Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Trade is Mutally Beneficial: Long Ears and Fluffy Tail Edition

From time to time I read a story that simply fills me with righteous anger. My friend Timothy Terrell made me aware of a recent example: the case of the USDA tyrannizing John Dollarhite. Dollarhite is a man from Nixa, Missouri who has been fined over $90,643 for the crime of selling over $500 worth of bunny rabbits in one calendar year. If he does not pay the exorbitant fine in short order, he could be slapped with additional fines of almost $4 million!

According to this report, the Dollarhite bunny operation began as a family business operated by his son as a way for him to learn some entrepreneurial skills; a sort of advanced lemon-aid stand. The son was successful and the business grew until he sold it to his parents when he was 18 years old. In 2009 their sales revenue from the bunnies increased to $4,600. USDA officials got wind of their business and, after USDA inspections the Dollarhite's received a certified letter indicating that they were guilty of violating federal law 9 C.F.R. § 2.1 (a) (1): Selling more than $500 worth of rabbits in a calendar year. It was never alleged that they mistreated their animals or that their rabbits were ever in anything but the best of health.

Here we have a clear case of government regulation making life worse for everyone involved, except perhaps the bureaucrats at the USDA. That Dollarhite reaped $4,600 in a single year selling rabbits is a demonstration that he successfully served others. Those who bought the rabbits demonstrated this by voluntarily buying the rabbits with their own money. The Dollarhites valued the $4,600 more than the rabbits they sold. The rabbit buyers valued the rabbits more than the money. All parties were net beneficiaries. No one was a loser. Voluntary exchange is mutually beneficial.

It should go without saying that if we lived in a free society, such prosecutions would never occur.That a family could be facing potential fines of up to $4 million dollars as a result of selling $4,600 worth of rabbits is outrageous. THIS  is what I mean when I tell my students that government regulation of business is aggression against a person's property. The law says that John Dollarhite cannot use his property as he sees fit. He cannot sell his rabbits for money, if he sells them for more than a total of $500 in one calendar year. If he does use his property this way, more of his property will be taken from him in the form of fines and legal fees. Such laws are contrary to all economic wisdom and the Christian ethic of private property.

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