Several years ago, former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg made headlines when he attempted to ban soft drinks over 16 ounces. After several years of legal challenges, New York City exhausted their appeals and people in the city were free to drink from a 17 ounce cup.
Despite that setback, the nanny state is alive and well, particularly in large metropolitan cities and coastal states. But take heart, these rules and regulations are for your own good. At least that is what we often hear.
Lawmakers are particularly concerned that you don’t know how to parent, especially when it comes to educating your child. While many states, Mississippi included, have parent-friendly homeschool laws, others make it a little more difficult to educate your own child in your own house.
In Pennsylvania, you must meet educational qualifications to homeschool, file a notarized affidavit, which includes evidence of immunization and an outline of proposed objectives by subject area, meet the required number of days or hours of instruction, including the required subjects, maintain a portfolio, which includes work samples and standardized testing, and then have your child evaluated each year with a certification that must be submitted to the local school superintendent.
Before children reach school age, we have seen parents seek out new options for preschool, including cooperatives. Here, parents volunteer in the classroom and help run the school, helping to lower the costs of a traditional preschool. Now that this is working well for families, Virginia is looking to require 30 hours of training for parents before they help with activities such as sweeping the floors and passing out snacks.
After all, are those snacks healthy? The government is here to help you decide.
The city of Baltimore recently banned restaurants from including soft drinks or other sugary drinks on kids’ menus. Now, milk, 100 percent fruit juices, water, and flavored or sparkling water without added sweeteners are what the city of Baltimore will allow you to purchase. Not to be outdone, California is now interested in protecting your children from your bad parenting. A proposed law will require restaurants to serve only water or flavored milk to children, sorry fruit juices.
But don’t ask for a straw with your milk or water when you are in California. Numerous municipalities have enacted bans, but Santa Barbara is taking the war on straws to the next level. In the coastal city, outlaws who use straws can be fined up to $1,000 and sent to prison for six months. To be fair, cutting down on waste is a good thing. But let’s not pat ourselves on the back for making up some statistics you received from a nine-year-old and then passing laws that will do absolutely nothing for the environment.
Just make sure that milk isn’t raw. Nineteen states, including Mississippi, ban the sale of raw milk, though Mississippi does allow the sale of raw goat milk. But California takes it a step further. They actually deploy “food confiscation teams” to raid the homes of people who purchased bootleg milk. And don’t think about calling nondairy milk, milk. The Food and Drug Administration is considering regulatory action that will prohibit almond milk and soy milk from calling their products milk. All because you and I are unaware that almond milk does not come from a cow.
This move is being cheered by the dairy industry, which is looking to use political favor to stifle competition. Sound familiar? This is what we have seen from the taxi industry in response to Uber and Lyft or the hotel industry in response to Airbnb. Incumbents seek protection from government when a disruptor enters their industry, rather than making changes in products or services in the free-market. They do this because the allocation of resources toward government has worked in far too many places – thus encouraging unnecessary and often silly rules and regulations.
And while we can’t have straws or sugary drinks, at least we still have balloons. For now. The anti-balloon movement appears ready to build on the anti-straw movement and do away with the common practice of releasing balloons. Even though, as the AP admitted, balloons are a “very small part of environmental pollution.”
Thirty-two years ago President Ronald Reagan said, “The nine most terrifying words in the English language are: I'm from the government, and I'm here to help.” Over the years and decades, we have seen our government continue to grow, giving government regulators more power every day. And as we do that, we continue to lose just a little bit more of our freedoms and liberties.
Be very cautious next time you hear a politician sell you on a promise that what he or she is doing is for your own good.
Brett Kittredge is the Director of Marketing and Communications for the Mississippi Center for Public Policy, the state’s non-partisan, free-market think tank.