"The fox knows many things, but the hedgehog knows one big thing."

                --Archilochus

Glenn Reynolds:
"Heh."

Barack Obama:
"Impossible to transcend."

Albert A. Gore, Jr.:
"An incontinent brute."

Rev. Jeremiah Wright:
"God damn the Gentleman Farmer."

Friends of GF's Sons:
"Is that really your dad?"

Kickball Girl:
"Keeping 'em alive until 7:45."

Hired Hand:
"I think . . . we forgot the pheasant."




I'm an
Alcoholic Yeti
in the
TTLB Ecosystem



Saturday, December 17, 2011

Pork & Beans

In the entire history of the world since the Creation, no one has ever bought a can of pork and beans and been surprised to find that it was mostly beans. No one has ever opened the can and stared in disbelief, or complained, "What the heck? What are all these beans doing in here? I was looking for a nice can of pork, and instead this is a whole can of beans, and one little tiny chunk of pork!"

Is there any question that, if pork & beans were a new product -- if it hadn't been thought up a hundred years ago -- there's just no way it would be "Pork & Beans." It would have to be "Beans (with a little piece of pork)." It's misleading. It's downright fraudulent. But today, unlike our unlucky great-grandparents, we're protected from such chicanery by the Federal Trade Commission, the Consumer Product Safety Commission, the National Transportation Safety Board, and heaven alone knows how many other Government watchdogs, working tirelessly to protect us from . . . what, exactly?

Which brings us to the automobile. Frank Fleming imagines a world without the automobile, and the proposal -- here in the 21st century -- that people should be allowed to drive around in big chunks of metal, powered by internal-combustion engines:
Is there any way they’d be approved for individual use? It’s an era of bans on incandescent bulbs; if you suggested putting millions of internal-combustion engines out there, you’d get looks like you were Hitler proposing the Final Solution.

Even aside from pollution, the government wouldn’t allow the risks to safety.

“So you’re proposing that people speed around in tons of metal? You must mean only really smart, well-trained people?”

“No. Everyone. Even stupid people.”

“Won’t millions be killed?”

“Oh, no. Not that many. Just a little more than 40,000 a year.”

“And injuries?”

“Oh . . . millions.”

There’s no way that would get approved today.
Fleming suggests that this is because we've become a nation of sissies, and he's certainly right. Mothers have always screeched, "You could shoot your eye out!" But never before in human history has a society decided that a cadre of anxious, over-protective mommies should be given the power to enforce their terror-filled nightmares on the rest of us.

This enervating trend dovetails nicely with the fundamental nature of Government. Government will always expand, and will always seek more power and influence. This is not because the individuals who make up "the Government" are evil power-seekers. The shopkeeper strives for more customers, the manufacturer looks to sell more of whatever he makes, and the Government eternally looks for more things to do. Once you've decided that the Government should be able to prevent my neighbor from installing crappy electrical wiring -- because when his house burns to the ground mine will too -- it doesn't sound quite so silly for my neighbor to suggest that I shouldn't be able to paint my house pink.

What people don't seem to understand is that the more often they encourage the Government to do something they think is a good idea, or prevent something that they think is a bad idea, the more likely it is that next week that same Government will be telling them that they can't do something they think is a good idea, or that they must do something that they think is a bad idea. That's the way it works.

We're seeing this play out now with respect to the "Stop Online Piracy Act," a bill that would enormously expand the Government's power to shut down Internet sites on suspicion of copyright violations or sale of counterfeit products. If you own movie copyrights, or sell Chanel No. 5, you think this is a great idea. If, on the other hand, you know anything at all about the Internet, you know that it won't work. But, while it's not working, what it will do is create a mechanism for the Government to close down -- censor -- Internet sites that do things the Government has decided are bad things: illegal things; hateful things; things that shock me; things that offend me; things that I don't like; fraudulent things like Pork & Beans.

The irony of this has not been lost on the crazed libertarians over at Armed and Dangerous:
A government that is big enough to give you everything you want is big enough to take everything away from you – including your Internet freedom.

That’s the thought that keeps running through my head as I contemplate the full-scale panic going on right now about SOPA, the “Stop Internet Piracy Act”.

It’s a bad bill, all right. It’s a terrible bill – awful from start to finish, idiotic to the core, corruptly pandering to a powerful special-interest group at the cost of everyone else’s liberty.

But I can’t help noticing that a lot of the righteous panic about it is being ginned up by people who were cheerfully on board for the last seventeen or so government power grabs – cap and trade, campaign finance “reform”, the incandescent lightbulb ban, Obamacare, you name it – and I have to wonder…

Don’t these people ever learn? Anything? Do they even listen to themselves?

It’s bizarre and entertaining to hear people who yesterday were all about allegedly benign and intelligent government interventions suddenly discovering that in practice, what they get is stupid and vicious legislation that has been captured by a venal and evil interest group.

Yeah, no shit? How…how do they avoid noticing that in reality it’s like this all the time?

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