In 2003 Solana Beach outlawed smoking on the beach. In the following years communities from Del Mar to Oceanside followed suite. Beachless Poway, along with other North County municipalities, outlawed smoking in city parks.
Last year the northern California city of Belmont approved an ordinance that would restrict smoking not only in the workplace but also in all multilevel, multi-unit housing—a restriction so comprehensive that a total ban on smoking seems the next logical step.
Recently the San Diego City Council, responding to a booze-fueled melee in Pacific Beach, passed a one-year trial ban on alcohol consumption on city beaches—a ban that has been met with an apparently successful petition calling for a public vote on the measure.
On another restrictive front, the California Coastal Commission recently published a 236-page staff report that warned against completing a toll road (Highway 241) on the San Diego-Orange County line because the project might threaten the Pacific pocket mouse and arroyo toad populations.
Topping those news items, the California Energy Commission was recently pushing revisions in its Building Energy Efficiency Standards that would mandate “programmable communicating thermostats” in all new residential buildings. These thermostats would have contained a non-removable Radio Data System that allowed state officials to set temperatures during “emergency events.” Fortunately, protests have caused the Commission to rethink this non-overridable feature.
What all these developments have in common is government control—a “helping hand” that reaches from the beach to your living room and that covers concerns as varied as cigarette-butt litter to the number of arroyo toads living near the ocean.
Last week the North County Times published columnist Rich Lowry’s review of Jonah Goldberg’s new book, “Liberal Fascism” (Jan. 10, “Who you calling ‘fascist’?”). Goldberg, Lowry notes, points to the historical and ideological links between fascism and the state-centered policies of the left—policies that suppress individual freedom and private group rights for the sake of the whole.
According to Lowry’s Goldberg, “liberal fascism” is “pacifist rather than militaristic and feminine rather than masculine in its orientation, but it also seeks to increase the power of the state and overcome tradition in sweeping crusades pursued with the moral fervor of war.”
While I don’t fancy encounters with streams of smoke at the beach or at city parks, I’m more concerned about the way powerful groups are transforming almost every aspect of life into a matter requiring state intervention. Already a drumbeat for regulating fast food is building—a drumbeat that will grow frenetic as healthcare is socialized.
As for arroyo toads, I’d wager a Franklin that Coastal Commission staff doesn’t give a kangaroo rat’s behind about endangered species—that their real agenda involves a “holistic” vision of a non-capitalist society with them at the controls.
In 1981 Professor Daniel Callahan composed an article (“Minimalist Ethics”) that warned of a morally neutered society where all matters of conduct become, by default, legal issues. Goldberg might note that “liberal fascism” flourishes in a culture where self-control has become passé.