Friday, January 14, 2011

Government Run Amok, Again

As many of you my know, I am not a proponent of government. I believe they have a few things (relatively few) that they should do, and should keep away from doing anything else. Besides that, as they grow in size (and in organization grows in size) the application of common sense decreases exponentially.

For instance, Houston doesn't want people to feed the homeless. This couple was not asking for a government handout and then embezzling the money, they were doing it out of their own compassion and the donations of those they contacted. Apparently food regulators demand that they get a permit and have the food prepared in a certified kitchen. The money quote:

The regulations are all the more essential in the case of the homeless, Barton said, because "poor people are the most vulnerable to foodborne illness and also are the least likely to have access to health care."

If you read that correctly, the government officials are saying that "its OK if the homeless starve, as long as they don't get a foodborne illness from someone's home kitchen." When faced with the choice of no food vs. food that has a low likelihood of having a foodborne illness, which would you choose?

While the regulators may defend that the regulations keep the public safe by ensuring that restaurants have appropriate cleanliness standards, I say BS. It is the customers that ensure that the restaurants have cleanliness standards (the regulators aren't at the restaurants every day or even every week). If a customer sees a roach crawling around on the floor, he is going to leave and probably tell all of his friends about it who then will not go to the restaurant. Hence, business is lost and unless the restaurant turns itself around, there will be no more restaurant. So it is in the restaurants best interest to maintain those high standards even without the regulators. The free market is a rapid and harsh punisher (of course the rewards are beyond compare).

It is a fact that home kitchens are several times less sanitary than restaurants. That being said, you don't see a neighbor dieing everyday from food poisoning. It is also a fact that garbage cans and dumpsters are several times less sanitary than the home kitchen, and usually not a good place to be scrounging food. But that is the option that Houston has provided for its homeless. (So I think that Houston - as in the government - should provide meals and shelter for the homeless? NO WAY. But stay out of the way of those people who do want to.

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