Tag Archives: washington

Regulation of the Day 129: Droves of Animals on Streets

Washington, DC city law states that “No loose herd or flock shall be driven or conducted in the District, except with a permit issued by the Chief of Police.” (See District of Columbia Municipal Regulations, Title 24, Chapter 9, Sec. 906.10.)

Many, many years ago, Washington was a pretty rural place. There were even farms in the Northwest and Southeast quadrants of the city. This was before the automobile, and well before the federal workforce climbed into the millions. But a lot of these old laws are still on the books. Nobody seems to have thought to get rid of them.

Other animal herding laws in DC include:

-No droves of mules or horses larger than six animals are allowed. (906.6)

-However, “Horned cattle may be led singly by a rope or halter through any of the streets in the District.” (906.8). That includes K Street, Constitution Avenue, and every other street in the District, great or small (Note to self: this might be worth trying someday).

-As with cars, the driving age for herds is 16. (906.12)

-A drove of sheep crossing a bridge must have at least six drovers. (906.4)

-It is illegal to “water, feed, or clean any horse, mule, cow, or other animal” within 15 feet of a fire hydrant. The same rule apples to cars.(906.13)

(Hat tip: Marc Scribner)

Basic Irony

From yesterday’s WSJ.com Political Diary (subscription required):

The same day President Obama called for another $50 billion to $100 billion stimulus plan (and concomitant increase in the deficit), he also appointed the chairmen of his Deficit Reduction Commission. It says a lot about Washington that almost no one got the irony of those paired announcements.

Indeed it does. Fortunately, the Commission’s job is pretty simple. There are only two ways to cut the deficit. One is to cut spending. The other is to raise taxes. Cutting spending is the right thing to do. But it is also politically difficult. There is a lot of fat to trim from the budget. But government has little incentive to put itself on a diet.

That’s why the Commission is expected to recommend a tax increase, probably in the form of a VAT. A prestigious bipartisan Commission can provide the political cover that Congress and the administration need to avoid the embarrassment of backtracking on their policies.

Wayne Crews and I recently warned why a VAT is a bad idea in Investors’ Business Daily. Hopefully some of the arguments will find themselves into the debate.

Politics 101: Machiavelli and Public Choice

When Niccolo Machiavelli died in 1527, Washington, DC was still more than two and a half centuries away from being founded. But he understood perfectly how that dismal city would work, as Bertrand Russell reminds:

“In the absence of any guiding principle, politics becomes a naked struggle for power; The Prince give shrewd advice as to how to play this game successfully.”

-Bertrand Russell, History of Western Philosophy, xxii-xxiii.

Machiavelli was, in many ways, the first modern public choice theorist. Had he lived in a post-Adam Smith world, he would have made a fine economist. A politician’s guiding principle is usually not ideology. It is to remain in power. So they behave accordingly. The first lesson of economics is that people respond to incentives. If someone’s incentive is to get re-elected, they will behave in a way conducive to achieving that goal. Morality and the greater good compete for a distant second.

This Is How Terrorists Win

Fear is a terrorist’s only effective weapon. There are so few of them, and their attacks are so rare, that fear is all they have. Yet they win victory after victory. People and governments have an irrational tendency to over-react to rare but conspicuous threats. Here’s our latest loss:

[Washington, DC] Metro Transit Police will hold a “major anti-terrorism show of force” Tuesday during rush hour at one of the agency’s “busiest Metrorail station,” according to a media advisory released by the agency…

Metro said about 50 officers from several Metro Transit Police units will participate in the exercise, including anti-terrorism and K-9 explosives detection teams, bomb technicians, mobile and foot patrols.

As a daily user of the DC Metro, here’s hoping this security theater production happens as far away from my commute as possible.

Regulation of the Day 94: Plastic Shopping Bags

Retailers have traditionally provided free shopping bags to their customers as a courtesy. Washington, DC’s city government – known for being less than courteous – is now requiring stores to charge customers five cents for each plastic bag they use at checkout.

The tax is environmentally motivated. Since the city is acting so urgently on shopping bags, that implies that they must be the most urgent environmental threat facing DC. If that’s the case, then DC must be a veritable ecological paradise, or else its priorities are misplaced. One or the other must be true.

There were 84 unsolved murders in DC in 2009, by the way.

In lieu of plastic bags, the city is urging people to buy reusable cloth bags. But those have an environmental footprint nearly 100 times larger than a plastic bag, according to Sierra Club data. They have to be used many, many times before they cause any savings. They are also a haven for bacteria if not regularly washed. And washing them adds to their footprint.

Washington, DC has a lot of problems. Expensive but inferior schools, crime, violence, high taxes and spending – the list is long. The epidemic of plastic bags littering the streets is right at the bottom of that list. It should be prioritized accordingly. The regressive plastic bag tax should be repealed.

Big Day

Today was a big day in Washington. Tom DeLay was indicted, John Roberts is on the cusp of confirmation, NASA was reauthorized at a mere $16.6 billion/year… and I have resumed my long dormant blogging career.