A Fine Kettle Of Federal Fish

On Feb. 9, members of the Fort Walton Beach Tea Party had an opportunity to listen firsthand to the plight of charter fisherman Capt. George Eller and how federal and state regulation threatens to ruin a large segment of what remains of Destin’s charter fishing fleet.

We responded as typical good citizens. Various proposals to fix the problem ranged from calling our federal and state representatives and urging them to support corrective legislation, to writing letters, to having face-to-face meetings with the chief Washington bureaucrat who caused this mess by issuing edicts with the power of law, a Dr. Roy Crabtree.

As useful as these steps may appear to be, they miss the point.

Limited government has become a thing of the past in our land of the free and home of the brave. Fishermen who supposedly have the right to own property, contract freely and enjoy the protection of the 10th Amendment, in fact, do not.

By bureaucratic decree supported by federal legislation and a Supreme Court ruling (Wickard v. Felburn, 1942, where the Supreme Court decided the federal government has a constitutional right to regulate how much wheat a Kansas farmer grows even on his own property for his own use), the federal government overrules the state of Florida in fishing matters. In turn, Florida overrules its own fishermen in the pursuit of their livelihood, forcing them to get permits and thereby placing limits on the wealth they can accumulate.

Neither the feds nor the state go out and sweat for fish; neither do they take on the financial risk of running a fishing company. But they are in a position to dictate how a fishing company must operate and share the catch.

Worse still, the feds and the state of Florida are controlled by legislators who have no direct stake in the success or failure of the fishing industry. To them, a fishing fleet is just one more source of tax revenue to be exchanged for any other.

It should not be this way. Limited government does not mean a government that decides not to interfere. It means a government that cannot interfere.

Individuals must succeed or fail on their own circumstances. The purpose of government is not to own businesses or grant favors but to protect individual rights.

There is a false enlightenment in America that thinks government control is necessary to prevent depletion of the environment or to ensure a steady market when individuals would ruin what they have.

As Capt. Eller made abundantly clear, fishermen have a vested interest in what they do, and they did selfregulate — either through moral persuasion, or by association contracts, or even by the power of the marketplace.

If depletion takes place, fewer fish means higher prices. Higher prices mean fewer fish are bought and sold, restricting the size of the fleet.

How is this different from what the government is doing now? The government is artificially restricting the amount of buying and selling of fish, resulting in higher prices and a reduction of the fleet.

Government regulation doesn’t ensure anything except a bigger government, and all it does is transfer the ability of Destin’s fishermen to run their own lives over to a government bureaucracy that must be bowed and scraped to.

The Tea Party must get more to the root of what ails us.

Peter J. Blome is a retired military officer and chairman of the Libertarian Party of Okaloosa County. He is also a member of the nonpartisan Fort Walton Beach Tea Party.

The Government Will Fix It

First published 7 August 2008

America, the land of the free and the home of the brave, is also the land of government intervention.

This is especially true regarding the economy.

Many of us are actually in favor of it. The popular thinking is that working within the constraints of the Constitution would be too great a price for the USA to pay. If we followed established law and enforced contracts the pain would simply be too great. It is easier to just sacrifice a few nameless, faceless people, and our principles, in the name of stability, smoothly functioning markets, and control.

I mean, what is not to like about Politicians creating a solution that business could not? If you do not like what the free markets brings, change it to suit your immediate needs. Government programs will make sure you and everybody else gets a piece of the action. Intervention is good because it keeps people in their jobs and keeps the money flowing.

No one notices the price you have to pay.

Living with injustice is one.

The trillion dollar bailout of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac is injustice of the most immediate and palpable type. When times were good, non-investors did not get a check, but now that times are bad everyone gets to pay. Worse still, the costs are so big, the value of the dollar may collapse. That will increase the cost of everything based in dollars forever. You think milk is expensive now, just wait.

Another example is the recently passed housing rescue bill which rewards those who bought more house than they could pay for. It actually reduces the mortgage for some people. What you do not hear is what happens to those people who live by their mortgage contracts, are responsible, and live within their means. They foot the bill for everybody else.

When the Federal Reserve arranged the JP Morgan buyout of Bear Stearns bank last March, they did it using funds the Fed created at the cost of greater inflation for the whole country. Since those who run large banks are a relatively small fraternity (our current Treasury Secretary came from Goldman Sachs), it also stands to reason that JP Morgan personnel are a big part of the rank and file of those who run the Federal Reserve.

Lets see, JP Morgan people deciding if the Fed should create money out of thin air to help out JP Morgan. Suspicious?

The Security and Exchange Commission recently excluded 19 commercial banks from trading rules that every other business still had to endure, such as short stock sales. It does not hurt you unless you were bank number 20 on the list and the stock owned by your poor old grandma drops 50%.

Examples of intervention like this are happening everyday. Several government bureaucracies such as the Exchange Stabilization Bank, the President’s Financial Working Group (executive order 12631) and the Federal Reserve itself are allowed by law to secretly intervene in the market. These secret interventions affect companies, and people like you, in real dollars, everyday. What you think will go up, might go down. What you think might have value, might instead prove to be worthless.

Even though they are part of your government and directly affect your pocketbook, you cannot know what they do. Your role is to just pay taxes and support them.

Living with injustice like this takes away opportunity, and opportunity is the heart of freedom. Because the government has decided to favor some businesses over others, the unfavored businesses waiting in the wings with good balance sheets will never get a chance to grow and make money for their investors. The old business will still be there. The old business will be protected with the weight of law.

In other words, your dreams will take a back seat to someone else not because you work less, but because they were bigger and will stay that way no matter what you do. They have government on their side.

In our land of rugged individualism, government influence has become the most important , and counterproductive, commodity there is.

American business is now not so much about building a better mousetrap than being the king rat who has access to government. This will lead to more graft as more government bureaucrats realize the control they have. Government protected businesses will use their advantage to hurt their unprotected competition every way they can.

Oh, by the way, you and I pay more forever.

What is not to like?

Peter J. Blome