To say I have a little problem with government regulators is like saying I’m not a huge fan of colonoscopies and cockroaches. Yes, I did just make that gross analogy. And yet I’m not sure which is worse: local agencies with their greedy little hands in our pockets dictating what we can and can’t do, or those who do the same thing from afar.
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When the European Union issued its landmark “right to be forgotten” ruling – which I at the time called “institutionalized censorship of information” and “a monstrous push down the slippery slope from a free society to a censored one”– I knew it wouldn’t stop there. And it hasn’t.
Now the EU wants those rules extended to Google sites outside of Europe, presumably including google.com. Who didn’t see that coming? And in a direct attack on Google’s business model, the European Parliament overwhelmingly passed a resolution that calls for search engines to be split off or unbundled from their operating companies.
While that resolution does stop short of bringing formal antitrust charges that would seek a breakup of the search giant, that’s certainly on the table. And this shot across the bow provides a pretty good indication of which direction the political winds are blowing in Europe, as if we didn’t know.
The German and French-led EU clearly have a bad case of U.S. envy when it comes to our dominance of the Web, among other things. But before you begin indignantly and justifiably declaring, “How dare those bleeps tell American companies what to do,” you might want to consider which direction the regulatory winds are blowing on this side of the pond first.
In just about every way I can think of, America is following Europe’s inexorable decent into the bowels of obtrusive government overreach and overregulation bordering on socialism.
From the federal takeover of our health-care system and massive increases in entitlement spending to the FCC’s attempts to regulate the Internet and rampant political correctness, we are well on our way to becoming the EU of the Americas. And nowhere is that more apparent than the holy environmental war on anything that isn’t perceived to be green enough.
Don’t get me wrong. We live a pretty sustainable existence here in the mountains of Silicon Valley. Our home is mostly solar-powered, we compost and recycle religiously, and my wife has owned a first-generation Honda Civic hybrid since it came out in 2003. But we’ve done that on our terms, meaning intelligently, efficiently and economically, at least until now.
County officials recently forced us to spend over $10K on a new “environmentally friendly” high-tech septic system. The new system has powerful blowers that use an enormous amount of electricity while the old system was entirely passive and natural. You’ve got to marvel at the irony.
Then there are the required $400 annual inspections and the occasional drop-bys by environmental regulators who apparently have nothing better to do. And this year they’ve added another $200 in miscellaneous septic charges on our property tax bill, which now has 12 lines items that have nothing to do with property taxes.
After all that – after the upfront costs, annual inspections, government intrusion, increased taxes, and increased energy usage – the new system doesn’t even break down waste any faster and certainly not in a more environmentally friendly way than the old system did.
You just can’t make this stuff up.
While the EU’s stepped-up efforts to dictate how American companies run their business may seem over the top, we’re definitely following in their footsteps. And we’re not as far behind as you might think. Just call the U.S. the EU of the western hemisphere.