No Personalized Laws
At times, the state singles out somebody or something for special recognition, as in a resolution declaring crayfish the official state invertebrate. I’ve criticized state symbol resolutions in the past, because they waste time and distract from substantive policy issues. However, I must concede that once a resolution like that has passed, it doesn’t do any more damage. Crayfish don’t acquire any advantage over other invertebrates as a result of their official favor.
Regulations or exemptions that apply to just one business have longer-lasting effects. Legislators waste their time considering a particular case when they should be writing laws that apply more broadly. Then, after the bill passes, the harm is just beginning. That particular business is free to do something that competing businesses can’t. The favored business gets ahead, even if the competition served consumers equally well. The competition didn’t have a fair chance.
An example in the news today is this law allowing certain bars to sell half-gallon containers of beer. I should say, rather, one certain bar. The language of the law makes a pretense of impartiality, defining which bars are affected based on the number of beers they sell and so forth, but when you look at the specifics, it turns out that only one bar falls into that category. The law might as well have that bar’s name on it.
Laws should be broad enough that competing businesses are subject to the same rules. No one would suggest that the law should permit fire stations or elementary schools to sell half-gallon containers of beer; that would be silly, because they don’t sell beer in the first place. But such a law should apply to all businesses engaged in the same activity, leaving out the particulars of what proportion of food they sell or how many beers are on tap. Those details limit the law too narrowly.
Monograms belong on bath towels — not on legislation.