Old MacDonald v. Department of Labor

Jersey cow in western United States. Whitney m...

Kids can’t do chores that get dirt under their fingernails? In England, the refrain goes, “It’s Health and Safety, mate, isn’t it?  (Or as your typical Londoner might say it: ‘Elf ‘n’ Safety, mate, innit?”).  The HSE (Health and Safety Executive) is the justification for every nanny-state, micro-managed intrusion into the lives of the queen’s subjects. What we’d consider harmless child’s play is often banned. This problem naturally evolves from acceptance of the premise that it is the government’s job to keep us safe. Once government anoints a new bureaucracy to enforce that premise, the bureaucracy must create new regulations to justify its existence. Common-sense goes out the window.

Here in the United States, the Department of Labor just took another step in that direction.  Weighing in on kids working the family farm, new regulations don’t reach the absurdity level you’ll find across the Atlantic, but they continue on that path by accepting the same premise: that a legitimate function of government is to protect us from ourselves.

Here are the reasons they are wrong:

1. Effectiveness:

The new regulations, first proposed August 31 by Labor Secretary Hilda Solis, would also revoke the government’s approval of safety training and certification taught by independent groups like 4-H and FFA, replacing them instead with a 90-hour federal government training course.

I could learn a lot from a 90 hour government course on farming. You know who wouldn’t? Kids who already live on a farm. Furthermore, the Department of Labor is a coercive and distant federal institution, and by that fact alone will be less effective in training kids how to farm than local and voluntary groups such as 4-H and FFA. Alexander de Tocqueville recognized these types of civil institutions as the lifeblood of America, epitomizing our can-do spirit. As shown by the Obama administration’s recent run-in with the Catholic Church, liberals purposefully try to weaken non-government institutions until big government is the only game left in town.

2. Incentives:

Children employed in agriculture are some of the most vulnerable workers in America,” said Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis. “Ensuring their welfare is a priority of the department, and this proposal is another element of our comprehensive approach.

Who do you think is more motivated to keep kids on his farm safe? Hilda Solis, some government bureaucrat, or the owner of that farm? The farm’s owner probably has his own kids working there, and knows the parents of the others he employs. From a financial aspect alone it’d be suicide to gain a reputation for lax safety standards.

3. Increased government spending:

Boswell told TheDC that the new farming regulations could be finalized as early as August. She claimed farmers could soon find The Labor Department’s Wage and Hour Division inspectors on their land, citing them for violations. “In the last three years that division has grown 30 to 40 percent,” Boswell said.

The US government is currently taking on about $1.5 trillion in debt per year. Enlarging the bureaucracy to deal with this non-issue would be grossly irresponsible. Especially since “According to a United States Department of Agriculture study, farm accidents among youth fell nearly 40 percent between 2001 and 2009, to 7.2 injuries per 1,000 farms.” When you’re broke, providing “solutions” to improving situations might be the first place you want to cut back.

4. Diminished work ethic:

“I started working on my grandparent’s and uncle’s farms for a couple of weeks in the summer when I was 12,” Weber told TheDC. “I started spending full summers there when I was 13. The work ethic is a huge part of it. It gave me a lot of direction and opportunity in my life. If they do this it will prevent a lot of interest in agriculture. It’s harder to get a 16 year-old interested in farming than a 12 year old.

As Charles Murray recently detailed, industriousness is on decline in America.  These regulations take another whack at it.

5. Another attack on the family:

“It’s so far-reaching,” he exclaimed, “kids would be prohibited from working on anything ‘power take-off’ driven, and anything with a work-height over six feet — which would include the tractor I’m on now.” The way the regulations are currently written, he added, would prohibit children under 16 from using battery powered screwdrivers, since their motors, like those of a tractor, are defined as “power take-off driven.”

America… where the federal government doesn’t care if a 14-year-old gets an abortion without her parents knowing, but won’t let her ride a tractor with her parents watching.

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