Thursday, August 14, 2008

Starvation Parents Sue Philadelphia

Starvation parents sue Philadelphia

The predictable first response to a story like this is to be outraged at the parents' behavior, and then, at the idea that the parents would dare to sue the city for not stopping their own behavior.

Let's look closer, though. In our legal setup, you are only allowed to sue someone if you have standing to sue. I.e., no matter how much damage an incompetent company/branch of government causes, no one is allowed to sue them unless they satisfy the standing requirement.

Standing is a very narrow requirement. For example, although what happened to this girl was terrible, if I was a concerned American citizen, or if I was even a citizen of the state in which she lived, and I paid taxes to support the DHS, and I voted for representatives of that state's government who hired the DHS administrators, it does not matter. Standing is so narrowly construed that here, only the girls' parents could possibly sue DHS.

Got that? The only people in the country allowed to sue DHS are the parents, because they are the only people who have been "directly" affected by the tragedy, and thus have "standing" to stand up in court and sue them. That means that if the parents don't sue, DHS will never be held accountable for its own terrible behavior.

This, of course, is a poor way of solving problems, because we are all affected by the tragedy. But in order to perpetuate our system of unconnected "individuals" living in a free-market society (see Milton Friedman for more details of this glorious plan) we must prevent anyone from having a legal remedy who is not either:

1) closely related to someone who got hurt physically
2) got hurt physically themselves

You cannot sue simply as a citizen who cares about other human beings. Under our system of justice (sic) that is not an acceptable reason to be in court.

This ensures that Americans cannot be their brothers' keepers, even if they are decent enough to want to be. It also allows corporations and governments to be incompetent and deadly and then be protected from lawsuits by the fact that they did not directly hurt an individual or interested group in particular enough detail to be sued by them.

Our government (actually, the British government during one of their eras of violent colonialism) long ago privatized justice the same way America is privatizing more and more social services. The theory behind civil lawsuits (rather than criminal ones) is that, instead of having the government solve problems when they exist, we rely upon individual citizens to bear the full time and expense of bringing suits in order to correct wrongdoing.

Once people swallowed that idea, more and more justice began to be privatized, and now, child abuse (such as defunding government agencies responsible for caring for living children), loan-sharking (such as dealing in sub-prime mortgages, then foreclosing), slander (credit ratings bureaus) and racketeering (police brutality) are all now civil offenses, where you have to sue for monetary damages to get justice, rather than criminal damages, where the perpetrators get in serious trouble and go to jail. The lessening of severity means that under the civil system, they tend not even to get punished at all, much less punished in a way they'll notice. And when they commit their crimes while employed by an organization (government/corporate), they are immune personally, so who cares if the organization actually does get fined in the end?

So, back to the original point: the parents are the only god-damned people who ever COULD sue DHS over the death of their daughter. And since money is the only thing DHS is structured to care about--budgets, salaries, staff; the same bureaucratic crap as everywhere--the only way to make them listen about the girl is to sue DHS.

If they get hit with a verdict, it will make them pay attention. If their operations drop, it might force their awful city council or state senate to raise taxes and give them the resources they actually need. Because the real problem here is that DHS is terribly underfunded, just like in almost every other American state. The consequences of that underfunding are what happened to the poor girl. Because, as we all know, it is antichrist socialism to spend money helping children who need help (check with the Brookings Institute for details).

So. Only the parents can sue. And that is why this lawsuit is a good thing (if anything that occurs within this hellish, uncivilized mess of our secure homeland can be called a good thing). Because it just might slightly force an increase in budget and public awareness of child-support agencies in our government, which have been gutted over the past 7 years (even more than they already were) by a neurotic chimpanzee president who needed the money to give billionaires that sixth BMW in the garage.

It is rather irrelevant that the parents of the girl might get damages. They might also technically win, but then lose damages because they failed to mitigate the harm to their daughter. The fact that they are eligible to gain money from what happened is the ugly byproduct of our retarded system, whereby money has to be the motivation for any kind of justice. We as a society simply cannot conceive of any other currency than an economic one to justify altering behavior. And where there is a loser, there must be a winner. So, to make DHS a loser (to punish them in any way Americans can see as tangible for the harm DHS caused) there must be a "winner," which has to be the parents.

It is a ridiculous, stupid, truly insane clusterfuck. It's all we have. God bless America.


Seyrah said...

...Except that various of DHS personnel, as well as the owner of the social-services company contracted by DHS have all already been indicted on criminal charges. This is not being regarded as an exclusively civil matter, as you seem to believe.

Manitor said...

Enough public attention can cause anyone to get indicted, and even convicted. Check the grand jury transcript in this case, and you will see that this particular death came after a long string of others.

Additionally, "indict" is not convict. Indict, put it in the papers, tell people the process is moving forward, and then in a couple years when the judge dismisses charges on the base of contract provisions between the contractor/government agency, the normal protections afforded government employees (when acting in the course of their duties, generally immune), etc.

Have all the DHS employees/contractors responsible for previous kiddie deaths been criminally indicted? Heck no. Not a one has. These particular indictments are for show, because a newspaper or two actually picked up the story, because the facts were horrific enough to justify it. The death of a child should be horrific enough, but somehow no one remembers that anyone was dying until a story this graphic comes along, when we find out there is a string. Soon it will fade, and DHS will go back to doing what it does best, as will the rest of the child agencies in the rest of the states.