Thursday, June 9, 2022

Is Our Insanely Picky Government Overreach Driving Us Bananas?

This story was originally published in June 2009

Woody Allen's films have always been distinctive. His early films reveal a clever eccentric whose unexpected juxtapositions make it impossible not to laugh. In his 1971 film Bananas, the early scene with Howard Cosell announcing a presidential assassination in a Latin American banana republic, as if it were an Ali fight, is so over the top... it works. I'm smiling as I write this because it's still hilarious as I replay it in my mind. 

There are, of course, many memorable scenes in that film with favorites that include the courtroom spoofs and the guerrillas in training. 

In this blog note wanted to draw attention to an unforgettable scene late in the film where the revolutionaries have overthrown the arbitrary rule of the dictators. All the citizens have been lined up to hear the new rules announced. One of these new rules is the requirement that everyone must regularly change their underwear. "To enforce this rule everyone will be required to wear their underwear on the outside." 
"Just checking to make sure you have your underwear on."
So it was with great amusement that I read an Associated Press story last night about a new law passed in Brooksville, Fla.... Workers Must Wear Underwear. Evidently when this story crossed the wire it turned many others' heads as well because a quick Google search shows more than 300 newspaper editors have picked up the account.
I sort of understand dress codes in the work place. But this story underscores the problems that ensue when legislators attempt to turn common sense into laws, regulations or codes. In this instance, city workers are required to use deodorant. How, might we ask, will this be enforced? If you are digging ditches and it's ninety degrees in the shade with 100% humidity, is there a sweat-meter that will measure if your underarms are sufficiently schlocked with Right Guard. I can see a great PR campaign here... "Right Guard keeps city employees out of jail with a free Xtreme Clear Power Gel Arctic Refresh."
But that underwear clause is what has me confused. Who will be the enforcer? Will all men have to keep their flies open so we can see that they are properly suited for work? Apparently Bananas was more relevant than we realized.

* * *
Kudos to Reason magazine for their Brickbats awards highlighting government actions that are excessively stupid, as well as all the other stories about government overreach.

Examples of other stupid laws abound. You can Google "Stupid Laws" and find a wealth of material. In Missouri it is illegal to drive with an uncaged bear in your car. In North Dakota it is illegal to serve beer and pretzels at the same time. (Probably has something to do with the animosity toward Germans in WWI.)  In NYC kids can't have a lemonade stand without a permit and it takes 4 to 6 months to get one. So much for teaching children the basics of entrepreneurship.

For the fun of it, here is a 12-page list of silly laws still on the books in our various states. 

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