Why We Get a Nanny State: Because We Want One

One mark of a nanny state is that it second guesses the decisions of parents. But maybe that’s what we want.

debra harrell

I’ve posted about the Debra Harrell monstrosity thinking that everyone would recognize that the way she was treated is wrong and the charges leveled against her are ridiculous. Perhaps I am out of step.

According to Lenore Skenazy at Reason.com, Americans want to criminalize allowing children to play unsupervised:

A whopping 68 percent of Americans think there should be a law that prohibits kids 9 and under from playing at the park unsupervised, despite the fact that most of them no doubt grew up doing just that

What’s more: 43 percent feel the same way about 12-year-olds. They would like to criminalize all pre-teenagers playing outside on their own (and, I guess, arrest their no-good parents).

How can anyone expect anything other than stunted personalities to grow up from such an upbringing? And it is all based on a wild fear of very unlikely risks.

Debra Harrell was thrown in jail for having the audacity to believe her 9-year-old would be fine by herself at a popular playground teeming with activity. In another era, it not only would have been normal for a child to say, “Goodbye, mom!” and go off to spend a summer’s day there, it would have been odd to consider that child “unsupervised.” After all, she was surrounded by other kids, parents, and park personnel. Apparently now only a private security detail is considered safe enough.

Harrell’s real crime was that she refused to indulge in inflated fears of abduction and insist her daughter never leave her side. While there are obviously many neighborhoods wrecked by crime where it makes more sense to keep kids close, the country at large is enjoying its lowest crime level in decades.

Too bad most people reject this reality. The Reason/Rupe Poll asked “Do kids today face more threats to their physical safety?” and a majority—62 percent—said yes. Perhaps that’s because the majority of respondents also said they don’t think the media or political leaders are overhyping the threats to our kids.

The bottom line here is that if we are kept afraid we are more likely to want “security” rather than worry about the preservation of our liberties. These irrational fears have political consequences.