[government warning]

Our topic is the GOVERNMENT WARNING that you, Mr. or Ms Average American, will find on every beer, wine, or booze container that you buy, borrow, steal, or pick up on the side of the road. Example at right. (No, your right.)

The relevant Federal Government Regulation for such labels may be found here. Recommended reading! The GOVERNMENT WARNING has been required since the late 80s, and the regulation goes into great, mind-numbing detail. (Example: If you're producing booze for foreign markets, you don't need the WARNING; unless it is to be consumed by American military personnel, in which case you do.) No doubt a horde of well-paid BATF bureaucrats labored mightily in its production, and when it was finished, lo, they rested, after pouring themselves a stiff drink.

The wording of the GOVERNMENT WARNING is specified exactly; don't try to add, subtract, or change anything. Whatever you do, don't change GOVERNMENT WARNING to something more accurate, like HERE ARE SOME WORDS THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT SAYS WE MUST PUT ON THE LABEL. That would get you into serious trouble. (Up to a $10K fine per day.)

More about GOVERNMENT WARNING: those two words not only have to be there, they have to be all-uppercase, and they have to be in "bold type". And don't get any funny ideas about the rest of the GOVERNMENT WARNING: everything else is prohibited from being in bold type. On containers of 8 ounces or less, the WARNING font has to be at least 1 millimeter tall; between 8 oz. and 3 liters, it has to be at least 2mm. Over 3 liters: at least 3mm. (And if you think that's picky: check out the recommendation from the nannies at the Center for Science in the Public Interest, cosigned by a Senator and three CongressCritters, who demanded even more regulatory verbiage to make the warning more prominent.)

The rules go to great lengths to make the GOVERNMENT WARNING sacrosanct. States are prohibited from mandating their own WARNINGS to be placed on the label. The GOVERNMENT WARNING has to be "separate and apart from all other information". So if a particularly conscientious brewer wanted to point out additional helpful information, for example:

Overconsumption of this product obliterates the fine line between clever and stupid.
Unscrupulous people may try to take advantage of any impairment to your physical and mental faculties caused by consumption of this product. People write books about this, for goodness sake. Maybe you should read some of them before, or instead of, drinking.
Habitual overuse of this product will almost certainly cause severe damage to your family ties, and loss of other meaningful relationships. Your only remaining friends will probably be drunken losers like yourself.
… well, adding any of that to the GOVERNMENT WARNING is strictly illegal.

What I really want to see is a GOVERNMENT WARNING somehow attached where it belongs: to the government. Every government building, project, TSA checkpoint, or publication would need to display it prominently. Every speech by a government employee would need to include it at the end. Something like:

GOVERNMENT WARNING: (1) Government has been shown to be a significant risk to your life, liberty, property, and privacy. (2) Over-reliance on government has been determined to reduce your self-worth and self-responsibility. (3) Expecting equitable, wise, or effective behavior from government has a high probability of leading to disappointment or even depression. (4) Government can, and does, get away with doing stuff that would land you in jail. (5) Over-exposure to government employees can result in a significant loss of intelligence and can cause irrational behavior.
The problem here is knowing where to stop.

Last Modified 2012-01-12 4:28 PM EDT