“The Puerto Rican government is proposing a new law that would label the parents of obese kids as ‘child abusers.’ …Senator Gilbert Rodriguez Valle introduced the bill that would establish a process of identifying obese children in school … If the social workers [sent to investigate] see no improvements after a year, the parents could be fined up to $800.” [The Guardian via Lenore Skenazy and Paul Best, from whom the quoted passage is excerpted]
We’ve covered many of the individual controversies before — including police crackdowns on the singing of sectarian songs, and the introduction of named government functionaries charged with looking after the interests of every single child (not just, e.g., orphans or those whose custody is contested). And some of the endless nanny statism: Prices of alcohol are too low! The public’s eating habits must improve! And all of Scotland is to be smokefree by 2034, with the legal fate of those who might wish to continue smoking not yet specified. Brendan O’Neill in Reason pulls the whole depressing thing together. Scotland also has not only thousands of CCTV surveillance cameras but also “camera vans,” which “drive through towns filming the allegedly suspect populace.” And did we forget the warnings from Police Scotland about unlawful speech on social media?
Lenore Skenazy of Free-Range Kids fame, often linked on this site, has a new TV series Thursday evenings on the Discovery Life channel.
Lists of lists, if not indeed lists of lists of lists:
- Lenore Skenazy picks worst school safety overreaction cases of the year [Reason] and worst nanny state cases [Huffington Post]
- Radley Balko, “Horrifying civil liberties predictions for 2015”, and you won’t need to read far to get the joke [Washington Post]
- Feds probe NY Speaker Sheldon Silver over pay from law firm — not his big personal injury firm, but an obscure firm that handles tax certiorari cases [New York Times; our earlier Silver coverage over the years]
- “Doonesbury” Sunday strip gets filed 5-6 weeks before pub date, so if its topicality compares unfavorably to that of Beetle Bailey and Garfield, now you know why [Washington Post and Slate, with Garry Trudeau’s embarrassing excuses for letting papers run a strip taking the Rolling Stone/U. Va. fraternity assault story as true, weeks after its collapse; Jesse Walker assessment of the strip twelve years ago]
- Jim Beck’s picks for worst pharmaceutical law cases of the year [Drug & Device Law]
- “The Ten Most Significant Class Action Cases of 2014” [Andrew Trask]
- Washington Post calls for steep cigarette tax hike in Maryland, makes no mention of smuggling/black market issue so visible in New York [my Cato post]
Register here for the 5 p.m. Cato event. Description:
Featuring Walter Olson, Senior Fellow, Center for Constitutional Studies, Cato Institute & Editor, Overlawyered.com (@walterolson); Stacia Cosner, Deputy Director, Students for Sensible Drug Policy (@TheStacia); Michelle Minton, Fellow in Consumer Policy Studies, Competitive Enterprise Institute (@michelleminton); moderated by Kat Murti, Digital Marketing Manager, Cato Institute (@KatMurti).
On December 5, 1933, the 21st Amendment to the Constitution was ratified, supposedly ending our nation’s failed experiment with prohibitionism. Yet, 81 years later, modern-day prohibitionists continue to deny the laws of supply and demand, attempting to control what individuals can choose to put into their own bodies.
Please join the Cato Institute for a celebration of the 81st anniversary of the repeal of alcohol prohibition. Panelists will discuss modern prohibitions—from the Drug War to blue laws; tobacco regulation to transfats—drawing connections with their earlier antecedent.
Alcoholic beverages and other commonly restricted refreshments (bring on the trans fats!) will be served following the discussion.
#CatoDigital (formerly #NewMediaLunch) is a regular event series at the Cato Institute highlighting the intersection of tech, social media, and the ideas of liberty.
If you can’t make it to the Cato Institute, watch this event live online at www.cato.org/live and follow @CatoEvents on Twitter to get future event updates, live streams, and videos from the Cato Institute.
Almost all government restrictions on our freedom are indirect. They are imposed on us by way of some business. In fact, laws that directly restrict the freedom of the individual are rare and almost always controversial….
But the vast majority of government encroachments on your freedom of action come about through laws that constrain an employer or a seller – without much controversy. …
After proceeding through examples from workplace safety regulation, liquor control, medical device regulation, occupational licensure, and other areas, Goodman adds:
Let’s take one more example from the health care field. The Obama administration is about to impose new regulations affecting home health care workers. They must receive minimum wages and overtime pay. But as far as I can tell, this rule applies only to workers who are employed by agencies and not to workers who are directly hired by an elderly or disabled patient. No matter how they are employed, the economic effects will be the same – a blow to the seniors and people with disabilities. In one case the effects would be visible; in the other they would be invisible. It’s hard to avoid the conclusion that if there were no agencies in home health care, there would be no new regulations.
The growth of the firm may be inevitable, desirable, or both for separate reasons, but it also makes regulation more feasible by generating an entity more suitable for bearing the regulatory harness. Incidentally, is blocking the Obama home health carer overtime regulations a high priority for the incoming Republican Congress, and if not, why not?
Eight of the twelve most affluent counties in the United States are in the Washington, D.C. area, and high among them stands Howard County, Maryland (Columbia/Ellicott City), where the celebrations tomorrow will be a bit constrained:
Some find it a damper on the festivities to bring Howard County’s Fourth of July fireworks into compliance with County Executive Ken Ulman’s December 2012 edict sharply restricting the sale of sweet beverages and high-calorie snack food at county-sponsored events. Under the regulations, which are “the first and only of their kind in the state,” at least “50 percent of packaged food offered at county events must contain 200 calories or less per portion”; prepared food, such as funnel cakes and soft-serve ice cream, is not covered. [Baltimore Sun via Quinton Report] The rules exempt the county’s “Wine in the Woods” event, held each May.
Whether or not the policy mirrors the preferences of voters in Howard County (and who knows, it might), it serves the function of affluence signaling in the conspicuously prosperous county. One reason families pay a premium to move to a county like Howard is the implicit promise that their kids will grow up with plenty of worldly, educated, skinny role models and that the government is not going to be run in line with the wishes of poorer or lower-status residents. Message sent!
[adapted from my Free State Notes blog]
- “Stupid Warning Shows Up on Leprechaun Hat” [Lowering the Bar, California Prop 65]
- Lawyers eager to sue over Malaysia Air disaster but first someone has to find the plane [ABA Journal, Bloomberg]
- Among the many accomplishments of distinguished economist (and total mensch) Murray Weidenbaum: introduction of White House regulatory review [Thom Lambert, David Henderson, Russ Roberts]
- Quicker but not ultimately cheaper than an appeal: “Losing Plaintiff Hits Defendant With a Truck” [Lowering the Bar]
- Feds’ Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee (DGAC) mulls idea “that the government involve itself in the lives of obese people by sending them regular text messages.” [Baylen Linnekin]
- Posner: judge below “should have smelled a rat” on lawyer’s “shenanigans” [Alison Frankel/Reuters, ABA Journal]
- “Connecticut chimp attack victim seeks right to sue state” [Reuters, earlier]
Lenore Skenazy’s incredibly funny talk last Thursday, with me commenting and moderating (and even at one point giving my impression of a 3-year-old losing a cookie), is now online. Several people have told me this was one of the most entertaining and illuminating Cato talks they’ve seen.
Lenore’s blog is Free-Range Kids and you can buy her book of the same name here. Some links on topics that came up in my remarks: Harvard researchers call for yanking obese kids out of their homes; authorities in Queensland, Australia, plan use of satellite data to spy out noncompliance with pool safety rules; courts reward helicopter parents in custody battles; charges dropped against mom who left toddler sleeping in car while she dropped coins in Salvation Army bucket; proposals to cut kids’ food into small bits and discontinue things like peanuts and marshmallows entirely; authorities snatch kids from homes after parents busted with small quantities of pot.
P.S. Direct video link here (h/t comments).
It’s best known as a marketing tactic in the technology business, but it works more widely too, notes Julie Gunlock in her new book From Cupcakes To Chemicals: How the Culture of Alarmism Makes Us Afraid of Everything and How To Fight Back (Independent Women’s Forum). From Angela Logomasini’s review:
In the world of politics, the tactic has also become a proven strategy for alarmists, such as the “food nannies, health, environmental, anti-chemical activists,” whose fear mongering leads politicians to the conclusion that “something must be done,” Mrs. Gunlock observes. Usually that something involves regulation that comes at the expense of consumer freedom.