Thomas Sowell

One of the ugliest aspects of totalitarian societies is having children inform on their parents. We have already gone much further in that direction than most Americans realize. It is common in schools across the United States to have children required to keep diaries and fill in questionnaires about what happens in their homes.

There are also billboards giving adults an 800 number to call to report excessive exhaust fumes from the cars of neighbors. People who see nothing wrong with this should talk with refugees from Communist countries, who can tell them what it is like to live in a world where everyone has to be suspicious of everyone else as a potential informer whose revelations -- or lies -- can ruin your life.

Friendship or even the innocence of childhood can be dangerous luxuries that have to be avoided in self-defense. We are already moving in that direction. Recently a very loving father, whose son had received a black eye from a baseball that he missed catching, expressed his great relief that this accident had happened during the summer, when the boy was not in school. Otherwise, it would have been reported by school authorities and an investigation begun by people looking for child abuse.

(My own childhood baseball injuries would have kept an army of social workers busy.)

There is never a lack of plausible excuses for extensions of the power of the state over individuals and families. So long as human beings are imperfect, there will always be bad things happening that the state can claim to be preventing. But history has shown that far worse things usually follow when the crude power of the state intrudes into the life of the family.

Thomas Sowell

Thomas Sowell is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institute and author of The Housing Boom and Bust.

Creators Syndicate