Mid-week misanthropy, vol. 32

(Special power-of-two edition!)


One of my standard complaints about government-provided services is that government doesn’t — and can’t — know what’s best for people better than the people themselves.  Consider nutrition guidelines, for example: milk is (generally speaking) plenty healthy, but if you’re lactose-intolerant it does you no good to be told to drink more milk by a well-meaning and highly-trained government-employed expert.

Oops, sorry: slip of the fingers, there.  I wrote “well-meaning and highly-trained expert” when I meant to write “lobbyist”.

Brian Warbiany explains how it works:

Americans idealize government. We act as if it’s populated by well-meaning experts, who want nothing more than to provide humanity with their expertise and are looking out for us. We view them as able to integrate the demands of a wide-ranging polity into optimum policy, using their judgement and experience to improve life for all. Even more, we think they care about us.

The reality, on the other hand, is that government is a job. You do your job to satisfy your customers, which in politics is more often lobbyists than the general public. Why is dairy such a high component of WIC? Because the dairy lobby is enormous. Why did carrots — rather than broccoli, or asparagus, or cauliflower — get such favor? Because the carrot lobby, as strange as it may seem, is powerful. Seriously… CARROT LOBBY! If those two words placed in that order don’t disgust people about the arbitrary and capricious nature of government decision-making, you need to wake up.

The first step to mentally breaking with the government is to understand that government bureaucrats have their own interests — not yours — at heart. […] We understand in most commercial situations that we need to look out for ourselves, but then assume that the government is “looking out for us” in all others. When you assume the best about government bureaucrats, it blinds you to the fact that you’re giving these people coercive power and you can’t be sure that they’re going to use it in your interests.

Yeah, that’s pretty much the Mk. 1 mod 0 standard-issue libertarian rant, but that doesn’t make it wrong.


Some readers may remember the saga of The Complete Angler in Clearwater, FL, whose mural of a fish was deemed to be a billboard-without-permit and therefore a gateway to public pornography.  The owner covered up the offending mural with a (large) copy of the First Amendment.  Well, that’s not going so well either:

The city maintains that they’re doing the right thing.  At this point, though, it’s fairly obvious that they got caught rent-seeking and don’t want to admit that they’re wrong.  Perhaps they have OJ Simposon and Rod Blagojevich as role models?


Of course, when government confronts citizens, it’s not always the forces of government who’re infested with the dumbworms:

“You may not come in here. This is student’s free space,” says the cameraman, as a security guard pulls apart the flimsy barricade that the administration had chosen to leave in place for the past two days. As soon as the guard sets foot in the food court: “Excuse me, brutality here. You are on camera…Do not use brutality. You may not detain us, you are on camera!” This, as two security guard were moving away from him.

I’m fascinated by this guy’s apparent conviction that his camera is a magic talisman against authority.  I’m also laughing my fool ass off.

(There’s video at the link.  I’d suggest you treat it as you might one of H.P. Lovecraft’s notional monographs, as it has enough eldritch idiocy from beyond the stars to destroy your mind utterly.)


And speaking of magical thinking:

WASHINGTON — Two years ago, an effort to fix No Child Left Behind, the main federal law on public schools, provoked a grueling slugfest in Congress, leading Representative George Miller, Democrat of California, to say the law had become “the most negative brand in America.”

Y’know, something’s wrong when you start to think about legislation purely in terms of branding.  But let’s continue:

Education Secretary Arne Duncan agrees. “Let’s rebrand it,” he said in an interview. “Give it a new name.”

Of all the things to fix in NCLB, its name is far from the top of my list.

Naturally, other people feel the same:

But a lot of wise guys have gotten in on the act too, with suggestions like the All American Children Are Above Average Act. Alternatives are popping up every day on the Eduwonk.com blog, where Andrew Rotherham, a former Clinton administration official, is sponsoring a rename-the-law contest.  One entry, alluding to the bank bailout program, suggests that it be called the Mental Asset Recovery Plan. Another proposal: the Act to Help Children Read Gooder.

I suppose “No School Left Standing” wouldn’t promote the right brand associations, would it, Miller?

(Hat tip: Below the Beltway)

3 Responses to “Mid-week misanthropy, vol. 32”

  1. 1 aczarnowski
    February 26, 2009 at 08:30

    I’d suggest you treat it as you might one of H.P. Lovecraft’s notional monographs, as it has enough eldritch idiocy from beyond the stars to destroy your mind utterly.

    Very, very nice. Now, where did I put that Lovecraft collection…

  2. 2 kbiel
    February 26, 2009 at 09:07

    How about, No Teacher’s Union Left Unfunded Act.

  3. February 26, 2009 at 13:51

    aczarnowski: Now, where did I put that Lovecraft collection…

    kbiel: No Teacher’s Union Left Unfunded Act

    Maybe it’s just a matter of comment proximity, but NTULUA makes a very Lovecraftian sound.

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