Florida, Workman, and the Case of the Tossed Dwarves

The first blog entry I wrote for the Devil’s Dilemma was on the ethical implications surrounding a bizarre New Zealand past time known as Possum Tossing. I thought that was the strangest topic I’d write about, but I can now say that this new story takes the cake, and it’s happening right here in America.

A Florida state representative, Ritch Workman, is pushing a campaign to lift the ban on “dwarf tossing.” The strange activity is it exactly what it sounds like, and (not surprisingly) often takes place in bars or other events involving alcoholic libations. In this activity, dwarves wear some sort of padded clothing, usually with Velcro, and are then thrown (or “tossed”), usually onto a mattress or similar surface coated in Velcro. It may come as no surprise that dwarf tossing is nearly universally banned, both in America and the world.

The idea of dwarf tossing is certainly not appealing to the wide majority of people, and Workman’s proposal has garnered considerable media attention, even getting picked up (and duly mocked) by Stephen Colbert. But, what may surprise you, however, is that Rep. Workman is not the only one who has proposed lifting the ban on this bizarre activity. For example, a French dwarf appealed the ban all the way to the UN in 2002, claiming that the ban violated his economic freedoms and human rights. His appeal was unsuccessful.

When asked why Workman was pushing for the overturn of this ban, he said in a local newspaper that he is “on a quest to seek and destroy unnecessary burdens on the freedom and liberties of people” and that dwarf tossing is “an example of Big Brother government.” Workman has gone out of his way to call dwarf tossing “repulsive and stupid,” yet he still doesn’t believe the government has the right to ban it.

Despite the initial shock that dwarf tossing causes, perhaps Workman does have a point. Does the government have the right to ban activities that are clearly “repulsive” because they believe them to be bad for people, or society? What implications would a successful repeal of dwarf tossing have on other government policies? Based off Workman’s argument is it within the government’s prerogative to ban certain drugs, or even prostitution? Doesn’t banning prostitution cut off the economic freedom of prostitutes, just as Workman claims dwarf tossing infringes on the freedoms of dwarves?

What do you think? Should the ban on dwarf tossing be lifted? Is Workman being outrageous, or does he have a real point to make about the role of government? Does the government have a right to ban seemingly “unethical” activities? What about ones that aren’t so bizarre…like driving without a seatbelt? Engaging in high risk behavior? Eating fatty food? Where can we draw the line between healthy paternalism and an overstep of the governments authority?