Republicans like to say they are fond of minimalist government intrusion. In practice, that usually means promoting less business regulation, moving jobs to foreign countries that don’t have those pesky employee safeguards, all while stifling the personal freedoms of U.S. citizens and limiting their ability to grab a piece of the American Dream. In a grand scale, the perfect example is the so called “Patriot Act” that, in its all encompassing effort to ensure domestic security, managed to heavily trample the Constitution and its Bill of Rights in the process. Republicans could not pull in fast enough behind George “W” on the largest mass infringement of civil rights in U.S. history (does anyone else’s skin crawl when they hear the term, “Homeland Security”?).
We saw this minimalist Republican model the other night on a much smaller scale in the City of Irvine. There, the city council Republicans came together with their Democratic brethren on the dais to unanimously vote to enact an ordinance that would prohibit furnishing alcohol to minors by “social hosts”. Even OC Board of Supervisors candidate, Todd Spitzer jumped on the bandwagon, stating on his Facebook page that the topic was a good public policy discussion. If he had left it at that, it would have been fine. But, he went all out for this “new” law, showing up at the Irvine City Council meeting to throw in his two cents worth. “I just want to make clear that serving alcohol to minors in a private home is not a private matter.”
While we don’t agree with Steve Greenhut’s characterization of Sptizer as a demagogue, we do think Todd is grandstanding a bit to show off the law & order platform he is building for the County Supervisors race. That he is deeply involved with MADD and other crime victim organizations doesn’t hurt. But, he clearly got this wrong. Todd likes to tout how he was a reserve police officer for LAPD for years and, in fact, has recently applied for reserve status with the Orange County Sheriffs Department. So, he should know this law is unnecessary.
I don’t disagree that underage teenage drinking and adults who allow underage drinking for pretty much any reason, is wrong. And, if there weren’t already adequate state laws on the books prohibiting “social hosts” from furnishing alcohol to minors, this law could be necessary. But the state laws (and Todd should know this), many of which come under the Business and Professions Code, specifically prohibit adults from buying or furnishing minors with alcohol. Transgressors may be fined, imprisoned in county jail or both. So why, then, does Irvine need their very own nanny-state law? Are Irvinians special? Are they a tougher breed of scofflaw?
Perhaps it is the fact that, under the “new” law (or ordinance as it is called in city-speak), violators can be fined up to $3,000 per violation. This gives the city’s finest a vested interest in writing up violators under the new code. And, having firsthand experience with Irvine’s underage drinking crowd, I imagine they will be raking money, levied from inflated fines, into the city coffers at a pretty good rate. So, is this what it is really all about? If so, then you can see how Spitzer’s armor may have gotten a little more tarnished in many libertarian camps.
It is unfortunate that most local politicians have lost the true meaning of leadership and, instead, have come to focus on running their cities on a for-profit basis (when not trying to figure out what office to run for next). The only real difference between Democrats and Republicans, in this respect, is that Republicans think the proceeds should be meted out to their cronies, often in the form of no-bid contracts. Democrats, on the other hand, think everything can be handled in-house by government employees. The reality falls somewhere in between.
While Republicans voice their ire at over regulation and laws they think hamper business growth, they should also shun unnecessary laws that infringe on the personal rights of citizens for the sole purpose of padding government coffers. The old adage by Henry David Thoreau, “I heartily accept the motto, ‘That government is best which governs least‘”, should ring true in every Republican heart. So, Todd, where is that spirit of Thoreau?