Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Free as a Jail Bird

One of the more laughable aspects of our War on Terror is how a country which lacks many freedoms is insistent on exporting it in its vague, American form, to the under-privileged countries of the world. Here's the latest example:

He built a fence, a retaining wall, a patio and a few concrete columns to decorate his driveway, and now Francisco Linares is going to jail for it.

Linares had been given six months to get final permits for the offending structures or remove them as part of a plea agreement reached in January, when he pleaded no contest to five misdemeanor counts of violating the Rolling Hills Estates building code.

I am not intent on discussing the merits of building codes, though I think they are mostly useless and invasive. Theoretically, a case could be made that such requirements do prevent do-it-yourself imbeciles from falling off of poorly built decks, and, as such, they are a public good. But no one can make a case that such a law in conducive to liberty.

We live in a nation where one can do little but scratch one's nose without the consent of the government. Not only do we tolerate the incessant nannying, some people go so far as to defend it. We ban smoking in bars so that people don't have to cough from the smoke. We're working on getting rid of trans-fat, something no one had heard of twenty years ago. We're still going to be the fattest country on the planet, even without trans-fat. We've become like Douglas Adam's Vogons:

[O]ne of the most unpleasant races in the Galaxy— not actually evil, but bad tempered, bureaucratic, officious and callous. They wouldn't even lift a finger to save their own grandmothers from the Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal without orders signed in triplicate, sent in, sent back, queried, lost, found, subjected to public inquiry, lost again, and finally buried in soft peat and recycled as firelighters.

Meanwhile, Bush looks like he's going to attack Iran.

"Iran is sending arms to the Taliban in Afghanistan to be used to attack American and NATO troops," Bush said. "Iran has arrested visiting American scholars who have committed no crimes and impose no threat to their regime. And Iran's active pursuit of technology that could lead to nuclear weapons threatens to put a region already known for instability and violence under the shadow of a nuclear holocaust. Iran's actions threaten the security of nations everywhere."

Heaven help us.

UPDATE: My present pleasure reading proves topical.

The whole warren [Efrafa] is organized to conceal its existence. The holes are all hidden and the Owsla have every rabbit in the place under orders. You can't call you life your own: and in return you have safety--if it's worth having at the price you pay. - Holly, Watership Down, Richard Adams, p.238-9

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