Just because you don’t like something doesn’t mean it needs to be banned

First they came for your beer. Then they came to stop your charity efforts.

Now they’re after your vegetable garden—“they,” of course, being your local busybody bureaucrats.

I’m fortunate to live in a fairly garden-friendly city. My neighbors across the street have planted vegetables in most of their front yard. Two houses over there’s a chicken coop topped with solar panels. I’ve put in a few tomato and pepper plants in my tiny garden area. This summer, I’m even working with an urban farm that rents plots all over the city in empty lots and unused fields.

For many Americans, though, gardening ain’t easy.

While vegetable gardens were once actively promoted by the government, in the last few decades they’ve come under fire in many municipalities around the country:

  • An Orlando family was threatened with fines as high as $500 per day for their front yard vegetable garden—apparently they’d run afoul of a city ordinance requiring people to plant grass, shrubs, and other “traditional landscaping” options on their properties.
  • In Miami Shores, FL, a couple was forced to uproot their 17-year-old vegetable garden in the face of city fines of up to $1500 per month.
  • In Oak Park, MI, a woman was threatened with 90+ days of jail time for her vegetable garden. After she hired a lawyer, the case was temporarily dismissed, but could be renewed at any time.
  • In Tulsa, OK, city officials actually destroyed a woman’s garden for the “crime” of having non-tree plants taller than 12 inches in her front yard. She was out of work and had been relying on her garden for food while money was tight.
  • And then there’s Oakland, CA, where you can grow all the fresh vegetables you want… but if you want to sell any of them, be prepared to buy a pricey permit from the city to do so.

All of these anti-garden laws are born out of two dangerous convictions: First, that the government should be allowed to regulate peaceful, voluntary activities that people do with their own property. Second, that not liking something is ample justification for banning it.

Both of these are dead wrong. While vegetable gardens may not seem like a big deal, allowing this type of government invasion into our personal lives sets a terrible precedent.

This same busybody view of the role of government can be observed in another story getting a lot of attention right now: Virginia’s ban on taxi alternatives Lyft and Uber. If you’re not familiar with this situation, it’s basically the anti-veggie garden mindset on corrupt, corporatist steroids.

Uber is a car service where you hail a fancy taxi via smartphone and pay through the app. You can also personally review drivers to make sure you get one that is well-reviewed. Lyft is a ride-sharing system where regular people make extra cash by giving rides in their free time. If you need a lift, you put in a request on the app and someone comes to pick you up.

Both companies have processes to insure safety and reliability for their customers. They give drivers a chance to make extra cash and allow passengers a cheaper, more convenient way to get around. This sounds like a win-win, right?

Well, it was, until government got involved.

In many places, taxi companies and the government agencies which regulate the taxi industry are flipping out over this innovative competition. City and state governments, like Virginia, are bowing to corporate pressure and trying to shut Lyft and Uber down for good.

While the real reason Virginia ordered these companies to cease and desist operations is pretty obvious—the taxi industry is highly regulated in order to create a government-enforced monopoly on car services with exorbitant permit fees funneled to the government—but that’s not the reason the pro-regulation crowd will give you. “It’s about safety!” they say. Lyft and Uber must be banned for our own protection!

But there’s already a really simple solution for those who don’t feel comfortable using services like Lyft and Uber: Don’t use them.

Likewise, there’s a really simple solution for people who don’t like vegetable gardens: Don’t grow one.

Uber and Lyft are about saving people money, increasing our transportation options, and making some extra cash. Vegetable gardens are about putting healthy food on the table at a lower cost. You may not be into that sort of thing (and you don’t have to be!), but neither does government have the right to ruin it for the rest of us.

Sooner or later government will likely try to ban something you do like. That’s just what government does. We should all work together to keeps the government’s hands out of most things every chance we get.

This summer, grow vegetables, not government—and tell your Uber driver all about it.


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