When the absurd becomes the ho-hum

James Lileks‘ latest National Review column warns Americans not to respond “that wouldn’t happen here” when they read stories about the negative impact of years of socialistic paternalism in Europe.

[W]e steel ourselves: We’ll fight back before it gets that bad. Wait until 2012! The forces of statism will crumple with dismay as Herman Cain, Secretary of Plain Ordinary Common Sense, goes around the country and yells at bureaucrats to knock that off, already.

What if we’re already too far down the road? Every summer brings more tales of lemonade stands shut down by regulators. (Next summer’s twist: While clamping down on illegal stands, the government was actually selling Sunny D to Mexican cartels.) The story hits the wires, people get mad, and they go so far as to write comments on webpages. But nothing changes. A week later you read about someone being fined for hanging a bird feeder in violation of the Transient Avian Nutritional Guidelines — the first lady was concerned about all that suet, and demanded a national conversation about pheasant obesity — and people get spun up about that. And nothing happens. The Bureaucrat-American community never demonstrates a jot of shame; candidates talk about the top-level regulations that garrote the economy; and the myriad codes and diktats pile up, criminalizing everything. Check your facial-tissue box: Some say “It is a violation of Federal law to use this product in a manner inconsistent with its labeling.” Wearing this box as shoes when you go as Howard Hughes for Halloween? You’re looking at hard time, brother. No one says “There oughta be a law” anymore, because we know there probably is.

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