Tuesday, June 10, 2014

America’s compulsive urge to regulate

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With its spider’s web of local and federal rules, the US is swinging back to intrusion
US uniformity©Matt Kenyon
America – so the song says – is the land of the free and home of the brave. It does not always feel that way. Last week the Food and Drug Administration said it would regulate e-cigarettes like normal tobacco. This is in spite of the fact there is no proof it leads people on to the real ones. Quite the reverse – the whole point is to help people kick the habit. Chicago, Boston and Los Angeles have gone further and banned e-cigarettes in public places. There is no evidence their vapour causes harm to users or bystanders. The sight of it alone is apparently offensive enough.
The US has always struggled between its impulse for freedom and a Calvinistic urge to meddle. The pendulum in early 21st-century America is swinging back to intrusion. Whether it is workplace safety, traffic, public health or social behaviour, there is a creeping impulse to micro-regulate.

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