On Government Regulation: Precision versus Micromanagement

Some of my better posts originate as rants in Facebook. I write them, post them, then realize that I want them to have a longer shelf life than Facebook offers. This is one of them. I am not one who normally froths at the mouth about government red tape. But sometimes . . . ------------------------- Yesterday I drove past a small livestock farm just in time to notice a cow laying itself down in the pasture. It was all by itself—the other cows were elsewhere, all standing up. I know nothing about cows or farming, but this struck me as odd behavior. When I passed the place again a while later, the cow was just lying there. I thought it might be distressed, maybe ill, so I turned around and drove into the driveway to let someone know, just in case they weren't already aware. As I did, I saw the farmer making his way into the pasture, and he saw me, and we had a conversation that just . . . well, I guess I can't say I'm shocked, because I'm beyond being shocked by government lunacy anymore. But angered—yeah, I was angered. The cow had a broken leg, the farmer told me, and would have to be killed. But she was pregnant, and he hoped to be able to deliver the calf in a couple weeks before doing the deed. He didn't expect he'd be able to, though. When a cow winds up in that situation, he told me, its kidneys eventually fail. The cow wasn't as bad off as she looked lying down, he explained; she was simply stretching. But she couldn't get around—she could only kind of drag herself, and there was nothing the farmer could do for her. So she would have to be killed. Now, here's the kicker: The cow couldn't be butchered. It couldn't be sold for meat. It couldn't be parceled up and given to a charity. The farmer couldn't even butcher the cow for his own family's use. All that meat, gone to waste because of a government regulation that forbids the butchering of animals in such a condition. "They're afraid of mad cow disease," he told me, "so now any cow that lies down like this one can't be butchered. I know what's wrong with this cow. She went lame two weeks ago. She's not diseased. She has a broken leg, that's all. Other than that, she's fine." The cow could keep a family in meat for a year, the farmer told me. Some needy household would be overjoyed at the prospect. Instead, the cow will be killed and thrown away. Or perhaps the farmer, being more sensible than the government and possessing knowledge specific to the circumstances, will butcher the cow and use it for his own family regardless of some damn-fool law that says he can't. I hope so. Understand, I am for government regulation when it's wisely and ethically applied. We've all witnessed a disastrous example, for instance, of what happens when big financial institutions are allowed to call their own shots with nothing in place to hold them accountable. But regulation often needs to take the form not of a blunt instrument but of a precision scalpel, and there is a big difference between a scalpel and micromanagement. When the latter is in force, then wisdom and ethics aren't what prevail; political expediency, money, and rhetoric do. As a result, the little guys like this farmer, who actually know and care about what they're doing, get hammered while the big guys like Monsanto get away with hell. Yet it's the little guys who generally display a conscience, heart, and common sense and who actually give a rip about their community. It's the little guys who actually have their sleeves rolled up and their hands in the earth of whatever their occupation may be. This farmer deserves better than having his common sense held hostage by a poorly conceived regulation that wastes resources rather than serves people at the grassroots level. Okay, rant over.