There are any number of unhappy consequences from this relentless public push into private activity, not least of which is, as Senior Editor Jacob Sullum explains on page 11 (“Bono vs. Buttman”), the inevitably arbitrary enforcement of vaguely written laws. People who don't know if their day-to-day behavior will trigger criminal prosecution are not truly free. As the great civil liberties lawyer Harvey Silverglate observed in a 2009 book of the same name, Americans on average now commit “three felonies a day.” That means our basic liberty exists at the discretion of law enforcement. If cops or motivated government attorneys decide they don't like you, life can soon become hell.
What's perhaps more frightening than the existence of such an all-powerful enforcement apparatus is the argumentation supporting it even in the face of public outrage and ridicule. Car wash signs need four months of approval because there has to be some type of structure. Lemonade stands need to be forcibly shut down because, in the words of Portland City Commissioner Amanda Fritz, “The county has the responsibility to fairly enforce the rules on permits.” U.S. News & World Report columnist Mary Kate Cary, while pointing out that ObamaCare is “not fiscally responsible” and “creates a nearly trillion-dollar new entitlement program that doesn't pay for itself,” nonetheless gushes that the new calorie count requirement “may change American diets.” Once you take it as a given that the government has an important say in what you do with your property or put in your body, a whole universe of appalling actions and apologia becomes possible.
Just keeping the right to be left the hell alone is a never-ending struggle. The author suggests it is time to "change the default setting," but I suspect that's a lot easier said than done.