"One's first step in wisdom is to question everything--and one's last is to come to terms with everything." ~ Georg Christoph Lichtenberg
Federal Register Watch
What freedoms have you lost this week?
The Federal Register is the official daily publication for Rules, Proposed Rules, and Notices of Federal agencies and organizations, as well as Executive Orders and other Presidential Documents. This column attempts to summarize the highlights (or lowlights) of the Federal Register during the preceding week.
Instructions for subscribing to the Federal Register can be found at the end of the column.
AUGUST 18, 2003 :
COMMODITY CREDIT CORPORATION ' LOANS FOR SUGAR BEET GROWERS
The Commodity Credit Corporation is pledging up to $60 million to sugar beet producers who suffered weather-related losses in 2001 or 2002. Under a proper free-market system, insurance companies and the growers themselves would undertake this risk. When government replaces this risk-coverage mechanism by bailing out producers who suffer losses, this creates a number of problems.
First of all, each taxpayer is forced to partially subsidize these enterprises, even if he or she has no wish to. Furthermore, a sense of responsibility on the part of the producer is lost; why not undertake risky ventures if the government is going to bail you out every time you incur losses? In addition, because money is thrown at the problem (in this case, the occasional experience of bad weather) instead of trying to solve or mitigate it, risks are not as carefully tracked, and it therefore becomes increasingly impossible to understand the risks involved in such ventures.
DRUG ENFORCEMENT AGENCY (DEA) ' REGISTRATION OF NOVARTIS PHARMACEUTICALS AS MANUFACTURER OF METHYLFENIDATE
The DEA is allowing Novartis to continue to produce Methylfenidate, a Class II drug under their arbitrary classification system. Methylfenidate, better known under its trade name, Ritalin, is a drug that, like many others, provides relief of symptoms to many people, but manufacturers are required to jump through the government's regulatory hoops in order to produce it.
In this case, though, I'm sure the state is happy to provide the 'permission' to produce the stuff. While Ritalin has its legitimate uses, 3.8 million children in government schools take the drug. The great majority of them don't need it, but the goal of state schools is to churn out obedient citizens, not educated ones. The success of the drug in turning out subservient, docile zombies from these schools has been enough that some jurisdictions have eliminated the right of parents to have a say in whether their children take the drug. Parents in these areas who resist having their children forcibly medicated risk being listed as child abusers.
AUGUST 19, 2003 :
OFFICE OF THE UNITED STATES TRADE REPRESENTATIVE ' QUOTAS SET FOR FOREIGN-GROWN SUGAR
Domestic sugar cane growers and refiners joined the sugar beet growers as beneficiaries of government policy last week. The U.S. government has set specific quotas on how much sugar can be imported from each producing nation.
This protectionist policy has benefited the domestic sugar industry (heavy political contributors, as are sugar beet producers) at the expense of American consumers and taxpayers, as well as some living abroad. The costs are staggering, according to a recent Cato Institute report:
- ' In 1998, Americans spent an extra $1.9 billion on sweeteners due to the cost increases.
- ' Storing excess sugar will cost taxpayers an estimated $2 billion over the next decade.
- ' Domestic candy producers are losing jobs and frequently forced to relocate abroad. Chicago alone has lost 11% of its confectionary jobs since 1991.
- ' Billions of federal dollars have gone to clean up the Everglades , largely to clean up the mess made by local sugar producers.
- ' Sugar producers in poorer nations have lost around $1.5 billion due to state protectionism.
How sweet it is! (If you're a domestic sugar grower.)
AUGUST 20, 2003 :
INTERNATIONAL TRADE COMMISSION (ITC) ' DETERMINATION ON CHINESE IRONING BOARDS
The ITC has determined that 'ironing tables and certain parts thereof' are being imported at 'less than fair value,' at the expense of American industry.
Someday, I long to hear those three magic words from the ITC: 'Value is subjective.' Fair value is what consumers, not bureaucrats, consider reasonable. I'm no ironing board industry expert, but I suspect that China has a competitive advantage over the U.S. in this one.
At least now I have an excuse when my pants and shirts are wrinkled.
AUGUST 22, 2003 :
FEDERAL HIGHWAY ADMINISTRATION ' FEDERAL HIGHWAY FUNDS TO BE WITHHELD
In the rare instances when the federal government actually finds itself bound by the Constitution, it has another option: withholding funds. In this case, the federal government will withhold federal highway funds from any state that does not institute a blood alcohol level of 0.08% for its drunk driving laws. The state governments, greedy for those highway funds (including Hawaii , which inexplicably has its own 'interstate' highway, enabling them to feed at the trough as well), will undoubtedly comply.
This is nothing new. In 1984, neo-puritan Elizabeth Dole coerced the states in the same manner into establishing a minimum drinking age of 21. The obvious result, of course, is that 18- to 20-year-olds have greater problems resulting from drinking than they did when the minimum age was lower. Nonetheless, the nanny state insists on taking over the parents' roles, and accomplishes this goal easily, flush with stolen taxpayer money.
(If Liddy Dole ever regains any measure of power, we'll no doubt see this issue again: she recently argued for a minimum drinking age of 24. Prohibition creeps back, slowly.)
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