Thank you, North Carolina! (is what Jon Stewart should say)

I want to thank the newbie senator from North Carolina for taking some of the heat off South Carolina:

Apparently, making restaurant workers wash their hands before exiting the bathroom is a sign of regulation gone overboard.

At least that’s what Republican Sen. Thom Tillis of North Carolina suggested on Monday during a discussion at the Bipartisan Policy Center. When discussing onerous regulations on business, Tillis brought up hand-washing rules at eateries to illustrate his point.

“I don’t have any problem with Starbucks if they choose to opt out of this policy,” Tillis said, “as long as they post a sign that says, ‘We don’t require our employees to wash their hands after leaving the restroom.’ The market will take care of that.”

“That’s probably one where every business that did that would go out of business,” he noted. “But I think it’s good to illustrate the point that that’s the sort of mentality that we need to have to reduce the regulatory burden on this country.”…

Which caused the audience to laugh, but the senator wasn’t kidding. (To his credit, he did laugh when the moderator closed by saying, “I’m not sure I want to shake your hand…”)

Yes, I know that some of my good friends here also hold libertarian views, but even they should be able to recognize the illogic in what the senator is saying.

Maybe I’m not fully following this, but the senator doesn’t want the nanny government to infringe upon restaurant owners’ freedom to the point of requiring them to require their employees to wash their hands. But he would require (at least, he implies that he would require it) the businesses that opt out of such a requirement to post a sign that, in his own judgment, would ruin those businesses.

Also note that this extreme example of how to do without onerous regulation was not forced upon him. He brought it up as a case that was “good to illustrate the point” he was trying to make.

I also thought it was interesting that he thinks ours is “one of the most regulated nations in the history of the planet.” I didn’t realize that the E.U. was not located on the planet Earth, although sometimes it might seem like it.

All of this said, the senator seems like an affable sort of guy who wants to be reasonable and sound reasonable, but his ideology gets in the way.

Oh, as for Jon Stewart, here’s what he did say about “Mr. Ayn Rand 2015″…

33 thoughts on “Thank you, North Carolina! (is what Jon Stewart should say)

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      Yes, there is. And yes, I can understand how someone would consider the government “following people into the bathroom to check on their habits” to be excessively intrusive — if they don’t think about it beyond that point. You don’t even have to be libertarian for it to seem nitpicking, to say “Doesn’t the government have bigger problems to worry about?”

      But when there is a strong public health reason (and in this case there is) for requiring something, particularly something as commonsense and non-onerous as this, I say require it.

      This ridiculously small intrusion upon business owners and their employees (and it’s interesting that the senator seems less interested in the freedom of the employees, in that he would leave their personal habits up to the employer) is a good tradeoff for protecting the health of unsuspecting people who would NOT get a choice on whether to contract a disease in the restaurant.

      No one is even alleging that hand-washing can cause autism, as with the vaccination controversy. This does not impose a serious burden on anyone…

      1. Bryan Caskey

        No, it’s certainly not burdensome, and it’s certainly good policy to wash your hands if you’re dealing with other people’s food (or your own food, for that matter).

        But is there really a reason to have a law about it? Is there anyone out there preparing food who is washing their hands solely because of a law requiring them to? I mean, at a certain point, we don’t need a law for every commonsense thing out there, do we? Do we need a law for any of the following things? If not, why not?

        1. Cover your mouth when you sneeze in public.
        2. Wipe up around the toilet if you pee and miss a little.
        3. Change your socks regularly.
        4. Wear a coat when it’s cold outside.
        5. No jumping on the bed.

        1. Brad Warthen Post author

          But I LIKE jumping on the bed. :)

          Kidding aside, if there was a chance that you’d cause an epidemic of cracked skulls among other people who did NOT choose to jump on the bed, that one would be a good candidate for a regulation.

          Otherwise, it’s just good advice. And a rule in my house, where my grandchildren are concerned.

          1. Juan Caruso

            Before reading this post, Brad, I had just read that 17% of the cup lids sampled in various restaurants were found in a recent study to have been contaminated with “fecal matter”.

            It seems the “village” failed to teach some people who never learned rudimentary hygiene at home (assuming most had one).

            What happens to regulated restaurants trying to enforce worker hygiene when they are sued for trying to dismiss the offending workers?

            Most of those lids were probably contaminated by the grubby little fingers of patron’s kids. Solution: keep them out of children’s reach.

            1. Silence

              I’m always suprised how many people I see at work and out in public who don’t wash their hands after using the men’s room. I’ll bet it’s around 25% or more. I mean, I don’t pee on my hands, but I still wash them after I go, and what does it take, all of 15 seconds?

    2. Brad Warthen Post author

      I will, however come out against this regulation if people start doing what NPR suggested — that is, if they out loud in my presence:

      For the record, “proper hand-washing” means scrubbing with soap and water for at least 20 seconds — or, about as long as it takes to sing the chorus of Neil Diamond’s “Sweet Caroline,” as the folks at NPR Music have helpfully suggested.

  1. Kathryn Fenner

    The reason you make a law, even if it’s hard to enforce, is that studies repeatedly show that most people in America obey laws even when no one is watching.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      Yes, but I say it a little differently. Never mind people watching. I find that most people will obey a law because it’s a law, particularly when it so obviously makes sense.

      Also, it saves a lot of trouble for people. An employer who hesitates to instruct employees regarding their bathroom habits can shrug apologetically and say, “Hey, it’s the law.”

      That’s also why it was good for it to be illegal to carry firearms into bars. Libertarians say that an individual bar owner can have his own rule, but that would take a bar owner with the steely nerves of Wyatt Earp. When you tell an armed person he can’t come in while packing, you have to be ready to answer the “What are you going to do about it” question. You can still have that problem if it’s the law, but at least everybody knows you have the law behind you, and it’s not just you trying to impose your will.

      As I recall, a lot of business owners were in favor of the city making a law against smoking in public accommodations because that way, it wasn’t THEM telling customers what they could and couldn’t do — and the vast majority of potential customers who DON’T smoke would be less likely to stay away…

      1. Kathryn Fenner

        Yeah, that, too.

        I just saw figures on how the % of people exposed to secondhand smoke has fallen from about 50% to about 25% in ten years.

        1. Juan Caruso

          Secondhand smoke from pot use awaits the extensive analysis to which tobacco had been subjected. And while e-cigs are already being declared potential health hazards due to formaldahyde (a carcinogen) content in the vapor, how will the litigation industry overlook pot smokers?

          With one hand the government creates a problem and with the other hand, like a total dimwit , it allows the problem to grow large enough to justify eventually regulating it.
          This is why we need less government, not more.

          1. Doug Ross

            Exactly. Because the government doesn’t know when to stop regulating things.

            My daughter’s former high school has an excellent culinary program. One of their fundraising techniques that was also educational was baking cookies, cakes, and pies to sell to the students. Guess what happened this year? No more sales due to conflicts with government nutrition regulations. Pure stupidity based on busy bodies who think they know what’s best for other people. MYOB is my motto.

            1. Brad Warthen Post author

              Actually, government DOES know when to stop regulating things. When enough people want it to stop, and make sure their elected representatives know that.

              Even the E.U. — and you would think that if any bureaucrats were insulated from public opinion, it would be the ones in Brussels — has been known to back down in the face of a backlash, as my above link on absurd E.U. regulations relates:

              In 1995, the EU issued guidelines for the growing of bananas and cucumbers.

              Bananas with an extreme or unsightly curvature were to be discarded by growers. So too were cucumbers that were seemingly not straight enough to be sold.

              … You can see the directive for guidelines on bananas here.

              The directive was repealed in 2008 after the EU grew concerned that growers were throwing out perfectly tasty bananas because they were curved a bit too much. Rumors that completely straight bananas were also banned were unfounded, although some growers may have interpreted them as having an “unsightly curvature.”

            2. Doug Ross

              Two simple questions: Are there more government regulations in effect today than any other time in American history? Is there any reason to doubt that the answer to that question will be yes every year for the foreseeable future?

      2. Bryan Caskey

        Libertarians say that an individual bar owner can have his own rule, but that would take a bar owner with the steely nerves of Wyatt Earp.

        Except it doesn’t.

        Again, the actual law says that all the owner has to do is post a sign indicating no CWP. That’s it. All you do is put up a sign. Easy-peasy.

        You don’t have to have a showdown with anyone. If someone comes into your bar with a firearm, you don’t need to be a hero. You simply call the cops, and the cops do what cops do to law breakers.

          1. Bryan Caskey

            Huh? You don’t have to post your property against trespassing.

            Trespassing is illegal.

            /puts on lawyer hat

            “Any person entering upon the lands of another for the purpose of hunting, fishing, trapping, netting; for gathering fruit, wild flowers, cultivated flowers, shrubbery, straw, turf, vegetables or herbs; or for cutting timber on such land, without the consent of the owner or manager, shall be deemed guilty of a misdemeanor…” (SC Code Ann. 16-11-610)

            The point of putting up a sign increases the penalty. When someone trespasses against a sign, instead of thirty days in jail, they get thirty days “of hard labor” (See SC Code Ann. 16-11-600).

            /takes off lawyer hat

            1. Kathryn Fenner

              Ah, I see! Thanks!

              The Columbia cops keep telling folks that you have to post a “no trespassing” sign to get people off, for example, your front porch. Attorney Tom Gottshall, of Haynesworth, Sinkler Boyd begged to differ. I kinda felt bad for the poor officer after Tom got through with him….

            2. Silence

              The CPD told me I had to post a no tresspassing sign on each side of my yard when I had a homeless guy dropping deuces in my backyard a few years and a few houses ago! You haven’t lived until you’ve had to clean human feces off of your shoes.

              I ended up just booby trapping the backyard. I left the booby traps in place when I moved out. There’s probably a corpse back there now.

  2. Bryan Caskey

    An employer who hesitates to instruct employees regarding their bathroom habits can shrug apologetically and say, “Hey, it’s the law.”

    Wait, what?

    How spineless does this owner have to be for this to be the case? You’re telling me that in your hypothetical situation, a person owns their own business, but they don’t have the cojones to tell their employees to wash their hands? I’m not sure we’re in Wyatt Earp territory here. Sounds more like we’re in kindergarten teacher territory.

    It’s the employer’s job to pretty much tell the employees what to do. That’s a big part of an owner’s job description. Come on.

  3. Norm Ivey

    I got curious. The law seems to say that the individual is responsible for maintaining his or her personal hygiene. The obligation on the business owner is simply to post a sign reminding employees to wash their hands.

    So as far as Tillis is concerned, he’d be trading a regulation for one sign for a regulation for a different sign.

    Section IV, number 3

    1. Bryan Caskey

      From further down in that regulation:

      7. Toilet rooms shall be kept clean, in good repair and free of insects at all times.
      8. Approved hand-washing signs shall be posted in each toilet room used by production employees.
      9. Toilet tissue, soap, individual towels and trash receptacles shall be provided.

      Free of insects? Huh? We have a specific law to tell people running bottling plants that you can’t have INSECTS in the bathrooms? Where did THAT come from? I’d love to see the legislative history on that one.

      Honorable Sen. So-and-So: I propose that we include a specific regulation regarding cleanliness of bathrooms in bottling plants. Cleanliness is next to godliness, you know. Better put that in there. Well, maybe keep the Godliness part out.
      Honorable Sen. Afraid of Bugs: My distinguished colleague makes an excellent point, but we can go further. I think we should also specifically state that there should be no bugs in the bathrooms. Bugs are gross and creepy, and I want to make sure they’re not in the bathrooms.
      Honorable Sen. So-and-So: Well…I’m pretty sure that “clean” can be interpreted to mean “no bugs”.
      Honorable Sen. Afraid of Bugs: I’m not so sure. I believe that bugs are a scourge, and we must be vigilant against them. Besides, I voted for your bill about turkey basters, so you owe me.
      Honorable Sen. So-and-So: Ok, fine. No bugs. Hey, where’s our legislative counsel? What’s a legal word for bugs?
      Legislative Counsel: Look, I’m a lawyer, not Rudy Mancke. You mean “insects”?
      Honorable Sen. So-and-So: Exactly! Thanks. I knew that having a lawyer around would be useful at some point.
      Let the record reflect that we have amended the regulation on cleanliness to include “no insects”.
      {bangs gavel}
      Legislative Counsel: [to no one in particular] Wait. What about arachnids, myriapoda, or Gastropoda?


      1. Norm Ivey


        Roughly 1,000,000 different species of insects; the Smithsonian estimates there are approximately 10 quintillion individuals creeping, crawling, buzzing, flying and hopping around at any give time. Keeping the restroom free of insects seems like a pretty onerous regulation.

  4. Burl Burlingame

    I wanna drive on the left side of the road! But the socialist nanny gummit makes me drive on the right side!

    1. Bryan Caskey

      People should be free, to the maximum extent bearable, to be as foolish, shortsighted, gullible and dumb as people naturally are. The question is how much, as a society, are we willing to bear? As Burl points out, we don’t let people decided which side of the road to drive on, because at a basic level, we as a society have agreed that it is not bearable for people to independently make this choice.

      However, we should not actively go looking for some flimsy reason to demonstrate our social distaste for some people by criminalizing their choices. And make no mistake, making something mandatory criminalizes the choice not to do it. Like it’s a crime to drive on the wrong side of the road, for instance.

      As a result, I think sit should be standard common sense, not some kind of fringe libertarianism, to say we have to “balance” when deciding what choices we allow people to make and which choices we don’t allow.

      And that’s pretty much exactly what Chris Christie said in regards to vaccines.


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