Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Everything I Want to Do is Illegal

This is a book that would make Robert Heinlein rolled over in his grave, yet he would completely agree with it. It is a book to make me, the mildly rebellious anti-authority person I am, become a raving Libertarian. It also will make you think twice, if not three times, before you buy meat at the grocery store again.
The author of this book is a farmer in Virginia. He is trying to run a small farm and sell the products from his farm. Most of the things he wants to do, sell eggs, fresh chicken and other meat, raw milk, are, in one way or another, illegal. The laws that in theory were set up to "protect" are just promoting the industrialization of food production. This month, with a mass hysteria over peanut products, we can see how safe the industry is. Unfortunately the result will be more regulation, resulting in more centralization and more areas where a large company can ignore the regulators and small ones can't get in at all.
The best part of this book is that the author is not writing a theoretical tract. He is no animal rights activist who has never seen animals in the wild, he is not a professor, years from getting mud on his shoes, he is a farmer first. He has become an activist only because of the years of fighting the system.
While the details of how ridiculous the regulations involving the production of food were, the parts of the book that really got to me were the places he discusses the ideology behind the regulations. For example:
One of my icons, Wendell Berry, makes the excellent point in his classic The Unsettling of America that ultimately the rabid environmentalist and the rabid factory farmer are cut from the same cloth: they both idolize a landscape devoid of humans. Ultimately they both hate people. . . Asked to supply a picture of the ideal landscape, neither group will include humans in the portrait.

Or this point,
As these types of laws proliferate, all of us find fewer and fewer spots of autonomy left. Being able to make self-directed decisions is critical for expressing our humanness. Not that any individual expression is okay. . . but these basic moral codes are a far cry from the kind of micro-behavioural codes emanating from today's politicians. The Romans had a saying that the better the government, the fewer the laws.

or this one,
Teddy Roosevelt used to say that nothing in government happens by accident. There is always an agenda. And especially today, the agenda usually involves more power and money to large corporate and bureaucratic interests with a parallel disempowering and impoverishing of smaller public and private entities.

I especially like that last paragraph, as he neatly skewers both the Left and the Right. This is a man who has thought deeply about our political process and the practical applications of it. All he wants to do is feed his neighbors and his family, the government will not allow it. While I think that a part of his problem is living in the East, even in the West more kneejerk reaction laws are passed every year. If I had a lot of money, I would buy this book for every person I know, as it is, get this from the library and read it, remember it when election time comes around and every time you have to deal with any sort of government bureaucracy.

Everything I Want to Do is Illegal. Joel Salatin. Polyface Inc. 2007


Moab Cozzens said...

I hadn't seen your blog before, mostly check grandkids out, not much else. Thanks for sending us this link. I have had similar unpleasant experiences with legal issues in trying to eke out a living. The silliness came to a peak the day I had to hire myself. Yes, fill out an application and the whole nine yards. An employee who had worked for me for more than ten years was deemed tenured and did not have to fill one out, just me. So I appreciate your book before I have even read it.


jendoop said...

Living in the East you know how much I agree with this book. I live in a highly populated area yet can't find a farm that I can get weekly vegetable deliveries from (a co-op type thing) this book is probably the explanation.