Shutting down sledding hills is inspired by the same sort of simpering caution that keeps Americans shoeless in airport security lines and, closer to home, keeps parents from letting their kids walk a few blocks to school alone, despite the fact that America today is as safe as the longed-for “Leave It to Beaver” golden age.
As an American (and Iowan!) I find this sort of flinching risk-aversion profoundly embarrassing. We might like to locate the blame for things like sledding bans somewhere out there in the unruly tort system (and indeed Messrs Ramseyer and Rasmusen do), but we must face the possibility that the blame also lies within. Perhaps it’s better to be safe than sorry, but one wonders whether we won’t become sorry to have made such a fetish of staying safe. In much the same way that dominant firms, jealous of market share, tend to become over-cautious and lose their edge, America the weak-kneed hegemon risks losing the can-do, risk-taking, innovative pioneer spirit that made it the world’s dominant economic and military power. Is it worth devoting so much zeal to protecting America’s young minds from brain damage if the finest among them wind up too conservative to seek anything but a sure paycheck? If Americans need something to fear, it should be that by continuing to inspire this surfeit of heedfulness in generation after generation, America risks heading downhill, and not in the fun way.
Please let’s make sure that New Zealand stays out of this particular asylum. What it’s done to America isn’t pretty.