The Sun-Times Embraces the Nanny State

Friday, July 25th, 2008

Chicago’s second biggest daily responds to my article on the Windy City’s Nanny State proclivities with an endorsement of many of the policies I criticize.

Reason mocks the city for requiring that fat cops shape up, providing them with nutritionists and trainers to help.

We don’t. Police work is physical work. A cop has to be in shape.

Fair enough. But my mocking was more about the fact that after a year of headlines about police abuses, it just struck me a bit odd that the Board of Aldermen’s biggest concern while I was in town researching the article was a proposal to assign cops personal trainers at taxpayer expense.

Reason knocks the mayor for regulating thousands of taverns — evil peddlers of demon rum — out of existence. Chicago has only about 1,300 taverns today, compared with about 7,000 in the 1940s.

We don’t. A lot of those joints were buckets of blood that loomed within a short stagger of neighborhood schools. And nobody in town complains they can’t find a drink.

Ah, yes. For the children.

And "buckets of blood?" Really? You know, I’ll bet if we compare Chicago’s crime rate in the tavern-happy 1940s with its crime rate now, the modern, 1,300-tavern era doesn’t fare so well. In fact, let’s go back a bit further. There was a time when alcohol in Chicago and the rest of America was banned altogether. What was crime like between 1919 and 1933? What was it like in Chicago? Also, is it really a good idea to make people travel farther from their homes to find a drink?

Reason finds fault with Chicago’s gun control laws, said by the magazine to be among the most restrictive in the nation.

We don’t. The Sun-Times has had to write too many stories about too many people killed by guns. Repealing our gun laws — hey, let’s all ride the L with pistols — won’t help.

Actually, it might. Chicago has an out and out ban on handguns right now. How’s that working out? And if the use of guns for self-defense is such an abomination, why are Chicago’s politicians allowed to carry, while its citizens aren’t?

A couple of other nanny-state regulations cited by reason fall into a gray zone for us. Unlike strict libertarians, we support the ban on smoking in the workplace, but we agree that taverns should have been left to decide the matter for themselves.

Not sure what the difference is. Private property is private property. But fair enough. I could live with a workplace ban that exempted bars and restaurants.

And, as we wrote last week, all those surveillance cameras make us nervous, but it’s hard to deny the unintended consequence that those doing the watching are being watched, too. Security cameras have caught more than a few police officers stepping over the line.

Actually, if memory serves, private security cameras caught those cops beating on citizens. Call me a crazy conspiracy theorist, but I’d guess that if a city-owned camera caught a Chicago cop breaking the law, there’s a decent chance those tapes would disappear in short order. Not sure why I would think such a thing. Just a hunch, I guess.

If Chicago is a bit of a nanny state, the impulse springs from a good place — a widespread sense that this is a remarkably healthy, vibrant and livable city, and we don’t want to screw it up.

I see. It’s the intent of the laws that matter, not their actual consequences. Good to know.

I love Chicago. But Chicago was a world-class city long before it started instituting traffic and surveillance cameras, taxing bottled water, banning foods that offend interest groups, and shutting down taverns. Here’s a thought. Maybe the Nanny State stuff is making a vibrant and livable city a bit less vibrant and livable. Maybe, just maybe, Mayor Daley and the Board of Aldermen’s suffocating paternalism is part of the reason why Chicago is losing population faster than friggin’ Detroit.

Addendum:  My last line was a bit overwrought.  According to Census data (link goes to xls file), Chicago lost 59,358 people between 2000 and 2007.  Detroit lost 34,318.  Given that Chicago is more than double the size of Detroit, it wasn’t correct to say that the city is bleeding population "faster" than Detroit.  Chicago also gained about 8,000 people between 2006 and 2007.

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25 Responses to “The Sun-Times Embraces the Nanny State”

  1. #1 |  Chris in PA | 

    Maybe they should just pass a law stating that Chicago will stay a healthy, vibrant, and livable place. Done and done. :)

  2. #2 |  freedomfan | 

    One of the trends in the Sun-Times‘ response seems to be that it defends the city’s approach to solving a given problem without doing any analysis to determine whether that approach has actually solved the problem. Then again, newspapers spend a lot of time covering government and, without well-honed skills of post-purchase rationalization (or maybe just an illusory correlation), reporters would tire of writing the same headline over and over: “Tried Program X, No Measurable Benefit, Funding Increased”.

    BTW, I lived in Chicago for a decade during and after grad school. I loved it there, but the sometimes outright thuggish mayor and aldermen were not reasons why.

  3. #3 |  the brown acid | 

    Jesus Radley, it’s like, what, 4AM there? Odd for you to post this late. What gives?

  4. #4 |  Mike H | 

    “A lot of those joints were buckets of blood that loomed within a short stagger of neighborhood schools.”

    And we all know nothing caps off a bender quite like interfering with a child’s education…

    WTF?

  5. #5 |  Tokin42 | 

    Private property is private property.

    That seems to be a issue most politicians can’t seem to come to grips with.

  6. #6 |  JLM | 

    The Sun-Times employs Jay Mariotti. Need I say more?

  7. #7 |  MikeT | 

    Here’s an interesting experiment, and I bet you would be pretty safe doing it, since no one has given a rat’s ass what they really think before. Go to the predominantly black areas, and interview a mix of law-abiding citizens and thugs. Ask them what they think about the “personal trainer versus accountability” priority and things like that.

    I bet you the only part of Chicago that thinks it’s “vibrant and livable” is the cozy, white liberal part of Chicago.

  8. #8 |  MikeT | 

    The more I read arguments like this, the more I realize that the general message from Stuff White People Like about white liberals is true: they don’t give a shit whether their policies actually help the poor and minorities, so long as it can make them look and feel like they’re doing good. God only knows how many poor residents, especially minorities, have met their demise because those treasonous, goose-stepping guns for hire euphemistically called a police department continue to enforce that patently unconstitutional gun ban.

  9. #9 |  Jacob Tomaw | 

    Great Response.

    You should know that the official name of the municipal legislature might be “Board of Aldermen” (I don’t know) but the local media, citizenry, and government call it City Council.

  10. #10 |  Sam | 

    Liberal.
    I know that the political philosophy that libertarian schools usually draw from (and therefore much of the readership of this site, I assume) is generally the conservative one.
    Maybe that explains the constant effort to label. In any case, when bandying about political cliche terms to blame police state foolishness on someone it would be a grand idea to remember the source of much of it these last two terms was something *not* labeled liberal.
    Oh, maybe we can pretend it’s because of all the LOCAL liberals!

    Forget your name calling. You do yourself and everyone else a disservice. These policies are pushed under liberals and conservatives alike. They offer differing reasons for them, but they all need control to push harder on citizens, and seem happy to let us suffer under them, lib and neocon alike.

    On-topic…Chicago: Nice place to visit (fifteen years ago anyway), wouldn’t want to live there.

  11. #11 |  Leah | 

    The nanny-statism sucks, but I don’t think it has anywhere near the effect on Chicago’s population as the constant tax increases do. If the city and county weren’t so corrupt, they could probably get by without taxing people to the point that they leave. But that’s not going to change anytime soon, so you have to decide if you want an incredibly long commute or a 11% sales tax and various other money-sucking taxes and fees.

  12. #12 |  doc tom | 

    if being a cop is such physical work….how’d they get so fat in the first place?

    mike

  13. #13 |  Wayne | 

    “A lot of those joints were buckets of blood that loomed within a short stagger of neighborhood schools.”

    Are there that many people getting tanked up between 8 AM and 3PM then wandering out into the street and into schools? Even if there were, don’t they usually fence in those school yards? Sounds like an excuse to propose “no alcohol zones” within, say, 1500 feet of a school. Then, if your property borders a school, any liquor out in the open (e.g., having a beer on your back porch) would qualify as a reason to bust you for public drinking.

  14. #14 |  Robert | 

    Sounds like an excuse to propose “no alcohol zones” within, say, 1500 feet of a school. Then, if your property borders a school, any liquor out in the open (e.g., having a beer on your back porch) would qualify as a reason to bust you for public drinking.

    They’d love this, what better reason to send out a SWAT team and shoot some dogs?

  15. #15 |  Matt Moore | 

    Unlike strict libertarians, we support the ban on smoking in the workplace, but we agree that taverns should have been left to decide the matter for themselves.

    I’ve been in the workforce since 1996 and I’ve never worked anywhere that allowed smoking inside. AFAIK, those smoking bans were implemented by the companies and not driven by legal requirements. Isn’t the Sun-Times admitting here that laws on workplace smoking are unnecessary?

  16. #16 |  Sydney Carton | 

    There’s a reason why Chicago was used as the film location for the newest Batman movies. Its corruption and darkness is plainly evident to all.

  17. #17 |  ktc2 | 

    Has there ever been a RICO prosecution of an entire PD?

  18. #18 |  Dakota | 

    “If Chicago is a bit of a nanny state, the impulse springs from a good place — a widespread sense that this is a remarkably healthy, vibrant and livable city, and we don’t want to screw it up.”

    Chi-town, is a good place to live so obviously everything the gubment works just fine. Move along nothing to see here.

    I get this line of thinking all the time from people. You give them a well reasoned argument, backed up by facts, they might EVEN agree with you to a certain extent but then it falls apart. Its because they support with zeal the intentions behind the, ban/tax/war/law, so its religion to them. Some of the smartest people I know fall victim to this.

  19. #19 |  ClubMedSux | 

    “Maybe, just maybe, Mayor Daley and the Board of Aldermen’s suffocating paternalism is part of the reason why Chicago is losing population faster than friggin’ Detroit.”

    As much as the nannyism of the City Council annoys the crap out of me, I don’t think that’s why Chicago is (estimated to be) losing population. I think what you’re seeing is a combination of the overall population shift from the North to the South and people leaving the city for more affordable housing in the ‘burbs. I think the city/county government’s paternalism only impacts the population to the extent that it has a noticeable economic impact on its citizens (see, e.g., Stroger’s sales tax increase). Beyond that, most stupid laws have a negligible impact on the quality of life in Chicago for the simple reason that they’re poorly enforced (as was the case with the foie gras ban).

  20. #20 |  Chris in PA | 

    People keep bringing up high taxes as an unrelated issue that drives people from Chicago, but dabbling your finger into every public issue and high taxes aren’t exactly unrelated.

  21. #21 |  Cappy | 

    I-94, exit onto Hwy 41, run it until you get to 94 again.

    Avoid the tolls.

    Works every time.

  22. #22 |  cb | 

    Sam at #10 writes:

    “I know that the political philosophy that libertarian schools usually draw from (and therefore much of the readership of this site, I assume) is generally the conservative one.
    Maybe that explains the constant effort to label.”

    Please tell me this is a piece of theater highlighting “liberal cognitive dissonance.” In fact, if it were, it would dovetail very nicely with the analysis-less Sun-Times piece.

  23. #23 |  ClubMedSux | 

    “People keep bringing up high taxes as an unrelated issue that drives people from Chicago, but dabbling your finger into every public issue and high taxes aren’t exactly unrelated.”

    Chris-

    I don’t believe anybody said they’re unrelated. I just think there’s a distinction to be made between restricting economic freedoms and restricting social freedoms. I suppose it’s semantics, but I generally associate nanny state tactics with infringing upon social freedoms more so than economic ones. I think it’s a worthwhile distinction because restrictions on social freedoms are harder to enforce and as such tend to have a less significant impact of quality of life (at least in my experience as a native Chicagoan).

  24. #24 |  Kissinger | 

    Man … cannot learn to forget, but hangs on the past: however far or fast he runs, that chain runs with him.FriedrichWilhelmNietzscheFriedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche

  25. #25 |  Steve | 

    I don’t believe anybody said they’re unrelated. I just think there’s a distinction to be made between restricting economic freedoms and restricting social freedoms. I suppose it’s semantics, but I generally associate nanny state tactics with infringing upon social freedoms more so than economic ones. I think it’s a worthwhile distinction because restrictions on social freedoms are harder to enforce and as such tend to have a less significant impact of quality of life (at least in my experience as a native Chicagoan).

    Why make this distinction? The money you spend derives from time you (or another) have spent, which you could have spent doing a “social” something. An hour at work making a fistful of dollars is a finite piece of your finite life, just as the meal you eat is one of a finite number of experiences you’ll ever have (cf. Mises).

    If you allow this distinction to be made, you’re giving someone an excuse to take part of your life away, so long as you can hold onto other parts of your life … until the next compromise. You also allow them to drive wedges between groups who should logically be allied against all theft of another’s life.

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