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Sunday, May 08, 2005

Toilets and Public Expectations

My family and another just went out together for a pleasant Mother's Day dinner. In the restroom was an unflushed toilet. The flushing mechanism worked very nicely -- but someone hadn't used it. This was not an automatic toilet, and I wondered whether the previous user was just a slob, or had become accustomed to toilets that (at least much of the time) flush themselves. We're in an awkward period where automatic toilets are common but not yet ubiquitous -- people may assume that they no longer need to perform what had been a routine and expected function. Sooner or later, then, business owners who have resisted installing automatic toilets are likely to consider them a necessity.

It's similar to what happens when government takes on an ever larger role in protecting people from risks. (Yes, I'm on that again.) People start to assume that they don't need to assess risk or investigate for themselves -- that if something is for sale, or some activity is legal, then it must be safe or it Wouldn't Be Allowed. Then that public expectation becomes the justification for regulating any previously unregulated aspect of life.

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