Thursday, September 30, 2010

Signs of Trouble

The NY Daily News is reporting that the federal government doesn't like the font on city street signs-and is insisting that we alter every single one of them: "The city will change the lettering on every single street sign - at an estimated cost of about $27.5 million - because the feds don't like the font. Street names will change from all capital letters to a combination of upper and lower case on roads across the country thanks to the pricey federal regulation, officials said Wednesday. By 2018, MADISON AVE. will become Madison Ave. and will be printed in a font called Clearview, the city Department of Transportation says."

As one would expect, this kind of bureaucratic intrusion is on sound and rational principles: "The Federal Highway Administration says the switch will improve safety because drivers identify the words more quickly when they're displayed that way - and can sooner return their eyes to the road...The changes are among many in the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices that regularly changes to improve road safety, highway administration spokesman Doug Hecox said. The mixed upper- and lowercase rule was adopted in 2003, but municipalities were given until 2018 to comply completely, Hecox said."

What do the folks think? As you also would expect, regular drivers aren't thrilled: "Still, several city residents were OUTRAGED. "That's ridiculous," said James Sullivan, 34, a bike messenger from Queens. "They might as well just burn the damn money."Construction worker Joseph Cain, 49, of Manhattan, reacted with sarcasm, saying, "I see my tax dollars are hard at work." The city has about 250,000 signs, and it costs about $110 to replace one, the DOT says. Officials said the new signs will have improved reflectivity and clarity for nighttime drivers."

But, in our view, this traffic contretemps is a wonderful object lesson into how the expansion of government-on all levels-becomes an expensive intrusion into the way in which we live our lives. This is a reality that small businesses have had to live with forever-or at least from the time that the first municipality hired the first government worker and called him an, "inspector."

And it has only gotten worse as government has become more intrusive. Imagine how a local deli feels that it has to post around thirty different signs, each at the behest of a different city agency. Than imagine how you would feel when the vaunted inspector comes in and fines you $1500 for failing to post said sign, "prominently." Take it a step further-this time in the case of cigarette signs that graphically warn folks about the dangers of smoking in stores that legally sell smokes.; forcing store owners to speak against their own commercial interests.

And so it goes. As government expands its reach-kind of like Johnny Cash's Cadillac, "one piece at a time"-it adds more, "inspectors," who now do more than come into your store. They come into your home and examine how you are living-enforcing regulations designed to improve your health so that you don't cost the health system too much money.

And all these inspectors cost money-and since they all belong to a public employee union, they end up costing us money we can't afford way past the time they leave government employ to retire on their lucrative pensions. If you get uneasy with these costs-and your rising tax bill necessitated by the need to fund the expanding government waste line-you are comforted by lectures about, "social justice," and "selfishness."

That folks, is exactly what is happening in this country-it isn't only the unsupportable debt and government bloat; but the expansion of the government into the most intimate interstices of our everyday lives. Slowly, but inexorably, everything will become the purview of government-and for each intrusion their will be an expensive inspector enforcing the spinach-like mandate (eat it, it's good for you!).

Which gets us right to the paragon of this phenomenon: ObamaCare: "Don’t bother trying to count up the number of agencies, boards and commissions created under the new health care law. Estimating the number is “impossible,” a recent Congressional Research Service report says, and a true count “unknowable.”...It seems clear that Congress just authorized a self-perpetuating bureaucracy, one that can expand on its own and make determinations far outside of the boundaries Democrats promised during the ObamaCare debate.  And if that’s true, then it is equally true that the claims made on the cost of administering ObamaCare had no real basis in fact.  How can one estimate a cost for a bureaucracy that is entirely undefined in size and scope?"

So, the changing of the city's traffic signs because of the bureaucratic mandate to improve the safety of our lives is, well, simply a sign of the times-a perfect symbol of what we can expect as the government Leviathan seeks to regulate almost everything in the private sphere. And if there are any liberal libertarians left in the Democratic Party they need to wake up. Never was the ironic observation of Ronald Reagen more prescient than in our current moment: "The nine most terrifying words in the English language are, 'I'm from the government and I'm here to help.'"