July 2, 2012
THE ARTFUL STRATEGIST

Hoist a (small) glass to toast our liberty

I miss the good-old-days when black helicopters were flying United Nations conspirators hither and yon, plotting the overthrow not only of our nation, but of the world.

Clarity was the rule, when international cabals of rich, powerful people would come together, presumably to chat about international economics or something — until the sun went down, when they would talk about how they were going to reorganize the world and make serfs of us all.

You sort of knew where you stood back then. You drew a line in the sand and said, here is freedom; there is despotism of the style and cruelty of some kind of newspaper publisher or something.

Things are different today. Freedom-gobbling can come from the most banal of local politicians; from mayors, from state senators, from governors; from regulators affiliated with agencies as mysterious as religious cults.

At the national, state and local levels, American politicians today understand the broad consensus that favors liberty, but government none-the-less nibbles away at it, tests our resolve, hopes that we weary of the battle to protect ourselves from unnecessary, ill-conceived curbs on our freedom. It is somewhat less awful than tyranny, but it is at least intellectually threatening — and requires vigilance to fend off.

Those who spar with the freedom-gobblers face complications in the form of "progressive," left-leaning armies that believe "government knows best"; that the sins and misjudgments of the unworthy masses must be curbed by government action — limiting the freedom to do wrong.

Some of this, of course, is mere rent-seeking on the part of the vast government employment network and social service hangers-on who thrive when their business becomes larger and more intrusive.

The leftist conspiracy isn't stupid; much of the scam comes in the form of innocent-sounding "public health" initiatives and murky administrative law and peculiar regulatory restrictions that in isolation seem more odd than dangerous — but that, in the aggregate, represent a threat to the liberty we cherish.

You see it in comic relief in New York City, as Mayor Bloomberg proposes a ban on large glasses of evil-demon soda — as opposed to small glasses, or two glasses, or 15 doughnuts, or a bucket of fried chicken. Public education about the theoretical horrors of drinking sugary liquids? No, that would concede that freedom is still the order of the day. Just ban those big cups.

And then there is Waterbury, on the warpath against largely Hispanic barbershops that harbor unlicensed barbers, wielding scissors and clippers as if they were terrorist tools.

Do the regulatory police insist that the citizenry be made aware by the shops that some of the folks who cut their hair (successfully, and apparently, without threat of slit throats) are unlicensed and lacking a Ph.D. in barber stuff? Do the barber-police lobby for an easing of the barber-cartel licensing arrangement, so that those with ambition and apparent skills can jump through hoops that don't cost an undue amount of money, or require more language skills than the ability to understand "shorter on the sides," in Spanish and English? No, again that would smack of freedom.

Barber shops closed. Barbers (those evil, unlicensed barbers) resigned or were fired. There was much of which to be proud.

Connecticut is used to such stuff. It was 2009 when the state passed legislation regulating massage therapists, who are now, thank God, required to be licensed. How did then-Gov. M. Jodi Rell put it at the time? Something about ensuring that the public "gets the highest standard of care."

It's enough to drive one to drink on "Independence Day"… in a small glass, of course.

Laurence D. Cohen is a freelance writer.

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