Deregulating ourselves to death
I don’t know how you do it.
How you stay on social media; how you can even bear to check your phone. I have enough trouble just turning on the television or picking up a newspaper, trying to imagine what today’s fresh tragedy will be. Knowing with near-certainty that there will be a fresh tragedy.
On Tuesday evening I made the mistake of turning the kitchen television to CNN while Sarah’s five year old was eating dinner. “Why is that building on fire?” he shrieked. “It’s not real is it?”
I assured him it almost certainly wasn’t. “It’s just a movie?” he asked. I think so, I said.
Had I made a similar misjudgement the following day I might have had to explain why there were policemen with guns surrounding our local UPS place, or why a man in Virginia was being carried away, bleeding, from a baseball field.
Thank God his first instinct was to assume the Grenfell Tower inferno couldn’t possibly be real. Thank God because even a five year old wouldn’t believe or accept the truthful answer to the question “why is that building on fire.” If news reports are accurate, Grenfell was on fire because the owners decided to cover it in highly flammable cladding, in order to make it look more attractive to its wealthy neighbors.
A five year old - old enough to understand that grown ups make rules to stop people doing dangerous things - might demand to know why nobody told the building owners not to do something so dangerous. Were there no rules? No grown ups?
Similarly, if told that the bleeding baseball man was heading to hospital because a known violent criminal was able to buy and openly carry a firearm, even a five year old wouldn’t accept that at face value. Why did nobody tell him he couldn’t have a gun?
How is anyone supposed to answer those questions? How are we supposed to explain to a five year old that there’s a thing called “politics” which is more important than telling people they can’t do things that everyone knows might easily get somebody (or hundreds of people) killed?
That the governments in the US and the UK (both conservative governments, by coincidence) have promised to get rid of many, many more rules that are supposed to keep us safe and stop dangerous people doing deadly things?
From the Independent, late last year:
Britain could slash environmental and safety regulations on imported products after it leaves the EU, a Tory MP has suggested.
Jacob Rees-Mogg said regulations that were “good enough for India” could be good enough for the UK – arguing that the UK could go “a very long way” to rolling back high EU standards.
Or here’s a fun clip of current conservative Foreign Secretary and former London Mayor Boris Johnson telling a fire safety panel to “get stuffed”.
Meanwhile, on this side of the Atlantic, here's Politico...
The chaos of Donald Trump’s first four months as president has overshadowed a series of actions that could reshape American life for decades — efforts to rewrite or wipe out regulations affecting everything from student loans and restaurant menus to internet privacy, workplace injuries and climate change.
And here’s Rand Paul quoting Judge Andrew Napolitano (speaking at a lecture organized by Paul)...
.@Judgenap: Why do we have a Second Amendment? It's not to shoot deer. It's to shoot at the government when it becomes tyrannical!— Senator Rand Paul (@RandPaul) June 23, 2016
What precisely is the right age to explain that ideology to a child? Before they go to kindergarten? Or somewhere between first grade and when they drop out of college and join Y Combinator where “disruption” of laws and regulations is taught as a moral obligation? Because presumably after that they’ll be too busy building tools to deliberately and illegally obstruct regulatory oversight.
What age do we expect a child to understand that the extreme anti-regulation libertarian ethos celebrated by Silicon Valley is entirely different from the extreme anti-regulation libertarian ethos that put a gun in the hands of James Hodgkinson or allowed the owners of Grenfell Tower to cover their sprinkler-free building in kerosene cladding?
When’s the right moment to explain that the Rand Paul who quoted Andrew Napolitano and whose Presidential manifesto promised...
I will not support any proposed gun control law which would limit the right to gun ownership by those who are responsible, law-abiding citizens. In the White House, I will remain vigilant in the fight against infringements on our Second Amendment rights.
Is totally different from the Rand Paul who a Politico story described as “represent[ing] a lot of what Silicon Valley expects in a politician” because of his anti-regulation “technolibertarian” policies and who has received millions of dollars in donations from major Valley investors.
We all know it’s the dream of every Silicon Valley parent to have his kid grow up to become the next move-fast-and-break-things super-disruptor. Likewise, we have heard the voice of the American and British voter: Elect the candidate who vows to slash the most regulations!
So what age should we start a chid down the path to business success and civic responsibility by teaching them that regulations are there to be broken? That government red tape is the enemy of innovation?
And what do we do when they make the obvious mental connection between that lesson and the constant burning, bleeding examples of what happens when that principle is put into practice?
At what age is someone able to understand that somehow the theory of allowing violent criminals to buy guns is totally different from the consequence of them using those guns? Or that the theory of telling fire safety to “get stuffed” or building an app to disrupt background checks or zoning laws is entirely separate from the actual result of a city without such restrictions.
I only ask because I’m 37 and I still can't understand.