Children: Having and Raising
It’s entirely appropriate for the government to regulate activities that if performed incompetently or recklessly have a significant potential to harm others. For example, in order to obtain a driver’s license, one must demonstrate the ability to competently control the vehicle as well as knowledge of the rules of the road; competent drivers are less likely to cause accidents, which could result in injury, death, or property damage. Likewise, doctors and lawyers are required to undergo extensive education and testing before they are permitted to engage in their respective practices; the harm that can be done by incompetent doctors and lawyers is obvious.
There is one egregious exception to the policy of requiring those who engage in activities that put others at risk of harm to demonstrate competence in performing those activities, namely, having and raising natural children. One of the most important activities of any society is raising the next generation. Children raised by incompetent parents are likely to be abused or neglected and engage in destructive behavior as juveniles and adults. Unlike the screening process that prospective adoptive parents and foster parents must undergo before being approved, all that’s required to become a natural parent is the ability to procreate. Common sense dictates that the requirements for bringing a child into the world should be at least as stringent as those required for caring for an existing child.
To address the problem of incompetent parents, I propose that anyone wanting to have children should be required to first obtain a parenting license, just as one must have a driver’s license in order to legally operate a motor vehicle on the public roads. In order to obtain a parenting license, the applicants would be required to take a class in parenting education and pass the written test for that course; be interviewed in order to determine if they are psychologically capable of raising children; have their finances assessed to ensure that they can afford the expenses of taking care of children; and perhaps have insurance or post a bond to cover the cost of any damage caused by their minor children, similar to the insurance required of those operating motor vehicles. Just as the owner of a dog is responsible for any damage or injury caused by that animal, parents should be held legally responsible for any harm resulting from the actions of their minor children.
Those on public assistance lack the financial disincentive normally associated with having children that they can’t afford to take care of by virtue of the fact that the government pays to take care of their children, placing an unfair burden on the taxpayers. Eliminating government-financed public assistance, as recommended in my article Dealing With Entitlement Cost Escalation, would solve that problem.