The Orwellian US

Journalists often compare contemporary society to the totalitarian social order described in George Orwell’s disturbing novel 1984. Orwell portrayed the state as being all-powerful, controlling every aspect of citizens’ lives. When the novel was first published in 1949, few people could conceive of such a society. Most felt that citizens simply wouldn’t allow it. Of course, if the state had attempted to implement a totalitarian society overnight, angry citizens might have prevented it. But the state cautiously enacts its takeovers incrementally, so as to not arouse the public. Also, it is able to persuade people that the agenda it is pursuing is for their own good or for the betterment of society. Consequently, little resistance is offered.

Of course, you already know how the state operates but I wanted to remind you again before discussing three invasive government proposals that will seriously encroach on our freedoms. In fact, these three, if they materialize, should make us turn off the TV, put down the remote control, get off the couch and take to the streets.

The first has been reported on LRC by both Rep. Ron Paul and Wendy McElroy: the "New Freedom Commission on Mental Health" that proposes a governmental mandate requiring mental-health screening for all Americans, including public schoolchildren and even pre-school children, with or without parental consent. Rep. Paul criticized the proposal as follows: "…it negates parental rights and would encourage the over-medication of children." Although this law would provide a windfall for the pharmaceutical industry and greatly enlarge the Washington bureaucracy, it would be a disaster for Americans especially families.

The excessive use of antidepressants by children was the subject of recent editorial by The Beaufort Gazette that contained this comment: “A growing body of research, some of it performed by the FDA’s own experts, but suppressed until recently, indicates that children and teenagers may be at risk for suicidal tendencies after taking antidepressants that were approved for use in adult patients.” Ritalin (methylphenidate), one of the primary drugs used to control children, is addictive and has serious side effects. Methylphenidate is already being abused by young drug users. When mixed with heroin, it is called a "speedball" and is illegally sold on the street for a "quick-fix."

The second encroachment, still in the discussion stage, is for government to monitor homeschooling more aggressively. But homeschooling is already subject to government scrutiny, including enforced testing requirements and so forth. Frankly, the word “monitor” raises a red flag because government monitoring usually evolves into government control. Public schools, or perhaps the more appropriate designation that has been suggested, “government schools," blend indoctrination with education and imprudently rely on the latest untested teaching fads.

These are some of the reasons why many parents elect to home school their children. But Washington bureaucrats won’t rest until they are able to control the curricula, philosophy and teaching techniques of home schooling.

Finally, there is the “American Community Survey," a new annual census report which has been described as “an attempt to invade every aspect of our lives.” The questionnaire is a breathtaking 24 pages long and contains all-encompassing questions dealing with such issues as “a person’s job, income, physical and emotional health, family status, and intimate personal and private habits.” Questions demand to know how many days you were sick last year, whether you have trouble getting up the stairs, and, curiously, what time you leave for work each morning. You must give the names and addresses of your friends and relatives and answer inappropriate questions about them as well. If others live in your home, you are required to indicate how many years of school they completed; when they last worked at a job, what languages they speak, and their physical and emotional problems.

So, what happens if you, like me, think these questions are none of the government’s business and you don’t want to become an informer on your friends and relatives? Your noncompliance will cost you big bucks. For every question not answered, there is a $100 fine. For every intentionally false answer, there is a $500 fine and Washington bureaucrats will decide whether the false answer was intentional or not.

These three proposals amount to a bureaucratic inquisition. And I don’t think I exaggerate when I call them Orwellian. Once implemented their scope will be gradually expanded. Our children will, in essence, become wards of the state, even while they are still pre-schoolers. The state will decide if the behavior, thought processes and opinions of our children are suitable. If not, they may need to be drugged or subjected to corrective tutoring. Home schooling will be forced to conform its curricula and philosophy with government schooling so all students’ beliefs can be made uniform. Expanded surveillance of citizens will be used to help Washington identify those whom it suspects are resisting government efforts to "protect" our freedoms and "improve" society. Once these noncompliant citizens are known, bureaucrats can decide what measures should be taken to modify their insubordination.