Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Nanny and the Protester

It’s time for a confession: I once worked as a nanny. While my job, then, was largely to keep a pair of intelligent boys (my nephews) out of trouble, I learned that such a task is nigh on impossible. People with determination -- children or adult -- can get themselves into trouble no matter how good your roadblocks are. That’s why I am frustrated and annoyed each time somebody proposes some new legislation designed to protect us from ourselves. They’re trying to counteract fundamental laws of human nature.

Some of my friends say it all started with the seat belt. I’ve worn one in a moving car since they first started installing them in Dodge vans, back in the dark ages. Personally, I see merit in always wearing a safety harness while in a moving vehicle. I don’t want to become a gruesome hood ornament. People who object to that protection are fodder for discussions on Darwinism. But somebody who got himself elected to a job in some legislature decided that he was going to protect the idiots from themselves.

Has it worked? Well, the mandatory seat belt laws were enacted in the mid-Reagan years, and one of my neighbors -- born during the mid-Reagan years -- was tossed out of his rolling pickup truck two summers ago and was darned lucky to survive. He is not, I am led to believe, atypical of males. The law did not amend his recklessness. The shock of seeing his life flash before his eyes did (albeit briefly).

Then, too, that whole gun-control idea is a bust. Even meek li’l ol’ me knows how to make weapons from ordinary household items. Were I unable to buy a gun, I would have no difficulty in wreaking havoc, when I finally snap. You’d be surprised how much damage a catapult can do, if it’s made from sturdy undergarment elastic and launches an angry cat (and, if a cat is involuntarily airborne, it will be angry). Stopping citizens from owning guns doesn’t eliminate the danger of being shot -- it reduces the likelihood one can defend oneself from a gun-toting criminal. I hope that wasn’t the goal!

And third, the Illinois State Legislature has just signed an act banning smoking in public places. Yeah, that’ll show those eeeevil smokers! Now they won’t be able to publicly socialize with anybody any more. I won’t be able to hang out with them, in our usual haunts. The guys in Springfield are protecting me from my choice in friends. Isn’t that nice? After January of this year, any of my friends who smokes will no longer be welcome in places into which I was invited by them. That hardly seems considerate, now, does it?

Not that I think all nanny-like actions by government is bad. For example, I cheered when I heard that the US legislature failed to authorize international drug purchasing. The we-ought-to-buy-where-it’s-cheap crowd was beaten out by the folks who were paying attention to the pet food industry news last month. If we can’t guarantee the quality and safety of a product which is going into our bodies to keep us alive or to make us healthier, how can we justify using it? If we can’t justify using it, how can we justify bringing it into the country in the first place? This isn’t corporate protectionism or silly nationalist isolationism, it’s protecting the citizens from potential external sources of harm.

That, I think, is the difference. Our government has the task of protecting us from others who may mean us harm (or, at least, don’t have our well-being at heart). It should not be tasked with protecting us from ourselves. Educating us on the risks inherent in something, I can approve. It’s nice when a federal expert comes out and says, “bungee jumping off the rim of the Grand Canyon may result in long-term injury or death.” It’s not so great for them to decide for me that I have no right to be that stupid. In the end, if I have no right to decide to be a reckless idiot, I also no longer have the obligation to make sensible choices. All my responsibility is thereby abrogated, and I become an intellectual slave to the Nanny State.

I protest. I think this country is a little too old and a little too independent to need a nanny.

No comments: