I was thinking about something that I heard on the radio (heheheh) while driving to work yesterday – a news item about lawmakers from New Jersey wanting to change the regulations regarding tanning beds. They want to raise the minimum age from 14 to 18.
It didn’t seem like much of anything to write a post about, until I saw this online today, via Ace:
Federal agencies should step in if industries that promote high-calorie foods to children do not implement common nutrition standards within two years, the influential Institute of Medicine (IOM) said Tuesday.
Now, “exercise more and eat healthier” hardly requires 478 pages to say; no doubt the rest of the IOM’s report has to do with exactly what these agencies ought to be doing to whomever gives a kid a slice of cake. And for once, I’m not going to track down that report and go over the highlights, like I did with the Act in Multiple Acts from last week. Frankly, there’s no need. If you’ve stuffed 478 pages full of “guidelines” and “interventions”, then doing even 5% of it will be a huge intrusion on the everyday lives of ordinary citizens.
But even that isn’t actually the point here. Ace makes that point much better than I can, anyway, and I see the Masters are on board with a fine take as well. The long and short of it is that the proposal here and in re: tanning beds in Jersey are both categorically dumb, in the same category. To wit, they aren’t going to do a blessed thing to fix the problem that was allegedly the whole reason for getting together and blathering on for 478 pages.
What, exactly, are these guidelines going to do? They’re not going to stop kids from eating tons of processed food and getting too little exercise. Not for nothing, but processed food is cheap and plentiful, and kids have the Playbox 360 and handheld geegaws that make Star Trek tricorders look like the flimsy plastic props they in fact were. This isn’t a recipe for an active, well-nourished child. (It’s also a major ingredient for future unhappiness, but that’s a rant for later.)
They also have a smothering multi-layer of officious jackdaws that hinder them from going outside and playing and tearing around like little maniacs. Playgrounds have monitors, and overly-organized sport leagues make them spend far more time sitting and waiting turns than actually doing anything physical, and schools fear lawsuits and have all sorts of bureaucratic rules stopping kids from having recess and other unstructured play. Let three or four kids get together to do something fun and instantly there are adults in their business, fussing about who might get hurt or what’s fair.
So, why not just remove some of those layers of well-meant foolishness that safeguard kids from unsanctioned play? The same reason we got 478 pages of guidelines and interventions, in the first place; the same reason people want to screw around ex-post-facto with tanning laws. That reason is control. Less control is not to be countenanced, even if it helped cause or worsen a problem, even if it would solve or ameliorate the problem. The whole point of any of this is to give busybodies something to busy themselves with. They sniff and disapprove, and instead of being greeted with roars of scornful laughter, they are given jobs and fancy titles in the hope that their play-acting will keep them out of our way and win us some peace for once.
Will these guidelines actually help kids, or obese parents? Of course not. All it will do is punish them for the unwillingness or inability to comply. This hands over useful tools to the busybodies to get back at everyone who won’t listen to them, for their own good. Like the tanning bed thing, for example. You can argue the merits over raising the age to 18 if you like, but it has nothing at all to do with the six-year-old kid who may or may not have gone into the tanning room with Mommy Beef Jerky. A six-year-old isn’t affected at all by raising the age of something she’s not allowed to do yet anyway. It even has nothing to do with punishing Mommy herself, because she’s already in Dutch with the authorities. It’s all about the NJ Assembly suddenly noticing that sitting three inches from a high-concentration of UV rays might not be so good for you. All of a sudden they’re going to jump in to save the day, so Beef Jerky’s kid has to wait an extra four years to turn herself into a rotisserie chicken? I don’t buy it. It’s a pretext, like so many other things lately, to mandate “sweeping changes” (read: rules) for “how we do things” (read: permission from Nanny Gummint).
I’m with Samwise at the end of Return of the King: “If I hear ‘not allowed’ much oftener, I’m going to get angry.”