John Stossel

If you want to buy or sell foie gras in a Chicago restaurant, you'll have to break the law. Not that this stops anyone. Restaurants all over Chicago sell the French delicacy -- even restaurants that never sold it before. They openly thumb their noses at the new law.

City officials say cracking down on foie gras pushers won't be a high priority. But the law is on the books, ready whenever the authorities want to harass some troublesome restaurateur. The ancient Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu said, "The more laws and order are made prominent, the more thieves and robbers there will be."

In this case the politicians are catering to the animal-rights lobby, which complains that geese and ducks are force-fed to make the fattened-liver paste. (The American Veterinary Medical Association investigated the process and has abstained from condemning it.)

Political leaders say they work hard to advance the general welfare. What they really do is help vocal and well-organized special interests.

Sometimes I think the type of people who run for office are the most dangerous people. Most of us want to run our own lives, or help people by offering them charity, or selling them things. The people who want to run other people's lives are . . . different. In pursuit of their vision of the perfect world, they justify even absurd restrictions on our freedom. For example:

In Belton, Mo., it is illegal to throw a snowball.

In New Jersey and Oregon, it is illegal to pump your own gas.

In Kern County, Calif., it is illegal to play bingo while drunk. In Illinois, it is against the law to hunt bullfrogs with a firearm.

In Massachusetts, it's illegal to deface a milk carton.

In Fairfax, Va., the use of pogo sticks is outlawed on city buses. In Palm Harbor, Fla., it is illegal to have an artificial lawn.

Some of these silly laws are old, but dumb as they are, they are still on the books. The bureaucrats' bad ideas never go away. They don't repeal old laws; they just pass new ones.

Plan on painting your porch on your day off? Don't do it in Spring Hill, Tenn. The city council banned any "alteration or repair of any building" in a residential neighborhood on Sundays, even do-it-yourself work.

The mayor of the tiny community of Friendship Heights, Md., said he had to protect his citizens from cigarette smoke. So several years ago, he got his town to pass the most stringent anti-smoking law in America. It banned cigarette smoke not just in restaurants, bars, and offices, but outdoors, too.


John Stossel

John Stossel is host of "Stossel" on the Fox Business Network. He's the author of "No They Can't: Why Government Fails, but Individuals Succeed." To find out more about John Stossel, visit his site at >johnstossel.com. To read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com. ©Creators Syndicate