Thursday, November 13, 2008

Let's Ban Everything

For the past few weeks I've been having a difficult time sleeping. I'm not sure if the cause is all of those taco vendors driving around town with dirty spoons, the fact that I didn't register my bicycle, or the large number of inflatable "attention-getting devices" I see everyday. Fortunately, City Council is addressing these issues and hopefully I will be able to return to sleeping well.

According to local ABC affiliate KTRK, City Council will soon consider a ban on "attention-getting devices", as those large gorillas and other inflatables are called. Council Member James Rodriguez says, "I do get complaints from several of my constituents about the way this looks, the way it detracts from property values and so we are concerned about businesses utilizing this type of advertising." So I guess if I can get a few of my neighbors to call Mr. Rodriguez and complain about something he will hold hearings on the matter and perhaps outlaw it.

Where do I begin? I don't like politicians calling me up and subjecting me to long-winded self-endorsements. I don't like politicians who stick their nose into each and every issue, no matter how mundane. I don't like politicians who promise the world in exchange for votes. I don't like politicians who use my money to pander to parasites. I don't like politicians who violate my rights. Maybe Mr. Rodriguez will hold some hearings and do something about these things. Maybe, but I doubt it.

Maybe appearance is the key issue, since several of Mr. Rodriguez's constituents have complained about "the way this looks". I don't like the way my neighbor trims his yard. I don't like the color of the azaleas in another neighbor's yard. I don't like the color the guy across the street painted his shutters. These things really detract from my property value. Somebody must do something, and they must do it now. Maybe Mr. Rodriguez will ban bad shutter colors while he's at it.

I must admit that when City Council decided to crack down on the taco truck drivers I concluded that they had surely run out of things to do. But I guess I seriously underestimated their ingenuity when it comes to finding new areas of our lives to control. And that reminds me, I don't like politicians who think that they have a right to tell me, or anyone else, how to live my life.

Vice Mayor Pro-tem Sue Lovell, who is spearheading the move to protect Houstonians from this invasion of the inflatables, said, "If it's an attention-getting device, then it's also an attention-distracting device." Sort of like all of those political signs that litter the roadways prior to elections? Sort of like the endless stream of phone calls from political candidates during campaign season? Sort of like those grandstanding politicians who don't hesitate to protect "the public" while trampling on the rights of individuals? I personally find all of those actions very distracting. They distract me from living my life as I choose.

But here is the really good part: "The biggest concern is there's been sort of an ordinance on the books and they can only be up a certain amount of time and we haven't found a way to be able to enforce it," said Lovell. It seems that the City currently has an ordinance that states"attention-getting devices" can only be displayed 104 days a year. The article doesn't say why the City can't enforce this ordinance. I can only assume that either City employees can't find the damn things, or City employees can't count to 104. Or, perhaps they are too busy tracking down renegade taco vendors and writing citations for unregistered bicycles.

Rather than recognize the inanity of the existing ordinance (which they admit is unenforceable) they simply outlaw something that they don't like. I don't like self-righteous demigods, power lusters, and irrational whim worshippers, so does that mean I could outlaw City Council? Interestingly another equally silly and unenforced law requiring the registration of bicycles is going to be repealed.

If the lives of real people weren't damaged by this buffoonery, it would be absolutely hysterical. But the fact is, the City seems to be on a crusade to control everything in sight. That control ultimately impacts individual human beings. That control limits the choices, destroys the plans, and wrecks the lives of individual human beings. Anyone who believes that any good can come from destroying the lives of individuals has a very perverted view of "the good".

It might seem like a small issue to ban "attention-getting devices". It might seem like a small issue to put tags on taco vendors. But these aren't small issues, because the underlying principle--government control of the property of individuals--isn't small. If the principle of government control is accepted, we can only bicker over the details. And most people won't bicker until some control impacts them directly. By then it is too late.

Houston once had a great respect for individual rights. That respect is slowly eroding. If we aren't careful, it won't be long before they outlaw practicing your nine-iron in the living room and drinking red wine with fish.

Addendum: I already had the above ready to post when I learned that City Council outlawed "attention-getting devices" on Wednesday. What's next? Party balloons, tight jeans, and low cut tops?

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