Shortly before the start of the recent summer recess, the Knesset passed one of
the dumbest laws in the annals of Israel’s parliamentary
Dubbed the “Book and Authors Bill,” the legislation had the
admirable goal of undermining the duopolistic power of Steimatzky and Tzomet
Sefarim, which control the local market to the detriment of
But, like many well-intentioned government schemes, this too
has fallen victim to outlandish overreach bordering on the
According to the new law, bookstores will be prohibited from
selling a book at less than the publisher’s suggested retail price. It also
requires stores to give prominence to books from different publishers, regulates
the royalties and payments that authors receive and even prohibits encouraging
salesmen to promote certain titles.
Believe it or not, a special “book
police,” force, comprising inspectors working for the Economy Ministry, will be
tasked with enforcing the law and penalizing violators with fines.
is socialist central planning at its worst.
Is it really the place of
government to determine the allocation of shelf space in your local neighborhood
bookstore? Do we really want a store owner to be punished for the horrible crime
of selling a book to his patrons at a discount? Ironically, what the government
is doing in order to save the free market is to create a market that is not
truly free. But what is particularly remarkable about this inane law is the
utter lack of debate that surrounded it.
There was little if any
discussion of fundamental questions regarding individual liberty, property
rights or the proper role of government in regulating the marketplace.
was simply taken for granted that the benevolent bureaucrats in Jerusalem have
the right to stick their noses into every crevice and corners of our lives and
attempt to socially engineer various aspects of our collective
Unfortunately, the book bill is hardly the only example of the
ongoing invasion of our freedom by a domineering, overbearing and imperious
Take, for example, the so-called “Photoshop Law” which was
passed back in March 2012.
In an effort to combat the spread of eating
disorders, the bill barred underweight models from modeling clothes on the
runway at fashion shows.
Among other things the law
requires that models demonstrate they have a body-mass index, or BMI, of at
least 18.5. Otherwise, advertisers are prohibited from utilizing
The logic behind this requirement, if it can be called that, is
that lawmakers wanted to promote a more healthy sense of body
However laudable that goal may be does not mean that legislation
is the best way to accomplish it. After all, there is no known scientific
evidence which proves a correlation between skinny models and rates of
Furthermore, it is a clear act of government intrusion, one
that tramples on a designer or a company’s freedom of expression.
University of Wisconsin’s Prof.
Donald Downs, a free speech expert,
noted, “In the US, it would be hard to justify this type of law on either legal
or normative policy grounds. The Israeli law is paternalistic in that it
prohibits something because of the effect it might have on others in the longer
Now don’t get me wrong. I don’t like super-skinny models any more
than the next guy. But what I like even less is when the government starts
deciding just how much flesh on her bones a model needs to have.
are of course an abundance of other instances in which the government injects
itself unnecessarily into our daily lives, creating a whole host of
inefficiencies and headaches for all concerned. And this is something that
should worry us all because it encourages a sense of dependence and undermines
the freedom that lies at the heart of our democracy.
Indeed, it would
appear that after 2,000 years without a government of our own, the Jewish people
cannot seem to get enough of it.
We have created a big, fat Jewish nanny
state, one with a bloated bureaucracy that has few if any qualms about
legislating and micromanaging our lives.
The result is as predictable as
it is detrimental: a system in which the individual and his ability to determine
his own fate is quashed under an avalanche of government-ordained rules and
Finding the delicate balance between personal liberty and
public need is something that every democracy struggles with, and in this regard
Israel is no exception.
But it is about time that we learn a simple
truth: More government doesn’t necessarily mean better government.
anything, it is the opposite that is usually the case.