FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

Missing Children: The Pottery Barn Rule Revisited

Photo by Molly Adams | CC BY 2.0

If one in five American parents couldn’t figure out where their kids were, most people would rightly see the phenomenon as a crisis and a national scandal. Grandstanding prosecutors with visions of gubernatorial campaigns dancing in their heads would conduct mass parental perp walks. Legislators would boost their presidential aspirations by co-sponsoring legislation requiring universal implantation of GPS trackers at birth.

But when the same US government that postures as a better parent than real parents, crows over “extreme vetting” of immigrants, and announces separation of undocumented families as policy, loses track of 19% of unaccompanied refugee children placed in homes by the Office of Refugee resettlement, ORR is “not legally responsible.” So says Steven Wagner, acting assistant secretary for the Administration for Children and Families.

That’s par for the course when it comes to government and responsibility.

For example, if I find myself in fear of a police officer and shoot him, you can bet your bottom dollar I’ll be held “legally responsible.” But if that same police officer shoots me and then claims he was afraid because he thought my cell phone was a gun, the chances of any “legal responsibility” attaching are slim. If he doesn’t just get a  paid vacation (“administrative leave”) before being “cleared” as having “acted in accordance with department policy,” a court will likely find him not responsible under the theory of sovereign immunity (the idea that when a government employee is on the job, no personal liability attaches to that employee’s actions).

Even when a government official DOES “accept responsibility,” it usually reads as “OK, I’ve said I accept responsibility, now let’s forget about it and move on as if nothing happened, and don’t you dare mention it next time I’m up for promotion or re-election.”

In 2002, US Secretary of State Colin Powell allegedly invoked “the Pottery Barn rule” — “you break it, you bought it” — by way of trying to get President George W. Bush to rethink the ill-fated invasion of Iraq.

Pottery Barn actually has no such rule, but when I was a kid a lot of stores sported signs saying exactly that.

Government doesn’t have such a rule either, but it should.

A government employee who loses track of 1,475 children placed in his charge needs to to be fired — at least. An investigation of possible criminal negligence doesn’t seem unreasonable to me. Nor does a home visit by the area’s Department of Children’s Services or equivalent to make sure his or her own kids haven’t gone missing.

Even better, we could stop handing over so much power to government on the silly supposition that government jobs magically make the people who hold them smarter, more competent, or more responsible than us regular folks.

More articles by:

Thomas L. Knapp is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism (thegarrisoncenter.org). He lives and works in north central Florida.

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

April 22, 2019
Melvin Goodman
The NYTs Tries to Rehabilitate Bloody Gina Haspel
Robert Fisk
After ISIS, a Divided Iraq, Wounded and Grief-Stricken
Binoy Kampmark
Julian Assange as Neuroses
John Laforge
Chernobyl’s Deadly Effects Estimates Vary
Kenneth Surin
Mueller Time? Not for Now
Cesar Chelala
Yemen: The Triumph of Barbarism
Kerron Ó Luain
What the “White Irish Slaves” Meme Tells Us About Identity Politics
Andy Piascik
Grocery Store Workers Take on Billion Dollar Multinational
Seiji Yamada – Gregory G. Maskarinec
Health as a Human Right: No Migrants Need Apply
Howard Lisnoff
Loose Bullets and Loose Cannons
Ricardo Alarcón de Quesada
Dreaming in Miami
Graham Peebles
Consuming Stuff: The Polluting World of Fashion
Robert Dodge
Earth Day: Our Planet in Peril
Weekend Edition
April 19, 2019
Friday - Sunday
Andrew Levine
What Will It Take For Trump to Get His Due?
Roy Eidelson
Is the American Psychological Association Addicted to Militarism and War?
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Time is Blind, Man is Stupid
Joshua Frank
Top 20 Mueller Report “Findings”
Rob Urie
Why Russiagate Will Never Go Away
Paul Street
Stephen Moore Gets Something Right: It’s Capitalism vs. Democracy
Russell Mokhiber
Why Boeing and Its Executives Should be Prosecuted for Manslaughter
T.J. Coles
The Battle for Latin America: How the U.S. Helped Destroy the “Pink Tide”
Ron Jacobs
Ho Chi Minh City: Nguyen Thai Binh Street
Dean Baker
Fun Fictions in Economics
David Rosen
Trump’s One-Dimensional Gender Identity
Kenn Orphan
Notre Dame: We Have Always Belonged to Her
Robert Hunziker
The Blue Ocean Event and Collapsing Ecosystems
Theodore C. Van Alst, Jr.
Paddy Wagon
Brett Wilkins
Jimmy Carter: US ‘Most Warlike Nation in History of the World’
John W. Whitehead
From Jesus Christ to Julian Assange: When Dissidents Become Enemies of the State
Nick Pemberton
To Never Forget or Never Remember
Stephen Cooper
My Unforgettable College Stabbings
Louis Proyect
A Leftist Rejoinder to the “Capitalist Miracle”
Louisa Willcox
Aldo Leopold’s Land Ethic and the Need for a New Approach to Managing Wildlife
Brian Cloughley
Britain Shakes a Futile Fist and Germany Behaves Sensibly
Jessicah Pierre
A Revolutionary Idea to Close the Racial Wealth Divide
George Burchett
Revolutionary Journalism
Dan Bacher
U.S. Senate Confirms Oil Lobbyist David Bernhardt as Interior Secretary
Nicky Reid
The Strange Success of Russiagate
Chris Gilbert
Defending Venezuela: Two Approaches
Todd Larsen
The Planetary Cost of Amazon’s Convenience
Kelly Martin
How the White House is Spinning Earth Day
Nino Pagliccia
Cuba and Venezuela: Killing Two Birds With a Stone
Matthew Stevenson
Pacific Odyssey: Guadalcanal and Bloody Ridge, Solomon Islands
David Kattenburg
Trudeau’s Long Winter
Gary Olson
A Few Comments on the recent PBS Series: Reconstruction: America After the Civil War
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail