Archive for June 1st, 2008

The seduction of simplistic solutions

June 1, 2008

Was listening to a radio/call-in show a couple of days ago and the discussion of the hour was whether ‘senior’ drivers should have more restrictions put on them. One deep thinker’s solution was to put a decal on the car of every driver 70 years old and older. My immediate reaction was with that mindset they could brand their foreheads with something like “old and dangerous” as well. Might as well go all the way.

But that got me thinking about how decision makers like to attack problems, either real or perceived, with simplistic solutions. Then they try to legitimize their approach by saying that it is a ‘good first step’, or “if it saves one life”.

To beat on a dead horse a bit more, Toronto’s Mayor David Miller thinks he can solve localized gang violence in his city by attacking legitimate, law-abiding gun owners and call for a nation-wide ban on handguns.

Many decades ago, fanatical reformers in the US thought they could solve the problems of the world by banning alcohol and we all know where that led.

The mantra seems to be if there is a problem pass a law to make it illegal. There’s the solution that works every time.

A column in the Toronto Sun spoke thus on the subject.

Breakfast sausages have no place in a modern democracy. Ban them.

You can’t open your morning paper any more without reading about one level of government or another calling for a ban on something.

The federal government proposes to ban Canadian filmmakers from making movies that bureaucrats consider naughty. They also intend to crack down on medicinal herbs. Trafficking in St. John’s Wort is out of control in the inner cities.

OPP Commissioner Julian Fantino, who’s not in government but at times behaves as though he is, proposes to ban drivers from sliding off the road into the ditch during winter storms.

Moderate, responsible speeding — that is, driving at 15 km over the limit on a clear highway in good weather, is banned. The OPP used to look the other way, as long as you drove safely. No longer.

Mayor David Miller wants all guns banned. Also he would outlaw gun-making, ammunition, and target-pistol ranges. It doesn’t matter to him that most gun crime in Toronto is perpetrated by criminals, wielding illegally-obtained handguns. Guns are bad. Ban them.

Premier Dalton McGuinty banned smoking in cars in which children are passengers. That’s because untold thousands of Ontarians are simply too dumb to know second-hand smoke causes disease, and too irresponsible to care properly for their own children.

A ban on cellphone use in cars is next: McGuinty didn’t used to like that idea, but lately he’s come around to it.

I still think that before a government passes a new law they should be required to get rid of an existing law. That might slow them down a bit.

Competency tests for politicians and bureaucrats might be a good idea as well. That might serve to thin the ranks.


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