Farming Fascism

The inherently self-contradictory justification for the state is that it reserves to itself the right to engage in those actions that its very existence is predicated on proscribing. The state is a paradoxical philosopher’s stone; believed by the masses to create only good, it in fact transmutes all that it touches into its polar opposite. Evil, when implemented by the state, is declared as good (war, taxation, kidnapping, torture) while virtue, when implemented by the state, becomes harmful (charity, regulation, education). These virtuous activities become but mere shadows of what they could be absent monopolistic state intervention.

In Georgia we have our own special brand of state distorted virtue: the Vidalia® onion cartel. The state government has decided that these beautiful, delicious, sweet onions grown in and around Vidalia, Georgia are too valuable to the economic health of the People’s Republic of Georgia to allow the people who actually grow them to control how they are marketed and sold. And so came forth the Vidalia Onion Act of 1986. Yes, our legislators pass laws about onions. It was only a few weeks ago that the state of Georgia fined a farmer who had the impudence to ship his crop of Vidalia® onions to market prior to the April 21 date set forth by the state agriculture commissioner.  Unseasonably warm weather has moved up and extended the growing season (thank you global warming!) Apparently Mother Nature forgot to read O.C.G.A 40-7-8.17 and thus produced ripe onion in open defiance of the law. Sadly, the state of Georgia is not alone in these sort of legal strictures on farming. Florida has its oranges, Idaho its potatoes and California its wines, raisins and avocados. Wait, avocados? Yes, California stipulates all avocados grown in the state must contain at least 8% fat. Or else.

Now there is certainly nothing wrong with farmers coming together and mutually agreeing on a set of standards for their produce if they feel that setting such quality standards will bring about mutual benefits. However, just because some farmers wish to do so does not mean that all farmers should be forced to do so. But when the state steps in, that is exactly what happens. Only the state has the monopoly power of the guns to force compliance. Once again, if your business model is predicated on the use of guns in order to achieve success then there is something wrong with your business model. Regrettably, the appeal of ready access to the legal deployment of weapons to further ones ends is the siren song of protectionism. That sweet sound calls to us until we collide against the rock-hewn walls of the cage we willingly built. Too much metaphor? Ok, people champion competition when they are buying but oppose competition when selling. So while that tidbit of self-defeating equilibrium sinks in, consider this: the most common method of limiting competition is turning to the state and requesting aid beneath its great wing of protectionist measures. Once state protections are in place then new entrants to the market are excluded. This reduces supply and so raises prices; great for the sellers, not so great for the buyers. The appeal of bully-based price protection for sellers is why nearly every law on the books has some sort of protectionist origin (licensing, certification, regulation, registration, etc). The fear of failure and the desire to put your competitors out of business is too much for most to resist. It is not until you yourself become the competitor do you see the error of your ways (or if you’re a hypocrite you refuse to see the error and simply demand even more special exceptions, i.e. protection from your own protectionism).

If we hand over all of our rights to someone with a gun (the state) we should not be surprised when they refuse to hand them back – even when we ask nicely. When the putatively legal owners are no longer calling the shots and must bend to the will of the de facto owner (the state) or suffer the consequences then there is only one word that by definition describes this situation: fascism.