I must admit I'd have more sympathy for those who argue that stories of government regulation trapping the unwary in seemingly nonsensical ways were the result of faceless bureaucrats applying the letter, rather than the spirit of the law, if those wrote the law weren't among the worst offenders.
For instance, what sort of man calls the police to report schoolchildren for selling cookies, cupcakes, and rice krispie treats without a business permit and necessary insurance? In New Castle, New York, that honor goes to city councilman Michael Wolfensohn.
"All vendors selling on town property have to have a license, whether it's boys selling baked goods or a hot dog vendor," said Wolfensohn, who was elected to the board in 2007 after becoming well known in the community for leading a contentious, five-year effort to build a 9/11 memorial. The memorial ended up in Gedney Park after neighbors of the original location, the Duck Pond, sued.
Couldn't Wolfensohn have simply told the boys that they needed a license, the parents want to know, instead of calling the police?
"In hindsight, maybe I should have done that, but I wasn't sure if I was allowed to do that," he said. "The police are trained to deal with these sorts of issues."
Actually, and to their credit, the police of New Castle, New York are not trained to deal with the issue of thirteen year old boys selling unlicensed cookies and snacks. That's demonstrated by the fact that the police had allowed the boys in question to sell other treats without harassment or complaint, until Michael Wolfensohn squealed like a pig that the law was being violated, by two children who wanted to make a buck selling their product to willing buyers through honest commerce.
In fact, no amount of training can make a man "qualified" to deal with "these issues," where the issues in question involve a self-important adult so concerned with upholding the sanctity of the law that he calls the cops on (if this story had been perfect) a kid's lemonade stand.
No, it took a born prick, of the caliber of Michael Wolfensohn, to rain on these boys' parade, and then to blame it all on a policeman who was just doing his job.
And while it may seem ironic that Wolfensohn, before today, was most famous for his struggle to build a 9/11 memorial in a town having no obvious connection to that tragedy, considering that he's the sort of man who would use his ham-fisted authority to quash even the tiny spark of free enterprise represented by a kid's cookie stand, it's in fact entirely appropriate.
Wolfensohn is the best possible representative of a political class that spends public money to build useless memorials where they're not wanted, and to step on children who have the energy, but not the good sense and legal advice, to build a cookie stand, all while claiming to stand for the American law and ideals that the terrorists attempted to crush on September 11, 2001.