Tag Archives: uk

Regulation of the Day 183: Throwing Wet Sponges

Apparently British regulators don’t think their subjects are sponge-worthy. A long-running annual carnival event in Ulverston where participants throw wet sponges at each other was shut down last week by health and safety regulators.

They feared that the sponges would pick up dirt and grit from hitting the ground. Subsequent throws could then injure participants. Somebody could lose an eye.

The waterfight did happen as scheduled, fortunately. Instead of sponges, the combatants used Super Soaker squirt guns, which apparently comply with British health and safety regulations.


Regulation of the Day 169: Singing “Kung-Fu Fighting”

A British man was arrested for singing the 1970s hit “Kung-Fu Fighting”. Simon Ledger and his band were performing the song at a bar on the Isle of Wight. An asian audience member found the song offensive. Rather than tell the band, or take his business to a different establishment, he went to the police, claiming racial abuse. Racism is a punishable crime in Britain.

Police found the singer and arrested him later that night, appropriately enough, at a Chinese restaurant.

Do You Want the IRS Doing Your Taxes?

The average American spends over 26 hours per year doing taxes. That’s too much. The obvious solution is to simplify the 70,000-page tax code. But that’s politically difficult. So Austan Goolsbee, among others, has an alternative idea: have the IRS do your taxes for you.

This return-free system is a bad idea for a lot of reasons. One of them is the obvious conflict of interest when your tax collector is also your tax preparer.

Another reason is that the IRS is not up to the task. As I explain in an op-ed being distributed by McClatchy News Services, the IRS rarely has all the information it needs to fill out an accurate return for any one individual, household, or business. People change jobs. They have kids. They get married, and sometimes divorced. They buy homes and cars. Who knows what kinds of deductions they qualify for? The IRS probably doesn’t.

And if the IRS makes a mistake on your return, you would be liable for it. If you want to stay on the right side of the law, you would have to calculate your own taxes anyway, to make sure the IRS got it right. So much for saving time.
Return-free systems have already been tried in California and the UK. Neither attempt can be called a success.
It is heartening that officials are looking for ways to reduce the burden of doing taxes. But a return-free system would treat only the symptom, and poorly at that. The root problem is an arcane, 70,000 page tax code. The solution is to simplify it.

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 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.

Regulatory Problem, Regulatory Solution?

A dying patient in the UK’s NHS made the news after nurses refused to bring him a glass of water, despite his repeated begging. He died soon after of pneumonia. It really is a terrible story.

Had that poor soul lived in Arizona, he might not have had that problem. In that fine state, it is against the law to refuse someone a glass of water if you have any to spare.

As the U.S. slowly but surely hands its health care sector over to government, and NHS horror stories repeat themselves on this side of the Atlantic, this may become a more pressing issue than one would expect.

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 109: Unplanned Castles

Robert Fidler is a farmer in Salfords, England. In 2002, he built his family a house that resembles a castle. It is his dream home. Authorities want to require him to demolish it.

“This was a blatant attempt at deception to circumvent the planning process,” [chief planner Mike Miller] said, adding that Fidler now has one year to destroy the castle, remove the ruins and return the property to its original state.

Britain’s High Court agreed with Mr. Miller in a recent decision. Mr. Fidler is appealing.

It is unclear what harm Mr. Fidler’s castle home is causing to anybody. Perhaps the lawsuit is part of a make-work program for the demolition industry?

(Hat tip: Brian McGraw)

Regulation of the Day 107: Blowing Your Nose While Driving

Michael Mancini was fined for blowing his nose while driving in London. Authorities claim he violated a law requiring him to be in control of his vehicle at all times. Sometimes legislating common sense doesn’t work as well as planned.

Regulation of the Day 97: Full Body Scans and Child Protection Laws

Sometimes, when two regulations love each other very much, they get together and have little baby regulations. This is happening right now in Britain.

Full body scans are coming into use at many UK airport security checkpoints. Since screeners essentially see all passengers naked, the scans run afoul of child protection laws for passengers under 18.

The thought of pedophiles using the body scan images for their own sick ends is decidedly creepy. So the British government is taking steps to keep that from happening. Those steps include:

-Exempting everyone under 18 from being scanned. This defeats the security purpose of the scanners.

-Moving the scanner operators out of sight of passengers. That keeps the scanner images anonymous. But it doesn’t prevent perverts from seeing things they shouldn’t.

There is an easier way: don’t do full body scans. They do more to make people feel safe than to actually make them safe.

Reinforced cockpit doors, proactive passengers, and checked baggage screening are much more effective. And they’re already in place. Besides, terrorist attacks are rare. Full-body scans are an over-reaction. The resources spent on them have other, better uses.