The Road To Fascism Is Paived with Pet Issues

I am looking forward to reading David Harsanyi's book Nanny StateHit and Run has an interview with some good stuff.  I think he gets at the nature of the threat very succinctly:

The problem is each citizen has a pet issue. It may be a smoking ban.
Or the need to coerce the obese to stop stuffing their faces. And when
you add all of those up we have the nanny state. While all these
piddling intrusions can be separately viewed as non-threatening, once
you bundle them together we have a movement with the potential to
inflict tremendous damage on our basic freedoms.


  1. Mark:

    Pet issues are how beauracrats operate. THey trade off interests between these somewhat minor issues. Your vote on X will get my vote on Y.

    Pet issues are totally protected from budget cutting and elimination.

    When it is time to cut the budget, it is never some silly pet project of Representative or councilman Doe that is ever considered for elimination. Instead, beauracrats only offer high priority, high visibility projects for trimming.

    I call this the "Barney" syndrome. When the Corporation for Public Broadcasting was being threatened with a 5-10% cut in subsidies, their counter was if that happens we will not be able to offer Barney and Sesame Street.

    What they did, and these people know how to do this very effectively, shifted the argument from a budget cut to protecting Barney.

    Never mind that the CPB has dozens of programs that have little viewership and cannot support themselves like these programs. In private business any executive that suggested such a solution to a budget problem would not only be fired, they would be laughed at.

    Often, the issue to be cut is something that is purposefully designed to get the voters angry. FOr example, in our state one school district was faced with a 4% budget cut......FOUR PERCENT.

    You would have thought that it was a 50% budget cut by the propaganda coming forth from the teachers, administration, and school board. THe school board presented two options. Option A was to close down a couple of schools. Option B was to go to a 4 day school week.

    Both of these proposals were designed to cause consternation amongst the parents. People in the neighborhoods of the proposed school shutdowns protested. In the end, the board decided on a 4 day school week. This move was purposefully desinged to annoy the most people with the most annoyance, and to cause financial burdens amongst the parents of children needing daycare.

    In private business, a 4% budget cut, as long as it has not been a long series of similar cuts, is actually a godsend. YOu can eliminate the non-performers and deadweight. You can find spur innovation.

    One of the cleverest ideas I ever had in my business career was designed to save two FTEs that reported to me. Maybe, you could argue, I should have thought of the idea sooner. That is probably reasonable, but the fact is that some elements had been suggested and they carried some levels of risk of failure so the executives at that company were adverse to trying the suggestions. But faced with a financial problem we innovated and the total savings were substantial over the course of time.

  2. DaSarge:

    Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron's cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.

    -- C. S. Lewis

    Not a new problem, as you can see.

  3. Marshal:

    Truely said.....