July 15 2014
Regulators wore us down
Spiders and I go back a long way. I've found them in my car, my shoes, even a cup of coffee. I used to scream, jump and run. That is, until the spiders wore me down.
I was living in my cousin's unfinished basement while trying to get a job. In that damp, subterranean room, spiders were everywhere — hairy wolf spiders, tiny white biters, and multicolored arachnids that only live on the East Coast, or perhaps just in that basement. I grew accustomed to shaking them out of my blankets and cloths. After a while, I became indifferent to their presence. They wore me down.
Familiarity doesn't breed contempt; it creates apathy. Bit by bit, we grow accustomed to what we once feared and abhorred.
In much the same way, Americans have become desensitized to ever-increasing management our lives by government. Very little of what we eat, purchase, produce or sell escapes the hand of federal, state and local elected officials and unelected bureaucrats. The cost of this regulatory regime isn't primarily monetary, though that price tag is high ($1.86 trillion a year for federal regulations alone). The cost of overregulation is freedom itself. Self-determination in the Information Age should be at an all-time high since individuals can research and weigh the costs and benefits of decisions for themselves. Instead the freedom to act is diminishing.
Take food, for example. Information about organic, unpasteurized, and traditional food production is available at the click of a mouse. Yet it has become acceptable for government to limit our food choices. Raw almonds are no longer available because the U.S. Department of Agriculture now requires they be chemically or steam treated. Organic farmers balked but lost their challenge in court. The same agency forced Denver-based Il Mondo Vecchio, maker of artisan Old World-style salamis, to close down after the agency decided to reinterpret its own rules. There had never been a food-safety violation or complaint. These are just two examples. A new report, "The Attack on Food Freedom" by the Institute for Justice, gives dozens more. When did it become acceptable to tell adults what they can eat?
How about the freedom to entertain ourselves so long as no one gets hurt? Not if the regulators can help it. The Consumer Product Safety Commission sued Denver-based Zen Magnets even though there has not been one confirmed injury from the company's product. "Our right to choose is being pulled out from under us. Something as simple as the right to buy educational magnets is being taken away," owner Shihan Qu told me. Depositions will be held in a week. Qu's small business is not the only thing at stake.
And then there's the right to care for our health as we see fit. Shouldn't adults be able to determine what insurance policies meet their needs? Federal regulators say otherwise. The Colorado Division of Insurance just reported that another 2,320 Coloradans have seen their health insurance policies canceled because of Obamacare mandates, bringing the total to almost 340,000 Coloradans. Like the millions of Americans nationwide who have lost their health insurance under the law, these Coloradans will likely have to purchase more costly policies and may lose access to their preferred doctors.
Government should protect Americans from true threats to life, limb and property. Nobody wants industrial poison in our streams, cockroaches in our restaurants, or cars that blow up on impact. Yet government is increasingly shielding us from the horrors of raw almonds, shiny magnets, and our own chosen insurance policies, just to name a few. It won't end there. We grow accustomed to being told what to do. Unless we push back, it will be said, the regulators wore us down.
Reprinted from the Denver Post.