based on malice or revenge, hurt pride, whatever, and no matter how wrong the suspicion may be, need only to cite psychological reasons, or call in a psychologist or social worker to foist even the most dubious diagnosis to confirm their suspicion. They will be upheld by the state, exonerated in the end, and perhaps even praised.
Secondly, the state itself— “society” codified—has every incentive in the world to cover and hide its mistakes (and corruptions, when applicable) from the primary agent of sanction which can challenge it, public opinion. Why not, when the sanctions for lying and cover-ups are almost non-existent anyway? At the most, a singular bureaucrat or two will lose their jobs, only to be replaced by others of the same mind and character. But “society,” as a collective—that’s what’s important. That’s what matters. She is the mother of all rights. And that “society,” the state, must at all costs be upheld, perpetuated, exonerated. Else, we shall be bastards and live in chaos and anarchy.
So when someone challenges the system in such a way that its errors, or even just its pride, may be exposed, just have them declared mentally ill, then let the agents of enforcement swoop in, kidnap, imprison, steal, invade, search—whatever action is desired by the wardens. Because they can, and in light of the modern social theory we continue to allow them to foist, they should.
Now, I am happy to point out to you the connection between public schooling (at the root) and the nanny state which empowers tyrannical actions like the Pelletier case. They are all of a piece, and as long as we accept the one as legitimate, the other will always find ways to assert itself in such kidnappings (yes, I am so biased) in society. But the message here is much larger than one more McDurmon “told ya so.” We have to confront these evils and find a way to stop them, and the path by which we do so is the assertion of God-given, individual rights and responsibilities, God’s Law, and the delegitimizing of the warden/custodial/nanny state. But the only way to shuck thsee wardens is to shuck the theology that empowers them—to refuse the belief, at all levels, that we are wards of the state. Wards of family, yes. Wards of church, yes, in some ways. But of the state? The state has no paternal function, biblically speaking. It exists to punish crime, not raise families, not rehabilitate people’s habits.
If you’d like to see a good example of how the nanny-industrial, psychology-police corruption proceeds, and a way to help stop it, you need to watch the movie Changeling (2008). One synopsis says, “A grief-stricken mother takes on the LAPD to her own detriment when it stubbornly tries to pass off an obvious impostor as her missing child.” Based upon a true story, when the mother gets too close to the truth and too ambitious, a corrupt LAPD chief has her wrongly committed, kidnapped, and held in a psychiatric ward. It takes tremendous effort before she is rescued from an all-but certain death.
And the hero in the story who fought vigorously for her rescue? That’s the part about how we stop this nonsense. The hero was a Presbyterian minister named Gustav Briegleb. Through his popular radio program, he decried the corruption in the LAPD and championed the mother’s case. The minds of the people alert to the corruption, the public pressure became incredibly motivational. Now that’s the social function of the body of Christ in action.
And that, friends, is a necessary part of Restoring America: pulpits must be involved. Every pulpit must preach the whole counsel of God, and that includes against corruption in law and government, education and every other establishment as well. Pulling your children from public schools and privatizing the system is necessary as well, but if the pulpits remain silent and refuse their job of informing and motivating the beliefs and behavior of people in the public square, they will be judged and marginalized—as we see them so much already—as society will continue to slide.
Rousseau was right: everywhere mankind is in chains. But he was wrong to legitimize it through a system of collectivism and paternal government. But there is only one way out. Until families resume their full biblical responsibility, and churches and elders resume their full biblical duty, then, I am afraid, we will all continue to be wards of the state. Here is where reformation must start. Here is where freedom begins. This is no more than I said in the first chapter of Restoring America. It is still true now.