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Doug Gamble- Contributor

Doug Gamble is a former writer for President Ronald Reagan and resides in Carmel. [go to Gamble index]

The Big Brother State
Legislating away our lives...

[Doug Gamble] 7/9/04

As another Independence Day fades into history, Californians should ponder the fading of our freedoms.

California politicians love to talk about limitless opportunities and broad horizons, portraying the state as a place where anything is possible. Yet the Legislature continues to craft and pass laws that in one way or another restrict what’s left of our rights.

The latest assault on freedoms comes in a spate of bills that appears to reflect the Puritan concern that someone out there somewhere might be having fun. If you’re a kid who wants to buy soda pop in public schools, lie in a tanning booth or ride a motor scooter without a license, or an adult who enjoys bodysurfing behind a boat or who wants to hold a cell phone to your ear while driving, good luck.

California legislators currently have all of these activities, and others, in their crosshairs. It isn’t just Big Brother government anymore; it is fast becoming old mother hen. Sacramento is saying, “We know better how to raise children than parents do, and adults are so irresponsible we have to protect them from themselves.”

If anything, intrusive bills now under consideration or already passed prove the theory of the slippery slope, the fear that if one freedom is taken away, others will follow. For example, not content with forcing children to wear helmets while riding bicycles, California passed a law in 2002 expanding helmet laws to apply to kids who ride roller skates, in-line skates, non-motorized scooters and skateboards. I’d make a sarcastic aside about youngsters needing a helmet to get out of bed in the morning, but it might give some politician an idea.

The same principal applies to smoking. It wasn’t enough to ban smoking in restaurants, so it eventually had to be eliminated in bars. Now we find that banning it in bars isn’t sufficient, so it has to be forbidden on beaches and in cars carrying children. Disallowing smoking in private homes is the obvious next outrage in the continuous slide down the slippery slope.

One oasis of sanity in Sacramento’s desert of do-gooders is Irvine Republican Assemblyman John Campbell who was quoted as saying, “Kids love to ride scooters, fast, down a hill. Yeah, you might fall and skin your knee. Take reasonable precautions. But don’t tell kids they can’t ride down the hill. That’s part of life, part of being a kid.” He added that risk-free lives would be fun-free lives.

They would also be progress-free lives. Attempts to legislate against risk fly in the face of an American psyche that is always looking for the next mountain to conquer. The building of a great nation, from the Revolutionary War to the movement west to the expansion of free enterprise to the exploration of space, all depended on the willingness to take risks.

Politicians who try to stifle normal childhood instincts and who believe laws should supercede the ability of adults to make life choices would create a society wrapped in a bubble of suffocating security, where little is gained because little is ventured. Such pols are midgets who, unable to leave any significant mark, attach their names to nit-picking legislation as a way of fooling themselves into believing they have made a positive contribution to society.

And they are certainly not restricted to California. Fearing bacteria, New Jersey legislation banned restaurants from serving eggs sunny side up. In parts of Ohio, children are not allowed to go trick-or-treating without a special permit. And in one of the more infuriating examples of government interference, federal law mandates that all new toilets use no more than a measly 1.6 gallons of water when flushing.

Former Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau once famously said that the state has no business in the bedrooms of the nation. When the state is even in your bathroom, that flushing sound you hear is your freedoms.CRO

California-based Doug Gamble contributed speech material to Presidents Reagan and George H.W. Bush, and writes a twice-monthly column for the Orange County Register and

Copyright 2004 Doug Gamble




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