Posted 1/4/12 by Benjamin Miller
Lenore Skenazy, author of FreeRangeKids.com, wants us to ask ourselves: Are we overreacting to life's rare and improbable threats? And in attempting to protect ourselves and our children against remote risks, do we incur greater societal costs?
In an op-ed in last week's Wall Street Journal, Skenazy argues that the answer to both questions is a definite "yes." She describes an incident in April 2011 in which an Applebee's waiter inadvertently served an alcoholic drink to a toddler. Instead of being resolved with a simple apology and recompense, the incident ballooned into a lawsuit, a national retraining of Applebee's staff, and a media frenzy. What's wrong with that? As Skenazy writes:
This collective decision not to distinguish between rare screw-ups and systemic dangers is turning us into neurotic Nellies who worry about, warn against and, finally, outlaw very safe things.
This reactionary instinct is all too visible in the way we treat our children, eliminating monkey bars and dodgeball because they might cause an accident. But the attitude is pervasive across society. We write laws and regulations to address rare or one-time events, instead of defining our principles and objectives and using common sense to resolve specific issues accordingly.
No matter how many rules we think up, accidents will happen. When they do, let's remember to use common sense, not irrational panic, to fix them.