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Overgovernment Archive



November 2013



Overgovernment: Total Recall Edition

Written by , Posted in Big Government, The Nanny State & A Regulated Society

General Government Motors is recalling 18,941 Chevy Camaros for violating Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard No. 208, reports Heritage’s The Foundry. Surely the issue with the cars must be one of life and death, and for which we should profusely thank our government overloads for saving us from. Right?

Does anyone believe that? Surely not anyone who has followed the Overgovernment series. No, the horrible violation for which GM had to recall almost 20,000 cars at significant expense was for airbag warning labels that might peel.

This is no small matter, evidently. If the air bag warning label detaches from the visor, the driver and front seat passenger may not be warned of the risks of air bag deployment. Or so goes the reasoning for the adhesion edict. But even when warned via visor label, a driver and front seat passenger have little choice about air bag deployment, since the potentially dangerous equipment is required by the NHTSA itself.

In other words, General Motors is required under NHTSA rules to initiate a recall of 18,941 vehicles because of a danger created by other NHTSA rules. Perhaps it is regulators who should come with a warning label.

The nanny state, ladies and gentlemen.



October 2013



Overgovernment: When Nannies Collide

Written by , Posted in Big Government, Culture & Society, The Nanny State & A Regulated Society

This episode of Overgovernment brings us Nanny on Nanny action. When anti-Obesity nannies meet “for the children!” nannies in a fight to the death, who shall leave their field of battle victorious? Let’s find out:

…Different agencies often act at cross-purposes with each other.

For a relatively minor but remarkably revealing example of the latter, look at the story of the U.S. Postal Service destroying an entire run of stamps  “after receiving concerns from the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports & Nutrition over alleged “unsafe” acts depicted on three of the stamps.”

What were these unsafe activities?  Binge drinking?  Smoking?  Juggling machetes while skydiving?  Attempting to purchase an attractive health insurance plan without the firm guidance of government “navigators?”

No, the stamps were printed to honor First Lady Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move!” vanity project for youthful physical fitness… The three Stamps of Doom depicted “a cannonball dive, skateboarding without kneepads and a headstand without a helmet,” according to the Postal Blog.

Did you know your child was required to don a helmet before performing a headstand?  Well, now you do.  And if you’re going to let them climb on a skateboard without kneepads, you might as well order up a kid-sized coffin and start making funeral arrangements.

The USPS apparently also looked darkly upon stamps showing “a batter without a batting helmet, a girl balancing on a slippery rock, and a soccer player without kneepads or shin pads,” but they weren’t horrifying enough to trigger the kill order.

In this epic battles of the nannies, the nannies won. America, as usual, lost.



July 2013



Overgovernment: Weed Wackos Edition

Written by , Posted in Big Government, The Nanny State & A Regulated Society

Chicago is hung up on weeds. First, there’s this story of a man fined for picking dandelions to eat:

Most agree, dandelions are a notorious weed. But some recognize that dandelion greens can contribute to a tasty and nutritious meal.

Among the fans of the food is John Taris, a 75-year-old retiree who lives in the Chicago area with his wife on a $1,500-a-month social security payment. When the couple’s food supply was a bit low recently, he volunteered to go pick some to provide a vegetable, writes columnist John Kass in the Chicago Tribune (sub. req.).

But, caught in the act of picking the weeds by a Cook County Forest Preserve cop, he was issued a $75 ticket. His court date is July 9.

A spokeswoman for the forest preserve district noted that foraging is prohibited there and called the practice “unsustainable, especially when it’s done for commercial purposes,” the article reports.

I’m not sure what “commercial purposes” the government may have manufactured here. I imagine it’s being used in a similar fashion as “intent to distribute” is when a suspect is caught with a small amount of drugs – in other words, without any regard to the actual facts. It’s all fine to protect public lands from succumbing to the tragedy of the commons, but it’s freaking dandelions.

The second story also comes from Chicago. This time it’s a retired teacher fined $600 dollars for growing weeds.

A retired Chicago teacher had wanted to appeal the $600 fine she got last year for growing “weeds” in her prize-winning Chicago garden. (The prize, which was presented personally by former Mayor Richard Daley, includes a photo of Kathy Cummings’ yard.)

But it wasn’t until Cummings chatted with a neighbor that she was able to find an attorney to represent her in the case.

…Her complaint, which was filed last month, contends that the ordinance is unconstitutionally vague on its face and has been arbitrarily applied in violation of equal protection and due process in order to increase city revenue. The ordinance bans vegetation taller than 10 inches that isn’t maintained, but doesn’t define what is, and isn’t, a weed.

Is it just me, or does Chicago have some weird fascination with weeds? Whatever the case, there is clearly overgovernment at work.



January 2013



Overgovernment: Terrorist Tots Edition

Written by , Posted in Big Government

The fine folks in Pennsylvania’s Mount Carmel Area School District are at the front lines in the fight against terrorism, uncovering a budding young terrorists in our midst:

Talking with a friend about a pink toy bubble gun got a five-year-old kindergarten girl in the Mount Carmel Area School District labeled as a terrorist threat, according to an attorney.

The incident occurred Jan. 10 while the girl was waiting in line for a school bus, said Robin Ficker, the Maryland lawyer retained by the girl’s family. He would not identify the girl or her parents, but gave this version of events:

Talking with a friend, the girl said something to the effect “I’m going to shoot you and I will shoot myself” in reference to the device that shoots out bubbles. The girl did not have the bubble gun with her and has never shot a real gun in her life, Ficker said.

Elementary school officials learned of the conversation and questioned the girls the next day, Fickler said. He said the girl did not have a parent present during the 30 minutes of questioning.

The result, he said, was that the student was labeled a “terrorist threat” and suspended for 10 days, Ficker said. The school also required her to be evaluated by a psychologist, Ficker said.

The sentence was later reduced to two-days suspension, and the terrorist label dropped in exchange for “threat to harm another student.”

But even if the bleeding hearts are now going easy on this dangerous five-year-old kindergarten student, it’s good to know our government is ever vigilant against the threat of terrorism. For the children.



December 2012



Overgovernment: Limiting Libations Edition

Written by , Posted in Big Government, Free Markets, Government Meddling, The Nanny State & A Regulated Society

The US government poses a serious obstacle to the import and consumption of foreign liquors. Like a product made overseas? Too bad! As for as the government is concerned, you have no more right to purchase the liquor of your choice than you do to manage your own health care.

First off – the United States drinks its whiskey from 750ml bottles. The entire rest of the world (except for South Africa, I believe) does not. 700ml or 70cl is the global standard. The United States does not want its citizens to be confused between two different measurements, so they do not allow for 700ml bottles of booze to be sold domestically. That means that any liquor company that wants to sell its booze in the U.S. needs to put it in an entirely different bottle with a new label as well. All of their other booze can be shipped with ease to every other nation (except South Africa, I believe) around the world. Then a separate, special, time-consuming batch has to be made just for the Americans. That sounds annoying and it probably is annoying to many small companies in the whisky trade, so they say forget the Americans. It’s too much extra trouble.

The reason? You’re too bloody stupid, that’s why (Hat-tip: Overlawyered)!

Kevin Erskine of The Scotch Blog inquired with the Tax and Trade Bureau as to why the US has this regulation. In short, it’s because the agency transitioned in the late 1970s to metric measurements and 750 ml was very close in volume to the then standard “fifth” (referring to a fifth of a gallon). Allowing 750 ml and 700 ml bottles was deemed too confusing for consumers, and so we’re stuck with an aberrant standard and less access to rare spirits.

Big government, limiting your freedom one condescending rule at a time.



November 2012



Overgovernment: Meatless Mondays Edition

Written by , Posted in Big Government, The Nanny State & A Regulated Society

The LA City Council has declared the observance of “Meatless Mondays“:

The Los Angeles City Council is urging all residents to observe “meatless Mondays” from now on.

A resolution adopted on Oct. 24 reads: “Be it resolved, that the Council of the City of Los Angeles hereby declares all Mondays as ‘Meatless Mondays’ in support of comprehensive sustainability efforts as well as to further encourage residents to eat a more varied plant-based diet to protect their health and protect animals.”

Councilwoman Jan Perry, who introduced the resolution, also wants to ban new fast-food restaurants in South Los Angeles.

While I suppose that freedom lovers can take solace in the “symbolic” nature of the dictate, you just know it would be backed by the force of government if they thought they could get away with it. Even such a “symbolic” gesture can only come from the mind of person who loves the power of controlling the lives of their fellow citizens and, as we see, the resolution’s author indeed has designs on more than just symbolic demonstrations of nannyism, but also wants to ban new fast-food restaurants.

But perhaps there is a precedent here of which we can one day take advantage. In the distant (or not so distant) future when Jan Perry and all the other petty tyrants have encumbered our existence with so many rules and dictates, we might wish to symbolically declare a “Freedom Friday” in support of maintaining the illusion that choice and free will still exist in American society.



October 2012



Overgovernment: No Free Learnin’ Edition

Written by , Posted in Education

Technology has made information more accessible than ever. It is also providing potential answers to the problem of exploding tuition costs and student loan debt. Which is to say, alternative education models are in the nascent stages. An example is Coursera, which offers free online courses from top universities. Who could object to that? Government, of course (Hat-tip: Reason):

Coursera offers free, online courses to people around the world, but if you live in Minnesota, company officials are urging you to log off or head for the border.

The state’s Office of Higher Education has informed the popular provider of massive open online courses, or MOOC’s, that Coursera is unwelcome in the state because it never got permission to operate there.

The Minnesota Office of Higher Education offered this clarification/explanation:

George Roedler, manager of institutional registration and licensing at the Minnesota Office of Higher education, clarifies that his office’s issue isn’t with Coursera per se, but with the universities that offer classes through its website. State law prohibits degree-granting institutions from offering instruction in Minnesota without obtaining permission from the office and paying a registration fee. (The fee can range from a few hundred dollars to several thousand, plus a $1,200 annual renewal.) That means that it’s Stanford, Columbia, Michigan, the University of Melbourne, et al. that are violating Minnesota law by partnering with Coursera to offer courses that Minnesota residents can take for free.

“It’s not like we’re sending the police out if somebody signs up online,” Roedler adds. “It’s just that the school is operating contrary to state law.”

The law’s intent is to protect Minnesota students from wasting their money on degrees from substandard institutions, Roedler says. As such, he suspects that Coursera’s partner institutions would have little trouble obtaining the registration. He says he had hoped to work with Coursera to achieve that, and was surprised when they responded with the terms-of-service change notifying Minnesota residents of the law.

Setting aside that free courses still don’t fall within the scope of this argument, Minnesota apparently regards its citizens as morons. The plebes are simply too stupid to evaluate the quality of institutions without guidance from their government betters.

But what makes anyone think government knows how to evaluate institutions for quality better than potential customers? As is so often the case with licensing and registration schemes, the government is serving the role of protector of  established business interests at the expense of industry newcomers. The side effect of this approach is the suppression of innovation.



October 2012



Overgovernment: Regulatory Racket Edition

Written by , Posted in Big Government, The Nanny State & A Regulated Society

New York continues to lead the way down the path toward tyranny, with petty bureaucrats running up to any business they can find and saying “That’s a fine small business you have there, shame if something were to ‘appen to it:”

The city continues to blitz merchants with ridiculous fines — raking in cash for scuffed cutting boards, too-short napkins and failure to recognize the medicinal properties of ChapStick.

“It’s not about protecting the consumer or the food. This is a money racket for the city,” said Declan Morrison, owner of Blackwater Inn in Forest Hills, Queens.

A Health Department inspector recently spent several hours looking for ticket-worthy violations, before spotting five thermometers in the pub’s refrigerator.

“The inspector said, ‘This is way too many thermometers,’ and docked me points,” said Morrison, who also owns the nearby Tap House.

But on paper, the offense read, “Accurate thermometer not provided,” a fine of $300. The charge was later dropped, but Morrison said he has forked over about $20,000 in fines in the past year.

…Leslie Barnes, owner of London Lennie’s in Queens, said he was fined $300 for having too many marks on his cutting boards. Now he spends $2,000 on backup boards each year.

Consumer Affairs Department inspectors charged a Ditmas Park barber $650 this year for using an antique register that didn’t print receipts and for posting different prices for men’s and women’s haircuts.

Can we end now the fiction that large regulatory states exist to protect the people? They do not. They exist to enrich the coffers and enhance the power of government officials.

This sort of behavior is nothing more than legalized gangsterism – pay your masters or something bad will happen to you. It has no place in a free society.



August 2012



Overgovernment: Birthday Blues Edition

Written by , Posted in Big Government, The Nanny State & A Regulated Society

It’s your birthday! But don’t hold the party just yet, citizen, step into my office and fill out some paperwork first

When Martha Boneta hosted a birthday party for a friend’s 10-year-old daughter on her Virginia farm, she didn’t expect to have the county come knocking on her door.

But come knocking it did — threatening her with nearly $5,000 in fines.

Fauquier County officials say Boneta, owner of the 70-acre Liberty Farms in Paris, Va., didn’t have the proper permit to host the party, nor to sell produce on her own land. Zoning Administrator Kimberley Johnson sent her a cease-and-desist letter in April after the party, warning her with the financial consequences if she didn’t stop her activities within 30 days.

I’m beginning to understand how Michelle Obama must have felt all those years. An America that requires permits for birthday parties is not one I’m proud of.

But perhaps even worse in its overall impact than that utterly asinine requirement is the continued and widespread disregard for basic economic liberties, a particular problem when it comes to zoning laws.

Our economic rights are essential. The right to earn a living, to engage in commerce and trade, these are things which we are required to have if we are to be able to pursue happiness. If we can’t even walk up to our neighbors and buy a bit of food grown on their own land, I don’t even know what we’re doing in this country anymore. Whatever it is, it sure as hell isn’t “secur[ing] the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity.”

For more on the story above, enjoy (or become enraged because of) this video from Economic Freedom:



August 2012



Overgovernment: “You Didn’t Get There On Your Own” Edition

Written by , Posted in Big Government, Government Meddling

Commenting on a story of a type common in my Overgovernment series, Dr. Mark Perry offered this brilliant repackaging of President Obama’s now infamous collectivist screed:

Look, if you’ve been unsuccessful, you didn’t get there on your own. If you were unsuccessful at opening or operating a small business, some government official along the line probably contributed to your failure.  There was an overzealous civil servant somewhere who might have stood in your way with unreasonable regulations that are part of our American system of anti-business red tape that allowed you to not thrive.  Taxpayers invested in roads and bridges, but you might have faced city council members who wouldn’t allow you to use them.  If you’ve been forced to close a business – it’s often the case that you didn’t do that on your own.  Somebody else made that business closing happen or prevented it from opening in the first place. You can thank the bureaucratic tyrants of the nanny state.

This is one of those times when all I can think is “wow, why didn’t I think to write that?”