It is something of a clichéd tradition for a columnist to write a year-end or New Year column that makes exaggerated, sometimes humorous predictions for the next 12 months.
I wrote such a column at about this time last year, with "predictions" that reflected the continuing, creeping influence of government in our lives. Unfortunately, the state of civil liberties and both economic and personal freedom haven't improved much over the past year. So I figure it's time for another round of unlikely predictions as to what we might expect from our government in 2007.
--In yet another case of government bureaucracy gone mad, some local health agency will insist that the churches and private homes where volunteers prepare food for homeless people pass rigorous, restaurant-standard health inspections or shut down operations.
The silly policy will be justified in the name of protecting the homeless when, in reality, it will really only lead to fewer homeless people getting fed.
--In a scenario straight out of George Orwell's "1984," several local governments will begin to encourage children to turn in their parents when the parents fail to abide by building and property code violations, such as mowing the grass, properly sorting recyclables, and similar mundanities.
--In an aptly striking display of the drug war's misplaced priorities, federal narcotics police will sit idly by while a government informant takes part in several drug-related murders. The reason for their inaction? It was more important to get information from the informant on drug dealing than preventing the killings.
--In other drug war news, when asked to explain how today's drug prohibition differs from the nation's failed attempt at alcohol prohibition in the 1920s, the nation's top drug cop will actually make the argument that alcohol prohibition was a success.
--A radio host in the nation's capital will play a hoax on his listeners, jokingly suggesting that all Muslims in America be identified with an armband or a tattoo. He will then express shock when a solid majority of callers to his show will express their agreement with the proposition.
--In Britain, where the Nanny State is even more aggressive than it is here in the U.S, a government health agency will insist that the company that makes the whimsically-named "Dragon Sausage" change the product's name, or pull it from the market.
The reason? Customers might be fooled into thinking the product contains actual dragon meat.
--Some state that spends millions of dollars promoting its lottery will protect its monopoly on gambling by executing a man for the crime of wagering with his friends on football games.
--Having run out of things to tax, some state legislator will attempt to pass a law stating that any money left over on retail "gift cards" be forfeited to the state government.
--Some silly conservative will write a book blaming rap music and South Park for the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
--A major U.S. magazine will riff on the obesity hysteria, and run a hoax article about the possibility of taxing fat people for their extra weight. The magazine will then get a significant amount of mail from people who support the idea.
--In a strategy pulled straight from the movie "Minority Report," police in some towns will start "pre-arresting" people for drunken driving.
--Not content with mere gun control, some local governments will begin to ban swords, too.
--After successfully pushing questionable science on the effects of secondhand smoke for decades, the public health movement will move on to their next hysteria: Secondhand drinking.
--Not content with micromanaging parents when it comes to bicycle helmets, car seats and any number of laws and regulations, some state legislator will get the idea that we should make kids who play soccer wear helmets.
--In the never-ending race to see which state can be toughest on sex offenders, one state will propose a public registry of people merely accused of sex crimes. They needn't be actually convicted, or even charged.
--In Great Britain, a country whose system of socialized medicine is commonly cited as something the U.S. should strive for, hospitals that defy the system and actually treat patients with some degree of haste and efficacy will be fined by the government for "overperforming."
--Two "public health" professionals will argue that what developing countries really need – places where people are starving and women still routinely die in childbirth – are policies like motorcycle helmet and seatbelt laws.
As you might have guessed if you clicked on the links, or if you read last year's column, all of the above are not really predictions for 2007, but actual events that took place in 2006.
Truth, once again, is stranger (or more depressing, depending on your perspective) than fiction.
What will 2007 bring? My guess is that by December, I'll have another column of government excesses too strange to be satirized.
Radley Balko is a senior editor with Reason magazine. He publishes the weblog, TheAgitator.com.