With the kids out of school, people are starting to make the most of the summer. They’re hitting the beaches, taking weekend trips, and enjoying neighborhood picnics and bike rides. This is New England at its best.
It’s a shame, though, that government so often seeks to stamp out the fun, limiting our options and making activities needlessly expensive and complicated. Across the county, states and localities are passing measures to keep people from swimming in creeks and using portable grills or fire pits at local parks. They are shutting down kids’ lemonade stands and harassing 10-year-olds who dare to visit a playground without a parent.
In addition to such everyday abuses of common sense and misapplication of public safety laws, governments are also passing laws that are meant to protect special interests and discourage the kind of entrepreneurship and innovation that used to be America’s hallmark.
New York State’s legislature, for example, recently passed a bill to further restrict the ability of homeowners to offer short-term rentals. This is clearly intended to drive Airbnb and other house sharing options out of the state, in an effort to protect the beleaguered traditional hotel industry. Lawmakers ignore that Airbnb has paid an estimated $60 million in taxes to New York, and that families that used Airbnb won’t now just go back to a traditional motel when planning their summer trip. Many families can’t afford that option and some prefer more family-friend accommodations. Such families might just stay home. That’s not only a loss of potential tax revenue, business for local communities, and income for New Yorkers who were hoping to earn some extra income over the summer, that’s less travel and less fun for Americans looking for a getaway. And that’s a loss that’s not easily counted in dollars.
In a similar effort to protect a traditional business from an innovative competitor, Austin, Texas recently introduced rules to push the riding sharing services, Uber and Lyft, out of the city. This drained the city of 10,000 jobs which were held by these drivers, and also now means that rather than Austin citizens being able to easily find an affordable and safe ride home, many are either driving when they shouldn’t (drunk driving arrests are up 7.5 since Uber left the city) or using a black market to find rides home. Is this really what city officials hoped to achieve?
The Federal Government is in the fun-killing game, too, of course. They even want take the fun out of eating by make our food more bland. Recently, the Food and Drug Administration issued new “voluntary” guidelines pushing food manufacturers to reduce the amount of salt used in processed food. As IWF’s Julie Gunlock details, the FDA’s guidelines ignore the best scientific research, which shows that most people won’t benefit from reducing sodium in their diets. And of course, the FDA isn’t concerned that cajoling food manufacturers to reformulate their products will cost millions and increase grocery prices for American families. These administrators are there to administrate so are going to dutifully produce a steady stream of new rules and regulations for their subject, even some that make no sense.
Some regulations are worse than just unnecessary or counterproductive, some are actually harmful in terms of lost lives. Right now, Americans — and particularly women who are pregnant or seeking to become pregnant — are worrying about the spread of the Zika virus, which has already affected hundreds of pregnant American women. There’s a pesticide that could dramatically reduce the mosquito population which spreads Zika, but unfortunately the United States continues to abide by a 1972 ban on DDT. As Jillian Melchior writes in the New York Post, decades of follow up studies have shown that the risk to humans and to the environment of DDT were overblown when that regulation was passed. When used properly, DDT is a safe and effective weapon against disease spreading mosquitos. As Melchior puts it, “Mosquitoes are responsible for more deaths than any other creature on earth,” and today are spreading a horrifying illness, Zika, that can result in microcephaly, a serious brain defect. Given these stakes, isn’t it time to revisit the DDT ban based on new and better scientific information and thoughtful risk calculation, rather than clinging to it out of a nostalgia for ’60s-era environmentalism?
Frustration with a government that seems disconnected from the people underpins American politics today. And it’s no wonder. Undoubtedly Americans will still find plenty of ways to enjoy the summer time in spite of the unnecessarily heavy hand of their government minders, but it’s a shame how often these rules are stumbling blocks. America, once dubbed “land of the free,” is becoming land of the micromanaged. Voters understandably are increasingly frustrated with this kind of government; policymakers would be wise to start paying attention.