January 26, 1996 — The prime do-gooder bluestocking of all time was probably Beatrice Webb, who with her husband Sydney fostered the political tendency known as Fabianism, very influential in the evolution of the British Labor Party. The Fabian view was that under the expert guidance of enlightened intellectuals such as the Webbs, society would gradually evolve toward maximum efficiency--good drains, good trains, sound economic management, with the state judiciously presiding over all.
Beatrice was a stringent supervisor. As a child I used to listen to Malcolm Muggeridge, a close friend of my father's, describe his visits to the Webb household, where he was courting Beatrice's niece. Beatrice would order Sydney to go for a jog before lunch. The wretched man would trot off down the driveway, with Malcolm lumbering after him. No longer under the scrutiny of Beatrice, he would dodge behind the barn, invite Malcolm to recline on a bale of hay and spend the next hour talking about the future of the world. Then they would sprint back up the driveway to where Beatrice would lay her hand on Sydney's brow, ascertaining from the perspiration that improvement--in this case physical--had indeed taken place.
Time and again, reading Hillary Rodham Clinton's "It Takes A Village," I was reminded of Beatrice Webb. There's the same imperious gleam, the same lust to improve the human condition until it conforms to the wretchedly constricted vision of human freedom that gave us social-worker liberalism, otherwise known as therapeutic policing.
There's scant evidence that HRC likes children very much. The book's subtitle is "And Other Lessons Children Teach Us," but not a single such lesson does Hillary ever cite. She sees childhood as a time when things might go wrong, the "investment" turn out to be wasted capital. The Clintonite passion for talking about children as "investments" tells the whole story. Managed capitalism (liberalism's ideal) needs regulation, and just as the stock market requires the Securities and Exchange Commission, so too does the social investment (a child) require social workers, shrinks, guidance counselors and the whole vast army of the helping professions.
And if the yield looks to be poor? If the investment might fail? Enter the therapeutic cops, in whose ranks HRC seems to have eagerly enlisted when she got her first real job, supervising children in a park. The "village" — HRC's cozy synonym for the state — moves in: "The village itself must act in place of parents; it accepts those responsibilities in all our names through the authority we vest in government."
An allegation of abuse? "We could be willing to terminate parental rights more quickly whenever physical or sexual abuse is involved."
A social worker suspects improper child maintenance? "States might also consider making public welfare or medical benefits contingent on agreement to allow home visits or to participate in other forms of parent education."
When Hillary looks at a child she sees a million chances for disaster, as though the little human were a computer without an adequate operating manual, into which the wrong software will most likely be installed.
In HRC and her awful book, we see the Fabian parable. The do-good progressives at the start of the 20th century saw the family — particularly the immigrant family — as a conservative institution, obstructive to the goals of society and the state. So they attacked it. Then their preferred economic system — consumer capitalism — began to rend the social fabric, and so today's do-gooders say that the family and the children, our "investment," must be saved by any means necessary.
Poor Hillary. Like Beatrice Webb, she watched her husband jog down the driveway of the governor's mansion in Little Rock. Bill, at least according to Gennifer Flowers, swerved off the allotted track just as Sydney Webb did, though to more active pastimes than discussion of the future of the world.
I would like to write that I have a sneaking sympathy for this refugee from moral uplift. But Bill Clinton is as eager-beaver a social cop as his wife. In Tuesday's State of the Union speech, he proclaimed the end of big government, then promptly called for state pogroms against teen gangs, teen TV viewers, illegal immigrants (many of them in their teens) and teen moms. Not less government, but meaner, more intrusive government. Bill wants us to start throwing stones at pregnant girls. Hillary wants social workers to kick down the girl's front door to make sure she's raising her child along state guidelines. She should change her book's title to "It Takes a Police State."
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February 21, 1996 — For my harsh remarks about Hillary Rodham Clinton's book "It Takes a Village," I was taken to task by Ruth Rosen, professor of history at UC Davis. According to Rosen, writing angrily in the Los Angeles Times, anyone who is publicly savaged by William Safire and yours truly "must be doing something right." Rosen thinks that attacks on HRC are not "simply politics as usual" and that HRC "is the kind of strong woman that weak men love to hate, a brilliant woman who makes mediocre men feel incompetent." The left's attacks on HRC "stem from a more visceral misogyny" and that "even today, there are still some liberal men who cannot grasp the radical nature of what they call 'women's issues'." Rosen says that "like Jane Addams and Eleanor Roosevelt, Hillary Clinton believes that a truly humane society places children, not corporations, at the center of its economic agenda" and that she's "the perfect scapegoat because she has a moral compass and is not afraid to follow it."
The one thing Dr. Rosen could not bring herself to do was read HRC's book. Admiring Hillary usually depends on such omissions. Look at her book, or her commodity trades, or her membership on the board of an incinerator company or her treatment of the employees of the White House travel office and you like her less. HRC's resume, it seems to me, contains the bankruptcy of a certain strain of feminism, the same way her husband's resume, in this single person, encapsulates the bankruptcy of the Democratic Party. — Alexander Cockburn, Petrolia