The Therapeutic Nanny State

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The Therapeutic Nanny State

by Rep. Ron Paul, MD by Rep. Ron Paul, MD

Last week I wrote about a presidential initiative called the “New Freedom Commission on Mental Health,” which issued a report calling for the mandatory mental health screening of American schoolchildren. This new proposal threatens to force millions of kids to undergo psychiatric screening, whether their parents consent or not. At issue is the fundamental right of parents to decide what medical treatment is appropriate for their children.

I introduced an amendment to eliminate any funding for the proposal in a Department of Education and Department of Health and Human Services spending bill. Although the amendment failed, the response to my office has been overwhelming and highly supportive. The notion of federal bureaucrats ordering potentially millions of youngsters to take psychotropic drugs like Ritalin strikes an emotional chord with American parents, who are sick of relinquishing more and more parental control to government.

Some members of Congress objected to my amendment on the grounds that the federal screening program does not yet exist, so it’s premature to oppose it. But the whole point was to prevent the proposal from being implemented in the first place. Once created, federal programs are nearly impossible to eliminate. Congress had a rare opportunity to stop a bad idea in its tracks, before it becomes entrenched. Every member who opposes the idea of forcing kids to undergo mental health screening should have sent a strong statement by voting for my amendment. They will have another chance to kill the initiative when I introduce a stand-alone bill later this year.

Furthermore, it’s not true that no money has been allocated for the proposal. The Appropriations committee, which distributes your tax dollars to the various federal agencies, specifically allotted $20 million in the HHS/Education bill for state programs in support of the New Freedom commission report. These federally-funded state programs will be the precursors of the broader federal program recommended by the commission.

Anyone who understands bureaucracies knows they assume more and more power incrementally. A few scattered state programs over time will be replaced by a federal program implemented in a few select cities. Once the limited federal program is accepted, it will be expanded nationwide. Once in place throughout the country, the screening program will become mandatory. This is why we can never trust new bureaucratic programs: no matter how benevolent their proponents claim them to be, most programs morph into something much larger than originally foreseen. Those who view my concerns as alarmism fail to understand the inevitable nature of bureaucratic growth.

Soviet communists attempted to paint all opposition to the state as mental illness. It now seems our own federal government wants to create a therapeutic nanny state, beginning with schoolchildren. It’s not hard to imagine a time 20 or 30 years from now when government psychiatrists stigmatize children whose religious, social, or political values do not comport with those of the politically correct, secular state.

American parents must do everything they can to remain responsible for their children’s well-being. If we allow government to become intimately involved with our children’s minds and bodies, we will have lost the final vestiges of parental authority. Strong families are the last line of defense against an overreaching bureaucratic state.

Dr. Ron Paul is a Republican member of Congress from Texas.

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