Insane Ag System- Is it really this bad?

canuckistani(5b)March 7, 2009

Found this on another forum. Is the system really this bureaucratic and monopolized?

"Everything I want to do is illegal. As if a highly bureaucratic regulatory system was not already in place, 9/11 fueled renewed acceleration to eliminate freedom from the countryside. Every time a letter arrives in the mail from a federal or state agriculture department my heart jumps like I just got sent to the principals office.

And it doesnÂt stop with agriculture bureaucrats. It includes all sorts of government agencies, from zoning, to taxing, to food inspectors. These agencies are the ultimate extension of a disconnected, Greco-Roman, Western, egocentric, compartmentalized, reductionist, fragmented, linear thought process.


I want to dress my beef and pork on the farm where IÂve coddled and raised it. But zoning laws prohibit slaughterhouses on agricultural land. For crying out loud, what makes more holistic sense than to put abattoirs where the animals are? But no, in the wisdom of Western disconnected thinking, abattoirs are massive centralized facilities visited daily by a steady stream of tractor trailers and illegal alien workers.

But what about dressing a couple of animals a year in the backyard? How can that be compared to a ConAgra or Tyson facility? In the eyes of the government, the two are one and the same. Every T-bone steak has to be wrapped in a half-million dollar facility so that it can be sold to your neighbor. The fact that I can do it on my own farm more cleanly, more responsibly, more humanely, more efficiently, and in a more environmentally friendly manner doesnÂt matter to the government agents who walk around with big badges on their jackets and wheelbarrow-sized regulations tucked under their arms.

OK, so I take my animals and load them onto a trailer for the first time in their life to send them up the already clogged interstate to the abattoir to await their appointed hour with a shed full of animals of dubious extraction. They are dressed by people wearing long coats with deep pockets with whom I cannot even communicate. The carcasses hang in a cooler alongside others that were not similarly cared for in life. After the animals are processed, I return to the facility hoping to retrieve my meat.

When I return home to sell these delectable packages, the county zoning ordinance says that this is a manufactured product because it exited the farm and was reimported as a value-added product, thereby throwing our farm into the Wal-Mart category, another prohibition in agricultural areas. Just so you understand this, remember that an on-farm abattoir was illegal, so I took the animals to a legal abattoir, but now the selling of said products in an on-farm store is illegal.

Our whole culture suffers from an industrial food system that has made every part disconnected from the rest. Smelly and dirty farms are supposed to be in one place, away from people, who snuggle smugly in their cul-de-sacs and have not a clue about the out-of-sight-out-of-mind atrocities being committed to their dinner before it arrives in microwaveable, four-color-labeled, plastic packaging. Industrial abattoirs need to be located in a not-in-my-backyard place to sequester noxious odors and sights. Finally, the retail store must be located in a commercial district surrounded by lots of pavement, handicapped access, public toilets and whatever else must be required to get food to people.

The notion that animals can be raised, processed, packaged, and sold in a model that offends neither our eyes nor noses cannot even register on the average bureaucratÂs radar screen  or, more importantly, on the radar of the average consumer advocacy organization. Besides, all these single-use megalithic structures are good for the gross domestic product. Anything else is illegal.


In the disconnected mind of modem America, a farm is a production unit for commodities  nothing more and nothing less. Because our land is zoned as agricultural, we cannot charge school kids for a tour of the farm because that puts us in the category of "Theme Park." Anyone paying for infotainment creates "Farmadisney," a strict no-no in agricultural zones.

Farms are not supposed to be places of enjoyment or learning. They are commodity production units dotting the landscape, just as factories are manufacturing units and office complexes are service units. In the governmentÂs mind, integrating farm production with recreation and meaningful education creates a warped sense of agriculture.

The very notion of encouraging people to visit farms is blasphemous to an official credo that views even sparrows, starlings and flies as disease threats to immunocompromised plants and animals. Visitors entering USDA-blessed production unit farms must run through a gauntlet of toxic sanitation dips and don moonsuits in order to keep their germs to themselves. Indeed, people are viewed as hazardous foreign bodies at Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs).

Farmers who actually encourage folks to come to their farms threaten the health and welfare of their fecal concentration camp production unit neighbors, and therefore must be prohibited from bringing these invasive germ-dispensing humans onto their landscape. In the industrial agribusiness paradigm, farms must be protected from people, not to mention free-range poultry.

The notion that animals and plants can be raised in such a way that their enhanced immune system protects them from kindergarteners germs, and that the animals actually thrive when marinated in human attention, never enters the minds of government officials dedicated to protecting precarious production units.


I have several neighbors who produce high-quality food or crafts that complement our own meat and poultry. Dried flower arrangements from one artisan, pickles from another, wine from another, and first-class vegetables from another. These are just for starters.

Our community is blessed with all sorts of creative artisans who offer products that we would love to stock in our on-farm retail venue. DoesnÂt it make sense to encourage these customers driving out from the city to be able to go to one farm to do their rural browsing/ purchasing rather than drive all over the countryside? Furthermore, many of these artisans have neither the desire nor time to deal with patrons one-on-one. A collaborative venue is the most win-win, reasonable idea imaginable  except to government agents.

As soon as our farm offers a single item  just one  that is not produced here, we have become a Wal-Mart. Period. That means a business license, which isbasically another layer of taxes on our gross sales. The business license requires a commercial entrance, which on our country road is almost impossible to acquire due to sight-distance requirements and width regulations. Of course, zoning prohibits businesses in our agricultural zones. Remember, people are supposed to be kept away from agricultural areas  people bring diseases.

Even if we could comply with all of the above requirements, a retail outlet carries with it a host of additional regulations. We must provide designated handicapped parking, government-approved toilet facilities (our four household bathrooms in the two homes located 50 feet away from the retail building do not count) Â and it canÂt be a composting toilet. We must offer x-number of parking spaces. Folks, it just goes on and on, ad nauseum, and all for simply trying to help a neighbor sell her potatoes or extra pumpkins at Thanksgiving. I thought this was the home of the free. In most countries of the world, anyone can sell any of this stuff anywhere, and the hungering hordes are glad to get it, but in the great U.S. of A weÂre too sophisticated to allow such bioregional commerce.


Any power tool  including a cordless screwdriver  cannot be operated by people under the age of 18. We have lots of requests from folks wanting to come as interns, but what do we call them? The government has no category for interns or neighbor young people who just want to learn and help out.

WeÂd love to employ all the neighboring young people. To our child-awning and worshiping culture, the only appropriate child activity is recreation, sitting in a desk, or watching TV. ThatÂs it. ThatÂs the extent of what children are good for. Anything else is abusive and risky.

Then we wonder why these kids grow up unmotivated and bored with life. Our local newspaper is full of articles and letters to the editor lamenting the lack of things for young people to do. Let me suggest a few things: digging postholes and building a fence, weeding the garden, planting some tomatoes, splitting some wood, feeding the chickens, washing eggs, pruning grapevines, milking the cow, building a compost pile, growing some earthworms.

These are all things that would be wonderfully meaningful work experience for the youth of our community, but you canÂt simply employ people anymore. A host of government regulatory paperwork surrounds every "could you come over and help us . . . ?" By the time an employer complies with every Occupational Safety & Health Administration requirement, posts every government bulletin requirement, with-holds taxes, and shoulders Unemployment Compensation burdens and medical and child safety regulations  he or she canÂt hire anybody legally or profitably.

The government has no pigeonhole for this: "IÂm a 17-year-old home-schooler, and I want to learn how to farm. Could I come and have you mentor me for a year?"

What is this relationship? A student? An employee? If I pay a stipend, the government says heÂs an employee. If I donÂt pay, the Fair Labor Standards board says itÂs slavery, which is illegal. DoesnÂt matter that the young person is here of his own volition and is happy to live in a tee-pee. Housing must be permitted and up to code. Enough already. What happened to the home of the free?


You would think that if I cut the trees, mill the logs into lumber, and build the house on my own farm, I could make it however I wanted to. Think again. ItÂs illegal to build a house less than 900 square feet. Period. DoesnÂt matter if IÂm a hermit or the father of 20. The government agents have decreed, in their egocentric wisdom, that no human can live in anything less than 900 square feet.

Our son got married last year and wanted to build a small cottage on the farm, which he now oversees for the most part. Our new saying is, "He runs the farm, and I just run around." The plan was to do what Mom and Dad did for Teresa and I  trade houses when children come. That way our empty nest downsizes, and the young people can upsize in the main family farmhouse. Sounds reasonable and environmentally sensitive to me. But no, his little honeymoon cottage  or our retirement shack  had to be a 900-square-foot Taj Mahal. A state-of-the-art accredited composting toilet to avoid the need for a septic system and sewer leach field was denied.

When the hillside leach field would not meet agronomic standards and we had to install it in the floodplain, I asked the health department bureaucrat why. He said that essentially the only approvable leach fields now are alongside creeks and streams, because they are the only sites that offer dark-enough colored soils. Sounds like real environmental steward-ship, doesnÂt it?

Look, if I want to build a yurt of rabbit skins and go to the bathroom in a compost pile, why is it any of the governmentÂs business? Bureaucrats bend over back-wards to accredit, tax credit, and offer money to people wanting to build pig city-factories or bigger airports. But let a guy go to his woods, cut down some trees, and build himself a home, and a plethora of regulatory tyrants descend on the project to complicate, obfuscate, irritate, frustrate, and virtually terminate. I think itÂs time to eradicate some of these laws and the piranhas who administer them.


I donÂt ask for a dime of government money. I donÂt ask for government accreditation. I donÂt want to register my animals with a global positioning tattoo. I donÂt want to tell officials the names of my constituents. And I sure as the dickens donÂt intend to hand over my firearms. I canÂt even use the "U" word.

On every side, our paternalistic culture is tightening the noose around those of us who just want to opt out of the system  and it is the freedom to opt out that differentiates tyrannical and free societies.

How a culture deals with its misfits reveals its strength. The stronger a culture, the less it fears the radical fringe. The more paranoid and precarious a culture, the less tolerance it offers.

When faith in our freedom gives way to fear of our freedom, then silencing the minority view becomes the operative protocol. The Native Americans silenced after Little Big Horn simply wanted to

worship in their beloved Black Hills, use traditional medicinal herbs to cure diseases, educate their children in the ways of their ancestors, and live in portable homes rather than log cabins. By that time these people represented absolutely no threat to the continued Westernization and domination of the North American continent by people who educated, vocated, medicated, worshiped, and habitated differently.

But coexistence was out of the question. Just like the forces that succeeded in making it illegal for me to use the "O" word, the Western success at Wounded Knee quashed the little guy. What does the Organic Trade Association have to fear from me using the "O" word? If society really wants government certification, my little market share will continue to deteriorate into oblivion. If, however, the certification effort represents a same-old, same-old power grab by the elitists to exterminate the fringe play-ers, it is merely another example of fear replacing faith.

Faith in what? Faith in diversity. Faith in each other. Faith in peopleÂs ability to self-educate, thereby making informed decisions. Faith in seekers to find answers. Faith in marketplace dynamics to reward integrity and not cheating. Faith in Creation to heal. Faith in healthy plants and animals to withstand epizootics. Faith in earthworms to increase fertility. Faith in communities to function efficiently and honorably without centralized beltway interference. Faith in Acres U.S.A. to arrive every month with a cornucopia of insight and information.

Our cultureÂs current fear of bioterrorism shows the glaring weakness of a centralized, immunodeficient food system. This weakness leads to fear. Demanding from on high that we irradiate all food, register every cow with government agencies, and hire more inspectors does not show strength. It shows fear.

Indeed, official policy views all these minority production and marketing systems that have been shown faithful over the centuries to be instead things that threaten everyone and everything. As a teepee dwelling, herb healing, home educating, people loving, compost building retail farmer, I represent the real answers, but real answers must be eradicated by those who seek to build their power and fortunes on a lie  the lie being that genetic integrity can be maintained when corporate scientists begin splicing DNA. The lie that, as Charles Walters says, toxic rescue chemistry is better than a balanced biological bath. The lie that farms are disease-prone, unfriendly, inhumane places and should be zoned away from people.

Those of us who would aspire to opt out  both consumers and producers  must pray for enough cleverness to circumvent the system until the system cannot sustain itself. Cycles happen. Because things are this way today does not mean they will be this way next year. Hurrah for that.

Often, the greatest escapes occur at the moment the noose becomes tightest. IÂm feeling the rope, and itÂs not very loose. Society seems bound and determined to hang me for everything I want to do. But thereÂs power in truth. And for sure, surprises are in store that may make

society shake its collective head and begin to question some seemingly unalterable doctrines. Doctrines like the righteousness of the bureaucrat. The sanctity of government research. The protection of the Food Safety and Inspection Service. The helpfulness of the USDA.

When that day comes, you and I can graciously offer our society honest food, honest ecology, honest stewardship. May the day come quickly."

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brendan_of_bonsai(4b AK)

It has nothing to do with 9/11, but yes there are insane rules.

    Bookmark   March 7, 2009 at 3:43PM
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I dont know where some of this stuff originates from but here we:

Grow and butcher our own animals or truck them to one of many small butchers hops, selling 1/2s to friends and neighbors. we also gow crops and sell them from our yards or at farmers markets, many times as co operative efforts. We breed animals and enter them in shows fro the east to the west coast, canada to the mid south.

fall corn mazes are a big hit and there are several within 15 miles. petting zoos are nothing unusual but some of their animals are,.

I participate in a few government programs involving my land and they have never pushed me into anything I didnt like.

I readily agree we do need to keep our ears and eyes open to whats going on, some localities are kind of draconian in their rules, some seeming bad rules are for the betterment of whole and some are just plain stupid.

    Bookmark   March 7, 2009 at 4:16PM
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The article is an editorial from Joel Salatin written for Acres USA apparently.

Just wondering if his description of regulation sounds accurate or exaggerated to most people here.

    Bookmark   March 7, 2009 at 4:42PM
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I think some good things can be gleaned from his writings but he is a promoter in my opinion. People are more inclined to read and follow the worst case scenarios, whats reality is usually boring stuff.

    Bookmark   March 7, 2009 at 7:22PM
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adirondackgardener(Western Maine)

His article comes across as an exagerated rant. Invoking 9/11 does nothing but demonstrate an inability to make convincing arguments. Yeah, there are regulations that may make little sense to some, but they are not on the books to take away the writer's freedom.

Nearly everybody has a law in mind that they resent but nearly everybody has an idea for another law that would restrict someone else's "freedom." Laws and regulations are written by our elected representatives or their appointees and it is incumbant upon us to inform them when we feel they are not in our best interests. We also need to accept that even though they may make our lives a bit more regulated, if they are serving a greater purpose they are not "freedom-restricting."

There may be people who find that testing and reporting requirements of foods infringe on their freedoms, but if regulations can prevent Stewart Parnell, owner and president of the Peanut Corporation of America from ever deliberately shipping products that sicken and kill another child again, then those regulations are necessary and need to be strengthened.

By the way, the Fair Labor Standards act is not a product of the agricultural system, nor are local zoning laws that determine standards for housing.


    Bookmark   March 7, 2009 at 7:52PM
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That's been made into Joel Salatin's book "Everything I Want To Do Is Illegal."

I have it out from the library right now. It sure does provoke thought and discourse! I come from a family who all work high up in the govt and believe they are helping people. I thought I too was a liberal... Until I worked very very hard to buy my own large farm and looked into all the regulations I'm supposed to follow before I do anything. (To be fair, I also can't stand all the govt money I see offered to farms like ours for soil conservation methods that just aren't effective/cost efficient for taxpayers.) I train horses and had my attorney (an equine/farm specialist) out to advise us on future farm businesses and our practice of allowing teens to work off their lessons. We'd also like to invite inner city kids out to learn where their food comes from and see the beauty and opportunities in rural living. She said "everything you want to do is technically illegal or too high a liability risk!" sigh.

I will not sign up my property for NAIS and am saddened to learn that even local 4-H clubs are trying to recruit kids to get their animals and farms registered if they want to go to the fairs. Even tho I'd love to support 4-H kids (and get my own to join) I have decided to hold off getting involved til I learn more about the new policies. I now think most govt programs/good intentions don't produce the results, cost a crazy amount, frequently only serve to limit self starters and small businesses and create a victim mentality in many (among other things). Too many people seem willing to hand over their rights if the govt will just make decisions or take action for them. I've seen numerous "animal lovers" do things I abhor, but that doesn't make me want to pass a new law to control them. I'd rather step up and see if I (and my community)can't try to help or educate. I wish we could all be a bit more personally accountable and honest and face the complexity of this world without having to legislate fairness, compassion and honesty. A pipe dream I'm sure!

Okay, please forgive this disjointed rant. It's very unlike me but, as I said, Joel's book DOES provoke thought. Right now I'm just very tired after a long day replacing some rotted beams in our 200 yo bank barn w/trees we milled ourselves. My brain and body are not working their best! Happy farming to all!

    Bookmark   March 7, 2009 at 8:29PM
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jonas302(central mn 4)

I didn't take the time to keep reading that load of crap on the original post not one bit of of applies to acual rural life yes there are rules it takes less time to follow them then it does to write a book crying about it I can't imagine where there farm is that the nearest local butcher is a half million dollar facility on the freeway

    Bookmark   March 7, 2009 at 11:42PM
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goodhors(z5 MI)

Many of the things mentioned, are from previous safety failures in farm management.

He considers his farm clean to process meat. Uninspected, unobserved, the animal and meat handling could be anything! I have seen home butchering done in the barn aisle, carcass dropped onto an old bloody sheet or canvas to cut up for packages. No washing of the butcher person, he is wearing his overalls, old muddy barn boots as he wrestles the half and other portions onto some boards across sawhorses to cut up. Open air, lots of flies on the meat, because it is a warm spring or fall day. Flies come on over from the paddocks of contained animals amd manure in them.

Yep, I REALLY want to get my meat from him! Actually, I no longer accepted dinner invites from those folks after helping with some job or just visiting!!

You would never know about that "handling method" as you buy those little meat packages. Whining writer could do as others do, sell the portions of animal. Then he will have animal processed at the butcher location, customers pick up the finished product from the Gov't. inspected, licensed facility. It is not going to cost him any more at all. Gov't. Inspected can mean a lot of things, they are not all equal. However the place and methods get looked at now and again, better than nothing.

Hiring regulations are to protect the worker. If a farmer or his family members use tools that are elderly, questionable with no safety guards or bad wiring, that is a family choice. Hired help should not be forced to work under those conditions. Power tools, by their design, are not something you let small kids or younger kids use. They come with manuals of safety, handling instructions that no one reads, to protect the user. Do the farm employers take time to do safety training of these employees, to use the various tools? Not often, if at all. Everyone already "knows" how to do farm stuff!!

Kids seldom will argue with an elder person if told to do a job. Kids do not have the experience to spot dangers or understand the problems that might occur in doing a job the wrong way. They don't often think, period! Kids want to earn money, are not going to worry about the dangers they place themselves in, while doing that job.

Plus kids forget what you said, ignore the directions they were given before, THINK for themselves. Original thought by kids might add to the dangers!! Their "kid brains" just work that way! Part of growing up is brain development, which can't happen before brain is ready to grow that way. Actual body development may hinder kids in trying to do things, they have different visual fields, motor skills. They often can't help how they think and react, just an age thing. Each grows up at their own speed, should not be grouped by age in all cases. Big size or older age, is NOT mature in body or thinking!!

Adult farm workers may not read well, or have used this kind of tool or machine before. They SHOULD be shown how to use it, have the guards and safeties in place to protect them. I can't believe how often the safety features are over-ridden or removed to make it easier to get hurt. Yet it happens ALL THE TIME. I guess you have to protect people from themselves because they will hurt and kill themselves if not supervised.

I will agree there are many conflicting and peculiarly written laws in farming. Still were always written for a good, original reason.

Farming is about the most dangerous occupation in the US. I think deep-sea fishing is number one. So many places and ways to get hurt in any farming operation. Even if just reading the laws makes you think about your lack of meeting the rules, you might CHANGE a couple things to be better/safer, for yourself.

As we live in the setting, we lose our discerning eye for danger. No longer see the repaired cords, long extensions run to get power in a location, double plugs on an outlet, jury-rigging to keep a tractor running, instead of REALLY fixing it right. Just keep rounding up the loose animals, not fixing fence. Climbing the ladder with missing or cracked treads. Not turning off the tractor to unhitch the wagon by ourself, on the hill, with brakes we never repaired. Taking constant chances, which so far have not broken the odds of survival. Yet stuff like this IS a source of danger, we have become used to it or ignore the dangers. The Gov't. gets involved because this thinking is so prevailing, bad stuff never is fixed, endagers the hired help. Not acceptable as safety in Industry, or on the "old farm" either. People die with ignoring safety.

The original writing is totally a rant, no one gets to do everything his own way, anyplace. Many nations are much more strict than the US. The food chain is very vulnerable anyplace in the length. It does need checking, to keep things somewhat safer than you would ever see with self-governing along the way.

    Bookmark   March 8, 2009 at 4:19PM
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paulns(NS zone 6a)

What Salatin says applies to small business here too, and in general, imo. My wife and I have been working our butts off since 1999 to get a small farm running. Small business is said to be creating most of the new jobs yet here we are, doing things by the book, paying fees and dues and reporting every penny, and you'd think we were a thorn in government's side. 'You have to spend money to make money', until you're on the verge of bankruptcy, start selling off parcels of land or taking so much off-farm work you haven't got the energy left to farm. The Dept. of Agriculture boasts about offering assistance, and advertises help to support local growing, but its programs involve so many catch 22's they're laughable.

As for 9/11 I doubt many people down there are aware of the trouble the US response to it has caused in Canada, so I wouldn't be surprised it has made things even harder for its own.

Sorry, not too articulate. Blame it on springing forward :)

    Bookmark   March 8, 2009 at 6:54PM
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brendan_of_bonsai(4b AK)

I looked through the list of complaints and they are all about laws that have been on the books since the 50's-90's, so unless time traveling wormhole aliens did it it probably wasn't caused by 9/11. Yeas some of the regulations have been really tough on Canada and the US, but no none of them acted retroactively on reality.

    Bookmark   March 8, 2009 at 10:39PM
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mxbarbie(pnw BC 5)

Perhaps trying to make money from farming is where people are going wrong in the first place.

    Bookmark   March 11, 2009 at 2:05AM
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I too find it hard to farm in Canada. The laws do differ from those in many states. We had considered raising pigs for meat, selling some to others and delivering them to a butcher where the others pick up their meat, however, the laws make this impossible. Most small farmers don't raise pigs for sale here anymore due to the inspection costs. After talking to many local farmers, we changed our minds too.

Yes, it does cost a lot more that way. Every pig brought into the slaughterhouse has to be gov inspected with a cost of $300 per animal, just for the inspection and they all have to be slaughtered at a gov regulated slaughter house. Small butchers have to get their meat in bulk from the slaughterhouse and cut it up from there. If anything is not up to standard, the animal is shot and you are just out your $300 and the animal. It is not given back to you with advice on how to remedy the situation. Now, I have no problem with the inspection and the strict standards for meat, but the cost is rediculous and makes small pig farming difficult.

We could not find a small farm with feeder pigs anywhere in this area. They have all gotten out of it. If we had more time, we would raise our own and butcher ourselves, and still may do so, but not this year.

At least we can still sell eggs, but only from the farm gate and they can't be resold in any form, not even cooked. All of this because we are small and unlicensed.

    Bookmark   March 11, 2009 at 5:51AM
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brendan_of_bonsai(4b AK)

I think a lot of the laws that make it difficult to do what you want are the result of clumsy law making, which happens in Canada too. Building and zoning codes are necessary (Lest you have a coal plant built on stilts over the top of your house), so are child labor laws, and regulations regarding sanitation and biosecurity. Laws can be changed, contact your legislators etc.

    Bookmark   March 12, 2009 at 5:21AM
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Laws are necessary to keep the society safe and smooth, but in reality laws are choking people. There are always those who find ways to take advantage of laws, and more laws are created to attempt to prevent it - vicious circle. In many cases, it is motivated by greed. The virtuous people are the ones who are suffering from the results.

Many laws are created from rare experience - I would say it is a sort of fear. Good example is that every single passenger has to take off hers/his shoes at the security, because of a man who hid an explosive in his shoe. Imagine, if someone invent an explosive fabric, all passengers have to be naked when they go through secutiry..... :-D

It would be a pipe dream, but it shouldn't - what we really need is moral re-armamant, and not the law and rules, not the fire arms, not money.

    Bookmark   March 13, 2009 at 10:29PM
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