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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.

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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.

Last Chance for America? Part II

The worst political blunder of all time, according to scientist Freeman Dyson, was the decision of the emperor of China in 1433 to cut off his country from the outside world. In the wake of that decision, China lost its position in the forefront of human achievements and fell behind, over the centuries, to become a Third World country.

Before the end of this month, the United States of America may break that record for the worst political blunder of all time. Professor Dyson attributed the Chinese emperor’s blunder to “powerful people pursuing partisan squabbles and neglecting the long-range interests of the empire.” That can be our path to disaster as well.

After the results of “Super Tuesday,” we find ourselves with front-runners in their respective parties who each could, as President of the United States, take the decline of America under the Obama administration, even further down, to a point of no return.

As Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton was in charge of the foreign policy that destroyed governments in Egypt and Libya that were no threat to America’s interests or allies, and plunged both countries into a turmoil from which only Egypt managed to rescue itself, while Libya has become another hotbed of terrorist activity.

Yet Secretary Clinton is running on her “experience” — even though it is an experience of unmitigated disasters for America, around the world. Her e-mail scandals and lies are important mainly as symptoms of her utter disregard of anything other than her own financial and political interests.

While Hillary Clinton seems, for all practical purposes, to be unstoppable in her quest for the Democrats’ nomination, Donald Trump is by no means inevitable on the Republican side. But he may become unstoppable after the next round of primaries, especially if he wins in winner-take-all states.

Most of Trump’s wins in various state primaries have been achieved without winning a majority of the votes. Yet these wins can create an impression of great victories, even when most Republican voters voted against Trump. The fracturing of the majority vote among numerous other candidates is the key.

What prevents the anti-Trump majority from coming together in support of one candidate who can defeat Trump? Only the kinds of narrow political squabbles that ruined China.

Senator Ted Cruz has the best track record against Trump, having beaten him in three states, even with the majority vote split among several candidates. But the Republican establishment would prefer Senator Marco Rubio, who has won only one state and is trailing in the polls in his home state of Florida.

Perhaps most important of all, there are signs that — if push comes to shove — the Republican establishment would prefer Trump himself to Ted Cruz.

Why? Because, despite Trump’s reckless rhetoric and shallow reasoning, he is a deal-maker who will not let principles stand in the way of anything that promotes the ego of Donald Trump.

Senator Cruz, on the other hand, has repeatedly defied the Republican leadership in the Senate. Whatever the merits or lack of merits of his actions in particular cases, he has clearly shown himself not to be one of those who go along to get along.

Former president Jimmy Carter has criticized Senator Cruz for not being “malleable.” No one was more “malleable” in the face of America’s enemies than Jimmy Carter, both when he was president and after he left office, and cozied up to Communist dictators in Cuba and North Korea. We don’t need that kind of malleability in a President of the United States.

Even if we accept the criticism of Senator Cruz’s political enemies and critics that he is “opportunistic,” that charge loses some of its sting if he becomes President of the United States. What greater opportunity is there for him at that point? Becoming a great president, which is certainly what this country needs.

Perhaps a political near-death experience thus far will sober up both Cruz and his opponents into a realization that their cooperation is the only thing that makes sense for the country.

But politicians do not always do things that make sense for the country, whether in 15th century China or 21st century America. But we will know the answer to that question by the end of this month. And generations yet unborn may have to live with the consequences of that answer.

Reposted from Townhall.com

Last Chance for America?

Thomas Sowell | Mar 01, 2016

The “Super Tuesday” primaries may be a turning point for America — and quite possibly a turn for the worse. After seven long years of domestic disasters and increasing international dangers, the next President of the United States will need extraordinary wisdom, maturity, depth of knowledge and personal character to rescue America.

Instead, if the polls are an indication, what we may get is someone with the opposite of all these things, a glib egomaniac with a checkered record in business and no track record at all in government — Donald Trump.

If so, the downward trajectory of America over the past seven years may well continue on into the future, to the point of no return.

Democrat Susan Estrich says that it is “fun” watching Donald Trump. She may be able to enjoy the spectacle because Trump is Hillary Clinton’s best chance of winning the general election in November. Even if the FBI’s investigation leads them to recommend an indictment, the Obama administration is not likely to indict Hillary.

No doubt “The Donald” is entertaining, and he has ridden a wave of Republican voter anger against the Republican establishment, which has repeatedly betrayed them, especially on illegal immigration.

But these political problems are a sideshow, in a world where Iran is guaranteed to get nuclear weapons and North Korea, which already has them, is developing long-range missiles that can reach American cities. Iran is also developing long-range missiles.

Then there are the international terrorist organizations from the Middle East — many sponsored by Iran — whose agents have had easy access to the United States across our open border with Mexico.

We will need the cooperation of nations around the world to keep us informed of these terrorist organizations’ activities, and to help disrupt the international money flows to terrorists.

Those nations know that helping the United States makes them targets of terrorism. So they have to weigh how much they can rely on America, before they risk their own national survival by cooperating with us against the terrorists.

Is Donald Trump someone who would inspire such confidence among leaders of other countries? Already Trump’s irresponsible rhetoric has caused a backlash in Mexico and there has also been an attempt in Britain to ban him from setting foot on British soil.

We need all the allies we can get, from countries around the world, including Muslim allies in the Middle East. The last thing we can afford, at this crucial juncture in history is a president who alienates allies we have to have in a war against international terrorists.

On the campaign trail, Donald Trump’s theatrical talents, including his bluster and bombast, may be enough to conceal his shallow understanding of very deep problems. But that will not cut it in the White House, where you cannot clown or con your way out of problems, and where the stakes are matters of life and death.

Trump’s acting like a bull in a china shop may appeal to some voters but, in the world as it is, he may well cost us our last chance to recover from the great dangers into which the Obama administration has gotten this nation.

We already have an ego-driven, know-it-all president who will not listen to military or intelligence agency experts. Do we need to tempt fate by having two in a row?

Despite Donald Trump’s string of primary vote victories, he has not yet gotten a majority of the Republican votes anywhere. But although most Republican votes are being cast against him, the scattering of that vote among so many other candidates leaves Trump with a good chance to get the nomination.

Everyone understands that the best chance for stopping Trump is for that fractured majority vote to consolidate behind one candidate opposed to him. But who will step aside for the good of the country?

When we think of American military heroes who have fallen on enemy hand grenades to save those around them, at the cost of their own lives, is it really too much to ask candidates — especially those who present themselves as patriots — to give up their one political chance in a zillion this year for the sake of the country?

Voters have a responsibility too. They might well ask themselves: Do I plan to use my vote to vent my emotions or to try to help save this country?

Reposted from Townhall.com