Government to guides: Stop talking, or else

Two Segway tour guides in the nation’s capital city – you know, the one that supposedly nurtures and protects constitutional rights for the individual and state – face 90 days in jail if they don’t stop telling people where to visit.

Note the irony. And no small surprise; a lawsuit has been filed.

“Under recently promulgated regulations, plaintiffs Tonia Edwards and Bill Main (and others like them) will be subject to fines and even 90 days in jail if they talk to their customers about “places of interest” in D.C. without the city’s permission,” according to the complaint filed by Edwards and Main in District Court in D.C. just a few days ago.

The issue for the tour guides, and the future of their business, is one based, of course, on constitutional liberties. The issue for the government? Money. The city’s view is that Edwards and Main need to apply and pay for a tourist license, as well as pass a test, in order to tell visitors about local attractions.

Does that mandate hold true for anyone – or just Segway guides?

For instance, if a writer were to give readers the address of The Library of Congress, and also some specific directions to get there (it’s at 101 Independence Avenue, Southeast, take Capitol South Metro, walk two blocks north to First Street, shhh, … hurry now and don’t dawdle, don’t talk to strangers), is that a violation of law? Does that cut too much into the government’s profit margin from permitting and licensing activities?

But for Edwards and Main, the ridiculous has become reality.

“Their business,” reports the Institute for Justice, which is handling the case, “is located near the National Archives, so one of the things they tell their customers is where the Bill of Rights is located. For this, the city government could throw [them] in jail for three months.”

Again with the irony.

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