The Reluctant Nanny


The New York Times profiles someone who thinks Britain is full of pansified, over-mothered wimps: the British safety czar.

Britain has indeed become more risk-averse in recent years, largely because of a pervasive public fear of American-style litigation. But as [Health and Safety Commission head Bill] Callaghan points out, payouts in liability cases in Britain are far lower than they are in the United States—about one-third as much per capita—and most lawsuits are dismissed before ever getting to trial.

By the same token, he said, he believes that many of the decisions made in the name of health and safety in Britain are indeed asinine. These include schools requiring children to wear protective goggles when playing with nuts that have fallen from trees; schools banning bandages because of fears of latex allergies; and village fairs forbidding people to sell homemade cakes in case they contain contaminated eggs.

Actually, he's not terribly gung-ho, and he seems profoundly concerned about the dangers of British stepladders. But the article suggests his anti-goggle pose is a response to media attention—specifically, the relentless mocking of the government's regulatory fetish. And that can only reflect well on Britain's brand of snark-filled pseudo-journalism.