The Thing Is: Infants Want the Nanny

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This sort of thing has been weighing on me a lot, recently:

According to the Associated Press, sledding prohibitions are more and more common:

No one tracks how many cities have banned or limited sledding, but the list grows every year. One of the latest is in Dubuque, Iowa, where the City Council is moving ahead with a plan to ban sledding in all but two of its 50 parks.

“We have all kinds of parks that have hills on them,” said Marie Ware, Dubuque’s leisure services manager. “We can’t manage the risk at all of those places.”

As Reason‘s Robby Soave goes on to suggest, the problem isn’t entirely one of top-down imposition of nannying.  People want the nannies, or at least they want the right to sue somebody when they aren’t preventively nannied.  One municipal lawyer puts it in absurd terms:  “In the past, people might have embraced a Wild West philosophy of individuals being solely responsible for their actions, but now they expect government to prevent dangers whenever possible.”

That’s absurd because we’re not talking a rational calculation of preventing the dangers of a mysterious world, in my opinion.  We’re talking a desire to offload basic, not-all-that-arduous responsibilities.

If we have to live under the assumption that there’s a general, default “No Lifeguard on Duty” sign in places that aren’t explicitly guarded, then we have to figure out, for ourselves, what it is safe to do, and we’ll often make mistakes.  Even more difficult, we have to teach our children where they can and cannot go and what they shouldn’t do. That takes time, and it imparts an uncomfortable amount of blame when sometimes-unpredictable and -irrational children hurt themselves.

I fear that there’s no good way out of this particular societal decline.  The thing that we’re training out of ourselves and our children is too intangible, so its absence may not be felt until it’s a matter of critical necessity.  Even then, so many people will be invested in the system of nannying that we might choose the consequences over a correction.