Supreme Court Considers Whether to Allow Federal Government to Bankrupt U.S. Citizen for Committing Act of Capitalism
In March of 2014, I told you about a Stalinist-sounding government-created cartel in raisins, and the couple who resisted it. Today, the Supreme Court heard arguments in the case, and it looks like they may be ready to overturn it.
As I explained in my 2014 post:
Meet the Stalinist-sounding “Raisin Administrative Committee.”
During the New Deal, a glorious time of rampant government intervention into the economy, the geniuses in the federal government passed the Agricultural Marketing Agreement Act of 1937. Pursuant to that law, during the Truman administration, the Secretary of Agriculture issued a marketing order — Marketing Order 989 — which established the “Raisin Administrative Committee.” The committee, made up of raisin producers but overseen by the federal government, formally restricts the supply of raisins through programs of “diversion.” People sit in a room around a table. People make motions that are seconded and voted on. The upshot: producers divert some of their raisins into a “raisin reserve” — to limit the supply of raisins for sale, in order to keep the price high.
A Washington Post article quoted an expert calling this what it is:
“It’s a cartel. Let’s use the power of the government to operate a cartel,” said Daniel Sumner, director of the University of California’s Agricultural Issues Center.
That’s correct. The producers are colluding. This type of action would normally be prevented by antitrust law. (I doubt it should be; but while I might be OK with cartels, I don’t like them when they are protected by the government.)
But some people don’t want to collude. Enter Marvin Horne. He refused to obey the “Raisin Administrative Committee.”
You see, one year, the “Raisin Administrative Committee” told all the growers to put 47% of their output into a “reserve” (to keep prices high, natch). And, like dissidents in a Communist country, Marvin Horne and his wife defied the law by (gasp!) daring to sell what they had produced.
No! This cannot be allowed! So they were fined more than $650,000. In essence, the federal government tried to ruin their lives for engaging in capitalism.
The case has been to the Supreme Court before, and Justice Scalia had a great comment in the previous argument: “Your raisins or your life, right?” Unfortunately, an obscure jurisdictional issue prevented the Court from ruling on the merits before.
But the case is BA-ACK!
The oral argument transcript is here (.pdf). I just breezed through it, and once again, Justice Scalia gets the prize for Quotes of the Day, while addressing the government hack defending this FDR/Stalinist nonsense:
JUSTICE SCALIA: These plaintiffs are ingrates, right? You’re . . . really helping them?
JUSTICE SCALIA: Well, I guess the government can prohibit the, the introduction of harmful pesticides into interstate commerce. I’m not sure it can prohibit the introduction of raisins. I mean . . . dangerous raisins!
and especially this:
JUSTICE SCALIA: Central planning was thought to work very well in 1937, and Russia tried it for a long time.
I love Justice Scalia.
The consensus of Big Media appears to be that the Hornes will win. Good for them. If that does happen, it will be a rare victory for capitalism in a country increasingly headed towards socialism.