Sunday, October 31, 2010

The Danger of Stranger Danger

Today is Halloween and that means more candy, more costumes, and yes, more absurd fears. I'm not one to say the past was better, but Halloween safety is getting out of hand. Whether it's setting trick-or-treating curfews, setting an age limit of 12, or forcing sex offenders to attend a mandatory class about sex-offense laws on Halloween night (even though children are no more likely to be molested and sex offender registration programs don't do much good). In fact,'s Lenore Skenazy suggests in the Wall Street Journal that Halloween may be one of the safest days of the year. Is there a day where parents spend more time with their children outside the home, meeting and greeting neighbors?

So what's the danger in stranger danger? It's the opportunity cost of focus. Like my earlier post on moral math, we only have so much attention we can give to important matters. We we focus on rare problems (kidnapping, school snipers, terrorists, dangerous strangers, drugs), we lose focus on real threats (homicide and abuse from people who know the child, drowning, and car accidents). And let's not forget, there are plenty of economic lessons to be learned in trick-or-treating.

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