FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

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.

September 25, 2018
Kenneth Surin
Fact-Finding Labour’s “Anti-Semitism” Crisis
Charles Pierson
Destroying Yemen as Humanely as Possible
James Rothenberg
Why Not Socialism?
Patrick Cockburn
How Putin Came Out on Top in Syria
John Grant
“Awesome Uncontrollable Male Passion” Meets Its Match
Guy Horton
Burma: Complicity With Evil?
Steve Stallone
Jujitsu Comms
William Blum
Bombing Libya: the Origins of Europe’s Immigration Crisis
John Feffer
There’s a New Crash Coming
Martha Pskowski
“The Emergency Isn’t Over”: the Homeless Commemorate a Year Since the Mexico City Earthquake
Fred Baumgarten
Ten Ways of Looking at Civility
Dean Baker
The Great Financial Crisis: Bernanke and the Bubble
Binoy Kampmark
Parasitic and Irrelevant: The University Vice Chancellor
September 24, 2018
Jonathan Cook
Hiding in Plain Sight: Why We Cannot See the System Destroying Us
Gary Leupp
All the Good News (Ignored by the Trump-Obsessed Media)
Robert Fisk
I Don’t See How a Palestinian State Can Ever Happen
Barry Brown
Pot as Political Speech
Lara Merling
Puerto Rico’s Colonial Legacy and Its Continuing Economic Troubles
Patrick Cockburn
Iraq’s Prime Ministers Come and Go, But the Stalemate Remains
William Blum
The New Iraq WMD: Russian Interference in US Elections
Julian Vigo
The UK’s Snoopers’ Charter Has Been Dealt a Serious Blow
Joseph Matten
Why Did Global Economic Performance Deteriorate in the 1970s?
Zhivko Illeieff
The Millennial Label: Distinguishing Facts from Fiction
Thomas Hon Wing Polin – Gerry Brown
Xinjiang : The New Great Game
Binoy Kampmark
Casting Kavanaugh: The Trump Supreme Court Drama
Max Wilbert
Blue Angels: the Naked Face of Empire
Weekend Edition
September 21, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Alexandra Isfahani-Hammond
Hurricane Florence and 9.7 Million Pigs
Andrew Levine
Israel’s Anti-Semitism Smear Campaign
Paul Street
Laquan McDonald is Being Tried for His Own Racist Murder
Brad Evans
What Does It Mean to Celebrate International Peace Day?
Nick Pemberton
With or Without Kavanaugh, The United States Is Anti-Choice
Jim Kavanagh
“Taxpayer Money” Threatens Medicare-for-All (And Every Other Social Program)
Jonathan Cook
Palestine: The Testbed for Trump’s Plan to Tear up the Rules-Based International Order
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: the Chickenhawks Have Finally Come Back Home to Roost!
David Rosen
As the Capitalist World Turns: From Empire to Imperialism to Globalization?
Jonah Raskin
Green Capitalism Rears Its Head at Global Climate Action Summit
James Munson
On Climate, the Centrists are the Deplorables
Robert Hunziker
Is Paris 2015 Already Underwater?
Arshad Khan
Will There Ever be Justice for Rohingya Muslims?
Jill Richardson
Why Women Don’t Report Sexual Assault
Dave Clennon
A Victory for Historical Accuracy and the Peace Movement: Not One Emmy for Ken Burns and “The Vietnam War”
W. T. Whitney
US Harasses Cuba Amid Mysterious Circumstances
Nathan Kalman-Lamb
Things That Make Sports Fans Uncomfortable
George Capaccio
Iran: “Snapping Back” Sanctions and the Threat of War
Kenneth Surin
Brexit is Coming, But Which Will It Be?
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail