Patterico's Pontifications


Supreme Court Considers Whether to Allow Federal Government to Bankrupt U.S. Citizen for Committing Act of Capitalism

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 10:01 pm

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.

30 Responses to “Supreme Court Considers Whether to Allow Federal Government to Bankrupt U.S. Citizen for Committing Act of Capitalism”

  1. Ding.

    Patterico (9c670f)

  2. I do not welcome my new overlords. Not planning on it, neither.

    Steve57 (cd6f9a)

  3. much better was Justice Alito:

    Could the government say to a manufacturer of cellphones, you can sell cellphones; however, every fifth one you have to give to us? Or a manufacturer of cars, you can sell cars in the United States, but every third car you have to give to the ­­ to the United States.

    and Justice Sotomayor didn’t let go of these examples.

    Add in the fact that the lower court has been absolute aççholes about this case, i’d be shocked if the SC did not rule this was a taking that needs to be compensated for.

    seeRpea (1427f4)

  4. by a 6-3 ruling, via 4th Amendment

    Rodriguez v. United States, the Court held that police officers cannot prolong a traffic stop just to perform a search for drugs using a specially trained dog.

    to me it seems more like 6-2-1, the dissents don’t seem to agree with each other.

    seeRpea (1427f4)


    Get it yet fools???

    Gus (7cc192)

  6. And it will be a small chink in the armor of Wickard.

    Kevin M (25bbee)

  7. Justice Kagan had asked in the first go-round whether this was a taking, or just the most outdated law on the books.

    Kevin M (25bbee)

  8. uvas no

    happyfeet (831175)

  9. 6. …And it will be a small chink…

    Kevin M (25bbee) — 4/23/2015 @ 1:01 am

    Oh. OH!

    You’ll pay for that.

    Steve57 (cd6f9a)

  10. Hmmm, something just occurred to me that came from humor synapses
    but is not funny at all…

    one justice redefines this as a raisin tax
    and so it is legal

    MD in Philly (f9371b)

  11. Stop calling it socialism. It’s fascism, as recent events in Wisconsin have demonstrated. They are fascists, cozily ensconced in the government/crony-capitalist nexus. It’s time to start calling them what they are.

    Amos (323e4e)

  12. Some people wonder why some American companies choose to locate new facilities overseas to escape onerous U.S. regulatory and taxation schemes. Some of those same people want to punish those companies for exercising their freedom.

    Let them eat raisins!

    daleyrocks (bf33e9)

  13. Amos,

    What do you perceive to be the differences between socialism and fascism, and how do you see this as more like one than the other?

    Patterico (657d44)

  14. split the difference and call it corporatism, like Egypt or Algeria,

    narciso (ee1f88)

  15. Both socialism and fascism sought increased governmental control over the means of production, but socialism was total control while fascism retained an illusory private sector following mandates from the federal government, combined with a nationalism that was absent from Marxist theory but showed up in Communist countries. I think socialism is a starker and easier to understand form of economics than fascism, which was a mindset with a less clear approach to economics.

    I am not calling anyone a socialist in this post but I say we are “headed towards” socialism — which I think makes more sense than to say we are headed towards fascism. If this fella ever wants to come back and distinguish between the two and explain why he thinks it is more appropriate to say we are headed towards fascism instead, that’s fine. But I just listened to a podcast warning against calling policies “fascist” when what it is meant is “a policy I don’t like.” I tend to think that may be what is going on here, but I await correction and explanation.

    Patterico (9c670f)

  16. But, but, but when Hitler attacked Stalin this was decided for the ages. Fascism and Nazism were Right Wing conspiracies and Communism was for the children. If we can’t decide on that, then how can we understand politics? If fascism and socialism/communism align in the same direction, then what can we call political reforms that focus on individual liberty, the pursuit of happiness, and all those other insidious ideas that appeal to the masses?

    And don’t assume that ending a government enforced cartel will work out for the better. Consider what it’s done for hops. In the 80’s, we had Bud, Oly, Schmidts, Coors, and life was good. Now we have a confusion of IPA offerings that boggle the mind.

    bobathome (ef0d3a)

  17. bobathome, you need to rename bobatthebarwithhoagie and enjoy all these new IPA’s with me!! My friends and I seek them out along with craft beers. We know places that offer over 350 different brews. We refuse to die till we try them all.

    Hoagie (58a3ec)

  18. Hoagie, alas, over the past year or two I tried to find a way of enjoying the delightful hop flower but I failed. My metabolism is just too efficient. A couple of IPAs and I’ve gained another pound. So back on the wagon. Sigh …

    Since the IPA is famed for its preservative properties, your quest is bound to succeed. You should easily live long enough to sample at least those 350! And by the time you’ve worked thru that batch, there will probably be another 350. One warning, before I quit I did run into a ginger IPA, avoid it. It tasted like ginger ale (not surprisingly I suppose) which I thought was very much at cross purposes with the entire IPA concept.

    bobathome (ef0d3a)

  19. What do you perceive to be the differences between socialism and fascism, and how do you see this as more like one than the other?

    Both systems officially favored a class of people. Just different classes. In America today, it is the proletariat that is favored, rather than the wealthy, so I’d go with socialism.

    Kevin M (25bbee)

  20. How about we compromise, and call both “Statism”.

    Kevin M (25bbee)

  21. Maybe – *maybe* – this will lead to an overturning of Wickard.

    aphrael (50ee60)

  22. Re: 21 – we can only hope.

    Steve Malynn (6b1ce5)

  23. Getting rid of Wickard would be a nice start. But it’s only a start.

    Steve57 (cd6f9a)

  24. Kevin,

    “In America today, it is the proletariat that is favored”

    Proletariat as in George Soros, too big to fail bankers, wild riders on the stock market bubble sponsored by the Fed, government employees with median incomes far above those who work for a living, trust babies, entertainers, media stars?

    Or did you have some other “class” of worker in mind?

    And whether it is socialism or fascism, the only real beneficiaries are the party operatives and the administrators of the local thought police/gestapo. They have access to what ever they want, and they pay no taxes.

    bobathome (ef0d3a)

  25. Probable decision against the government by Scalia, Thomas, Alito, Roberts and Kennedy – likely joined by Kagan and Sotomayor.

    David (099e1f)

  26. Oh, bobathome, those ginger beers are horrible. But I found one beer that several friends and I tried and it has won the coveted “Worst Beer Ever Award”. Sadly, it was from a local and I must say favorite brewery: Victory. Right in Downingtown, Pa.. It was, and catch this, Peach Wheat! It was so nasty not one guy could finish his bottle and with us that’s alcohol abuse to not finish.

    Hoagie (58a3ec)

  27. Socialist, Fascist, Communist. The trilogy of oppressive government run economies. Whatever their “technical” differences, and there are some, they all represent the pinnacle of the arrogant elite telling free people what they have to do. Command economies all rather than economy run by demand. All eventually fail and all are embraced by out leftist betters.

    So when Obama teams up with insurance companies to force Obamacare on us then collect the premiums through the IRS, that’s fascism. When it collapses and the leftists scream and holler for a government run single payer to replace it then I guess we’ve moved on to socialism or communism. Either way what we the consumer wants never enters the equation as far as the leftists are concerned.

    Hoagie (58a3ec)

  28. 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.

    It would be a shame if this isn’t a unanimous decision. I would hate to think that a Ginsburg or a Breyer or a Sotomayor or a Kagan would rule for the government. In that case we would have to face the fact that we are a Hillary! Clinton Presidency away from having a decidedly leftist Supreme Court.

    JVW (f443d5)

  29. JVW – Just wait until Hillary takes office. She’s going to topple that 1% of which she is a member. We cannot allow success to go unpunished in this country!

    daleyrocks (bf33e9)

  30. When she topples that 1%, I hope she starts with herself.

    JD (3b5483)

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