Friday, April 17, 2015

Free Range Parenting is a Constitutional Right

I have followed the Maryland Meitiv kids, who keep getting arrested for being alone a few block from home.

Libertarian Russian-American law professor Ilya Somin writes:
The bottom line is that the CPS’ actions here seem to be the result of exactly the kind of “mere disagreement” with parental choices that the Supreme Court specifically barred as a basis for overriding parents’ constitutional right to direct their children’s upbringing. Economist Bryan Caplan, an expert on child safety data, sums it up well: “it’s crazy, people are being persecuted for doing things that are extremely statistically safe just because other people disagree.”

As Megan McArdle points out, today’s controversial “free-range” parenting largely consists of practices that were considered perfectly normal throughout most of American history. When I was growing up in the 1980s in a suburb similar to the one where this incident occurred, elementary school kids routinely walked all over the neighborhood by themselves. By the standards of today’s Montgomery County, I would have been detained by child welfare officials almost every day.

Sadly, incidents like this one now happen with some regularity, as “helicopter parents” and officious bureaucrats have promoted unrealistic parenting norms that have no real basis in legitimate safety considerations. In an ideal world, we wouldn’t need constitutional litigation to put an end to such abuses. Simple common sense should suffice.
I am tempted to hope that this case gets litigated to the US Supreme Court, and it makes a broad declaration for parental rights just as it is about to mandate same-sex marriage.

But that would not work. The public has to be somehow convinced that routine parental decisions are not the business of CPS, unless there is some demonstrable serious harm.

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