Politics & Policy

Alfie Evans Foreshadows a Dark American Future

Alfie Evans (Alfie'ss Army Official/Facebook)
Yes, it could happen here.

How? How does a nation reach a point where it will essentially kidnap a child from a loving, functioning family, yank that same child off life support, deny him care as he unexpectedly fights to stay alive, and then block attempts by a foreign government to rescue him and provide him top-notch care free of charge? How does a great civilization sink to such barbarism and tyranny?

There are two stories one could tell — one about policy, the other about philosophy. The policy story traces events like the nationalization of health care, the evolution of family law, and changing doctrines of individual liberty. It is far less important. Policy flows from philosophy, and the philosophy of government is the central reason for the monstrous injustice in Great Britain.

The scary thing is that the same philosophy could well bring the same injustice to the United States.

Let’s back up a bit — all the way to July 1776. That’s the month when the members of the second Continental Congress signed a Declaration stating the fundamental founding principle of a new republic: that “all men are created equal” and “endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights,” including “Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.” Critically, the Declaration of Independence also stressed that governments are instituted “to secure these rights.” [Emphasis added.]

You’ll notice two things right away. First, there is a fundamentally religious element to America’s founding. The primacy of the “Laws of Nature and Nature’s God” is clear and explicit. Second, the state is thus inherently and inescapably subordinate to these laws, existing mainly to protect the rights God grants.

Applying the philosophy of the founding to a case like Alfie Evans’s yields a clear result. The state exists to protect the life and liberty of its citizens. Both are in play here: Alfie’s life and the liberty of his parents to in good faith and with due consideration make health-care decisions on behalf of their sick child. Raised against the backdrop of American liberty, there are millions of Americans who understand this reality almost instinctively, without knowing an ounce of constitutional law. Their very spirit rebels against Great Britain’s actions.

With no God over the state, the state then becomes not the defender of liberty but the definer of liberty. You have no freedoms except those bestowed by the state, and those freedoms are defined entirely by the various branches of government.

But there are now millions of secularized Americans who have a quite different worldview, as well. The religious element of the founding rings false and hollow to them. They find that the very concept of the “Laws of Nature and Nature’s God” should be subordinate to human-defined morality, which — when stripped of its theistic elements — places even the right to life up for debate. While there are many secularists who revere life and treasure the founding values, there is nothing inherent in secularism itself that protects individual liberty.

With no God over the state, the state then becomes not the defender of liberty but the definer of liberty. You have no freedoms except those bestowed by the state, and those freedoms are defined entirely by the various branches of government. There is no inherent parental authority. There is no inherent right to life. There is only the justice the state gives according to the standards the state dictates.

Marry statism to utopianism, and you create an alluring vision that empowers a host of self-righteous evils, centralization and authoritarianism chief among them. If government defines the good, then where is the room for dissent? Does it not merely impede and complicate the administration of social justice?

Consider what’s happened in Britain. Rather than defending a right to life, the state has decided to define which lives are worth living. Rather than protecting the rights of the child only when the parents have manifestly failed, the state has decided that it is the greater, better parent.

The long-term threat to the American experiment isn’t found in any given policy, but rather in a lost philosophy. Americans are shedding a belief in God at an alarming rate. In elite circles, fundamental liberties like free speech and due process are scorned and mocked as tools of white supremacy or oppressive patriarchies. Federalism has been reduced to a tactic of political opposition, not a bipartisan principle of self-governance.

If you don’t want America to become Britain — if you don’t want to wake up one morning to find the American state defying loving and prudent parents to declare that death is in a child’s “best interests” — I would suggest that you not wait until America is secularized, centralized, and authoritarian. I’d suggest that you not wait until the moment when the state has seized the power to act like Britain, and you’re reduced to arguing, “I know the government can do this, but it shouldn’t.”

Because if you wait until then, you’ve already lost.

Across Twitter, I’ve seen conservatives talk about Alfie’s case and discuss “Second Amendment remedies.” Something about that case has unlocked the revolutionary spirit in some American hearts. And rightfully so. Because if our nation reaches the point where it treats children and families the way Britain has treated Alfie and his parents, then the promise of American liberty will be broken. Is Britain’s present a preview of America’s future? It should grieve us greatly to know that the answer to that question is in serious doubt.

NOW WATCH: ‘Alfie Evans Ordered to Die’

David French — David French is a senior writer for National Review, a senior fellow at the National Review Institute, and a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

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