Seven Reasons We Hate Free-Range Parenting:
1. Children are not chickens.
2. McArdle says stranger abductions are very rare. That is true. This is what she does not say:
There were an estimated 58,200 child victims of nonfamily
abduction [in 1999], defined more broadly to include
all nonfamily perpetrators (friends and acquaintances
as well as strangers) and crimes involving lesser
amounts of forced movement or detention in addition
to the more serious crimes entailed in stereotypical
Teenagers were by far the most frequent victims
of both stereotypical kidnappings and nonfamily
Nearly half of all child victims of stereotypical kidnappings
and nonfamily abductions were sexually
assaulted by the perpetrator.
3. McArdle thinks children should be trained to rush gunmen so we don't have to pass gun laws.
4. McArdle thinks it would be an onerous burden to watch your children when they go to the playground.
5. McArdle thinks parents worry too much about feeling guilty if their daughter is raped while walking around town without an adult.
6. McArdle thinks "there can be too much safety."
7. McArdle wasn't raped as a child so your child certainly will never be raped.
At the age of 9, I walked to school with a group of other 9-year-olds. Or by myself. Across the very busy streets of the Upper West Side, at a time when New York City really was very dangerous. Past housing projects. Around construction sites. My sister rode the subway to school at that age. My best friend got on the crosstown bus by herself in the first grade. Attrition rate among my classmates and myself: 0.
Bonus #8. Pity the poor pedophile.
A couple of years back, I learned that an adult I had grown up around was a pedophile. He had never, to anyone's knowledge, done anything about it. Certainly he was never anything but decent to me, and I babysat his kids when I was a pretty young kid myself. Rather, a technician mucking around on his work computer had discovered a stash of child porn. He went to jail for a while. His life was destroyed.
This changed a lot of the way that I think about pedophiles. I used to use the kind of hyperbole one often hears--that people who look at child porn "should be shot" and so forth. I don't say those things any more.
Obviously, I am not going to defend the use of child porn at all; it's despicable, and jail is the appropriate sentence, because the man who purchases child pornography is encouraging its manufacture. But it made me think of them for the first time with sympathy. They didn't choose to be like this--God, who would? Sex is one of the most powerful drives we have, and as Dan Savage's columns testify every week, we have little control whether it focuses on something relatively normal, or something . . . um . . . extremely statistically unlikely.
If you knew people who were sexually assaulted as a child or were sexually assaulted yourself as a child you are not quite so cavalier about safety. Unfortunately the people who were lucky enough to not be assaulted are trying to convince parents that nobody has anything to worry about.That doesn't lessen the horror of child porn, and I think we're right to punish the possession thereof quite heavily. (And don't get me started on the manufacture: shut the dungeon door and throw away the key). But the people themselves deserve some shred of our empathy.
It's up to you to decide whether or not you want to take that risk. It is you and your child who will have to live with the consequences. Not Megan McArdle.
ADDED: Mark Kleiman weighs in on Twitter: "Victimization losses are small compared to crime-avoidance costs." Perhaps he can tell the parents of the next victimization loss that at least they saved money.