Terrye's post on privacy below raises a number of good questions, including this one: "Can the state, federal or local, tell consenting adults what to do in our homes?” There seemed to be general agreement in the succeeding discussion that government can legitimately prevent us from murder and cannibalism, even in the privacy of our own homes.
But I was reminded of another similar situation which occurred to some friends of mine in the last few days. This is a couple whom I have known for years. The husband/father of the two children is one of the best fathers I have ever known. At parties he is always the one adult who pays special attention to the children and makes sure that they are happy and having a good time. He usually leads them in some sort of game to keep them entertained while the adults are talking. While there are many fathers who are so solicitous in India, I've never known a more caring superdad in the US. Every time I've been to their house he's outside playing with the kids; all the kids in his neighborhood love him.
The other day he tossed a book to his eight-year-old son for him to read. It was one of those dad playing sports with his son kind of moments: "Catch the pass". The son wasn't expecting it and caught the corner of the book on his face. It scratched his face, and in succeeding days he's been picking at it so it won't heal and he's been telling kids at school when asked that his dad threw a book at him. Can you guess where this is going?
Social Services showed up last night to counsel these iniquitous parents. The father was made to sign some papers averring that "he wouldn't throw books at his son again" and "he wouldn't take this judgement out on his son". I can hardly think of a less apt use of Social Services.
Horror stories of this sort are legion. We all know somebody who was involved in one. Social Services now have the legal right to break in upon our humble abodes without benefit of search warrant or judicial oversight and to find us guilty unless we can prove ourselves innocent. There isn't much more required for action to be initiated than the existence of a rumor that something is wrong. Apparently if one of our neighbors takes a dislike to us and calls Social Services--without any proof whatsoever--the bureaucrats will come and remove our children on this basis alone. This long and very invasive arm of the state has been instituted on the grounds that abusive parents must be stopped at any cost. Traditional rights must go out the window. Certain voters are eager to institute such laws, no matter how draconian, no matter how inappropriate, no matter how contrary to traditional rights, and no matter how little they may know about child-rearing themselves, because the right to be a busy-body in somebody else's life provides them with a much-needed sense of meaning.
Comparing the two cases, the right to condoms, as discussed by Terrye, and the custody of one's children, I think one would be justified in concluding that in fact American laws and legal proceedings follow no principle whatsoever. The only rule is that whatever the currently fashionable degree of interference into private lives, that is what will be instituted by the state and the courts, and heaven help you if you try to diverge from the ever-increasing tyranny of the majority by "following the beat of a different drummer".