October 21, 2007


The Washington Post reports that smaller farmers are chafing at many of the federal and state safety regulations you need to follow to get your food "certified organic." Richard Bean of Virginia complains that produce shipped from New Zealand by big industrial giants gets certified, while his sustainable local farm can't pass muster, because he doesn't slaughter his animals in "inspected" facilities. (In fact, he got arrested for not doing so.) Long story short, small farmers are pissed at regulations that penalize them and benefit the big, industrial producers who kill people with contaminated spinach in the first place.

If I remember correctly, Gabriel Kolko's Triumph of Conservatism was about this exact same thing. That is, after Upton Sinclair published The Jungle, the big meatpackers saw their chance to push for new safety regulations in Congress that would secure their market position by making life difficult for smaller businesses—while taxpayers footed the bill? Something like that. Kolko argued that a whole lot of Progressive-era reforms were steered through Congress not by the progressives who first advocated them, but by big businesses looking to protect themselves from competition. I honestly don't know how seriously people take that book—it was pretty revisionist—but it seems relevant.

On a sorta-related note, the Times has a fascinating profile of the two companies that utterly dominate the lottery industry in the United States: Gtech and Scientific Games. Of course, they don't dominate it because they have any special ability to come up with new and exciting games. In fact, they're rather bad at that. No, they've mostly just managed to bribe state lottery officials—both at home and abroad—in order to secure plum contracts. (Of course, they say that's all in the past now.)
-- Brad Plumer 1:51 PM || ||