Wednesday, December 4, 2013
Book Review: Government Bullies
I've enjoyed reading several of Ron Paul's books, so when I decided it was time to purchase a new book to read on my Kindle, I decided to try his son Senator Rand Paul's 2012 publication, Government Bullies: How Everyday Americans are Being Harassed, Abused, and Imprisoned by the Feds.
Government Bullies is available in hardcover (320 pages) and paperback formats as well, but the Kindle format is very convenient--no pages blowing in the wind when I read outside, and I can easily carry it in my purse to read anywhere, between rounds at a chess tournament or sitting in the car on a road trip.
The format of the book is consistent. To each part there is an introduction, in-depth stories of grievances, and a section about what can be done to solve the problem. The style is informal; it's not a literary masterpiece, but is a lot like the way I imagine Senator Paul would talk if he were giving a speech or addressing constituents.
Part 1 address EPA Bullies. Paul points out that EPA regulations cost more than 5% of our annual GDP, and is equivalent to the costs of defense and homeland security combined. People have been sent to jail for 3 years for moving dirt onto their own property. One woman, her father, and engineer were sent to jail by the EPA for violating wetland laws on her property when her land was so dry it didn't even flood during Hurricane Katrina. Wetland regulations and the Clean Water Act need to be clarified so that the EPA and Army Corp of Engineers do not abuse property openers.
Part 2 concerns the Lacey Act, a law which has been expanded over it's more than 100 years of existence so that the United States can prosecute people and companies for violating foreign laws. Gibson Guitars was raided by both the Department of Homeland Security and Fish and Wildlife armed agents and SWAT teams for allegedly using "endangered" wood from Madagascar to make guitars. Many guitars, materials, and equipment were confiscated.
In another case, Paul writes that a lobster fisherman's 70,000 lb. shipment of lobsters was confiscated because of a tip from an anonymous caller. The fisherman was prosecuted by the U.S. government on violating three Honduran regulations: 1. Lobster tails cannot be less than 5.5 inches long (3% of the shipment was), 2. Lobsters cannot be egg-bearing (7% were), and 3. Cardboard boxes must be used for shipping (he use clear plastic bags.) No charges were brought against the man in Honduras, and the Honduran government later informed the U.S. that the cardboard box regulation had been repealed in 1995, the egg-bearing regulation had been repealed retroactively, and the lobster tail length regulation was never signed into law. However, the fisherman in question, dubbed "the ringleader of the smuggling operation" by press releases, was given an 8-year sentence and was still in a federal prison at the time of the publication.
Part 3 describes the abuses of the TSA: naked body scanners, intrusive pat-downs, sexual molestation, rampant abuse, humiliation of the elderly and ill, theft and overall corruption. Paul claims that the TSA doesn't make us completely safe, but rather less free. Paul recommends an Air Traveler's Bill of Rights to protect against TSA abuses. But he believes the best solution is to end the TSA and privatize airline screeners. Airlines have a vital interest in making sure their passengers are safe, and it would be bad business for them if they treated their passengers disrespectfully.
Rand Paul also decries sending foreign aid to countries which are not friends of the United States or which detain or hurt U.S. citizens. In fact, he says, borrowing money from the Chinese to give as foreign aid to other countries makes no sense at all.
Part 4 explains that though the FDA and USDA were formed with good intentions and indeed have necessary roles in the government, they too have expanded out of proportion, raiding even small Amish farmers selling "illegal" raw milk. "Isn't it insane to think that in America someone could be arrested for the 'crime' of drinking milk directly from the cow?" Paul asks. Another family in Missouri that started a small rabbit business to give entrepreneurial experience to their teenaged son was threatened by the FDA with a $3.9 million fine because they had violated a mysterious law that prohibited selling more than $500 worth of rabbits in one year (they grossed $4,600 which provided a $200 profit which they used to eat out at restaurants a few times).
The stories presented in Government Bullies will not give you sweet dreams, so I do not recommend the book as bed-time story material. I do recommend it, however, to anyone who is not aware of the many injustices committed by the government. Rand Paul's goal in writing the book is to promote liberty activism and inform the public of the outrages happening every day in this country. For those who already understand the infernal depths of bureaucracy, this book will feed the fires of the soul burning with zeal against the injustices of the government.
I shall conclude with a friendly reminder--be sure you read the 4,450 federal crimes in U.S. code and 10,000's of regulations before going about your daily tasks. Otherwise you may find yourself a criminal like the individuals mentioned above, facing years of imprisonment, armed government raids, and multimillion dollar fines for selling milk, bunnies, rosewood guitars, and lobster tails.
Anyone miss the good ol' days of the Ten Commandments?