First of all, I think the Danish “Liberal” Party needs a new name. In Danish, it is called “Venstre, Danmarks Liberale Party”, but as I see it “Danmarks Autoritære Parti” would be a more fitting description.1
Now, as we all know, the aim of the Danish People’s Party is to incarcerate and exclude as large a part of the population as possible (this includes all non-Danes which the party haven’t succeeded in getting thrown out of the country). The party has also demanded the lowering the age of criminal responsibility from 15 to 12 years so that children of immigrants can be put behind bars from an early age. Sure, for the sake of window-dressing we’ll call it something else than prison but for all practical purposes, this is what we will be seeing. The government responded by offering 14 years as the age of criminal responsibility.
Or so we thought, because now Liberal MP Ellen Trane Nørby has come forward with the suggestion that we abolish the minimum age of criminal responsibility altogether and put special courts in charge of handling all kinds of transgressions made by people under the age of 18.
Sure, Ms. Nørby may argue that a criminal proceeding offers more formal guarantees than having your case handled by social workers (a problem which could be handled with less drastic means), but the real point is this: 1) All behaviour which do not conform to the very strict norms of “Danish behaviour” and “Danishness” put down by the Danish People’s Party is by definition criminal, 2) Even small children are by definition potential criminals, 3) social work is the supplement to legal punishment, not the first course of action or even a course of action designed to prevent crime.
We may say that Ellen Trane Nørby is just one Liberal MP, but we should remember that this is a party with a very well-functioning party organisation, especially when it comes to communication.
I really and truly cannot imagine that Ms. Nørby’s initiative has not been cleared (much) higher up in the hierarchy, which begs the question what the strategic goal from the point of the Liberal Party of this action is. My guess is that the Liberals want to establish their authoritarian credentials vis-a-vis the Danish People’s Party. The proposal also opens for a further reduction of the age of criminal responsibility (I still predict 13 years) as part of the negotiations about the 2010 budget. Needless to say, DF loved Ms. Nørby’s initiative.
In the bigger perspective, sociologists and historians have noted the Nordic countries for taking children seriously as children. Children are not seen as little adults (as before the 19th century) or primarily as consumers (as in the Anglo-Saxon world – note any Disney product). The aim of the Liberals and the Danish People’s Party is to break with this tradition, abolish the notion of childhood and replace education with a culture which is fundamentally penal in nature.
Welcome to the Dark Ages, my friends.