Jane Haddam’s WordPress weblog

On Topic Sundays

with 5 comments

So it is Sunday, and I have music and Harriet Vane.

And, like I said,  I’m still not inclined to do a lot of work right now.

So, I want to make explicit the question that keeps popping into my mind.

When I talk about small government here, I am usually fairly explicit about what I mean.

I mean putting an end to government intrusion into the private decisions of private life. 

I mean things like seat belt laws, childhood obesity campaigns,  bans on Happy Meals, motorcycle helmet laws–the entire panoply of regulation and legislation meant to make us behave “for our own good” and sometimes justified by saying that “it’s for the children, and we need to protect them when their parents are stupid.”

As soon as I start talking about that here, a half dozen people start talking about evil corporations despoiling the Arctic wilderness and food safety laws meant to keep us from running into the E-boli bacteria.

But saying that the government should not be allowed to tell me I have to wear a seat belt if I ride a motorcycle, or that CPS shouldn’t be allowed to issue a degree (not voted on in any legislature) that makes spanking “child abuse,’ is not the same thing as food safety laws or the Glass-Steagal Act.

And I’m in favor of bringing back Glass-Steagal, and I think we should never have gotten rid of it.

I’d read the “study” in Michael’s article–the 43,000 corporations that supposedly “rule the world”–and I thought it silly the first time.  The article posted here said that people have had “some problems” with its methodology, but in fact they’ve had a lot of problems with its methodology.   Never mind the fact that any secret conspiracy to control everything that requires 43,000 anything to maintain is dead in the water before it starts.

But it’s still not the issue I brought up, and it still has nothing to do with what I’m talking about.

In fact, what I’m talking about makes it MORE likely that corporations will get to control your life.

There is, for instance, the new trend for courts to allow employers to demand that you behave OFF the job the way they want you to–that you not only not smoke at work, but not smoke at home, either.

To me, this amounts to a reinstitution of slavery.  In a captialist economy, I sell my time to my employer, and when I’m off the clock what I do is none of his business.

But since the government already thinks of me as a child whose behavior has to be manipulated and regulated even in the confines of my own home, it naturally enough sees nothing wrong with my employer controlling my behavior in the same way.

And in what way will the food supply be threatened if we require OSHA to enforce laws and not make them?  Or if we insist that OSHA has no right to issue regulations with the force of law that will allow them to enter my private residence at will and inspect my home office to make sure it meets “safety standards”?

The OSHA thing isn’t something I made up, by the way.  They tried that on a few years ago and had to back down because of public outcry.  But they have not retreated on their position that they have a right to make such inspections of my home.

And that they do not have to follow any form of due process, do not have to have probably cause that I’ve committed a crime, and do not have to have a warrant.

If the history of bureaucracies is any judge, they will float the idea every year or so until they manage to get it through when nobody is looking.

And, if they ever do, there will be no more Gregors.

I cannot sit in ergonomic chairs.  My back just won’t handle it.  This already bars me from being hired for all kinds of things I am qualified to do–nope, OSHA says you have to sit in that chair, you can’t sit in that chair and you can’t work–but if such a rule was carried into my own home, I wouldn’t be able to work at all.  No more sitting at the computer.  No more writing in the morning.  And what am I complaining about?  It’s for my own good.  I must only think I can’t use those chairs.  They’re really better for me than the one I do use, and I’m just to stupid (or have too little common sense) to know it.

I will say, however, that even if I didn’t have a problem with those chairs, I’d still be opposed both to OSHA being able to issue such a regulation that would have the force of law, and for any agency of the government, federal or state or local, to be able to enter my private home without that warrant or probably cause.

I will also say that I find it very curious that so many of the people I know who call themselves liberals, and who would have a complete raging fit if the cops entered an apartment without warrant or probable cause to look for weapons or drugs–find nothing wrong with this kind of thing.

I had a friend of mine tell me, very earnestly, that you didn’t need things like warrants and due process for these things, because they were “helping” and not prosecuting, and that unlike police officers, who were mostly bad and brutal and racist, social workers had good intentions and were trained to know how to handle these situations.

For what it’s worth, this is the big issue with the Tea Party, the one that Democrats get wrong.  When they’re talking about “big government,” they’re not talking about health and safety standards for handling raw meat.

They’re talking about the nattering, nitpicking, endless micromanagement of their private lives and the lives of their communities.

We complain in this country that too many people are apathetic, or that they’re “low information voters.”

But they’re apathetic because they have nothing to be enthused about.  If they go to the polls and vote for the local school board, what does it mean?  It means that they get to run their school by rules they disapprove of that were made somewhere else by people they did not elect and whose judgment they don’t trust.

And they’re not “low information,” either.  They’re just taking a calculated gamble.

Shrinking government just MIGHT get rid of some of those micromanaging rules.

A politician who wants to expand government might do a lot of things they like–universal health care, for instance–but he’ll almost certainly use that expansion to put even more of those rules in place that they want to get rid of.

Liberty before security.

Every time.

I’m going to go listen to Bach.

Written by janeh

November 13th, 2011 at 9:21 am

Posted in Uncategorized

5 Responses to 'On Topic Sundays'

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  1. Those who would sacrifice liberty for the sake of security will lose both and deserve neither. – attributed (along with dozens of paraphrases) to Ben Franklin

    “I would rather be exposed to the inconveniences attending too much liberty than to those attending too small a degree of it.” Thomas Jefferson

    I have to vote with Jane on this one.

    I grant you the belief that people who want to impose child obesity laws, for example, are doing so out of a sincere concern for the health and welfare of children. Perhaps they are. I’m concerned with child obesity. However, imposing regulations about fat contents in happy meals doesn’t seem the answer to me. I believe that companies (in the interests of informed decision making) should be required to provide that information. But the choice – the liberty – of whether or not I allow my child to eat that food should be mine.

    I believe that most people want security. It’s a fundamental human need – to feel secure. Of course, the reality is that security is basically an illusion. Life is risky – all of it. If I walk across the street I might get hit by a bus. Should we make a law that says I cannot walk across the street? After all, it’s for my own ‘security.’

    Liberty is inconvenient and also risky. It often exposes me to things that I personally would prefer to avoid. But I will take the inconveniences and risks every day over the alternative of having my personal life and choices micromanaged by some social worker or government entity that thinks it knows better than I what is good for my life.


    13 Nov 11 at 12:25 pm

  2. So that’s why my $100 chair at home is so much more comfortable than the $200 chairs at the office… I suspect that a lot of this sort of regulation has more to do with the need of some manufacturer to dump unwanted, badly designed “ergonomic” chairs than with any concern, even a misguided one, for the comfort of workers.

    There are employers who, if not prevented, would force their employees to sit 10-12 hours a day in steel folding chairs or worse. That’s okay, because most of the victims would be telemarketers, but supposing something is to be done about such things, I would suggest that:

    Instead of trying to pick every nit on the body politick, and create for each one a new agency with extralegal authority that employees more people than it helps, government should pursue a sane economic policy that actually reduces the excessive power of monied interests. Eliminating the power eliminates the abuse.


    13 Nov 11 at 12:28 pm

  3. You may have missed the IRS regional manager afew years back who vowed that when he was done there would be NO self-employed persons left in the area.

    But the point is not putting an end to Gregor, nor even selling ergonomic chairs, but deference. Be polite to the inspector, and all you’ll need to do is fill out forms and get a doctor’s certificate. Deny their authority, and it gets worse–lawyer’s fees, campaign contributions to politicians, then all the way up to lobbying fees paid to politicians’ spouses and “retired” politicians, which have no legal limit.

    As for “reducing the power of the moneyed interests” the “monied interests” don’t have power. They pay tribute–or bribes–and some of the bribes have a very nice rate of return. Power belongs to people with police, armies, prisons and guns. How about we reduce THEIR power?

    Three cheers for the return of Glass-Steagal–which won’t happen because Glass-Steagal was about 40 pages long, people knew whether or not they were in compliance, and it took almost no bureaucrats. Instead we have a 2,000 page bill with rules to be made up by people not yet appointed with exceptions, of course, and exceptions to the exceptions. If you consider the objective to be that everyone be guilty of something, it makes sense–and international banking will pay off MUCH better than regulating chairs.


    13 Nov 11 at 2:02 pm

  4. Surprisingly, I’ve got nothing to add, or even argue about except, once again to mildly disagree with Jane about seat belts, just for the fun of it. :-)


    13 Nov 11 at 8:44 pm

  5. I suspect that both perfect security and absolute liberty are illusions. However, I believe that most human beings, even business people, politicians, social workers, inspectors, police, and military personnel, intend to promote security and liberty for themselves and some others.

    Robert, please find out what happened to that IRS regional supervisor. Stories of karmic debt collection are as amusing as the latest edition of the Darwin awards.


    14 Nov 11 at 6:22 am

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