Life is filled with risk. We can deal with that two ways. The first option is to allow people to make educated choices, thus promoting individual responsibility. The second option is to have politicians micro-manage our decisions, thus promoting passivity.
Not surprisingly, America is drifting in the wrong direction, allowing busybodies to regulate every aspect of our lives.
Here’s an excerpt from the Seattle newspaper about an example of what I call the wussification of America. But it’s really more the infantalization of America.
People who hope to beat the summer heat by swimming, floating or boating on rivers in King County must wear a life vest or face an $86 fine. …”This council sometimes thinks it’s everybody’s mom,” said Councilwoman Kathy Lambert, who voted “no.” …The law appears to be the first of its kind in the state. …it didn’t appear any other county required swimmers to wear the devices. …Opponents who spoke before the Council said sheriff’s deputies had better things to do than to write tickets for people on waterways and would be better off focusing on people engaging in dangerous behavior. …Current state law requires that kids 12 and under must wear a live vest when on a boat that is less than 19 feet long. The new county law says everybody must wear the vests when they are on rivers… It applies to people tubing, rafting, using a surfboard, canoe or kayak. Swimmers or people wading more than 5 feet from shore or in water more than 4 feet deep would also have to wear life vests.
I suppose it would be appropriate to mention that this kind of intervention has costs. When government creates the illusion that there is little or no risk, it lures people into behaving more recklessly. The housing mess is a good example. Government subsidies and guarantees caused a boom-bust cycle largely by making it seem like housing was a risk-free investment.
Mandatory life jackets are a different situation, to be sure. Maybe they would encourage people to behave more recklessly, thus offsetting the presumed benefits, but that’s an empirical matter. I’m more worried about the signal sent by such interventions – i.e., that people no longer should think for themselves and instead we can rely on Big Brother to safely guide us through life.