"There are 10^11 stars in the galaxy. That used to be a huge number. But it's only a hundred billion. It's less than the national deficit! We used to call them astronomical numbers. Now we should call them economical numbers." ~ Richard Feynman
Pseudoephedrine and Pseudofreedom
The Indiana legislature still hasn't passed the bill controlling the sale of cold medicines containing pseudoephedrine, and time is running out in the session. Lately -- praise Chronos! -- the lawfakers have been stemwinding over daylight-saving time. But they've done that deed now, and it seems likely that some cold-med bill will indeed pass.
According to the Indianapolis Star, the chief source of congestion is a disagreement between the bill's Senate sponsor, who apparently is only a moderate totalitarian, and Gov. Mitch Daniels, who is turning into a right proper dictator-governor along the lines of the Lincolnite thug-Governor Oliver Morton. That is to say, the Senate bill as currently written isn't harsh enough for Daniels; he prefers the House version, which would transform -- hey, presto! -- cold meds containing this year's devil chemical into controlled substances, dispensable only by pharmacists upon presentation of a "proper" photo ID.
Michele McNeil, writing in the Indianapolis Star, reports that "a legislative committee is negotiating over Senate Bill 444 and how far to go to fight the escalating methamphetamine problem, which is fueled by the active ingredient in many popular cold medicines." ("Daniels May Not Like Meth Bill," April 22, 2005. This URL will not stay active for long.)
If the hard-line version passes, it will be impossible to legally buy cold medicines containing pseudoephedrine in my little town -- there's no pharmacy here. The suspect cold-relievers are sold only at the town grocery and the convenience store/gas station. Now, there are big, official, state-approved pharmacies within ten miles in either of two directions along the four-lane highway that runs by Roanoke, and that's a good deal for us; but Mom-and-Pop pharmacies in small towns are close to being an extinct species, and I'm sure there are plenty of Indiana towns with no pharmacy that are considerably more isolated than Roanoke is.
I have to wonder what other common products will be yanked from small-town shelves over the next few years in order to advance the great state-building project and (not incidentally) award special privilege to the pharmacy industry. I hope some demented subculturals don't start stuffing toilet paper up their nose, lest we villagers be forced to hit the highway in search of a licensed druggist from whom we might score a few rolls of Charmin.
Naturally all of that is of exceedingly minor importance. No one cares about us hamlet-dwellers; I grasp that. However, I have another, bigger development to report, one that will be of special interest to students of Polite Totalitarianism. Two nationwide retail chains -- Target and Wal-Mart -- have already taken the cold meds off their shelves and hidden them back with the pharmacist. And they've done it "voluntarily," don't you know, quite independently of local legal requirements.
The Pharaonic rule used to be, "So it shall be written; so it shall be done." But we seem to be getting to the point where the scribes don't actually have to write down and formally publish Pharaoh's decrees. Nowadays it's enough if Pharaoh just waves his hand: and before the scribes ever put pen to papyrus, it is already done.