"The basic test of freedom is perhaps less in what we are free to do than in what we are free not to do." ~ Eric Hoffer
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.
OCTOBER 28, 2003 :
FOREIGN AGRICULTURAL SERVICE (FAS) - POSSIBLE TAXPAYER "ASSISTANCE" FOR U.S. GARLIC PRODUCERS
The FAS--yet another agency created to funnel taxpayer funds to pork projects--is looking into whether domestic garlic producers should be subsidized because imports have led to declining prices, and, therefore, declining profits for these domestic producers.
Should cobblers be subsidized because people overwhelmingly prefer factory-made shoes? Should buggy builders receive government funding because automobiles are the personal transportation of choice these days? When individuals enter a line of business, they undertake the risk of failure should consumer preferences change. Once the government assumes that risk (or a portion of it, anyway), resources are allocated less efficiently, as owners of those resources are more likely to put them toward riskier ventures.
Why spend all that time comparison-shopping at the store, when those price differences will be made up for come April 15?
OFFICE OF THE WHITE HOUSE - UNITED NATIONS DAY
The United Nations, as a collection of governments, causes more problems than it solves, much like the League of Nations , which the U.S. Senate wisely opted out of in 1920. Unfortunately, U.S. taxpayers are forced to fund the U.N.
The FY 2004 U.S. budget for the U.N., its agencies and its peacekeeping operations totals some $1.264 billion. The U.N.'s most notable assaults on freedom come in the form of sanctions, which lead to impoverishment, famine and disease, but curiously enough, never to the end of a despot's reign. The U.N. is itself powerless, however, and any state friendly with one of the Security Council's permanent members need never feel the organization's wrath . . . much like any protected industry that contributes heavily to the campaigns of politicians.
The United Nations, like any state, acts more frequently on behalf of power than justice.
OCTOBER 29, 2003 :
DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION (DOT) -
In September 16th's Federal Register Watch, I noted the failure of the DOT to accede to the desire of the people of Mercer County , North Dakota , to move into the Central Time Zone. This time, the DOT actually followed the will of the people, allowing the transfer of three counties to Central Time.
I guess that's democracy for you: you win some; you lose some. (Of course, it's usually the latter.)
OCTOBER 31, 2003 :
AGRICULTURAL MARKETING SERVICE (AMS) - TAXPAYER-SUBSIDIZED NATIONAL ORGANIC PROGRAM
The Register this day noted changes in rules administered by the National Organic Standards Board. The government does a poor job of regulating . . . well, anything, but the Food and Drug Administration is particularly known for its mediocre work. Why the government should then be considered adequate to deem foods properly organic is beyond me, but you need not pay attention to them: the free market already accomplishes this task.
The government may not accomplish the task as well, but at least they do so in more obtuse language.
FOOD AND NUTRITION SERVICE - "PLANE LANGUAGE USE"
The bureaucrats who administer this welfare program decided, uncharacteristically, to reword the regulations so that laymen can understand them (as opposed to the high-priced lawyers and retired bureaucrat/consultants typically needed for decipherment). Less surprisingly, it appears that they received a government education: the Federal Register reports that the regulations are being rewritten in "plane language."
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