More threats from government regulations

In a recent Mises Institute article by D. Brady Nelson he discusses the “hidden tax” damage of government regulations. Mr. Nelson says they pose “a bigger threat to liberty, economy, and morality than other weapons of forceful government intervention:

Of course, governments use other weapons of forceful intervention to enforce regulations: bad laws, arbitrary administrative rules, bureaucratic zealots, radical interest groups, environmental law firms, and guns.

Articles in the March 2015 issue of BLUEGRASS UNLIMITED ( illustrate these onerous weapons. No one is safe from the long, strong-arm tactics of government. Even musical instrument manufacturers, product dealers and musicians face assaults, confiscation of their property and criminal charges. How’s that?

Yes, these people are targets in the cross-hairs of the U. S. Fish & Wildlife Service; the U. S. Department of Agriculture; State departments of “conservation”; the International Fund for Animal Welfare; U. S. Customs inspectors; and federal marshals in the Environmental Investigation Agency (I worked in the USDA for over 20 years and didn’t know this agency existed).

Larry Nager, in an article: “In Tune With History—Gibson Celebrates 120 Years Of Mandolins And More” writes about this amazing company that has created many innovative instruments giving pleasure to millions of players and their audiences since 1895. Orville Gibson, the “iconic” founder and his engineers built a company that became “the world’s most influential and versatile stringed instrument company,” wrote Mr. Nager. The company weathered competition, economy downturns and, in 2010, a devastating flood that wiped out their Nashville Opryland production and retail facility. Gibson had been active in forest conservation projects to help assure their wood supply.

In my opinion, these people should have awarded a national freedom award by the U. S. president. Instead, in 2011, armed federal marshals “raided Gibson facilities in Nashville and Memphis, confiscating ebony and other woods and charging Gibson with illegally obtaining those materials” from Madagascar. How could this happen?

A complex of laws and regulations impose on U. S. import-export businesses. One of them, the Lacey Act, recently included wood products. As Gibson’s CEO explains, “just about a year before the government came after us…it was a new amendment to a very old law that’s quite onerous.” He also explained how special interests lobbying government benefit themselves at the expense of others; in this case unions and International Paper Company. Steelworkers want their metallic monopoly and wood product companies don’t want competition from cheaper imported wood—classic cronyism: get the government to interfere in trade.

Richard D. Smith (no relation) writes about “The Ivory Wars,” another nightmare of regulatory harassment instigated by international environmental busybodies and carried out by federal and State enforcers against anyone they find possessing a scrap of old ivory. Mr. Smith tells of a 72-year-old lady at an antique show in New York City who had jewelry seized by enforcers with the State Department of Environmental Conservation. Why? Her products contained mammoth ivory; no, not huge pieces, but fragments from a 10,000-year-old, extinct mammal. And a spokesmouth for the International Fund for Animal Welfare wants “stricter State laws.”

And woe be unto the musician traveler who carries an instrument that contains ivory; it will be confiscated by customs agents—unless he has a “Musician’s Passport.” But not all the 180 member countries of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species accept that get-out-of-jail card. Musician travelers beware.

Then, there’s the chronic problem of bureaucratic incompetence, inefficiency and inconsistencies. A Danish customer of Gruhn Guitars in Nashville waited over a year to get delivery of his purchase. Sarah Jones, who handles “export paperwork” for the company had to certify that the guitar’s ivory and Brazilian rosewood was obtained prior to 1970 when they were banned under the Endangered Species Act. But wait.

The U. S. Fish & Wildlife Service regulates animal products (ivory) and the USDA regulates plants (rosewood). Guess what? The signoff form listed both contrabands—the USFWS couldn’t stamp to approve ivory until the USDA stamped the form to approve rosewood, and the USDA couldn’t put a rosewood stamp on the form until the USFWS put an ivory stamp on it. What to do?  Good news. Eventually, putting two stamps on the same form “was allowed.” And there is reported to be some progress on this front.

Craig Hoover, chief of the Wildlife Trade and Conservation Branch in the Division of Management Authority for the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service in the Department of Interior was quoted by Mr. Smith: Hoover and the USDA are working “for a long-term solution”—he hopes to see streamlined policies “within a few months.”

Lots of luck with that—and other threats from government regulations and the enforcers.


About R. E. Smith Jr.

Mr. Smith writes essays and commentary on politics, American history, environment, higher education and culture. He's been published in print media and at blog sites for about 25 years. Smith's formal education includes B.S. and M.S. degrees from the State University of New York and Syracuse University. He has earned a 21-credit hour Certificate in Professional Writing from the University of North Carolina-Wilmington. Training/work experience: NYS Ranger School; U. S. Army, Corp of Engineers; soil scientist and forester with USDA; Assoc. Professor at SUNY; real estate agent; small business owner.
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