Wednesday, July 04, 2007

The Laws

P-Mac essays on some ninny-nanny-naggy laws and regulations.

If a firework explodes or leaves the ground, you probably need a permit, the Wisconsin Department of Justice said in a weary-sounding memo last month.

Think you have one? "Nearly all fireworks permits relied upon by buyers and users of fireworks in Wisconsin are not valid," wrote Assistant Attorney General Juan B. Colas

Gee, we've heard something like that recently.

...Between the rigamarole with permits and blunt talk from police, it must be plain to most buyers that the law, as well, views fireworks with at least distaste. Yet they buy.

"A lot of people don't particularly like the law, I think," is how Sen. Fred Risser (D-Madison), puts it. Risser's been agitating for years to tighten anti-fireworks laws. He says too few lawmakers truly favor a fireworks crackdown

Risser is the legislative godfather to Ninny-Nanny-Naggy laws (think Carol Roessler of child car-seat infamy, or Pedro Colon's anti-CarFone Crusade...)

Laws, generally, should be obeyed. But what Risser regrets may not be so grim. It may lead lawmakers to rethink rules that earn widespread scorn.

Wisconsin is better for being orderly, even punctilious. The downside is that our culture revels in regulation.

This is the state that once banned yellow margarine. We endured signs reading, "55 means 55" alongside vacant rural interstates that anyone could see were built for 70. We have a history of substituting experts' fretting for ordinary good sense because the 98% of us with decent judgment are unduly focused on the 2% who really are car-surfing bozos.

And, of course, we have the Seatbelt Nazis, the Smoking Nazis, and other phobiacs almost too numerous to mention.

GKChesterton observed, (not necessarily about ninny-nanny-naggy Legislators):

"I think the oddest thing about the advanced people is that, while they are always talking about things as problems, they have hardly any notion of what a real problem is."

He also warned about the penchant of Ninny-Nanny-Naggy legislation:

"The free man owns himself. He can damage himself with either eating or drinking; he can ruin himself with gambling. If he does he is certainly a damn fool, and he might possibly be a damned soul; but if he may not, he is not a free man any more than a dog."

...the last portion of which P-Mac did not write in his essay on fireworks.

But he could have.

UPDATE: Especially given the following facts:

According to the American Pyrotechnics Association, a trade group, consumption of fireworks, measured in millions of pounds, increased 870% between 1976 and 2005. During the same period, injuries, measured in injuries per 100,000 pounds of fireworks sold, fell 90.1%, so that last year there were only 3.8 injuries reported per 100,000 pounds sold. Fireworks account for only about 0.01% of the 70 million personal injuries suffered by Americans each year. Ovens are at least four times as dangerous.

But facts are not matters of interest to the Phobiac Party. Here, deTocqueville explains the "Tutelary Power," with precision of foresight matching that of GKChesterton, introduced by Powerline's Scott Johnson:

Tocqueville warns that the passion for equality will give rise to a certain kind of degradation in which citizens will surrender their freedom democratically to a tutelary power:

Above these [citizens] an immense tutelary power is elevated, which alone takes charge of assuring their enjoyments and watching over their fate. It is absolute, detailed, far-seeing, and mild. It would resemble paternal power if, like that, it had for its object to prepare men for manhood; but on the contrary, it seeks only to keep them fixed irrevocably in childhood; it likes citizens to enjoy themselves provided that they think only of enjoying themselves. It willingly works for their happiness; but it wants to be the unique agent and sole arbiter of that; it provides for their security, foresees and secures their needs, facilitates their pleasures, conducts their principal affairs, directs their industry, regulates their estates, divides their inheritances; can it not take away from them entirely the trouble of thinking and the pain of living?

P-Mac's vague discomfort with the Ninny-Nanny-Naggy fireworks ordinances call up all sorts of interesting and dispiriting associations, no?

Proves he's doing his job.


Karen Marie said...

If somebody wants to damage themselves by breathing poisonous smoke into their own lungs, that's one thing, and there's not much that can or should be done about it. But don't go poisoning one's children or some hard-working waitress or barkeep. Or me. The right to inhale smoke ends where the air other people have to breathe begins.

Dad29 said...

Ah, yes, the Old Lie about second-hand smoke.

You might want to consider the actual facts, found here:

An underlying thesis of my post was that the lies about "CRISIS!!! CRISIS!!!!" are the best means by which to leverage Gummint controls and legislation.

The Second-Hand-Smoke Lie was a good one.

Karen Marie said...

Tell it to me in the ER! Or to the chain-smoker's asthmatic toddlers. Or the never-smoking hospitality worker with lung cancer.....

Dad29 said...

Yah, that's REAL statistical proof, Karen.