Thinking Outside the Box! – Mother, May I

By: Dr. Chuck Ormsby – September, 2004

 The following is an exchange between John Stossel and Gilbert Casellas, the chairman of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, on the topic of the Americans with Disabilities Act during a 1996 interview on ABC’s 20/20: Casellas: “The law’s fairly clear, it’s fairly simple.”

Stossel: “If you come to me applying for a job, and your arm’s in a sling, can I ask you why your arm is in a sling?”

Casellas: “You can ask ….. you know what? I’m going to ask you to stop the tape ….. we’re getting into a complicated area ……”

Stossel: “You run the EEOC, and you don’t even understand [the rules]? How’s some employer in Iowa supposed to know them?” Maybe the Iowa employer should call the EEOC and ask for permission just as in the children’s game, Mother, May I?

When does a human being finally grow up? When can we stop asking permission? How dare other human beings gather into a gang and threaten our lives, our families, our livelihoods, and our property if we don’t supplicate ourselves and obey their latest rules and regulations. We call ourselves a free people. What are we free to do? We are free to obey. We are free to comply. We are free to pay. We are free to complain … well at least until 60 days before an election, and then we are free to … just keep quiet.

Let’s say we own some property and want to start a business. We are enthusiastic because we know we have a good product or service idea and we can provide it at a higher quality level, or lower cost, or more conveniently to our customers than can our competitors. We know that customers will flock to our business in droves to take advantage of our great offerings. Everybody wins. We will all be better off. Let’s get started! First thing we will do is to look into building our factory or store.

If I own a piece of property, can I build my business? Time to ask the Zoning Board, the Board of Health, the local Historical Commission, and the Department of Environmental Protection.

Can I build it the way I want to? Not unless the building and its accesses conform to local building codes, plumbing codes, electrical codes, zoning restrictions, the Americans with Disabilities Act, and OSHA guidelines.

Am I free to contract as I see fit to have my business built? Not unless our hiring arrangements (and related advertisements) are approved by the EEOC and any resulting labor contracts meet minimum wage and overtime requirements, include workers compensation, unemployment insurance, and (in some locals) health/disability insurance requirements. Oh, and in Massachusetts, only if we hire police to stand out front during the roadway work to look bored.

Can I arrange to have interested investors participate? Better call the Securities and Exchange Commission and make sure you are in full compliance with investment regulations, registration requirements, and disclosure requirements. How about a bank loan? As long as the bank has fulfilled the 1001 banking regulations it must abide by, and your loan doesn’t tip the racial equality statistics of its loan portfolio … hold on, we’ll get back to you.

Ok, the store is built! Time to sell our product! But first we need to hire some staff for the factory/store. Can I hire employees? Not until you have consulted your employment attorney and the EEOC. And not until you make sure that you have systems to withhold Social Security contributions (and make your withhold state and federal taxes. Don’t forget state and federal regulations mandating unemployment, health, and disability insurance along with work hours, working conditions, overtime regulations, and minimum wages. Finally, you are clearly an anti-social criminal (and risk huge lawsuits) if you do not arrange sexual harassment training for your new employees within a few days of them starting work.

Had enough? Ok, then let’s start selling and get rich … “Hold it right there, Mr. Big Shot businessman! Where is your license to sell?”

“Say what? My license to sell? You must be joking. You see, I have this thing that, miraculously and despite all your laws and taxes, I actually own. Do you see Mr. Customer over there? He has some money that, incredibly and despite all your laws and taxes, he owns. We both want to exchange these two things and live happily ever after. Certainly that doesn’t concern anyone else.”

“No, YOU don’t understand. EVERY-THING you do concerns everyone. We are just one big tribe and anything anyone does concerns everyone else. You can’t do anything without permission … and that especially goes for engaging in economic transactions or making money.” “Well then, PLEASE, can I sell this thing to that customer over there?”

“Yes, since you asked so politely, but only if you require him to show an ID, you pay me 5%, and you promise to make monthly, quarterly, and annual reports … in triplicate.”

“Great, then I will sell my product, right now.”

“Ok, you’re under arrest!”

“But why? I did everything you asked … from the Zoning Board to the EEOC, to the Historical Commission, to OSHA and the Americans with Disabilities Act, to the Dept. of Environmental Protection, to the IRS, the SEC, the Licensing Commission, to …. Well, I can’t even remember everything I did, but I know I did everything you asked!”

“Yeah, but you’re going to jail anyway and you’re going to pay a big fine and we’re going to put a lien on your business … you may even have to forfeit this brand new building you just built. All because you forgot one thing.”

“What did I forget?”

“You forgot to say, Mother, May I?”

We wonder why the economy is struggling and why jobs are not being created. Maybe we just need more government regulations and jobs programs. Or, we could grow up, disband the tribal mentality, tell the government to get off our backs, and start living like free men and women.