By Henry Lamb
Captain Lee Carver took his 90-foot 100-passenger boat out to sea on February 1, with only 26 passengers. When he returned to dock after four hours of fishing, his catch report counted 52 sea bass, one grunt, and three sand tiles. After Wednesday, February 16, his boat will return to the docks with no sea bass, no red snapper, no grouper, no vermillion snapper, nor any of the dozens of other species managed by the South Atlantic Fisheries Management Council (SAFMC).
Not long ago, the fleet for which Captain Carver works had two 100-passenger boats and five private charter boats regularly filled with tourists eager to catch their dinner from Florida’s rich fishing grounds. After Wednesday, February 16, there will be few fish left to catch, and even fewer tourists to catch them.
The problem is not a lack of skill of the Captain or the crew. The problem is not a shortage of fish. The problem is the “catch limit” regulations imposed by the SAFMC. Duane Harris, Chairman of the SAFMC, told the Secretary of Commerce in a letter last year that fishermen in Florida and Georgia would see their revenues decline by 64-71 percent as the result of new regulations on red snapper. He also predicted that “for-hire” operations such as Captain Carter’s, could expect revenue reductions in the range of 91-96 percent. SAFMC’s regulations are killing this industry.
This is only one example of how government regulations are killing the economy.
“Catch limit” regulations might be justified if red-snapper or other regulated species really were in danger of extinction. This is simply not the case. The SAFMC has presented no scientific data to justify their regulation, while independent surveys provide convincing evidence that red-snapper populations are abundant.
Hardly anyone knows that there are eight regional National Fishery Councils, created in 1976 at the height of the “environmental enlightenment.” These bureaucracies regulate fishing activities in the 200-mile economic zone off the coasts of the United States. For the most part, these councils are appointed for three-year terms by an appointee of the President. As the fishermen who are being put out business will confirm, there is no way to influence these appointees of an appointee legally – with nothing more than reason, common sense, or scientific data.
“Talking to these people is like a Jehovah’s Witness trying to convert a radical Muslim,” says one fisherman whose name is withheld by request. “They have their mind made up, and they’re going to put us out of business.”
The United Nations says the 67-percent of the waters regulated by these agencies is already “protected,” which means government dictates what may or may not happen in these areas. The more government controls the activities of formerly-free people, the deeper the economy sinks.
Government is extending its control over land in much the same way: regulations, regulations, regulations. In rural areas, the Endangered Species Act, and the wetland regulations promulgated through the Clean Water Act, provides bureaucrats will an abundance of excuses to dictate how formerly-free people may or may not use both public and private lands. Throughout the West, wolves get preferential treatment, while the people who own the land where wolves feast are abused by both the wolves and the federal regulators who dictate how formerly-free people must behave.
In urban communities, government regulations, hiding behind such warm and fuzzy fluff as “sustainable development,” and “smart growth,” and “economic development zones,” dictate the behavior of people who were formerly free to live where they chose to live, drive what they chose to drive, and eat what they chose to eat.
Behind the warm and fuzzy “social justice” fluff, it was government regulations that destroyed the housing industry and brought on the economic disaster of 2008. The government required banks to give mortgages to people who had insufficient income to repay them, and little or no equity to protect. It was government that provided the guarantees that made the sub-prime mortgage market super-prime for speculation.
Government regulation is malignant; it spreads and devours the host activity until there is no activity left. Excessive, and most often unnecessary, regulations killed the American steel, furniture, shoe, clothing, and other industries, that found it much more profitable to operate where government stays out of the way.
In view of this obvious reality, is it not reasonable to conclude that the economy can be revived and rejuvenated by reducing or eliminating those regulations that are not absolutely essential to protect human health and safety? Should economy-killing regulations – such as the “no-catch” demands of the SAFMC not have to be supported by indisputable scientific evidence? Of course they should!
When unelected bureaucrats gain the power to control the behavior of formerly-free people in a formerly-free market, the only inevitable outcome is the death of economic prosperity. Unless the eight unelected regional fishery councils are forced to gain the consent of the governed before imposing their regulations, the fishing industry of the United States will die.
The Moral Liberal contributing editor, Henry Lamb, is the author of “The Rise of Global Governance,” Chairman of Sovereignty International , and founder of the Environmental Conservation Organization (ECO) and Freedom21, Inc.