Thomas Sowell

 Some people think of California as a place where many kooky ideas originate. It is that but there is more to it than that.
California has long had more than its fair share of busybodies with a vision of the world in which it is necessary for them to force other people to do Good Things. That is not just a vision of the world, it is a vision of themselves -- a very flattering vision that they are not likely to give up for anything so mundane as facts or logic.

 One of the latest examples is a recent ruling by one of the many busybody commissions in California that people who build houses, or just remodel their homes, will in the future have to have more fluorescent lights and even install motion sensors to control lights -- all in the name of saving energy.

 Motion sensors? Yes. If you are in a room where motion sensors control the lights, sitting still for a while will cause the lights to go off automatically.

 The idea of the anointed busybodies is that we lesser people often leave the lights on when we walk out of a room, thereby wasting energy. The answer, as in so many other cases, is to impose their superior wisdom and virtue by forcing us to do a Good Thing -- in this case install motion sensors to turn out the lights automatically when there is no one moving in the room.

 If you are one of those people who just likes to sit still and think for a while, or perhaps listen to music or watch television, look for the lights to start going off if you are in California -- and get used to having to wave your arms or shake your legs in order to get them to come back on again. But it's a Good Thing.

 The world is full of Good Things, which is why there are so many laws and regulations increasingly intruding into our lives and restricting what we can do, even in our own homes. The vision of imposing Good Things means an ever-growing petty tyranny.

 In some countries, where such visions are more sweeping, the tyranny is far from petty. Around the world and for thousands of years, human beings have not been able to leave other human beings alone.

 Just think of all the centuries in which Christians tried to force Jews to change their religion or Moslems tried to force other people to adopt Islam. Was there nothing better to do with all that time and energy except persecute people for having different beliefs?

 Some people obviously thought it was a Good Thing to have other people believe what they believed or to unify the country with one religion. Like today's busybodies, they seldom stopped to consider the cost of the Good Thing they wanted to do.

Thomas Sowell

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

Creators Syndicate