Life as an Extreme Sport

a nanny city gone too far?

First NYC bans transfats in their fast food, an understandable health move but a questionable infringement, at least in some moral and political circles, on individual rights/liberties (and the right to be utterly stupid if you so choose). Now a Democrat from NYC is proposing to force iPod (and other audio device) listening pedestrians to unplug before crossing the street. Seems there have been a couple of death’s in NYC because people have been run over while crossing the street, not paying attention to their surroundings because of their iPods.

…and this is new with the iPod? I realize that the proposed legislation would outlaw all manner of Things in Ears That Could Distract You, including cell phones, but does anyone see that actually flying in NYC? I have a hard time imagine everyone at 56th and Broadway getting off the phone for that quick walk across the street, just to get back on it at the other corner (let alone down on Wall Street!).

The thing is, you can’t legislate people using their brain. I’ve walked the length and width of Manhattan a few times now, and it’s relative common sense to pay attention when crossing the street. Manhattan, streets, cars and pedestrians is a rather interesting game of Human Frogger, and if you’re so tuned out that you’re not aware of the risks and doing your best to mitigate them, no law is going to change that.

Kruger, the Democrat proposing this bill, is right – if someone is so involved in their electronic device that they can’t see or hear a car coming, this is indicative of a larger problem. But it’s a larger problem that’s stemming from an entitlement culture, one that seriously believes “that bus will stop for me” or “no car would actually hit me, because I’d make too much money off the lawsuit”. It’s a problem that isn’t stemming from an audio device that provides some form of distraction, because we’ve had those things since I’ve been a kid (if not for longer – I’m not certain when the portable cassette deck came onto the market).

We do need the state to propose a certain class of laws. This? This is not one of them, and does nothing more than carry us firmly over into a nanny state that so many oppose Democrats for on sheer principle. And this is certainly not the sort of thing Democrats should be doing if they want to retain the control they’ve gained in 2008. Systematic, stupid laws like this will do nothing more than swing the vote back to Republicans, especially if they as a party re-adopt what’s now viewed as a libertarian, individual’s rights view.


  1. iPods on the brain today!

    Silly old me, I was just concerned on the role of iPods in laboratory life. I wonder what Bruno Latour would think of this

    But legislating iPod use? Are you sure this guy isn’t on tha Apple publicity payroll?

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