"It [the State] has taken on a vast mass of new duties and responsibilities; it has spread out its powers until they penetrate to every act of the citizen, however secret; it has begun to throw around its operations the high dignity and impeccability of a State religion; its agents become a separate and superior caste, with authority to bind and loose, and their thumbs in every pot. But it still remains, as it was in the beginning, the common enemy of all well-disposed, industrious and decent men." ~ H.L. Mencken
Comedy Acts, Good and Bad
In less than 25 years, I've had to say a final farewell to a lot of good comedy acts. John Belushi reigned supreme during my high school years. 'Animal House' still ranks as one of the funniest movies ever. 'Saturday Night Live' alumni Phil Hartman and Chris Farley joined him too soon for my liking. John Candy and John Ritter got more than a few laughs out of me with their films and television shows. And Robin Harris ' we barely knew ye! In one of Harris' televised stand-up routines, he gave us a riff that would bring a smile to the lips of an Austrian economist. (In response to a panhandling bum), ' . . . spare change? What the hell is spare change ' something you get from your spare job?'
On the other hand, the bad comedy troupe called 'the state' just won't go away. Its lack of legitimacy notwithstanding, a gaggle of rulers would be nice if they were good for something else besides being the termites in civilization's wooden studs. While an anarchist can't agree, a Christian minarchist will accept the teachings of the apostle Paul that a minimal state that metes out justice to evildoers does have some moral standing in the community (Romans 12). While improbably utopian, it does give violent gangs model behavior for which to strive. Instead, we get bad acts like Florida 's ruling cabal. Congratulations, serfs of Florida , you received 'the jokes on you' prize for September 2, 2004 .
Hundreds of Floridians got to wait in line for hours for plywood, batteries, and gasoline, sometimes to find nothing left to buy when their turns finally arrived. But congratulations, the state was protecting them from 'price gouging.' You see, a major reason supplies ran short was because, under threat of force, there are price caps ' real and implied ' on the things that Floridians needed. Meanwhile, the economic risks associated with doing business in Florida had increased substantially due to the approaching hurricane. The inevitable consequence is that a shortage was created. You see, as an esteemed economist recently explained, with the threat of being fined or caged, there was no incentive for entrepreneurs to create the supply of materials that Floridians were demanding. In a different world, an inland independent trucker might gauge the risk and expense to himself and his equipment worth it to load up a trailer full of plywood or batteries and seek his fortune in Florida . Under the circumstances of the past few days, though, we can be confident most of those opportunists found better uses of their time. Well, Floridians, it turned out the joke was on you. And that was only September 2nd's joke. Doubtlessly, by now you may have heard of all sorts of shenanigans like a tasered homeowner or a volunteer contractor who's not allowed to donate his expertise to protect the property of a friend. Thank you, Mr. Florida Ruling Cabal. What would your subjects do without you?
Of course, bad comedy act of the decade still goes to the ruling junta in Washington , D.C. In the past two years, I've been instructed that I had better stop and identify myself if a badge-carrying bureaucrat gives me the order, that my bank, library and e-mail records are subject to secret surveillance, and that I better shut my mouth in airports and be prepared to give up my shoes and fingernail clippers. After that setup, they then delivered the punch line. 'We're doing this to you to protect your freedom.' I sort of got the joke, only I didn't even get to laugh before it started to hurt.