Like fellow bloggers Sven Wilson and Jason Sorens, I too am concerned about the issue of whether/when the state should intervene to protect children in cases where parents can not or will not do so themselves. Liberal theory is not all that clear as a guide to how to handle persons who cannot give full consent – and many famous libertarians have essentially ignored the whole issue of kids (see Rand). We certainly could use more thinking about this critical realm.
But we shouldn’t forget that the government is as likely to be as foolish in this regard as in others. A case in point comes from Massachusetts where the state, in an effort to protect children and increase parental understanding of the risks of concussions to kids playing sports, has somehow managed to draft legislation that applies to high school band members and not cheerleaders! This means that over 7,400 cheerleaders in the state will not be subject to the new regulations but over 13,000 band members will have to take a physical and document their past head injuries while their parents will be forced to take a course on concussions. Who knew band was so dangerous?! As you might guess, implementation has also been a “big headache” and is likely to be quite expensive for local communities.
Despite the law’s flaws, there is a lot to like about this attempt to protect children from themselves and coaches/parents who might overly discount the future for present gains or some sense that tough guys play through the pain (and disorientation). The law, at least part of it, is set to take effect on November 29.