America is in regulatory overdrive.
I just posted on how USDA regulators prevent food artisans from selling delicious meat products that aren’t produced in accordance with strict guidelines despite the fact that these foods have been produced the traditional way without problems for centuries. Onerous as they are, the USDA are merely the tip of the regulation iceberg.
According to an article (requires subscription) in yesterday’s Wall Street Journal companies in the US are not only being inundated with lawsuits (currently an average of 305 per company) but are being strangled with regulatory demands as well.
Half of the in-house counsel reported that their companies also faced at least one new arbitration and one new regulatory proceeding in 2005-06. Biggest government instigators? The SEC and OSHA. But state attorneys general are also regular players, as are the FTC, EPA, the FDA and multiple other federal agencies with the power to subpoena.
I know a fair amount about regulation, having been ‘regulated’ once myself. A company I was involved with attracted the attention of the FTC, and, although nothing came of it other than a legal bill of grotesque proportions, I got to stare into the face of how regulation works in America today. It’s not pretty.
I realized from my bitter experience that regulation is only going to get worse and regulatory agencies are only going to get stronger. Why? Because of how the system works.
Whenever I encountered something so bizarre and Orwellian in my own regulatory nightmare and asked our attorney how such a system could have come into existence in the land of the free, he would say: “Congress has granted the FTC broad powers.”
I finally realized how the system works and why it is unlikely to ever get better. Congress grants the powers, but if never takes them back. And once regulators get the powers, they use them to the fullest extent of their abilities.
Usually Congress grants the powers because of some abuse. And many people pressure them to do so. A good example is the recent outbreak of E. coli O157 H7 in fresh spinach that I posted about. Virtually every article I read on the subject demanded that the government take over the regulation of the fresh spinach packing industry. That’s how it always starts.
Politicians love to jump on something like this because it gives them the appearance of doing something. Once a regulatory bill has been introduced, other politicians jump on board, the bill gets passed, and, Bingo, we’ve got another set of regulations for the regulators to use to cause trouble.
Problem is with all this is that the regulation pipeline is like a one-way valve. New regulations are added constantly, but regulations are almost never undone, so the total number in place constantly grows.
No politician wants to remove regulations. Let’s say that Congress approves some sort of regulation for the spinach situation. Once in place, let’s say that the law of unintended consequences jumps up (as it almost always does with Congress’s rules and regulations) and causes problems. If a politician decides to try to remove the onerous regulation and is successful, and then there is another spinach problem, the politician gets crucified. He (or she) takes the blame. Most politicians want to play it safe, and it’s much easier to play it safe by sponsoring, endorsing, and supporting new regulatory legislation than by getting rid of regulations already in place. Therefore we’ve got a one-way regulatory street.
I suspect that, stupid as the USDA regulations are concerning curing meat, they’re here to stay. So, if you want to have prosciutto or serrano made the real way, you’ll have to go to Europe or make it yourself.
I’ve ordered the books on home curing, and as soon as they get here, I intend to put MD to work curing and home processing. I’ll keep you posted.
If it all works out, however, don’t ask me to sell you any. One bout of regulation in this lifetime is more than enough for me.