Rachel Canning Might Have Won in Europe

Rachel Canning Might Have Won in Europe

In early March, Rachel Canning became the American poster girl for youthful entitlement gone mad. However, to many Europeans, her case didn't look so strange.

The 18-year-old New Jerseyan, who had moved out of her parents' house over disputes involving curfew violations and a boyfriend, filed a lawsuit against her parents. It aimed to force them to cough up over $5,000 for her private-high-school tuition, cover $12,000-plus in legal fees, pay her living and transportation costs, and give her access to a college fund.

Rachel alleged all kinds of things in the lawsuit, including that her parents had kicked her out of the house and cut her off when she turned 18. Not so, insisted father Sean Canning to a local newspaper, "We love our child and miss her. This is terrible. It's killing me and my wife.

"We have a child we want home. We're not Draconian and now we're getting hauled into court. She's demanding that we pay her bills but she doesn't want to live at home, and she's saying, 'I don't want to live under your rules.'"

Mr. Canning found this unacceptable, as did most Americans who read the story and bothered to express an opinion.

Rachel lost the first round in court, badly. Judge Peter Bogaard denied most of her requests, and hinted that the later hearing on the control of her college fund was not likely to work out so well for her.

"Do we want to establish a precedent where parents living in constant fear of establishing basic rules of the house?" Judge Bogaard asked. Implied answer: not bloody likely.

This week, Rachel effectively threw in the towel and moved home. Though part of the suit is still outstanding, technically, it was never likely to go her way. Rachel and her parents will have to work out some sort of solution among themselves over what college she will attend, when this will happen, and how it will be paid for.

Things worked out this way because her parents were holding all the cards. In parts of Europe, it might have gone quite differently.

American parents have an obligation to tender minimal support to their children until they turn 18. After that, the kids are, legally speaking, on their own. Any support parents render to their children past that point is up to them, which encourages the newly minted young adults to play nice.

One thing I learned from the Canning controversy is that in many European countries, this is not the case. For instance, according to the Prague Daily Monitor, "Under Czech law, the duty to support and maintain children is not made conditional on their age or the completion of a certain education level but only on their ability to support themselves."

Czech "adult children" have a right to stay at their parents' place until they have reached that financial liftoff point. This has led to a situation where "more and more young Czechs refuse to work or actively seek jobs and they are sponging off their parents who support them from their salaries and old-age pensions."

These "sponges" can only be kicked out of the house with a court order, which most parents are loath to seek. However, "the cases in which a son or daughter sue their parents who refuse to support them are not so rare," the Monitor reports.

Thank God, and well-defined property rights, that's not the case in America. A nation of Rachel Cannings would be well nigh unbearable.

Jeremy Lott is an editor for RealClearPolitics and author of The Warm Bucket Brigade: The Story of the American Vice Presidency.

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