The Musings of

Something full of magic, religion, bullsh*t.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

There ought not to be a law

Years ago, I was doing some political work in Oklahoma for a pretty savvy political operative. In out time together, we would often wax on the state of the world, its ills and cures. One day over lunch he said that he had a perfect example of what was wrong in most legislatures.

In his younger days, my friend had been a campaign consultant on a number of state legislative races in Iowa. One of his candidates was a conservative politico who had never run for office, but was a committed and effective candidate. During the race, the candidate would often complain in speeches and appearances about unnecessary legislation and incessant government regulation. She stated that she was committed to getting government out of the lives of Iowa citizens and businesses. With the assistance of my friend, she rode this message to victory against a sitting Democrat legislator.

Fast forward a couple of months. The new legislature is now in session and my friend is reading his morning paper when he glances at an article about some bill that would outlaw the use of plastic holders for six packs. It seems the tree huggers were up in arms about the potential species-ending threat these 6-holed menaces were having on the local bird populations, members of which were apparently sticking their heads in the discarded holders and strangling themselves. My friend could only shake his head. More useless regulation that was going to drive up the cost of doing business for a sector of the economy, as well as the cost of buying a six pack of Coke or Bud Light, with no discernible benefit. Reading down he was shocked to discover that his winning candidate was the author of the legislation. In disbelief he called her office and asked her what she was doing. How could she, after passionately arguing against regulation, make her first bill such a useless expansion of red tape? Her reply: This is just a little bill that was a concern of some of my constituents, and I love birds and don't want to see them hurt.

This, my friend told me, was the ultimate undoing of the Conservative Movement in this country. Pet causes and good ideas often outweigh general principles. Many legislators claim to dislike regulation, but support individual regulatory bills because they are good ideas. Nobody wants senior citizens to go hungry, so as a result we have a creaking, over-burdened, and eventually doomed Social Security system. Next thing you know, we're forcing businesses to redo all of their packaging at a cost of thousands of dollars to save a bird or two. Legislators oven lament the problem, but are unwilling to do anything because, well, they need to be promoting new legislation because that's what they were elected to do, right? They need "Results" in flashing neon.

A small human interest story in today's news has me thinking about this problem again. Some hack Republican legislator, Rep. Tom Stevenson, in Pennsylvania is so desperate for new regulations that he is actually trolling his constituents for new and exciting ideas to grind the gears of individual freedom. He has created the wittily-titled "There Ought to be a Law" contest, whereby his constituents can vie to see who comes up with the prettiest piece of red tape.

And his constituents have responded. Well, at least one 11-year old has responded. It seems young Marc McCann is troubled by animals sticking their heads out of car windows that he wants the government to restrain their owners. It seems that Master McCann is worried that a sign might hit the animal in the head (well, I suppose it could be a giraffe) or that the animal, fighting millions of years of evolution, would jump from the speeding vehicle. Perhaps he recalls the wisdom of Jack Handy, who stated, "Better not take a dog on the space shuttle, because if he sticks his head out when you're coming home his face might burn up." Whatever the case, while there is no actual documented problem here that needs to be solved, Little Marc has a concern, Rep. Stevenson has a crusade, and it may end up that all Pennsylvanians will be forced to box up their pets before taking them for a nice drive to the doggie park, or will be required by law to try to put a seatbelt on their cat (a feat I would actually like to see performed).

The road to hell is well paved.
Centinel 8:52 AM #


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