There’s an old truism that “the power to tax is the power to destroy.” If the government doesn’t want something, it can quite literally tax it out of existence.
But there’s another, more subtle approach: death by over-regulation.
Every couple of years or so, the Maine legislature suddenly notices the excessive number of cigarette butts on its public beaches and other areas. Then some legislator gets the bright idea of putting a “deposit” on cigarette butts (usually a nickel), to “encourage” people to save their butts and turn them back in. This usually goes down in flames (so to speak) when someone gets enough common sense to point out four obvious flaws:
1) Hardly anybody except children and the homeless would willingly handle cigarette butts for a lousy nickel apiece;
2) No retailer or recycling center wants to accept, count, and store non-recyclable, gross things like cigarette butts;
3) It’ll effectively add $2.00 per pack, or $20.00 per carton, and drive even more business across the state line to New Hampshire.
4) There is absolutely no mechanism to prevent people from out-of-state bringing in their own cigarette butts to make a few bucks.
But recently, two more examples of attempted “death by overregulation” have appeared in the news.
First, McGehee noted a proposed law to require a serial number to be etched on every single bullet. He and his commenters have already adequately pointed out the flaws in this stroke of brilliance, so all I’ll add is this: to be of any use at all to police, the number will have to be etched on the bullet itself, not the casing, and that’s a very small, very soft piece of lead.
Next, this morning’s Boston Globe has the Bay State’s latest effort to curtail smoking. This time, disguising their efforts as a “safety” move, they want to require all cigarettes sold in Massachusetts to be “fire-safe.” These cigarettes are designed to go out if they are not constantly being drawn upon. And while it will increase the cost of those cigarettes, hey, it’s only the smokers who will have to pay the cost.
I’ve said before I have no use for cigarettes. But if the state wants to get rid of smoking, why don’t they just put forth a law banning it entirely? It’d be a hell of a lot more honest.
The same holds true for California. Why don’t you just outlaw guns entirely? Once you get past that pesky Second Amendment, you can end up a peaceful paradise. Just like those other places that have led the way, like Washington, DC, New York, and Boston.