Tag Archives: Nanny State

Regulation of the Day Update: Ladies’ Night Bar Specials

As noted previously, ladies’ night bar specials are illegal in Minnesota. The state’s Department of Human Rights says they are unfair gender discrimination. But they’re still legal in New York.

That upsets attorney Roy Den Hollander. He thinks ladies’ nights are unconstitutional. So he sued several New York bars. The Second Circuit Court of Appeals wisely threw out his case. Even more wisely, they chose not to take him seriously:

The court, with evident amusement, said it must rule against Den Hollander even though “without action on our part, (he) paints a picture of a bleak future, where ‘none other than what’s left of the Wall Street moguls’ will be able to afford to attend nightclubs.”

It’s not often that New Yorkers show more common sense than Midwesterners. Minnesota’s solons should take heed.

Regulation of the Day 148: Cutting Grass in Cemeteries

In the world of regulation, no good deed goes unpunished. In the UK, an ex-soldier named Derek Evans decided to mow the lawn at the cemetery where his mother is buried. At first, he had intended to tidy up only her grave. But out of kindness, he ended up mowing the entire cemetery.

Regulators quickly put a stop to Mr. Evans’ good deeds. British blog Big Brother Watch reports:

The jobsworths at the Council have told him that as he was without public liability insurance he was banned from carrying on – despite the fact, as Mr Evans points out in stark terms, “the only people I was mowing near are six feet under.”

… There’s just no common sense to decisions like this: they’re so stupid you have to be an “expert” to reach them.

(Via Iain Murray)

Regulation of the Day 147: Breathing Fire

Jimmy’s Old Town Tavern in Herndon, Virginia, has an unusual attraction: fire-breathing bartenders. That tradition may be coming to an end, according to the Washington Examiner:

Fairfax County fire investigators charged Tegee Rogers, 33, of Herndon, and Justin Fedorchak, 39, of Manassas, with manufacturing an explosive device, setting a fire capable of spreading, and burning or destroying a meeting house. They also were charged with several state fire code misdemeanors.

Both men are looking at as much as 45 years in prison. Fire marshals gave them no warning before pressing criminal charges. They have been breathing fire at Jimmy’s for over a decade without previous incident. Both men were surprised; given that Jimmy’s openly advertises its fire-breathing tradition, fire marshals have had plenty of chances to tell them to stop.

Owner Jimmy Cirrito is sticking up for his employees. He told the Examiner:

“But I don’t think we’ve done anything wrong,” he said. “There’s a lot of fire in restaurants. I’ve been served flaming desserts, I’ve roasted marshmallows on tables, I’ve seen 75 candles and sparklers on cakes, and I’ve seen bartenders perform the tricks coast-to-coast and no one’s been arrested.”

(Via Tim Carney)

Regulation of the Day 144: Underage Senior Citizens

Bob Russ is 66 years old. Last weekend, he and his wife went to the Oregon Brewer’s Festival in Portland. Or rather, they tried to. He was denied entry. The reason? He was unable to prove that he was over 21 years old. At 66, Mr. Russ is Medicare-eligible.

In a letter to the Oregonian, he writes that “At two entry gates, staff told us the OLCC [Oregon Liquor Control Commission] requires a current photo ID for large alcoholic events, period.”

In addition to an apology, Mr. Russ asks for “the use of common sense by the OLCC and the city of Portland that will prevent entering into festival permit agreements that deny entry to unsuspecting “underage” senior citizens.”

The goal of photo ID laws is to prevent underage drinking. Keeping 66-year old men out of festivals for lack of valid photo ID does not prevent underage drinking. If anything, it wastes resources that could otherwise be spent stopping underage drinking.

This is one regulation where the OLCC should allow for some discretion. Doing so might prevent a lot of bad PR.

(Hat tip to Jacob Grier)

Friday Regulation Roundup

Postal Service pays incompetent employees over $20 per hour to not work. They can’t be fired because of union rules. So they come to the office and take naps, play cards, and fill out coloring books. And get paid for it.

-It is apparently against regulations to sell burgers and porn together without a permit.

NSF funds research to identify star soccer players.

Illinois high school administrator had $885,327 salary; retires with $601,978 annual taxpayer-funded pension. Total value of the pension? More than $26 million. Watch your back, Greece. America is right behind you.

-Ever want to have a web chat with the federal government about combustible dust? Here’s your chance.

Arizona spends $1,250,000 to save 250 squirrels. That’s $5,000 per squirrel.

Regulation of the Day 142: Ladies’ Night

Ladies’ night bar specials are illegal in Minnesota. They are unfair gender discrimination, according to the Minnesota Department of Human Rights.

Of course, few of the people actually affected by this blatant discrimination have a problem with it. Women save money on drinks. Men who buy women drinks save money. And by increasing the female-to-male ratio, ladies’ nights make men happy for other reasons.

If anything, enforcing the ladies’ night ban is a waste of state resources at a time when Minnesota is facing a severe budget crunch.

So why are regulators bothering? Blame lawyers. A separate case in New York has brought publicity to this divisive issue:

New York attorney Roy Den Hollander has for years made his living filing gender discrimination complaints for men, including himself.

Who cares? He does.

“[Men] have to pay more for the services [clubs] offer just because an accident of nature made them one sex or another?” he said. “That’s the basis of discrimination, and it shouldn’t be allowed.”

Or Mr. Hollander could simply choose to patronize bars that don’t do ladies’ nights. Other people seem to enjoy that particular form of gender discrimination. Let them.

Regulation of the Day 141: Mandatory Fire Sprinklers

Politicians love it when housing prices go up. They think it’s a sign of a vibrant and growing economy. That high-price fetish is partially to blame for the housing crisis of 2008.

Officials in Cumberland, Maryland have not learned their lesson. They are doing all they can to boost local housing prices. For example, the city council is currently mulling requiring all new homes to install fire sprinkler systems. For a 2,000 square foot home, that would add $3,000 to $9,000 to the price of the home.

Potential homebuyers are questioning the wisdom of the idea; high and rising prices reduce demand for housing. It’s basic economics. If this mandate passes, fewer Cumberlanders will be able to afford a new home. For a city complaining about its aging housing stock, this is not wise policy.

But this isn’t just an economic issue. It’s a personal freedom issue. As one man told the Cumberland Times-News,

Cumberland resident Don Bohrer suggested that more — and louder — smoke detectors, and not sprinklers, are a reasonable solution. Bohrer cautioned against “Big Brother” government infiltrating private homes any more than already is done.

“We’re losing more of our freedoms every time you pass one of these silly things,” Bohrer said.

He’s right. One mandate isn’t that big of a deal, though this one is rather expensive. But when you add them all up – federal regulations alone add up to 157,000 pages – you see that regulators have created a monster.

(Hat tip to Megan McLaughlin)

Regulation of the Day 138: Dwile Flonking

Britons sure do seem to have a lot of time on their hands. Take, for example, the colorfully-named pastime of dwile flonking. Players soak a rag in beer and put it on top of a pole. Then they use the pole to hurl the rag at other players.

A player who misses twice in a row is called a “flonker.” Flonkers are required to drink a beer before the opposing team can pass the errant rag all the way around him in a circle.

This year’s dwile flonking world championship was to be held in Norfolk. Then regulators got involved. As one can tell by the rules, dwile flonking is a drinking game. And drinking games are forbidden now. Legislation passed earlier this year banning them.

The American journalist H.L. Mencken defined Puritanism as “The haunting fear that someone, somewhere, may be happy.” He may as well have been talking about regulators.

And thanks to the new Puritanism, we may never know who the world’s top dwile flonkers are.

Regulation of the Day 126: Cheese-Rolling Races

One of Great Britain’s most light-hearted traditions is the cheese-rolling race. Every year on the May Bank Day holiday, wheels of cheese are rolled down Cooper’s Hill in Brockworth, Gloucester. Adventurous and/or foolhardy souls roll down the hill in hot pursuit; the one who gets a hold of the cheese before reaching the bottom of the hill wins. You can watch a video of last year’s race here. Winners get to keep the cheese as a prize.

Cheese-rolling races have been held at Cooper’s Hill since the 1800s. Until this year, that is. Health and safety regulators shut down this year’s event because it has become too popular. The Daily Mail reports:

More than 15,000 spectators turned out last year, which, at three times the site’s capacity, means it has ‘outgrown the location’.
Richard Jefferfies, one of the organi[z]ers, said: ‘‘We have had to cancel on the advice of the police and local authorities this year because of the issues of health and safety and other aspects.

‘As well as concerns about the safety of the crowd and the competitors, local landowners were also worried by the amount of damage done by people climbing over fences and that sort of thing.’

It is hoped the races will return next year.

Regulation of the Day 125: Salt

Having eliminated all crime from New York’s streets, ended homelessness, rebuilt Ground Zero, and fixed the state’s ailing public schools, New York’s state legislature has set its sights on how much salt you eat.

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg already has a plan to reduce NYC residents’ salt intake by 25 percent over five years. But State Assemblyman Felix Ortiz (D-Brooklyn) thinks that doesn’t go nearly far enough. It only covers New York City, for starters. The rest of the state’s salt intake would remain perilously unregulated under the Bloomberg plan.

That’s why Mr. Ortiz has introduced statewide legislation that would “make it illegal for restaurants to use salt in the preparation of food. Period.

A $1,000 fine would accompany each violation.

Tom Colicchio, who owns a restaurant and has appeared on the television show Top Chef, is livid. He told the New York Daily News that “New York City is considered the restaurant capital of the world. If they banned salt, nobody would come here anymore… Anybody who wants to taste food with no salt, go to a hospital and taste that.”

He’s right; the salt ban does offend culinary decency. But there’s another angle that’s at least as important: personal responsibility.
If I want to pile on the salt, as Mayor Bloomberg famously does, that’s my right. But I also need to be liable for the consequences. If chronic salt over-consumption gives me high blood pressure and heart trouble, that’s my fault. I should pay the cost.

But that’s not how the current health care system works. We suffer from the 12-cent problem: on average, people only pay 12 cents for every dollar of health care they consume. Roughly 50 cents are picked up by the government, and insurers cover the rest.
That means people have less incentive to watch what they eat than under a more honest system. Why not rack up huge health care bills? Everyone else is paying for me. Health care on sale! 88 percent off!

Freedom cannot exist without responsibility. Decades of government encroachments in health care have taken away a lot of our responsibility for health care decisions. So it makes some sense that Mr. Ortiz would finish the job by taking away peoples’ freedom to eat what they want.

A better solution would be to have both freedom and responsibility, instead of neither. Ban the salt ban. Give people more control over their health care dollars. Let us be free. Let us be responsible. We’re all adults here. Treat us as such, Mr. Ortiz.