Don’t Tread on the Six-Toed Cats

by Jonah Goldberg

I gather folks at NRHQ are on something of a vacation, which may explain why my latest column didn’t get posted. You can read it here or here instead. 

Basically, it’s part of what I plan to be a series of columns over the coming year pushing federalism as a priority for the GOP — and the Democrats. Here’s the first installment from a couple weeks ago. 

Today’s column is on the lunacy of the federal government’s effort to regulate the Hemingway Museum and Home in Key West, Fla. Ernest Hemingway allegedly had a six-toed cat named Snowball. Snowball’s very well-cared-for descendants lounge around his home and tourists take pictures of them. The USDA is forcing the museum to either comply with the Animal Welfare Act — which is aimed at zoos and circuses — or it will confiscate the cats. The whole ten-year debacle began because a cat lady down the street was annoyed because the street cats she feeds — and which the feds don’t care about — were getting bullied by a six-toed “macho” feline named Ivan. The cat lady got mad and called in the G-Men. 

Anyway, that’s the set-up, here’s the rest of it:

To be fair, maybe the cats are a problem. But you know what? If they are, they’re not my problem. I don’t live in Key West.

In other words, what on earth is Washington doing setting cat policy — polydactyl or otherwise — for Key West, Fla.?

I’m always amazed by people who love visiting exotic locales abroad — and are often sanctimonious about keeping them exotic — but simultaneously support a government at war with exoticism here at home.

The federal government has plenty on its plate already. It should not be the cavalry of busybody neighbors or aggrieved cat ladies who can’t win an argument at the local level.

Key West is not Mogadishu. It has a functioning government, as does the state of Florida. Residents there — and across America — are capable of self-rule, which includes the right to live in ways other Americans might think is crazy or wrong. If the six-toed cats launch an insurrection, complete with an updated feline “Don’t tread on me” flag, by all means send in the feds.

Otherwise, the locals can work it out for themselves. They’ll be happier, and Key West will be a more interesting place to visit.

UPDATE: The column is now on NRO.

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