Meddling and Litigation vs. Rational Parenting

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

In the past few days, a couple of stories over at Free Range Kids have highlighted how difficult it can be for parents to foster independence in their children these days. In one case, a mother was arrested for permitting her toddler to play in a sandbox with other children while she watched from afar. In another case, the mother of a ten-year-old was also arrested for letting her son shop in a Lego Store in one part of a mall while (gasp!) she shopped in another store. It is disturbing, to say the least, that people seemed so eager to call the police in each case. This reflects a cultural trend I have already commented on here.

Lenore Skenazy's commentary about the Lego case indicates another factor which may be contributing to the rash of parents being arrested while using common sense: Busybodies are getting a big assist from the perception (accurate or not) of a legal system that makes lawsuits easy and attractive:

The Lego corporate press office has not responded to my request for comment. The manager of the Eastview Mall Lego store, Dan Prouty, told me that he could not comment on whether or not someone at his store called the cops. But Prouty did acknowledge that there's a sign in his store's window that says, in his words, "children under the age of 12 are not allowed to be unattended in the store -- that's paraphrased a little bit."
Skenazy soon after quotes the following, from the admission rules of Legoland in Toronto:
Please note: Children 17 and under must be accompanied by an adult supervisor 18 years of age or older. Adults (18+) will not be admitted without a child, with the exception of Adult Only Nights.
Skenazy calls Lego "obsessed with age liability," and she is probably right -- but I suspect that that is due at least in part to another problem, which is that insurance companies, fearful of having to cover large payouts from extremely rare (but always well-publicized) lawsuits, are pressing companies like Lego to have and enforce such policies. (An attorney quoted at the last link suggests self-insurance as a way to fight back, but I think this needs to be a tool in part of a larger campaign to push back against pervasive meddling.) This, of course, trickles down to low-level employees who get to decide whether (1) they'll turn a blind eye to occasional violations of such policies; (2) send kids out of their stores and into the mall, where legend has it they'll be abducted instantly; or (3) throw the problem (and the responsibility) at law enforcement.

And then, of course, parents get to worry at every corner about running afoul of some policy or other that defies common sense, as if the real challenges of parenthood aren't enough. Please refer to the second quote, by Tara Smith, here.

-- CAV


Dinwar said...

Ayn Rand once said that our journalism was very much like that of a country under censorship, despite there being no official censorship. In a lot of ways, this also holds true for how citizens interact with one another. Rather than accepting that people generally operate in good faith, we are actively encouraged to treat everyone as a threat and to report anything to "the authorities". We are informing on each other to the government in the same manner as those in brutal dictatorships--despite living in a society that is ostensibly free!

These two data points have me morbidly curious about what other aspects of dictatorship we follow. The use of military tactics against ordinary citizens is commonplace now; outright theft of property by the government (we call it "asset forfeiture") is now openly carried out; we must ask permission to do everything from starting a business to driving--increasingly we must ask permission to do something as basic as repaint our homes! Not to be an alarmist, but the similarities are terrifying.

Gus Van Horn said...

It does indeed look like the water is getting dangerously warm.