Re: The Nanny State, Part 3, But…
Wow is that slope slippery!
Reading of Patrick’s support for laws to adults for smoking in the car with children present makes me wonder two things. First, how common is the problem? I wouldn’t even be comfortable asserting that “we’ve all seen” an example. Personally, I can’t think of an example in the past decade or so. (Go back far enough, though, and I was an example.)
Maybe I just haven’t been paying attention, but I’d like to see some sort of numbers, but I think we ought to know how big a problem we’re trying to solve. Otherwise, such legislation looks mainly like pats on the back for the righteous.
Second, wouldn’t it be safe to suggest that, in this day and age, children in the custody of people who would smoke in a small glass box with them are more likely than average to have larger problems than that which they inhale? It seems to me that a fine for the parents is not likely to have a net beneficial effects for the children we’re ostensibly trying to help.
Is second-hand smoke worse than losing out on activities because insufficiently mature parents dread cigarette-free car rides with their children? Or what about car rides that replace the smoke with a highly tense and stressful atmosphere emanating from adults who think they need a cigarette?
I ask these things because Patrick is ceding a huge principle, here, when he writes, “when your choices affect children, it’s people’s responsibility to do something about it.” Where is the limit there? Worse, yet, who gets to decide? England has provided a glimpse of that road, as it removes children from the homes of obese parents.
Personally, I’ll go far enough with Patrick (perhaps to the disappointment of libertarian readers) and suggest that we do have the responsibility that he suggests. It’s the “do something about it part” that requires reevaluation in our society. The something should be, first, taking the personal and often distasteful responsibility of passing judgment and imparting shame and, second, working toward the type of society in which people are more likely to choose to be good.
That’s the harder part, because it requires us to restrict our own choices on matters in which we’re perfectly capable of moderation… in everything that affects the whole jumbled mess of modern life and culture. I’m not saying that everything must be discarded, but we must be conscious of each decision we make, from our views on marriage to the music that colors our daily background.
It’s as if, having chased the rabbit of tolerance and non-judgementalism down its hole, we’re looking to the government to impose a sort of shame by proxy and by fee. One needn’t rely on slippery-slope thinking to discern the danger in that.