Category Archives: Limited Government

Great Moments in Busy-Body Regulation

I wrote back in 2011 about a bizarre plan in California to regulate babysitting.

You may be thinking that’s no big deal because California is…wellCalifornia.

But other governments also want to control private child care decisions. The latest example is from the District of Columbia, which is going after children’s play groups.

Lenore Skenazy explains the craziness in a column for Reason.

For 45 years, parents have brought their two-year-olds to the Lutheran Church of the Reformation as part of a cooperative play school endeavor. It’s a chance to socialize with other haggard moms and (presumably some) dads dealing with the terrible twos, and it’s volunteer run. …The problem—which isn’t actually a problem, unless you define it as such—is that because the play group has some rules and requirements, including the fact that parents must submit emergency contact forms, as well as tell the group when their kid is sick, the play group is not a play group but a “child development facility.” And child development facilities are subject to regulation and licensing by the government. As Lips points out, this actually creates an incentive for parent-run play groups to be less safe, because if they don’t have rules about emergency contact info, and how to evacuate and such, they are considered officially “informal” and can go on their merry, possibly slipshod, way… Take a step back and you see a group of people—toddlers and parents—enjoying themselves. They’re meeting, playing, and perfectly content. But another group is trying to butt in and end the fun—and the convenience.

And what is that “annoying group”? It’s the bureaucrats who issued the play group a “statement of deficiencies.”

The Wall Street Journal also opined on the issue.

The District of Columbia is literally targeting preschool play dates, claiming that parents need city approval before they can baby-sit their friends’ toddlers. Since the 1970s, parents have organized play dates at the Lutheran Church of the Reformation on East Capitol Street. They formed a nonprofit to pay for the rent, insurance, snacks and Play-Doh, and each family chips in about $200 a year to cover expenses. …The fun and games ended Sept. 7 when gumshoes from the D.C. Office of the State Superintendent of Education showed up. They claimed the Capitol Hill Cooperative Play School counts as a day care center and is operating unlawfully. If the bureaucrats get their way, the co-op would have to hire a director with a background in childhood education or development, apply and pay for a license, obtain permits and abide by all other day-care regulations.

And you won’t be surprised to learn that day-care regulations in DC are ridiculously expensive and misguided.

Anyhow, the WSJ also observes that the play school could evade red tape by being less-well organized. Heckuva set of incentives!

…the day-care police claim the Capitol Hill Cooperative Play School is “formal” because it has a website, draws participants from a hat to limit play-date sizes, and hosts scheduled get-togethers. In other words, the parents aren’t organized enough for the government’s satisfaction but are too organized to escape its harassment. …State Superintendent of Education Hanseul Kang is pushing for more government control over the play dates. She wants mandatory emergency drills, sign-out sheets, CPR and first-aid certification for parent volunteers, limits on the frequency and number of hours co-ops can meet, among other requirements. Nannying the nannies will make life tougher on parents—who have a greater interest than the D.C. government does in ensuring their kids are in good hands.

The final sentence of that excerpt is key.

Parents aren’t perfect, but they have a far greater stake in making right decisions than a bunch of busy-body bureaucrats looking to expand their power.

P.S. This is one of the reasons I support school choice (and also object to throwing more money into government schools). Parents are far more likely to do right for their kids than faraway self-interested bureaucrats.

P.P.S. The bureaucratic version of the keystone cops would include the play-group police in addition to the milk police and the bagpipe police.

Re-posted with permission.

From Cafe Hayek – Quotation of the Day…

Quotation of the Day…

by Don Boudreaux on November 19, 2018

in Reality Is Not Optional, Regulation, Virginia Political Economy

… is from page 87 of my colleague Richard Wagner’s superb 2017 intellectual biography of Jim Buchanan, James M. Buchanan and Liberal Political Economy:

There can be many reasons why someone might think some modicum of force might be necessary to maintain good civil order. It is impossible, however, to guarantee that force will be limited to maintaining good civil order. Force will be deployed as its holders choose to deploy it. This is a basic, irremediable quality of human nature.

DBx: Without question, the most common serious error committed by those who look to the state to ‘solve’ problems (whether real or imaginary) is their assumption that the power they call upon will be used as they wish it to be used and never, or seldom, as they wish it not to be used.

Those who call on the state today are, with one significant difference, very much like people who pray to god to intervene in human affairs: god – being all-powerful, all-knowing, and all-good – will answer worthwhile prayers precisely as the petitioners plead while never, ever abusing the godly power. The difference is that, unlike with god, there is absolutely no question of the state’s existence. No one doubts, or can possibly doubt, that the state exists and intervenes in human affairs.

And as I think about the matter, I see another difference: also unlike god, the state rarely acts in mysterious ways. A sound understanding of state action begins with public-choice scholarship.

*Re-posted with permission.

Building Resilience: 5 Ways to a Better Life

Thanksgiving: Its History & Origin as an American Holiday

There Is No ‘Surge’ in White Supremacy

In answer to “Why I’m No Longer a Russiagate Skeptic”

(https://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2018/07/20/confession-of-a-no-longer-russiagate-skeptic-219022) by Blake Hounsell, Politico, July 20, 2018

I can appreciate that many disagree with the President for their reasons. Admittedly, he is many ways a bull-in-a-china-closet iconoclast.

None the less, the article cited is rife with factual inaccuracies that matter. Then again, it’s an opinion piece. As New York Democrat Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan observed — “You are entitled to your opinion. But you are not entitled to your own facts.”

Too many put a focus on words and not actions. I fully admit the current President’s verbal predilections tend to exacerbate things rather than move them forward. More often than not it’s how he says it and not the actual substance that give his political opponents fodder.

The key premise (though other items are listed; items upheld by biased speculation, wholly lacking what would qualify as in law as evidence) appears to be the current Administration’s actions his administration have taken that are “tough on Russia” are not credible.

Blake says Trump opposed both the idea of  arming Ukraine and bristled at Congress’ Russian sanctions. He cites the tepid presser (which I don’t think it not served the President well) as proof of collusion, or cooperation at least with Putin and Russia.

Here’s what the Trump Administration as actually done regarding Russia. Actions versus words.

Re-institution of the European missile defenses:

Provided arms to Ukraine, specifically to aid it’s efforts to defend itself against Russia.

Sanctions:

I would agree on the surface without looking at the whole picture, one might be able to think Trump is being soft on Russia. To do so one has to turn a blind eye to what he is actually doing. Regardless of what he has actually done, versus the speculation of what he may have done because of how he expressed himself, will never assuage those who oppose the President.

The President’s and his overall Administration’s actions, sometimes in spite of his words, provide a better assessment of his position, precisely because actions taken are what actually occurs and affects us. Actions are not in the realm of speculation, supposition, theory or opinion, unlike so much of what is propagated as news these days.

As the old adage says: actions speak louder than words.

To preclude the anticipated citing of the various indictments, particularly the last two announcements, not one single indictment cites collusion by the President. Not one. Read them for your self. Plenty of speculation by many. A plethora of innuendo. No facts, otherwise the indictments would state such.

2) Rosenstein’s announcement was reviewed and approved for release by the President PRIOR to his European trip.

3) Rosenstein’s own words, ….”there is no allegation in this indictment that any American was a knowing participant in this illegal activity. There is no allegation in the indictment that the charged conduct altered the outcome of the 2016 election.”

(https://www.realclearpolitics.com/video/2018/02/16/watch_live_deputy_ag_rod_rosenstein_announcement.html)

4) The previous Mueller indictment disclosed much the same:

  • The Mueller indictment of 13 Russians seems to clear the Trump team of collusion, at least in this part of the case.
  • But the most important part of the indictment is the fact that it says the Russian efforts had no effect on the election.
  • That’s a major shot in the arm for American voters, who have proven able to resist foreign meddling.

https://www.cnbc.com/2018/02/16/mueller-indictment-proves-american-voters-are-too-smart-for-russia-commentary.html

5) Russia meddling does not require Trump’s cooperation. As more actual EVIDENCE has come out, especially the background documents thanks in part to the various investigations, reports and the FOIA lawsuits to force transparency on the various agencies, the more it supports President Trump’s insistence he did not collude.

Parallel to “actions speak louder than words”, evidence, not speculation especially when bolstered by prejudice/preference is what matters. If ever evidence show there was collusion, the consequences are obvious. Thus far however, not one single shred, not even a “smidgeon” of evidence has been presented. All hat and no cattle.

We’re harming ourselves with such myopic obsession, when little more than biased speculation supports it. Some might call that delusion. Either way, none of this is helping us be a better nation, much less better and more respectful neighbors with one another.

Related: Just How Far Will the Left Go – Victor Davis Hansen

Thomas Sowell: Social Justice Philosophy Is a Blank Check for Government Power

Forcing an equality of outcome for disadvantaged groups requires enormous outside interference.

“In politics, the great non-sequitur of our time is that 1) things are not right and that 2) the government should make them right. Where right all too often means cosmic justice, trying to set things right means writing a blank check for a never-ending expansion of government power.”

This key passage from Thomas Sowell’s 1999 book, The Quest for Cosmic Justice, frames Sowell’s thoughtful analysis and rejection of arguments advanced by “social justice warriors,” or more briefly, SJWs.

Although written nearly 20 years ago, Sowell’s insights are especially relevant today, when you consider the heights of influence social justice activism has reached—especially on college campuses—in 2018.

For a blueprint to understand and refute today’s increasingly vocal SJWs, Sowell’s book proves to be an indispensable resource.

What Is “Social Justice”?

First, Sowell provides clarity to the concept of social justice, which he labels “cosmic justice.” Social justice seeks to “eliminate undeserved disadvantages” for selected groups. Sowell explains “undeserved disadvantages” by quoting Thomas Nagle, a professor of philosophy and law, as akin to an “unequal starting point” certain people have through no fault of their own.

For the social justice warrior, equality of treatment under the law is not a sufficient condition to achieve justice.

These conditions—be it race, gender, family income, etc.—are from mere chance of birth. Sowell prefers the term “cosmic” to represent a random factor—beyond anyone’s control—landing different groups in different conditions.

But given we can’t change the conditions we are born into, nor erase past injustices, the real concern boils down to what actions and policies are prescribed to mitigate these “unequal starting points” that people occupy.

For the social justice warrior, equality of treatment under the law is not a sufficient condition to achieve justice. Citing philosopher John Rawls’ A Theory of Justice, Sowell asserts that SJWs insist “having everyone play by the same rules or be judged by the same standards” is found to be lacking. True equality of opportunity, in their view, means “providing everyone with equal prospects of success from equal individual efforts,” and “putting segments of society in the position that they would have been in but for some undeserved misfortune.”

What Do Social Justice Warriors Want?

To make this a reality, processes need to be put in place, according to social justice theory, so that outcomes—such as income level, unemployment rates, leadership positions, etc.—are equalized regardless of one’s starting point or demographic trait. Any deviation from “equalized” outcomes is proof positive in the eyes of the social justice movement that some form of social injustice—be it racism, sexism, or capitalist greed—must be the culprit.

The quest for social justice “focuses on one segment of the population and disregards the interests of others.”

Sowell takes issue with such thinking. He believes it is the actions and policies in search of equal outcomes, along with their results, that need to be judged by an ethical evaluation of justice.

At this point, Sowell begins to expose the injustices involved in this process. “This conception of fairness requires that third parties must wield the power to control outcomes, over-riding rules, standards or the preferences of other people.”

Indeed, the quest for social justice “focuses on one segment of the population and disregards the interests of others who are not the immediate focus of discussion, but who nevertheless pay the price of the decisions made.” Such processes, it turns out, necessarily involve treating people unequally.

But at What Cost?

In classic Sowell style, he reminds readers that there are no perfect solutions, only trade-offs. Trade-offs involve costs as well as benefits.

“Costs of achieving justice matter…What, after all, is injustice but an arbitrary imposition of a cost—whether economic, psychic, or other—on an innocent person? And if correcting this injustice imposes another arbitrary cost on another innocent person, is that not also an injustice?”

These costs of attempting to advance social justice are not only borne by these innocent third parties, but also by society through changes in behavior of the supposed beneficiaries.

“Those given legal entitlements to various compensatory benefits have, for example, developed a sense of entitlement,” Sowell explains. Entitlement sows seeds of division among the givers and takers while blunting the recipients’ incentives to work. The productive are punished to serve the non-productive.

Promoting a vision of social injustices can also create a sense of helplessness among those labeled as “victims” of cosmic injustices. “Why study and discipline yourself in preparation for the adult world if the deck is completely stacked against you anyway?” Sowell asks rhetorically.

According to Sowell, aside from evaluating the costs involved, the key question in addressing the “unequal starting points” of different groups involves deciding between either political actions or voluntary individual cooperation.

With his typical precision, Sowell favors the latter.

“One of the crucial differences between political and non-political ways of dealing with undeserved misfortunes is that the non-political approaches do not acquire the fatal rigidities of law nor require either the vision or the reality of helplessness and dependency. Nor does it require the demonization of those who think otherwise or the polarization of society.”

A Misdiagnosis

Problems abound even with how SJWs diagnose current hot-button issues like income inequality and racism.

For example, Sowell contends most income statistics are crude aggregates. The implicit assumption that the mere existence of income disparities is evidence of racial discrimination is unsubstantiated. Simply examining the average age differences among different demographics can explain away a portion of the income inequality that SJWs proclaim exists due to discrimination. Adding factors like education level and personal career choices explains much of the rest.

The real issue, Sowell concludes, is not with income inequality itself, but with the processes put in motion in hopes of eliminating inequality.

“To allow any governmental authority to determine how much money individuals shall be permitted to receive from other individuals produces not only a distortion of the economic processes by undermining incentives for efficiency, it is more fundamentally a monumental concentration of political power which reduces everyone to the level of a client of politicians.”

Moreover, the culture of envy created by income inequality obsessions can harm the very groups SJWs purport to want to help. Attributing the “greater prosperity of others to ‘exploitation’ of people like themselves, to oppression, bias or unworthy motives such as greed, racisms and the like,” makes those people feel that self-improvement is “futile” and paints “the less fortunate into their own little corner, isolated from potential sources of greater prosperity.”

How Can You Be a Hero if No One Needs Saving?

Finally, Sowell holds no quarter regarding the motives of the self-anointed saviors of the downtrodden. As if anticipating by two decades the rampant “virtue signaling” consuming left-wing social media accounts, he writes,

“Like so much that is done in the quest for cosmic justice, it makes observers feel better about themselves—and provides no incentives for those observers to scrutinize the consequences of their actions on the ostensible beneficiaries.”

Social justice warriors too often value ego gratification over actual benefits. Sowell continues, pointing out that those invested in the social justice narrative create for themselves a “vested interest in the incapacity of other people,” while developing a “tendency to see people as helpless and not responsible for their own actions.”

All the better to gratify their own egos as self-styled “rescuers” of the purported helpless victims. Such attitudes, however, produce policies that fail to generate desirable results, while instilling a defeatist mindset among those being labeled victims, inducing them “to accept that image of themselves.”

“This is only one of the ways in which the vision of morally anointed visionaries’ ministers to the egos of the anointed, rather than the well-being of the ostensible beneficiaries of their efforts,” Sowell concludes.

The author finds that the corrective “solutions” for perceived social injustices involve costs that most often will outstrip any benefits, and invariably create real injustices at the hands of centralizing government power. Such insights explain why The Quest for Cosmic Justice is a valuable tool for understanding the social justice movement and how to confront its arguments.

Republished with Permission – Source: FEE.org – Social Justice = Big Gov