The power and influence of government in our lives is growing at an exponential rate it seems. I’ve always believed that government power must be checked or it inherently leads to not only less freedom and independence, but outright abuse. However, I’ve also believed that government has its role and the majority of government programs, and its employees, have good intentions.
Like many in agriculture, I was concerned by recent reports about how the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) illegally shared personal information on ranchers and feedlot operations with industry opponents, and also how EPA used the allowable fee structures relative to Freedom of Information Act requests to essentially reward left-leaning organizations and penalize right-leaning groups. It’s become increasingly clear to many people that these government agencies have become politically driven, and thus far more dangerous.
The rash of recent scandals within federal agencies makes it obvious that these are not isolated events. Nor is it merely the agriculture or energy industries being targeted; this is broad-scale differentiation based on political ideology.
The targeting of conservative groups by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS); the National Security Administration’s gathering of information on U.S. citizens, including Internet and phone records; the Department of Justice investigating reporters, etc., can’t be considered anomalies, given the wider context. They are widespread, they appear to be initiated at the top, and they encompass the largest and most powerful government agencies across a wide spectrum.
It used to be considered radical to believe the government would target people based on their political views; people still talk with dread about Nixon’s “enemies list.” Nor was the thought widespread that the federal government would use its considerable power to simply garner more power unto itself and punish those with contrary views. Yet, it seems to be the world in which we now find ourselves.
Anyone who goes into any meeting with a government official or agency with the belief that the government has their best interests at heart, or the best interests of society as their main focus, is operating under an extremely dangerous assumption.
On a personal level, I’ve been totally frustrated with our local utility company, which has started several fires that have resulted in the burning up of precious grass. The utility has been totally unresponsive and has offered the worst customer service of any business I’ve ever experienced. I actually had a secretary hang up on me when I asked for her name!
The key fact is that this is a monopoly. I have no alternative to this electricity provider in my locale, so it doesn’t have to earn my business. In fact, it can threaten to withhold service in the face of customer complaints.
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While this is the least customer service-oriented entity I’ve ever dealt with, its monopoly power is miniscule compared to the government. Take the IRS, for instance, where you’re presumed guilty and the burden of proving your innocence falls on you, with the agency serving as both judge and jury.
Theoretically, the government should be accountable to the voters, but it’s grown and morphed to the point where the bureaucracy now not only creates legislation, but enforces it. Accountability matters, particularly if competition does not exist.
A recent BEEF reader survey showed that concerns over government interference are second in importance in the long term only to rising input costs. The truth is that both have the potential of destroying our industry and profitability.
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