From raising the minimum age to buy tobacco or firearms to taxing soda and banning plastic straws, there doesn’t seem to be an aspect of human behavior the nanny state wouldn’t love to control. Best case scenario, it’s for our own good – to protect us from ourselves. Worst case, it’s to control us. Either way, the idea that we can – or should – legislate out destructive or foolish behavior is ridiculous.
In keeping with that tradition of silliness, Vermont State Senator John Rodgers (D – Essex-Orleans) introduced a bill that would, in the very unlikely event it passes, ban cell phone use by anyone under the age of 21. Despite being taken very seriously by some news outlets and readers, the bill seems to be more joke than actual proposal. And whether it’s a real policy or mere parody, it’s equally fitting with nanny state culture – and hilarious.
Rodger’s Goal: Policy or Parody?
“I have no delusions that it’s going to pass,” Rodgers told the Barre Montpelier Times Argus. “I probably wouldn’t vote for it myself.” Sen. Rodgers is a pro-gun Democrat – yes, they do exist – who has lamented the fact that the Vermont legislature “seems bent on taking away our Second Amendment rights.” He said that he introduced the bill to make a point, but he didn’t clarify exactly what that point was. It seems clear from his comments that this measure is mere satire, designed to point out how ridiculous it is for the government to protect us from ourselves by restricting our rights.
Yet this is exactly the sort of thing you would expect from the nanny state, and that makes the other possible point just as believable as motivation: Phones are just as dangerous as guns, booze, and tobacco, so we should restrict them, too. real policy or clever parody, Rodgers’ bill has people on both sides of the political divide up in arms.
Those who oppose the ever-expanding nanny state are aghast that the loony left would dare restrict yet another right. And why not? No guns, alcohol, or tobacco until age 21, no plastic straws at all, no cars, no airplanes … it seems only a matter of time before driving and cell phone use are restricted. The only actual right they don’t seem to want to tie to a higher age is voting – and you can bet that’s only because younger voters are more likely to vote liberal.
The gun grabbers – whether they realize he’s making fun of them or not – are upset about the proposal because it wastes time that could be spent on more important things. What sort of things? Well, according to Michelle Fay, the executive director of Voices for Vermont’s Children, Rodgers should focus on increasing the minimum wage, implementing government insurance programs, and establishing an office of child advocate.
The Good Sense of Satire and Lackadaisical Legislators
Even some who get the joke – and agree with the sentiment behind it – feel Rodgers should steer clear of introducing parody laws just to make a point. But such a stance ignores the value and purpose of satire. The step-by-step infringement of the rights of the people by the nanny state – especially the right to keep and bear arms – is an affront to the founding principle of this nation: individual liberty. With a 24 to six Democrat majority in the Senate and a 95 to 43 lead on Republicans in the House, what chance does Sen. Rodgers have of getting the gun laws he so detests repealed? A work of legislative satire is the best bet he has to get his point across.
After explaining how destructive teen cell phone use can be, Sen. Rodgers tied cell phone use to the other age-restricted items, which, interestingly enough, have caused fewer teen deaths in recent years than irresponsible phone use:
“In light of the dangerous and life-threatening consequences of cell phone use by young people, it is clear that persons under 21 years of age are not developmentally mature enough to safely possess them, just as the General Assembly has concluded that persons under 21 years of age are not mature enough to possess firearms, smoke cigarettes, or consume alcohol.”
Regardless of what party is in power, when legislators work together and pass new laws, it tends to mean more government meddling in the lives of Americans. Is it a waste of tax dollars that Sen. Rodgers wrote this bill and that now it must go through the legislative process? Perhaps. But what would you prefer – an entertaining bit of satirical legislation with little to no chance of passage or more government offices, more tax-funded programs, and an increased minimum wage?
Read more from James Fite.