Destroying California, one law at a time

“Corruptissima republica plurimae leges,” warned Publius Cornelius Tacitus, the Roman senator and historian: “The more corrupt the republic, the more numerous the laws.”

“If you have ten thousands regulations, you destroy all respect for the law,” agreed the similarly pragmatic Winston Churchill, a few millennia later.

Few would wish to live in a completely lawless land. (Whether we need “government” is a different question.) But our ancestors seemed to understood that laws were best kept simple, few and clear, maintained primarily by a voluntary consensus among the governed.

It was left to the perverted genius of our modern era to invent the career of “lawmaker,” and to adopt the weird notion that the quality of our elected representatives is best judged not by their efforts to keep us FREE of entangling new skeins of regulations, but rather by how energetically they weave new webs to ensnare us.

Take the state Legislature in neighboring Sacramento. Please.

Having been involved, in a small way, in book publishing, I once joined the Independent Book Publishers Association. The most amusing account that I recall from their newsletter was that of a mom-and-pop operation who received a small order from one of the library systems maintained by the state of California.

Of course the small publishing house would be glad to send a long a few copies of their titles. I dare say they even offered a modest “standard library discount.”

“Great!” the minions of the State of California replied. “Just fill out this brief form so we can certify you as a properly accredited Vendor to the State of California.”

Needless to say, the “brief form” turned out to be more in the nature of a booklet. What percentage of your work force is Native American/Pacific Islander? What affirmative action program do you have in place to increase your staff representation from the aforementioned races? What amounts of money have you spent making your place of business more accessible to the handicapped? What is your “family leave” policy and what steps have you taken to make sure non-married Life Partners and Significant Others enjoy the same benefit as married spouses? What percentage of the energy your company uses is derived from alternative energy sources, as opposed to fossil and nuclear fuel? How many of your vehicles run on alternative fuels?

Et blooming cetera.

I’m working from memory, here. But the questions — most completely inapplicable and thus unanswerable by a small family firm without “employees” of any race, state of health, or sexual persuasion — went on for page after page.

I’m sure the addition of each of these stipulations to the list of requirements entitling one to sell anything to the state of California seemed like a good and noble idea at the time. Add them all together, though, and the small publishing couple finally laughed, threw up their hands, and decided they could do without the attorney consultation necessary to answer some of this stuff under penalty of perjury … and that the educations of the California students in question would simply have to limp along without the books in question.

This is the context in which we need to view the news that — starting Jan. 1, 2009, thanks to California Assemblyman Ed Hernandez, D-West Covina — companies that have business operations in Sudan will be prohibited form bidding on any California state contracts.

The measure is presumably intended to discourage the central government of that African nation from pursuing its ongoing genocide in the province of Darfur.

First, let us note the inherent absurdity. Since there’s no test for whether you’re making “good, pro-freedom” investments in the Sudan, such a ban (presuming you answer honestly) would also punish and thus discourage those who either do sell or are foolishly tempted to sell food, guns and ammunition to the residents of Darfur, so they can defend themselves AGAINST the genocide of their Muslim rulers.

Gee, that’s going to help.

Meantime, is there any firm listed on the New York Stock Exchange with the proud motto “Helping tyrants commit murder and genocide worldwide”? The nastiest guys in the world are past masters at covering their operations under the guise of selling baby food to Nigeria or farm implements to the Maldive Islands. Some of their stuff went astray and ended up in Khartoum? Why, we’re as outraged as anyone! Procedures will be reviewed, let me assure you!

Beyond that, go back now and imagine trying to fill out the aforementioned California state vendor’s application forms, when it asks under penalty of perjury whether you have any investments in any firms that do business in the Sudan.

Are you sure? Most of us have money in some kind of brokerage account, 401(k) account, or other retirement annuity, fund, or trust.

Care to swear — on penalty of perjury — that you don’t own, through such investments, albeit unknown to you, a single share of a single company that sells crackers or fertilizer or flip-flops or light bulbs in the Sudan?

Yet — perhaps we should not pretend amazement — this isn’t even the worst new law to take effect in California last week.

This year’s actual winner is …

Courtesy of state Sen. Jenny Oropeza, D-Long Beach, California’s bureaucrats, apparently being now too few in number and without enough to do, are to set up a certification system to distinguish legitimate massage therapists from massage parlors that serve as fronts for prostitution.

Therapists will have to take 500 hours of training and pass a criminal background check and an exam approved by a nonprofit organization that will be created by the bill. A therapist or massage practitioner who is convicted of prostitution will lose his or her certification.


Does it take 500 hours to learn how to give a decent massage? Of course not.

Will this brilliant scheme cause a career change for anyone currently selling hand jobs, blow jobs, or any other “jobs” they currently find to be in demand?

Let me go out on a limb here, and suggest it will do just the opposite.

This is clearly just another protection racket, setting expensive hurdles to limit entry by new competitors to the “industry leaders” who will design and administer the new “courses” and “exam.”

Meantime, who’s likely to have the money necessary to finance the “training” now necessary (or to buy the appropriate “exemptions” from the nearest politician, whichever proves easier) to garner crisp new gold-sealed certificates for their employees to hang on the wall — a legitimate start-up “mom and pop” back rub enterprise … or Fancy Dan, Suburban Pimp Extraordinaire?

Someone page the Institute for Justice.

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