A recent outbreak of measles has concerned citizens questioning how we can protect the lives of innocent children from neglectful, or even downright abusive, parents. Some have argued that vaccination should be mandatory, since an unvaccinated child presents a danger to himself and others. After all, what is government for if not to protect life and minimize danger?
Even libertarians, who tend to reject government coercion on the grounds of individual liberty, have begun making the case for mandated vaccines, on the grounds that going out in public with a contagious disease constitutes aggression against others, and that the failure of parents to adequately protect their children constitutes abuse. The small reduction in freedom involved in having a government agent forcibly plunge a needle into a small child against its parents’ will is a small price to pay for the protection of life and liberty for everyone else.
These arguments are very well put as far as they go, but it is a bit baffling that pundits and policy makers seem content to restrict their concern for young life to so narrow an area. The measles outbreak has so far affected only about 100 children, with no reported deaths. If it is worth creating new safeguards against this sort of thing, why is society still unwilling to address the largest cause of accidental child deaths in the country: car accidents.
In 2010, 4,419 children were killed in motor vehicle accidents. The number merely injured, while not reported, is doubtless many times greater. Could there be a more senseless waste of human life? And yet this statistic is rarely reported, it makes no appearance on 24 hour cable news stations, it does not grace the front page of the New York Times or any other paper of note. It goes largely ignored, a travesty, since a solution could so easily be implemented.
I would therefore like to make the modest proposal that very young children, let’s say under the age of three, be banned from riding in automobiles. Think of the lives that could be saved by such a minor reform! Three-year-olds have no school to attend, they have no appointments to keep. Doctors could make house calls if necessary. There’s no reason why a child under three ever needs to ride in a car, when doing so poses so great and obvious a risk to its personal safety.
Of course, there will be drawbacks to this, as any, proposal. Parents will be inconvenienced. One will have to stay home with the child, or else contract with someone else to do it. But who is willing to stand up and argue that these minor annoyances are more important than the life of a child? If we save even one life, doesn’t that make it all worthwhile? After all, you can’t put a dollar value on survival.
I am sure there will be some pushback against this idea from that breed of selfish individualist who thinks that the slightest imposition on his freedom is more important than greater societal concerns, but these descendants of Neanderthals are fortunately still a minority, and if they make a fuss it will be easy to reveal to the media and to the world their callous disregard for their own children, and those of other people. There can be no question, after all, that placing a young child in so dangerous a position is simple abuse, and nothing less.
And while we’re on the subject, I have still another proposal to protect child safety: the outlawing of organized sports for children. There should be no objection to this whatsoever. After all, sports are meaningless pastimes. Whereas automobiles are a major feature of the modern economy, indispensable for maintaining our standard of living, sports contribute nothing except entertainment, which we can easily get from other sources in the modern cornucopia of Netflixes and iPads. Dozens of children die in sports-related accidents every year, with thousands being seriously injured. You’re going to tell me that a youth soccer league is worth all that carnage? Wouldn’t it be better if they just picked up a book instead? I was unable to find statistics on book-related injuries, but I assume they must be very low.
It’s time for the senseless death to stop. It’s time we started protecting our children from the endless horrors of the world that surrounds us. Simple and strong legislative action on the two ideas outlined above could save thousands of lives a year, with only minimal reductions in individual freedom. Parents who violate the prohibitions can then be branded as the felons and abusers they unquestionably are, and their children could be placed safely into the hands of the state, where they will be sure to come to no harm.
Anyone who opposes such sensible reforms can only do so for reasons of callous self-interest, or willful ignorance of basic science. Their opinions can safely be disregarded, while the rest of us move forward into a safer, healthier tomorrow.