"It is poor civic hygiene to install technologies that could someday facilitate a police state." ~ Bruce Schneier
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.
SEPTEMBER 9, 2003 :
AGRICULTURAL MARKETING SERVICE ' RESTRAINT ON FRUIT GROWER CHOICE
Some mention of the Agricultural Marketing Service ' a little-known agency that regulates the sale of domestically grown agricultural products ' has become a staple of this column, and for good reason. They appear in virtually every issue of the Federal Register, more often than not with multiple rules and regulations. On this day, they put forward a rule limiting the amount of Florida-grown citrus fruits that can be sold over the next 22 weeks.
For all of the government's rhetoric about 'restraint of trade' as it hounds large companies under its absurd 'monopoly' laws for prospering within the free market, the only unassailable monopolist in the United States is the state, and it is the greatest restrainer of trade as well. The language used by the Agricultural Marketing Service here is typical in its simple-minded illogic:
'This action supplies enough small red seedless grapefruit, without saturating all markets with these small sizes.'
Enough? 'Enough' is how much grapefruit is purchased; that is, how much consumers want to buy. There is no way some bureaucrat can predict this. Perhaps an Indian summer will lead to greater-than-usual consumption of grapefruit; perhaps J-Lo will confess in an interview in People that grapefruit is her favorite food, leading millions of adoring fans to rush to their nearest produce stand; or perhaps Rumsfeld will appear on Fox News and announce that U.S. troops have been subduing possible Al Qaeda operatives in Iraq with a judicious squirt to the eye of grapefruit juice, sending patriotic Americans nationwide in search of their new favorite 'freedom fruit.'
Only the free market has the flexibility to adapt to changing consumer desires. Free market participants don't have regulations and 'administrative reviews' to bind them like the feds do.
'This rule should help stabilize the market and improve grower returns.'
The market is stabilized, by definition, when producers and consumers are exchanging fruit for money at mutually agreeable prices and amounts. This rule may destabilize the market, but it cannot stabilize it. As to improving grower returns, there is no good reason for the government to give growers a financial boost at the expense of consumers and taxpayers.
The state assigns countervailing duties to imported products that are subsidized by the government of their country of origin, citing the unfairness of said subsidies, and then subsidizes and assists favored industries at home. What hypocrites!
DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION (DOT) ' DENIAL OF TIME ZONE CHANGE REQUEST IN NORTH DAKOTA
Here's an odd little one: the residents of rural Mercer County , North Dakota , voted in 2000 to move from the Mountain Time Zone to the Central Time Zone. In September of that year, after the vote, the DOT held a public meeting on the issue, and now, a full three years later, has denied the move.
Why must bureaucrats in distant Washington , DC , have the final say on how clocks are set some 1,600 miles away? And isn't waiting a full three years to render this decision just an additional thumb in the eye?
Free Mercer County from Washington 's temporal tyranny!
SEPTEMBER 10, 2003 :
INTERNAL REVENUE SERVICE (IRS) ' REVIEW OF THE VALUE OF ART
The IRS's Art Advisory Panel will meet on October 8 to determine whether 'fair market value appraisals' of works of art are acceptable for taxation purposes. This is, as near as I can tell, the limit of the establishment's bizarre efforts to redefine the value of things. The value or worth of an object (or service) is what a consumer (or consumers in general, on the free market) is willing to pay for it. For years now, we have been force-fed the Marxist labor theory of value, in which prices are determined by the labor put into them. According to this theory, if I spend a year building a house out of manure and medical waste, then the house is worth the cost of one year of my labor, instead of nothing, which is what the house would (I'd assume) garner on the free market.
Artwork, that most subjective of all objects, can only be worth what its potential purchaser would be willing to pay for it. How else does the IRS plan on valuing art? Art inspectors on the taxpayers' dime? Or perhaps each presidential administration will have its own standard for how art is valued. Good Lord, imagine if the valuation of art became political! (At least I invested in coloring books when Bush took office.)
Fiends! Not only are they thieves, but they also subject us to this exercise in surrealism!
SEPTEMBER 12, 2003 :
FISH AND WILDLIFE SERVICE ' POSSIBLE PROHIBITION OF THE IMPORTATION OF BOIGA SNAKES
The Fish and Wildlife Service is looking into a possible ban on the importation of the Boiga genus of snakes to the U.S. Indigenous to parts of Asia and the Pacific, the Boiga snake was introduced to Guam in the 1940s, where it has caused major ecological damage (including the extinction or near-extinction of many species), as well as 1,200 power outages since 1978 due to its predilection for climbing power lines.
And how did these nasty vermin appear on Guam ? U.S. government cargo ships brought them there after World War II. The state, I suppose, wants to maintain its monopoly on introducing invasive species to the area under its control.
HOMELAND SECURITY DEPARTMENT ' NOTICE OF MEETING ON THE SAFETY ACT
The Homeland Security Department is holding a meeting on the implementation of the Support Anti-Terrorism by Fostering Effective Technologies Act of 2002, known as the SAFETY Act.
Uh, isn't that the SATFETA Act? The first piece of 'Effective Technology' that the government should invest in is a dictionary.
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