The Straw that Broke the Federalist Camel’s Back

Recently when discussing with a friend Tammy Duckworth’s new proposal for breastfeeding rooms to be installed in all airports, I suggested that while it might be a worthy goal, it has no business being a nationally mandated policy. Fortunately, my friend did not retort aghast that I was against privacy, breastfeeding, or women, as is so often the case in debates with our leftward neighbors:


Instead, my progressive friend responded that the federal government already controls airports, and this one additional mandate would hardly be “the straw that breaks the camel’s back.” Though the federal control of airports itself is dubious, it occured to me that, while not much of a logical argument in favor of this particular example, this is actually the perfect metaphor for federal regulation as a whole.

No, one additional piece of straw on the back of a camel will not break it. But how would one place straw on a camel’s back anyway? With the hump(s), it would likely roll right off to the ground and not weigh down the camel at all, at least after a certain amount of straw. Similarly, any one single regulation is not likely to make any regulated private business, organization, or individual unsustainable.

But that’s not how regulations work. The Federal Register which contains all active and proposed federal regulations, not including federal laws or state and local regulations, currently totals 77,687 pages. 3,554 regulations were added to it just last year. And they almost never go away; they’re just revised or superseded by new regulations. That’s quite a heaping mound of straw.

No, I don’t think that 77,687 pieces of federally mandated straw dropped on a camel would break its back. They would slide to the ground, pile around its feet, and swallow it whole, like Jasmine in the hourglass.


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