In Louisiana, children operating a lemonade stand are cited by authorities for running a business without a license and not paying proper taxes. An 11-year-old Virginia girl rescues a baby woodpecker from a cat, only to learn that she has violated the federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act, and is threatened with a $535 fine and six months in jail. But don’t mess with Colorado, where in 1997, racing great Bobby Unser was convicted of a federal misdemeanor and fined $75 after he and a friend had the audacity to get lost in a blinding snowstorm near Unser’s New Mexico ranch. His crime: “unlawful operation of a snowmobile within a National Forest Wilderness Area,” a crime for which he could have been fined $5,000 and imprisoned for six months.
These are clear examples of government overreach at both the state and federal level that threaten individual freedom on an increasing basis. And although there was no criminal intent, the long arm of government threatened to turn the lives of those involved upside down. In the cases involving children, only their ages and intense media scrutiny ultimately saved them from criminal prosecution.
State/federal laws and regulatory hurdles have become literally absurd. Under New Mexico law, students face six months in jail and/or a $500 fine for “willfully interfering with the educational process,” and in 2011 a 13-year-old student was nearly charged after repeatedly burping in class. Or take Tennessee, where anyone desiring to shampoo hair in a salon must be licensed and complete 300 hours of education at a cost of $3,100. Want to be a cosmetologist in the same state? Make sure to get your license; then complete 1500 hours of class-time at a cost of nearly $15,000!
These scenarios might just be enough to bring Rod Serling back from the grave. Yet why would government criminalize harmless activity on the part of its citizens or impede them from making an honest living? Although noble-minded politicians get elected, they often forget their constituents through merely becoming part of the system. Others are progressive-minded and arrogantly believe that only they know what’s best for the masses. Then, there are the Hillary Clintons of the world; obsessed with power and all of its trappings, who make financial enrichment paramount in all they do. In the end, these individuals diminish freedom through their actions, supporting laws and regulations that are written vaguely and interpreted as such by those who enforce them. Over time, such a system has failed us, destroying not just lives and economic opportunity, but our very faith in government. President-elect Trump can be a great leader indeed; if only he places the pursuit of freedom at the forefront of his style of governance.
In 2015, the federal government employed over 277,000 regulators; 50,000 more employees than the number employed in total by General Motors. During the same year, the Obama administration imposed 2,353 new regulations at a cost of over $22 million a year. According to the Heritage Foundation, “That’s a dollar for every star in the galaxy, or one for every second in 32 years.” Then stop and consider that since Obama took office, he has enacted approximately 20,642 regulations at a total cost of over $100 million annually. And yet he still has time to add to the heap.
The Heritage Foundation reports that nearly 2,000 additional regulations are under Obama’s consideration, including 144 alone that threaten to add $100 million in annual costs for the taxpayer. What will they cover? Energy-efficiency, food-labeling, fuel standards, borrowing, health care, the internet; the list goes on and on.
What is the answer? Sensible lawmakers, and a president, who are dedicated to the values of our founders as epitomized in the Constitution. Every proposed law and regulation being systematically analyzed before being considered for passage, and slowing the wheels of legislative action to enhance freedom. Eliminating the passage of a bill to “find out what’s in it.” Utilizing regulatory review to include a firm expiration process. No regulation should last forever; especially as real-life factors change.
Enacting laws and regulations that seemingly protect people or things from everything comes at a cost. The constant flood of endless government edicts and laws is both redundant and ridiculous, solely benefitting those who write and enforce them. In the words of Thomas Jefferson, “The natural progress of things is for liberty to yield and government to gain ground. A wise and frugal government, which shall restrain men from injuring one another, shall leave them otherwise free to regulate their own pursuits.” And the results of the 2016 election make these words as true now as they ever have been.
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Mark Figley is a political activist and guest columnist from Elida. Reach him a firstname.lastname@example.org