You can’t legislate common sense

You can’t legislate common sense

Yet more evidence of the flawed thinking in today’s political environment, where we think that every problem has a solution in a politician’s newly filed bill. A college student in Boston recently died when he took a drunken plunge from an apartment building’s rooftop. He’s not the first to do so and he won’t be the last, but no one could claim that there’s an epidemic of people falling from roofs with about one per year reported in the newspapers.

That doesn’t deter Boston City Councilor Mike Ross who wants to pass an ordinance to make hanging out on a rooftop illegal, except where there is a permitted roof deck. He envisions multi-hundred dollar fines as deterrents. Ross claims, “This will make rooftops safer.”

That is complete bunk. The passage of this ordinance will do no such thing. Rooftops will be just as safe or unsafe as they were before. All this does is provide a mechanism for penalizing folks who knew how to use their roofs responsibly.

The only solution to this tragedy and others like it is simple common sense.

Think about your average college student party. How many laws do you think were being broken that night in Allston? Underage drinking? Illegal drugs? There was certainly fighting and disturbing the peace. If there had been a fine for partying on the rooftop, it would not have been a deterrent. That would have made it more enticing as the forbidden fruit.

Every time something tragic happens, politicians know that they have to appear concerned and have to justify themselves. They need to show the voters that the politician has been put in office because he can singlehandedly change the world for the better. He can’t.

The only solution to this tragedy and others like it does not come written on a ticket or a summons. It is simple common sense and that’s not something you can legislate.

Unfortunately, people don’t want to hear that. They want to be told that the Columbine and Virginia Tech killers could have been stopped with more gun control laws. They want to be told that wildfires and earthquakes and plane crashes could be prevented with more regulation and red tape. What they don’t want to be told is that sometimes bad things happen in a fallen world and sometimes those bad things happen because a nice kid with a life full of opportunity does something stupid, something that a hundred other people get away with. But he doesn’t because he steps left instead of right and a bad choice escalates into a tragic accident.

An instinctive turn toward political solutions is evidence that we harbor a false hope that we can build a perfect world without pain or heartbreak or loss if only we could find the right combination of laws to compensate for our occasional lack of common sense or just plain bad luck. Sorry, but it isn’t going to happen.

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