Modern Serfdom

The well of government absurdity is simply bottomless

In this case, the USDA imposed on the [raisin farming] Hornes a “marketing order” demanding that they turn over 47% of their crop without compensation.  The order—a much-criticized New Deal relic—forces raisin “handlers” to reserve a certain percentage of their crop “for the account” of the government-backed Raisin Administrative Committee, enabling the government to control the supply and price of raisins on the market.  The RAC then either sells the raisins or simply gives them away to noncompetitive markets—such as federal agencies, charities, and foreign governments—with the proceeds going toward the RAC’s administration costs.

I have seen estimates that a Medieval serf had to pay between 30 and 70 percent of his crop to his master.  The RAC seems to be right in line with these numbers.


  1. Matthew Slyfield:

    From what I have read, the IRS does the same thing. You have to pay up in full BEFORE you can dispute an adverse tax judgement in federal court. Bass akwards if you ask me.


    Market interference, distortion of supply demand factors, reverse Robin Hood (rob from the productive and give to the, the, well whatever constituency can help the pols. I'd really like to give free market capitalism a try here in the USA.


    At least the land belonged to the lord of the manner and the serf had some protection against roving bands of robbers.

  4. Chris Kahrhoff:

    I'd burn the grapes in the fields before I'd fork over any.

  5. terrence:

    I honestly thought you were making this up to make a point - GOOD GRIEVE! What medieval CRAP!!!

  6. Matthew Slyfield:

    If you actually go back and read the Robin Hood stories, he didn't rob from the rich and give to the poor, he robbed from the government and gave to the poor.

  7. Gil:

    As opposed to . . . ?

  8. Gil:

    The earliest Robin Hood legends made him out as a plain thief. I guess the early movies made him out as a noble freedom fighter to make the story more palatable.

  9. mesocyclone:

    I used to live on a large lot with a bunch of grapefruit trees. Every year, the pickers would come by and buy them from us.

    One year they didn't come by. The reason: the grapefruit marketing board (3/4 members were SunKist) wouldn't allow Arizona to sell because FL growers had suffered a freeze, and I guess they wanted to increase the shortage to run up the prices or something.

    It is shocking that not only did this stuff pass Constitutional review, but that it *still*, 70 years later, still passes it.

  10. AMB:

    If Ayn Rand had included a Raisin Administrative Committee in one of her novels, readers would have chuckled over the ham-handedness with which she crafted her obviously fictitious and over-the-top government bureaucracies.

  11. Robert Sykes:

    Black sheep, black sheep, have you any wool?
    Yes sir, yes sir, three bags full.
    One for my master, and one for the mill,
    and one for the little boy who lives on the hill.

  12. SamWah:

    Have you asked Victor Davis Hanson about this? Seems to me he grows raisins.

  13. Methinks1776:

    Importantly, though, serfs never shelled out for the investment in private property used to produce their output and the portion of their output they gave to the landlord was rent for the use of his private property. Serfs also had certain legal rights with regard to the master including protection, justice, and the right to exploit certain fields to maintain their own subsistence. They could also escape their master more easily by escaping to and hiding in cities for 12 months.

    Given the massive erosion of the Rule of Law in this country and the government's willingness to break contracts for cronies, this story is more reminiscent of Soviet confiscation of peasant crops.

  14. Methinks1776:

    Interesting. This is what Russian peasants did in protest to the Soviets' confiscation of a large portion of their crops. They were slaughtered, of course. The grape farmers here will probably just be impoverished by a gigantic fine and imprisoned for a period of time in which they will lose everything. Much better :(

  15. FelineCannonball:

    Marketing Orders are initiated, maintained, and regulated by the industries themselves. They need 2/3 of the growers to agree to set up the marketing order and then the committee that decides things like "reserve tonnage" consists of the growers themselves. So it's more of a government-assisted industry monopoly to maintain price stability. The growers involved in the suit bypassed the monopoly rules. By not participating they made a bunch of money in part because of RAC's marketing and the price maintained by the other growers taking their own raisins out of the market.

    Anyway, don't feel bad for Big Raisin. They could get out of this anytime they wanted if they thought it didn't benefit them. And as they created the Marketing Order, I'm guessing they're strongly in favor of 100% participation and individual growers not opting out through loop holes.

  16. marque2:

    Shouldn't such a cartel be illegal? Can you imagine if Exxon, Shell, Chevron et al got together to decide a reserve barrelage to maintain high gas and oil prices? Why is collusion illegal in every industry except agriculture?

  17. FelineCannonball:

    We did have an oil cartel in the US for 50+ years. The Texas Railroad Commission and related interstate compacts. They kept prices artificially high till they ran out of excess capacity in 1972 and then OPEC took over control of the global spigot. TRC controlled more than half of the reserves in the US -- and yes worked hand in hand with Standard Oil. I think TRC still controls regional propane prices among other things.

  18. marque2:

    It was more of a rhetorical question. Agriculture should have to abide by the same rules as any industry, and government has no business, enforcing the oligopoly.

    And I really can't find info on your conspiracy theory even with a bit of googling. Interesting how Texas can control oil from PA, CA as well as Canada, all in its evil quest and how interstate commerce provisions wouldn't have squelched this, at least to some extent. .

  19. FelineCannonball:

    This isn't political. Industries abide by the rules they are given and they aren't all given the same rules. There's what government should and shouldn't do, there's what it does and doesn't do, and there's what the law, constitution (and judges who interpret it) allow it to do.

    The basics are that the federal government (CONNALLY HOT OIL ACT OF 1935) worked with the Texas and other states to avoid future gluts in the oil market after price collapses in the early 30's. In 1972, US producers were for the first time in decades pumping at max (and no longer reaching quotas given by state regulators) so control limiting price drops shifted to OPEC who did have excess capacity. It just so happens that that is when Saudi Arabia ramped up production dramatically and started defining the global price.

  20. Matthew Slyfield:

    The earliest Robin Hood legends made him out as a plain thief. True, but the hero/freedom fighter version predates Hollywood and the movie industry by at least a few hundred years. The change probably has more to do with anti-government sentiment at the time it originally happened rather than making it more palatable to the audience. There are plenty of movies that glorify straight up theft.

  21. Matthew Slyfield:

    Also note that the hero/freedom fighter version is generally set during the reign of King Richard, so ill will towards the brother he left in charge while he was off at the crusades might be the origin of the change. I have heard (though I can't verify) that the original legends may go back even further than the Roman occupation.

  22. obloodyhell:

    }}} It doesn't define what they should do with that power and it doesn't keep them from giving their authority over to a state or interstate compact or an industry consortium (or a single company) through an act of congress.

    Actually, there's nothing in the Constitution which grants Congress the power to DELEGATE its authority to any other body, and plenty of arguments for why, in traditional interpretation, it cannot and should not -- but Congress, and the SCotUS, have been ignoring that for decades now, as have the media, and, as a result, the population.

  23. obloodyhell:

    }}} roving bands of robbers.

    Roving bands of rapacious Federal regulators and bureaucrats...?

  24. obloodyhell:

    "Ocean's Eleven/Twelve/Thirteen/300"?

  25. Matthew Slyfield:

    Among many many others.