Supposed to keep from eroding.
Up telephone poles,
Which rear, half out of leafage
As though they would shriek,
Like things smothered by their own
Green, mindless, unkillable ghosts.
In Georgia, the legend says
That you must close your windows
At night to keep it out of the house.
The glass is tinged with green, even so,
As the tendrils crawl over the fields.
-From the poem Kudzu, by James Dickey
Anybody who has spent any time in the south knows about Kudzu. The vine covers pretty much everything along some stretches of roadway in Georgia, Alabama and other southeastern states. Trees. Telephone poles. Abandoned cars.
Originally introduced to the U.S. during the Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia in 1876, the fast growing vine quickly became popular. Japanese exhibitors planted a garden of Kudzu during the expo and Americans were drawn to the large green leaves and fragrant blooms.
During the Great Depression, the Soil Conservation Service promoted Kudzu for soil erosion control. Soon, Civilian Conservation Corps workers spread out across the southeast planting Kudzu. In the early 1940s, the government offered up to $8 an acre to farmers as an incentive to plant the vines in their fields. The hot humid climate proved ideal for the plant’s growth, and Kudzu began its march across the south like Sherman’s army.
Turns out, it was a little too much of a good thing.
Kudzu grows as much as a foot a day. Soon it began to overgrow everything, squeezing out native plants, damaging the environment it was meant to protect.
Kind of like the federal government.
The founders constituted a general government and granted it enumerated powers. Madison described the limited scope of federal power in Federalist 45.
The powers delegated by the proposed Constitution to the federal government are few and defined. Those which are to remain in the State governments are numerous and indefinite. The former will be exercised principally on external objects, as war, peace, negotiation and foreign commerce; with which the last the power of taxation will for the most part be connected. The powers reserved to the several States will extend to all objects which, in the ordinary course of affairs, concern the lives, liberties and properties of the people, and the internal order, improvement and prosperity of the State.
But the federal government has grown.
A green, mindless unkillable ghost with tendrils of power spreading from sea to shining sea, wrapping itself around virtually everything. Today, scarcely any part of life in the U.S. remains untouched by the federal government.
And like Kudzu, the feds squeeze out important components of America’s political landscape.
State governments are the most obvious victims of federal overreach. States can no longer exercise power over those areas, “which, in the ordinary course of affairs, concern the lives, liberties and properties of the people, and the internal order, improvement and prosperity of the State.” The federal government took over most state functions years ago. From education to environmental protection, state governments have become virtual spectators as the feds dictate policy and fund initiatives.
But the states don’t lie alone smothered by a federal blanket. Churches and private charities atrophy as the government takes over roles long served by these institutions. Americans now look to Washington D.C. for charity and moral guidance. Jail cells fill and welfare lines grow as church pews empty and private food banks clamor for volunteers. Federal bureaucrats guide American’s food choices, health choices, and word choices, all the while teaching “correct” modes of thinking. Uncle Sam has replaced our priests, doctors and mothers.
But ultimately, the individual suffers the greatest loss of autonomy and dignity. As the federal government grows ever more powerful and intrusive, the individual becomes less and less significant. We lose power over our own lives on a daily basis as nannies in Washington D.C. watch over us with a benevolently tyrannical eye.
Last month the FDA sent a warning letter to a Memphis company that produces brownies containing melatonin. Known as Lazy Larry, the brownies can make you sleepy. The company promotes them as a relaxation aid.
The feds declared the brownies a “health risk” and warned that agents could seize the brownies from store shelves. The FDA says it does not consider melatonin a safe food additive and calls the brownies “adulterated”, according to an Associated Press story.
But the AP reports, “In calling the product unsafe, Michael Roosevelt of the FDA said in the letter that the agency is not aware of data that establishes the safety of melatonin for use as an ingredient in foods. He cited medical research that has shown concerns about potential reproductive, cardiovascular, ocular and neurological issues as side effects of using the drug”
So Michael doesn’t really know if the melatonin brownies are actually unsafe, but they might be so he feels compelled to take action.
But even if the warning did make sense, do we really want the federal government making these kinds of decisions for every American?
Whatever happened to choice? Whatever happened to the notion that people should enjoy the opportunity to make decisions for themselves – to chart their own destinies? Perhaps the relaxing brownies provide a great benefit for some people. Sure, they might cause problems for others. But do we really need a federal bureaucrat sitting at a desk in Washington D.C. to make that call?
Apparently so, because we aren’t smart enough to figure out for ourselves. Fortunately, we have the infinite wisdom of Sen. Dick Durban (D-Ill.) to shine light on our oh-so-dark path.
“The sweet, chocolaty taste may encourage consumers to eat well over a recommended quantity of melatonin,” Durbin wrote FDA commissioner Margaret Hamburg in May. “Furthermore, consumers eating these baked goods may not recognize they are consuming a neurohormone, that they should consult a doctor before eating it, and that it may not be appropriate for children, people with auto-immune diseases, or women who are pregnant or breast-feeding.”
Thank you Dick-nanny.
When are we going to say, “Enough is enough?”
In 1953, less than two decades after enthusiastically promoting the plant, the government quit advocating the use of Kudzu for erosion control. In 1973, the feds declared it a weed, illustrating the utter ineptitude of the federal government.
But I digress.
The rapid spread of the vine led scientists to begin researching ways to kill Kudzu. Turns out that proved easier said than done. One herbicide actually makes the plant grow faster.
Reining the in our overreaching federal government will prove no less problematic. But it’s time to start. American’s must begin clearing the landscape of the federal vine, allowing other important institutions to once again bask in sunlight so that they can thrive and flourish. One-size-fits all solutions handed down from a centralized bureaucracy completely disconnected from the people make for crappy policy.
Just look at the Kudzu.
The federal government cannot possibly effectively serve as church, charity, police officer, moral leader, doctor, nutritionist, environmental consultant, nanny, etc. etc.
Let the church be the church. Let charities administer charity. Let the states tend to matters of the state. And let the individual flourish, making her own mistakes and enjoying her own successes.
Now there’s some hope and change for you.
Latest posts by Mike Maharrey (see all)
- Another History Professor Good at Politics, Bad at History - February 8, 2015
- Anti-Commandeering: The Legal Basis for Refusing to Participate - February 3, 2015
- Nullification Season: 200 State Bills and Counting - February 1, 2015