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Useless Government Intervention


NOTE: The Majority of these entries are taken directly from the book Shakedown: How Government Screws You From A to Z, and credit for those entries is given to the book's author, James Bovard, unless mentioned otherwise.


A visitor to the page emailed me the following incident

  • The local pizza place used to have stools and a counter, so that you could order your pizza, and then sit and eat it there.

    The last time I went there, the stools were gone. The guy said that the Board of Health made them remove their stools. The Board of Health? How could that be?

    Well, it turns out that you're allowed to stand and eat your pizza, but the moment you sit down, it becomes a restaurant, and then you need a public restroom! So he had to remove the stools!

  • In Englewood, Colorado, a ten-year-old boy dialed 911 and told the woman who answered: "I'm a DARE kid!" He asked for the police to come to his house; after they arrived, he took them to a bookshelf, on which a small bag of marijuana was hidden. the boy sat in a police cruiser watching the police bust his parents.

  • DARE spokeswoman Roberta Silverman claims that drug busts that occur after DARE training are often unfairly linked to the DARE training the child received. But the Wall Street Journal noted in 1992:"In two recent cases in Boston, children who had tipped police stepped out of their homes carrying DARE diplomas as police arrived to arrest their parents.

  • A New Hampshire policeman publicly declared that he routinely stopped and searched any car with a Grateful Dead bumber sticker.

  • The Justice Department ordered the Washington, D.C., subway system to put raised bumps on the edges of its subway platforms to alret blind people. (The changes would have cost an estimated $30,000,000) But the national Federation of Blind People opposed the mandate because it believed that blind people would likely trip over the bumps and fall in front of trains.

  • Thirty-five hundred kidney cancer patients died during the three and a half years it took the FDA to approve the drug Interleukin 2.

  • One hundred fifty thousand heart attack victims may have lost their lives as a result of the FDA's delays in approving the emergency blod-clotting drug, TPA.

  • Long Island Housing Services, a fair housing group, sued a newspaper for permitting the use of the term professional in classified ads. A spokesman for the group claimed that the word professional was a racist code word.

  • The IRS claims a right to slap $500 penalties on individuals if they write only two words of protest on their tax returns. Laurence McCormick, a Brooklyn retiree, squeezed the words "under protest" under his signature on his tax return filed April 15, 1992. The IRS promptly slapped a $500 penalty on him for filing a "frivolous return", thereby implying that the two words invalidated all the other information on the return.

  • Starting in 1990, the FDA has brought the medical device industry to a halt with an incredible regulatory logjam -- even for products the FDA admits pose no threat to the public! FDA review time for major new medical devices has increased from 337 days in 1988 to almost 800 days in 1994.

  • The FDA has been supervigilant in cracking down on medical device manufacturers. However, the FDA's definition of "medical device" is far broader than that of most mere mortals. Among the products which have been forced to gain FDA approval before being sold are:

  • On March 25, 1994, thirteen heavily armed Boston police wearing black fatigue outfits smashed into the apartment of seventy-five-year-old Accelynne Williams, a retired black preacher. "Instead of four heavily-armed Jamaican drug dealers police found Williams, who neighbors said was so frail that it took him 10 minutes to climb the stairs to his apartment," The Boston Globe noted. Williams ran into his bedroom when the raid began; police smashed down the bedroom door, shoved Williams to the floor and handcuffed him. Williams may have had up to a dozen police guns pointed at his head during the scuffle. Minutes later, Williams died of a heart attack. No drugs were found in Williams's apartment. Boston police carried out the raid based on a tip from an anonymous informant who did not even give a specific apartment number; a policewoman simply took the informant's word, did a quick drive-by of the building, got a search warrant, and then got the go-ahead for her and her fellow officers to smash in the door. (Officers from the same unit of the Boston police had been previously been condemned by courts for falsely claiming to have tips from anonymous informants to justify smashing into private apartments without warning). A Boston Globe editorial later observed, "The Williams tragedy resulted, in part, from the 'big score' mentality of the centralized Boston Police Drug Control Unit. Officers were pumped up to seize machine guns in addition to large quantites of cocaine and a 'crazy amount of weed,' in the words of the informant.

  • Between 1980 and 1993, the number of federal search warrants relying exclusively on an unidentified source nearly tripled, from 24 percent to 71 percent.

  • On May 1, 1988, Seattle police kicked in the door of an apartment in South Seattle. Erdman Bascomb, forty-one was lying on the couch holding a television remote control clicker. The first policeman through the door saw the remote control and shot Bascomb. As he lay dying, Bascomb asked the police: "What's going on? Why did you do it?" Police expected, based on a confidential informant's allegation, to find a small quantity of cocaine in the apartment, but found none.

  • New York officials set up special bins to collect the newspapers of commuters coming through Penn Central train station. Police arrested a woman after she retrieved a newspaper out of a recycling bin for a quick look during rush hour.

  • Pennsylvania resident John Pocysgai was sent to prison for two years for putting several truckloads of dirt on a malarial section of a junkyard that he had cleaned up. The government claimed that the junkyard was a wetland.

  • Columbia, Maryland, requires all new homes to have a sprinkler system installed in the lawn--which adds hundreds of dollars to the price of building a new home.

  • Coral Gables, Florida charges residents thirty-five dollars to get a permit to paint the bathroom in their home--or the living room, or any other room. Local inspectors patrol the streets looking for painting trucks parked at homes that have not paid the permit fee.

  • In September 1993, the New York City buildings commissioner bushwacked Fordham University. Fordham had received permission from the city government to build a 480-foot radio tower at its campus in the Bronx. After the radio tower was almost half finished, the city government reversed it's position and revoked the building permit. The government's action cost Fordham over $500,000.

  • In late 1991, the EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission) compelled a $2,000,000 settlement out of World's Finest Chocolate, a Chicago candy maker. EEOC's Allison Nichol explained: "Their method of recruitment was primarily by word of mouth through their existing workforce, which at the time was primarily white, thereby excluding blacks from knowing about the jobs."

  • The U. S. Forest Service may have achieved the apex of affirmative action idealism. The Forest Service was harshly criticized in the past for not hiring enough female firefighters. Many women could not pass the strength tests required for lugging heavy firefighting equiptment. The agency's solution? Modifying its position announcements. One job announcement declared, "Only unqualified applicants may apply." A second announcement specified, "Only applicants who do not meet [job requirement] standards will be considered."


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