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California and Texas try to mandate their 'morality' through businesses as if they're toys

Gender-segregated aisles offend micromanagers in Sacramento, while anyone being forced to take a vaccine offends freedom-loving patriots in Austin. This kind of bipartisanship I can live without.

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This week isn't quite over, but already we've seen the silly and the destructive. The political moves appear unrelated, but both define what the relationship among business, government and society will be in the coming years.  

One is a big deal, and the other will be a footnote in history. One is hypocritical, and one is truly on brand. But together they reveal that government is going to impose its vision of morality on us through business. On this, both Republican and Democrats agree.

First the silly: In California, in the middle of a pandemic and climate change-fueled firestorm, the one-party Democratic state has decided that now is the time to regulate the way toys are displayed by large retailers. Toys are being displayed in a sex-segregated fashion and this must be stopped. The world won't be right until the camo GI Joe guns are displayed next to the pink Barbie shoes. 

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Effective in 2024, retailers with at least 500 employees must comply, and the fines start at $250 for a first offense and $500 for a second offense.

I can just imagine the wave of inspectors soon to be dispatched to measure the distance between dollies and dinosaurs, cars and cradles. Who knows what's going to happen when the inspectors encounter Harry Potter Lego sets – are they boy toys too near the Nerf footballs, or are they girl toys too close to the Disney princess dresses?

All the big problems in California must be solved if they have time for this. Homelessness, high housing prices, failing public schools, murder rates ... oh, never mind.

Meanwhile in one-party Republican Texas, Gov. Greg Abbott has issued an order that no "entity" in the state shall mandate vaccines for its employees or customers or anyone else. This is the opposite of California foolishness in nearly every way. Lives are on the line – the more people we can persuade to take the vaccine, the more lives we will save.

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But just as sex-segregated toy aisles offend the sensibilities of the micromanagers in Sacramento, the freedom-loving patriots in Austin are offended by anyone being forced to take a vaccine they don't want.

Never mind the fact that Texas schools already mandate other vaccines. Never mind that Republicans normally think businesses should be free to decide their own terms of employment and to whom they will sell their products. Never mind that conservatives think that government is already too big and too bossy. 

The problem of COVID-19 must already be solved in Texas, and they can move on to more troubling issues like making sure that every Texan is free to sue their neighbor for having an abortion.

Whether it is California Democrats or Texas Republicans, the parties agree that they need to tell businesses how to arrange their affairs and shape your lives. That's the kind of bipartisanship I can live without.

David Mastio is an Opinion writer and member of the Editorial Board. Reach him on Twitter: @DavidMastio

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