Time For The Family To Say No!

In his intervention around the recent Tory party conference Jacob Rees-Mogg observed that “…the ever-mighty State wants control – and the easiest way to get this is by not supporting the Family. That way it creates more dependence and therefore a greater ability to interfere in people’s lives.”

For libertarians the growing encroachment on civil liberties, family autonomy and the encouraging of family breakdown through perverse welfare and tax policies, is a grave concern. However I take a slightly different stance to Rees-Mogg, rather than calling for more State support I simply demand the State cease meddling in private family life.

When the state interferes and challenges parent’s moral and formal authority, many parents are losing confidence in their status within the family. This lack of confidence is something the state makes no hesitation about exploiting to undermine both the moral and formal authority of the parent, but also family autonomy and independence from the state.

Eroding Family Autonomy

Recent years have seen family after family be awarded fines, or taken to court, over the parental decision to take their family on a holiday during term time. We are not talking repeat truants here. Nor are we talking feckless and neglectful parents who don’t care whether their kids get an education or not. We are talking about ordinary, reasonable, parents like you or me.

Without a mandate from the voter our government decided that parents should no longer be allowed to make certain decisions for their families. The State unilaterally imposed an expectation on schools that had the effect of manipulating school leaders into doing the government’s dirty work – to challenge and undermine parental authority and family autonomy.

Under the guise of ‘improving standards’, but without a shred of evidence to back it up, the state implies poor parenting of those who dare to act as families always have – which is to make decisions about their children’s upbringing without asking the state or school for permission or approval.

That the government dares to reach into our family life in this way is an outrage. We ought to be making far more noise than we are. I think we’re either gobsmacked or just getting used to how things are. Stockholm syndrome perhaps is setting in. But of course this is the sleight-of-hand, the misdirection of the State’s modus operandi. Because most parents are reasonable people, they tend to approach the world, and other people, with the expectation that those others will be reasonable in return. It takes a while – sometimes a confusing while – for some to finally accept that the State is not being reasonable, and has no intention of ever being reasonable.

Making Your Voice Heard

By picking on families one at a time eventually they will wear families down. We have to get back to first principles that the family, not the state, is the fundamental unit of society. We have to claim back family autonomy. We have to feel, behave and respond as though every single family dragged to court was ourselves being dragged to court, because an attack on their freedom is an attack on our freedom. So we need to protest, to the DfE and to our Members of Parliament here and in the EU (until Brexit).

This is only one infringement of our rights. If the state continues to get away with this attack on family autonomy the next steps will be more insidious, like assigning each child a social worker from birth (Scotland style) because the state does not trust you to be a good parent, or having children monitor parents politically incorrect views (Michelle Obama style).

Ultimately this is not about holidays, this is about state infringement of private family life. This is a test of how abject and subjugated we are willing to be. A test of how little we value family autonomy from state interference.

We must not let it pass with our silence, just as a victim starting out in an abusive relationship cannot let the first ‘playful’ slap pass. It will lead to other abuses and more government interference. We must make our views known to those in authority to do something about it.

We must stop believing that what the State is imposing is in any sense reasonable. When it all boils down it is nothing to do with staggering holidays around the year, or education, it is nothing to do with spending quality time, or even expanding our child’s experiences – these are all our attempts at treating the government as though it will behave reasonably. It will not. So we need to get to the core of the principle that is at stake. At the core of this whole issue is one simple principle – autonomy of the family. That means parents decide what is good for their family within reasonable limits, not the state. They work for us, not the other way around.