Some of my left-leaning friends have expressed doubts about concerns over the so-called “Deep State.” Constitutional scholar Philip Hamburger does an admirable job explaining it here, but it tends to come across as abstract—an academic exercise at best.
I therefore offer my own highly personal experience with the Deep State as a case study of how it works, and why it can be so dangerous to liberty.
Let me start this off by saying this: I am a Really Good Dad. I have three adoring children who are the light of my life. I’m reminded by people at church, at school where I volunteer, and in unexpected moments on the street that I’m a palpably good parent, so I can’t believe it’s all in my head. I’ll just have to beg you to take my word for it.
Which is why, after two delightful weeks with my children, a call from the Kansas “Child and Family Welfare” department rattled me so badly.
“Hello, my name is Ruth, and I have a report here stating that you have abused your child.”
It’s heart stopping, really. Uncontrollable shaking.
Like all of us, I deeply deplore child abuse and recognize that sometimes it requires state-sanctioned force to prevent. However, it is also clear that the protective system as currently administered is deeply flawed, and subject to abuse. As a former CPS worker is quoted in The Atlantic, some of its decisions are “insane.”
When the call comes your way, it is an invasion of your innocence that only the faceless power of the Deep State can generate. This is not an initiation of due process; this is the beginning of a punitive administrative action that you cannot hope to understand, let alone defend against. The Deep State, engaging in what Tocqueville termed “Administrative Despotism”, is the triumph of Procedure over due process, of bureaucracy over justice. It is when the bloated Leviathan of the Administrative State subsumes the founding principle that sovereign citizens are entitled to protection from arbitrary and capricious authority.
Ruth (whose given name I use without reservation) informed me that they had received a report a month earlier of an incident involving my son. She apologized for the late response, but they had been “particularly busy” this time of year. According to her report, my son’s bottom was “bruised during spanking.” This is scary stuff for a parent to hear, delivered by an utter stranger over the phone and from thousands of miles away.
“Would you like to explain to me what happened during this incident?” Ruth asked.
Mustering my self-control, I explained that it was not an “incident” but an “allegation” and that the distinction, as a matter of justice, mattered. I asked her to consider the possibility that I might be the target of a malevolent campaign to impugn my fatherhood. I reminded her that this was the second such attempt to abuse the child protection-services system. Ruth seemed unperturbed, but something in her delayed response made me think she’d heard this before.
“Please tell me how you discipline your children,” she pressed.
“Properly,” I replied, explaining that while I appreciated her ostensibly noble intentions, I wasn’t sure that it was the business of an unknown person on the phone, presenting no credentials, and without any authority to be asking me how I disciplined my children.
“Actually,” she explained, “I do have authority here. I have the authority to put your name on the Central Registry of Child Abusers.”
The shaking just will not stop…
“Will you explain to me how that works?” I asked.
After requesting my mailing address, Ruth told me that she would shortly be sending me a Finding Letter that would either substantiate or unsubstantiate the alleged incident.
“Let me get this straight,” I asked, “as an unelected administrator, you have the sole power to place my name on a State Registry with dangerously punitive implications, based on nothing more than your own discretion?”
“Yes,” she said, monotone intact.
“And,” I continued, “you will make this determination without any substantiation, and I will be unable to face my accusers or provide any testimony or evidence to defend myself, and I am not allowed access to an attorney?”
“. . .That’s correct,” she replied, a bit wary now.
“Ma’am,” I said, “ I don’t know if you can see how Orwellian this all sounds. I’m sure you are just doing your job, and so I’ll ask you to forgive my tension here, but this is utterly perverse. As a US Citizen, dammit, I object. This is insane.”
“Sir,” she said, “why don’t you just make this easy and explain to me what happened? How do you discipline your children?”
Choking back terror, and in order to gain some clarity, I asked her how she disciplined her children.
“My children are grown,” she replied flatly.
“Fair enough,” I responded, “can you tell me how you used to discipline your children?”
“That has no bearing upon the investigation at hand,” she replied.
“That’s reasonable enough,” I replied, but can’t you see how much you would object to this line of questioning if the roles were reversed?”
The conversation ended shortly thereafter, with her explaining that she could give me no indication whether or not she intended to “substantiate” the alleged incident. I asked if my refusal to answer her improper questions was going to reflect poorly in her assessment. She wouldn’t say. She clearly had a full roster to get through—it is a “busy time of year” after all…
I sat there as the cold dread coagulated in the pit of my stomach. I do not know how many sleepless nights I will have to endure until that letter arrives. Until then, I wait with the specters of having my children forcibly taken from me- an innocent victim of an administrative process gone entirely rogue.
I’m probably overreacting. I'm naturally optimistic and it seems beyond impossible that such an injustice could prevail in a nation founded upon Rule of Law. But even if I’m proven innocent against this presumption of guilt, this little example indicates the extensive and metastasized roots of the Deep State. We all want children to be safe and free from abuse: one of the best ways to inculcate this is to create a society in which citizens aren’t abused by the state. For defenders of “progressive” government, founded upon a naïve faith in enlightened administrators, beware. They’ll be calling you next.
Now excuse me, I have to go check the mail.