Monday, March 31, 2008

Nanny statism not just a local trend

Are a slew of petty municipal ordinances turning the city of Dallas into a "nanny state"? So far, 79% of respondents in an online poll at the Dallas News say "Yes."

Dallas police often can't solve the crime problems that really frighten people, like a series of increasingly brazen burglaries in East Dallas, but the city council is busy making up a whole slew of additional "crimes" that divert law enforcement's resources away from more serious offenses ("Some recent laws seen as protecting Dallas residents from themselves," March 28):
At the decade's dawn, Dallasites could smoke in restaurants, walk their dogs without carrying a pooper-scooper and stroll through downtown or South Dallas without being monitored by police video cameras.

Children, meanwhile, were free to run through parks playing with their toy six-shooters. Homeless people could beg for money at will.

Today, no more – the Dallas City Council has since deemed such actions illegal and subject to stiff fines.

And when the council members passed an ordinance last month banning motorists from calling or texting on their cellphones while driving through school zones, some Dallasites said the decision represented a larger trend toward government "nannyism," in which well-intentioned politicians end up treading on individuals' liberties.

City records also indicate that many of these laws, designed to improve residents' quality of life, are rarely enforced.
Texas Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson likes to say that there is no greater enemy to liberty than a city council, because there are few checks and balances at the municipal level and they tend to be outcome oriented.

But overcriminalization and nanny statism isn't just a local problem, or a problem with low-level offenses. When the Legislature ended last session, there were 2,324 felonies on the books (eleven of them involving oysters) and thousands more misdemeanors. The Fifth Circuit overturned one of them since then, leaving 2,323 separate acts presently labeled felonies in Texas.

Nanny statism isn't just happening at the Dallas City Council (or the Austin City Council, where it's even worse). It's a general trend of government at all levels. We've long ago criminalized, and punished harshly, things that are actually wrong. Now government has devolved into passing harsh laws against things that are merely annoying.

8 comments:

rage said...

I gotta say, this:

At the decade's dawn, Dallasites could smoke in restaurants, walk their dogs without carrying a pooper-scooper and stroll through downtown or South Dallas without being monitored by police video cameras.

Children, meanwhile, were free to run through parks playing with their toy six-shooters. Homeless people could beg for money at will.


...makes me wonder how many persuasive writing classes this guy has taken.

Is he really longing for the days when there was more poop, smelly restaurants, and beggars hassling you?

I agree about the cameras and toy guns, but come on!

Anonymous said...

for once, houston is no better than dallas. nannyism is alive and well here, too. kinda goes along with the trend of govt getting into everyone's business. whatever happened to laissez faire style of govt?

kaptinemo said...

For all the humor, this actually cuts close to the heart of things.

Think about it: the War on Drugs, like the War on Alcohol (a.k.a 'Prohibition') before it, was ostensibly to 'protect' you. But, ultimately, what is it supposed to protect you from? The person who looks back at you from the bathroom mirror every morning? At what point does the rationale for being treated as an adult morph into becoming a permanent ward of the The State?

Ron in Houston said...

The bad part is that government as nanny often comes from the more liberal in society.

Anonymous said...

"Over illegalizing" is definitely a trait of ALL those in govt. at this point. What better way to control the masses, fat, "zoned" and completely structured by a million rules. The concepts of thinking for ones self, cause and effect and responsibility are not particularly popular in our society.

JT Barrie said...

How many crimes lack a victim? And better yet, how many victims can't get to the perpetrator because of the legal system and "tort reform"? We desperately need a system to expedite redress for irresponsible and harmful behaviors and we get micromanagement of personal behaviors - with the state as plaintiff. Talk about turning things upside down.

Trey said...

"Is he really longing for the days when there was more poop, smelly restaurants, and beggars hassling you?"


A restaurant owner should be free to determine what people do in his establishment. It's none of the government's business.

If I want to give $1 to some homeless person, it's no one else's business.

Dogs pooping on public property is a result of the tragedy of the commons. If less property were "public" and private owners were responsible, they could make their own rules.

elvez1975 said...

Dog poop as part of "tragedy of the commons". Awesome. How long until we criminalize dog urine?