Won’t Someone Think of the Children?


Mark of New Jersey

Mark is a Founding Editor of The League of Ordinary Gentlemen, the predecessor of Ordinary Times.

Related Post Roulette

25 Responses

  1. Avatar Jaybird says:

    We used to ride to town in the bed of my uncle’s truck.

    I think that would be considered “child abuse” today.Report

  2. Avatar Jaybird says:

    This story of Nick Gillespie’s is appropriate, I think.


    Here’s the 2nd paragraph from the story (after the opener which describes the bike prep Nick sees a neighbor kid engaging in):

    As he peddled off in his body armor, his father appeared, coffee mug in one hand. “You be careful,” he called after his son. And then the father, who like me is in his 30s, turned my way and added, somewhat sheepishly, “I remember riding my bike barefoot in the rain. Things sure are different nowadays with the kids.”

    The whole thing is worth reading.Report

    • Avatar Mark says:

      When my dad was growing up, him and his friends would sit on the front poor and breathe deeply when the DDT trucks came by and sprayed sweet-smelling insecticide. They knew to watch out for one guy on the block who always drove drunk – but back then it was merely another form of bad driving. My dad started driving without a license when he was 12. He’s had dentures since he was 14 because he played hockey without a face shield or a helmet. And guess what else? A bunch of guys he knew died aged 16-20 in stupid accidents.

      It’s nice to put on the rose- or sepia-colored glasses every once in a while, but it’s hard to argue in favor of childhood injuries and pesticides.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird says:

        “It’s nice to put on the rose- or sepia-colored glasses every once in a while, but it’s hard to argue in favor of childhood injuries and pesticides.”

        Could I spin this around and say, instead, “we’re going to pass laws to make sure that you kids don’t do what I did when I was your age”?

        I mean, sure for bike helmet laws. But it also seems to be the driving force behind, say, marijuana prohibition as well.Report

  3. Avatar Mark says:

    Similarly, speed limits are rigid and absolutist because they don’t differentiate by weather conditions and driver skill. Motorcycle helmets and seat belts too. Same goes for restricting Blood Alcohol Content to 0.08 while driving – or 0.00 for drivers under 21.

    Every large organization treats human beings like numbers. I could see getting worked up over sending them off to die in Iraq or not caring that they have no health insurance. But car seat laws are hardly too onerous – especially since laws like California’s give you quite a bit of discretion for children aged 1-6.Report

  4. Avatar E.D. Kain says:

    Well, regarding the crying baby in car-seat situation of which I am only too familiar, and setting the law aside for a moment, my advice is to let them learn that you will not pick them up out of the carseat. They are going to have to just deal with it and sooth themselves. Once our daughter resigned herself to this fact, we were all much happier.

    I think the laws for infants actually make sense but as children grow older – school age, I’d say – it becomes kind of silly. I mean, fine, suggest that a kids should sit in a booster. But make it the law?


  5. Avatar Winston says:

    This is one of your most inane posts ever. Yes, let’s create a situation where parents are empowered to decide for themselves which child safety laws to obey. Then, when stopped by police for violating the law, they can explain how the exception they have created is justified in this case. (“We’re car pooling the children, officer, that’s why we have five of our neighbors’ kids crammed in the back, and only two with seat belts.” “Ma’am, I understand. No problem. Proceed.” Or, “Yes, my child is only 11, but he’s large for his age.” “Yes, I see that sir. Sorry I stopped you.” ) And how lame is your grudging statement that, yes, “on average,” car seats make children safer. What is that supposed to mean? These laws have saved tens of thousands of children, and they aren’t intended to have silly loopholes built in. Live with it. Just imagine your kind of thinking applied in other areas of the law that lead to the occasional inconvenience.Report

  6. Avatar mike farmer says:

    Unfit parents will not become fit by law, they might obey a few laws, but the all the risks they subject their children to will be undetected, for the most part, until it’s too late. Fit parents will make sure their children are safe, as much as they can.Report

  7. Avatar Patrick Duffy says:

    I had just the opposite experience. When my daughter wouldn’t stop crying and go to sleep at night, we’d put her in the car seat and drive. One time, we didn’t even get to the end of our cul-de-sac and she was sound asleep. Usually, once around the block was all it took.

    More seriously, I’m fascinated by the issue of whether everything that is immoral (or stupid, or sub-optimal, or …) should be illegal, assuming that 51% of the population think it’s immoral, stupid, etc. Clearly, there are some things that are appropriately illegal, such as burglary, murder and the like. But how does a non-sectarian country decide what is stupid, in the minds of a majority, but legal? Smoking? Drinking white zinfandel? Picking your nose in public? Watching WWF? Taking 9 items through the 7 items or less line in the grocery store? Voting for Rocky the Flying Squirrel for county sheriff? “If the law says that, sir, then the law is an ass.” Mr. Beadle, Great Expectations, I think.
    Everything that is immoral should not also be illegal (this not being Iran,) but many things that are immoral are illegal and should be. What criteria should be used to decide?Report

  8. Avatar alkali says:

    While I favor these laws in general, I think the carpooling point has merit. Another issue is that these laws also make it very difficult to travel with three or more of your own children (most cars will not accommodate more than two child seats). You need not share the rightwing “birth dearth” paranoia to object if the government makes it substantially more difficult to have more than two children in a household.Report

  9. Avatar Sam M says:

    It all went to hell in a handbasket with the smoking bans.

    Hell in a handbasket, I say.


  10. One thing I should make clear: I’m not advocating the full repeal of all child safety laws or even all child car seat laws, although I do think those laws need to be reined in quite a bit. At some point, kids need to be able to be kids.

    My point here is just that legislation is a very blunt instrument that has a lot of negative side effects that are not susceptible to a ready cost-benefit analysis in pure numbers terms. Yet the push for safety laws often ignores these side effects, essentially taking the view that almost any cost is acceptable as long as the result of the legislation is some marginally decreased risk of death.

    This leads to idiotic laws like the CPSIA and requirements that 79-pound children have to wear car seats.

    Again, though, I’m not pushing for the repeal of all child safety laws, just asking that we put an end to this legislative rationale that anything that even marginally can be said to improve child safety is worth doing, no matter how it may affect children and their parents in an individual situation.Report

    • Avatar greginak says:

      As a country we would benefit if high school kids, at the minimum , had to take a hard course in statistics. So much of our public panics are based on a lack of understanding about stats and also science in general.

      The issue, as i think you are saying Mark, is where to draw the lines on safety. to often this gets turned into What about the Children!!!! vs. LIBERTY!!!! FREEDOM!!!!!Report

      • Avatar Jaybird says:

        Talk to the teacher’s unions about that first part.Report

        • Avatar E.D. Kain says:

          Sometimes fears over safety turn into Global Wars on Terror, too. And build up things like Departments of Homeland Security, or Patriot Acts.

          Safety, security – these can’t be guaranteed or really enforced. But they should be encouraged.Report

          • Avatar Jaybird says:

            It’s when fears over safety turn into 55-gallon drums full of toothpaste tubes that we need to ask, seriously, “are we safer?” and having that question answered with the question “do you want children to die?” gives the game away, as far as I’m concerned, that we aren’t, particularly.Report

    • Avatar Michael Drew says:

      There are always messed-up cases that come out of making law what should just be common sense. I also wonder whether it isn’t often the case that lawmakers get confused about the notion that making a law isn’t just a high-powered public information campaign, which it seems to me would be a better place to start before going the criminalization route. But if that has been tried and there is still a clear problem of people not using carseats, then I think it’s not crazy to start looking at a law. Of course, writing the law so that nine year-olds have to sit in car seats is just head-poundingly dumb. but there’s always going to be the problem of dumb legislators — that’s just not going away.Report