If you want to see how America’s liberal elites would like to reshape the United States, look at Western Europe.  For decades, they have dreamed of importing European social models, of a Swedish welfare society, and of comprehensive sexual tolerance à la Hollandaise.  But the liberal vision is most perfectly manifested in the form of children’s rights activism, of using threats to children’s welfare as a means of gaining widespread public acceptance of highly interventionist social policies.  Who, after all, is prepared to speak out against policies to suppress baby battering or child molestation?  Look at Europe today, and you are probably seeing the shape of the Democratic Party platform in 2008 or 2012.

In Britain, children’s rights have been used to justify a wholesale revision of social policy and concepts of rights and family.  There is now a children’s minister and a “children’s czar,” a children’s commissioner who regularly makes pronouncements on how the rights of the young are systematically denied.

But the most ambitious consequence to date of the children’s rights mind-set is a massive computer database of Orwellian proportions.  The rationale for such a system is simple.  Every few years, a case emerges in which a child is killed by abusive parents or minders.  In the ensuing public inquiry, officials and media compete in their absolute assertions that such an atrocity must never occur again, regardless of social cost.  And at such times, political leaders state quite frankly that concepts of family must never be permitted to stand in the way of defending children—in fact, they almost chuckle when considering such an outré suggestion.

Hence the database, which will shortly include extensive information on all 11 million children in England.  This will provide a comprehensive resource for doctors, police, social workers, and other officials, who will record concerns about possible sexual or physical abuse.  Once a file is flagged, other officials can track the endangered child as he moves between jurisdictions, avoiding the kind of interagency snafu that generally explains the cases in which deaths have resulted.  And to avoid misuse—what if pedophiles accessed it to track victims?—the database will only be available to those who have cleared criminal background checks.

No democratic government could conceivably propose such a master database of adult citizens, and all that permits the British Little Brother system (my term for it) is that it claims to defend children, and no one is prepared to criticize that.  No word yet on what happens to all those records when little Timmy reaches years of discretion, but, almost certainly, no future regime is simply going to trash such a precious archive of personal information.  All too probably, they will justify keeping the records active by claiming a need to detect and apprehend future pedophiles.

Somewhere in the past 30 years or so, a majority of the British public came to accept as axiomatic the revolutionary doctrine that the protection of children was far too important to be left to families and required the full intervention of state power, executed by skilled professionals.  Now, even if the idea were correct, it is still repulsive and should demand an extensive social debate before implementation.  But is it even vaguely correct?  At the time when Little Brother was being debated in 2005—when the children’s charities were attacking the system for not going far enough—what exactly were the doctors, police, and social workers doing, all those credentialed experts who had successfully passed the relevant background checks?

Why, they were off hunting witches.  Now, stories of Satanism and ritual abuse have circulated for years within the social-work and child-welfare community, and every single case has collapsed upon investigation—generally after some group or family has suffered years of official persecution and vilification.  But at least by the mid-1990’s or so, we knew better—or so we thought.  As recently as 2003, though, police investigating a routine sexual-abuse case suddenly heard a torrent of stories from the mother of one victim, who began spinning weird and wonderful tales of robes, demons, and sacrifices.  The woman in question had a lengthy psychiatric record, and her own family immediately warned police about her well-established penchant for spinning fantastic tales.  So, of course, what could police and social workers do but believe every word she uttered and begin a nationwide investigation that culminated in numerous arrests, including in that notorious hotbed of licentious depravity, the Hebridean island of Lewis.  To quote the British Observer,

Eight people, including a 75-year-old grandmother, were accused of raping and sexually abusing children in black magic rituals, of wife-swapping orgies in which they dressed in robes and masks, and of sacrificing cats and chickens and drinking their blood.

Naturally enough, the cases collapsed, but not until many lives had been ruined.  If Little Brother had been operational, presumably the files of the children involved would have been labeled appropriately: HERETIC; INCUBUS; POSSESSED.

The worst part of the whole affair was the lack of any real apology, any sense that the fundamental problem lay in child-protection ideology itself and the subversion of the most basic concepts of family and of individual rights.  In the Lewis cases, even the accused themselves began their statements by asserting that no measures were too stringent to defend children, and it was just a shame that they had been falsely accused.

In 1953, in one of the all-time classic novels of science fiction, Arthur C. Clarke wrote the following words:

Fifty years is ample time in which to change a world and its people almost beyond recognition.  All that is required for the task are a sound knowledge of social engineering, a clear sight of the intended goal—and power.

The title of the book? Childhood’s End.