Tuesday, March 21, 2006

London Central Authority

The youth are at least not rioting for government-guaranteed sinecures in parochial and less extravagantly socialist London, Ontario, but when they are not playing workers' paradise arrivistes on campus or on their internet Party cadres, they appear to be a pretty understimulated, directionless and surly lot. We can be thankful for the time being that they do not display their gratitude to paternal authority in as demonstrative a manner as the French. In London, they are merely "disaffected" and messy. But what is our council doing about our vapid and corrupt youth, you might ask? Why, they are attributing their crimes to children and punishing innocent retailers for them. According to the London Free Press, they are planning on banning the sale of spray paint and permanent markers to minors to combat graffiti.

Signs warning of hefty fines against minors trying to buy spray paint and some types of markers could soon become a fixture in London stores. High schoolers could also be enlisted in the fight against unsightly graffiti, as undercover shoppers to test if stores are obeying the proposed sales ban to customers under 18.

A bylaw that would ban the sale of heavy-duty marker pens and paints to minors, expected to be passed in coming months, goes to city council's community and protective services committee April 24 where feedback from retailers is sought.
Oddly enough, the first time this bylaw was considered, France was in the grip of… riots! and, in the spirit of Hegel who remarked that "we learn from history that we never learn anything from history," I too am inclined, again, to repeat myself:

[T]his seems to preclude the possibility that they may have perfectly legitimate uses for these products — which, I might add, I did as a minor. Besides, unless the definition of minor is extended to, oh say, 25 or 30, the effect on graffiti will be minimal. If the government is going to assume the role of guarantor of people's property — an ultimately unattainable goal that is clandestinely being abandoned anyway; it is no accident that the French had long ago relinquished that protection — with an assemblage of foliage they call laws, they might as well start enforcing those laws if they want them to have any meaning. Here's an idea — instead of banning spray paint and markers, simply enforce laws against destruction of property. In the case of public property — the two words as they are commonly understood cannot be properly stood together, but in any case — those laws ought to be enforced equally. Yes, minors are treated specially, we know — so when they are caught, let some of their possessions, up to the value of the property they vandalized as far as possible, be destroyed. Make laws simple and meaningful — the failure of so many laws to make intuitive sense and the understanding that laws are only arbitrarily and selectively enforced, even when it is possible to enforce them, leads to lawlessness as easily as water flowing downstream.
The city's bylaw enforcement manager, Orest Katolyk, said the initial focus of the bylaw would be to engage in dialogue with retailers.

"We're going to focus very much on education — we're not going to be the hammer right away," he said.

While violators could be fined as much as $5,000, the city would likely look at fines between $100 and $300, he said.
The benevolent face of London paternal authority is the use of discretion to arbitrarily set punishment — how nice to let people guess when they are going to be the hammer.

For those unsuspecting adults who do not sell permanent markers or spray paint, simply imagined crimes will be attributed to each and every one of you. To that vocal minority that imagines that something must be done and troubles not over questions of the imperative, the something, the doing, or the doer, something will always continue to must be done until it is done — after which, of course, they can move on to the next something that must be done. That's right — sooner or later, London will have a pesticide ban. From the Free Press:
London city council will debate once again whether to ban the cosmetic use of pesticides in London.

The issue, which dogged council for four years until a proposed bylaw was defeated last November, was reintroduced by Coun. Bill Armstrong at yesterday's environment and transportation committee meeting.
The debates of council on the limits to which it exercises its authority, and the capture of its interest by dirigiste theories and political activism, are themselves cosmetic applications. The temptation to use its authority in arbitrary exercises is always inevitable simply because it's there. Time to dust off the Terence Corcoran again:
City governments have near-absolute power over most aspects of life within their jurisdictions, and what powers they don't have they are angling to take on under new deals for cities' reforms.

What should really be under scrutiny … across Canada, is why city governments have been given such sway over private property and private interests. Somewhere in the laws that give Vancouver city council its authority to shoot down Wal-Mart lies the big gun of urban power, the city's control over private property. The vehicles of control are extensive: zoning regulations, land use by-laws, licensing and other powers of a general and arbitrary nature.

The reach of cities, soon to be expanded in many provinces through new laws and tax revenues, are already extensive. They ban private smoking in private restaurants and close establishments down that don't comply. They prohibit safe pesticide use on private property based on trumped up fears of environmental hazard. Any popular concern can be converted into a city power trip. Anything in the area of health, safety and the environmental is a source of fresh initiatives. What people drive, where they live, what kind of homes they can build — few things are outside the ambit of some form of control by city officials. If they're not doing it yet, they're working on it.

1 Comment:

Dick said...

Consider it the spoils of being an 'urban poof'!