The Farm Bill, Legalized Theft

Years ago I wrote Paul Harvey a letter. It was about one of his noon shows where he complained about reduced government funding for Salvation Army. I thought, why would a smart guy like Paul Harvey want to ruin Salvation Army?

I still miss the old guy, having planned lunch breaks around him for years. He was there all my life. He was unapologetic about his devotion to his wife; way too unique. It was good to hear his voice a year ago on a Dodge commercial, “So God Made a Farmer.”

His syrupy portrayal of farmers was a bit creepy however, in that we were singled out as being more special than other occupations. I’m not saying we don’t have some magic moments, like pulling a live calf on a muddy midnight or working long hours to beat the weather. But most jobs are like that.

I remember when the turbo went out on our Subaru in Minnesota and a fellow at a tire store stayed way after hours to try to get us on our way. Or how about fishermen unloading a hundred thousand pounds of salmon in the middle of the night by hand. A lot of people go to great lengths to do a job they can be proud of while working in miserable conditions.

Where is the tire shop program? Shouldn’t that Norwegian American have his business promoted or subsidized by the taxpayers because he is of Norwegian decent or because he is furnishing essential goods? Of course not. He likes tires and cars. He likes dealing with the public and he needs to provide for himself and his family. Should he hold his breath waiting for Congress to write 949 pages at a billion dollars per page before he can plan his business? Of course not.

In spite of being subject to a fickle public, weather and crazy government taxes and regulations, he plods along. The good times are for saving for the bad times. The snow tires he was stuck with last year sold like hotcakes this year at a price that paid interest and then some. If new research made super conductor levitation an option to replace tires, our Norwegian American tire dealer would use his savings to tide himself over in the conversion to a different line of work or even a super conductor levitation service center. The only reason he would need a government program is if he expected it.

The reason farmers and food stamp recipients need the farm program is only because they expect it.

I could use examples of silly spending in the Farm Bill to make my point but there is not enough paper in Hampton to cover them. None of it makes sense. The entire thing is nothing but favors for special interests passed by delusional congress people who care but don’t think.

On the surface, seeing a farmer driving a $50,000 pickup looks like jobs for truck company workers. But the money comes from somewhere. And that somewhere may have had other plans for that money that were driven by a greater need than a $50,000 pickup. In other words, the program that directed that money to the pickup distorted the market.

Free markets are what make an economy efficient. They direct scarce resources to their most useful purpose. They are what makes this country the envy of the world, a country where the poor live better than the rich in 90% of the rest of the world. To support programs that throw a monkey wrench into the miraculous economic system that built his incredibly rich nation is treasonous.

To put our predicament into perspective let’s look at Senator Grassley’s vote. I wish I could congratulate Charles Grassley for voting against the Farm Bill for the right reasons; that it is legalized theft and an aggression against the American people. But he voted against it because it didn’t limit payments to big farmers enough. In other words it wasn’t socialistic enough. This distinction went by with no notice in the public discussion at all. Look at the origins of farm programs. As one of the first acts of U. S. farm programs, Franklin Roosevelt and Iowa’s own Henry A. Wallace ordered milk dumped and pigs buried at a time when many people were going hungry. Wasn’t that a clue as to the evil lurking in a controlled economy?

The Salvation Army (mentioned earlier) is a stellar example of what can be accomplished by private charity. The dependent class in our cities and now spreading through the countryside, is a direct result of unaccountable government assistance, the same way federal flood insurance enables wasteful building in flood prone areas. Federally subsidized crop insurance promotes monoculture and depletion of native soil properties. It locks out beginning farmers by reducing the cost of a safety net that protects inefficient farmers.

Critics of free markets point to failures of these programs as examples of why we need more of them. But we haven’t had a free market since the days of The New Deal. Is stealing only right if signed by the president?

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The violence behind avocados

Ah, another Super Bowl is history. I had a minor stake in the game. I used to go to Seattle to earn money and visit a good friend when I lived in poverty stricken, northwestern Montana. I worked in a kite store there occasionally and flew kites around the King Dome, now extinct; another testament to cheap pagan idolatry (like the NFL).

 

I thought this Super Bowl was an interesting match-up, pitting the mile-high Denver Broncos against the not quite so high, Seahawks. It is just a coincidence I suppose, that it represented the only two states that have given up on a small part of a drug war that negates personal responsibility, passing it on to taxpayers.

 

Every now and then there is evidence of strength of individuals peeking through the haze of state dependence. But we have a long way to go before it is universally understood that wishing something were so, does not produce those results. Broncos fans take note.

 

After eighty years wishing destructive drug use would go away through law, the results of the drug war are the same. There is a society of law abiding citizens and a society outside the protection of the law. It can get complicated, since the ones who made the drug laws are technically law breakers as well because the Constitution does not authorize them to restrict what we may ingest. They should be classified with the traffickers.

 

We had some good tacos and guacamole while watching the Super Bowl. Speaking of guacamole, there was a story in The Wall Street Journal about the avocado trade in Mexico that sheds some light on the unintended consequences of the war on drugs. The state of Michoacan, west of Mexico City, is the only state in Mexico authorized by the USDA to export avocados to the United States. A drug trafficking gang called the Knights Templar has been extorting $150 million per year from growers and packers there along with stealing 5,000 acres of avocado groves. Lawlessness in Mexico is born of the high profits created by the drug war and that lawlessness has spread to other sectors just like it did in the prohibition days here. (At least that prohibition was enacted legally through an amendment rather than with unconstitutional laws.)

 

The corrupt police in the city of Tancitaro were ineffective enough that a vigilante group was formed and they drove the traffickers out. Most of the state of Michoacan remains enslaved by those traffickers, however two more towns have been taken by the vigilantes. In 2006 the mayor and town council resigned under pressure from the traffickers who demanded even higher portions of the town’s resources.

 

A school teacher named Gustavo Sanchez took over as mayor and fired the entire 60 man police force. A year later, he and his chief of staff were found stoned to death with their hands tied behind their backs. But the vigilantes, little by little, are returning stolen land to the rightful owners.

 

“War, what is it good for? Absolutely nothing. Say it again.”

 

The list of failures of war continues to grow. The intentions rarely, if ever, bring the intended results. The Vietnam War, to fight communism, left an increasingly freer Vietnam after we were driven out and at what cost? The lives lost and money wasted there created lower living standards for Americans and that is the surest path to a communist government growing here at home. Ironically our move left was brought on by a war to fight such a demonic system over there.

 

The war on poverty has produced a culture of dependence and the current administration admits a growing disparity of income even after fifty years of wishing it wasn’t so and passing laws to correct it. Their deranged idea that punishing rich people will make us all rich is as misguided as the drug war.

 

Other well-intentioned wars will prove to produce the same results, as individual choice is trumped to appease a caring, yet ineffective, host of busybodies.

 

Legalization in Washington and Colorado will bring other challenges because our society has become one of government management trying to bring unattainable outcomes. There is no good test to determine marijuana intoxication. So how do we charge a crime for impaired driving? This dilemma came about because of our tendency to blame other people or substances rather than lack of personal responsibility. If these glitches inspire us to make a return to a society of responsible individuals it will prove to be worth it. Sixty thousand dead Mexicans certainly hasn’t been shown to be worth it unless we consider them to be less human than us gringos. 

Two new letters to editors

To Popular Mechanics… self explanatory.

Dear Editor,

In the article about Susan W. Kiefer’s book, “The Dynamics of Disaster, (Feb. 2014 Popular Mechanics)” it is so refreshing to read that we are “not likely” to change how the Earth acts on any “significant scale.” The book then goes on to offer actual steps for individuals to deal practically with a changing climate.

Little by little we may come to our senses and discover that the market will direct us with such things as property values and crop rotations as we adjust to our constantly changing planet. This is a much more level-headed approach than the arrogant notion that legislation can influence climate.

And to the War Street Journal… about reduced funding from legal pot reducing asset forfeitures by police.

Dear Editor,

After eighty years of a drug war that has not stopped drug use but turned the U.S. Government into a failed babysitter, we learn in “Legal Marijuana Hits Police Funding” (Jan. 10 Wall Street Journal) the real reason for such a war. It is a tool for funding a bloated law enforcement industry; much of which we wouldn’t need if not for a preponderance of unnecessary and intrusive laws.

In Washington legal pot has caused asset forfeiture to plummet for law enforcement and it is a problem because they can’t afford new equipment, overtime and training. But for what? Catching people labeled as criminals, whose only crime is free market capitalism, so they can steal their property.

Let’s face it, without the drug war many policemen would be faced with the prospect of seeking employment doing constructive work instead of futilely trying to regulate society.

The war on drugs is being won one battle at a time as drug users find their lives are simply more enjoyable without them. And this is happening without the nanny-state’s flawed omnipotence.

One must look at illegality of drugs from the aspect of opportunity cost. What benefit could all the capital invested to battle drug supplies do if it were left in the private sector?

Recent letters to editors

to the War Street Journal…about an article detailing all the taxes and regulations that go along with the so-called freedom to do what we want:

Regarding “Washington State Sets Pot-Sales Rules” (10/17/13), I wonder if Washingtonians had any idea what they were in for when they voted to “legalize” marijuana.

Anyone who believes this is a win for liberty would also believe slavery with the proper documents, is freedom. It will drive decent people underground and the criminals, as usual, will be in government.

And… this to Farm News about federal help in Dakotas and New Jersey…

Mr. Kruse proposes we finance his compassion, rather than he do it himself in his Heartless Tea Party column (Nov.8 Farm News). Kruse is certainly correct to call out Kristi Noem as a hypocrite when she calls for federal help in South Dakota but not New Jersey. But “Christian duty” can never be forced because in so doing we are justifying the evil means to an end..

It has been proven time and again, once help is available from sources with no personal stake in the results, people will choose to shift their costs to someone else. An industry, such as insurance (as opposed to the socialism that is called insurance today) regulates risk through prices to limit unsound practices.

It has become well known that many ranchers in the Dakota snow disaster had no insurance to cover such a loss. Obviously they were relying on federal disaster relief and opting not to buy insurance.

The same would be true for building houses next to the ocean. If we are expecting our “family,” as brother Kruse calls everyone in the U.S.A., to bail us out when a hurricane comes, we are more likely to risk building in a dangerous location to enjoy those days at the beach. But if there were no federal disaster program and the insurance company charged premiums to reflect the actual risk, we might choose to live inland and visit the beach in fair weather.

In creating an environment that increases hidden costs for everyone through unnecessary risk taking, it is people like David Kruse who are the heartless ones. And as far as being an ideologue, it really only means I have standards that can’t be compromised, such as “Thou shalt not steal.” I prefer to help those in need without going through the most wasteful bureaucracy on earth; the federal government.

And this….to Iowa Farmer today about farmers raping the land…

How ironic Jay T. Mar (NRCS State Conservationist , November 9 IFT) talks of the soil as an “elegant, symbiotic ecosystem” on one page while the previous page and following page highlight cellulosic ethanol production.

The process to make ethanol from corn stover murders the soil life Mr. Mar is touting as the basis for agricultural production in Iowa. I can’t think of a better way to insult The Lord who gave Iowa its greatest resource, than to remove that protective layer of stover from that soil teaming with life.

And…these two to the War Street Journal…

I too am skeptical of China’s so-called reforms (China’s Potemkin Reforms, Nov. 18 Journal). But now that I see The Journal’s editors think a “livelihood, housing (and) education” are “rights,” as stated in that editorial, I have a whole different perspective on every editorial I read there.

and…

Gordon Crovitz refers to John F. Kennedy’s image as “a government loving peacenik.”

It is about time we do away with this ridiculous oxymoron. We simply can’t love government and favor peace. Any leftist would have to admit, redistribution (defining leftist ideology) requires force and force is not peace. Any conservative would have to admit war is a function of big government.

We better love government for a darn good reason, otherwise being a peacenik is the patriotic choice.

(Soil) Life is Good

Nick Pedley wrote in this paper last week about farming. So as a farmer, I feel justified to stray from my usual economic rants into my bread and butter.

 

Nick wrote about how climate change has led to erratic weather that results in drought as well as soil erosion. Experts are apparently urging a change in outdated farming practices. My bs sensors always perk up when I hear the terms “experts, researchers and professors” because they are usually distant and objective, but with no stake in their conclusions aside from justifying their jobs. Every farmer has heard that an expert is defined by his being from 100 miles away.

 

When we grew wildflower seeds as an enterprise to replace hogs, our seed-stock came from the University of Northern Iowa (UNI). The sideoats grama (an upright growing grass) was contaminated with crabgrass seed (a plant that creeps on the ground). The professor in charge at UNI suggested we keep the plot mowed and wait. Expert advice from a professor; ha! So we sprayed a preemergent herbicide the next spring to combat the annual crabgrass and the perennial sideoats flourished.

 

Nick goes on to point out the many benefits of cover crops such as sequestering fertilizer and stopping erosion. I look at cover crops as a way to mimic God’s creation the best we can while still producing food and making a living at it. I would have been miserable outside yesterday with no clothes on. Soil life is the same. It thrives in a sheltered environment and dies when environmental effects are not tempered by vegetative matter on the surface. Soil life, worms, bacteria, fungus, ect. is what creates an environment that best utilizes whatever weather extremes come our way. The environment of porous, living soil puts moisture in the bank for later use and it slows runoff.

 

How any panel of 150 experts could address farming’s impact on the environment without mentioning no-till is exasperating. Beeds Lake, mentioned in Nick’s article, would not be full of fertilizer and soil if its watershed were no-tilled. You don’t have to be an expert to realize that and if those acres were planted to cover crops with an airplane prior to harvest, there could be no disputing it at all.

 

Scientists have come to understand the importance of soil structure to yields and environmental impacts. Tillage destroys soil structure. Iowa soils were not built by steel cutting off the lifeline to microbes and worms. It was built with thousands of years of grass growing and then laying on the surface each year with soil life doing the field work. Farmers mixing residue into the soil does not speed decomposition, it slows it. Look at where a fencepost rots off, then look below that. At ground level the post is rotten, above and below, it is preserved.

 

Tillage puts seeds in contact with residue instead of soil, which causes an alliopathic (stunting) effect on the seedlings. To alleviate that effect in no-till, a narrow strip can be cleared in the next year’s row, exposing only a tiny fraction of the soil and eliminating seed to residue contact. This is commonly known as strip-till.

 

So do we really want a solution to the sad state of Beeds Lake? Quit ignoring the obvious: Back to my usual rantings, privatize it. With Beeds Lake held in common, no one in particular is impacted by the farming practices of its neighbors. Pollutants washing into the lake are a violation of property rights only if property is owned by someone. The popularity of the lake, even in its sad state, makes it evident a private venture there could succeed, especially if it is cleaned up, using private property rights as the basis for that clean-up.

 

Finally, a bad cold prevented us from attending the funeral of Richard Flickinger. As a tribute to this beautiful man, a story:

 

On a cold day we had tried for over an hour to pull a calf from a heifer. The shoulders were too wide. When Flick showed up he made quick work of it but the entire uterus came out into a mud puddle after the dead calf was pulled. Dr. Flickinger meticulously washed every nook and cranny of that 100-pound uterus while putting it back where it belonged. Soon the heifer was up and walking around with a few stitches to keep things in place. She went into the fat lot and later, with a group of five, topped the Waverly Sale out of hundreds of other heifers. I was shocked to read in Iowa Farmer Today that Iowa State University recommends euthanizing heifers who’ve prolapsed. Flickinger was all about life; his life enhanced the lives of everything he touched. Let’s carry on his work with a fervor.

 

Fritz gladly welcomes any input at 4selfgovernment@gmail.com. His website is http://www.alternativebyfritz.com  

lessons and opportunity

In the first news stories I read about the horrific October 5th blizzard in South Dakota and neighboring areas, it was pointed out that it was especially bad because it coincided with the government shutdown. Funds were limited to only “essential services,” such as erecting barricades at the World War II Memorial and Mount Rushmore. Situations like this typify the convoluted reasoning behind unreliable government programs.

An editorial in the Hampton Chronicle praised the Honor Flight assistants and Park Police who helped the vets past the barricades. It may have been too close to press time to mention the rest of the story. Thousands of vets, many of them members of Oath Keepers, staged a march Sunday the 13th. They called it the “Tear Down the Barrycades March.” While Park Police looked on, the vets tore down the barricades and piled them against the White House fence. Then Michele Bachmann did an interview. Boy, is she ever there for us.

Oath Keepers, by the way, is an organization of public employees who have sworn to honor the oath they swore to uphold. It is not a unique idea, just a forgotten one, and they tend to get into trouble with the ones who forgot to honor the oath they swore to uphold.

This all seems very complicated, but what about something even more complicated? If the federal government is short of cash they could sell the barricades and let people visit the monuments.

Taking it a few steps further, they could rediscover freedom and transition back to a country where people were responsible for themselves and helped those in need without the giant sucking sound of government bureaucracy turning that help into just a glimmer of its original intent.

Notice the commodity markets have been trading without government reports to distort them. Combines roll, store shelves are full, no mass poisonings from non-inspected food. We might be finding out we can do it without orders from on high. By that I mean from government employees who seem to think their imagined necessity is real. The other “on high” is the real One, the One who gave Moses the Ten Commandments.

Ah, those Ten Commandments. Does it ever seem as though we should have a much bigger guilt trip to deal with, with the government under our employ? I remember a public TV promo that said, “If we didn’t do it, who would?” My answer, insurance.

Insurance is the tool that could get us out of this mess. I mean real insurance, not welfare branded as health insurance or crop insurance or unemployment insurance. Insurance should be paid for entirely by the potential beneficiaries. That way if the activity or property costs too much to insure, it will be abandoned. Why does the federal government fund flood insurance? Because no one else will. It is dumb. Private insurance is the free market path to real risk management.

The October 5th blizzard was an extremely rare event. Low premiums by ranchers over the years could have funded claims by those ranchers. Instead they sit and wait for government handouts. One rancher, trying to protect his cattle from the snow drove them into a corral where they smothered. We had one cow die this summer from a strange ailment called wooden tongue. It was heart-wrenching. I cannot imagine losing 350 out of 400 cows in one day, never knowing if what I did caused those deaths or prevented 50 more.

So the news stories had it right in one regard. The federal shutdown and terrible storm were a disastrous double whammy. But the dependence on federal help was never right to begin with. It is not necessary nor dignified to depend on theft to manage risk.

Fritz welcomes comments at 4selfgovernment@gmail.com and offers other tidbits at http://www.alternativebyfritz.com