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January 24, 2007

Unacknowledged legislators

Today’s Downsizer-Dispatch . . .

Percy Bysshe Shelley said that, “Poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the world.” Shelley was, of course, a poet, so it’s understandable that he got it wrong. Who are the real “unacknowledged legislators?”

American bureaucrats.

No one elected them. Hardly anyone can fire them. Mostly nobody knows what they’re doing. And yet, they have the figurative power of life and death over individuals and whole industries. They can makes laws, and dispense with obeying the law, at a moments notice, on the merest whim, without fear of consequence.

Case in point . . .

State governments are balking at complying with the bureaucratic requirements of NAIS — the National Animal Identification System. So, the bureaucrats in the Department of Agriculture are contemplating the creation of a new law, which they euphemistically, if not poetically, call a regulation. This new regulation/law would . . .

. . . prohibit interstate movement of cattle that isn’t officially tagged under the NAIS requirements.

But this law, that they call a regulation, would not even be called a regulation, let alone a law. It would be promulgated as an “interim rule.”

Interim rules are a neat little trick unacknowledged legislators can use to force people to do their bidding, because “interim rules” can be enacted with no prior opportunity for public comment, let alone Congressional oversight or agreement. (Remember, your elected legislators are too busy not reading their bills to have time to worry about such details)

This particular rule would be difficult for state governments to resist, because it would leave their agricultural businesses isolated from the national market. In other words, a small farmer in Texas couldn’t sell his cow to a meat packer in Chicago, unless he complied with NAIS, even if farmers in Texas are not legally required to do so by either state or federal law.

Yes, Alice, we are through the looking glass, and deep into Wonderland.

The result would be that everyone would be forced to comply with NAIS through a back-door means.

Who’s pushing for this new law/regulation/interim rule? The U.S. Animal Health Association. And who is that? A society of poets perhaps? Not hardly. They represent big agri-business, which will benefit from NAIS by driving the small farmer OUT of business. Big corporate farms will have special rules that will make it cheap and even beneficial for them to comply with NAIS, while small farms will work under especially special rules that will make their cost of complying prohibitive.

In short, big corporate farms can use one NAIS chip to identify and track a whole herd, while small farms most use individual chips for each individual animal.

Do you begin to see the rhyme and reason behind this bureaucratic poetry?

Here’s the kicker. The federal government is prohibited from making such impositions on the states by the 10th Amendment, and on interstate trade by the Commerce Clause, which was intended to prevent the erection of trade barriers between the states. So where do the feds think they get the power to do this? From the Commerce Clause, of course, which they have turned on its head.

Black is white, and free interstate trade really means prohibited interstate trade.

What can we do about this? Well, send Congress a little poetry asking them to stop the enforcement of NAIS. You can do so here.

And if you need some more rhyme-and-reason on this “interim rule” thing you can find it here.

And while you’re at it, send Congress a message citing NAIS as a reason we need to pass DownsizeDC’s “Write the Laws Act.” Tell Congress to stop lending its legislative car keys to the poets in the bureaucracy. You can do that here.

Thank you for being a DC Downsizer.

Perry Willis
Communications Director
DownsizeDC.org, Inc.

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