Saturday, March 10, 2012

What is Tyranny?

What if the government criminalized a healthy activity? What if jogging, for instance, was made illegal because it increases your immediate risk of a heart attack. Of course, running reduces your risk of a heart attack in the long-run, but what if the government got their facts wrong or just didn’t care because the act of running was deemed too risky? What if the government mandated that you take a medication you don’t want to take? What would you do if the government forced you to do something you know is bad for you?

In Ohio, a committee made up of elected officials decided that citizens must wear footwear or face arrest (for criminal trespass) at the Statehouse, the government complex ironically called “The People’s House.” This decision came after a long and protracted fight by a man named Bob Neinast, an Ohio citizen who frequently makes (made) use of the Statehouse, barefoot. Bob goes barefoot because he enjoys it and because doing so genuinely relieves shoe-induced aches and pains. Although he is an Ohio citizen and the Statehouse is where citizens go to conduct business with their government, Bob is not allowed there unless he conforms to their idea of decorum.

Actually, the reason stated for the shoe rule is safety. Here is where the government has their facts wrong. The irony is that shoes are responsible for the vast majority of the foot problems we have in the United States, from bunions to fallen arches to athlete’s foot. High heels put at least 20,000 women in the hospital each year [1], but officials didn’t ban heels from the Statehouse.

For Your Safety is quickly becoming the most hated phrase in America, and for good reason. Since 2001, For Your Safety has been used to tread on more freedoms than any other excuse in our nation’s history. In Ohio, whose safety is really being preserved by this shoe rule? If it’s not about safety, why are our officials blatantly lying to us? If it’s about decorum, is this the business of our government?

Just laws are those that protect us from others who wish to physically harm us or our property. A law aimed at protecting me from myself is an unjust law and a tyrannical meddling of the government into my personal affairs. Liberty is the freedom to do as I please as long as I’m not demonstrably harming someone else. Thomas Jefferson said it like this:

“Rightful liberty is unobstructed action according to our will within limits drawn around us by the equal rights of others. I do not add ‘within the limits of the law’ because law is often but the tyrant’s will, and always so when it violates the rights of the individual.”

Several members of the Ohio General Assembly were part of the committee (JCARR) that voted to uphold the new shoe requirement at the Statehouse, a rule that was created in direct response to a citizen (Neinast) going safely shoeless in the Statehouse; a rule that serves no purpose but to obstruct the actions of Neinast and other citizens [2] on public property. The rule demonstrates tyranny. Since the Legislators that support this rule don’t seem to understand the true nature of law and liberty, I urge the citizens of Ohio to dismiss and replace those Legislatures at their first opportunity. They are Sen. Frank LaRose (, Sen. Kris Jordan (, Sen. Dave Burke (, Rep. Bill Hayes (614-644-2500), Rep. Mike Duffey (614-644-6030), Rep. Cheryl L. Grossman (614-466-9690), Rep. John Carney (614-466-2473),and Rep. Tracy Maxwell Heard (614-466-8010). Senators Charleta B. Tavares ( and Michael Skindell ( voted against the rule and they are to be commended. The minutes for the meeting are not yet posted online, but will be here when they become available.

A few miles south of Ohio, Beth Harwell is Speaker of the House in Tennessee. She is known for going barefoot on the House floor as shown in the photo. In Columbus, Madame Speaker could be arrested, hand-cuffed, and taken away from the government property for this dangerous barefoot activity (actually, she would be hauled off to another, even less genial government property). Thank goodness that House Speaker Beth Harwell and the Legislators of Tennessee have more sense than those in Ohio.

1. DP Manning and C Jones. High Heels and Polished Floors: The Ultimate Challenge In Research On Slip-Resistance. Safety Science 19 (1):19.

2. The Statehouse is often used for weddings and special events; bridesmaids, keep your shoes on or face going to jail.


  1. Thanks, Daniel. Great article!

    Since the meeting minutes aren't out yet, I'd like to point out the Sen. Skindell pointed out that many members of the General Assembly take off their shoes in their offices. That is now illegal. In my response to his question, though, I pointed out, "Who's going to harass a Senator?" It's the rest of us who are in jeopardy.

  2. Very well said. Lets hope that this has a positive turn around.

  3. If Ohio's governmental body is looking out for its citizens 'safety' then I would imagine that a risk analysis has been performed in order to identify potential risks while walking in the state house. Once the risks have been identified, a list of approved shoes should be tendered and made publicly available in order for citizens to wear the proper footwear that will keep them safe while walking. As you mentioned in the blog, high heel shoes should be banned, as well as other shoes that either cause hazardous conditions to me more hazardous or are hazardous in and among themselves.

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Welcome to The Barefoot Professor blog, intelligent talk about running, walking and living barefoot. I encourage your comments, even if you disagree with me. In this spirit I don't even moderate the comments. However, PLEASE use critical thinking skills when leaving comments, and avoid inflammatory words. Please keep your comments short and to-the-point. THANKS.