Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Let's ban declawing! No, let's ban bans on declawing!

Only in California.

I posted this story because it beautifully illustrates the dynamics of how political power, special interests and pet peeves (pun intended) interact to create the ramshackle hodge-podge of statutory laws, layers of (often contradictory) regulations and bureacracies we call "government".

Here's the long and short of the story. A local city councilman is horrified when he learns what declawing actually is (amputation from the last knuckle down), only learning after having had his cat declawed. So, he decides - "lefty" that he is - that he should do his best to ban declawing in the city.

This idea begins spreading around to other cities and veterinarians grow concerned. So, to head off the locals, the state veterinary association petitions the state government to pass a law banning bans of declawing! And now, local governments are scrambling to implement their bans before the ban of bans (try not to get confused) is passed.

The one person who was not consulted in all of this is the consumer. The veterinary association has acted, as all merchant associations do, to wield its concentrated political power to keep the business interests of its members from being interfered with. What is unique about this case, and what makes it a great object lesson on the true nature of political power, is that this all stems from the personal outrage of one, lone lawmaker who failed to do his homework before bringing his cat to the vet for declawing. The lawmaker's agenda is blatantly fascistic, imposing his private dictatorial will on the community by banning provision of a service that people demand (we know they demand it because they are willing to pay for it).

And the response of the veterinary association is a picture perfect illustration of how mercantile special interests operate hand-in-hand with big government. The bigger government is more immune to local sentiments and more in tune with money. So, special interests are able to ram through measures that some, or even most, local jurisdictions do not want but which will be profitable for the special interest (most Federal commercial regulations fit this description). In fact, what other motivation is there for passing a law at a certain jurisdiction level except to override the distributed judgment of smaller, local jurisdictions?

It's obviously absurd to ban declawing. But it's equally absurd to ban bans of declawing. The solution to this mess could not be more simple: If you think declawing is cruel don't get your animal declawed. But you have no business forcing those who want to get their cat declawed to drive 250 miles or ship their animal to get it done (which is what would actually happen). But even if you (like me) think local jurisdictions should not ban declawing, the state has no business banning such bans. The inevitable result is that, yes, there will be some quirky jurisdictions that do ban it. So what? As veterinarians relocate, those quirky jurisdictions will bear the full weight of their own quirky decisions. While the declawing-banning cat-loving city councilman who started this whole thing in California is a petty fascist, it can never be an improvement of the state of affairs to remove the decision-making yet further away from those who are affected by the decision-making. The veterinary association has made things even worse by going over the heads of the local governments to ban bans of declawing at the state level. We should prefer that decisions be made as close to the region and the persons by whom the costs and benefits of such decisions will be felt. Otherwise, human nature creates fascist ban frenzy (Caution: some language).

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