JAMA: State Should Seize Fat Children from Parents

Welcome to the next chapter in our continuing coverage of Police State USA. In a JAMA (Journal of the American Medical Association) opinion piece, the authors argue for taking “super-obese” children from parents and putting them in foster care.

Having just researched the dark side of well-intentioned “Progressivism” (early 20th century), I find this chilling. Even more chilling that the author thinks there is no need for any further laws to enable doctors to give children to foster parents? True (and sadly), they don’t need new laws but there are competing laws emphasizing unity of parent-child even when Momma is on meth. So the kids go in-and-out of our benevolent state-run foster care system. This is the same Government that gave us Social Security—an agency that GIVES YOU MONEY for being “morbidly obese.” This is the straight-thinking State that is going to seize children from parents? God help us.

In the view of these Ivory Tower academics, The State sees something bad and swoops in to save the day. We normal human beings have been “Waiting for Superman” but Supermen already exist at the Harvard-affiliated Children’s Hospital and Harvard’s School of Public Health (the home of the JAMA authors)! Supermen and superwomen exist in DCFS agencies around the country. If only these angels ran the government, there would be no “super-obesity,” no anorexia, no bad behavior at all! Their strategy would eliminate “obesigenic environmental influences” (yes, “obesigenic” is jargon in their world).

The authors are careful not to “blame the parents”; they mention environmental factors but downplay genetics. Their Progressive predecessors took the next step to deal with the genetic angle: selective sterilization to weed out “imbeciles.” The State still has that power, but our authors assure us, state power over our bodies will only be used in extreme cases. (Buck v. Bell is the 1920s-era case that gives government the right to sterilize in the interests of “public health.” The Supreme Court has never overruled it. See my book Race and Liberty in America: The Essential Reader).

Disclosure: I was a “super-obese” teenager at 320 lbs. My brothers were normal weight. My parents urged me to limit my diet but I ate secretly. Then, on my own, I lost 140 lbs in a single year and have kept if off for 28 years (I’m 10 lb over my 21 year old weight). That was my decision. Imagine if the know-it-alls in DCFS had put me in foster care, supervised by my new rotating parents and caring social workers. Yes, children, this is our Brave New World fast in the making.

In the early 20th century, both here and in Europe, they called this approach “social hygiene”—control the parent-child relationship, particularly of the “inferior races”; use government schools as the primary vehicle and then add forced sterilization and other eugenics methods. These laws are still on the books so the JAMA authors are correct: we need no new laws to tear children from parents, to sterilize those who pose a risk of costing “Society” more, etc. The “social hygienists” were big on finding immigrant parents (Jews, Catholics especially) unfit because they ate the wrong foods, didn’t speak proper English in the home, the first IQ tests said that Jews were mental defects, etc., etc. So it really was “for their own good” for these these kids to be put them in orphanages or placed with other parents. And here’s the catch: many of these people (leaving aside the Klansmen who joined with “Progressives”) REALLY believed it was for in the “child’s best interest” and, more important, the “good of society.” They were driven by a desire to “do good,” not evil. They were full of good intentions. The Scriptural-minded know where that leads. . . .

Welcome to the new food wars. Perhaps we could sue schools for their menus? Oh, wait, we can’t sue The State. They can only push us around. The State grows and grows and we must shrink. Got it.

All this is dry run for food taxes on “sinful” foods to feed our overweight State. But people will still overeat or their bodies will retain weight (darn genetics, there ought to be a law!). So they tax the bodies. What’s next “fat camp” conscription? No elected officials who are overweight?

Even if this scheme “worked,” it gives new meaning to the old 19th century saying of peasants living under the Czar: “the State gets fatter and fatter while the people grow thinner and thinner.”

UPDATE: Critics accuse me of “fear mongering.” Let me be clear: in extreme cases, a doctor might have to intervene. But look at the food/obesity campaign—qqqit is not simply an individual decision of a concerned doctor. They have made it a PUBLIC HEALTH “epidemic” requiring public action (proposals for food taxes and the like are de rigeur).

If the pooh-poohers honestly believe that this is only a concerned doctor caring about a rare case, then why the need for JAMA and to have it heard from someone (two someones) affiliated with Harvard School of Public Health?

FYI: I can’t reveal anything until the majority report (and possibly my dissenting report) emerge in the fall but US Commission on Civil Rights is going to receive a report on “food deserts” and obesity “epidemic.” If you don’t know “food deserts” get ready for the new “civil rights” issue of our time: FOOD!

But to allay your concerns about fear mongering:

My guess is that this part of anti-obesity authoritarianism will not come to pass (food taxes and the rest WILL). Why? Because the report to be received in the fall shows that African Americans are disproportionately “impacted.” Under the disparate impact doctrine, if a disproportionate number of super-obese children happened to be in a “protected class” (black Hispanic etc) than there would be lawsuits. So, it probably won’t happen—qqqeven in cases that you (and I) think might warrant it.

Here’s how left-wing radicals work: put up something extreme that will create a backlash (like this JAMA article has done) than push ahead with once-unthinkable measures that seem “moderate” by comparison. To wit:

Transfat bans and lawsuits:

http://www.bantransfats.com/ claims credit for CA law banning transfat and suing Kraft to get transfat out of Oreos. Nah, this will never happen—until it does.

Notice how they say they are not limiting ADULT choice, the suit was all about children —http://www.bantransfats.com/theoreocase.html—but removing transfat from Oreos (or anything else) by extensions does limit adult choice. Brilliant!

My state House voted to ban transfat but didn’t move forward in state senate during a tumultuous session over other issues. Expect passage within the year: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/04/13/illinois-house-passes-tra_n_848810.html

One of the JAMA coauthors is a lawyer. Expect more lawsuits. Journal articles—lawsuits—laws for “children only”—no more controversy. From fear to sheepish acceptance. And we will all shrug in a few years. “Oh, well, what harm does it do?”

Ten years ago, predicting such stuff was fear mongering—“oh, that’s only San Francisco or NY”—until it’s Illinois and corporations cave to lawsuits and . . . it’s a well-worn drill. If you haven’t learned the “rules for radicals,” you aren’t awake. Tocqueville’s fear of America blanked by a thousand minute regulations and citizens-turned-sheep will be here.



An excellent new book by David Bernstein, summarizing his career’s work on the importance of individual freedom under the law and the dangers of Progressive jurisprudence:

Rehabilitating Lochner: Defending Individual Rights Against Progressive Reform (2011). Justice James Clark McReynolds was one of those crusty old classical liberals who fought with Progressive jurists like Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes. On the issue of parental rights, he wrote the decision striking down a KKK-inspired law to ban all private and parochial schools (so that children could be “properly” schooled under State supervision). McReynolds wrote that “children are not mere creatures of the State.” (The state’s attorney in Oregon argued that they were “creatures of the State”).

Jonathan Bean is a Research Fellow at the Independent Institute, Professor of History at Southern Illinois University, and editor of the Independent book, Race & Liberty in America: The Essential Reader.
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