Even for proponents of a nanny state, this one is rather extreme. BSI British Standards is outlining safety guidelines that should be followed by all owners of those age-old menaces to society: trees. That’s right; to protect against falling limbs (which kill roughly 6 people per year), BSI Britain Standards is writing new guidelines that will suggest yearly inspections, biannual professional tests, and more extensive examinations every 5 years for all trees.
In the Economist article on the matter, Rick Haythornthwaite, chairman of the Risk and Regulation Advisory Council, attributes this move toward intense regulation to two trends:
The first is the tendency for small risks to become magnified in the public mind and provoke disproportionate responses. The second is the growing involvement of special-interest groups in campaigning for tougher regulation.
For most of us, trees are beautiful additions to any landscape and have a positive impact on the environment, to boot; they are not menaces from which we need to be protected at all costs. If keeping trees becomes expensive or annoying, people will simply cut them down; in fact, trees in public places have already been cut down because of liability fears. Regulation that costs time, money, and results in trees being cut down helps no one- except, perhaps, the tree trimming companies that support these guidelines.
In the end, though, the Economist gets it right; the danger is not just the loss of trees, or the additional annoyance for everyone who owns them.
The real danger highlighted by the proposed guidelines is that of regulation gone wild.