'CabbageGate:' Taking a Leaf out of the Forgotten Man

As Amity Shlaes explored in depth in her 2007 book, The Forgotten Man, FDR's New Deal punished farmers who had produced too many crops, in order to artificially inflate prices. As she told Reason's Nick Gillespie in early 2008, "Roosevelt was elected in part by the farm vote. They wanted the kind of high prices they had had before World War I."

And the New Deal went to extraordinary -- and at times destructive -- lengths to appease that constituency by tamping down production, as an article by Chris Edwards of the Cato Institute that appeared in USA Today back in 2005 neatly summarizes:

The centerpiece of FDR's New Deal was the National Industrial Recovery Act of 1933. It created "codes" or cartels in more than 500 industries in order to limit competition. Businesses were told to cut output and maintain high prices and wages. Businessmen who cut prices were cajoled, fined, and sometimes arrested. Fortunately for the country, NIRA was struck down by the Supreme Court in 1935. The Agricultural Adjustment Act of 1933 similarly restricted production to keep prices high. "Excess" output was destroyed or dumped abroad. While millions of Americans were going hungry, the government plowed under 10,000,000 acres of crops, slaughtered 6,000,000 pigs, and left fruit to rot.

That was the mid-1930s. This is a headline from today: "County Sues Farmer, Cites Too Many Crops:"

DEKALB COUNTY, Ga. -- DeKalb County is suing a local farmer for growing too many vegetables, but he said he will fight the charges in the ongoing battle neighbors call “Cabbagegate.”Fig trees, broccoli and cabbages are among the many greens that line the soil on Steve Miller’s more than two acres in Clarkston, who said he has spent fifteen years growing crops to give away and sell at local farmers markets.

“It's a way of life, like it's something in my blood,” said Miller.

In January, Dekalb County code enforcement officers began ticketing him for growing too many crops for the zoning and having unpermitted employees on site.

Miller stopped growing vegetables this summer and the charges were put on hold as he got the property rezoned.

Two weeks after approval, however, his attorney said the county began prosecuting the old charges, saying he was technically in violation before the rezoning.“It should go away. I think it borders on harassment,” said Miller’s attorney Doug Dillard.

Not to mention deja vu, as America's lengthy rendezvous with scarcity rolls on, inflamed by regulatory pressures from both a local and federal level.

Related: "Disappointment is better than Disaster!" -- There's a bumper sticker slogan that's right out of the Forgotten Man era!