After 66 days of turbulent sailing across the Atlantic, the Pilgrims were understandably eager to touch land at Plymouth Rock. But before allowing themselves to alight, they gathered to sign the “Mayflower Compact,” by which they pledged to “combine ourselves together into a civil body politic, for our better ordering and preservation…and by virtue hereof to enact, constitute, and frame such just and equal laws, ordinances, acts, constitutions, offices from time to time, as shall be thought most meet and convenient for the general good of the colony.”
It was a defining moment for self-government, one for which all Americans owe thanks.
However, the same cannot be said for the multitude of laws, ordinances, and acts that has issued forth from government in more recent years. All too many fall short of “meet and convenience” for the general good. Even cherished Thanksgiving traditions are now regulated by the Bureau of Land Management, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, and the Federal Communications Commission. To wit:
- Base Price Calculation ($67.75) + Enrichment Factor ($10.25) + Conservation Factor ($6.00) = $84.00: the federal price control for the helium that keeps Mickey, Kermit, and the Pillsbury Doughboy afloat in Macy’s iconic Thanksgiving Day Parade;
- 54 miles per gallon by 2025 and 36 billion gallons by 2022: the fuel economy standards and renewable fuel dictate that make the drive home for the holiday significantly more dangerous and costly;
- Commercial Advertisement Loudness Mitigation: regulations issued by the Federal Communications Commission to ensure that the volume of commercials does not exceed the average maximum loudness of the pre-feast Redskins–Cowboys matchup;
- 5.1 grams of particulate per kilogram of wood burned: emission limits set by the Environmental Protection Agency for the cozy fireplace around which the family gathers, and;
- Safety Zone Docket No. USCG–2012–0889 RIN 1625–AA00: a temporary final rule issued by the Department of Homeland Security for a pumpkin-launching event on Lake Erie in which participants shoot pumpkins from an air cannon into the lake.
Government has also cooked up regulations for most every item on the dinner table:
- Statement of Net Quantity of Contents: Federal labeling requirements for turkey include “affixing in conspicuous and easily legible boldface print or type, in distinct contrast to other matter on the container, and on the principal display panel within the bottom 30 percent of the area of the panel, in lines generally parallel to the base: Provided, Not less than one-eighth inch in height on containers, the principal display panel of which has an area of more than 5 but not more than 25 square inches; Not less than three-sixteenth inch in height on containers, the principal display panel of which has an area of more than 25 but not more than 100 square inches; Not less than one-quarter inch in height on containers, the principal display panel of which has an area of more than 100 but not more than 400 square inches; Not less than one-half inch in height on containers, the principal display panel of which has an area of more than 400 square inches. The ratio of height to width of letters and numerals shall not exceed a differential of 3 units to 1 unit (no more than 3 times as high as it is wide). This height standard pertains to upper case or capital letters. When upper and lower case or all lower case letters are used, it is the lower case letter ‘o’ or its equivalent that shall meet the minimum standards. When fractions are used, each component numeral shall meet one-half the height standards.”
- Cranberry Marketing Order: “A grower’s annual allotment for the crop year is the number of barrels of cranberries determined by multiplying such grower’s sales history by the allotment percentage established pursuant to § 929.49 for such crop year. No handler shall purchase or handle on behalf of any grower cranberries not within such grower’s annual allotment. The committee shall require all growers to qualify for such allotment by filing with the committee a form wherein growers include the following information: (1) The amount of acreage which will be harvested; (2) A copy of any lease agreement covering cranberry acreage; (3) The name of the handler(s) to whom their annual allotment will be delivered; (4) Such other information as may be necessary for the implementation and operation of this section.”
- United States Standards for Grades of Canned Sweet Potatoes (vol. VII):(a) “Whole” means the canned sweet potatoes have the appearance of being essentially whole or almost whole in that the units retain the approximate shape of whole sweet potatoes; (b) “Halves” or “halved” means the canned sweet potatoes have been cut longitudinally into approximate halves; (c) “Pieces,” “cuts,” or “cut” means the canned sweet potatoes have been randomly cut into portions of varying sizes and shapes; (d) “Mashed” means the canned sweet potatoes are wholly comminuted or pureed; (e) “Whole and pieces” means canned sweet potatoes consisting of a combination of whole and pieces with not less than 50 percent of the drained weight being whole sweet potatoes; (f) “Mixed” means any combination of two or more of the foregoing styles excluding mashed style; (g) “Other” means any other canned sweet potatoes may be designated as to style by description of the size, shape, or other characteristic which differentiates it from other styles.
- Determining the gross weight of canned green beans: “Open and distribute the contents of the container over the meshes of a U.S. No. 8 circular sieve with openings of 2.36 mm (0.0937 in), which has been previously weighed. The diameter of the sieve is 20.3 cm (8 in) if the quantity of contents of the container is less than 1.36 kg (3 lb) and 30.5 cm (12 in) if such quantity is 1.36 kg (3 lb) or more. The bottom of the sieve is woven-wire cloth that complies with the specifications of such cloth set forth in ‘Official Methods of Analysis of the Association of Official Analytical Chemists,’ 15th ed. (1990), vol. 2, p. xii, Table 1, ‘Nominal Dimensions of Standard Test Sieves (USA Standard Series),’ under the heading ‘Definitions of Terms and Explanatory Notes,’ which is incorporated by reference in accordance with 5 U.S.C. 552(a) and 1 CFR part 51.”
- CFR Parts 131.150 and 131.157: “The unqualified name ‘whipped cream’ should not be applied to any product other than one made by whipping the cream that complies with the standards of identity for whipping cream (of this chapter).”
It’s impossible to imagine that the colonists ever envisioned that their fledgling democracy would mutate into a suffocating administrative state. At great personal sacrifice, they defied subjugation in pursuit of liberty. The ultimate gratitude we can offer is to follow their example.