Federal Register Watch

What freedoms have you lost this week?

The Federal Register is the official daily publication for Rules, Proposed Rules, and Notices of Federal agencies and organizations, as well as Executive Orders and other Presidential Documents. This column attempts to summarize the highlights (or lowlights) of the Federal Register during the preceding week.

Instructions for subscribing to the Federal Register can be found at the end of the column.

SEPTEMBER 22, 2003 :


Occasionally, the government will make some effort to appear as if it does not distribute the spoils of state power to a privileged minority, but the slightest examination of these feeble attempts invariably reveals them to be obvious shams.

The OPM, the HR department of the federal government, is amending the law to allow federal workers to employ their relatives during times of national emergency. Even fleeting familiarity with statecraft as practiced by the powers that be in Washington is enough to reveal this as a transparent obfuscation. To be sure, earthquakes, floods, famines (which typically occur as a result of state intervention), and war (again, the state) qualify as national emergencies, but so do petty riots, electrical blackouts, suspected socialist agitation (but not the neo-con kind), tin-pot dictators not forking over their share of the coke trade, hangnails, cancelled soap operas, barking dogs and bad haircuts.

It's pathetic how the government resorts to this Chicken Little routine to justify its existence, and it's pitiful how many people blindly accept it.


SEPTEMBER 23, 2003 :


The Taxpayer Advisory Panel is a commission (actually, a series of commissions) charged with improving 'customer service and satisfaction' in the IRS.

What a comical, strange, and flat-out inaccurate phrase that is! First of all, 'customer'? Not at all! A customer is a person who voluntarily exchanges his or her hard-earned money for some good or service. Taxpayers aren't given this choice. Good Lord, when you look at what you get for your money from the federal government for this money, who would? Try 'victim' instead.

Next, 'service.' This isn't a service any more than getting held up at gunpoint is a service. Nobody would ever say that the mugger provided a service.

Finally, 'satisfaction.' [Pauses for laughs.] As noted above, no taxpayer in his or her right mind could be satisfied with what we get for our tax money. Tax-users, who benefit from the wealth transfer of government, may be satisfied. For most of us, however, potholed roads, illiterate youths, ugly prisons, and war widows simply aren't worth the money.

Why would I want to pay for C-Span, as well? I've already got Comedy Central.



In this proclamation, Bush 'remembers the challenges and heartache endured by the families of prisoners of war and missing in action.' Really, Mr. President? I thought those years were a little hazy for you. I sure have never heard a proper accounting of your whereabouts when you went AWOL.

The political establishment gets the U.S. into unnecessary wars, but it's sure not their kids in those camps getting tortured by the North Vietnamese. Instead, Dubya's ilk gets cushy jobs (but only during national emergencies, remember) in the government and its attendant industries managing the war-socialist society imposed on us by their parents. Give your son's blood for my son's coke habit.


SEPTEMBER 26, 2003 :


Those generous folks over at HUD have taken it upon themselves to secure certain federal properties to be used to house the homeless. It's easy to be so charitable when it's not your money!

The homeless are people who have either chosen to live on the streets or made enough bad choices in life that they were forced to live there. Either way, these are not choices that I should be forced to subsidize. Indeed, there are no choices I should be forced to subsidize but my very own. Once the underwriting of people's choices becomes collectively, rather than individually, undertaken, which is what occurs in a welfare state, the value of individual responsibility diminishes. Individuals then take less responsibility for their actions, and the threat of crushing poverty no longer exists to dissuade them from making such bad choices as to leave them utterly without destitute. In the end, poverty, while by no means attractive, does become less unattractive, and greater amounts of people behave irresponsibly.

So-called 'public' property, controlled by the political elite, is the perfect final residence for those who have behaved irresponsibly, for public property inherently fosters a sense of irresponsibility in those in power. Under democracy, those who control the government and its possessions have no reason to utilize them for the long-term good. Elections come quickly, and you can't will public property on to your children (as much as some politicians try!), and so the property is used for the best short-term good for the politician or bureaucrat (such as lining one's pocket, or producing sham 'public' benefits in order to get reelected). And if the property is so misused that it is destroyed? Who cares? The taxpayer can always buy more.


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Nick Ebinger's picture
Columns on STR: 27

Nick Ebinger lives in Sin City (DC, not Las Vegas) and is rather amiable for a curmudgeon.