The Nacilbupera Guzzle

Whoever examines with attention the history of the dearths and famines … will find, I believe, that a dearth never has arisen from any combination among the inland dealers in corn, nor from any other cause but a real scarcity, occasioned sometimes perhaps, and in some particular places, by the waste of war, but in by far the greatest number of cases by the fault of the seasons; and that a famine has never arisen from any other cause but the violence of government attempting, by improper means, to remedy the inconveniences of a dearth. (Adam Smith, The Wealth of Nations IV.5.44)

Monday, January 24, 2011

McAdams Means to Micromanage Mom (Updated)

Utah State Senator Ben McAdams (D-02) thinks we need more laws to enable us to be good citizens. McAdams is working on (le.utah.gov) and has verbally committed to introduce (SL Tribune, Dec 29 2010) a bill short-titled "Leaving a Child Unattended in a Motor Vehicle." The bill seeks to make criminals out of parents who leave their children unattended in a motor vehicle.

While no one is advocating children be left alone in a motor vehicle, these decisions should be left to the parent, not the state. Parents are already charged by law with the safe rearing of their children. If something were to happen to an unattended child, the parent could under existing state law be held accountable. Why do we need more than this?

In the article "More Nanny State" Paul Mero of Utah's Sutherland Institute responds to the proposed McAdams bill by pointing out that leaving a child unattended doesn't necessarily harm the child, or cause a crime:

And then there’s this sentence from the [SL Tribune] article: “McAdams said the problem with using existing child-abuse laws in Utah to prosecute people is a requirement in the law to prove that the child was harmed.” Imagine that – someone has to prove that a crime has been committed to be able to prosecute the crime! (Mero Moment, Jan 4 2011)

In his blog today "Legislating Away Your Liberties", Connor Boyack would have us take a serious look at the incessant cry for expanding legislation:

The constant wave of new laws does not reflect a productive legislature which takes seriously the powers entrusted to it by the people. Rather, it reflects a messy patchwork of legislative “fixes” for a wide variety of ever-present problems that distract and emotionally captivate those who cry out “there ought to be a law!” (Connor's Conundrums, Jan 24, 2011)

Connor continues that the solution is to simplify law and thus liberate the citizenry:

Rather than legislating, start repealing. Instead of focusing inordinate amount of time on generally unimportant statutory tweaks, look for ways to restore lost liberty by removing entire chunks of the Utah Code. In short, we need less laws, not more. (Ibid.)
I couldn't have put it any better than Connor. Perhaps we need a 45-day de-legislation process following our current session to get rid of all the micromanaging laws we have encumbered ourselves with. We certainly don't need a micromanaging Mom bill such as McAdams plans to unleash this session.

++++ Update 1/27: McAdams' bill now has life as S.B. 124

5 comments:

Eric said...

Parents should be the ones who ensure they do not leave their kids in the car. They should also be the ones who do not beat their children or abuse them in any way. But that's not how the real world works is it?

In the real world, laws which protect our children are in the public's interest. This law is in no way "micro-managing" as you seem to want to call it. If providing clear punishments and deterrents against child-abuse is micromanaging, then there's no sense in having speeding laws either as they just "micro-manage" how we choose to drive right?

nacilbupera said...

Eric:

So if you put Sally in her carseat and Johnny takes off running across a busy parking lot, McAdam's law would say you can't legally make a decision to leave Sally to go stop Johnny from endangering himself...

You shouldn't codify as illegal things that COULD lead to criminal behavior (ie child abuse) only the abuse itself. If the child begins to suffer hypothermia, for example, that is already illegal because it is child neglect.

I feel your speeding laws analogy differs greatly from my subject. Laws are to provide order to society, not merely as accident-prevention tools. Parents don't need to be "ordered" in the sense that road traffic does.

I appreciate your feedback.

Eric said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Eric said...

So your suggestion is that we should not have punishments for child abuse. Leaving a child in a car alone is child abuse, simple as that. There may be extreme circumstances (such as your example) where it does become necessary momentarily. But just like with any other crime, those circumstances are for officials to examine and weigh. We cannot allow a form of child abuse to continue simply because on some rare occasions their might be a reason for it.

The purpose of all criminal laws are to act as a deterrent to those who would commit crime. I'll admit I never forsaw the day when I would be debating on whether or not child abuse laws are a good idea or not.

nacilbupera said...

Eric:

(1) Child abuse laws ARE needed. I support them. Please do not infer otherwise.
(2) Leaving a child alone in a vehicle may or may not be abuse depending on the circumstances. My example is quite commonplace actually for sole parents dealing with multiple children. Have you ever witnessed or been a parent trying to load/unload a vehicle with multiple kids? Leaving children unattended happens routinely both on private and public property.
(3) This debate is not over whether child abuse laws are a good idea or not, they are a good idea.
(4)I completely disagree with your statement "The purpose of all criminal laws are to act as a deterrent to those who would commit crime." The purpose of criminal laws is to punish those who have actually committed a crime. The deterrent factor is secondary.
(5) We should avoid codifying as illegal an act that may or may not be bad--you would punish those who have not done wrong and serve as a injustice and punishment to the law abiding.