February 25, 2009
In the privacy of your own bedroom?
I hate to be a bore, and I have no idea whether readers enjoy reading my libertarianish, anti-government kvetchings, which tend to be endlessly expansive simply because the government bureaucracy grows endlessly more intrusive.
Anyway, consider yourselves warned. The fact is, I hate government butting into people's lives, and as long as I have this blog and the ability to complain, complain I will.
A close friend (whose name and location will remain nameless, as he's an apolitical artist who does not want more bureaucratic trouble than he already has) rents a unit in a small building which he has done much to lovingly restore. The rent is dirt cheap, because the place was a total wreck when he moved in, and the landlord realizes how lucky he is to have this very talented artisan living there. The other units are also rented by artist types, and all have benefited tremendously from the low rents, and my friend's repairs.
The problem, of course, is the city government. Now that the place has been transformed from a slumlord eyesore to a very cool place, the same building and fire inspectors who ignored it when it could have been condemned have descended on the building like predatory jackals. It's as if some people in high places want the building torn down, or else think slum properties should remain slum properties until torn down by developers. (Precisely the pattern in much of the rapidly gentrifying neighborhood.)
After nitpicking to death over code violations none of the tenants had complained about, the building inspectors then sent in the fire marshal who demanded that the landlord remove ("unsafe") security bars from windows and cut down every tree on a charming old property. This outraged the tenants, because it's a high crime neighborhood and they liked the bars (the old kind you can't buy anymore), and the trees looked pretty, and yielded shade and avocados. Now there are ugly stumps, and the building gets much hotter in the resultant direct sunlight. The tenants were very upset (with one reduced to tears) and naturally, the landlord did not want to do any of this. Never mind that the city has an official policy of "preserving trees" and people can be arrested for illegal tree removal; this is the fire marshall!
What kind of government can come in and mess with a perfectly harmonious, working landlord-tenant business relationship built on mutual consent?
As if that wasn't bad enough, what outraged me the most was that the fire marshal demanded that my friend remove his large (120 gallon) aquarium from his bedroom! Apparently, the concern is that my friend might have trouble getting out in the event of fire, because the aquarium is in front of the window. Never mind that the apartment is a one-bedroom ground floor unit, never mind that the aquarium is full of water and in the event of an emergency it could easily be smashed, allowing easy access to the window and dumping a large amount of water (hardly a flammable substance).
That an aquarium in a bedroom can be considered the legitimate business of the government pushes all my libertarian buttons.
Whatever happened to the idea of keeping government out of the bedroom, anyway? Is the rule, like, it's OK to screw to your heart's content and expose yourself to whatever dangerous diseases you want, but God forbid that you have too big a fish tank!
Speaking of bedrooms, what a lot of people tend to forget in these situations is that there's still such a thing as the Fourth Amendment, and there's no exception for certain busybodies. Just as you don't have to allow the police into your bedroom without a warrant, barring "exigent circumstances," the same applies to fire inspectors in your bedroom.
I know it's an old rant, but when your home is no longer your castle, then government has become the enemy.
posted by Eric on 02.25.09 at 02:59 PM
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