Tuesday, June 08, 2010

The end of fun 

This post makes me sad because it is so true:

I can't remember when I last saw a diving board (in the United States) or a seesaw. And until very recently, I had not seen a jungle gym of the sort I used to play on when I was a kid, but I spotted one in the yard of a former school and church in Ann Arbor, and I was lucky enough to have my camera handy.

For that you can blame the lawyers, and the judges who reshaped the common law to supply a financial remedy for every injury. There is, though, a broader assault on fun, and it comes from many places that all pretty much amount to taking risk of one sort or another out of life. Risk of injury, risk of insult, risk of discomfort: All these are reasons to ban law darts and jungle gyms, raise the drinking age, forbid ethnic jokes anywhere other than comedy clubs, and keep the kids indoors because it is raining or snowing.

Who are all these people who never want to run a goddamned risk? What is the true root of our national obsession? I wonder, sometimes, if antibiotics are to blame: Early and random death from disease was commonplace before World War II. You could die at any time, so breaking your arm falling from a jungle gym just did not seem like a problem. Unfortunately, in the reframing of risk in our daily lives we have forgotten the benefits of it: Risk is the price for most great and fun things. Sadly, few people today accept that exchange or even acknowledge that one comes with the other, and now we are fixing to expunge risk from our economic lives just as we have from the playground.

Will we ever remember what we have lost?

CWCID: Glenn Reynolds.


By Blogger John, at Tue Jun 08, 09:22:00 AM:

Interesting idea but wouldn't that imply that whenever we eliminate a large category of risk, risk-averse behavior would increase? That seems counterintuitive to me.

I think risk-averse behavior appropriately increases when external riskiness goes up or when internal confidence in avoiding the risk goes down. I see signs of the latter everywhere in our society: Western culture has lost its self-confidence.

As to blaming the lawyers and the judges, I think the University of Chicago Law School's "Law and Economics" movement is more to blame. I'm going to venture recklessly into foreign and possibly hostile territory with this syllogism: since economic analysis is inherently utilitarian and since utilitarianism is inherently immoral, using economic analysis as foundation for legal theory will yield bad laws and bad doctrines. Strict liability is an easy example of a doctrine that scores well on utility and horribly on justness.  

By Blogger MTF, at Tue Jun 08, 10:01:00 AM:

I most recently broke my arm on election evening, 2008, so can I blame Obama for my accident phobia? If it were Bush elected that night, after all, he would be blamed.  

By Anonymous tyree, at Tue Jun 08, 10:12:00 AM:

Greg Loganis will probably be our last great diving Olympian because children today are being raised in a world without diving boards. When I visit a hotel or motel and I see a pool with a 9' deep end I always look for the holes in the deck where the diving board used to be. I always saddens me see what "consumer advocacy" lawyerism has done to the country.

As for penicillin, I once asked my father, the doctor, about the "good old days". He said, "Before penicillin, there were no good old days".  

By Blogger ck, at Tue Jun 08, 10:49:00 AM:

A large part of the problem is that now the average 10 year old boy has a 51 year old single mother, no brothers or sisters. Not to mention, no big dogs,no unsupervised time and a mother that chases him around with hand sanitizer.  

By Blogger Cap'n Rusty, at Tue Jun 08, 11:21:00 AM:

Freedom is risk.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Tue Jun 08, 11:23:00 AM:

I used to play kickball at 8 p.m., when it was dark, at age 9, with the kids in the neighborhood. At age 4, I played hide and go seek in the neighborhood (I mean real hide and go seek, with older kids).

Our elementary school had a metal jungle gym, and even at 6 I was afraid/conscious that a mis-step could result in some sort of unfortunate injury.

I could go on, but I am of a mixed-mind on these subjects. I do put a great deal of 'blame' as well on the increasing urbanization of the country. Since we both grew up in non-urban areas, I think you will understand that there is a difference in how folks view things there. The vacant lot across from your house that we used for football had at least 3 overt danger areas that we part of the field, in essence, including one endzone in which you can imagine a kid being hit for a long post route, right before being hit by a car in the street right in front of your house.

I suspect that they still play pretty much the same in places like Iowa City and the small towns of Iowa. Just my guess.  

By Blogger Stack Trace, at Tue Jun 08, 11:28:00 AM:

My wife and I are raising a 4-year-old boy, so we see a *lot* of playgrounds (in Seattle). And let me tell you, these playgrounds are AWESOME.

Slides, swings, see-saws, climbing rope meshes, zip lines (you stand on a platform, grab hold of a handle and zip down a steel cable), jungle gyms, rock-climbing walls, all kinds of stuff. And a lot of these are NEW -- they're still building and installing this stuff, and Seattle is building plenty of it. (I'm looking at you, Log Boom Park.)

So don't believe every headline about "wahhh, kids are too coddled these days." Believe a lot of them! But don't believe all of them, because me and my kid are rockin out on the playground.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Tue Jun 08, 02:15:00 PM:

@stack trace...


By Blogger RYSpeed, at Tue Jun 08, 06:53:00 PM:

Is it possible our parents were actually trying to kill us and did not succeed? And if you think our playgrounds were dangerous they are nothing compared to a playground in Gaza or Kandahar  

By Blogger JPMcT, at Tue Jun 08, 11:01:00 PM:

I have a diving board on my pool...as well as a slide. I have a jungle Gym right next to the tree house I built for my grandkids.

It does my heart good to watch the little three year old jump off the board into the 9 foot deep end of the pool, sporting only some flimsy water wings and my son-in-law to catch her.

That kind of trust will last a lifetime...and translate itelf into MUCH more important and less frivolous things.

Risk. Imagination. Trust, Learning-The-Rules-Of-The-Game, getting scraped for your effort.

All good lessons to learn.

Certainly much better than decorating the living room floor in front of the TV becoming obese and learning the details of victimhood.  

By Blogger Assistant Village Idiot, at Tue Jun 08, 11:31:00 PM:

When son #4 came from Romania at 14, we took him to the town pool. There was a list of rules posted which he asked me to help him read. At the end, he said "In Romania, we don't have this. You do those things, is your problem."  

By Blogger Phloda, at Wed Jun 09, 11:52:00 AM:

Honestly, it still kills me to see kids riding their bikes wearing helmets. Stunt riding? Okay. Riding down the street with mom and dad? Gad! And don't even start on adults and bike helmets. The wussification of America accelerates.  

By Blogger JPMcT, at Wed Jun 09, 07:17:00 PM:

I think to buy bike pants, you have to trade in your Y chromosome.  

By Blogger ruralcounsel, at Mon Jun 14, 11:15:00 AM:

Judges and lawyers?

I forgot, nobody can resist having insurance company money dangled in front of them and the possibility of a big payout. Principles and integrity wouldn't stop that.

Therefore, lets blame the instruments of the judicial system that we have in order to settle disputes. Yeah, that's the ticket. Can't be that we don't punish the litigants that bring baseless lawsuits. Can't have "loser pays legal fees" here. It's gotta be the fault of the lawyers and judges. Huumph.  

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