Category Archives: Nanny State

Who Bears the Burden of Proof in Justifying Regulations?

John Stuart Mill gave his answer on p. 938 of the Liberty Fund edition of his Principles of Political Economy, in volume 3 of his collected works:

“[T]he onus of making out a case always lies on the defenders of legal prohibitions.”

The modern legal scholar Randy Barnett calls this the presumption of liberty. People are presumed to be free to act. If a third party wants to intervene, the burden is on them to prove why they should be allowed to.


The 2020 Election Actually Had Some Free-Market Victories

Neither presidential candidate has much interest in limited government. But over at National Review, I look at some neglected down-ballot victories from the 2020 election. A divided Congress will prevent one party from running everything, regardless of who wins the White House. There were also several state-level victories across the country. 

California voters partially undid the AB5 gig-worker law that made unemployment even worse during the pandemic. They also voted against an expansion of rent control, which is one reason California’s housing prices are so high.

Not that legislators will listen, but Illinois voters sent them a message to address the state’s pension crisis by cutting spending rather than raising taxes:

The Illinois legislature had already passed a separate tax hike bill, conditional on voters approving the amendment. Voters disapproved by a 55-45 margin, and taxes will remain as they are.

Voters in Oregon and several other states also continued to deescalate the drug war:

In order for people to respect the law, they have to be able to respect it. That was a major cultural cost of alcohol prohibition in the 1920s, and of the drug war today. Drug legalization allows law enforcement to focus on real crimes and ease an avoidable source of antagonism between police officers and the communities they serve—especially in minority areas where drug laws are disproportionately enforced.

Washington state voters registered disapproval of a plastic bag tax. This is a victory for my colleague Angela Logomasini, who has written about the issue here and here.

A lot went wrong in the 2020 election, as is true every year. But some things also went right. Now let’s build on those victories and create some new ones.

Read the whole thing here. Ideas for the next free-market victories are at

Rose George – Nine Pints: A Journey Through the Money, Medicine, and Mysteries of Blood

Rose George – Nine Pints: A Journey Through the Money, Medicine, and Mysteries of Blood

I was expecting a science-oriented book that would also touch on history and culture. Instead, George offers mostly ideology. Different chapters go through blood donations, leech treatment, the author’s work with HIV patients in South Africa, hemophilia, plasma, and other blood -related issues. The science, history, and culture of all these has the potential to be fascinating; perhaps I’ll find a book someday that does them justice.

In some cases, George’s strident ideology is for the good. HIV/AIDS patients do not deserve the social stigma they receive. The global hush-hush attitude towards menstruation, and the awful treatment of menstruating women in the world’s more illiberal regions, are blatantly unjust. George’s attempt to shed some light on the matters and move social norms in the right direction is needed and welcome.

But her hostility to paid blood donations is literally killing people. This is an inhumane stance she should immediately take back. She should at the very least listen to Georgetown University ethical philosopher Peter Jaworski‘s arguments. George’s virtue signaling contributes to easily-solved blood shortages that deny patients life-saving care for no good reason.

There is some good content in Nine Pints, just not enough. And George deserves praise for her advocacy on behalf of HIV/AIDS patients and women’s rights. But her amount and intensity of ideological posturing off-putting, and her anti-paid donation stance hurts sick and injured people around the world.

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.