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An incident at Tripps Pond

I am in full sympathy with your observations, including your doubts about the utility of increased airport "security." You may not even be willing to go as far as I do: I would eliminate laws requiring safety helmets on children riding their bikes, and child safety seats in cars. These measures give their proponents a great feeling of moral accomplishment (and superiority), when what they actually do is teach children that the world is too much for them, even under the watchful but encouraging supervision of their own parents.

I think a lot of it gets back to the entitlements adults award themselves. You mention sex, but I regard convenience and sloth as by far the more pervasive and insinuating. It is inconvenient and time-consuming to supervise children, to make sure that they know how to obey, and then how to control themselves, and to teach them to do sophisticated things, in which there is a wrong and a right outcome: read, think deductively, perform chores, use tools, fire and maintain a gun, bake, cook, sew. Young people who know right from wrong and have useful skills don’t turn into adults who need to be told to get off the ice–but it takes a lot of time from adults to give them the headstart. Men and women who don’t want to be bothered will accept a world in which external authority is the substitute for individual competence and responsibility, as long as this structure relieves them of inconvenience.

I wouldn’t use your specific argument on feminists though, or even on women who haven’t yet thought through their conservatism. It’s unhelpful in the public square to concentrate on what any one of us believes to be the distinction between the moral capacities of men and women. Political feminists are a prime example of this, but so is everyone who contrasts the nanny state with "masculinity," as though the nanny state is somehow morally consistent with femininity. I see a lot of conservatives doing this. What the nanny state is inimical to is individual accountability. Individual accountability pertains to everyone equally, and there is no difference whatsoever between the sexes with regard to how far we will go to escape accountability, if we have not been properly reared. The form our escape routes take is different, but not the instance, across a population, of the proclivity to take them.

I regret the passing of an age in which government interfered with us so little that we could all keep our opinions about these things to ourselves. It was indeed a better world when Dad took us off to a clearing in the woods to shoot firecrackers on the 4th (now prohibited), when my mother routinely drove the station wagon at 75 mph and threw her arm across the front seat passenger in case of danger (a habit she has never lost), and when my brothers and I didn’t unlock the gun cabinet because we had been told not to, and we had learned, through a number of blistered bottoms, to obey our parents.

Maybe, in the new world, you could become the sheriff or the mayor and bring some real common sense to Tripps Pond. Maybe you could speak directly to the local political authority, and preempt the caprice of the individual police officer by establishing that the pond may be skated on as long as there is a responsible adult present. Registering a list of responsible adults if necessary. I am very sorry to think, however, that you would have to take any of these measures. It was this kind of encroachment that prompted many of our ancestors to keep pushing the frontier across North America. It’s why I’m thinking of retiring on a piece of land in the remotest part of western Canada that I can find.

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