GOVERNING magazine's take on the Rounds rejection of the nanny-state car seat bill
Read the entire blog entry here at Governing.com.
Rounds has a point. He said the law would be unenforceable. But laws such as these often serve more as advice than as something that's enforced, signaling citizens about basic safety precautions. The bill's sponsor said his action was prompted after he told a woman that a booster seat would be safer for her kid. She told him, "If it's that important, the government would make me do it."
This is a classic reaction from a legislator. Some bad thing has happened, so there ought to be a law to address it. Which brings us back to the original question. When is it government's business to offer us advice or enforce such advice, and when should people be left alone to make their own decisions in life?
A law like this sounds to me like it will do more good than harm, but do governments always know best?
And that's a good question posed by the writer Alan Greenblatt - Do governments always know best? I'd say no, no, and NO.
As a bit of an illustrative story, I'd point out an incident that occurred many years ago at the very house I'm writing this from.
On a warm spring day when all of the kids (6 of us) were home. A couple of us were back from college, and the rest in various levels of schooling. On a lark, we and our parents set up a volleyball net between two elm trees on the boulevard that are now long departed, and started playing. The playing field was pretty narrow, so a couple of us hung on the street just off of the curb, probably not even as far as the asphalt.
The house fronts on a street that's somewhat sleepy, and even more so on the weekend we were playing on, so we didn't worry much about traffic. If a car was coming, we saw it from a distance, and stopped the game, much like the "game on - game off" hockey game in the original Wayne's World movie.
We played and this continued for quite a while until a police officer happened to drive by. He pulled over, and told all of us, including my parents, that we needed to stop playing our little game in part of the street because we might get hit by a car.
Yes. We were all wondering what kind of idiot he was telling a couple of teenagers supervised by four or five legal adults - one a retired federal law enforcement agent, and another the local school nurse - that playing in the street might be dangerous. And I'm not so sure the police chief didn't hear about that one the following Monday.
But the point of the story is, technically, I'm not sure any law was being broken whatsoever. But in this case, because government (in this case the police officer, who I don't think lasted long, or at the least isn't around anymore) thought they knew better and decided to created a rule on the fly because of it.
Was there possibly a risk? I'm sure there could be. But we were willing to accept that nominal risk, and there was no prohibition that we were aware of. In this case, did government know best for us? Absolutely not. The incident was silly and overly bureaucratic (or in this case "autocratic") because government thought they knew better, despite it being ridiculously intrusive.
Just like the very smart rejection of the car seats, we need to get back to basics in Government where our political system is designed to preserve freedom. Not to micromanage our lives ad infinitum.