Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Reclaiming Rights

by Matt Welch

October 2010

Our cover story this month describes the historic and stunningly rapid restoration of the Second Amendment as a guarantee of an individual right that must be respected throughout the United States. As you luxuriate in that momentous victory of individuals over their governments, allow me to direct your attention to a tale that is microscopic by comparison: On page 43, in the midst of a long and remarkable exchange between reason’s finest and the Cleveland City Council, two different city councilors attempt to explain to TV funnyman and Reason Foundation trustee Drew Carey why the owner of a local car wash faced a four-month approval process to install a commercial sign on his own property.

Council President Martin J. Sweeney’s explanation was, alas, good enough for government work: “If you apply for a sign that’s within our regulation, it would take somewhere between three and five days. If it’s outside the regulations, it needs to be [no bigger than] four foot by eight foot, no more than two or three colors. If you want to go 10 by 10, and put it up a little bit higher, and have 10 colors on it, you have to get approval to go outside the variance,” Sweeney said. “The three to five days is if you stay within the regulations, if you agree with them. If you want to go outside, it’s six weeks to put it on the calendar and have it heard. And then all the other steps…because there has to be some type of structure.”

There has to be some type of structure. From this one default setting springs all manner of tyrannies, from the trivial to the profound.