Santa Monica, Calif., has decreed a fine of $2,500 a day for not cutting your hedges.
Has someone discovered some terrible health hazard or other danger from hedges that are too high? Not at all. The politicians who run Santa Monica have simply decided people should not be able to build high hedge walls around themselves.
Santa Monica has long been called "the People's Republic of Santa Monica" for all the far-left laws and rhetoric it generates. Like other governments called "people's republic," the last thing they care about is people. The ideology, or even whims, of those in power routinely take away other people's right to live their own lives as they see fit.
Santa Monica is not unique. Wherever you get enough far left people in power, you can find a similar willingness to force everyone into collectivist conformity at all costs.
Too often these selfish ego trips of the left are called idealism, and issues are discussed in terms of the wonderful goals they proclaim -- "social justice," "open space" or "saving" this or that -- rather than in terms of what is actually being done and the costs to others, even when that cost is $2,500 a day.
None of this is peculiar to the United States. In fact, the same mindset is more prevalent in a number of Western European countries and has been carried even further in practice.
In Britain, for example, the right to self-defense is being eroded in many ways. Gun control laws there have not only tightened restrictions on gun-ownership -- with the murder rate rising as they do -- these laws ban anything that looks like a gun, especially if used in self-defense.
Britons who, by using toy pistols, have held burglars in their homes until the police arrived have been arrested along with the burglars. To the collectivist mindset, independent self-help of any sort is a threat to their vision of the government as the sole source of protection and direction.
If someone attacks you in Britain and you knock him down, you are not allowed to hit him again or you will be charged with assault. Apparently, they think someone who has been knocked down is now harmless. People who have led sufficiently sheltered lives may believe such things -- and impose such notions on others through the power of government.
The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) has even advised you are not to yell "help" when attacked in a public place. You are to yell "Call the police." Both self-defense and coming to the aid of others are lumped together as "vigilante" action. That mindset has made inroads into the U.S. media as well.
Years ago, Bernard Goetz was called "the subway vigilante" in the media because he shot some young hoodlums who attacked him directly. He had sat quietly minding his own business while the thugs harassed other people in the same subway car. But even to defend himself was "vigilante" action, as far as those in the liberal media were concerned.
The left takes its vision seriously -- more seriously than it takes the rights of other people. They want to be our shepherds. But that requires us to be sheep.
Even in the raising of children, the left wants to take charge -- without taking responsibility. Schools have long ago taken over the role of introducing children to sex when, how and with whatever beliefs are in vogue. But, if your child ends up pregnant or stricken with AIDS, that is your problem, not theirs.
In some European countries, it is illegal to spank your own children. They apparently believe, like Hillary Clinton, that "it takes a village" to raise a child. But, if the child ends up rotten, it is not the village that lies awake at night but the parents.
Making other people's decisions for them without being accountable for the consequences is the left's vision in many different contexts -- including outsourcing our foreign policy to the United Nations or to the International Court of Justice, whom nobody elected and whom nobody can hold accountable.
Hedges in Santa Monica are just one of the signs of our times. They want to cut our freedom down, not just hedges.
Thomas Sowell is a nationally syndicated columnist.