Mitchell: Great moments in British government

Daniel J. Mitchell

Recently, citing bizarre government policies in India, Belgium, Malaysia, Romania, and Spain, I wrote about some “great moments in foreign government.”

Today, we are going to give special attention to the United Kingdom.

I’m not claiming there’s an above-average level of government stupidity in the United Kingdom (though that is distinctly possible). Instead, I suspect I simply get exposed to more stories from the U.K.

Whatever the reason, let’s start with a report from The Times, concerning an expected ban on plastic straws, stirrers and cotton buds intended to “curb society’s addiction” to disposable products. This in addition to plans to require retailers to charge a deposit on plastic bottles and extension of a tax on plastic bags.

Apparently, the supposedly conservative government in the United Kingdom thinks this type of green virtue signaling is a way of wooing the Tories who oppose Brexit.

Switching topics, according to a bizarre story from the BBC, 19-year-old Chelsea Russell, from Liverpool, was found guilty of a hate crime after posting a “racist” lyric from a Snap Dogg song on her private Instagram feed to pay tribute to a boy who died in a road crash. She was sentenced to an eight-week community order, and eight-week curfew and ordered to pay £500 in court costs and an additional £85 victim surcharge.

Given my utter lack of cultural awareness, I’ve never heard of Snap Dogg. I’m guessing he’s black, but I could be wrong.

In any event, this absurd story raises a couple of points.

First, people should have the right to say offensive things.

Second, it appears that there was no offensive intent.

Third, this should not be an issue for government.

I’m sure that there’s still real racism in British society. I hope there is widespread scorn for people who practice that odious version of collectivism. I also support boycotts of private measures to punish unambiguous racists (the ideal goal is to have their minds changed by kindness).

Government should only step in when there’s a threat to life, liberty, or property. Sadly, the British government is policing speech, perhaps even speech that should be considered totally benign.

As it was noted in a funny-yet-sad item from Libertarian Reddit, arrests for offensive Facebook and Twitter posts have soared in London, but when asked why he allowed the baby blimp to fly during U.S. President Donald Trump’s official visit, Mayor Sadiq Khan said, “Can you imagine if we limited freedom of speech because somebody’s feelings might be hurt?”

Speaking of things that are funny and sad, a recent column in Reason magazine details the latest development in the battle to leave Brits totally vulnerable to crime: restricting the sale of knives. If you outlaw knives, only outlaws will have knives (in America, we apply that lesson to tanks). And they will also have acid, as was noted on Libertarian Reddit.

The cops do not have the time and energy to concentrate on these real crimes. Instead, they bust a girl for benignly quoting a bad word. Or they bust homeowners for harming robbers. Or harass employers who commit discrimination by advertising for “reliable” workers.

And apparently Brits also are on guard against the scourge of eggs in the hands of kids. And flour. How embarrassing.

Today’s collection is even worse than the ones I shared in February and April.

P.S. And let’s not forget the U.K.’s creepy statism and ghoulish government-run healthcare.

Daniel J. Mitchell, chairman of the Center for Freedom and Prosperity, is on the Editorial Board of the Cayman Financial Review.

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