When Plato Wins, Everyone Loses

Commentary, Childcare, Role of Government, Lee Harding

What would be better– children conceived by random intercourse and raised by the state, or children raised by their parents in the same household? Plato, the Greek philosopher from ancient times, said the former; and whether we realize it or not, his philosophy has dragged public policy for decades.

“Our men and women,” Plato wrote In The Republic, “should be forbidden by law to live together in separate households, and all the women should be common to all the men: similarly, children should be held in common, and no parent should know his child, or child its parent.”

Family teachings could compete with loyalty to the state and its ideology, Plato thought. No families means no competition. Government knows best, especially when they are philosophers…said the philosopher.

“There will be no end to the troubles of states, or of humanity itself, till philosophers become kings in this world, or till those we now call kings and rulers really and truly become philosophers, and political power and philosophy thus come into the same hands,” Plato wrote.

Some misguided elites still believe this and have used their influence to prevail in popular, academic, and public institutions. An anecdote by the late filmmaker Aaron Russo puts this in stark display. In an interview now 15 years old, he recalled a conversation with Nick Rockefeller.

When Russo told Rockefeller what he thought feminism was about, Rockefeller laughed and called him “an idiot.”

“We funded women’s lib and we’re the ones who got it all over the newspapers and television [through] the Rockefeller Foundation,” Rockefeller reportedly told Russo.

“One reason was, we couldn’t tax half the population before women’s lib. And the second reason was, now we get the kids in school at an early age, we can indoctrinate the kids how to think, which breaks up their family. The kids start looking at the state as their family, as the school, as the officials as their family, not as the parents teaching them.”

By now that project is in advanced stages with a momentum all its own. Most children are in daycare at a year of age, funded by the government in passive or active ways. This usually means women, encouraged for decades to abandon homemaking for the workforce, are paid to raise the government’s children—their income both paid and taxed by the same government.

Tax burdens and living costs prevent most intact parental couples from raising their children at home even if they want to. Government-run, politically correct, mediocre education takes a significant portion of provincial tax dollars. Parents who want home schooling or private schools for their children have an uphill battle.

Perverse incentives in welfare programs also aid Plato’s vision. At a restaurant years ago, my twenty-something waitress told me a story that peeved her. Her friend was advised by her own father, “Get knocked up; you’ll get money from the government.” So her boyfriend impregnated her. She kept his name off the birth certificate, and later called him her landlord—thereby qualifying for even more handouts.

At budget time, governments brag about their investments in child care, education, and social assistance programs. The problem is when Plato wins, parents lose. And the price is their children, their tax dollars, and their society.


Lee Harding is a research fellow for the Frontier Centre for Public Policy.