Of Fists and Noses

Those of you who think this is about to become a lecture on unusual sexual practices may leave.
Okay, now that the ten thousand or so are gone, the twenty of us left here can talk about the real point: private versus public.

When I was growing up in the seventies, under an increasingly leftist regime in Portugal (mitigated only by the fact that Portugal is so unorganized that any central planning is so only in name) I heard over and over, at school, at speeches and just about everywhere at all that your right to swing your fist ends where another’s nose starts.

As a statement it is irreproachable.  It’s also empty of meaning.  Like saying “we’re all naked under our clothes” or “people weren’t born with clothes, man” which were what the (older) hippie guys used to try to get me out of mine, they are indisputably true but to our purpose, nothing.

Or to put it another way – it depends on how many fists, how many noses and how they’re arranged.  Given enough will, it is possible to hem a potential fist swinger all around with noses so that he can’t breathe let alone swing his fist.

More importantly, when arguing hypothetical noses and fists, it’s all too easy to say “but you could hit a nose – if someone moved suddenly or a kid came running.”  Eventually it comes down to no fist swinging unless you have wrapped your fist in a feather pillow and after that, the appearance of swinging your fist can be perceived as a hatred of nose, and you must control your speech so you don’t even mention fists.

Yes, this is about chicken sandwiches, again.  Sort of.  What hit me, as I was watching it, was that the whole thing arose because we’ve got completely confused about what is public and what is private.  So a man’s private opinions which in no way affect how his business is run (they both serve and employ everyone regardless of sexuality) become part of public debate and discourse – and his private donations, from his profit, which is what he gets out of his work running his business are taken as evidence of corporate malfeasance.

All of which is nonsense, but it’s a type of nonsense we’re used to at this point.  The right of property supposedly secured to us by our constitution has become hemmed in with so many takings that are considered legitimate and for the common good, that sometimes it’s only by poetic license that we can say we own anything.

No?  Then explain to me why, when replacing a century-old railing on a century-old porch (a tree had felled it) I had to make sure the slats were no further apart than those in a crib?  Because a baby MIGHT crawl on the porch and get his head wedged between them.  Let alone that I didn’t have a baby at the time – we did sell the house, so that wasn’t so far an hypothetical – why would anyone in their right mind let a baby crawl unsupervised on a porch floor?  And ignore the baby long enough for it to wedge its head between slats?  You’ll say “it could happen” and undoubtedly it could, but look here, if a baby is being raised like that, you have WAY bigger problems than porch slats.  If in a hundred years, during which time the house was often an apartment house or a rooming house, used by various transients and what was once quaintly called “the under class” no baby had managed to wedge its head between the slats, what is the rational to have the city tell me what the distance between the slats must be.  No, it wasn’t that difficult to adjust, though it required a redesign so it didn’t look completely stupid, but it was a great piece of nonsense, and an unwarranted taking, which required me to submit plans to the authorities and delay and spend more before I was allowed to rebuild my railing.

This is a minor thing, you’ll say, and why am I so exercised?  Because we’re hemmed in with “little things” that all but paralyze life and the market place.  Say you find yourself unemployed and you decide, instead of taking unemployment, to open a business using your sainted grandmother’s cookie recipe, your very own kitchen oven, and your car.  You’ll make cookies, then take a license (well, it is a public space) to sell them near that park where all the school kids hang out in the summer.

Do I need to tell you all of this is a pipe dream?  You’ll need your kitchen inspected, certified, licensed and it’s so hard to pass the certification you might as well rent a commercial kitchen, for which you of course don’t have money.

“But Sarah,” you say.  “That’s different.  That’s food safety.  Upton Sinclair.”  Upton Sinclair was a socialist, writing apologetics for government control.  His book is filled with the type of “reality” that underlies all the blades put in apples given to kids on Halloween, and all the poisoned candy, too – it might have happened once, somewhere, but it was for reasons specific to that place, and it had bloody nothing, or less than that, to do with conditions most places.

Were food preparation areas less sanitary in the nineteenth century or even early twentieth than now?  Arguably EVERYTHING was less sanitary.  If you want to find what your great grandmother was up against, turn off the electricity and the running water, then try to clean the house.  (I’ve found myself in this situation several times, in the aftermath of a disaster.)  Add to that the lack or difficulty of refrigeration and you’re going to have food conditions that would make us go “ew.”  And probably the food of the time would sicken any of us.  BUT on the other hand, our ancestors had a level of resistence we don’t have.  (And less asthma and fewer other auto-immune diseases.  Our species didn’t evolve to be sparkling clean.)

HOWEVER food companies that wanted to stay in business COULDN’T logically make it a point to kill their customers with tainted food.  Yes, I do know what I’m talking about here.  I have no idea if there was the equivalent of an FDA in Portugal when I was growing up, but if there was it worked with the efficiency of other Portuguese institutions at the time.  And in the seventies, when the economy was in a state of semi-collapse (or slow-mo collapse) people could – and did – out of need for survival take the cookie route outline above.  In an economy where the price of bread was hard set by the government, and the bakers went on strike every other week, it was possible to knock at certain doors and buy fresh baked bread that the housewife had just baked and would give you for a consideration.  It’s how most of us got bread.  And while the price of meat went through the roof, everyone had a backyard chicken coop and a flock of goats, and for a little more, you could buy your meal ready prepared, again, by knocking at the back door and saying “so and so sent me.”  Unless you were already a customer.  In the same way, if you were handy with a sewing machine, you could sell not just clothes but handicrafts at the flea market.  Most of my jewelry at that time was made by unemployed recent college graduates, with no license, no supervision, no formal training.  The same sort of people would sell pastries in street corners.

Were there cases of food poisoning?  Of tainted jewelry?  Undoubtedly, though the only time I got food poisoning was from an established, licensed deli.  Most people – PARTICULARLY those working on a slim margin – were terribly careful not to do something that might give them a bad rep.  Because people talk.  Heck, if a pastry vendor where I normally shopped was coughing in the morning, I was likely to tell my friends “not today.  I think he has a cold and I don’t want it.”

In the same way, farmers who routinely watered the milk got known for it, and people didn’t buy from them.  And that was enough.  The general public had to pay a little more attention, and be aware of what they were doing.  On the other hand, frankly, don’t you have to do that now?  Do you really trust the government seal?  Do you think someone followed the piece of food from harvest to store?  You’ve never heard of tainted peanut butter, then?

Tell me, how many people have you heard of, recently, poisoned by the tamales sold out of the back of their car by some of our more enterprising citizen-aspirants?  You think they have licenses and their kitchens underwent inspections?  Guys, those people don’t even want the police near them in case it’s la migra.  (And by the way I have nothing against them.  They’re showing spirit and a desire to fend for themselves.  I say we put everyone with an illegal tamale and roasted chilli stand a fast path to citizenship.  We’ll call it the Dream-Tamale act.)  There was one station wagon near my older son’s highschool, there through summer and winter and they were always mobbed with customers.  The chances of this if their stuff was tainted is zero.

And this, ladies and gentlemen, is in food safety, the place where we “self evidently” need government supervision.  That is, we need to pay government to imagine all the circumstances in which an hypothetical nose might be in the path of an hypothetical fist.

Are there places where the public, legitimately has a right to stick its long nose?  Yes, of course there is.  I’m partial to “providing for the common defense.”  Also, it probably should intervene in private wars among citizens (that is, at least if the bodies aren’t properly buried and are left to pose a public health hazard.)  And it could be argued, though we’re on treacherous ground, that the community has an interest in protecting the defenseless: minor children and impaired people who lack other means of supervision and defense.  After all, taking care of the widows and orphans has often been judged beneficial by older cultures than ours.

However, that does not include the right to poke one’s nose into every home, to make sure children are being treated according to government regulations.  (No?  My kids had meetings at the schools where they were specifically asked how they got punished at home, among other things.  Fishing expeditions.  Fortunately my kids, being my kids, wouldn’t admit the sky was blue if it were a school official asking them.)  I’ll also note that even our over regulated society has spectacular cases of child abuse and neglect, often serial and often by STATE LICENSED CARE PROVIDERS.  Because once the government seal is on something people stop inspecting.

Look, it’s got so insane that I’m not allowed to drive my own car without wearing a seat belt.  It’s MY car, it’s my seatbelt, it’s my LIFE.  (For the record, yes, I do wear it – because I talked to an EMT once and he said they’d never cut a single dead man out of seatbelt.  BUT it should be my decision.)  I’m not allowed to buy the lightbulb I d*mn well please to put in my own light socket in my own house.  It’s been deemed that the Earth’s nose is burning up (or is it freezing this week?) and therefore I should not be allowed to spend whatever I deem I should spend on electricity.

I say it’s time to step back and take a deep breath.  Someone wants to build a house that’s not up to code?  LET THEM.  At most advise them, but they have the right to roll their own eyes at you.  (As we’ve all talked about even to-code houses have massive safety failures.  They’re human-built.  They’re imperfect.  Deal.  you pays your dollar, you takes your bet.)  NONE of the houses we grew up in passed current code, and most of them are still standing and our parents still live in them with no ill-effects.  Someone wants to sell food and someone else wants to buy it?  What exactly is the government’s interest in interfering in a lawful transaction.  Yes, the food might be tainted.  So might licensed food.  Sellers who willfully taint their food for short term profit don’t last.  Neither do customers who buy from fly by night here today gone tomorrow outfits.  You can’t save people from their own folly.  Not forever.

It’s time to admit that somewhere, somewhen, a swinging fist might meet a nose.  That’s fine.  It happens.  We live in an imperfect world.

Meanwhile let the owners of the fists and the noses look to their own safety and liberty and do what they want with their private property.  The main consequences of their actions should fall on them.  No third party with no skin in the game can judge as well as they can.

Let people decide what to do with what they have.  Get the government’s long nose out of my fist.

Let a million fists swing.

*crossposted at Classical Values*

93 thoughts on “Of Fists and Noses

  1. do you have any IDEA how many gooberment employees’s jobs you threaten? Each of whom get forty or fifty thousand a year, health benifits, retirement benifits. vacation and holidays?

      1. Oh heck no. I do not want to be in the same state as a bureaucratically produced tamale. Putting the husks on the inside will be just the first step.

                1. 😉 I just thought that you meant that there would be really bad results from the government style regulations and procedures. You know the kind of thing that produces a product with no reasonable resemblance to the original item.

          1. What makes you think they’d fail any less totally or with any less realization of what went wrong after being booted out of their old job?

    1. “The maximum amount of government that a Free People should tolerate is the minimum amount necessary to accomplish Government’s legitimate duties.” Thomas Jefferson (quote probably isn’t right, but the idea is there). That means we need to fire about 250,000 bureaucrats, most engaged in something other than government’s “legitimate duties”.

  2. Damn stright! We need far fewer regulations and far fewer regulators and enforcers too.

    You know that, despite their strenuous denials that they would ever dream of doing such a stupid thing, over (here) on the other side of the Atlantic the EU in its wisdom has decided that it should regulate the length and curvature of bananas (and IIRC other things like cucumbers). Not to mention decreeing the difference between marmalade and jam and about 5,000,001 other inane regulations.

    See http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/2453204/Bent-banana-and-curved-cucumber-rules-dropped-by-EU.html

    It is beyond me what the point of this is. If I ever become dictator not only will these rules be removed but anyone who I can determine enforced them, voted for them, drafted them, lobbied for them or had any other input in the process (apart from criticizing or ridicuking it) will be fired from their job and entered into a new reality TV show that may have a few similarities with ancient Roman circus entertainment.

    1. *waves hand* The banana rule originally came about as part of a trade dispute between “Europe” and some Latin American countries. The regulation favored certain types of fruit grown in Africa and other countries not involved in the dispute. So yeah, it is about a lot more than just aesthetics. Still petty and foolish and a typical back-door way for a bureaucrat to punish someone in the guise of “serving the public interest.”

      1. Some years back I read an article about the EU regulations covering tomato sauce, tomato catsup, crushed tomatos and about any variant thereof. Apparently you dump the prescribed amount into a prescribed sieve and only a certain percentage can remain in the sieve if you’re going to sell your product as “sauce.” Consumer protection? No, it had to do with taxes and subsidies and the usual gummint tomfoolery.

        Regulations have a way of growing like Topsy once allowed to fester. I think they breed — two regulations get together and need more regulations to balance between them and define their boundaries, and those littler regulations need …

        The thing is, nobody can regulate common sense.

    2. Bring back the stocks for regulators. And break politicians on the wheel–like the GOP congressman who introduced the incandescent light bulb ban. (He’s flooding Michigan with advertising against his tea-party opponent.)

      1. I recommend the “Iron Maiden” for him, Steve, followed by dumping into the Marianas Trench. Especially since more and more information keeps coming out that the entire “Glowbull Warming” schtick is a crock. Of course, I’ve got a LONG, detailed list of “others” that would be “worthy” of similar treatment.

  3. As I lived in one of the cities that passed one of the first building codes in the country I will kibbutz. Philadelphia, after a devastating fire, required fire walls between row houses. Why? Because if you want a shoddy house and don’t care if it was a virtual tinderbox, that is one thing. But when you are packed next to someone else’s house like cord wood — then it becomes something else.

    I believe in limited regulation, but acknowledge that it is hard to keep any regulation limited. Still, you do not dump your waste in the river for others to clean up down stream. Look up the Cuyahoga river fires, one of the causes for our now far over reaching EPA.

    Other problems arise when businesses became so large that there was a disconnect between the seller and the consumer. There really were companies that sold adulterated products. Unfortunately much legislation initiated to protect has turned into a means by which bigger businesses, who can afford to lobby legislators and hire people to manage the red tape, can see that smaller competition is strangled.

    Caveat emptor only goes so far as the buyer can be aware. This is true even with ‘legal’ protections. The Spouse and I live in a modern house, one of a block developed during the late 1980s. I doubt any will stand a hundred years without being entirely rebuilt in the process. One charming discovery: no roofing paper was used on the back of the houses, and we have all had to deal with water damage. The building inspectors did not notice this, the loan inspectors could not see it, and we, the buyer had no way, short of removing part of the roof to discover it before we bought. Sometimes there is no good solution.

    1. I’d say that there is a difference between municipal and county regulations, and state and federal. Fire codes and some forms of public safety (no selling milk from tuburcular cows) are well within local police powers and should be. Insurance requirements lean into this to an extent as well. States regulated air and water quality beginning in the 1940s, while the Clean Air Act and the creation of the EPA date to the 1960s and 1970s. But at the federal level . . . well, let’s just say that Pournelle’s Iron Law is well and truly in play.

      1. Generally agreed, although I think there is something for river systems. The Spouse’s younger brother went to Tulane and would not so jokingly refer to the Mississippi in that area as the colon of the country…

        1. Many rivers are, well, operated is one term, under interstate compacts – treaties between the states. It would not be that difficult to add water quality to those treaties, IF one begins with the understanding that background chemicals that normally occur in the watershed are excluded (ie. salt in the Red River in Texas, silt in the Colorado). John Wesley Powell argued in the 1890s that the west should be organized by watershed, and that theory of water management would make a lot of sense.

          Full disclosure: I’ve written two books on river development, including river-related laws.

          1. Full disclosure: I’ve written two books on river development, including river-related laws.

            Oh, that is interesting.

    2. I will form a collective farm and defend the Devil as well. While it is true that in rural communities “when seconds count, the police are only minutes away,” in cities it is also true that the enforced … compactness of life requires use of intermediaries. Neighbor in the apartment below you plays their heavy metal so loudly you can’t set your table for the glasses dancing? Talk to the Super, talk to the police, don’t talk to the neighbor whom you see several times a day in the laundry, in the elevator because you need to not invite retaliation.

      When people are crowded chock-a-block together minor confrontations can quickly escalate into ongoing feuding. Lax housekeeping, tolerable in the country, can become a terrible threat to neighbors in cities. Mice, rats and roaches spread too easily in condominia. It is one thing for you to pollute your lungs and stench your clothing and furniture by smoking, but it become another thing when my closet reeks of the ashtray. (N.B. – I don’t care whether you are smoking tobacco, reefer or fish, and will object also to your foully scented candles.)

      Once people get so close together you can only yawn in carefully defined areas at properly prescribed times, lest your fist inadvertantly bop another’s nose. Ban cities – I don’t know what the ideal population density is, but I can tell when it’s been exceeded. 😉

      1. We once had a male prostitute living upstairs from us. Twenty years ago, when we moved to town. I loved our apartment, and it is now in a gentrified area of downtown. Back then… it wasn’t. Anyway, I’m libertarian enough to think this young gentleman was free to make money off his most marketable commodity (never exchanged more than a dozen words, but he was decorative.) BUT when he was… ah… entertaining, he played music at deafening levels, presumably so that we wouldn’t catch on to what was going on. (He should have abstained from putting a red light in the window OR working the corner, but never mind that.) Mind you, the thump thump and other er… less savory noises were still audible, but may I say they were FAR LESS disturbing than heavy metal? We could have lived with the other noises. The heavy metal kept our then one year old up half the night (neighbor was hard working boy.) We talked to him (Dan did, and Dan tends to be subtle, I don’t think he got it. Dan wouldn’t let me just say “Look, thumping and moaning is ever so much less disturbing to the baby than blaring music.”) the landlord and finally the police. Nothing changed. Finally, one night when it was particularly uh… busy, at around four am Dan had had enough. He remembered the electrical board was out back next to our kitchen door. So he went back there, and he turned neighbor’s electricity off. When Dan got up to go to work at six, he turned it back on. Two more times Dan did that when the music started. After that, there was relative silence. (Or at least non-musical noises.)

        The thing is that this is not an isolated case — though it is the funniest. Living in urban neighborhoods where we’ve had everything from a rock band rehearsing behind us in the wee hours, to a neighbor who seemed incapable of understanding if she blocked our driveway we couldn’t come out, calling the police means absolutely nothing. In fact, in the last case the police informed the neighbor — a comely young woman — that my husband was a “grouch” for calling the police on her on Christmas eve — when he couldn’t rouse her by pounding on her door, and he NEEDED to go to work.

          1. I’m sorry – did I forget to point out the underlying fallacy in the assumption? Rules are only effective upon people who follow rules, a point illustrated by Brecht & Weill in Die Dreigroschenoper, by Groucho, Chico, Harpo & Gummo in various films and Joe Orton in (among others) Loot. (For that matter, T Pratchett addresses it in Feet of Clay‘s observations about the residents of Cockbill Street.) The police are an illusion, as is so much else in this world. The Order promised cannot be attained except at high cost, and the Order delivered is not always the Order promised

            1. T. Pratchett got it right of course. I guess I as used to more ordered societies near the military bases (when I was living overseas). US police? meh

    3. This is a tort and though many detest ambulance chasers, this is where the private sector has solutions in place to make you whole. Provided the inspectors are liable for failing to inspect, you can bring an action against them without any government action save for a court to enforce contracts and punish fraud.

      1. If they still exist. For our condos, the developer/builder went out of business shortly after we moved in (the development was not finished, even), which meant that the development itself had to take care of stuff. I think we did a good job (spouse was on the board, for lack of skipping backwards fast enough when volunteers to run were called for), and figured out some of what was going on and how to fix it (ice dams — had to be fixed by having someone come and pull down the snow on the roofs in the affected places). But suing the bankrupt developer? Might as well throw money down a hole in the ground.

        (And then there was our house, where they cut the hole for the sliding glass door too wide, and packed it up with packing materials and duct tape and stuck the door in with tape and glue. And failed to put in the anti-mold backing, which is how we found out, when we were having stuff pulled up to get anti-molded.)

        1. FWIW many housing developers seem to deliberately go out of business near the end of any development. I don’t think this is coincidental. I think this could be a case where limited liability corporations are a problem because you can be fairly sure that the managers and initial investors in these firms did fine and will be setting up new companies todevelop new stuff short;y after their current lot have failed.

          1. yep. People take laws and find ways to get around them. We are an ingenious ape. Which is why making more laws to cure laws that fail gets us int he current absurd state of affairs.

          2. Well, the one that went belly-up with the condos, with only a third of the development developed, was a victim to economics, I think — they weren’t done building units to sell! (Though I doubt not that the managers were fine, if not as fine as they’d hoped to be.) I’m not sure if the house’s developer has gone belly up — but it was still cheaper to just fix the problem than to try to figure out if we could smack them upside the head for it.

            1. eh. Like us not suing the doctor who almost killed me and Robert, because we were young, unemployed and didn’t have money or time or knowledge to pursue it. yeah, it’s a problem.

      2. North Carolina law does not allow the contractor to be sued once the project is signed off. (I sat on a jury regarding a building with problems…learned a lot about both buildings as well as NC and local building codes and laws.) The code inspectors, as they are government officials, are not easily subject to suit. The person who inspected our house for the loan is known to me, a man of integrity. There are just some things you don’t find until you open up a wall, or remove a roof, or the first truly bad storm blows through. In our case we were not the original owners and therefore had absolutely no recourse in the matter.

  4. The problem with the dictum “that your right to swing your fist ends where another’s nose starts” is that it overlooks the simple fact that some people have very long noses (probably comes from telling lies, like “it’s for the children” or “it’s only a minor inconvenience” or “all we ask is you pay your fair share”) and insist on sticking them where they don’t belong.

    Upton Sinclair was a sociopath. Do you know the difference between a socialist and a sociopath? One is a list, the other a path. Both take you to Hades.

  5. You know, I have as dirty a mind as anyone else, but when I saw the title “Of Fists and Noses” I thought of toddlers, and the things that go up noses, from fingers to yew berries (yes!).

    We’re all scraped by regulations on a daily basis. My most recent had to do with a small web app that I developed for one of the departments I support. It was small, it was useful, they were appreciative. The next thing I knew, its use had spread across multiple departments. Helping multiple people. Until the guy whose sole job was accessibility compliance wrote to tell me it was non compliant and I had to fix it.

    I want to see him making tamales for a living. And every piece of it has to be labeled clearly and descriptively in multiple languages. In easy-to-read type. And it should have an interpreter standing by to read all the labels for the vision-impaired.

    1. I thought of toddlers, and the things that go up noses, from fingers to yew berries (yes!).

      Shhhhh. They will start regulating finger and yew berries next.

      1. My brother, for reasons we still can’t figure out, long before I was born, put a good bit of my mom’s pearl necklace up his nose, pearl by pearl, prompting a visit to the emergency and — years later — making mom yell whenever I played with beads or beans or anything small. Never having understood what the attraction of object-in-nose was, I often wished I could back in time and give him a good thumping for his idiocy.

        1. I grew up with the story of my great-aunt who died tragically of running with a butcher knife. A tale I repeated to my kiddos. If you screw up badly enough, you become a cautionary tale for generations.

        2. Never Say No – The Fantasticks – YouTube

          Song lyrics to Never Say No:

          Dog’s got to bark, a mule’s got to bray.
          Soldiers must fight and preachers must pray.
          And children, I guess, must get their own way
          The minute that you say no.

          Why did the kids pour jam on the cat?
          Raspberry jam all over the cat?
          Why should the kids do something like that,
          When all that we said was no?

          My son was once afraid to swim.
          The water made him wince.
          Until I said he mustn’t swim:
          S’been swimmin’ ever since!
          S’been swimmin’ ever since!

          Dog’s got to bark, a mule’s got to bray.
          Soldiers must fight and preachers must pray.
          And children, I guess, must get their own way
          The minute that you say no.

          Why did the kids put beans in their ears?
          No one can hear with beans in their ears.
          After a while the reason appears.
          They did it cause we said no.

          Your daughter brings a young man in,
          Says ‘Do you like him, Pa?’
          Just say that he’s a fool and then:
          You’ve got a son-in-law!
          You’ve got a son-in-law!

          Sure as the June comes right after May!
          Sure as the night comes right after day!
          you can be sure the devil’s to pay
          The minute that you say no.

          Make sure you never say…


    2. A lot of regulations go unseen because they only strangle a tiny section– the stuff that’s ludicrous involved in raising a calf makes my head spin.

  6. Sarah, as usual you speak common sense. In our present society you might as well save your breath. We won’t get common sense and freedom of choice back without repeating the seventies…seventeen seventies. I’m not sure it is worth the death and destruction, not to mention, the people who wind up in power after

      1. Jefferson??!!!!!! Gawd NO! Read yore History (I recommend Chernow’s biographies of Hamilton & Washington, but McCullough’s Adams or any other good, honest history of the era) and it will show that Thomas was a back-biting under-handed scoundrel with loyalty only to ideals — and he usually betrayed those with equanimity. For all his high-minded phrases Jefferson was the epitome of the talk-one-way, act-another pol.

  7. The key part of your post, to my mind, is that reducing the regulation would require people to pay more attention, and most don’t want to. It’s too haaaaaaarrrrrddddd!

    On the lighter side, your post brings up an interesting time travel scenario I’ve heard of – if we were to travel back to medievel times to break up the Battle of Hastings or some such, we’d better bring our own food. The lack of sanitation that the people from that time’s iron guts could handle would probably not play nice with ours. So much for walking into a tavern and buying a mutton shank. 😀

    1. What about the argument we’re the descendants of those with the most successful digestive flora?

      1. While that may be true, the digestive system has to be toughened up to handle higher levels of foodborne pathogens. These would be passed on in mother’s milk in harder times, so an infant would have a chance to survive. In today’s overly clean environment, our guts don’t get enough practice to be good at protecting us.

          1. “The polio didn’t stand a chance — we were Tempered In Raw Shit!” [GC]

            If it weren’t for the fact I couldn’t wear it anywhere, I’d want to have a T-shirt with the phrase “Tempered In Raw Shit” on it…. 🙂

  8. Don’t go here [ http://www.telegraph.co.uk/comment/columnists/christopherbooker/ ] unaware that this article, one of a series, will make your head explode. Do not blame me if your weekend is spent cleaning brains off your ceiling, But Sunday Telegraph columnist Christopher Booker (… exposes the ever-growing power of the European Union in Brussels and the excesses of mad officialdom.) has been chronicling the absurd abuses of the British version of Child Protective Services extensively, in articles such titles as:
    A mother is charged with kidnapping after returning a runaway daughter to care
    A baby comes home – but a mother remains in jail
    A legal miracle – then business as usual
    The baby abducted from France is still being kept from its parents
    A baby is still held in Norfolk, despite judge’s orders
    Social workers told to return snatched baby to France
    ‘He’, ‘she’ – it’s all the same to the family ‘expert’
    In family courts, ‘experts’ are paid to get it horribly wrong
    Isn’t there a right to have your human rights case heard?

    1. CAUTION — The following may dangerously affect your blood pressure. It is presented solely because you wouldn’t believe it without reading it:

      A teetotaller branded as ‘alcoholic’ loses her child
      What emerges from behind the family courts’ veil of secrecy can be a travesty of the truth
      By Christopher Booker
      I never cease to be surprised by the contrast between what goes on behind that self-protective wall of secrecy that surrounds our dysfunctional “child protection” system and the way it gets reported to the outside world. Again and again, I have followed the course of desperately unhappy cases involving the wresting of children from their parents, only to see what a startlingly different picture of them is presented to the public.

      On July 25, for instance, a local newspaper reported that the Court of Appeal had confirmed a lower court ruling that a baby should be adopted because its mother had tried to commit suicide by throwing herself out of a window when drunk. “The woman,” said the paper, “insisted that she fell from the window in a drunken mishap.” The court was alleged to have heard that “social workers feared that the mother was a heavy drinker and drug user”, and had taken her baby into care “believing that she had tried to commit suicide”.

      Just where the local paper got this story from is a mystery, because it bore so little relation either to what was actually said in the Court of Appeal, or to the truth. I am reliably assured that the mother has nothing whatever to do with alcohol or drugs. Her fall from a first-floor window, which left her temporarily paralysed, was no more than a horrible accident, as was accepted by everyone at the time, including a psychiatrist and the hospital to which she was taken. But, still in her hospital bed, she was apparently handed a telephone, to be told by a social worker that her baby was being taken into care.

      After making a miraculous recovery, the mother discovered that the social workers were assembling an extraordinary case against her: that she was “an excessive chronic drinker” and “a cocaine addict” (both disproved by several tests), and that her fall from the window was a suicide bid. All this was repeated by the newspaper as fact. For two years she lived through a Kafkaesque nightmare and countless court hearings, where her supporters claim that none of the evidence against her was ever properly tested. During this time, she was grudgingly allowed enough “supervised contact” with her daughter to convince the supervisors that she and her daughter had a “very strong bond”.

      But the social workers stuck to their story; her lawyers, as so often in such situations, failed to make her case with any conviction; and a succession of judges accepted the social workers’ version. After the Appeal Court ruling that her baby must be adopted, she will soon be allowed a “one-hour goodbye session”, then will never see her daughter again.

      The judges included Lord Justice Thorpe, who once famously said: “There is nothing more serious than a removal hearing, because the parents are so prejudiced in proceedings thereafter. Once you have lost a child, it is very difficult to get a child back.”

      Since the appeal, friends in the town where the mother lives, who had no difficulty in identifying her from the newspaper report, have come up to her to express complete disbelief at the picture it painted of her. She may have lost her child, but at least some friendly libel lawyer might wish to discuss with her how her name came to be so recklessly and publicly blackened.

      Christopher Booker of The Sunday Telegraph exposes the ever-growing power of the European Union in Brussels and the excesses of mad officialdom.

      1. If the mother could personally sue each of the social workers. If they could be branded child abusers — none of this would happen.
        The problem of government is power without consequences — same as publishing.

  9. Perhaps the epitome of regulatory absurdity is represented by the requirement that performers in pornographic films wear condoms. Pornography, at its very essence, is transgressive (indeed, a problem for the art form has been that, as more and more becomes acceptable the effort required to truly transgress increases accordingly.) So now we have come face to face with the oxymoron of regulated transgression. Crazy Years, indeed!

    1. I think that once it stops being transgressive and is, indeed, considered to be a representation of normal behavior — especially for stu… er, impressionable young people… Yeah, attempting to normalize condom use is a pretty reasonable attempt. If it’s “normal” in pr0n, maybe it’ll be normal for the people who get their sex ed from there.

      And, yes, there apparently are people who look at pr0n for their Sexual Etiquette education, if not their entire sex ed data. I have read their posts. First one stares and wonders how anyone can ever think that Debby Does Aldebaran is educational. Then one tries not to cry, because there are more posts (or comments to those posts) that show a non-zero number of people obviously do think that. And finally one goes on a crusade so one doesn’t have to ever see those sorts of questions ever again.

      Besides, amateur pr0n can always take up the slack.

    2. Don’t other forms of art suffer from the same problem? I’d been wondering for a while, when I hear, “You have to push the boundaries!”: What happens when the boundaries are pushed back so far that they are effectively gone?

  10. Sarah, I am glad you mentioned seat belts, because I have a friend whose wife was recently ticketed for not wearing a seat belt. But she was wearing a seat belt. The cop said she was wearing a seat belt when he walked up to her before writing up the ticket. Because of a medical condition, wearing a seatbelt ACCORDING TO MANUFACTURER SPECIFICATIONS was painful. Thus she wore the seatbelt under her arm. The policeman thought her seatbelt wearing wasn’t good enough to suit him.

    My response to this story is, “What madmen gave the cops this power over us?” The same madmen who devised all the things you cited.

    This is how the freedom dies: with zoning ordinances and building codes.

    p.s. Upton Sinclair was an admitted fraud.

    1. A friend of mine stopped by my house about a month ago, he was livid because a few miles down the road he had been ticketed for the same thing. He is very short (5’3″-5’4″) and drives a Dodge diesel, the shoulder harness hits him across the neck, so he normally wears it under his arm.
      On a side note I often wonder about short women driving new cars, they all have airbags, and you aren’t supposed to sit in the front seat if you are under 5 feet (might be a inch or two either side of 5′ I don’t recall) there are a signifigant number of women under this hieght. Are they only supposed to drive cars old enough not to have seat belts, or are they simply supposed to not drive?

      1. Are they only supposed to drive cars old enough not to have seat belts, or are they simply supposed to not drive?

        Not drive. Nor go out except while escorted by a male relative. Nor wear clothing that reveals their hair/face/eyes/figure. Nor marry except as arranged by their families. What are you, some kind of radical extremist?

        The rules are for your protection. Obey them or suffer the punishment.

        Now wipe the coffee off your monitor and go to bed.

  11. I’ve thought for several years that “we the people” need to add several new amendments to the US Constitution. One should require a “sunset” provision to all laws and regulations after twenty years. If they’re to continue, they MUST be re-passed by a super-majority of the current legislation. Another should stipulate that any regulation imposed by ANY agency should either be cost-neutral, or the tangible benefits outweigh the cost of implementation and operation. Thirdly, that there should be a third legislative branch whose sole responsibility is to get rid of bad and outdated laws. The members of that branch (one per state) should be appointed by the governor of that state from the ranks of small business owners who have gone bankrupt because of excessive regulation.

    Thomas Jefferson, one of the wisest of the Founding Fathers, said a little revolution now and then was necessary to prevent the government from developing sclerosis. I have high hopes the Tea Party will provide that revolution in a peaceful manner. If that doesn’t happen, it’s going to be 1775 Lexington/Concord/Boston/Bunker’s Hill all over again, or we become a socialist dictatorship. Another Thomas Jefferson quote: Liberty is only possible when government is limited.

  12. I so agree that we need less government in our personal business! When you start trying to satisfy every lobbyist, all 152,000 minority groups, there is no focus! The helping hand becomes watered down in trying to satisfy all, which means there’s less and less to give and more and more toes to walk on. You cannot please everyone. Plus, my biggy, is that I’m quite capable of deciding for myself. But how many bureaucrats know me and what I go through each day. It’s basically, whose yelling the loudest that might not vote if they don’t get their way kind of government.

  13. BRAVA!!! Loved the entire post and I am standing beside you on all the points you made. I’ve lived in 11 countries, most of them were some from of socialism and one was Communist. Talk about no freedom, unless you were a criminal! The worse was the communist country, China, because they could stop us at any time for any reason (or none) and check our papers (yes we had to carry a special card saying we could be there), and if they policeman didn’t like it, he could have us arrested. Made doing anything stressful. I love the United States, I just loathe king zero in the White House and his minions who want to control me.

    1. *cough* This here being a non-partisan blog, it is understood that “king zero in the White House and his minions” refers to ALL such king zeros, Democrat or Republican, who think that a Free People wants governing, who cannot distinguish Citizens from Subjects.

      1. RES, I have no problems with being GOVERNED, but I certainly have a HUGE problem with being RULED. “Some people” think their job is to rule, not govern. Such people need to be sent (back) to Chicago, where “good government” is basically nonexistent.

          1. Trains carrying millions through the night
            Bullets to the back of the head
            In Katyn forest by order
            Starving peasants are just so many eggs
            In the great omelet of state planning
            That will clutch at paradise and bring it
            With the reach of Earth
            Now and forever
            Somehow in the end
            The planned tower
            Leaves on soil in its wake
            Redolent of corruption
            And the blood of men
            We said never again
            Did we mean it?

      1. So does gravity. It is just a statement of a generally observed principle. The sky is blue, water is wet, the Pope is Catholic, bears poop in the woods, WordPress sucks.

  14. Regulatory costs are an oft overlooked business burden. Here in NC this is “tax-free-back-to-school-shopping” weekend. Great for Walmart, Target, Office Depot, Staples, and the like. Not so good for the much bepraised Mom&Pop stores who don’t have accountants on salary to make the adjustments to the tax calculator sub-routine in the cash register. Government regulation is in general a significant burden on Mom & Pop, probably a bigger drag on their competitiveness than disparate buying power. And of course, Mom & Pop can’t afford lobbyists and lawyers to resist government regulation — no wonder the government growers love Mom & Pop! They’re a business model that does what its told (and pays income taxes at a higher rate, too!)

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