Finley: Nanny state Republican is on a roll

Nolan Finley
The Detroit News

Rick Jones is on a Big Government rampage in Lansing. The state senator from Grand Ledge is papering the Legislature with proposals to limit consumer choice and impose his notions of temperance on everyone else.

So he must be be a left-leaning Democrat, right?

Nope. Jones is one of those conservative Republicans who decry the expanding Nanny State when liberals are doing the meddling, and then turn around and do the same thing in the name of protecting people from themselves.

Let’s start with Uber. The taxi services for the i-generation has exploited smartphone technology to connect those who need a ride with independent operators willing to give them one, for a fee the two parties agree upon. The entire transaction is handled online.

Uber has expanded, so far, mostly outside the reach of government regulators. It’s found customers among those who would never consider calling a traditional taxi, and has particularly flourished in places like Detroit that are underserved with cabs or where the traditional service is too expensive. There’s even some evidence that Uber has helped cut drunken driving arrests.

But there’s something about Uber that bothers Jones. And that is that its drivers aren’t licensed by the government, which also can’t inspect their vehicles or set their rates. Jones has a lot of hearsay evidence that Uber drivers are acting irresponsibly, exploiting drunken co-eds, etc., and worries about passengers not being covered by insurance in case they’re injured. So he wants to bring them under the state licensing umbrella.

Meanwhile, Uber customers seem perfectly satisfied. If they weren’t they could hail a cab. But that’s not the sort of free market decision making Jones is willing to trust to informed individuals.

Same goes for powdered alcohol. This new form of hooch is like Tang for grown-ups. Liquor is powdered and then reconstituted by adding water. The federal government has signed off on its safety. But Jones worries a crazy kid might try to snort the powder, sprinkle it on pizza or easily conceal it to fool bar owners.

Or it could be that hikers and boaters will appreciate the convenience of not having to tote heavy bottles to enjoy a cocktail. We can’t know, because it isn’t here yet. But Jones wants to get out in front of any possible evil.

Like robotic liquor dispensers. Jones wants to ban that new self-serve technology, too, arguing drinkers need the watchful eye of a human to keep them sober — as if living, breathing bartenders never over-serve anyone.

Jones says Michigan doesn’t need powdered alcohol or liquor dispensers. It’s not his job to limit our choices to only what we need. What we want matters, too. And that’s up to us.

Jones, who has indulged his puritanical streak in the past with laws banning vaporized alcohol and liquor service in all-nude strip joints, is one of Lansing’s most prolific bill generators. That makes him not only the poster child for a part-time Legislature, but also proof that when it comes to politicians wanting to control their constituents, Republicans are no better bargain than Democrats.

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