Thomas Sowell

Santa Monica, California, has decreed a fine of $2,500 a day for not cutting your hedges!

 Has someone discovered some terrible health hazard or other danger from hedges that are too high? Not at all. The politicians who run Santa Monica have simply decided that people should not be able to build a high wall of hedges around themselves.

 Santa Monica has long been called "the People's Republic of Santa Monica" for all the far left laws and rhetoric it generates. Like other governments called "people's republic," the last thing they care about is people. The ideology, or even whims, of those in power routinely take away other people's right to live their own lives as they see fit.

 Santa Monica is not unique. Wherever you get enough far left people in power, you can find a similar willingness to force everyone into collectivist conformity at all costs.

 Too often these selfish ego trips of the left are called idealism, and issues are discussed in terms of the wonderful goals they proclaim -- "social justice," "open space" or "saving" this or that -- rather than in terms of what is actually being done and the costs entailed on others, even when that cost is $2,500 a day.

 None of this is peculiar to the United States. In fact, the same mindset is more prevalent in a number of Western European countries and has been carried even further in practice.

 In Britain, for example, the right to defend yourself is being taken away in many ways. Gun control laws there have not only tightened restrictions on gun ownership -- with the murder rate rising as they do -- these laws ban anything that looks like a gun, especially if it is used in self-defense.

 Britons who have held burglars in their homes until the police arrived, by using toy pistols, have been arrested along with the burglars. To the collectivist mindset, independent self-help of any sort is a threat to their vision of the government as the sole source of protection and direction.

 If someone attacks you in Britain and you knock him down, you are not allowed to hit him again or you will be charged with assault. Apparently they think that someone who has been knocked down is now harmless. People who have led sufficiently sheltered lives may believe such things -- and impose such notions on others through the power of government.

 The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) has even advised that you are not to yell "help" when you are attacked in a public place. You are to yell "Call the police."

 Both self-defense and coming to the aid of others are lumped together as "vigilante" actions. That mindset has made inroads into the American media as well.

Thomas Sowell

Thomas Sowell is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institute and author of The Housing Boom and Bust.

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