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Wild Deregulation

May 28, 2019

Opponents of U. S. President Donald Trump will soon have another example of his unbridled and careless impulses. Under his administration, the Food and Drug Administration, the FDA, has announced it is deregulating the frozen cherry pie market. Specifically, it is abandoning the regulations that govern the number of cherries a frozen pie must contain.

Oh, the horror. Does the FDA not care about the hapless consumer, defrauded by mercenary bakers out to bloat their profits by slashing the number of cherries in a pie? It is time to protest, before a pie contains just one wrinkled cherry, nestling amid mounds of cheap sugar and soggy crust. We must plead with the FDA not to abandon its critical role in protecting us from the wiles of rapacious pie makers.

And I fear this is just the start. In its Code of Federal Regulations, the FDA specifies exactly how swiss cheese is to be made. If this regulation is the next to fall, how will cheese manufacturers know how to make it? For that matter, how did they manage to create the stuff before the FDA gave them the recipe?

And I expect that the regulations governing the minimum size of peaches will be at risk, leaving consumers to face the disastrous consequences of eating small peaches.

Regulations such as these cause most of us to shake our heads or even laugh at their inanity. But they are no laughing matter. Nor is it the problem that manufacturers are caught up in the morass of rules—they are, and they do balloon the costs, but for the most part, the rules just reflect how they would normally act: put cherries in cherry pies, holes in swiss cheese. Other than the excessive costs, which we all end up paying, there are two problems with these regulations. One is that they stifle creativity. If a cheese manufacturer develops a new method for producing swiss cheese that is equal to any other on the market, that's not allowed without bureaucratic twists that would stymie a contortionist.

The other, and more sinister, effect is that these regulations infantilize consumers. They assume that we are too stupid or careless to look after our own welfare. But as any product manufacturer can attest, consumers are the toughest critics they face. Inferior products do not long survive because the harshest regulators of all are customers who, fickle creatures we are, prefer to hand over money for products that give the best value. A simple example: I have discovered that some brands of creamed corn are thicker than others. They have more corn and are less watery. Those are the ones I buy. If the others disappear, I would not even notice, much less lament their demise. So the array of regulators, focus groups, bureaucrats, lawyers, inspectors, and pandering politicians serve no purpose other than to generate their own bloated salaries.

So let us cheer this move by the FDA and hope it is duplicated for the thousands of other foolish regulations they have imposed.