Tightrope Walkers And Tourist Dollars

The New York legislature has voted to approve a request by Nik Wallenda, a member of the well-known family of daredevils, to tightrope walk across the Niagara Falls.  Wallenda would take a 2,200-foot walk above the falls, which are 180 feet high.  New York’s Governor still needs to approve the request, as do Canadian authorities.

Niagara Falls, of course, has a long and colorful history of foolish stunts and daredevil activities.  Everyone knows of publicity-seekers who sought to go over the thundering waterfalls in a barrel.  Some lived, many died.  For many years, such stunts have been outlawed.

In view of that prohibition, why would New York legislators vote to allow a tightrope walk over the gorge?  The answer seems to be that such a stunt is likely to increase tourist interest in the Falls — even if by sick individuals hoping to witness a tragic accident — and thereby increase tourism-related revenues for the state.  In short, the state is willing to sanction ultra-dangerous activities if they may have a positive economic impact on the state’s coffers.

Does anyone else think it is absurd that a paternalistic nanny state that will fine you for driving a car without wearing a seatbelt is happy to approve hazardous daredevil activities, so long as they may produce revenue and enhance tourism?

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