Friday, January 18, 2013

Reason #272: Give Me Liberty

I wanted to talk a bit about some of the freedoms we enjoy in this country as compared to the rest of the world, but rather than do the whole "wacky international laws" shtick, I decided to just focus on one thing: Chinese families.

As most people know by now, in China, certain couples are subject to a law that restricts them to only one child. According to the official Chinese figures (which, y'know, is kind of like saying "according to a dream I had"), the policy affects about 36% of the population--couples who live in rural areas are exempted, as are couples who have twins, couples who are both only children themselves, and certain ethnic minorities. In the thirty-odd years since it was enacted, the policy has prevented--again, depending on whose numbers you believe--anywhere from 100 to 250 million births.

I could go on at length about the human rights criticisms related to the manner in which this law has been carried out, and its effect upon the country's demography, but the most relevant thing here is that the Chinese population likes the law. Not just according to the state media, either--Pew conducted a survey in 2008 that measured the law's support at 76%.

So it's popular, it's well-established, and it's effective; or at least, it does what it sets out to do. But, of course, it's also one of the biggest federal interjections into the private lives of citizens in the modern world. Not only is it amusingly antithetical to our own national debate over abortion, but the notion of the government telling Americans they can or can't breed, for any reason whatsoever, is completely abhorrent to us and the way we live. I can't think of a more literal depiction of a "nanny state".

And the intervention doesn't stop there. As the generations have played out, China is now being faced with large numbers of destitute senior citizens whose lone children are unable or unwilling to support or care for them. But rather than change the law that created this problem, China just recently passed another law mandating that adult children visit their parents. If you have a fully-grown child in China whom you don't feel you see often enough (and what old person doesn't think that?), you are now able to take them to court over it. Imagine how the Tea Party would feel about that one.

In closing, my point is that we have it pretty damn good over here where personal liberties are concerned. I think our ongoing conversation over what the government should and should not control could benefit from a little more awareness of the existing alternatives, and real dialogue about exactly how much freedom is really necessary. I'll have another thought or two on that next week.

Further Reading

Wikipedia - One-child policy

Pressure Rises on China to Scrap One-Child Policy

China: Parent visits a must

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