Tag Archives: alaska

Strangely Specific Regulations

People seem to want a government that solves problems. They have gotten exactly what they asked for. In the U.S., regulatory agencies employ over 270,000 problem-solvers. Worldwide, there are even more. When there are that many regulators, they will come up with some very creative problems to solve. The next someone tells you the economy is dangerously unregulated, refer them to this list:

  • In New Hampshire, it is illegal to have a ferret in your possession while on your way to a hunting trip.
  • Also in New Hampshire, ventriloquism is a licensed occupation.
  • In Juneau, Alaska, regulations prohibit animals from entering barbershops. Remember, humans are animals. And the city code doesn’t offer an explicit definition of “animal” that excludes humans. So technically, nobody is allowed inside a Juneau barbershop. Not even to water the plants, which are allowed. (Hat tip to Eli Dourado)
  • It is illegal to counterfeit cat and dog tags in Grand Forks, North Dakota.
  • If you’ve ever been in a duel, you may not work as a first responder in Kentucky.
  • Minnesota regulations prohibit washing teflon-coated cookware with abrasive sponges.
  • In New Orleans, it is illegal to inflate meat.
  • In Connecticut, it is illegal to use a white cane unless you can’t see it.
  • Delaware has a particularly postmodern regulatory code. In that state, it is a felony to wear a disguise while committing a felony.
  • In Indiana, it is a class B misdemeanor to dye birds and rabbits.
  • In Cambridge, Massachusetts, it is against city law to shake carpets in the street.
  • In La Plata, Maryland, taxis with three doors are illegal.
  • According to Chapter 9.32.040 of Moab, Utah’s city code, boobie traps are illegal.
  • All ice sold in El Paso, TX is required by law to be made inside city limits unless it’s made from distilled water.
  • It is against the law in Massachusetts for construction workers to wear stilts.
  • In Nevada, forgetting to close a gate is a misdemeanor.
  • In Fairfax County, Virginia, it is illegal to use a pogo stick on a city bus unless the driver specifically asks you to.

Modern America isn’t the only time or place where regulators pay astonishing attention to detail. Just for fun, here are a few strange rules from the other side the Atlantic:

  • 16th century England had antitrust regulations similar to our own. In an early example of preventing vertical integration, it was illegal to be both a tanner and a currier.
  • In England, it is illegal to turn off someone else’s lamp if both of you are on or near a city street.
  • In Turin, Italy, failing to walk your dog at least thrice daily is punishable with a €500 fine.

Tax Freedom Day

Today, April 9, is Tax Freedom Day. The good folks at the Tax Foundation calculated how much money local, state, and federal governments harvested last year from taxpayers ($3,469,000,000,000), and compared that to national income ($12,901,000,000,000). At 26.89 percent of national income, you basically work until April 9 just to pay off your taxes.

April 9 is the national average; different states have different tax burdens, so Tax Freedom Day actually varies from state to state. If you live in Alaska, you already celebrated Tax Freedom Day on March 26. But if you live in Connecticut, you have to keep the champagne on ice until April 27.

That isn’t the whole picture, though. The federal government spends far more than it taxes. $1,414,000,000,000 more, last year alone. The burden of federal deficit spending adds another 40 days. Not even counting state and local deficit spending, that puts us out to May 19 by my calculations (May 17 by the Tax Foundation’s).

Even that’s not all. The hidden tax of federal regulation cost businesses and consumers an additional $1,187,000,000,000 last year, according to Wayne Crews’ soon-to-be-released 2010 edition of Ten Thousand Commandments (previous editions are online here). None of that extra trillion-plus actually shows up in the federal budget. Regulation eats up an additional 9.2 percent of national income, or 8.3 percent of GDP. So you have to work an additional 34 days until you pay off the federal regulatory burden.

It’s tempting to brush off regulatory costs, since most of them are borne by businesses. But remember, businesses pass on their costs to consumers. You pay for the regulatory state. Its costs are real.

Adding together total taxes, plus federal deficit spending, plus federal regulations pushes us out to June 22 by calculations, or June 20 by the Tax Foundation’s.

And remember, that’s leaving out state and local deficit spending. Nor does it count state and local regulations. I don’t have the data handy for that. But if they add up to at least $460,000,000,000 then we’re past the half-way mark of the year. Just to pay for government.

Even using the larger number of GDP ($14,253,000,000,000 in 2009), and leaving state and local deficit spending and regulation, we’re still talking 42.9 percent of the economy going to pay for government. That’s 157 days out of the year. You’re not free until June 6 even by that generous measure.

I’d argue that government has grown too big, but the data have already done that for me.