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

San Francisco lacks housing data that would let it track rental vacancies and prices. New legislation is seeking to change that.<ins> (Photo by Joel Angel Jurez/2016 Special to S.F. Examiner)</ins>
Landlords blast proposal to require annual report on rentals as invasion of privacy

Housing inventory could give city better data on housing vacancies, affordability

University of San Francisco head coach Todd Golden coaches his team on defense during a 2019 gameat War Memorial Gymnasium on the campus of the University of San Francisco. (Ryan Gorcey / S.F. Examiner)
Stunner in Bubbleville: USF upsets fourth-ranked Virginia

Less than 48 hours removed from a loss to a feeble UMass… Continue reading

Health care workers would be the first group in the state to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. (Go Nakamura/Getty Images/TNS)
Hope on the way: Here’s what to know about California’s COVID-19 vaccine plan

The first batch of doses could hit the state as soon as early December

The Big Game was played Friday at Memorial Stadium in Berkeley. (Shutterstock)
Stanford blocks extra point to stun Cal, win 123rd Big Game 24-23

The 123rd edition of the Big Game featured a number of firsts.… Continue reading

Psilocybin magic mushrooms (Shutterstock)
‘Magic mushrooms’ moving into the mainstream

Efforts to decriminalize psychedelics could follow several different paths

Most Read