Monday, Jul 28, 2014
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Government warning labels are often inane

Staff
Published:   |   Updated: May 7, 2013 at 02:18 PM

What caught my eye the other day is this insane chuckler in Florida law (F.S. 212.0515) requiring a vending machine operator to register his machine with the state, and "affixing a notice to each machine" saying among other things, "Notice to the customer: Report any machine without a notice. You may be eligible for a cash reward."

The Florida Department of Revenue then dutifully promulgated a regulation mandating that the type in the notice "must not be smaller than 14-point bold face, and the words 'cash reward' must not be smaller than 30 point."

It would seem as though our legislators and regulators want the notice that isn't there to be more visible to the customer who can't see it because it isn't there, by requiring it to be printed bold face type. Or could one assume that our bureaucrats are so full of themselves that they believe the average customer has read F.S. 212.0515, and searches likely locations for unlabeled machines in order to claim a reward?

You can't make this stuff up. What is so disheartening is that the average citizen is so conditioned to senseless warnings or regulations they treat them like junk mail. I just sprayed a door hinge with silicone.

A bold warning in red type on the can reads: "DANGER. DO NOT SWALLOW." (It was just by sheer luck that the can is too big for me to swallow.) But we all know there lurks a law or regulation behind the decision that prompted the manufacturer to print this notice on the can — which on the face of it is ambiguous. (You're not stupid enough to try to swallow the can, but you might be dumb enough to squirt the contents down your throat.)

As I said, you can't make this stuff up. It's bad enough that the public has to deal with a forever intrusive government, but now imagine the confusion and costs confronting the average person in business. Bureaucrats salivate over the thought of regulating the private sector, either because of ideology or their own personal job security. They — particularly lawyers — have to do something to justify their existence. I should know. In one of my incarnations as a lawyer, I struggled with analyzing this creative nonsense for a corporate employer.

Federal, state and local governments like to do what they do best — regulate. This is the bureaucrats' raison d'etre. It gives the people in government power, which is an aphrodisiac to any normal person. They can't help it. Promulgating rules is in their DNA. This is their mission.

It invariably results in increasing the size of government, which increases the pay scale and perks of those on top, as their influence increases. It often provides a stealthy revenue enhancer for government; as opposed to a more visible and objectionable direct tax on profits or income.

We have become so accustomed to subjection to bureaucratic rulemaking, we take it for granted. The uneducated or ill-informed don't realize it takes a lot of laws and bureaucrats to expand the welfare state that we have become — but the recipients of all this largess could hardly be expected to complain, by biting the hand that feeds them. if they have to fill out a few forms.

The stories being told are the stuff of legend. The statistics are so mind-numbing they don't even register anymore. To say that The Federal Register, which contains all federal regulations, was 34,844 pages long in mid-year 2011 and growing at the rate of 200 pages a day, doesn't seem to mean anything to anyone anymore, much less our legislators.

Our Constitution, including the Bill of Rights, is a paltry six pages long. These were the rules that created a democratic republic.

As far back as 2008, the Small Business Administration estimated yearly regulatory costs at $1.75 trillion. (Others estimate the costs to be much higher.) That amounts to over $8,000 per employee. We are now confronted with regulatory costs competing with equally unsustainable federal deficits — and everyone yawns. It simply doesn't mean anything anymore.

The Heritage Foundation reports — and this is a matter of record — "The Obama administration imposed 75 new major regulations from January 2009 To mid-FY 2011 with annual costs of $38 billion." Here's the bad news. This doesn't include the flood of regulations that will flow from just the Dodd-Frank financial regulation law, Obamacare and the EPA. The average person doesn't realize, or simply doesn't care, that agency heads are a part of the executive branch, and with an ideologue as chief executive, we are at a tipping point of no return with aggressive rulemaking.

In essence we have unelected bureaucrats "passing" new laws because legislation is hundreds of pages long, and so complex, legislators don't read or understand it, so they delegate rule-making to the agency with the words, "as the Secretary may determine." (Dodd-Frank mandates 400 rulemaking opportunities, and President Obama's people haven't even gotten to 100 so far.)

So in a very real sense, the full impact of this law is actually unknowable, as is Obamacare, and the new environmental laws. What a joke. The private sector will have to comply with unknowable laws to be written in the future by progressives, whose goal is to expand the reach of government with unknown added costs to a private sector being asked to create jobs. Wow. What a recipe for companies to outsource jobs to other countries or to sit on cash until after the election.

It is critical that we elect people with real world business experience who understand he hidden costs to business of unnecessary regulations, and the danger of giving regulators the unbridled power to smother the private sector. Yet one Florida democratic representative noted, "I think the free enterprise system is absolutely too important to be left to the voluntary action of the marketplace."

There is an inherent problem in being a progressive ideologue. It means you cannot hold two opposing views in your mind at the same time. This was best explained by Seneca, a first century Roman philosopher who observed, "Many men would have arrived at wisdom had they not believed themselves to have arrived there already."


John Reiniers, a regular columnist for Hernando Today, lives in Spring Hill.
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