Daniel J. Mitchell

As a patriotic American, I’m proud to say that we’re giving the Brits a run for their money. As you can see, the United States is filled with equally stupid and clueless government officials.

These are all amazing episodes of bureaucratic stupidity, but I must confess that I’ve been unfair.

I’ve been sharing stories about moronic government officials and completely overlooking examples of idiotic behavior and decision-making in the non-government sector.

To be sure, you’re more likely to find stupidity in government, but that doesn’t mean it’s non-existent elsewhere.

So, to rectify that oversight, let’s share two examples of jaw-dropping stupidity from non-bureaucrats in the U.S. and U.K. (or perhaps we should call them aspiring bureaucrats).

We’ll start with some clowns at Tufts University (a private school), who have kicked a Christian group off campus because it refused to change its internal policies so that non-Christians could be officers.

I’m not joking. Here are some of the absurd details.

After the student leaders of Tufts Christian Fellowship (TCF) declined to revise their leadership policies, the Boston-area research university’s Community Union Judiciary (TCUJ) revoked the InterVarsity Christian Fellowship chapter’s status as an officially recognized student organization. …TCUJ originally suspended TCF for its requirement that any student who wishes to hold a leadership position within TCF must affirm basic Christian beliefs. The student judiciary told TCF that those statements violated the student body constitution’s non-discrimination clause by excluding students who do not share these beliefs. TCF was given the opportunity to adapt its constitution and move the belief-based leadership requirement into its mission statement, which is not legally binding. However, TCF declined, resulting in the final TCUJ decision on Oct. 18.

Too bad they didn’t have this policy when I was at Georgia. I could have applied to be an officer in the Black Student Union. Or Hillel, the club for Jewish students.

On second thought, I would have filed suit to join a sorority! Imagine how much fun I would have had hanging out by the showers. And then another lawsuit so I could have been quarterback for the Bulldawgs. After all, how dare they discriminate against the athletically challenged.

To be momentarily serious, I have to wonder about the students at Tufts who first brought the complaint against the Christian group. I bet they feel like big men on campus right now.

Maybe they should demonstrate that they have some real cojones by launching a similar attack on the local Muslim student group. But I’m not holding my breath waiting for that to happen. Just like I’m not expecting the same from the people in Hollywood who think they’re edgy and brave when they mock Christians and Mormons.

Not that I have any objection to humor targeting religious people. Or atheists, for that matter. But I don’t have much use for cowards who engage in empty posturing.

But I’m digressing. Now let’s turn to our example of private-sector stupidity in the United Kingdom. It deals with bookstore chain that has decided to save impressionable British tykes from the life-scarring horror of buying shooting magazines.

Here are some details from the Telegraph on this ideologically motivated example of political correctness run amok.

WH Smith, Britain’s biggest chain of newsagents, has banned youngsters from buying copies of country sports magazines after a campaign by animal rights activists. The retailer…says it has introduced an age limit on such magazines as Shooting Times because children are not allowed to obtain a firearms certificate until they are 14. However, sports enthusiasts point out that this is wrong. There is no minimum age for holding a shotgun licence in Britain…They question why the high street chain does not restrict the sale of motoring magazines such as TopGear to those old enough to drive. “It is extraordinary that in WH Smith you can buy a car magazine at any age, despite the age limit of 17 for driving,” said Christopher Graffius, of the British Association for Shooting and Conservation. “You can also buy numerous war magazines which depict the killing of people, yet WH Smith is concerned about children buying shooting magazines, a legal and an Olympic sport. “They are also causing enormous offence to adult shooters who are stopped at auto-scan tills.”

Kudos to Mr. Graffius for exposing the absurd hypocrisy of the company, but I gather his is a lonely voice. It’s remarkable that a nation that once ruled half the world now produces people who decide that shooting magazines should be restricted like porn.

Not that I’ve ever had a reason to patronize a bookstore in England, but I will make sure not to visit WH Smith on my visit later this month.

Since I believe in private property, I want to stress that WH Smith has the right to restrict access to shooting magazines. Or to ban their sale completely. But I sure hope English consumers will exercise their rights to patronize other bookstores.

Feel free to comment on who deserves to win the prize for empty and vapid stupidity, the clowns at Tufts or the buffoons at WH Smith.

P.S. I don’t mean to slight the rest of the world. There are many examples of bureaucratic incompetence and political idiocy in other parts of the world, including Italy, Greece, Germany, and the European Union. So I hope nobody gets offended that their country isn’t on the list. There’s only so much time in a day.


Daniel J. Mitchell

Daniel J. Mitchell is a top expert on tax reform and supply-side tax policy at the Cato Institute.
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