Category Archives: Nanny State

The Trouble with Bureaucracies Isn’t Recklessness

A brilliant observation from p. 359 of Frank Knight’s 1921 book Risk, Profit, and Uncertainty:

The real trouble with bureaucracies is not that they are rash, but the opposite. When not actually rotten with dishonesty and corruption they universally show a tendency to “play safe” and become hopelessly conservative. The great danger to be feared from a political control of economic life under ordinary conditions is not a reckless dissipation of the social resources so much as the arrest of progress and the vegetation of life.

The last century or so has proven Knight correct, on everything from the precautionary principle being applied to chemical and environmental regulations, to risk assessment of new products, to much of what OSHA and CPSC do, to government dietary guidelines, to the larger nanny state movement.


Good News for Young Lemonade Stand Entrepreneurs

Every summer there are news stories about local authorities shutting down children’s lemonade stands over lack of licenses, permits, a lack of restaurant-grade kitchen or cleaning facilities, a zoning violation…the list is long. I wrote about this outrage back in 2011 here, and Iain Murray and I wrote a Townhall column here. Regulators are still at it, though. But now, junior entrepreneurs have gained a powerful ally.

Country Time Lemonade has offered to help pay fines and permits for young lemonade stand entrepreneurs who incur regulators’ wrath. Its Legal-Ade program will pay up to $300 to help families fight back against absurd regulations. In fact, each time this tweet is retweeted, Country Time will donate a dollar to the Legal-Aide program, up to $500,000.

Is this is a cynical, profit-driven marketing ploy? Absolutely. But so what? It will do some real good, and that’s what counts. Results are what matter, not intentions. This is not a new idea. As Bernard Mandeville pointed out in “The Fable of the Bees” way back in 1732, selfish intentions can generate altruistic results. As with bees, so with lemons.

When regulators bust children for learning work and business skills while having fun outdoors, they teach children the wrong lesson. By helping to set matters right, Country Time is helping children learn that it’s okay to show initiative, and that it’s okay to stand up to authority when you’re right and they’re wrong. Even the most hardened anti-capitalist can get behind that.

Also deserving kudos: Domino’s Pizza, for filling in potholes on its delivery routes that lazy local governments let linger. Who will build the roads? Now we know.

CEI Podcast for July 10, 2014: The Wire Act and Online Gambling

online poker
Michelle Minton argues that the Wire Act applies only to interstate sports gambling, not online gambling as a whole. The Wire Act’s 50-year history is on her side. Click here to listen.

CEI Podcast for May 14, 2014: Federal Ban on Online Gambling?

Have a listen here.

CEI Fellow Michelle Minton discusses why a federal ban on online gambling would be counterproductive.

CEI Podcast for December 18, 2013: The FDA Goes after 23andMe

Have a listen here.

The Food and Drug Administration recently banned 23andMe, a genetic testing service, from marketing its product to consumers. CEI Executive Director and Senior Fellow Gregory Conko thinks the FDA should reverse the ban.

CEI Podcast for November 27, 2013: Toxic Turkey Day?

Have a listen here.

Senior Fellow Angela Logomasini debunks scare stories about chemicals in your family’s Thanksgiving dinner, ranging from BPA in canned foods to naturally occurring pesticides in potatoes. Anti-chemical activists forget the cardinal rule of toxicology: it is the dose that makes the poison. Relax, eat well, and enjoy spending time with your family this Thanksgiving.

CEI Podcast for November 7, 2013: A Prohibitive Excise Tax


Have a listen here.

A new CEI study finds that the most expensive ingredient in beer isn’t grain, hops, or equipment: it’s taxes. Study co-author and Fellow in Consumer Policy Studies Michelle Minton has more on the problem, and how and how two bills currently before Congress might solve it.