Free Markets, Free People
Yes, just three. You’re right, I could probably make it 30 or 300. 3,000 even! But for brevity sake, three current examples where government has no business yet feels somehow justified in intruding or regulating in a manner that limits freedom.
First is an example of excessive regulation which in reality is an example of crony capitalism, where a regulation or mandatory licensing creates a state enforced bar to entry into an industry.
Louisiana has a plethora of such laws which regulate or license all sorts of things that few of the other states do. An example? The manufacture of caskets is illegal unless, well, you read it:
Brown, a soft-spoken man who is only the fifth leader of a monastery that dates to 1889, said he had not known that in Louisiana only licensed funeral directors are allowed to sell “funeral merchandise.”
That means that St. Joseph Abbey must either give up the casket-selling business or become a licensed funeral establishment, which would require a layout parlor for 30 people, a display area for the coffins, the employment of a licensed funeral director and an embalming room.
“Really,” Brown said. “It’s just a big box.”
Indeed it is. And buyers should have a choice as to whether to buy it or some other casket. They likely could pick up the Abbey’s “big box” for much less than it might cost to buy a similar casket in a "licensed funeral director’s” place given the required overhead that the regulatory mandate places on such entities.
In effect, the mandate acts as a high bar to entry. It is likely the existing funeral industry in LA helped write the law. That’s called “crony capitalism”. The Abbey simply provides the illustration of the result. If freedom equals choice, LA is in the choice limiting business with regulatory and licensing regime like this.
Some good news on that front:
The monks won round one in July, when U.S. District Judge Stanwood R. Duval Jr. ruled Louisiana’s restrictions unconstitutional, saying “the sole reason for these laws is the economic protection of the funeral industry.”
As you might imagine, the other side is not happy. So is it the state that is appealing? Well not the state, exactly:
The Louisiana State Board of Embalmers and Funeral Directors, which has argued that the law protects consumers, has appealed, and the circuit court in New Orleans will hear the case in early June.
That’s right … the protected want to continue to have their state protected industry … protected. Good lord, if consumers have real choice, well, they might not buy the crony capitalist’s overpriced “funeral merchandise”.
And, of course, that state isn’t the only one with choice limiters working to cut down on your freedom. Our next two examples come from the state of New York. I know, shocking.
Case one – Mayor Bloomberg of NYC has decided that you fat folks just shouldn’t have the right to decide (there’s that choice thing again) on the size of “sugary drink” you can buy.
New York City plans to enact a far-reaching ban on the sale of large sodas and other sugary drinks at restaurants, movie theaters and street carts, in the most ambitious effort yet by the Bloomberg administration to combat rising obesity.
The proposed ban would affect virtually the entire menu of popular sugary drinks found in delis, fast-food franchises and even sports arenas, from energy drinks to pre-sweetened iced teas. The sale of any cup or bottle of sweetened drink larger than 16 fluid ounces — about the size of a medium coffee, and smaller than a common soda bottle — would be prohibited under the first-in-the-nation plan, which could take effect as soon as next March.
The measure would not apply to diet sodas, fruit juices, dairy-based drinks like milkshakes, or alcoholic beverages; it would not extend to beverages sold in grocery or convenience stores.
“Obesity is a nationwide problem, and all over the United States, public health officials are wringing their hands saying, ‘Oh, this is terrible,’ ” Mr. Bloomberg said in an interview on Wednesday in City Hall’s sprawling Governor’s Room.
“New York City is not about wringing your hands; it’s about doing something,” he said. “I think that’s what the public wants the mayor to do.”
Nanny Bloomberg assumes New Yorkers need a mommy. That they’re fat because of their diet of sugary drinks of a certain size. He’s sure if he limits you to 16 fluid ounces of such belly wash they’ll slim right down. Nanny Bloomberg also assumes that the public wants him to intrude into every deli, fast-food franchise, food cart and sports arena to save them from themselves.
Because that’s a nanny’s job – limit choice. Limit freedom. All for the common good, of course. (added: here’s a distant cousin’s view – “Sixteen Ounces of Bull”. Amen, cuz).
Case 2? Well it seems a couple of state legislators in NY want to outlaw anonymous posting on the internet. A couple of Republicans, by the way.
New York State Senator Thomas O’Mara recently proposed legislation that would ban anonymous postings on websites in his state. The bill requires citizens posting on any blog, social network, message board or other forum, to turn over their full names, home addresses and IP address to web site administrators for public posting. Supposedly it is being pushed as an “anti-bullying” step.
His cohort in this nonsense, however, reveals the real purpose. State Assemblyman Jim Conte released a statement saying:
…the legislation will help cut down on the types of mean-spirited and baseless political attacks that add nothing to the real debate and merely seek to falsely tarnish the opponent’s reputation by using the anonymity of the Web. By removing these posts, this bill will help to ensure that there is more accurate information available to voters on their prospective candidates, giving them a better assessment of the candidates they have to choose from.
Or, the “let’s limit free speech to protect politician’s reputations” bill.
As the Center for Competitive Politics points out:
Anonymous speech has played a part in our political process since the very founding of our nation. Alexander Hamilton, John Jay, and James Madison wrote the Federalist Papers, which where primarily targeting voters in New York, under various pseudonyms. The Supreme Court upheld this precedent in McIntyre v. Ohio Elections Commission, noting:
“[u]nder our Constitution, anonymous pamphleteering is not a pernicious, fraudulent practice, but an honorable tradition of advocacy and of dissent. Anonymity is a shield from the tyranny of the majority.” McIntyre v. Ohio Elections Comm’n, 514 U.S. 334, 357 (1995)
“But political speech by its nature will sometimes have unpalatable consequences, and, in general, our society accords greater weight to the value of free speech than to the dangers of its misuse.” McIntyre, 514 U.S. 334, 357 (1995)
Everyday in just about every way, our freedoms are under assault at all levels of government in this country. I spend a lot of time recording those at a federal level. But just as pernicious and certainly just as dangerous are those at local and state levels.
The cumulative result is we live in a much less free society than we did 100 years ago. 50 years ago. in fact, 20 years ago.
These three examples can indeed be multiplied by hundreds if not thousands. They are fairly common unfortunately. They cost a lot to enforce. They’re unnecessary. Most important though, in each case they limit choice and thereby freedom.
Frog. Pot. Rising heat.
Time to start getting serious about turning off the freedom limiting burner.
Jacob Sullum at Reason brings us the following. It just never ceases to amaze me (although given the proliferation of such legislation I suppose it should) what some people think the purpose of a legislature is:
The Food and Drug Administration can ban caffeinated alcoholic beverages such as Four Loko, but it cannot stop bartenders from mixing Red Bull with vodka, coffee with Irish whiskey, or cola with rum. Fortunately, Iowa state Sen. Brian Schoenjahn (D-Arlington) has proposed a bill that would close this dangerous gap by making it a misdemeanor for any business with a liquor license to "manufacture for sale, sell, offer or keep for sale, import, distribute, transport, or possess any caffeinated alcoholic beverage." The bill defines "caffeinated alcoholic beverage" as "any beverage containing more than one-half of one percent of alcohol by volume, including alcoholic liquor, wine, and beer, to which caffeine is added." Hence it apparently applies not only to drinks with a noticeable caffeine kick but also to coffee-flavored liqueurs with detectable amounts of the stimulant, such as Kahlua or Tia Maria, and any cocktails made with them, such as a Black Russian or a Mudslide. In addition to jail time and fines, violators would face revocation (not just suspension) of their liquor licenses, and therefore loss of their livelihoods—a pretty harsh penalty for following the instructions in a Mr. Boston book.
Another in a long line of those who would tell you what to eat, who you can love, what is “best” for you and remove all choices they find incompatible with their vision of how your life should be lived. And they’re willing to put you in jail if you don’t agree.
Remember, freedom equals choice.
And the EPA seems to be the regulatory agency most bent on doing just that. Attempting to regulate carbon emissions, apparently, isn’t enough for the EPA. Now, it has decided, it may want to ban lead ammunition:
With the fall hunting season fast approaching, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) under Lisa Jackson, who was responsible for banning bear hunting in New Jersey, is now considering a petition by the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) – a leading anti-hunting organization – to ban all traditional ammunition under the Toxic Substance Control Act of 1976, a law in which Congress expressly exempted ammunition. If the EPA approves the petition, the result will be a total ban on all ammunition containing lead-core components, including hunting and target-shooting rounds. The EPA must decide to accept or reject this petition by November 1, 2010, the day before the midterm elections.
Note the emphasized portion of the cite (emphasis mine). Now that would tell me, as a regulator, that this is outside the scope of my regulatory power to ban, or even address in any meaningful way.
Yet the EPA has decided that it does indeed have the power to do what the law forbids.
It is yet another example of government refusing to obey its own laws (ICE’s refusal to detain and deport illegal aliens found in traffic stops being another recent example).
This is being driven by an agenda, not law. And this goes to the heart of the question of whether we’re a nation of laws or a nation of men who can arbitrarily deicide what laws to follow or not, according to their agenda (and the power they hold).
The National Shooting Sports Foundation points out:
* There is no scientific evidence that the use of traditional ammunition is having an adverse impact on wildlife populations.
* Wildlife management is the proper jurisdiction of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the 50 state wildlife agencies.
* A 2008 study by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on blood lead levels of North Dakota hunters confirmed that consuming game harvested with traditional ammunition does not pose a human health risk.
* A ban on traditional ammunition would have a negative impact on wildlife conservation. The federal excise tax that manufacturers pay on the sale of the ammunition (11 percent) is a primary source of wildlife conservation funding. The bald eagle’s recovery, considered to be a great conservation success story, was made possible and funded by hunters using traditional ammunition – the very ammunition organizations like the CBD are now demonizing.
* Recent statistics from the United States Fish and Wildlife Service show that from 1981 to 2006 the number of breeding pairs of bald eagles in the United States increased 724 percent. And much like the bald eagle, raptor populations throughout the United States are soaring.
The EPA is accepting comment on this petition now.
If you’re so inclined you can include yours here.
Be respectful but be blunt – the law forbids this – back off.