Today in petty tyranny

When conservatives object to laws that make their light bulbs illegal to manufacture for sale, or make their toilets not flush as well — and when Republicans object to these laws — liberals often respond with condescending mockery.

Look how petty Republicans are, making hay over light bulbs! (For instance, check out the Washington Post's Stephen Stromberg being impatient with Republicans for being “still riled up about light bulbs,”or Gail Collins exuding some good New York Times-style disdain for the rubes in the provinces:

Of all the controversies now raging in Washington, the one I find most endearing is the fight over federal regulation of light bulb efficiency….. Hysteria over the government taking away our right to buy inefficient light bulbs has been sweeping through certain segments of the Republican Party….

It's a great tactic for those wanting more state power: pass regulations controlling piddling details of people's lives, and when anyone complains about these restraints, mock them for worrying about such piddling details.

But petty tyranny matters. It matters on a moral level, because it's simply wrong to take away people's freedom for no good reason — whether you're acting through government or not. Petty tyranny has mattered in the past because our world's worst tyrants used incrementalism as a way of eroding the will and smoothing the road toward totalitarianism. I don't think the light bulb law is a lurch towards Stalinism here, but all these petty tyrannies wear away our individualism, and make us more servile souls.

So here are some petty tyrannies today:

Our Freeman Klopott reports on D.C.'s crackdown on people putting recyclables in their trash. One storeowner got a $200 fine because some government official found one can in their trash. Recall that D.C. has more than twice as much violent crime per capita as New York City.

Then we get cops going after little girls for offenses like caring for a bird and operating a lemonade stand.

From Coralville, Iowa, the AP reports:

Police closed down a lemonade stand in Coralville last week, telling its 4-year-old operator and her dad that she didn't have a permit.

An officer told Abigail Krutsinger's father Friday that she couldn't run the stand as RAGBRAI bicyclers poured into Coralville.

A city ordinance says food vendors must apply for a permit and get a health inspection.

And in Fredericksburg, Virginia, a girl saved an endangered woodpecker from the family cat, was spotted by a federal bureaucrat, told to set the bird free. She did, but then was slapped with $535 fine.

And some recent greatest hits:

The guy who helped trim trees of tornado victims — for free — getting busted for operation without a permit.

And, of course, Delaware government officials lie and steal a basketball hoop:


Beltway ConfidentialUS

If you find our journalism valuable and relevant, please consider joining our Examiner membership program.
Find out more at

Just Posted

Police Chief Bill Scott on Wednesday said a rebranding and reoganization of the former Gang Task Force amounts to “more than just the name change.” (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
Faced with surge in shootings, Chief Scott reenvisions SFPD’s Gang Task Force

New Community Violence Reduction Team adds officers with community-policing experience

Stores including Walgreens and Safeway are required to pay their employees additional hazard pay under a city ordinance that is currently set to expire later this month. (Shutterstock)
Grocery workers could gain additional weeks of $5 per hour hazard pay

San Francisco will vote next week on whether to extend a law… Continue reading

The fatal shooting of San Francisco resident Roger Allen by Daly City police on April 7 prompted protests in both cities. (Jordi Molina/ Special to the S.F. Examiner)
Daly City approves body-worn and vehicle cameras for police after fatal shooting

Daly City officials on Wednesday approved body and vehicle cameras for police… Continue reading

Baseball Hall of Famer Willie Mays attends an event to honor the San Francisco Giants' 2014 World Series victory on Thursday, June 4, 2015, in Washington, D.C. (Olivier Douliery/Abaca Press/TNS)
Willie Mays turns 90: San Francisco celebrates the greatest Giant

By Al Saracevic Examiner staff writer I couldn’t believe it. Willie Mays… Continue reading

Ja’Mari Oliver, center, 11, a fifth grader at Harvey Milk Civil Rights Academy, is surrounded by his classmates at a protest outside the Safeway at Church and Market streets on Wednesday, May 5, 2021 in support of him following an April 26 incident where he was falsely accused by an employee of stealing. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
School community rallies behind Black classmate stopped at Safeway

‘When you mess with one of us, you mess with all of us’

Most Read