The meetings of the California Division of Occupational
Safety and Health usually aren’t one of the state’s hottest tickets, but boy,
was Tuesday an exception.

In one of those only in California events, Cal/OSHA
officials held a public
to discuss requiring actors in porno films to use condoms.

Or, as the state bureaucrats would
have it
, "each employer having any employees with occupational exposure as
defined by subsection (b) of this section shall establish, implement and
maintain an effective Exposure Control Plan which is designed to eliminate or
minimize employee exposure and which is also consistent with Section 3203."

That kind of talk makes you long for the days when people
who made dirty movies wouldn’t be found near a state official (or a cop, for
that matter).

Meanwhile, a few hundred miles up the road from that Los
Angeles hearing, people in San Francisco were contemplating a November ballot
measure that would ban the circumcision on anyone younger than 18 inside the
city limits, under pain of a fine and jail time.

Supporters, who prefer to call themselves "intactivists,"
argue that parents have no right to "mutilate" their children without
permission, even for religious reasons. They managed to gather more than 7,168
signatures to get this on the ballot.

Up Sacramento way, legislators may have dropped plans to tax
sweetened drinks, but they did pass a measure to bar teens from using tanning

Everywhere you look, legislators, government officials and
the people down the block are looking to tell other folks what they should and
shouldn’t eat, drink, do or wear. (Fort Worth, Texas, won’t
allow anyone with sagging pants on their buses

In almost every case, there’s a reasonable-sounding idea
behind the ban. Obesity is a problem, so let’s take out the soda machine at the
high school. Skin cancer can kill, so, "Jersey Shore" be damned, don’t let
teens use tanning beds.

But there’s a big difference between saying, "Eat your
broccoli" and saying, "Eat your broccoli. Or else." And then writing a 34-page
Assembly bill to regulate "the sale, preparation and required consumption of
broccoli and related vegetables."

Even people who rail against "the nanny state," have to
admit that nanny usually has a pretty good point. People know they shouldn’t
smoke, need to use sunscreen, should get more exercise and really don’t need
that extra, trans-fat-laden doughnut.

But while, as every mother knows, there’s something to be
said for being a nag, you ultimately have to trust people to make the right
decisions for themselves and their families.

Requiring restaurants to post calorie counts on their menus,
for example, provides people with better information to make their own
decisions. But banning toys from Happy Meals or sweetened cereal advertising
from kid-oriented TV shows tells parents that the government – and plenty of
public interest groups – don’t think they’re smart enough to do what’s best for
their children.

The whole idea of regulation is the ultimate slippery slope.
If you take the full-blown libertarian view, you’re back to six-year-olds
working in the factories and meat packing plants straight out of Upton
Sinclair’s "The Jungle.".  Move too far to the other side, though, and
the world resembles the famous 1984 Macintosh ad. So
it’s pick and choose and hopefully save your fights for the important stuff.

The bottom line is that it’s impossible for government to
protect everyone from everything, including bad decisions. No one is denying
that in this time of AIDS and other sexually transmitted disease, condoms save
lives. But does that mean Cal/OSHA needs to step in and tell adult film actors,
who are well aware of the risks of their chosen profession, how to earn their

John Wildermuth is a
long-time writer on California politics.