If California is ever going to achieve true equity, the state must require parents to give away their children.
Today’s Californians often hold up equity — the goal of a just society completely free from bias — as our greatest value. Gov. Gavin Newsom makes decisions through “an equity lens.” Institutions from dance ensembles to tech companies have publicly pledged themselves to equity.
But their promises are no match for the power of parents.
Fathers and mothers with greater wealth and education are more likely to transfer these advantages to their children, compounding privilege over generations. As a result, children of less advantaged parents face an uphill struggle, social mobility has stalled, and democracy has been corrupted. More Californians are abandoning the dream; a recent Public Policy Institute of California poll found declining belief in the notion that you can get ahead through hard work.
My solution — making raising your own children illegal — is simple, and while we wait for the legislation to pass, we can act now: the rich and poor should trade kids, and homeowners might swap children with their homeless neighbors.
Now, I recognize that some naysayers will dismiss such a policy as ghastly, even totalitarian. But my proposal is quite modest, a fusion of traditional philosophy and today’s most common political obsessions.
In his “Republic,” Plato adopted Socrates’ sage advice — that children “be possessed in common, so that no parent will know his own offspring or any child his parents” — in order to defeat nepotism, and create citizens loyal not to their sons but to society.
Today, a policy of universal orphanhood aligns with powerful social trends that point to less interest in family. Californians are slower to marry, and are having fewer children — our birth rate is at an all-time low.
My proposal also should be politically unifying, fitting hand-in-glove with the most cherished policies of progressives and Trumpians alike.
The left’s introduction of anti-racism and gender identity in schools faces a bitter backlash from parents. Ending parenthood would end the backlash, helping dismantle white supremacy and outdated gender norms. Democrats also would have the opportunity to build a new pillar of the safety net — a child-raising system called “Foster Care for All.”
Over on the right, Republicans are happy to jettison parents’ rights in pursuit of their greatest passions, like violating migrant rights. Once you’ve gone so far as to take immigrant children from their parents and put them in border concentration camps, it’s a short walk to separating all Americans from their progeny.
Universal orphanhood also dovetails nicely with the pro-life campaign to end abortion rights. In fact, a suggestion from Justice Amy Coney Barrett, during a recent case that could overturn Roe, inspired this column. She posited that abortion rights are no longer necessary because all 50 states now have “safe haven” laws allowing women to turn their babies over to authorities after birth. My proposal would merely make mandatory such handovers of babies to the state.
Perhaps such coercion sounds dystopian. But just imagine the solidarity that universal orphanhood would create. Wouldn’t children, raised in one system, find it easier to collaborate on global problems?
Now, I don’t expect universal support for universal orphanhood. A few contrarians, lost in the empty chasm between American extremes, might object to this rational proposal on emotional grounds. They might argue that pursuing your own conception of family is fundamental to freedom.
They also may suggest that people don’t really want to start or finish at the same point in life.
They may even say that what we really desire is what the title orphan of the musical Annie demanded: “I didn’t want to be just another orphan, Mr. Warbucks. I wanted to believe I was special.”
But don’t pay those critics any mind. Because they just can’t see how our relentless pursuit of equity might birth a brave new world.
Joe Mathews writes the Connecting California column for Zócalo Public Square.