Friday, September 2, 2011

The Case of United States v. America

The modern struggle of Americans trying to lead their lives in decent fashion without being harassed by ever-expanding government authority has been going on at least since the 1930s and the rise of the New Deal, but since the election of Barack Obama government has been taking the upper hand in a rapid and alarming way.  From the spectacle of crotch-grabbing TSA agents to the passage and implementation of massive, unexamined regulatory laws like Dodd-Frank and Obamacare, it's hard for people to not feel at some point under the thumb of somebody in some government office somewhere. Even a trip to the home toilet can be a reminder that there are few places the government won't gladly stick its nose.

Many of the intrusions are by nature hidden from the view of most people and would probably be difficult for them to understand in any case, such as financial and industrial regulations, yet these can often have the effect of making what people want more difficult to get--like bank loans and mortgages, for instance.  But sometimes the government's buttinski act strides right into every day life, as in the incandescent light bulb ban or our fabulous modern three-flush toilets.

My own version of this has happened in watching the news about the Justice Deparment's raid on the Gibson guitar factories in Memphis and Nashville, in which the government seized something like a million dollar's worth of tone woods, guitars and equipment, under the claim that the Gibson company had violated something called the Lacey Act, which apparently has to do with rules about importation of foreign goods.  In all the fuss over this it has come out that Gibson's longtime competitor, C.F. Martin & Co., imports the same woods for use in their instruments, yet Martin hasn't received any attention from the feds.  Another fact that's come to light is that Gibson's CEO is politically anti-Obama, while Martin's head (C.F. Martin IV) has given money to Democrats, including Obama.  So could it be that the Justice Department is selectively harassing companies and CEO's who have opposed Obama, whether financially or in other ways?  Would the Great Uniter and his troops actually do something like that?

Given the incredible part both Gibson and Martin musical instruments have played in American culture over the past 100+ years, I personally (as a Martin guitar owner) find it very disturbing that the government pig rooting around has thrown up shit not only onto the Gibson company but also onto the Martin company as well.  These aren't big companies like General Electric or Monsanto that have staffs of lawyers following the vagaries of regulatory minutiae, and I'm sure there's plenty the heads of both of these companies would rather be doing than worrying about keeping the government off their backs--like, um, making guitars.

I don't have any developed opinion so far about Rick Perry's career or his presidential campaign, but he started off his campaign by saying he intends to "work to try to make DC as inconsequential in your life as I can."  However Perry's campaign goes, I hope we'll see that idea become a theme of the coming election to defeat Obama.

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