The editor’s opinion from Marketplace, Northeast Wisconsin’s business magazine. (Obligatory disclaimer: Most hyperlinks go to outside sites, and we’re not responsible for their content. And like fresh watermelon, peaches, pineapple, grapefruit, tomatoes and sweet corn, hyperlinks can go bad after a while.)

April 29, 2008


The first exposure I ever got to art was, of course, Looney Tunes cartoons, a staple of Saturday morning TV for decades. I’ll write more about that some other time; I bring this up to explain the title of this post, a line delivered by Bugs Bunny after having suffered some sort of indignity: “Of course you know THIS means WAR!”

“OCYKTMW!” will be an occasional entry showcasing idiocy in government and elsewhere. I came up with the title in part because WAPL’s “Weenie of the Week” and Sports Illustrated’s “This Week’s Sign of the Apocalypse” are already taken. I was thinking of calling this “Why I Hate Government,” except that (1) not every entry may be about government and (2) that title seems a bit harsh, even though I do not agree with Bill Clinton’s self-aggrandizing claim that “You can’t say you love your country and hate your government.” (See Founding Fathers, 1770.)

Entry number one takes us to Los Angeles, where the bureaucrats are, in the words of the Center for Consumer Freedom, “on the lookout for the most notorious ring of pork pushers: food cart vendors who serve bacon-wrapped hot dogs.” This is because Los Angeles County ordinances allow hot dogs to be served by vendors only if boiled or steamed, not grilled, which seems quite incompatible with wrapping in bacon. Los Angeles County is so set on enforcing the boil-or-steam law that they have reportedly jailed vendors who dared offer the grilling option to their customers, thus, in the words of Reason TV, trapping vendors “between government regulations and consumer demand.”

I’ve never had a bacon-wrapped hot dog (my preference is for Chicago Dogs or what’s apparently popular in Massachusetts, with baked beans on top), although the mere description of what LA Weekly calls “So Good It’s Illegal” attracts my interest. My late father-in-law was a hog farmer, and I find most forms of pork — bacon, ribs, pork chops, pork roast, ham, pig roasts — delectable (that is, until someone spoils it by adding sauerkraut). The first time I went to Famous Dave’s, I thought I had died and gone to heaven. Bacon makes almost anything palatable, and is particularly delightful wrapped around my favorite seafood, shrimp.

More to the point: What kind of mindset (regardless of whether this was a county board ordinance or a bureaucrat-generated regulation) believes that this kind of issue is worth one-tenth of a second of thought, let alone an entire enforcement mechanism that has put people in jail for as long as 45 days? If it’s because of the myths tied to pork and certain diseases, they are just that, myths. If it’s out of the belief that people are too stupid to know what’s good and bad for them … well, I guess there’s plenty of blame to go around for that.

What’s worse is that, according to the LA Weekly article, the L.A. food police has helped create an entire “black market,” if you want to call it that, of hot dog vendors who follow no government regulations at all and pay taxes not to government, but to street gangs. (Very similar to the effects of jacking up cigarette and alcohol taxes, but you already knew that.) That doesn’t strike me as being an improvement.

Government idiocy (and I apologize for repeating myself) like this makes me an even bigger backer of any kind of tax reform proposal that would result in enormous cuts in government. Government that has the personnel and time to enforce ordinances about street vendor-sold bacon-wrapped hot dogs clearly has too many people, too little to do, and too much of our tax money.

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