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Seven Reasons We Hate Free-Range Parenting - Bloomberg View
"Danielle and Alexander Meitiv of Maryland want to raise their children as "free-range kids," which is to say giving them the kind of range of movement that those of us over 30 recall as a normal part of childhood. One of my cherished childhood memories is the long walks my best friend and I would take home from church through New York's Riverside Park, which Google Maps records as a distance of a mile and a half, stopping at every playground along the way. This is slightly longer than the walk home from the playground that caused Montgomery County's Child Protective Services to investigate the Meitivs last year, after someone called the police to report the alarming sight of ... children walking down the street alone. On Sunday, after another "good Samaritan" called the cops, CPS seized the children, leaving the parents frantic with worry for hours.

One could argue that this is a good lesson for the parents. One could also argue that it would be bracing to have the police periodically break into our homes to educate us about weak points in our security systems. In fact, the sort of abduction that CPS apparently wants the Meitivs to obsess over is incredibly rare and always has been.

Why has America gone lunatic on the subject of unattended children? Parents hover over their kids as if every step might be their last. If they don't hover, strangers do, calling the police to report any parent who leaves their child to run into the store for a few minutes. What's truly strange is that the parents who are doing this were themselves left to their own devices in cars, allowed to ride their bikes and walk to the store unsupervised, and otherwise given the (limited) freedom that they are now determined to deny their own kids. The police are making arrests that would have branded their own parents as criminals. To hear people my age talk about the dangers of unsupervised children, you would think that the attrition rate in our generation had been at least 30 percent.

Even people who haven't gone crazy are afraid of the Pediatric Patrol. A mom of my acquaintance whose house backs up to a school playground, with a gate that lets her children walk straight into the schoolyard, is afraid to let them go through the gate without an adult, for fear that someone would call the same nutty CPS that has taken to impounding the Meitiv children. She compromises by letting them play alone in the playground only when she is in the backyard, so that she can intervene if the police arrive.

Think about that: Kids have the priceless boon of a playground right in their backyard, but they can't use it unless Mom drops everything to accompany them. I am running out of synonyms for "insane" to describe the state we have worked ourselves into. What on earth has happened to us?

As it happened, I looked into that for my book, and the disappointing news is that I didn't find much good research to explain this mass shift in American parenting. I did, however, develop some theories from watching parents, law enforcement officials and others discuss the pros and cons of free-range parenting.

I should add a caveat: I don't have kids, so I lack an important perspective. And I should say that if I did have kids, I'm sure I too would be a safety paranoiac, making my own baby food from organic ingredients just in case pesticides in their unsweetened applesauce turn out to cause cancer. So I'm not blaming individual parents; this is a collective insanity, not a personal foible.

So how can we explain it?

1. Cable news. When you listen to parents talk about why they hover, you'll frequently hear that the world is more dangerous than it used to be. This is the exact opposite of the truth. The New York City where I walked to school, past housing projects with major crime problems and across busy streets, was much more dangerous than the New York of today. And that is true of virtually everywhere. The world is not more dangerous. But it feels more dangerous to a lot of people because the media landscape has shifted.

Think of it this way: There were always stranger abductions, but they were always extremely rare, perhaps 2 or 3 per 1 million children under 12 in the U.S. each year. However, in the 1970s, you most likely only heard about local cases, and because these were rare, you would hear about one every few years in a moderately large metropolitan area. This made it sound like what it is: an unimaginably terrible thing that thankfully almost never happens. Very occasionally, a case would catch the imagination and make national news, like the Lindbergh baby. But these almost always happened in big cities like New York, or to rich people, so people didn't imagine that this was a risk that faced them.

Then along came cable news, which needed to fill 24 hours a day with content. These sorts of cases started to make national news, and because our brains are terrible at statistics, we did not register this as "Aha, the overall rate is still low, but I am now hearing cases drawn from a much larger population, so I hear about more of them." Instead, it felt like stranger abductions must have gone up a lot.

The Internet also enables parents to share stories of every bad thing that happens to their children. We used to be limited to collecting these stories from people we actually met, which meant that we didn't hear a lot of truly terrible stories. Now we have thousands at the tips of our fingers, and the same failures of statistical intuition make it feel like wow, terrible things are happening all the time these days.

2. Economic insecurity. As college degrees, and particularly elite degrees, have become more valuable, parents have come to feel that they must micromanage their children's lives in order to make a good showing on college applications. The result is vastly more supervised activities. This has shrunk the pool of kids who are around to play with, making free-range childhood less rewarding.

3. Mothers working. In suburbs and small towns, stay-at-home moms formed "eyes on the street," so that even if your kid was roaming the neighborhood, there was a gentle adult eye periodically sweeping across their activity. But I don't think we can lean on this too much, because kids in cities also had a lot more independence back then, and the Broadway of my youth was not exactly a sweet, sheltered world where nothing much could go wrong.

There's another reason I think this matters, however. More mothers are paying others to take care of their children. It's easy to impose severe limits on the mobility of your children when you are not personally expected to provide 24-hour supervision. When I was a kid, there were a lot of mothers at home who believed that being home with kids was important but did not actually personally enjoy playing with 4-year-olds. Those parents would have rebelled at being told that they should never let their kids out of hearing range. Those mothers are now at work, paying someone else to enjoy playing with their 4-year-old or at least convincingly fake it.

4. Collective-action problems. When it comes to safety, overprotective parents are in effect taking out a sort of regret insurance. Every community has what you might call "generally accepted child-rearing practices," the parenting equivalent of "generally accepted accounting principles." These principles define what is good parenting and provide a sort of mental safe harbor in the event of an accident. If you do those things and your kid gets hurt -- well, you'll still wish that you'd asked them to stay home and help bake cookies, or lingered a little longer at the drugstore, or something so that they weren't around when the Bad Thing happened. But if you break them and your kid gets hurt, you -- and a lot of other people -- will feel that it happened because you were a bad parent. So you follow the GACP.

Over time, these rules get set by the most risk-averse parent in your social group, because if anything happens, you'll wish you had acted like them. This does not mean that the kids are actually safer: Parents in most places "shelter" their kids from risk by strapping them into cars and driving them to supervised activities, which is more dangerous than almost anything those kids could have gotten up to at home.

5. Lawsuits. In the U.S., the liability revolution of the 1970s has made every institution, from parks departments to schools, much more sensitive about even tiny risks, because when you go before the jury in a case about a hurt child, arguing that what happened was less likely than getting hit by a bolt of lightning is going to have much less impact than the evidence of a hurt child.

6. Mobile phones. All these strangers calling 911 to report a 6-year-old who has been left in a car outside a store for a few minutes are probably doing so because it's easy. If that person had to dig for a piece of paper and a pen to write the license plate down, then take time out of their day to find a pay phone, dial the police and stand around talking to the 911 operator, most would probably think "You know, I bet his mom is going to come out of the store in a minute, and I really need to get home to start dinner." Now you can just take a picture of the license plate and call from the comfort of your car. It would be surprising if we lowered the price of being an officious busybody and didn't get a lot more of it.

7. We're richer. Richer countries can afford more safety. That's a good thing, but there can be too much safety. There are major downsides to this form of parenting, as many authors have laid out: It's hard on the parents, may result in the kids developing more phobias, and stunts the creativity and self-reliance that we theoretically want to develop in children so that they can become happy and productive adults.

I don't think there's one easy answer to why we've become insane; rather, there are a lot of forces that are pushing in this direction. But that doesn't mean we can't push back. And a good start would be for … [more]
parenting  children  safety  meganmcardle  freedom  free-rangeparenting  2015  media  news  statistics  liability  litigiousness  law  legal  helicoperparents  helicopterparenting  labor  work  economics  insecurity  micromanagment  lawenforcement  childcare  overprotection  risk  riskassessment  risktaking  lawsuits  mobile  phones  wealth  cps  via:ayjay  helicopterparents 
april 2015 by robertogreco
How to explain the right’s every move: Their unwillingness to help poor people
[See also Paul Krugman: http://krugman.blogs.nytimes.com/2014/01/08/on-fighting-the-last-war-on-poverty/ and http://digbysblog.blogspot.co.uk/2014/01/the-right-cant-handle-reality-of-21st.html and http://digbysblog.blogspot.com/2014/01/heres-what-it-means-to-actually-deal.html ]

"In my morning article, I posited that one subtext beneath the red-baiting response to a progressive inequality agenda is the right’s urgent need to keep the debate over social welfare anchored around cutting and devolving government services.

I think the views of other conservatives vindicate my argument. Once you blow past all the histrionics, and survey conservatives who don’t see terms like “Sovereign Wealth Fund” and “Universal Basic Income” and scream “Stalin!” you find that this really comes down to a bedrock disagreement over whether actually helping the poor is a worthy priority.

Among other things, the article that ignited this debate posits swapping out income, payroll and other taxes for a progressive, but conservative-friendly land value tax, and replacing (or partially replacing) the existing social safety net with a basic income — less bureaucracy, more cash transfers. In a very clever post, Wonkblog’s Dylan Matthews demonstrated that all of these ideas can be framed as conservative reforms just as easily as they can appeal to #FULLCOMMUNISTS.

Obviously when you’re talking about overhauling something as complex as most of the federal budget, relatively minor details can ultimately mean the difference between agreement and no agreement. But we’re never going to get that far. It turns out the most important detail is conservatives’ overriding concern that whatever form the federal safety net ultimately takes, it should be no more generous than it is right now, and preferably less so.

"@brianbeutler @reihan @dylanmatt Liberals do not envision using UBI to replace things like Medicaid. For them, huge new net transfer." — Megan McArdle (@asymmetricinfo) January 7, 2014

"@brianbeutler @janegalt @reihan @dylanmatt Cost would not be affordable to many folks on any reasonable UBI." — Megan McArdle (@asymmetricinfo) January 7, 2014

Again, details matter. Would liberals support zeroing out U.S. health spending and replacing it with cash transfers? That depends! Is there an insurance guarantee? Exchanges? A single payer all Americans can buy into? An overriding question for liberals would be whether the tradeoff maintains or increases the general welfare. But the point is it would be possible to get there on paper if conservatives were serious about making sure the poor ended up better off, or were at least held harmless. If everyone agrees inequality is the problem, it’s odd to write off the possibility of significant new net cash transfers.

But conservatives — even reform conservatives — are oddly indignant about the suggestion that they would support doing something that actually helps the poor. As always, for any given way of helping people, conservatives are against it because there’s some other better way. But they never actually favor helping."
conservatism  politics  economics  poverty  poor  charity  policy  inequality  conservatives  meganmcardle  brianbeutler  paulkrugman  us  government 
january 2014 by robertogreco
Rethinking the Idea of a Basic Income for All - NYTimes.com
"The recent debate was kicked off in an April 30, 2012, post, by Jessica M. Flanigan of the University of Richmond, who said all libertarians should support a universal basic income on the grounds of social justice. Professor Flanigan, a self-described anarchist, opposes a system of property rights “that causes innocent people to starve.”

She cited a paper by the philosopher Matt Zwolinski of the University of San Diego in the December 2011 issue of the journal Basic Income Studies, which also contained other papers by libertarians supporting the basic income concept. While acknowledging that most libertarians would reject explicit redistribution of income, he pointed to several libertarians, including the economists F.A. Hayek and Milton Friedman, who favored the idea of a basic universal income.

Friedman’s argument appeared in his 1962 book, “Capitalism and Freedom,” based on lectures given in 1956, and was called a negative income tax. His view was that the concept of progressivity ought to work in both directions and would be based on the existing tax code. Thus if the standard deduction and personal exemption exceeded one’s gross income, one would receive a subsidy equal to what would have been paid if one had comparable positive taxable income."



the economist F.A. Hayek endorsed a universal basic income in Volume 3 of his book, “Law, Legislation and Liberty”:
The assurance of a certain minimum income for everyone, or a sort of floor below which nobody need fall even when he is unable to provide for himself, appears not only to be a wholly legitimate protection against a risk common to all, but a necessary part of the Great Society in which the individual no longer has specific claims on the members of the particular small group into which he was born.



"Most recently, Matthew Feeney of Reason, the libertarian magazine, wrote favorably about the Swiss proposal in a Nov. 26 post. As a complete replacement for the existing welfare system, he thought it had merit and might even save money. He was especially critical of the paternalism of the current welfare system and the denial of autonomy to those living in poverty.

“Instead of treating those who, often through no fault of their own, have fallen on hard times, like children who are incapable of making the right choices about the food they eat or the drugs they may or may not choose to take, why not just give them cash?” Mr. Feeney asked."
universalbasicincome  inequality  politics  2013  brucebartlett  income  policy  economics  hayek  miltonfriedman  mattzwolinski  us  switzerland  thomaspaine  davidfriedman  meganmcardle  matthewfeeney  charlesmurray  ubi 
december 2013 by robertogreco
Op-Ed: Scars of the jobless - WWW.THEDAILY.COM
"Research has confirmed what anyone who grew up with a Great Depression survivor long suspected: Prolonged periods of joblessness & economic insecurity can permanently change your outlook…mostly not for the better.

My grandfather—who came of age on a farm just as prices were crashing, banks were failing & loans coming due—used to hide large sums of money around the house. My grandmother once found $10k stuffed into a teapot she was about to donate to a rummage sale…

I will certainly never again wonder why the old ladies I grew up with hoarded rubber bands and tin foil in giant balls. If you’ve been through it, you probably don’t either: Losing a job and not being able to find another one makes you afraid in a way that never really leaves you.

Those who have endured a lengthy bout of unemployment are more anxious & prone to depression than those who have not, & less likely to participate in community activities, even decades later. "
depression  greatdepression  economics  unemployment  jobs  underemployment  despair  anxiety  2011  meganmccardle  psychology  meganmcardle 
december 2011 by robertogreco
more than 95 theses — kids on a plane
"So I (and several others) had a debate on Twitter today with Megan McArdle about children on airplanes. Megan’s basic argument, as expressed in this tweet and elsewhere is that, out of courtesy for others, parents of small children should avoid bringing them onto airplanes except when absolutely necessary. Here’s why Megan is wrong:"
alanjacobs  meganmcardle  children  parenting  travel  intolerance  2011 
november 2011 by robertogreco
Giving our feelings a name
"One of the many things that fascinated Freud about jokes was that they passed around from person to person without an author. This is why they were interesting - they showed the unconscious uncensored, in public. (This is a big part of what Wit and its Relation to the Unconscious is about.)

When we (mis)attribute a joke or quote, we're doing something different: we're giving our unconscious an author, and leaning on the author's authority. Just like with jokes, it's an acceptable way to let our nervous feelings out, without having to completely own them ourselves. We just co-sign."
psychology  twitter  networks  feelings  mlk  pennjillette  timcarmody  quotes  authority  jokes  freud  attribution  misattribution  social  marktwain  osamabinladen  2011  clarencedarrow  meganmcardle  jessicadovey  drewgrant  martinlutherkingjr 
may 2011 by robertogreco
Megan McArdle (September 09, 2008) - Coastal privilege
"I'm surprised--though I shouldn't be, of course--that any number of liberals who are (presumably) comfortable with concepts like unconscious discrimination and privilege when it comes to race, have not even stopped to consider that the same sort of thing might be operating here. Let's be honest, coastal folks: when you meet someone with a thick southern accent who likes NASCAR and attends a bible church, do you think, "hey, maybe this is a cool person"? And when you encounter someone who went to Eastern Iowa State, do you accord them the same respect you give your friends from Williams? It's okay--there's no one here but us chickens. You don't."
elitism  politics  culture  liberalism  meganmcardle  republicans  democrats  class 
september 2008 by robertogreco
Megan McArdle (July 08, 2008) - Making DC safe for bikes
"The problem isn't that the bike lanes aren't easily marked; it's that drivers ignore them. If you want to make the streets safer, put in more bike lanes, and ticket drivers who drive in them."
bikes  bikelanes  cars  traffic  meganmcardle  cities  law 
july 2008 by robertogreco
Megan McArdle (July 08, 2008) - Drivers or bikers: who sucks more?
"Moreover, many drivers in DC seem to believe that it is against the law to be in a mode of transportation that goes more slowly than their own, and therefore complain about such "violations" as trying to merge into the exit lane of a traffic circle."
meganmcardle  bikes  cars  washingtondc  dc  cities  traffic  law 
july 2008 by robertogreco

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