Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

Confessions of a Young Pyromaniac

Let me start by saying that I realize this would have been a lot more appropriate a week and a half ago.

Long before I was ever interested in politics, or before I’d ever heard the term "nanny state," I chafed against the government’s (in this case, the State of Pennsylvania’s) ban on fireworks. Okay, we could have sparklers, but that was about it. But occasionally one of my friends or I would go on a family trip that would take us through one of the "free states" (South Carolina, Wyoming, and Indiana were particularly good) to load up on bottle rockets, roman candles and M-80s. Then we’d go out to the backyard, break out the police radio (does anyone have those anymore?) and indulged our fire-loving ids (hey, those model airplanes weren’t going to blow themselves up). As soon as we heard something on the police radio about fireworks, of course, we’d gather up our contraband and rush inside until the heat was off. But I couldn’t help but think, what’s more American than fireworks (okay, okay, nearly all of them are made in China, but that’s not the point)? How dare the government interfere with our rights?

Now I’m an Ohioan, of course, and we have some pretty strange rules here. Sure, I can drive north about a half-hour to West Salem, and buy just about anything my little heart desires (including mortars--you know, smaller versions of the fireworks you see in professional displays). The only catch is, then I have to sign a document in which I promise not only that I won’t shoot them off in Ohio, but that I’ll remove them from the state within 48 hours. I suppose that’s so the state can enjoy the sales tax income while still avoiding lawsuits from the parents of some kid who blows his finger off with an M-80.

Anyway, I saw this article at ReasonOnline, so I thought I’d call attention to it. I was especially amused to see that one is four times as likely to be injured from an ordinary household cooking range than by a firework.

Discussions - 18 Comments

John, interesting article. I agree that it seems a bit silly to sell all of these wonderful toys and make one sign a form stating that they will immediately take them over state lines. Sure, we’ll sell them, but if you blow your hand off, its not our fault. However, the statistic that one is four-times as likely to get injured by a cooking range, I question. As you know "one can prove any point with statistics". I wonder if the people who came up with those numbers took into account the amount of contact time that people have with stoves and fireworks. We are exposed to fireworks for one weekend a year (roughly), while we are exposed to hot stoves day-in and day-out. Just tallying up the number of injuries caused by each, without accounting for this, would skew the likelihood of injury. My suspician is further raised about the statistic when the link to the APA analysis off of the article does not show how the comparison was made.

How silly!!

"I was especially amused to see that one is four times as likely to be injured from an ordinary household cooking range than by a firework."

The average person is 100,000 times more likely to use an ordinary household range than to set off fireworks. You say you saw that "fact" posted at "Reason"? Not very well reasoned.

Speaking as one who has a husband who used to begin gathering his fireworks the day school let out and(according to his brother) used to take them to bed with him the way most kids clutch a teddy bear, I can fully appreciate this post. A couple summers ago we were visiting Ohio around the 4th and I have never seen him so animated as when he saw the fireworks stands along the freeway. It was almost enough to convince him to move there but, alas, when he had to sign that paper you mentioned my hopes were squelched. This year we went down to his parent’s house for the first time over the 4th. (We usually attend a great celebration with the good folks at the Claremont Institute but my son’s broken arm precluded his swimming this year and--as it was in Palm Springs where the temp is around 115 in the summer--we elected to pursue other options). I could not believe what I saw. They allow what are called "safe and sane" fireworks in his parent’s town but . . . the door being open this far . . . no one was going to shut it. The police circled the neighborhood but I did not see them stop. What could they do? One guy literally lit up the street with bricks of firecrackers from one end to the other! The barrage lasted a full 5 minutes. The displays were on a par with what one might see at Disneyland. We had purchased a good cache of the legal variety but our kids were unimpressed with our display. If we do this again we won’t bother to buy anything other than the sparklers and, my favorite, those snakes that grow up out of the pavement.

Still, I have to also add that today’s sparklers are mere shadows of the sort we used to have as kids. I suppose they are "safer" but they are very unimpressive.

Oh, I forgot to add this fact . . . which actually speaks against your post: the evening saw the burning down of two buildings in the area--caused, of course, by wayward and illegal rockets.

Dr. Moser -



Actually, I own a Uniden Bearcat-800 XLT Police Scanning Radio.

The sheriff’s Department has little insect sized drones that fly over the stores in Nevada that sell that stuff. The drones get the license plate numbers of the cars smuggling the stuff into CA and the Sheriff’s Department is lying in wait for guys to come into CA with felony sized quantities of the stuff (it doesn’t take much). The Sheriff Deputies seize the stuff, charge the felonies and blow up the fireworks themselves. Woohoo!

Am I making this up? Well maybe some of it. But PLEEEEZE be careful with that stuff. Blown off hands? Hah! I’ve seen pictures of dead people. And I’m not making that up.

John...I have a scanner at our house too...but then, my husband is a Pennsylvania State Trooper...Guess it comes with the territory.

Our neighbors spend thousands every year on a massive firework display. It definately rivals other major productions. (They are on welfare, but they have money to spend on fireworks...go figure!) Most law enforcement around here tend to turn a blind eye to PA’s strange law...

Gee, does anybody wanna debate the idiocy of Ohio’s (or any other state’s) Blue Laws?

I think not. Big Brother rules, baby. And the his tax coffers are always bigger for it. cha ching!

I live in central PA and they sell fireworks in the grocery stores.

I think PA has laws against projectile fireworks. That is, it must launch to be illegal. The ones in the stores are fountain fireworks.

Maybe its more local laws in effect. I’ve bought fireworks from the local Giant supermarket (plugged to show its not a mom-and-pop place, but a major retailer with major retailer liability).

O.K., now you guys have me really baffled. I am in Ohio visiting my folks now and driving home from the airport I saw one of your fireworks "stands." Hello!? It’s not the kind I grew up with! This is a major freeway side brick and mortar superstore with really fancy signage and lighting. And you can’t use what you buy there? Wierd beyond words. Then I saw you multi-million dollar megaplex rest area and I about died when my dad told me what it cost. All that for some toilets and some water fountains? Is Ohio in a race now with California to be the most outrageously stupid state?

And Lori, you’re right. There seems to be a reverse correlation between the household income of the fireworks displaymen and size of their displays. It was very much the case in the town I described above, anyway. But the same is true with lottery tickets. Which all seems to prove my simple but working theory that in America you have to work very hard to be rich (unless you’re born into it), but almost always to be poor.

Your theory is that you have to work at being poor? That’s brilliant! You should go down to some project housing and let the good citizens there know that if they’d just take a break from all that hard workin’ at being poor, they’d be well on their way to a happy, middle-class life!

Well . . . I did stipulate that it was "almost always" the case. Didn’t you ever take a class in which you had to work at failing? You wouldn’t get an "A" if you just sat there but you’d almost certainly get a C or C- just by breathing the air and turning any old thing in. You had to work for an A and work for an F. That’s, more or less, what I think about wealth in this country. The opportunity here is so great that it’s very seldom you come across anyone who is genuinely poor simply because of bad luck and circumstances beyond their control. That is not to say that there are not exceptions--there are. But the vast majority of the folks you’re talking about in the projects are there because of choices they or their parents made.

Phil’s right. Everybody knows that the poor are lazy.

Oh yeah, that’s exactly what I’m saying! Nice spin job, Hal.

So assuming your theory is correct, Julie, WHY would anyone make these choices to which you refer? If one really does have to work at remaining poor, who would do it? I realize this is off the fireworks topic and straying far from Moser’s call to ban stoves, but I’m just fascinated by this theory of yours.

Phil: You tell me, why do people drop out of high school? You tell me why people choose to do drugs or drink till they’re wasted every day. You tell me why people sleep around, have multiple children out of wedlock, and then try to raise them without a decent job to support them. You tell me why people with problems like these don’t take advantage of free programs like public education, alcohol and drug counseling, and adoption? You tell me why some choose a cocktail of all these social ills and drop out of school, become crack whores, and then raise their progeny in crack dens. I don’t know why people choose to do these kinds of things. It makes no sense with any kind of logic you or I would use. But it obviously makes some sense to them. You tell me why some people never muster the gumption to look for a job. And, back on topic, you tell me why people on welfare and food stamps, are able to pull together hundreds of dollars to spend on illegal fireworks every July 4th and lottery tickets every Saturday. I don’t know why people do these things. You tell me a hard luck story and I will be the first to offer sympathy where it is appropriate. In my personal life, people think I’m too generous with people. I would love to help every unfortunate soul I come across. But that sympathy and help is sometime the worst thing you can do for a person. For every genuine hard luck story you can find, I’ll bet I can find 100 of these less sympathetic ones. I don’t know why people choose this way of life--it seems crazy to me. But for some people the cost/benefit analysis works in this direction. They would rather work at being poor than work so as not to be poor. And make no mistake about it--poverty in this country has become an industry and living in it (within the system) is a full time job. I wouldn’t do that job for pay, so I have no idea why some people volunteer for it. I think, perhaps, they mistakenly think it is easier or they are incapable of thinking six steps ahead. I don’t know and I don’t think anybody (least of all, so-called "experts") does know why people choose these things. As for me, the sheer horror of having to deal with the nasty bureaucrats and the red tape and the delays and the other nasty people associated with the welfare system would be enough to get me off my rear and into a job . . . almost any job. But that’s probably a good thing. For those who still choose it . . . what does one say about that?

John Moser - I think there are many reasons why other things could/should be considered "more American" than fireworks, and not just because at present most fireworks sold in the States come from China (anyone here give a second’s thought to the idea that their brilliant, banging tributes to freedom might possibly be made by a child or a slave-laborer?). The fact that the Chinese invented and refined fireworks, for starters. Now if you would say nothing’s more American than apple pie or nuclear weapons, then I’d agree. Also, what exactly did you find amusing about that statistic in the Reason article? Tell me it was the statistic’s absurdity.

Julie Ponzi - I really can’t tell if your last comment was serious or not. The only thing missing there was a personal anecdote about a black welfare queen driving her half-dozen kids around in a shiny new Cadillac.

It seems to me that if the dregs of society of which you speak are working so hard to be poor (and here I presume you’re NOT speaking of those Americans who are documented as having part- or full-time jobs, like with actual businesses, yet still fall below the poverty line) then they simply must be (I’ll avoid the word "stupid") mentally inadequate in some way; and we all know we don’t choose our maximum brain abilities. If they could profit so much more by simply focusing their hard work in other directions, then why would they choose the path to poverty? If they work hard but just continually make self-destructive decisions (such as "That’s it, I’m going to be a crack whore!") that lead them to failure then, to me, that would really make them a charity case, well-deserving of societal assistance. Maybe I haven’t been paying close enough attention, but do principled, "compassionate" conservatives oppose helping retarded/developmentally disabled people - those who, to be honest, really don’t stand a chance without some help from the rest of society?

I’m not sure you’ve been reading your conservative talking-point faxes and e-mails carefully (or are you really the gutsy think tank rogue with a "working theory" that the poor work hard to be poor?). I think the old-school "compassionate conservative" line is that those 100 of every 101 hard luck stories (the phony ones) are actually just LAZY people who refuse to work hard. But you’re saying that they’re actually hard workers! I’m also a little confused by your claim that "...poverty in this country has become an industry and living in it (within the system) is a full time job. I wouldn’t do that job for pay, so I have no idea why some people volunteer for it." Now, if they are "in the system" and reaping its (no doubt, in your eyes, opulent) benefits, then why do you look at it as "volunteering"? They work hard, and they receive those generous benefits so that they can live high on the hog and buy fireworks to celebrate the greatness of the USA. How do you see this as volunteering? And, in this case, why would you object?

Also, when you see welfare families launching illegal fireworks, do you call the authorities to bust them about the welfare cheating or the fireworks, or both? OR are you just "too generous" to turn them in at all?

"In my personal life, people think I’m too generous with people." - Oh, Julie, don’t be so modest! You should’ve gone whole-hog with that one and said "People think I’m too Christ-like...and modest."

Craig: Yes, of course, you are right. All these people in so-called poverty just wake up one day after working really hard to be successful and realize that this is an unjust country where the working class are abused for the sake of the man who is, of course, out to get them. They become so despondent over the injustice done to them that they have NO CHOICE but to drop out of high school, do drugs, have kids they can’t pay for and collect welfare. It’s our fault. I forgot. Did I sufficiently charicature your thinking (as you did mine)--or did you have some finer point you wished (but forgot) to make. Oh, and as I forgot to add the welfare queen to my remarks (and it’s interesting that YOU chose to make her black), YOU forgot to include the part about my cutting out eyeholes in my white sheets. But it was good of you not to neglect to imply it. Thanks for your brilliant insights.

For those of you still baffled by my claim that people have to work at being poor in this country let me try to make this a little more simple for you who may be "mentally inadequate in some way" as Craig put it. I mean it in two ways. First--to be actually poor in this country (not poor by the so-called "poverty line" standards, but really poor) you’re either a genuine charity case (of which there are some) or you have to deliberately refuse to do the things that would keep you out of poverty. There is too much opportunity in this country to deny it. Unemployment is at record lows and judging from the service you get in many places--it’s too low. According to many on the left and the right--we have so much opportunity that there are jobs some Americans simply won’t do so we have to import "guest workers." There’s so much opportunity you have to work at avoiding it. And some do. They work at convincing themselves that there isn’t opportunity or that it’s not good enough or that they’re not good enough. They work at the diversions that keep them from pursuing opportunity--like finding drugs, spending money they don’t have on stupid things like fireworks, or having uncommitted sex the consequences of which they are unprepared to handle. That is a kind of work. It’s paddling downstream.

The second way I meant that people work at being poor is that while they work so hard a avoiding opportunity and hard work, they end up having to work pretty hard to obtain government assistance. It’s amazing the kinds of laws and regulations some people manage to master in the pursuit of welfare! If they can do that, law school would have been a breeze! That is work and it is work that (as I said) I wouldn’t do for pay but others volunteer for it. But no, Craig, it’s not the kind of work that one should be paid for because there is no one outside of the "worker" who either values or gets a benefit from that work.

just make your own thats what I do

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