Friday, June 17, 2011

Rand Paul's Pro Choice Agenda

Choice is fundamental in a free society, however, this most basic civil right is constant prey for special interests and power hungry politicians. This radio broadcast from AgriTalk with NCBA president Steve Foglesong pretty well sums up many of the major issues in agriculture and economic policy for that restrict our personal freedoms.  As he says, GIPSA (new proposed rules) is another example of excessive government overreach, among other things including the takeover of the financial industry, the auto industry, as well as proposed regulations on dust and greenhouse gases, not to mention proposed tax increases on thousands of family farms and ranches (marginal tax rates are still set to increase in 2011). Add to that the attempt in the courts to ban sustainable choices in alfalfa and sugar beat (biotech) production earlier this year and coming legislation that will limit choices related to sustainable livestock production via pharmaceutical technologies.

Now, even more imperious, some in the department of transportation are investigating whether producers and farm workers should be required to have CDL (commercial drivers licenses) licenses to transport agricultural products or operate farm equipment. The basis is on another flawed interpretation of the commerce clause.  This is ridiculous, what about kids and teenage employment? Labor and compliance costs would skyrocket. ITS NOT ABOUT SAFETY!!! Of course accidents happen, but the role of licensing in an economy in general is about power and control as opposed to virtue. The flawed assumption or justification is that licensing will make drivers safer or more responsible.  I have a feeling that there are special interests behind this that could care less about your safety or civil right to choose.

As Steve Foglesong implied, this has to stop somewhere. We saw what happened to the financial and auto industry as a result of excessive intervention  (via the social planning of money and interest) and obsessive attempts to micromanage our choices in housing and automobiles (via CAFE standards). (contrary to the misinformed opinion that it was lack of planning and regulation that caused the financial crisis).  Do we really want to be bailing out the agriculture industry in a few years? While some may claim ag has a revolving bailout program in subsidies, we are currently spending less than 1/2 of 1 percent  of the federal budget on farm programs.  Continuing to micromanage our food and fiber system to the point of collapse would entail a lot larger sum (recall agriculture is a huge part of GDP and is responsible for about 1 in 6 jobs in the U.S.- in the end do we really want to be bailing out Wal-Mart or McDonalds?)

 Luckily, some in the senate are taking a stand against this affront on our personal freedoms and liberties. Particularly in the video, Senator Rand Paul from Kentucky has taken on the energy department's out of control mircomanaging of the simplest aspects of our daily lives

What's obvious is the emoting comeback we get from the energy department, vs. Senator Paul's cutting analytic approach based on fundamental economic principles. (see also The Misery of 1.6 Gallons and Ch. 3 and17 in Robert Murphy's Lessons for the Young Economist) We need more critical and analytical thinking like this in DC. The obvious flaw in the energy department's defense of limiting our choices in light bulbs or toilets is that 'consumers wouldn't make environmentally responsible choices without these restrictions.'  Is that true in every case? Look again at agriculture. Noone is forcing producers to use green bio tech and pharmaceutical technologies in animal production, but farmers have adopted them hand over fist and nearly everything we find on the shelf (save the limited numbers of GMO free and organic products) is a biotech related product. The resulting improvements in biodiversity, reductions in toxic chemical use, and particularly greenhouse gas and water use reductions from these choices dwarf the impacts of light bulbs and toilets. Spontaneous order.

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