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Barking Mad

It's enough to drive you nuts -- Bush and those other busybodies

September 18, 2003|Adam B. Summers | Adam B. Summers is a visiting policy analyst with the Reason Foundation.

I saw a story on one of the cable news channels the other night that caught my attention. It was meant to be a puff piece, one of those human-interest stories that make the news anchors chuckle, but I think it revealed something deeper.

A little girl, who happens to be the daughter of Washington state Sen. Dino Rossi, recently went on a tour of the White House and was able to get the tour guide to deliver a letter she wrote to President Bush. It seems she and her three siblings have been nagging their father to buy a dog for the last six months. Not willing to cave in, but also not wanting to upset his children with a flat no, Rossi told them, "The only way I'll get you a dog is if the president tells me I should."

So 12-year-old Juliauna decided to take her dad up on his offer and write to President Bush. In her letter, Juliauna wrote, "I know you're very busy, but please call my dad and ask him if we can get a dog."

So far, so good. Last week, Juliauna received a handwritten response from President Bush. It is Bush's reply that is interesting. "Dear Juliauna," the president wrote, "I agree that dogs are good friends. I love Spot and Barney. So, please tell your dad, I think you should have a dog." Notice that Bush did not stop at relating his personal affection for dogs. He did not defer to the child's parents in deciding what was best for their family. Instead, he presumed to tell a little girl, whom he did not know, how her parents should behave.

Though this may be a harmless and amusing example, I believe it is a symptom of a larger disease among politicians, and the public at large for that matter: sticking your nose in someone else's business. The affliction is much more dangerous when it infects politicians, however, because they have the power to actually affect our life decisions, by government force if necessary.

President Bush has shown his willingness to impose his personal beliefs on hundreds of millions of Americans time and time again. He has trampled upon civil liberties and sacrificed privacy to Big Brother through the Patriot Act. He has allowed the federal government to intrude upon local charitable activities and organizations through his faith-based initiative. He has confiscated more taxpayer money for such purposes as bailing out the airline industry and increasing farm subsidies. He has granted even more control over our children's education to the federal government by dramatically increasing public education spending through the sickeningly warm-and-fuzzy-sounding No Child Left Behind Act. He has adopted protectionist policies that have increased the costs of goods as disparate as pharmaceuticals, steel, lumber, computer chips and even Vietnamese catfish. He has indicated his desire to spend millions of dollars to influence marital habits and teenage sexual behavior.

This is merely the tip of the iceberg, however. State and local governments heap on still more copious busybody regulations, affecting whether you will be able to drive an SUV 10 years from now, what your children may be allowed to eat at school, what wages you may or may not be allowed to agree to work for, and whether you must install a low-flush toilet in your home.

It is time liberty-loving Americans stood up to the busybodies both within and outside of government. It is time to demand that others simply let us be. So don't tell me with whom you think I should associate. Don't tell me how much money I should be giving to the government or to charity. Don't tell me what I can and cannot do in the privacy of my own home. Don't tell me how you think I should live my life. And, for God's sake, don't tell me to go buy a dog!

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