Machine Design, Editorial Comment
April 5, 2001

My mother spent 12 years in a nursing home. There was no Medicare or Medicaid. The entire tab came out of family money. She had dementia the whole time and did not know where she was, nor did she recognize anybody. So quality of life wasn't much of an issue.

While she was there, advocates for the elderly would get stirred up periodically and declare war on the nursing-home industry. Maybe they heard that a patient had been tied to a chair, or perhaps an attendant had used a little force to get a patient to behave. Regardless of what set these activists off, I knew what would inevitably follow. There would be more state inspections, more regulations, and then -- as sure as night follows day -- an increase in the cost of care.

In round numbers, every time activists got activated, it cost us another $200 per month. So each time advocates for the elderly went on another rampage, my heart sank. There goes more money.

While my family suffered under this benevolence, activists with a grudge against electric utilities were also smothering our community with attention. They campaigned for lower rates, so the utilities, under pressure to lower operating costs, laid off employees, especially linemen and repair crews. Where power outages had been rare in the past, now they have become common. Mere rainfall is apt to leave us without power, with outages sometimes running for days on end. There is no such thing as a free lunch, and the interplay between activists and utility companies abundantly proves it.

And there is more. I've lived in the same house for nearly 40 years, and my wife and I have always been active in our community. We are as attuned as anyone to what people in our area are thinking and saying. Never once did I hear a complaint about air quality. On a scale of concerns, it registered zero.

Then the Environmental Protection Agency came to visit. They weren't invited. They just barged in. They tested the air, and it was OK, but that disappointed them. So they set up a monitor in a parking lot next to our NFL stadium and ran a check as thousands of cars were crawling out of the lot after a football game. Bingo! That became the official number, and now we all have to get tail-pipe emission tests before we can renew our automobile registrations.

We also have the American Civil Liberties Union to thank for yet another decline in our quality of life. When the population of street people wandering around downtown got too large, the police would pick them up, take them for a ride to the city limits, and dump them off. They kept doing this until our downtown area became a civil place again.

Then the ACLU got into the act, and you know what that means. Our downtown is overrun with derelicts once again, most of them panhandling with a newfound aggressiveness. Managers of office buildings and other public places now keep restrooms locked so that bums aren't constantly wandering in to use the facilities. Even downtown gasoline stations have had to close restrooms permanently to all customers to keep street people from camping out there.

All in all, activists have become the fire ants of society. I wish they all would just shut up and go home. The main thing they have brought us is inconvenience and aggravation.

-- Ronald Khol, Editor