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    Political Tittle-tattle: News and Entertainment from Hawaii’s Political Arena

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    ”Case Not Surprised At the Attack, But At the Attacker”

    U.S. Rep. Ed Case, who won the right to represent Hawaii’s second congressional district through a Nov. 30 election for the final five weeks of 2002, says he was not surprised about the attack on him in his final days of campaigning for a second special election, Jan. 4, 2003. But Case, who with 43 other candidates, is hoping to be elected tomorrow to the two-year U.S. House seat term left vacant by the Nov. 28 death of former U.S. Rep. Patsy Mink, was surprised at who launched the attack

    Substitute Teachers Seek Back Pay and Union Representation

    Last Nov. 29, 10 substitute teachers working for the Department of Education, and living in all four of Hawaii’s counties, filed suit (Chang vs. Hawaii) against the DOE demanding back pay from the state as required by law. The DOE has been ignoring a clear and unambiguous provision of the Hawaii Revised Statues that, since July 1, 1996, spells out the pay rates for substitute teachers. We are also seeking representation through Local 368 of the Laborer’s International Union of North America (LIUNA).

    Hawaii’s 5,200 substitute teachers are on-call, casual employees of the DOE. We work only when a regular teacher is absent from his or her job. We are paid a per diem rate — a fixed amount for each day we work. For the first semester of the current, 2002-2003 school year we were underpaid by $25.72 per day. For the second semester, we are currently being underpaid by $26.54 per day. A sub who works 100 of 181 school days — slightly over half the year — will be underpaid by just over $2,600 for the current school year. This is money that these teachers have earned, and money that most need to maintain a modest standard of living in Hawaii.

    HRS #302A-624(e) provides that ” . . . effective July 1, 1996, the per diem rate for substitute teachers shall be based on the annual entry step salary rate established for a Class II teacher on the most current teachers’ salary schedule. The per diem rate shall be derived from the annual rate in accordance with the following formula: Per Diem Rate = Annual Salary Rate [divided by] 12 months [divided by] Average Working Days Per Month.”

    For six years the DOE simply ignored this provision of state law and paid subs under its old schedule, which resulted in an even greater underpayment than we are now enduring. On May 8, 2002, Superintendent Patricia Hamamoto announced “a change in per diem rates for substitute teachers” that resulted in retroactive back pay for the 2001-2002 school year. But instead of applying this formula to the entry salary rate for a Class II teacher, the DOE applied it to the entry level step salary rate for a Class II instructor. The “Instructor” category, which carries a lower rate of pay than the “Teacher” category, did not exist in 1996. Chang vs. Hawaii simply seeks to have the DOE obey the law.

    In addition to being illegally underpaid for 6 years, substitute teachers receive no benefits of any kind, except for those few who are given a “contract” to cover a long-term absence of over 30 days. But the DOE often will hire a sub for 29 days and then make him or her miss a day before returning to work, just to avoid paying benefits.

    Here’s what subs miss out on that regular teachers enjoy under their union contract:

    *a.. Substitute teachers are not eligible for any insurance coverage through their employment. No health insurance, no life insurance, no dental or eye care insurance. Effective July 3, 2003, subs will have the same right to receive health insurance benefits as other state and county employees. However, the trustees who administer this law, led by employer-appointed trustees, have been attempting, through administrative rule-making, to deny subs this opportunity. Local 368 has been picketing meetings of the trustees. This picketing has been effective, and the rules remain unchanged as this is written.

    *b.. Substitute teachers have no pension or other retirement benefits available to them.

    *c.. Substitute teachers have no job protection of any kind. At any public school, we serve at the pleasure of the administration. If the principal or a vice principal decides a particular sub is not welcome there, then that is that. There is no right of appeal or of review.

    *d.. Subs have no paid leave of any kind. We have no paid holidays.

    *e.. Subs are not eligible to receive merit pay raises, or longevity raises.

    *f.. Subs are not eligible to receive unemployment compensation when they are laid off during scheduled breaks — Summer break, Spring break and Christmas break. Regular teachers are paid an annual salary over the course of a fiscal year (July 1 to June 30), and their salary continues over these breaks.

    *g.. Except for an optional day occasionally offered in July, substitute teachers have no opportunity to receive in-service training. Regular teachers have generous in-service training opportunities available to them.

    In June 2002, the DOE in a newsletter sent to all subs said, “Our new superintendent, Patricia Hamamoto, is leading the charge to hold high expectations for our students and to address the challenges we must meet . . . Professional behavior and good judgment are expected of substitute teachers . . .

    “As a substitute teacher, you are an integral part of the DOE team. Commit to your business of providing your very best efforts as you substitute teach each day . . . love your work . . . do the best you can and have students catch the learning passion from you. Some will say this is easier said than done, but it is possible if you are truly committed. The students and teachers will thank you for it!”

    The DOE is, of course, right to expect a high degree of dedication and professionalism from its substitute teachers. It should respond by paying us the per diem called for by state law, and negotiating appropriate fringe benefits.

    Hawaii’s substitute teachers are responding to a drive by Local 368 of LIUNA to organize them. This drive is led by Jimmy Kuroiwa, Union Representative/Organizer, whose wife, Patricia Kuroiwa, is a substitute teacher and a plaintiff in Chang vs. Hawaii. Any substitute teacher who is interested in seeking union representation should contact Local 368 in Honolulu at 841-5877, or by e-mailing Kuroiwa at mailto:jkuroiwa@local368.org.

    ”’David Hudson lives in Hilo. He has been a substitute teacher since 1990, and is a plaintiff in Chang vs. Hawaii. He can be reached at:”’ mailto:dhudson@interpac.net

    Hate Crime

    “Dick Rowland Image”

    “Bush seeks another tax cut for the rich,” the Dec. 31, 2002, editorial in the Honolulu Advertiser was a sad example of failed socialist ideology.

    Here is a partial list of what was wrong with it: It assumed that whatever any individual earns, owns or otherwise possesses, in wealth does not in fact, belong to him. Eventually, good-bye to the authors 401K plan. It will be taken by government because it “needs” it.
    It subtly called for class warfare. A tax is a penalty on earnings. The editorial calls for higher penalties on those who work hard, earn more, save more, invest more. In other words those who are successful in pursuit of the “American Dream.”
    Which leads directly to the point that jobs are created by entrepreneurial investment. Have you ever seen a “poor” person hire an employee or invest in a business? How many reader employees work for “poor” people? To discourage business and job formation via penalties is to assure feeble economic growth and to destroy the prosperity that could be created. Actually, poverty is created.
    The entire editorial smacks of envy. The same kind, on a lesser scale, that is supposedly the basis for terrorist attacks on the USA. Envy, when encouraged, produces hate, which fosters violence.

    Based on the above, the editorial is evil in its theme. The intent is undoubtedly benign but the result is horrible.

    It was an endorsement of hate crime of the same genre as the discrimination against and murder of successful Chinese business people in Indonesia, Malaysia and elsewhere in Southeast Asia. The newspaper should retract that editorial — now.

    ”’Richard O. Rowland is president of the Grassroot Institute of Hawaii. He can be reached via email at mailto:grassroot@hawaii.rr.com or by phone at (808) 487-4959. More information about the Grassroot Institute of Hawaii can be found at its Web site at”’ https://www.grassrootinstitute.org

    Substitute Teachers Seek Back Pay and Union Representation

    Last Nov. 29, 10 substitute teachers working for the Department of Education, and living in all four of Hawaii’s counties, filed suit (Chang vs. Hawaii) against the DOE demanding back pay from the state as required by law. The DOE has been ignoring a clear and unambiguous provision of the Hawaii Revised Statues that, since July 1, 1996, spells out the pay rates for substitute teachers. We are also seeking representation through Local 368 of the Laborer’s International Union of North America (LIUNA). Hawaii’s 5,200 substitute teachers are on-call, casual employees of the DOE. We work only when a regular teacher is absent from his or her job. We are paid a per diem rate — a fixed amount for each day we work. For the first semester of the current, 2002-2003 school year we were underpaid by $25.72 per day. For the second semester, we are currently being underpaid by $26.54 per day. A sub who works 100 of 181 school days — slightly over half the year — will be underpaid by just over $2,600 for the current school year. This is money that these teachers have earned, and money that most need to maintain a modest standard of living in Hawaii. HRS #302A-624(e) provides that ” . . . effective July 1, 1996, the per diem rate for substitute teachers shall be based on the annual entry step salary rate established for a Class II teacher on the most current teachers’ salary schedule. The per diem rate shall be derived from the annual rate in accordance with the following formula: Per Diem Rate = Annual Salary Rate [divided by] 12 months [divided by] Average Working Days Per Month.” For six years the DOE simply ignored this provision of state law and paid subs under its old schedule, which resulted in an even greater underpayment than we are now enduring. On May 8, 2002, Superintendent Patricia Hamamoto announced “a change in per diem rates for substitute teachers” that resulted in retroactive back pay for the 2001-2002 school year. But instead of applying this formula to the entry salary rate for a Class II teacher, the DOE applied it to the entry level step salary rate for a Class II instructor. The “Instructor” category, which carries a lower rate of pay than the “Teacher” category, did not exist in 1996. Chang vs. Hawaii simply seeks to have the DOE obey the law. In addition to being illegally underpaid for 6 years, substitute teachers receive no benefits of any kind, except for those few who are given a “contract” to cover a long-term absence of over 30 days. But the DOE often will hire a sub for 29 days and then make him or her miss a day before returning to work, just to avoid paying benefits. Here’s what subs miss out on that regular teachers enjoy under their union contract: *a.. Substitute teachers are not eligible for any insurance coverage through their employment. No health insurance, no life insurance, no dental or eye care insurance. Effective July 3, 2003, subs will have the same right to receive health insurance benefits as other state and county employees. However, the trustees who administer this law, led by employer-appointed trustees, have been attempting, through administrative rule-making, to deny subs this opportunity. Local 368 has been picketing meetings of the trustees. This picketing has been effective, and the rules remain unchanged as this is written. *b.. Substitute teachers have no pension or other retirement benefits available to them. *c.. Substitute teachers have no job protection of any kind. At any public school, we serve at the pleasure of the administration. If the principal or a vice principal decides a particular sub is not welcome there, then that is that. There is no right of appeal or of review. *d.. Subs have no paid leave of any kind. We have no paid holidays. *e.. Subs are not eligible to receive merit pay raises, or longevity raises. *f.. Subs are not eligible to receive unemployment compensation when they are laid off during scheduled breaks — Summer break, Spring break and Christmas break. Regular teachers are paid an annual salary over the course of a fiscal year (July 1 to June 30), and their salary continues over these breaks. *g.. Except for an optional day occasionally offered in July, substitute teachers have no opportunity to receive in-service training. Regular teachers have generous in-service training opportunities available to them. In June 2002, the DOE in a newsletter sent to all subs said, “Our new superintendent, Patricia Hamamoto, is leading the charge to hold high expectations for our students and to address the challenges we must meet . . . Professional behavior and good judgment are expected of substitute teachers . . . “As a substitute teacher, you are an integral part of the DOE team. Commit to your business of providing your very best efforts as you substitute teach each day . . . love your work . . . do the best you can and have students catch the learning passion from you. Some will say this is easier said than done, but it is possible if you are truly committed. The students and teachers will thank you for it!” The DOE is, of course, right to expect a high degree of dedication and professionalism from its substitute teachers. It should respond by paying us the per diem called for by state law, and negotiating appropriate fringe benefits. Hawaii’s substitute teachers are responding to a drive by Local 368 of LIUNA to organize them. This drive is led by Jimmy Kuroiwa, Union Representative/Organizer, whose wife, Patricia Kuroiwa, is a substitute teacher and a plaintiff in Chang vs. Hawaii. Any substitute teacher who is interested in seeking union representation should contact Local 368 in Honolulu at 841-5877, or by e-mailing Kuroiwa at mailto:jkuroiwa@local368.org. ”David Hudson lives in Hilo. He has been a substitute teacher since 1990, and is a plaintiff in Chang vs. Hawaii. He can be reached at:” mailto:dhudson@interpac.net

    Hate Crime

    Dick Rowland Image “Bush seeks another tax cut for the rich,” the Dec. 31, 2002, editorial in the Honolulu Advertiser was a sad example of failed socialist ideology. Here is a partial list of what was wrong with it: It assumed that whatever any individual earns, owns or otherwise possesses, in wealth does not in fact, belong to him. Eventually, good-bye to the authors 401K plan. It will be taken by government because it “needs” it. It subtly called for class warfare. A tax is a penalty on earnings. The editorial calls for higher penalties on those who work hard, earn more, save more, invest more. In other words those who are successful in pursuit of the “American Dream.” Which leads directly to the point that jobs are created by entrepreneurial investment. Have you ever seen a “poor” person hire an employee or invest in a business? How many reader employees work for “poor” people? To discourage business and job formation via penalties is to assure feeble economic growth and to destroy the prosperity that could be created. Actually, poverty is created. The entire editorial smacks of envy. The same kind, on a lesser scale, that is supposedly the basis for terrorist attacks on the USA. Envy, when encouraged, produces hate, which fosters violence. Based on the above, the editorial is evil in its theme. The intent is undoubtedly benign but the result is horrible. It was an endorsement of hate crime of the same genre as the discrimination against and murder of successful Chinese business people in Indonesia, Malaysia and elsewhere in Southeast Asia. The newspaper should retract that editorial — now. ”Richard O. Rowland is president of the Grassroot Institute of Hawaii. He can be reached via email at mailto:grassroot@hawaii.rr.com or by phone at (808) 487-4959. More information about the Grassroot Institute of Hawaii can be found at its Web site at” https://www.grassrootinstitute.org

    The Biggest Bunch of Cowards

    1

    The biggest bunch of cowards in the U.S. Congress are the multilateralists. These are the ones who say that the Bush administration should not escalate the 10-year-old war against Iraq without the support of the United Nations.

    What makes them cowards is not their skittishness about having the United States go it alone against Saddam Hussein. It’s their seeking refuge in multilateralism so they don’t have to oppose the war forthrightly, as they should. They were afraid of going into the fall election with an “antiwar” brand on their hides. How pathetic.

    This can be the only explanation for their behavior because their position is otherwise incoherent. If, as they say, they believe Saddam is a threat to the American people and if most nations oppose the U.S. escalation, then why not support unilateral action? It makes no sense to agree with President Bush that Iraq poses an imminent mortal danger to the United States, but then oppose any defensive action until other governments agree to go along.

    If you grant the president’s premises, then his conclusion follows. (The problem is in the premises.)

    But the multilateralist position begins to make sense if it is a stalling tactic by Democrats who don’t want to appear to be anti-war. If a Republican accuses a Democrat of being for peace, he can protest, “No! I am not. I just believe that we have an obligation to work through the United Nations.”

    He thus can have it both ways, appearing to favor war while helping to delay and maybe avert it.

    It might even work for a while. But it is still cowardly.

    It would be refreshing to see a Democrat say what needs to be said: that the war is a phony from top to bottom. Saddam Hussein is weaker today than he was in 1990 and poses no threat to the American people. He had nothing to do with 9/11. Even if he is trying to get biological, chemical, and nuclear weapons, the only practical reasons for doing so are to enhance his prestige as the leader of the Arab world and deter attacks from the nuclear-armed Israel and United States. It would be senseless for him to spend millions of dollars on weapons, only to see his entire country — weapons, oil, and himself included — destroyed the moment he used one of them against us or Israel. He may be a ruthless killer, but he shows no signs of being suicidal. And the idea that he’d give one of those weapons to religious fanatics who despise him is absurd; it goes against everything we know and have observed about the secular Hussein, beginning when he was our trusted, enlightened, and brutal ally in the 1980s.

    The point is that the unilateralist-multilateralist debate is a fraud. Escalating the war would be criminal whether Mr. Bush goes it alone (with Prime Minister Blair) or with a coalition. If every country in the world favored the coming assault, the United States should refuse to participate.

    The wrong cannot be made right by majority vote — especially when the votes are cast by safely ensconced politicians who will pay no price for their recklessness.

    Democrats, this is hardly the time for ducking the big questions. The Bush administration has shown an unprecedented willingness to deceive the American people, using every base rhetorical device to keep them scared and ignorant. This president makes his predecessor look like a paragon of candor, for while Mr. Clinton butchered the English language to hide a tawdry fling with a young intern, Mr. Bush and his brain trust do it so he can escalate a war that will kill many innocent people. Decent people will prefer the former.

    Knocking off Saddam Hussein — if that’s still the objective; Mr. Bush and his press secretary can’t seem to agree — is something a segment of the political elite has wanted since long before 9/11. The Bush administration has an agenda for the Middle East having to do with oil and Israel; and Saddam, although once useful in that mission, has now outlived his usefulness. So it

    The Anti-Capitalist Witch Hunt

    Another notable trend of 2002 was the demonization of America’s largest corporations, following the scandals at Enron, WorldCom and elsewhere.

    “The American state’s reaction to the so-called business scandals was to bring business executives before congressional kangaroo courts where self-righteous politicians made them feel guilty of something, and, then, adopt the Sarbanes-Oxley Act which … ‘criminalizes accounting mistakes,'” writes Independent Institute research fellow Pierre Lemieux.

    Corporations would be better governed, and less susceptible to malfeasance, if the government would stop giving shareholders false assurances and hampering the ability to monitor them.

    “The main problem with Enron, WorldCom, and the ‘mixed economy’ in general,” writes Lemieux, “is that much free-market signaling has been short-circuited by state intervention. How did 19th-century capitalism work with virtually no legislated standards of accounting or financial disclosure? … How were investors able to evaluate corporations? The answer is simple: a firm signaled that its earnings were real by paying dividends. This signaling device now works very badly because of tax distortions: dividends being taxed at higher rates than capital gains, shareholders prefer the latter. While the average dividend yield on stocks was 5.8 percent in the 19th century, it is now less than 2 percent.”

    Lemieux concludes: “The attacks against ‘unethical’ corporations point mainly not to flows in capitalism but to state failures and to the continuing anti-capitalist witch-hunt.”

    See The Anti-Capitalist Witch-Hunt by Pierre Lemieux (THE LAISSEZ FAIRE ELECTRONIC TIMES, December 23, 2002) https://www.independent.org/tii/lighthouse/LHLink4-52-2.html

    ”’THE LIGHTHOUSE is edited by Carl P. Close and is made possible by the generous contributions of supporters of The Independent Institute. The Independent Institute can be contacted by phone at 510-632-1366, e-mail at”’ mailto:info@independent.org ”’or snail mail to The Independent Institute, 100 Swan Way, Oakland, CA 94621-1428. For previous issues of THE LIGHTHOUSE, see”’ https://www.independent.org/tii/lighthouse/Lighthouse.html ”’For information on books and other publications from The Independent Institute, see”’ https://www.independent.org/tii/pubs.html

    The Biggest Bunch of Cowards

    0

    The biggest bunch of cowards in the U.S. Congress are the multilateralists. These are the ones who say that the Bush administration should not escalate the 10-year-old war against Iraq without the support of the United Nations. What makes them cowards is not their skittishness about having the United States go it alone against Saddam Hussein. It’s their seeking refuge in multilateralism so they don’t have to oppose the war forthrightly, as they should. They were afraid of going into the fall election with an “antiwar” brand on their hides. How pathetic. This can be the only explanation for their behavior because their position is otherwise incoherent. If, as they say, they believe Saddam is a threat to the American people and if most nations oppose the U.S. escalation, then why not support unilateral action? It makes no sense to agree with President Bush that Iraq poses an imminent mortal danger to the United States, but then oppose any defensive action until other governments agree to go along. If you grant the president’s premises, then his conclusion follows. (The problem is in the premises.) But the multilateralist position begins to make sense if it is a stalling tactic by Democrats who don’t want to appear to be anti-war. If a Republican accuses a Democrat of being for peace, he can protest, “No! I am not. I just believe that we have an obligation to work through the United Nations.” He thus can have it both ways, appearing to favor war while helping to delay and maybe avert it. It might even work for a while. But it is still cowardly. It would be refreshing to see a Democrat say what needs to be said: that the war is a phony from top to bottom. Saddam Hussein is weaker today than he was in 1990 and poses no threat to the American people. He had nothing to do with 9/11. Even if he is trying to get biological, chemical, and nuclear weapons, the only practical reasons for doing so are to enhance his prestige as the leader of the Arab world and deter attacks from the nuclear-armed Israel and United States. It would be senseless for him to spend millions of dollars on weapons, only to see his entire country — weapons, oil, and himself included — destroyed the moment he used one of them against us or Israel. He may be a ruthless killer, but he shows no signs of being suicidal. And the idea that he’d give one of those weapons to religious fanatics who despise him is absurd; it goes against everything we know and have observed about the secular Hussein, beginning when he was our trusted, enlightened, and brutal ally in the 1980s. The point is that the unilateralist-multilateralist debate is a fraud. Escalating the war would be criminal whether Mr. Bush goes it alone (with Prime Minister Blair) or with a coalition. If every country in the world favored the coming assault, the United States should refuse to participate. The wrong cannot be made right by majority vote — especially when the votes are cast by safely ensconced politicians who will pay no price for their recklessness. Democrats, this is hardly the time for ducking the big questions. The Bush administration has shown an unprecedented willingness to deceive the American people, using every base rhetorical device to keep them scared and ignorant. This president makes his predecessor look like a paragon of candor, for while Mr. Clinton butchered the English language to hide a tawdry fling with a young intern, Mr. Bush and his brain trust do it so he can escalate a war that will kill many innocent people. Decent people will prefer the former. Knocking off Saddam Hussein — if that’s still the objective; Mr. Bush and his press secretary can’t seem to agree — is something a segment of the political elite has wanted since long before 9/11. The Bush administration has an agenda for the Middle East having to do with oil and Israel; and Saddam, although once useful in that mission, has now outlived his usefulness. So it?s time for him to go. No, it’s not a noble reason, but that’s the kind of thing wars are launched over. ”Sheldon Richman is senior fellow at The Future of Freedom Foundation in Fairfax, Va., editor of Ideas on Liberty magazine, and author of “Tethered Citizens: Time to Repeal the Welfare State.” See the Foundation’s Web site at:” https://www.fff.org

    The Anti-Capitalist Witch Hunt

    Another notable trend of 2002 was the demonization of America’s largest corporations, following the scandals at Enron, WorldCom and elsewhere. “The American state’s reaction to the so-called business scandals was to bring business executives before congressional kangaroo courts where self-righteous politicians made them feel guilty of something, and, then, adopt the Sarbanes-Oxley Act which … ‘criminalizes accounting mistakes,'” writes Independent Institute research fellow Pierre Lemieux. Corporations would be better governed, and less susceptible to malfeasance, if the government would stop giving shareholders false assurances and hampering the ability to monitor them. “The main problem with Enron, WorldCom, and the ‘mixed economy’ in general,” writes Lemieux, “is that much free-market signaling has been short-circuited by state intervention. How did 19th-century capitalism work with virtually no legislated standards of accounting or financial disclosure? … How were investors able to evaluate corporations? The answer is simple: a firm signaled that its earnings were real by paying dividends. This signaling device now works very badly because of tax distortions: dividends being taxed at higher rates than capital gains, shareholders prefer the latter. While the average dividend yield on stocks was 5.8 percent in the 19th century, it is now less than 2 percent.” Lemieux concludes: “The attacks against ‘unethical’ corporations point mainly not to flows in capitalism but to state failures and to the continuing anti-capitalist witch-hunt.” See The Anti-Capitalist Witch-Hunt by Pierre Lemieux (THE LAISSEZ FAIRE ELECTRONIC TIMES, December 23, 2002) https://www.independent.org/tii/lighthouse/LHLink4-52-2.html ”THE LIGHTHOUSE is edited by Carl P. Close and is made possible by the generous contributions of supporters of The Independent Institute. The Independent Institute can be contacted by phone at 510-632-1366, e-mail at” mailto:info@independent.org ”or snail mail to The Independent Institute, 100 Swan Way, Oakland, CA 94621-1428. For previous issues of THE LIGHTHOUSE, see” https://www.independent.org/tii/lighthouse/Lighthouse.html ”For information on books and other publications from The Independent Institute, see” https://www.independent.org/tii/pubs.html

    Have a Safe, and Safe, New Year-Revelry in a Time of Moral Crusade

    0

    Happy New Year? It says here in USA Today that 41 percent of Americans are planning to ring in 2003 tonight by watching TV, and that very few of us are planning a night out. No doubt Veuve Clicquot will be having a big bottom-line night, but that’s only in relative terms: The really big numbers will be put up by businesses like Blockbuster and Domino’s Pizza. Hey, let the good times roll!

    Makes you wonder if there’s any sense of restraint remaining in the American character. After all, excited viewers could choke on a pepperoni while watching Dick Clark do his suspenseful Times Square countdown. Under the circumstances, I’m not sure any of us can feel safe.

    USA Today’s reporter, Craig Wilson, rounds up a lot of reasons why Americans have supposedly put away their dancing shoes and champagne goblets, and have instead “put a cork in New Year’s Eve.” Some of those reasons make at least some sense. The economy’s shaky (though Americans did spend more dollars on Christmas than ever before); there’s a disquieting sense of threat (though the conventional wisdom has always been that impending danger increases dissipation); and there are too many dumb drunks on the road (true).

    Omitted entirely in the piece is one possible factor that may be helping the new year arrive draped in a soaking wet blanket: the army of self-righteous moral crusaders that has spent years expelling spontaneity and pleasure from American life by equating pleasure with sickness, guilt and shame. We’re a buckled-in people now, ever more heavily sin-taxed, with breathalyzers jammed between our teeth. Meanwhile, our moral betters are air-brushing sin from our postage stamps and attempting to remove it from our movies. If we’ve traded in our party hats for safety helmets — or if we’re staying home to avoid the whole issue — nobody should feign surprise.

    As of Jan. 1, our safety helmets will be jammed down more tightly. For example, it’s really smart to restrain small children when driving them around, but some jurisdictions will be mandating safety seats for children who are 8 years old. It’s really good to get drunk drivers off the road, but an increasing number of jurisdictions have lowered the legal blood-alcohol limit to the point where people of slight build can’t risk having a glass of wine with their friends (and moderate amounts of wine can be good for your health). It’s obviously good to inform smokers of the risks they face; it’s good to let people who hate smoke get away from it. But an increasing number of places are not only engaged in anti-smoker tax extortion, not only forcing smokers outside, they’re starting to make smokers pace off minimum distances from doorways.

    The sanitizers who are multiplying such rules still pose as advocates of prudence. But the moral crusaders who have swamped American life long ago ceased to address mere risk. The result of their efforts has been to transform risk into immorality. The helmetless motorcyclist (and now the helmetless skateboarder, too) or the smoker are not merely imprudent; they are being transformed into immoralists who have no right to judge the trade-offs of their own behavior. Of course, you can never create a society that is free of risk, but in the effort you can create a pretty dour world. For some crusaders, that apparently will do.

    So happy new year. People have been staging blow-outs at this season for millennia, since the Roman Saturnalia and doubtless long before. Join in that history of extravagant joy and excess: Choose wisely at Blockbuster, and with every bite of pizza, remember your cholesterol.

    ”’Charles Paul Freund is a Reason senior editor. Originally published by Reason Foundation, which is a public policy think tank promoting choice, competition and a dynamic market economy as the foundation for human dignity and progress. For more information, contact Geoffrey Segal, Director of Privatization and Government Reform Policy at:”’ mailto:geoffrey.segal@reason.org ”’Visit the Reason Web site at:”’ https://www.rppi.org ”’or go to the Reason Public Policy Institute’s Privatization Center at:”’ https://www.privatization.org ”’for information on government reform, privatization, contracting out and public/private partnerships.”’