Government Regulation of Sneezing
A satirical caution against over-regulation by government
August 1, 2006
Fred Foldvary, Ph.D.
Economist

"The last unregulated human behavior is sneezing!" exclaimed the president's Doctor in Chief. "Sneezing is a leading cause of disease, including the flu. Sneezes need to be regulated, just as we regulate drugs, guns, and pollution. Millions of germs spew out when a person sneezes. The germs whiz out at 130 kilometers (80 miles) per hour! We need to reign in this unbridled sneezing."

The Family Association for a Cleaner America endorsed the anti-sneezing regulations. "Sneezing is not only a public menace," it declared in its press release. "Every sneeze is a message from Satan. The devil takes control of your body whenever you sneeze. We should no longer tolerate wild sneezing as something one can't help. Yes you can control sneezing, just as you can avoid fornication, intoxication, and prestidigitation!"

The American Civilian Liberty Society has announced its objection to restrictions on sneezing, stating that "sneezing is a natural act." The Doctor in Chief rebutted this objection, saying "Mosquitos are also natural, but we kill them, and properly so."

The legislation passed by Congress prohibits any consecutive sneezing (also referred to as "sternutation") with more than three hapchoos. Penalties increase with each extra hapchoo. The law also prohibits saying "God bless you" and "Gesundheit" or "health" in any language (such as "salud" in Spanish). Any person in the United States who says "God bless you" more than three times in response to a sneeze during the calendar year will be subject to a prison sentence.

"It is ridiculous to say 'God bless you' for offensive, disease-spreading behavior," said the chief doctor. "We need to change our culture. It used to be OK to be racist in America, and now we see that this was wrong. It's the same with sneezing. It's worse than racism, because it is dangerous and uncivilized. Children should be spanked every time they sneeze."

The president signed an addendum to the anti-sneezing legislation, declaring that sneezing is not speech, and the First Amendment does not apply to sneezes. "There is no Constitutional barrier to outlawing and penalizing sneezing," said the President. The Attorney in Chief agreed: "If we can outlaw drugs, we can certainly control sneezing."

Sneezing in the work place is also an economic problem. Millions of hours of labors are lost by worker sneezing. "Employers can increase productivity by stifling employee sneezing. The war on sneezing will make America more competitive internationally," said the Chief Doctor.

Sneezing has in fact been widely recognized as dangerous and anti-social, as etiquette and custom has required people to cover their faces when they sneeze. Many of our cultural practices have become legislated in law. "So why not also sneezing?" said the Attorney in Chief. The anti-sneezing law requires sneezers to cover their faces when they sneeze.

Sneezing in school has become a national epidemic. Millions of children sneeze every day, interrupting class. Sneezing is highly contagious - one sneezer can get all the other students to sneeze like a chorus. "Teachers should be a major front in the war on sneezing," said the Doctor in Chief. "We will make sneeze control a major element in our 'no child left in the rear' program." School districts which do not have an adequate sneeze-stifling policy will be denied federal funding.

Very few countries currently regulate sneezing. America, which has been falling behind other countries in social legislation, can now leap ahead on this health issue, according to America's chief doctor. "Other countries will follow our lead on stamping out excessive sneezing," said the Attorney in Chief. "Sneezing is worse than AIDS and cancer, because it affects everybody."

"We are going to have a great cultural shift," exclaimed the Doctor in Chief. "Sneezing will in the future be regarded as highly offensive, like being naked in public or obscene speech. To those who say sneezing is involuntary, our response is that we will allow three natural sneezes, although most folks should be able to stifle after the first sneeze. But if some delinquent keeps going after three sneezes, then he is at fault. This legislation is reasonable and fair. We need to think of public health! What is more important than health?"

The president added, "The war on sneezing also has to be seen as an important part of the war on terror. Terrorists could distract the public one terrorist sneezing while the other sets a bomb. Sneezing a particular number of times could also send signals to other terrorists. We have to close every opportunity that terrorists can exploit. Sneezing should be recognized as unpatriotic."

"Yes," said the chief doctor. "From now on, instead of responding with "God bless you" or some health-related expression, say to the sneezer: Shame!" Every sneeze should be responded to with "shame!" Hapchoo! "Shame!" Hapchoo! "Shame on you!"

Indeed, the times they are a - hapchoo! - changing.

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Fred Foldvary, Ph.D.
Economist

FRED E. FOLDVARY, Ph.D., is an economist and has been writing weekly editorials for Progress.org since 1997. Foldvary's commentaries are well respected for their currency, sound logic, wit, and consistent devotion to human freedom. He received his B.A. in economics from the University of California at Berkeley, and his M.A. and Ph.D. in economics from George Mason University. He has taught economics at Virginia Tech, John F. Kennedy University, Santa Clara University, and currently teaches at San Jose State University.

Foldvary is the author of The Soul of LibertyPublic Goods and Private Communities, and Dictionary of Free Market Economics. He edited and contributed to Beyond Neoclassical Economics and, with Dan Klein, The Half-Life of Policy Rationales. Foldvary's areas of research include public finance, governance, ethical philosophy, and land economics.

Foldvary is notably known for going on record in the American Journal of Economics and Sociology in 1997 to predict the exact timing of the 2008 economic depression—eleven years before the event occurred. He was able to do so due to his extensive knowledge of the real-estate cycle.