John Stossel

It's possible that I'd be safer if I junked the helmet and bought a woman's wig instead. Walker discovered that drivers gave him the most room when he wore a wig and they apparently thought he was a woman.

I tried it. It was very embarrassing, and I couldn't tell if cars came closer or not.

I'll stick with my helmet, but the point is that unintended consequences of well-intended safety rules are common.

In 1972, the FDA passed a law requiring child safety caps on many medications. It was supposed to keep kids from being poisoned by drugs like aspirin. But there is an unexpected side effect. Because safety caps are hard to get off, some people -- particularly older people -- leave them off, and some parents, feeling safer with the cap, leave the aspirin where kids can reach it.

A study of this "lulling effect" concluded that an additional 3,000 children have been poisoned by aspirin because of the regulation.

Finally, I may have given my daughter asthma by trying to protect her. When she was a baby, I, like most new parents, made an extra effort to keep the house clean. But now there's research suggesting that kids who are exposed to more endotoxins -- mild dust, bacteria, pollen -- and kids who go to daycare, have pets, and live on farms -- are less likely to develop allergies and asthma.

A sterile house, safety caps, bike helmet laws, etc., are all well intended, but one never knows what the real-life consequence will be. Yet every year the federal register needs thousands of pages to list all the new freedom-killing rules that bureaucrats pass in the name of protecting us.

Politicians should be less smug when they say, "Look, I've solved it! I passed a law."


John Stossel

John Stossel is host of "Stossel" on the Fox Business Network. He's the author of "No They Can't: Why Government Fails, but Individuals Succeed." To find out more about John Stossel, visit his site at >johnstossel.com. To read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com. ©Creators Syndicate