When a company called Freedom Enterprises (no, really) poisons the water supply for 300,000 people by carelessly allowing thousands of gallons of 4-methylcyclohexane methanol to leak into the water supply from a worn-out storage pond conveniently located just upstream from the area’s main water treatment plant, that’s called “free enterprise.” Free enterprise is good.

If anyone tries to do prevent such disasters, that’s called “regulation.” Regulation is bad, because it limits free enterprise.

When the Federal government trucks in a million liters of bottled water, that’s “big government.” Big government is really bad, because it makes people lazy rather than self-reliant. Why didn’t all those folks have the gumption to buy stills?

When you add regulation to big government, you get socialism. The next step is torture chambers and gulags, or even Obamacare.

I certainly hope the Tea Party crowd in West Virginia will stoutly resist the socialist plot to provide them with “free” water at the expense of hard-working taxpayers. Perhaps the legislature could make it a felony to distribute socialist water.

Bonus query for members of the Federalist Society: Which enumerated power allows the Congress to appropriate money to supply drinking water after a toxic spill?

[Cross-posted at The Reality-Based Community]

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Mark Kleiman is a professor of public policy at the New York University Marron Institute.