Governing with small intentions
Looks like we’ve passed the time of government by firm command. Now we’re in the age of coaxing.
The grocery store owners don’t like the procedure for recycling cans and bottles, so we offer them a penny out of every nickel deposit. It’s like sidling around a crazy man on the sidewalk, averting our eyes and tossing him some change, hoping he’ll leave us alone.
People can’t agree on how much to increase the tax on cigarettes; so we say, OK, forget what we said about paying for the future health care of these nicotine addicts. How about if the money goes toward property tax relief? You care more about that anyway, right?
We can’t figure out why young adults want to leave Iowa for the big city lights, so we briefly consider treating them like kids. Maybe they’ll forget about seeing the world if we save them a few hundred dollars by letting them duck income taxes.
Government used to seem like a powerful giant, and we spent a fair amount of time hoping to avoid its notice. Now, at the state level anyway, it’s been reduced to swinging wildly while blindfolded. We have layers and layers of law in place after a century and a half of trying to cover every eventuality. Now we’re just trying to fine-tune. We’ve reached the point of governing by suggestion, ruling by encouragement.
We talk about yanking your driver’s license if you drive away from the gas station without paying. The laws pertaining to theft don’t appear to work, so, gee, maybe we should invent some car-related punishment.
It isn’t just the Iowa Legislature that has reached this point, where you feel as if you’re trying to kill a spider with a bazooka.
The Des Moines School Board narrowly avoided passing a proposal to yank the driver’s licenses of school dropouts. Dropping out is foolish and losing your license would be punishment, but one doesn’t have much to do with the other. The board just wanted to somehow exercise control over these people. They couldn’t think of a logical way, but that didn’t stop them from bringing it to a vote.
That’s about where we stand right now. Life is good for most Iowans, and things would be even better if we could just legislate a few more irritations out of existence.
But things will never be perfect. So the fine-tuning will continue.