When it comes to the economy, the people whom we elect to public office at the state level seem to think that they’re a sort of corporate board for the entire state. With licensing, regulations, taxes, tax breaks, and other economic development matters, elected officials behave as if they have every right to decide the direction of the state and tell businesses how they have to operate. Even where there’s debate, it tends to be whether the regulation will be a net positive or negative, not whether government officials have the right to make such decisions.
An AP article in today’s Providence Journal, by Matt O’Brien, shows that this conceit extends to telling Rhode Islanders how they have to parent:
State lawmakers are debating a bill that would punish parents for leaving a child younger than 7 alone in a car. They’ve also proposed legislation to ban kids under 10 from being home alone and older kids from being home alone at night. Legislation could even extend to private preschools, where a bill would ban outdoor recess when the temperature drops below freezing. …
“We have kids constantly left home alone. It’s a danger,” said state Sen. William Walaska, the Warwick Democrat who introduced “home-alone” age restrictions that could affect child custody cases. “Imagine they open up a cupboard and there’s some chemicals in there.”
Note the reliance on imagination and the refusal to allow individual parents to make judgment based on individual children. What if a family is wise enough to put anything dangerous where the child cannot access it? What if a particular child is simply very responsible and well behaved, and his or her parents recognize it? Walaska would insist that we all have to live in a room that’s sufficiently padded for the least responsible among us.
This simply is not the role of government. Indeed, it’s the sort of meddling that ways down an economy’s advancement and a society’s development, harming individuals along the way, even beyond the degree to which it tramples on the rights of others, treating us all as subjects who must live according to the preferences of our betters. It also creates an insecure, vulnerable society in which nobody can possibly avoid breaking the law in some way or other.