Up in your business

Will lawmakers' rabid thirst to mold our behavior in their precious image ever be slaked?

Bitch and moan, but government is—and will continue to be—inextricably entwined with our life at work and at play. Sacramento’s own Justice Anthony Kennedy said during the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent gabfest about the Definition of Marriage Act that the “essence of the state police power … is to regulate marriage, divorce, custody.”

Doesn’t get any closer to home than that, except when government and its ice-cold feet and repellent breath shoehorns itself into the middle of the beds of couples. Same sex or otherwise.

These dark ramblings come at the tail end of the Legislature’s first week back after a much-undeserved six-day hiatus. Before resting on their fat laurels for a week, state lawmakers did nothing for the better part of five months except introduce 2,258 pieces of legislation—primarily twaddle—aimed principally at expanding government.

Lawmakers ignored more than 2,000 of those bills until April 1, the day their vacation ended. Now, in order to advance to the Double Jeopardy round, lawmakers must get their bills out of committee by May 3, and move them either out of the Assembly to the Senate or vice versa before May 31.

There’s legislation on everything. Healthier food choices. Requiring condoms for porn stars. Acupuncture. Taxes, less and more. Gambling. Liquor. Banning single-use supermarket plastic bags.

Despite that variety, the central question is always: Should government do more about (insert issue)? Or not?

When does government’s hand linger too long in our pants or on our wallet? There are all kinds of opinions on where that line gets crossed, from John Locke to Marty Block, ranging from “Don’t Tread on Me” to “Jag alskar Sweden.”

Conservatives say government intrusion is throttling struggling entrepreneurs. Taxes, fees and regulations are too high and too numerous.

Yet, at the same time, they insist government define and enforce “acceptable” love. How can “government meddling” be “bad” but “good” when it intrudes on behavior in private bedrooms? Barry Goldwater, a principled and philosophically consistent conservative, said such a stance by his faux colleagues registered very high on the hypocrisy meter.

In contrast are those who want to outlaw anything deemed contrary to “society’s greater good.” Some detractors call this “government nannyism.” What constitutes the “greater good” also has been sliced and diced since Confucius and Socrates. A while back, some believed eugenics and witch burnings were part of the greater good. Today, the greater good is more gooder. And easier to define. Just ask this tiresome gaggle of legislators. In so many words, their answer will be that they—and only they—comprehend the greater good. Government and lesser mortals must follow all their do-gooder edicts to better advance the greater good, as defined by the do-gooders.

Perhaps someday the rabid thirst of these pious hectors to mold our behavior in their precious image will be slaked. Probably only when we’re as tediously nurturing as they are. Then, there’ll be no more attempts to prohibit smoking in a car with a kid in it. Or smoking in a car with a pet in it. Or smoking at the beach or within 200 feet of a C. Everett Koop statue. If tobacco is evil, ban the stuff. Otherwise, buck up, buckwheat.

Death to transfat. Ban soft drinks. No tanning coffins for you, brainless teenagers. Government knows best. Soon, California may pioneer car booster seats for 17-year-olds.

It’s a punishable offense if children under 4 years old don’t wear a life vest on a boat. Hey, if Mom and Dad are so stupid they don’t put a life jacket on Little Sweetums, it’s time for all three to hop out of the shallow end of the gene pool.

When these bills reach him, Gov. Jerry Brown will pen a few veto messages, but he’s not so secretly part of this same government-is-the-answer crowd. A pithy conservative might counter, “In this case, governor, less really is more.”