Free Markets, Free People

Seattle

Tales from the Nanny State

The first comes from our “hoist on their own petard” department:

A study from three sociologists based out of North Carolina State University charges that First Lady Michelle Obama’s campaign topromote healthy eating and decrease childhood obesity rates is classist and sexist in its implementation. This is because the model Obama advocates tends to put the onus of preparing healthy meals specifically on women, and also expects a level of disposable income, transportation options, and free time, which low-income families may lack.

The researchers interviewed 150 mothers and spent 250 hours observing 12 working-class and poor families as they shopped for food, cooked, and ate. They note:

In the fight to combat rising obesity rates, modern-day food gurus advocate a return to the kitchen. [...] First lady Michelle Obama has also been influential in popularizing public health messages that emphasize the role that mothers play when it comes to helping children make healthy choices. The message that good parents — and in particular, good mothers — cook for their families dovetails with increasingly intensive and unrealistic standards of “good” mothering. [Sage Journals]

The study concludes that, “this emerging standard is a tasty illusion, one that is moralistic, and rather elitist, instead of a realistic vision of cooking today.”

Yes that’s right, the Interferer in Chief’s campaign has been declared classist and sexist.  Of course if this were a right winger we were talking about all the lefty blogs would be blaring this in the headlines with a healthy dose of “I told you so” and “they just can’t seem to help it, can they” thrown in.

Irony.  You have to love it.  Its things like this that make my day go somewhat easier.

The second comes to us from Seattle, WA and is an example of what happens when people lose control of their government and that government decides to micro-manage every aspect of their lives with the intent of making sure they live it the way their betters decide they should live it:

The City of Seattle just passed a new trash ordinance that would fine residents and businesses for throwing away too much food.

The new rules would allow garbage collectors to inspect trash cans and ticket offending parties if food and compostable material makes up 10 percent or more of the trash.

The fines will begin at $1 for residents and $50 for businesses and apartment buildings, according to the Seattle Times.

So who will be the biggest offenders?  Well, most likely schools which use the Michelle Obama program – okay, I had to tie them together somehow.  No word, however, on how restaurants will fare under the law.

But think of it in a larger sense.  You buy the food.  It’s yours, your property.  You can prepare it however you like (within reason) and eat it if you care too or  … not.  What you throw away or decide not to keep is entirely up to you  — it’s YOUR property. It is none of anyone’s business.

On the other hand, you pay a fee or taxes to have your trash hauled away.  That’s their job.  Nothing more.  Haul your trash away. In steps government and arbitrarily decides that you’re throwing too much food away (goodness knows where that perception comes from) and the “there ought to be a law” folks step up.  They give those who pick up your trash the power to ticket you if they find you’ve thrown away too much food. Yeah, that’s right – the garbage police!

Most of the time these yahoos can’t even pick up the trash on time, and, of course they’re all math majors, so figuring out what percentage of your weekly trash pick up is over 10% should be a snap.  They have plenty of time, right?  I mean, good lord.

And if, in fact, people take this seriously, what do you suppose might happen? They’ll dump elsewhere.  If they’re smart they’ll find dumpsters outside the Seattle city hall and dump their food excess there.  Then the city can fine itself.

But it is another example of an unworkable law which will be arbitrarily imposed (if at all) and will see people attempting to circumvent it by means that I would guess will be less than sanitary and good for the city’s overall health.

Nannys.

~McQ

Observations: The QandO Podcast for 17 Nov 13

This week, Bruce, Michael and Dale discuss Obamacare’s failure, and the triumph of socialism in NYC.

The direct link to the podcast can be found here.

Observations

As a reminder, if you are an iTunes user, don’t forget to subscribe to the QandO podcast, Observations, through iTunes. For those of you who don’t have iTunes, you can subscribe at Podcast Alley. And, of course, for you newsreader subscriber types, our podcast RSS Feed is here.

When Girl Scouts Attack

Some of you would no doubt love to be accosted by a bunch of girl scouts plying their wares (you know who you are), but you won’t be subject to such a harrowing experience in Seattle:

Tim Burgess’s move to outlaw “aggressive panhandling” may be an unconstitutional, attention-seeking bully tactic, but at least the Councilmember appears willing to apply the law equally to anyone asking for money on the streets. Even if they just want to sell you a box of thin mints.

The issue, such as it is, arose from a (possibly facetious) email exchange between a Seattle Councilmember and an alleged citizen complaining about what can only described as a channeling of a Mike Myers mock-horror scene:

Councilmember Burgess:

I was strongly opposed to your panhandling proposal until my experience on the streets of downtown West Seattle yesterday. Now I totally understand where you’re coming from.

Here’s what happened: on the way to the West Seattle Farmer’s Market, I encountered a band of Girl Scouts aggressively promoting cookie sales within spitting distance of a KeyBank ATM where I was withdrawing money. The situation was so extreme that I could actually hear their aggressive, repeated, high-pitched solicitations at the very moment I was entering my PIN. Then as my cash was dispensed and I nervously removed my receipt — trying to stay calm despite this invasion of my constitutional right to not be confronted by my relative class status — I saw two adult women. They were the ringleaders, I assume. They didn’t seem to be doing anything but watching over the whole scene and talking discreetly to each other about god knows what. All in all, a nerve-racking experience.

So there they were, asking for money, repeatedly, despite my lack of interest in what was on offer, all happening well within 15 feet of an ATM. Would this be banned by the your ordinance? I certainly hope so, because there’s a long history of applying laws like this inequitably, almost as an excuse to push poor people out of desirable areas instead of addressing the actual problem.

Thanks for any information you can offer.

My best guess is that this email comes from a rather disgruntled, yet somewhat clever, panhandler. The Councilmember’s response is both appropriate and obviously skeptical, but it does raise an interesting question: if the state is going to exercise it’s police powers judiciously, doesn’t that ensure that we miss out on opportunities that are neither a threat nor an offer of something we don’t really want? After all, what sort of hair-shirted aesthete do you have to be to not want girl scout cookies?

When it comes to local rules and regulations, I’m not one to quibble too much unless such restrictions impinge on fundamental rights. Setting up shop in a public way certainly deserves some treatment of police power since the sidewalks belong to the public. At the same time, if you are just standing around hawking your legal goods, I really don’t understand what it is we need to be protected from. Can it be annoying to walk through a gauntlet of capitalism? Sure. Maybe worse for some than others. But we don’t have any right to be free from annoyance, do we?

I mean, if that were the case, then why should I be bothered by ACORN morons marching up and down the street where I work? Nothing has ever been done about that. Once, I nearly came to blows with some idiot preaching about how we needed a new New Deal while I was trying to enjoy a leisurely stroll in downtown Alexandria, VA. Do I have the right to be free from that annoyance? Not bloody likely.

And the fact of the matter is that I shouldn’t be “free” from those annoyances, anymore than I should expect to be “free” from girl scouts selling cookies on a street corner, or a hippie selling dew rags in a city square. If one of them genuinely threatens my peace, then the appropriate authorities should be able to step in, but how often is that truly the case? That some panhandler was able to point out this hypocrisy in the enforcement of Seattle’s anti-public-space-economy laws (to coin a terrible phrase) only underscores how ridiculous the application of police power (local or otherwise) has become.

The bottom line is that, whether one is selling girl scout cookies or dew rags, why do I need the state’s protection? Keep the public ways clear for the public sure, but let’s not forget that commerce is what truly makes the world go ’round. Without it, that police protection doesn’t get paid for.

[HT: Tom Scott]