To the People

The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or TO THE PEOPLE.

Friday, May 04, 2007

In Praise of 'Official State Nothing'

Fresh off the heels of Oklahoma anointing watermelon as its state vegetable comes this fantastic editorial in the Salem Evening News (my hometown paper, at least since the Beverly Times folded) bashing the whole concept of declaring an official state anything.
Every year, it seems, a group of students, with the encouragement of a friendly state senator or representative, makes it their business to have some beloved food item or other object entered on the list of "Emblems of the Commonwealth."

Now a fifth-grade class from Pittsfield's Egremont Elementary School is seeking to trump all of the other great literary works produced in this state by having the Legislature designate Herman Melville's "Moby-Dick" as the "official book of the commonwealth of Massachusetts."

We can think of many books produced by authors right here North of Boston that are equally or more worthy of that honor.

Salem's Nathaniel Hawthorne produced at least two - "The Scarlet Letter" and "The House of the Seven Gables" - that certainly merit consideration. Of more recent vintage are John Marquand's "The Late George Apley" and John Updike's "Rabbit is Rich," both of which won the Pulitzer Prize. Marquand lived in Newburyport for many years prior to his death in 1960; Updike was a longtime resident of Ipswich before moving to Beverly Farms where he currently resides.

We'd prefer to see the Legislature get out of the naming game altogether.
Me, too. And I love the palpable derision the paper's editors show for these literally childish official declarations.

The official-book issue isn't even the Commonwealth's most high-profile state-designated story du jour. No, that honor goes to a fight over assigning an official state maple syrup, which pits pure syrup makers against a syrup/molasses mix (yuck!) you might find served at Alice's Restaurant.

Of course, if the "work" of declaring an official state something keeps legislators from the more egregious work of declaring an official state everything (see Hugo Chavez), then I suppose this form of McCainsian economics -- unfunded nannyism -- is the lesser of two evils.

Still, I could stand a whole lot less "news" about rent-seeking toads pitting kids against scientists, and could live several lifetimes before I'd resort to reading filler stories like this and this. Ridding our state legislatures of the official-state urge would also mean I wouldn't have to try to figure out whether Wikipedia is lying when it notes that Kentucky's state food really is made by Colonel Sanders. Enough.