OPINION – Any parent worth his or her salt has to pull rank on their child eventually. Typically this moment comes following a protracted disagreement about something the child is either being asked to do or to stop doing.
When that child persists in wanting to know why they should comply, there comes a point when mom or dad simply have to invoke supreme authority and say the words, “Because I said so.”
Even though this goes over like a lead balloon with the kiddies, it is a legitimate exercise of parental sovereignty. Under natural law, parents bear the primary responsibility for creating, nurturing, and providing for their children. Sometimes they have to make and enforce unpopular decisions that are tempered by love – in spite of dwindling patience.
Now let’s contrast this exercise of legitimate authority with the kind that’s encountered when a state functionary mistakes his limited authority for credentials granting him control of his little universe.
A week ago Saturday, Kahler Nygard flew from Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minnesota, to Denver, Colorado, to visit friends. Nygard had been placed on a so-called “no-fly” list three years ago with no explanation whatsoever as to why he was on the list. He booked his flight to Denver to see if he was still banned.
Nygard passed through airport security prior to taking off in Minnesota with zero hassles. But after landing in Denver, he was singled out by Transportation Security Administration personnel and told that, due to concerns that he hadn’t been properly screened prior to the flight, he would need to submit to further screening.
Did you catch that? After Nygard had safely arrived at his destination, had collected his luggage and was incapable of posing any threat whatsoever to the flight he had just completed, he was told that TSA needed to pat him down and check his luggage for explosives to complete the screening process.
Why? Because they said so.
The bureaucrat who confronted Nygard had zero justification to further screen a passenger who was done flying. But, as economist Gary North perfectly described, the hallmark of bureaucracy is that some bureaucrat will inevitably enforce an official rule to the point of imbecility.
Nygard, to his credit, is not the kind of cringing, servile, subject that many of his countrymen have become. He vigorously questioned the TSA employee as to whether he was being detained. Even though the TSA agent clearly stated that Nygard was not being detained, he kept insisting that the passenger was not free to go and that additional screening was required.
Every time Nygard questioned the need for extra screening when his flight had safely arrived and he only wished to depart the airport, the uniformed agent would invoke the bureaucratic equivalent of, “Because I said so.” Each of Nygard’s requests were deflected with the agent saying, “I’m not going to discuss the process with you.”
Eventually, Nygard told the TSA personnel that he was going to go ahead and leave the airport. At this point the agent upped the ante and threatened to have Denver police apprehend Nygard and arrest him.
Nygard, however, called the agent’s bluff and walked away. He was not arrested or confronted by police and managed to fly back to Minneapolis a few days later without the kind of drama he was forced to endure earlier.
If this incident doesn’t make you shake your head in disbelief, you’re missing the bigger picture.
As parents we are occasionally called upon to exercise our authority and make our children do things that are for their own good. But for every ‘Mommy Dearest’ that we hear about, there is an overwhelming majority of imperfect parents who exercise stewardship over their children without becoming control freaks.
Most parents understand that they are accountable to a higher authority than the department of child and family services for the way that they raise their kids. Love and respect for God is a more powerful motivator than fear of the state.
When government presumes to act as our parent, its agents can become obsessed with being in control.
But state authority is derived from the people it is supposed to serve. The ultimate repository of power is in the people – not in the state. This is what is meant by sovereignty.
For this reason, the authority of those acting on behalf of the state is limited and checked by things like due process. This means that our natural rights limit the power of the state over us to prevent abuse. It’s not allowed to act arbitrarily.
A surprising number of people have been conditioned to view the state as a substitute parent of sorts. When someone in a position of supposed authority tells us to do something, we are expected to submit as children. For our safety, of course.
Like parents, agents of the state don’t appreciate when those who are being told to do something start asking questions instead.
When it comes to gaining compliance, parents can always choose to persuade with love. The state can only resort to force.
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