The Sun-Times Embraces the Nanny State

Chicago's second biggest daily responds to my article on the Windy City's Nanny State proclivities with an endorsement of many of the policies I criticize.

Reason mocks the city for requiring that fat cops shape up, providing them with nutritionists and trainers to help.

We don't. Police work is physical work. A cop has to be in shape.

Fair enough. But my mocking was more about the fact that after a year of headlines about police abuses, it just struck me a bit odd that the Board of Aldermen's biggest concern while I was in town researching the article was a proposal to assign cops personal trainers at taxpayer expense.

Reason knocks the mayor for regulating thousands of taverns -- evil peddlers of demon rum -- out of existence. Chicago has only about 1,300 taverns today, compared with about 7,000 in the 1940s.

We don't. A lot of those joints were buckets of blood that loomed within a short stagger of neighborhood schools. And nobody in town complains they can't find a drink.

Ah, yes. For the children.

And "buckets of blood?" Really? You know, I'll bet if we compare Chicago's crime rate in the tavern-happy 1940s with its crime rate now, the modern, 1,300-tavern era doesn't fare so well. In fact, let's go back a bit further. There was a time when alcohol in Chicago and the rest of America was banned altogether. What was crime like between 1919 and 1933? What was it like in Chicago? Also, is it really a good idea to make people travel farther from their homes to find a drink?

Reason finds fault with Chicago's gun control laws, said by the magazine to be among the most restrictive in the nation.

We don't. The Sun-Times has had to write too many stories about too many people killed by guns. Repealing our gun laws -- hey, let's all ride the L with pistols -- won't help.

Actually, it might. Chicago has an out and out ban on handguns right now. How's that working out? And if the use of guns for self-defense is such an abomination, why are Chicago's politicians allowed to carry, while its citizens aren't?

A couple of other nanny-state regulations cited by reason fall into a gray zone for us. Unlike strict libertarians, we support the ban on smoking in the workplace, but we agree that taverns should have been left to decide the matter for themselves.

Not sure what the difference is. Private property is private property. But fair enough. I could live with a workplace ban that exempted bars and restaurants.

And, as we wrote last week, all those surveillance cameras make us nervous, but it's hard to deny the unintended consequence that those doing the watching are being watched, too. Security cameras have caught more than a few police officers stepping over the line.

Actually, if memory serves, private security cameras caught those cops beating on citizens. Call me a crazy conspiracy theorist, but I'd guess that if a city-owned camera caught a Chicago cop breaking the law, there's a decent chance those tapes would disappear in short order. Not sure why I would think such a thing. Just a hunch, I guess.

If Chicago is a bit of a nanny state, the impulse springs from a good place -- a widespread sense that this is a remarkably healthy, vibrant and livable city, and we don't want to screw it up.

I see. It's the intent of the laws that matter, not their actual consequences. Good to know.

I love Chicago. But Chicago was a world-class city long before it started instituting traffic and surveillance cameras, taxing bottled water, banning foods that offend interest groups, and shutting down taverns. Here's a thought. Maybe the Nanny State stuff is making a vibrant and livable city a bit less vibrant and livable. Maybe, just maybe, Mayor Daley and the Board of Aldermen's suffocating paternalism is part of the reason why Chicago is losing population faster than friggin' Detroit.

Addendum:  My last line was a bit overwrought.  According to Census data (link goes to xls file), Chicago lost 59,358 people between 2000 and 2007.  Detroit lost 34,318.  Given that Chicago is more than double the size of Detroit, it wasn't correct to say that the city is bleeding population "faster" than Detroit.  Chicago also gained about 8,000 people between 2006 and 2007.

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  • ||

    Chicago is a sad story.

  • ||

    Also -
    The whole Chicago losing more Population than Detroit thing is blown out of scale. Chicago is still solidly the 3rd largest city in the country with 2.8 million residents compared to Detroit's 871,000. So clearly, Detroit's loss is a MUCH larger loss by percentage than Chicago's. Still, Chicago could stand to stop bleeding residents.

  • ||

    But Chicago was a world-class city long before it started... taxing bottled war



    Bottled war? Cool!

    (My apologies, a bit amused by typos right now)

  • ed||

    taxing bottled war

    Are there tiny navy ships inside those bottles? Anyway, the editors' bunker mentality is comical in its defensiveness. When a newspaper engages in such boosterism, how objective can it be?

  • ||

    So clearly, Detroit's loss is a MUCH larger loss by percentage than Chicago's.

    I'm surprised Radley didn't catch that. He loses a point this round for an elbow to the head of a downed opponent.

  • Episiarch||

    It's amazing what colossal pants-wetters most big city newspaper people are. New York newspapers would do the same thing if they deigned to notice your article, Radley.

  • Guy Montag||

    ed,

    Illinois is one of the few states with its own Navy. Not sure if it is still there, but the Illinois Navy had a diesel submarine stationed in Chicago. I don't remember if this is still correct, but as recently as about 5 years ago the proper designation for Illinois National Guard HQ was something like the Illinois Military and Naval Department.

    Info above may be out of date as I have not beed dealing with very much Reserve Component stuff lately. I think an Ill. Guardmember on a 'blog updated me on a detail or two a while back but I forgot what they said.

    Radley,

    Wow. This post brought back a flood of memories and reality that put the city of my birth back into perspective. Every time I start having a spell of nostalgia about Chicago, I need to come back and read this to be reminded about how people really are up there.

    Back when I lived there, and for quite some time after, I would have agreed with the Sun-Times side of this. Thank goodness I escaped to the United States and got better.

  • Leah||

    As frustrating as the nanny-statism of Chicago is for me, I don't really think it's the main reason Chicago is losing population at all. The overall corruption in all areas of government, from school districts to police to the water department to pretty much any city department to the Cook County government is far worse for the population and health of the city. Cook County just hiked the sales tax, which added to the city tax give Chicago the highest sales tax in the country. Taxes are going up faster than anyone can keep up. Property taxes are ridiculous in most areas of the city. I love the city (the culture of it, not the government), but am often tempted to move to the suburbs for tax and corruption reasons. The problem is that you'd have to move pretty far to get out of Cook County. And Chicago corruption is nothing compared to Cook County corruption. So I suck it up and accept the fact that no one in this city will vote for anyone but a corrupt incumbent and just roll my eyes at every new corruption story. But Chicago's declining population would seem to indicate that quite a few people are either less willing to deal with the corruption and taxing or more willing to deal with a long commute.

  • Nigel Watt||

    Hey, guess what kinds of cities are gaining population from padded rooms like Chicago? Places like Houston and Las Vegas.

  • ||

    Well, huge networks are usually biased so why shouldnt a mom and pop newspaper be?

    JT
    http://www.Ultimate-Anonymity.com

  • ||

    Unlike strict libertarians, we support the ban on smoking in the workplace, but we agree that taverns should have been left to decide the matter for themselves.

    Umm... are they actually claiming to be any kind of libertarian? Like, libertarian in the Bill Maher but not quite that libertarian sort of libertarian?

  • UoC Philosopher||

    If we are to create this city, what laws are it to have? How will the guardians protect the city? How can one create demand for laws, since we will be the lawmakers in this city? By "identifying" the "problems" for them. This will ensure justice, but what is the definition of justice?

  • ||

    I was recently in Chicago staying with friends of mine. He is a retired union man who used to work for the phone company and a life long Chicago Resident (though he now lives across the county line in Downers Grove). This is what he said to me; "I use to go downtown and wonder how all those building were being built in the midst of so much corruption. Then I found out, the city doesn't work in spite of the corruption, it works because of it."

  • Abdul||

    shorter Chicago Sun-Times: Sure, we're a Nanny-state, but a lovable nanny like Mary Poppins.

  • Episiarch||

    Sure, we're a Nanny-state, but a lovable nanny like Mary Poppins.

    Mary Poppins = fascist

    Yeah, I said it.

  • ||

    When Chicagoans want to party they go to Milwaukee.

  • Colin||

    Excellent rebuke, Radley.

    Put it in the form of an op-ed, and see if they'll print it.

  • ||

    after a year of headlines about police abuses, it just struck me a bit odd that the Board of Aldermen's biggest concern while I was in town researching the article was a proposal to assign cops personal trainers at taxpayer expense.

    The bullies obviously need to be in better physical condition, if they can't successfully intimidate their victims into silence.

    It wouldn't be safe for them to just get their fat asses out of their cars and walk a beat, so they need expensive secure training facilities.

  • ||

    I moved out of Chicago because of its nanny-statism! There are plenty of cities in the US that are much more considerate of civil liberties and property rights - such as my current city of Madison, WI. Granted, there are many other problems with Chicago, but, the government paternalism certainly doesn't help. I think a lot of people are disgusted.

  • ed||

    Not that there's anything wrong with it, but is the Sun-Times' editorial staff comprised mostly of women and gay vegetarian men? Again, nothing wrong with being an effeminate carrot-chewer.

  • Russ 2000||

    Still, Chicago could stand to stop bleeding residents.

    Chicago could stand to stop FLEECING residents, then maybe they'd stop losing them.

  • ||

    Hopefully they won't get around to banning duck fat French fries before I visit in September.

  • ||

    (My apologies, a bit amused by typos right now)

    I'm always amused by typos - they often exceed the intended text. Radley gets a solid RC'z Law award for "bottled war" (sadly, fixed now).

    As frustrating as the nanny-statism of Chicago is for me, I don't really think it's the main reason Chicago is losing population at all. The overall corruption in all areas of government,

    Nanny-statism breed corruption, by creating opportunities for favortism and abuse. How do you think those remaining taverns keep their licenses, anyway?

  • ||

    evil peddlers of demon rum

    Did anyone else notice that they tried to put this aside as close to reason's name as possible, perhaps in an attempt to try to get us to believe that Balko had referred to the taverns as such? No, upon a rereading, it's clear that they, the Sun-Times, actually think that tavern owners are evil peddlers of demon rum.

    I think that pretty much gives up the game right there.

  • Russ 2000||

    Chicago has only about 1,300 taverns today, compared with about 7,000 in the 1940s.

    Yeah, 1,300 licensed taverns. Ya know how many unlicensed ones there are?

  • ||

    Did anyone else notice that they tried to put this aside as close to reason's name as possible, perhaps in an attempt to try to get us to believe that Balko had referred to the taverns as such? No, upon a rereading, it's clear that they, the Sun-Times, actually think that tavern owners are evil peddlers of demon rum.

    I was wondering about that, too. I still can't tell whether or not the Sun-Times was being tongue-in-cheek about that or not. I mean, can a major US newspaper actually use that phrase today with a straight face?

  • EJM||

    Maybe this will give new meaning to what's probably the best-known state-tourism slogan of all time. (And, yes, I do also remember the parody version.)

  • ||

    Leah -
    what's the difference between nanny-statism and corruption? So far as I can tell, they are both examples of putting government power to the service of petty interests, and they seem to be very often concurrent.

  • ||

    Leah -

    You just described the same thing Radley did. Of course having more intrusive government, more regulations, and a bigger government overall would lead to more corruption and higher taxes. They are two sides of the same coin. I mean, how couldn't you have higher taxes when your taxes are being spent on things a frivolous as personal trainers for cops?

  • Mountain Shout||

    Really what would you expect from a publication trying to cling to whatever revenues they have left? The Sun Times needs to keep every lefty they can, and anything save toeing the party line is unacceptable...

  • Naga Sadow||

    Here, Here! To all your points, Radley!

    *lights a cigarette indoors, takes a swig of homebrewed moonshine, fires Glock into friends ceiling*

  • Ska||

    What about a bong hit for good measure?

  • ||

    Chicago also gained about 8,000 people between 2006 and 2007.

    Nothing to brag about....low rents due to lack of demand are low rents none the less.

  • ||

    It's more useful to look at the Census numbers for households than for persons when considering a city's population trends.

    In a lot of cities, there are fewer families with kids but more households overall, as younger adults move in and gentrify areas that were formerly cheap rentals for working-class families. There are a lot of three-deckers in Boston that used to be cheap apartments, which have been condo-ized, with each unit selling for more than the entire building was worth ten years ago.

  • ||

    Fantastic rebuttal. I agree that you should editorialize it and submit it. If the Sun-Times won't print it perhaps the Tribune will.

  • Rhywun||

    Nannyism can be annoying but it pales in comparison to the real reasons people choose to live somewhere. Yes, it's made NYC a bit less vibrant but it's not going to drive me to Houston or Las Vegas any time soon.

  • ||

    Yeah, the nannyism of Chicago is frustrating, the police force is a disgrace, and the corruption is out of control. But, despite all of that, it's still a great city with great food and entertainment. I'm not moving anytime soon.

  • ||

    That's a good point about who's moving into the city, joe. I think I read elsewhere that the young 'n hip were moving into downtown Pittsburgh, and there are definitely young professionals moving into the new apartments here in downtown LA.

    But I actually figured that MOST urban population influx is low-income Hispanic folks. It is my anecdotal observation that their numbers absolutely dwarf the number of hipsters moving into lofts. But this might be regional. Perhaps there aren't a lot of Hispanic pioneers trekking up to Chicago. I would be interested to see a breakdown of the 8,000 new Chicagoans.

    And actually, 8,000 seems like a pretty small number. I'd bet there are 8,000 people per *block* around Macarthur Park. You wouldn't even notice that number of people coming or going from LA.

  • LarryA||

    We don't. The Sun-Times has had to write too many stories about too many people killed by guns. Repealing our gun laws -- hey, let's all ride the L with pistols -- won't help.

    At least the Chicago suburbs (Morton Grove, Wilmette, now Evanston) have seen the handwriting on the SCOTUS wall.

  • ||

    Chicago has lost people since 2000 due to several huge housing projects being torn down -Cabrini Green, Henry Horner Homes, Robert Taylor Homes, etc. Thousands of former residents of housing projects are being moved to the suburbs. Chicago is doing just fine attracting new people to move to the city. The author makes it sound as if Chicago is such a terrible place to live that everyone is leaving. Entire neighborhoods have been reinvigorated on all sides of the city. The only thing the population drop demonstrates, considering it is predominantly people of low income moving out of the city, is that the city is attempting to transition into a haven for middle class folk.

  • EJM||

    If the Sun-Times won't print it perhaps the Tribune will.

    Ironically, this began with a Tribune op-ed tied in with the latest print edition. (More on the op-ed here; more on the print-edition feature here.) Personally, a rebuttal op-ed may be better suited for, say, the suburban Daily Herald or even the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (considering how [comparatively] well Milwaukee did in the rankings).

    (Just in case, most of the other suburban Chicago newspapers are owned by, yes, the Sun-Times Media Group.)

  • Russ 2000||

    But, despite all of that, it's still a great city with great food and entertainment.

    It's a great city to live just outside of.

  • ||

    Good catch at the end, Chicago is one of the few former industrial cities which has a stable, even growing population size.

  • Andy||

    Does anyone else get frustrated that people, in this case the Sun-Times, have absolutely NO philosophical justification for what they "believe" anymore?

    Bans guns and close taverns to protect people. Well, people are still dying. Why don't they advocate doing more? Or would that ruin their belief that these regulations come from a "good place"?

    Then there's the outright stupidity. Great call on the (lack of) difference between a tavern and a workplace. I mean it's not like anyone works in a tavern?

    And then there's this gem - "A cop has to be in shape" to justify spending on trainers and nutritionists. Here's a thought - to do a job that requires people to be shape, hire people who are IN SHAPE! I mean, it's almost like they don't even have a motivation to save money...

  • JB||

    This is where Rezko-Obama comes from. Amazing that the dupes of this country are going to vote for a crook from Chicago.

    And that fat drunk mick who thinks he is a king better hope I never get mugged in his city. It will be long, there will be screams, and I will use a knife.

  • dpsc||

    Andy: "Does anyone else get frustrated that people, in this case the Sun-Times, have absolutely NO philosophical justification for what they "believe" anymore?"

    That's not what I get frustrated about. Seems kind of abstract to me. I get frustrated that the Sun-Times is not telling the truth about the Chicago PD.

    They're absolutely right that fitness is an important attribute in police, and they avoid the main point entirely by pointing that out. Unfortunately RB plays into their hands by talking about the population delta of Cook County.

    Neither point is as significant as the fact that the Chicago PD routinely allows its officers to torture and murder people. This is inarguably the case, and it amazes me that the local media is willing to keep omerta over it.

    Chicago cops can be as fat as they want, and as many people as want can move out of Cook county, and I won't care. But what has been going on in Chicago for decades stinks to the heavens. The amazing thing is that a lot of it is well-documented. It's not even a secret... People love them some boot, I guess.

  • Ben1||

    Chris wrote:


    ...the city is attempting to transition into a haven for middle class folk.



    Yes, because lawd knows, low-income folks have far less reason to live in an area where goods and services are within walking distance and public transport serves as a reasonable compromise as compared to car ownership.

    No, certainly, only *middle* class people deserve these things. So let's get those "lower-class" bastards right out of here, yessir, they're not human after all, are they? I mean, they don't have money, so what good could they be, right? Miserable, low-income bastards that they are.

  • california maid||

    im really curious, why it was tagged as the nanny state?

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