The Sophistry of Central Planning

Dick Baynton Print Mug
Dick Baynton

Central planning is a process of collecting data, massaging that information and converting the refined statistics into an action plan. Government workers collect the data, government workers organize and catalog the data, and government workers publish the tables and graphs. If there aren’t enough government workers to do this, more are appointed or hired. As soon as elected officials and their appointees see the data, they ‘mine’ it for actions that lead to more regulation or legislation to collect more taxes, exercise more control and gain more power. That is simple; the more complicated part is how this data finds its way into regulations and legislation.

The swarms of government appointees and career employees seek and find a cleft in the data that needs augmenting with a regulation or law. They refer this flaw to an elected official about the opportunity and lobbyists are called in to provide instructions for handling this contingency. Because most issues gather the support of one party and the ire of the other, some of the provisions of the proposed regulation or bill are blunted or strengthened to gain presumed opposing support. The bureaucratic  ‘political class’ is indifferent to the actual needs and attitudes of constituents.

While the objective of all this effort may not be sinister, it is unmistakably complicated and inefficient. Using taxes as an example, they are levied on common assets such as income and estates. These taxes extracted from workers and investors at all levels are then applied to various perceived needs, in most cases additional government workers are hired as inspectors, regulators, administrators, actuaries and analysts.

Consider grapes grown in California and transformed into raisins. How many of us knew that the U.S. government heavily controls the raisin business, like many agricultural commodities? A Fresno raisin farmer was fined $700,000 in 2002 for refusing to turn over part of his harvest to Uncle Sam. A law passed in 1937 called the Agricultural Marketing Agreement Act allows the USDA to regulate raisin marketing. In a recent USA Today article, author Jim Bovard writes, “Since farmers sell their crop in interstate commerce, the government claims that it is entitled to nearly unlimited control over the harvest.”

Let’s summarize the symbiotic relationship between government and private enterprise. The government taxes all of us, including the California raisin growers. The government passes a law to control the production and marketing of raisins. The USDA establishes a ‘Raisin Administrative Committee’ consisting of 17 government employees located in Fresno to regulate the marketing and sale of raisins. When the 47-member raisin growers have a bumper crop, the government can expropriate up to half the volume and dispose of it to 15 foreign countries at bargain prices. The result is that the raisin growers receive less money, U.S. consumers pay more for a controlled product and the government squanders tax revenue with unnecessary personnel and superfluous activities.

The raisin story is just a microcosm of the misuse of tax revenue, fines and fees the government collects. Crop and marketing control are the earmarks of totalitarian governments like Russia and China. The law regarding raisins was passed in 1937 and 13 presidents and 75 years of Congressional neglect have allowed this law that contradicts the fundamentals of our free market system to be defiled.  The 2014 USDA budget of $199 billion is the tip of the iceberg with $109 billion spent on SNAP (food stamps) and wasteful spending across all government departments.  A sovereign nation that was founded on the efficacy of government answering to the people has descended into a nation of serfs ruled by a venal government that is all-powerful by design and default.

 – Dick Baynton

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