The City of Chicago recently decided that feeding pigeons should be unlawful. Birds are nice, and a pleasant accent of every city, but cleaning up after them is costly. Therefore, everyone who feeds pigeons in Chicago faces a fine of up to $100, if caught.
The Police Department in the Windy City is in a permanent state of manpower shortage, and lonely old ladies regularly socializing with pigeons will probably not get much attention. Consequently, it is very likely that this particular ordinance will have no effect on the population of wild pigeons in Chicago. The City Council will probably notice this a few years down the road and draw the conclusion that the law is not tough enough. Fines will be raised up to $300 and a special task force will be organized.
In response, lonely ladies will get together under the banner that socializing with pigeons is not a matter of their choice, but it is the way they are. Feeding wild birds will be declared an inherent right of expression, and The First Amendment will be called on by some lawyers on that occasion. The Mayor will create the office of a special appointee to make contact with pigeon feeders. After lengthy legislative maneuvering, a compromise will be reached. The City will be divided into 327 sectors and only in 103 of them feeding pigeons will be banned. In order to avoid any confusion, about 3200 easily visible signs will be posted where feeding wild birds is prohibited. Fines will be raised to $1000.
Let us assume that pigeon droppings are really a problem worth City Hall attention. By informing the public and appealing to the sense of common good, one could probably get better results. Passionate pigeon lovers will feed these birds anyway, regardless of the fine amount, but most reasonable people would follow the City Hall plea. Unfortunately, the legislative way offers an easy and spectacular, however illusionary fix.
The code books in Chicago, and not only, are becoming thicker and heavier. But, how many Chicagoans know about the existence of the pigeon feeding ordinance, since it was mentioned in the media only once, the day it was passed? Among these people who are aware, how many identify themselves with the official concept of handling the pigeon dropping problem? How many of us feel offended by this kind of childish treatment? And, the last but not least important objection, what is the City’s power and persistence in executing this kind of law? And how this power of enforcement is distributed? Since it is obvious that persons violating this regulation can be prosecuted only occasionally, it becomes important who, why, and when gets caught. Prosecution of this kind of ordinance can be easily used to persecute some individuals for reasons having nothing to do with the original intent of legislators.
How many regulations bear the pigeon dropping syndrome? Solving nothing or very little, known only by some, respected by very few, and barely enforced. Intervening with the personal convictions of the most concerned. Having its own life apart from reality. Devaluating the value of law in general. Established to prove on paper the activity of some ambitious politicians.