A recurring feature on this blog is the US vs UK government stupidity contest, which features examples of idiotic behavior by politicians and bureaucrats on both sides of the Atlantic.
Recent winners of this dubious honor include a rather amazing example of British road painting and a horrid incident of anti-gun political correctness by American school bureaucrats.
Our neighbors to the north must be envious that they’re not part of this contest. Based on what just happened in Quebec, Canada probably deserves to be in the conversation.
First some background, courtesy of a story from the Guardian. It seems that the provincial government actually has language police.
They are known as the language police, a unit within the regional Quebec government that seeks to protect French from the rising tide of English. It deploys inspectors to rein in recidivist anglophones, take on big corporate transgressors such as Guess, the Gap and Costco and conduct spot checks to follow up thousands of public complaints.
But sometimes, these tax-funded Keystone Cops go too far.
Now, however, zealots in the Office québécois de la langue française (Quebec Board of the French Language) may have gone a step too far in picking a fight with an Italian restaurant… After a five-month investigation into an anonymous complaint, Massimo Lecas received a letter from the board telling him that his establishment, Buonanotte, had broken the law by including the words “pasta” on the menu and “bottiglia“, the Italian word for bottle, instead of the French word bouteille. Outraged, Lecas posted the letter for 2,500 of his Facebook friends to see. In doing so, he unleashed a political tempest over one of the most sensitive topics up for debate in the province. The outcry has forced the Quebec government to rein in its language inspectors, ensure exceptions to the rules are made for ethnic food and restaurant menus and order a review of how it handles public complaints.
By the way, this is not an isolated incident.
Lecas’s decision to go public with the letter from the language inspector has prompted other restaurateurs to come forward. One told how he was ordered to cover his microwave’s on/off switch and the redial button on a telephone with tape because they were in English. The chef’s grocery list, which was written on a kitchen chalkboard, was also found to have broken the law: steak frites may be a staple of Parisian bistros but, according to Quebec law, biftek is the only acceptable term. …Quebec’s recent budget included one notable increase: the yearly allotment for the language police.
So Canada definitely can make a claim that it belongs in the government stupidity contest. Though, to be fair, I should acknowledge that other governments also merit consideration.
- In Germany, the government misplaced the sensitive blueprints of its new $2.3 billion spy headquarters.
- In Italy, the government of supposed technocratic experts managed to appoint the wrong person to a job that shouldn’t exist.
- In the European Union, watching free soccer broadcasts is now a human right.
- In Greece, bureaucrats actually demand stool samples from entrepreneurs applying to set up online companies.
The moral of the story is that government – in all nations – is a festering black hole of waste. And if you ever feel that these incompetent and foolish people deserve more of our money, then I suggest you move to France, where the nation’s President generously has promised that nobody will have to surrender more than 80 percent of their income to the government.
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