The Bossy City?


-Hannah Mead, MCPP intern, 2008

In a study of the 35 most populous U.S. cities, Reason Magazine reports, “Chicago wins the booby prize for most meddlesome metropolis by a wide margin.” Citing such regulations as bans on guns, smoking and DWOTP (driving while on the phone), Reason supports their hypothesis.

A group of us head off to Chicago later this week for Students for a Free Economy‘s second annual celebration of Milton Friedman’s birthday. I was surprised when people of all stripes started warning me that I can’t smoke in Chicago. I have no interest in smoking and, while I on principle oppose such regulations, I don’t deny I enjoy smoke-free air. (When I moved from Seattle to the Midwest it was such a throwback to hear “smoking or non?” — I hadn’t heard that since I was a small child.)

Howsomever, we nonsmokers have to realize the “first they came for the Jews” nature of these regulations. In a Chicago Tribune piece Mary Schmich argues, “Big cities are like big families—put a lot of people into a small space and somebody has to be charged with the power to say ‘Stop it.'” She [sarcastically?] lists activities that she would like banned because they bother her, such as barbequing with lighter fluid and running air conditioners during the day. For their own safety, she would like to see bicyclists barred from wearing headphones.

Whether she was kidding or not, Ms. Schmich paints a picture of what Reason calls “moral prudery and public health fanaticism” taken to the extreme. Once regulation gets started, there’s no way to stop it. If people can’t drive while talking on a cell phone, why should they be allowed to drive with the radio on? If the city needs surveillance cameras downtown, why shouldn’t they be able to put them inside private establishments? If smoking is banned, why should people be able to eat unhealthy foods? — oh wait, they’re not (Los Angeles, New York City).

So say goodbye to others’ freedoms, and say goodbye to your own. You may think you know better how to run others’ lives, but how many people do you think could run your own life better than you? That’s what I thought.

(Josh discussed the issue of smoking bans in a previous post.)

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3 thoughts on “The Bossy City?

  1. Oh, but all this regulation is simply for the good of the people, right? Laws are there just to make life easier for the whole. They are not trying to restrict freedom. Besides, America is far too free as it is. We can afford to give up a little here and there, can’t we? I mean, what does it mean, really, to give up the freedom to smoke if I have never wanted to smoke before in my life? I am not really losing anything, am I? (Sarcasm drips from comment…)

  2. Sorry to double comment, but I forgot something.

    Chicago was nicknamed the “Windy City” not because of its weather but because of the arrogance and long-windedness of its politicians.

    That is coming at You from a museum in downtown Chicago, so there might be something to it besides a few laughs.

  3. On the positive side, tne city of broad shoulders just repealed it’s two-year-old ban on foie gras in May. So while you’re not smoking the banned cigs, you can also not be eating the permitted foie gras. (Best-bet are the Chicago hotdogs anyway – yum.)

    (Posted via Sprint-card while riding the Amtrak Blue Water Special rolling through the former arsenal-of-democracy’s former steelmills on the way into Big Windy itself. Thanks, for the cheap ride, taxpayers!)

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