EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Opinion

May 22, 2013

Column: Regulatory bedlam? Yes, and it's growing

A guy’s walking across a college campus, sees a young woman, grins, winks and, even though he doesn’t know her, says he’d sure like to take someone so beautiful out on a date. She’s offended.

She accuses this fellow student of sexual harassment, and, because of new federal rules, she does not have to show that others might also find his remarks objectionable — as previously required. In proceedings that follow, his interrogators do not presume him innocent and can rule against him despite reasonable doubt. There’s the possibility of a career wrecked by a moment’s resented forwardness.

Sounds incredible, doesn’t it? But much worse has happened and the door is being opened for more shocks. This is the new America, an America that is not quite a democracy anymore, but a country dictated to by tens of thousands of pages of bureaucratically promulgated regulations that cover everything from the amount of water allowed in a toilet to the kind of light bulb we dimwits may buy.

Maybe some think that every tea party needs a pooper, preferably from the Internal Revenue Service, and that red-tape specialists should run everyone’s lives, because, after all, they’re better than we are. The evidence tells us something else. It tells us the administrative state can be grotesquely unfair, unconstitutional, self-contradictory, unspeakably autocratically intrusive, stupid and morally repulsive.

And as if there wasn’t enough already, more imperiousness recently came our way in the form of the Department of Education. In a Wall Street Journal analysis by a student of the subject, we learn of a department letter letting colleges and universities know they’d darn well better know that speech can be a form of sexual harassment deserving swift action. That’s not all. The letter also says that if supposed victims pronounce themselves offended, that’s criterion enough to decide sexual harassment was committed.

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