Banning tobacco in parks: where does government’s reach end and the point of our nose begin?
From shutting down a lemonade stand operated by three children under the age of nine in Florida; to allowing an 11-year-old in Illinois to continue selling cupcakes as long as she purchased her own bakery; to permitting people to invite neighbors over for dinner provided government’s insistence on having “a place at the table” is honored – bureaucrats’ (“an expression of contempt”) typical response?
Once they know, the answer is ‘no.’
Alarmed states looking to rein in government surveillance (not even Girl Scouts selling cookies in their own driveway escaped notice) have good reason to fear the feds.
Because what they – really big government – don’t yet know they’ll find out. And when they do, you’ll be taxed and targeted, ruled and regulated, and your contraband cupcakes confiscated.
So don’t even.
Even Lucille van Pelt’s psychiatry booth would be bulldozed. “A parody of the lemonade stands” her shingle would be snatched; her stand deplanked; from dispensing five-cents-worth of advice she would be thereafter disbarred; and “the crabby and cynical eight-year-old bully” would be summarily out-crabbed and out-bullied by the bigger and badder you-can’t-fight-city-hall government.
Because Big (Oh)Brother knows what’s best for you.
Evident, however, in all of the examples above is the human tendency (malady) – and government, at all levels, is made up of humans for the most part – to strain a gnat but swallow a camel, neither really very tasty. We’ve an infernal propensity (mixing metaphors) to spot the speck in our brother’s eye while ignoring the beam in our own.
Also known as trivial pursuit.
Hans Finzel, author of “The Top Ten Mistakes Leaders Make,” might have had licensers of lemonade stands in mind when he quipped, “Blessed are the control freaks, for they shall inhibit the earth.”
John Carver, “Boards That Govern,” describes the difference between governments that, well, govern, and those that don’t. “Boards sometimes deliberate on inconsequential issues to avoid dealing with a difficult, unspoken issue” – the proverbial elephant in the room. “What appears as a preoccupation with trivia may be fear of confronting the larger issues in a group setting. Board members deprived of trivia might not know how to spend their time.”
So when government bans smoking in the park is that an example of a tyrannical, nanny state governmental intrusion? Should your rights as a tobacco-smoking taxpayer end at the playground? Is it “judicial overreach” for your elected representatives to ban smoking or chewing tobacco outdoors, in affect “telling us what to do all the time, every day, everywhere we go”?
Is what we are dealing with here as concerns tobacco-free parks – gnats, elephants or camels?
Your reply probably should depend on how you answer the following. Directed to those aforementioned elected officials is the question “Was I Elected To Do What the People Want or to Govern Well?”
Carl H. Neu, Jr., President of Neu and Company and Director of the Center for the Future of Local Governance, answers this way in a February 2007 article by that title found on the Municipal Research Services Center for the State of Washington.
“To govern well, is the primary obligation.”
Governing well, according to Neu, means “exercising wisdom, judgment and courage to be stewards of the quality of the community’s future.”
In other words, the biggest of elephants and camels are neither avoided nor swallowed. Nor are gnats strained. Instead the very large issues – the “long-term best interests of the larger community or entire city”- are trumpeted and always trump the “sometimes selfish and myopic public opinion and wants.”
“What is more essential to the entire community especially in the long view,” should be the grid, the filter, the deciding factor as to whether you can light up in the park and/or Lucy can keep dispensing advice.
Just my nickel’s worth.