It Is Time to Put the Limit Back in Limited Government

I own a small farm–a berry patch, to be exact–and for the particular type of berry that I grow, it is much more profitable to market them as organic.  I grow everything organically out of choice.  However, to market anything as organic, the operation must be certified by the government.  

So, of course, I must spend hours filling out and filling out and filling out forms.  Of course, there are fees: filing fees, inspection fees, and certification fees.  Then there is the time spent with the inspector at the kitchen table talking—not long, only a few hours out of a busy day.  If you add up the fees and add in a reasonable estimate of the time, I ended up spending more to become certified than I made selling my “Organic” berries.   

I put the word organic in quotation marks not because they aren’t organic.  I do it because there is no way the inspector could actually know whether they are or not.  He didn’t test the soil.  He didn’t test the plants.  He didn’t test the berries.  He went exclusively by what I told him, what I documented in my field logs, and what I listed in the forms I filed. 

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We actually do grow everything organically, and, as I said, we do that because of our own desire to grow, eat, and market chemical-free food, not because the government tells us we have to do so.  However, the process the government follows not only encourages fraud, but also makes it possible.  Does it seem credible that every farmer everywhere at all times is honest?  Does it seem credible that, somewhere, there may be a farmer who farms using every chemical available and then just lies about it?  In the end, “Organic” means all the proper forms have been filed, all the fees paid, and the farmer told the inspector what he needed to hear. 

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Here, we have one more victory for government regulations that cost the farmer (read consumer) time and money.  

When regulation becomes strangulation, economies stumble over the government instituted by the social contract between those governed and those governing.  When regulations carry the force of law, when they read like telephone books written in insurance language held upside down, when they multiply like mosquitoes in a swamp, people begin to regard them and the governance they represent as a hindrance instead of a help.  Have we reached the point where everyone is guilty and the government merely needs to decide when to pick us up? 

In the Declaration of Independence, the Founders first told us what beliefs their actions were based upon: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”   

Then, they told us why governments exist, “That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.”   

They then went on to tell us what to do if government ever oversteps its bounds: “That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect (sic) their Safety and Happiness.” 

I guess it is lucky for the peace and tranquility of the present regime that the descendants of these Founders are too busy watching the game and throwing back a few cold ones to follow this final piece of advice, which says that if any government ever becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Leviathan with which we are now confronted.  The current crowd of the perpetually re-elected and their K-Street, crony capitalist friends remind me more and more of King George every day.  If you ever wonder about this, just read the bill of particulars in the Declaration and substitute the Federal Government for He. 

If we are too comfortable or otherwise engaged to “institute new Government,” might it be possible to at least return to the Constitutional limits upon the present one?  If so, how can we go about it?  Should we pass a law that says, “The Federal Government must abide by the Constitution” and then wait for the Supreme Court to interpret that to mean “The Federal Government can do whatever it pleases”? 

That might not work out too well; however, there is an idea whose time may have come.  The REINS Act is designed to rein in government and at least provide some accountability.  You see, here is how the people’s elected representatives have stacked the deck so that they get the accolades and avoid the brickbats. 

First, they pass a law that says something general that everyone can agree on such as, “Make the water or the air cleaner.”  This law will just say that—make whatever it is better, with no specifics.  However the law will create and empower a bureaucracy, such as the EPA, to fill in the blanks and enforce the new blank-filling regulations with the force of law.  Then, when these new regulations step on someone’s toes—as they inevitably will—and they complain to their representative, the perpetually re-elected become incensed and rail against the unjustness of the regulation.  Perhaps they will even march in protest in solidarity to the great unwashed against the arbitrary nature or silliness of the regulation.  They will, at the least, offer to write a letter to the bureaucracy on behalf of the outraged citizen, and thus they get the credit for wanting the cleaner whatever without the responsibility for imposing the statist regulations that make the cleaner whatever possible. 

So how do we wrest control of our lives back from the bureaucracy our elected officials have abdicated their authority to?  We pass the REINS Act and reign them in. 

According to Neil Siefring in The Hill: 

On July 28, 2015 by a vote of 243 to 165, the House passed H.R. 427, the Regulations From the Executive in Need of Scrutiny Act of 2015, known as the REINS Act. Introduced in the House by Rep. Todd Young (R-Ind.), the bill “would require any executive branch rule or regulation with an annual economic impact of $100 million or more — designated by the White House’s Office of Management and Budget (OMB) as a ‘major rule’ — to come before Congress for an up-or-down vote before being enacted.” Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) has introduced the companion legislation, S. 226, in the Senate. 

The Judiciary Committee’s report on the bill explains that back in 1996, the Congressional Review Act (CRA) was implemented as an attempt to get control over the large number of regulations coming from the federal government. But only one regulation has been undone using CRA, while 60,000 regulations have come into being. Major regulations accounted for 1,000 of them. These regulations are costly. According to The Economist, the Competitive Enterprise Institute reported that in 2013, the compliance cost of federal regulations was $1.86 billion, or $15 billion per household. 

The biggest problem with this approach is that the current resident of the White House will veto the law, and it is doubtful if the Congress has enough people dedicated to putting the limit back in limited government to override an imperial president who rules by decree. And the beat goes on as We the People continue to get beat down by our own government. 

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