PJ O'Rourke once asked perhaps the most interesting question we can ask about government. Namely, when are we done? When have we passed all the laws that need to be passed and we can fold the tent and quietly creep away? When have we addressed all those problems that can be addressed by legislation and thus have no need to support a class of legislators? He didn't know the answer to that but we now do: we have reached that point. We're done:
The traditional summertime sound of the ice cream van chime has, for decades, been music to the ears of pensioners, as well as children, who duly venture outside for a weekly treat. But a city council's decision to ban vendors from pausing on the street for longer than 15 minutes has caused great upset amongst the elderly, who fear they won't make it to the van in time. The crackdown has been branded "ridiculous" and prompted more than 65 people, many of them pensioners, to write to town hall chiefs, warning that they are too frail to adhere to such a time limit. Previously, ice cream vans were allowed to remain static for 20 minutes but could stay as long as they liked if they had a queue. The new rules mean that they must leave their spot within 15 minutes, only staying an extra quarter-of-an-hour maximum if there are people waiting. If they breach the 30-minute limit, they face having their licence to trade revoked.
Pensioners have been writing in to point out that, given the NHS' ability to perform hip replacements, it can take them 30 minutes to get to the van. But our objection is not to what this rule is, it's to the existence of the rule at all. This is clearly and obviously something that can be left to the market unadorned to solve. After all, the point of the ice cream van is that it is mobile: it goes to where the customers are. If there are none it will move on: if there're lots it will stay longer. This is what we want: our aim is always to at least attempt to increase the consumption opportunities of the population and "stay if you've got customers, move if you don't" obviously maximises that, our goal.
This regulation is not just therefore ridiculous (seriously, that grown adults working on the taxpayers' money, even dream of the idea that the parking time of an ice cream van needs regulating?) it is counter-productive, it takes us further away from our aim of maximising the people getting what the people want. We have therefore reached Peak Government, we have solved all possible problems and are now left meddling where there is no need to.
Which, while the thought that anyone tried to regulate Mr. Whippy is depressing, is actually a cheerful message, isn't it? For now we have ahead of us the pleasant task of firing the politicians given that their predecessors have already managed to complete the necessary tasks.
The simple existence of a set of parking time regulations for ice cream vans proves that this is so.