"Your Raisins or Your Life"

Tuesday, April 02, 2013

An article on a case pending before the Supreme Court reveals that the government regularly steals from raisin producers in order to "help" them.

Since the 1940s raisin farmers have been obliged to make over a portion of their crop to a government agency called the Raisin Administrative Committee. The committee, run by 47 raisin farmers and packers, along with a sole member of the raisin-eating public, decides each year how many raisins the domestic market can bear, and thus how many it should siphon off to preserve an "orderly" market. It does not pay for the raisins it appropriates, and gives many of them away, while selling others for export. Once it has covered its own costs, it returns whatever profits remain to farmers. In some years there are none. Worse, farmers sometimes forfeit a substantial share of their crop: 47% in 2003 and 30% in 2004, for example.
Unfortunately, not only does the government meddle in a similar way with the markets for thirty agricultural products, but the the lawsuit, which concerns only whether the producers should be compensated, is unlikely to result in the kind of clear-cut, principled decision that would end to such practices once and for all.

It is worth noting that such controls have been lifted from the markets for walnuts and citrus fruits "without any ill effects".

-- CAV

P.S.: Regarding the title, I have not suddenly forgotten how to use quotation marks. The title is not my own turn of phrase, but is indeed a quote, taken from the article.

P.P.S.: I wish to express my disagreement with Justice Kagan, who called the law "outdated". The government working against its own proper purpose, such as by stealing from individuals never has been, and never will be a good idea. Calling this law "outdated" implies that such a scheme can be legitimate.

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