Posted by: terrapraeta | April 6, 2009


Mirror in the bathroom
For all my crimes of self defense.
Cures you whisper make no sense trajectory into mental illness.
Mirror in the bathroom please talk free
The door is locked just you and me.
Can I take you to a restaurant that’s got glass tables
You can watch yourself while you are eating.
Mirror in the bathroom
Mirror in the bathroom…

English Beat, Mirror in the Bathroom

I ran across an interesting article yesterday: Everything I Want to Do Is Illegal by organic farmer and published author, Joel Salatin. It’s a PDF, it’s not terribly long, it’s entertaining AND illuminating. So go read it, already.

Ok, are you done? Are you depressed at the state of bureaucracy in america? That was my first reaction. But then I found myself thinking about it some more. First, I’m glad I plan to move west. In the US, the further West you go, the weaker the bureaucrats get. Joel is in Virginia, so that’s pretty much the heart of all things politically absurd.

But that’s just the start. Joel tells us that he has to take his animals off-property to butcher them, and that he cannot then sell it at his on-farm market, because it fails to qualify as a product that is strictly ‘on-farm’: for the same reasons, he cannot sell his neighbors products. It’s crap, obviously. But it also illuminates the need for a fundamental paradigm shift.

Joel has a farm, albeit an organic, free-range, grass fed, yadda yadda ya, ‘good’ farm. He then builds himself a ‘market’ so that he can sell his wares to any Tom, Dick, orHarry that drives by. Next thing we know, big brother is poking his nose in and wanting to set rules and regulations and zoning restrictions and bathroom specifications and so forth.

Hmmm… what if Joe were selling not in an anonymous ‘market’ but strictly mono et mono? Build relationships with people, talk with them, let them into your life so they can see what you are doing, take interest in them as well… I met a guy, a Bison Rancher in Northern California, last summer. This is what he does. He has no ‘organic certification,’ in fact, he can’t get one, because he uses advanced permaculture techniques that the US Department of Agriculture does not recognize. Every chunk of meat he sells goes to a real person that he has met, that he has gotten to know, and that has decided they trust him and his methods. Its a beautiful thing.

So what control do the bureaucrats have over him? Virtually none. He has no store to zone, needs no label to sticker his meat as organic, or to certify the butchering process. Whether buy, sell, or trade, all of his transactions are covered under ‘personal transactions.’ Which means he can probably avoid sales taxes (depending on local rules/enforcement), he can certainly ignore zoning rules (no structural component to his businesses) beyond those applying to ranching directly, and all of those obnoxious pieces of paper that bureaucrats love to make people push around.

Another thing occurs to me as well. What happens to all those bureaucrats and their rules, if the rules cease to apply? Or if we the people cease to pay them any heed? If only some* people do so, I suspect the rules get stronger, enforcement increases and things get really ugly. But if lots of people do so? I honestly believe the bureaucracy tumbles. Eventually. And wouldn’t that be a wonderful thing.

*If Gladwell’s The Tipping Point is at all correct, the difference between ‘some’ and ‘lots’ may well be the difference between 3% and 5% of the total population. So really, not so many…

(Originally Published November 28, 2006)


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