Free Markets, Free People

Smaller Less Intrusive Government?

Here’s the story from CNN:

Lisa Snyder of Middleville, Mich., says she takes no money for watching the three children for 15-40 minutes each day so that the neighbors can get to work on time.

The Department of Human Services, acting on a complaint that Snyder was operating an illegal child care home, demanded she either get a license, stop watching the kids or face the consequences, WZZM says.

Snyder calls the whole thing “ridiculous” and tells the Grand Rapids TV station that “we are friends helping friends!”

A DHS spokesperson tells the station that it has no choice but to comply with state law, which is designed to protect Michigan children.

She’s doing a neighborly thing – she accepts no money. She helps her neighbors by watching the kids while they wait for the bus thereby allowing the parents to get to work on time. She doesn’t feed them. She provides them a warm place to stay out of the weather until the bus shows up.

For that, the state claims she needs a license? And the state hides behind the law, or at least their interpretation of it to do so.

But if you think about it, couldn’t the same claim be made if mom drops off the kids with granny? Mom gets to work and granny keeps the kids until the bus shows up. Other than the fact that granny’s a relative, what’s the difference?

David Boaz makes what should be the obvious point:

This is what people mean when they warn that an ever-expanding government threatens the values of neighborliness and community. When the government provides services for free, or when it erects obstacles to individuals’ providing those services, it reduces private provision and simultaneously increases the demand for government services. If you make it illegal for neighbors to watch one another’s kids, you weaken ties of neighborhood and community.

But the need remains. So it leaves parents with fewer options and, as Boaz points out, it makes neighbors less likely to reach out and help.

Is that government’s role?



19 Responses to Smaller Less Intrusive Government?

  • Seriously, too many lawyers, too many bureaucrats. Is it just me, or do you guys imagine that some lawyers actually think they can pass laws to solve all problems, because, “its the law?” I am thinking of price controls, guaranteed lending, nanny state, etc.

    I think this would be especially prone to lawyers whose only experience is with government, compliance, community organizing, etc.

  • This is why I see the rise of Asia over the West – they just don’t have many lawyers doing this stuff. Sure, China has draconian laws that can be enforced at a whim on foreign companies, but they are not down to this level yet. And India’s growth is actually based on getting rid of the license Raj or circumventing it via Internet. Actually so was China’s.

    I guess we are setting ourselves up for a golden age when regulations are relaxed later on.

  • This is totally in-fricking-sane. Do the people who make these laws not have children? Or alternately, do they live some sort of lifestyle so disconnected from reality for the rest of us that they seriously can delude themselves into thinking everyone lives like they do? I mean come ON, the rest of us don’t have nannies who can watch over the children while we go to work or run errands. We leave the kids in a neighbor’s charge (usually a neighbor who also has kids), or we leave an older kid in charge of the younger kids. With my husband on call all the time, this is the only way I can have some “alone time.”

    I can’t speak for anyone else, but the ability to get away from the kids for a few minutes does loads for my sanity. They can pry it from my cold dead fingers.

  • What about the teenager down the street that you pay to babysit while you go out for dinner? Does she need a license now?
    Perfect example of why governemnt needs to leave us alone.

  • This a perfect example of Parkinson’s law. The bureaucracy does not have enough real work to do, so they go out to find some. Rather than this being a sign of a nanny state, it is a sign of too many government employees with way too little to do.

    I haven’t figured out yet how Michigan even noticed Lisa Snyder was minding the children for the half hour or so.


    • Three words: nosy @$$hole neighbors.

      One day, your kid accidentally throws a frisbee onto Mrs. Nogoodnik’s yard and knocks over one of her zinnias while going to fetch it. Every day after that, Mrs. Nogoodnik watches your house like a hawk. The minute she sees you swat your kid on the butt when he runs into the street, or turn your back on your 8 year old, she reports you to DCFS. And DCFS of course has to investigate every allegation of child abuse or neglect– and each time she reports you it makes you look worse and worse.

      This kind of anonymous neighborly denunciation makes parents utterly paranoid. And it happens a hell of a lot. I’ve had the cops knock on my door because my 6 year old and 2 year old left the house, walked half a dozen houses down the street, watched a train go by, and walked back into the house, all while I was inside nursing the baby. My 3 year old almost got kicked out of the church nursery because he bit a child, and *some other* parent (not the parents of the child who got bit) took umbrage at it.

      Time was, if you had a problem with somebody, you went and spoke to them about it. Now you just call Daddy Cop and Mommy Government to come take care of it for you.

  • If my kid goes to Lisa’s house to play with her kid, how is the control, care and oversight she’s providing materially different from the case described?

  • Don’t worry — Erb with drive by with a baseless assertion that this isn’t totalitarianism. That’ll fix things up proper.

  • “We all know that raising kids is a full-time job and since most parents work, they are, we are stretched thin. Just think about what many parents are responsible for on any given day. Packing lunches, dropping the kids off at school, going to work, checking to make sure that the kids get home from school safely, shopping for groceries, making dinner, doing the laundry, helping with homework, paying the bills, and I didn’t even mention taking the dog to the vet.

    [ . . . ]

    And we have learned that to raise a happy, healthy and hopeful child, it takes a family, it takes teachers, it takes clergy, it takes business people, it takes community leaders, it takes those who protect our health and safety, it takes all of us.

    Yes, it takes a village.”

    Hillary Clinton’s Speech On — “It Takes A Village To Raise A Child”, Aug. 27, 1996

  • To steal from Carlin: “Selling is legal. F’n is legal. Why isn’t selling f’n legal?”

    Same principle applies here. A person can watch his own children without a license. But watching somebody else’s requires one? Absurd.

  • I wonder if you can get a lawyer to call watching someone else’s children a “bailment for hire”. In that case, only ordinary care of the item is necessary…a pretty low standard that would not require licensing.

    (taking tongue out of cheek)

  • Other than the fact that granny’s a relative, what’s the difference?

    I understand your point that as long as money isn’t changing hands, it shouldn’t matter. But most of these laws have specifically worded clauses to exempt relatives, but nothing to protect people doing this for free. So it’s a big regulatory difference.

    One of my cousins ran a day care for her immediate family for years in New England. They even paid her. As long as she paid her taxes properly and all her kids were related to her, the busybody bureaucracy couldn’t touch her. She finally did get licensed because she took in a neighbor’s kid and because it allowed a family member to use state funds. Once those kids grew up and didn’t need daycare, she got out of the business entirely. Between the revenue service nitpicking her and the regulators deliberately trying to screw her up so they could cite her for something, she wanted out.

    • I understand the obvious fact that it is a regulatory difference. I’m asking what the logical difference might be. Other than the relationship, there isn’t one (and in some cases, your neighbor may have more of a relationship with your kids than granny).

      And frankly, I’m further asking what damn business it is of government to begin with.

  • Depending on the state, family may also be able to make decisions on medical treatment when the parent is absent. There are probably a lot of other “or family” clauses out there they can take advantage of. Saying that family or no family ought to make no difference is missing out on a lot of legal differences.

    I have no problem with government licensing of professional day cares. If they’re providing a public service for profit (or even for the operator’s cost), they ought to be able to stand up to some level of public scrutiny. This doesn’t mean that licensing is perfect but it does mean there should be basic checks and balances (like a reasonable caretaker-to-child ratio).

    But this case is ridiculous. She isn’t charging money, let alone making money. Are they going to charge a Cub Scout den-mother who watches a bunch of boys after school next?

    • There’s a big difference between simple licensing and this scenario, though. I have a friend who runs a licensed day care. She has the license so that she can participate in federal and state reimbursement programs. If the state’s paying for the child care, the state surely has an interest in making sure my friend isn’t a meth head who’s sticking the kids in a closet in the basement and pocketing the money. However, if I am looking for someone to pay to watch my own personal kids, the responsibility falls on me to decide whether that person is qualified. If I’m lazy or in a hurry I’ll accept government certification in lieu of getting to know the person. In my case, because of my kids’ special needs I have to find someone with a different set of qualifications than the standard-issue day care license.

      The parents of these kids had already decided Ms. Snyder was good enough to watch their children and that the adult/child ratio was acceptable. Why should licensing even enter into the picture?

    • A license should never be required. Maybe – maybe – it can be an option, a sort of certification (with its commensurate worth to the public), but it should never be required. If I want my neighbor/fellow citizen to watch my kids, it’s my f*ck*ng choice and my risks! It’s all b*llsh*t and I’ll bet all I need is to spend 5 minutes digging up a dozen cases of licensed child care providers abusing children. So what is a govt. license worth? Not a hell of a lot.

      B*llsh*it, B*llsh*t, B*llsh*t.

  • So, wait a minute, when I was babysitting my neighbor’s kids when I was a teenager I would have needed a license? That’s insane.