Posted on 17 January 2017.
© 2017 Tom Skulldaney
I write regulations for the government’s Farm Improvement and Protection Bureau. I know nothing about farms. But I do know you can’t get ahead in a bureaucracy if you know too much about what you’re doing. It grates on your fellow bureaucrats and gets on the boss’s nerves. The rule I go by is: If your regulations do not create at least four more jobs in the department, stop and rewrite them.
On the wall of my office is an inspirational farm themed poster. Every office is required to have one. Mine is a man in a suit and sunglasses holding up a horse’s tail and pointing underneath it. The caption at the top asks, “What’s Under a Pony’s Tail?” The answer at the bottom is, “The Public”. That is so true.
As regulations proliferate, life gets better. How could it not? I never realized how little attention people paid to the things they do. Now as a regulation writer I notice these things and put them right. When asked how I come up with all my regulations, I tell them it’s because I care enough to keep my eyes open.
For instance, this past weekend I was watching an old black and white movie called Ma and Pa Kettle Back on the Farm. In one scene, Ma Kettle walks into the chicken pen and just starts tossing grain around willy nilly. It annoyed me how little thought she put into it. Very haphazard. Her indifference caused some of the grist to go completely through the wire mesh and drop useless on the ground outside. Some was ruined when it landed in the little water troughs ringing the coop. And not a small portion ended up on the backs of the chickens sending them running off in all directions pecking at each other. Her laughter at their antics grated on me. I felt this to be a carelessness that was begging to be addressed.
That led to me to create the regulations for Fowl Nourishment Distribution. I drew detailed illustrations of the correct right-handed and left-handed distribution methods. And explicitly outlawed the downward toss and the semi swirl method. The one Ma Kettle used. Equipment requirements included an irrometer for current soil conditions (both moisture and content), an anemometer for wind speed and direction, and a balloon borne Rawinsonde (to an altitude of not less than 1,500 feet). This was for monitoring real time meteorological data in case conditions changed during the feeding.
The final regulation required a Certificate of Competency along with a completed Current Feeding Conditions form. Both had to be in the feeder’s possession at all times. It also prohibited the feeding of fowl by anyone under the age of 18. Because of my boss’s belief in employee empowerment I was also able to assess the amount of the fine. I decided on $1,000 for the first infraction, $3,000 for the second and the third would mandate the confiscation of all farm animals including pets, livestock and minors under the age of 14.
I impressed my boss when I included details for property seizure and subsequent liquidations via public auctions. As my reward for such thoroughness I was sent to a rural area of the country to gain an expertise in regulation enforcement. I was accompanied by four armed agents and required to carry my “On the spot pad.”
When the public complains about government waste they should be shown this pad. It allows any properly deputized individual to write extemporaneous regulations. If you see something amiss when you are in the market or on a date you can take your pad out and instantly create a binding regulation. The perforated line ¾ the way down the form allows you to add your own fine amount, tear it off and hand it to the offender. Impressive efficiency.
It didn’t take long to spot an infraction. A woman, younger than Ma Kettle but just as reckless, was in the act of thoughtless grain distribution. The five of us approached and I explained to her how she had run afoul of government regulations regarding the feeding of chickens. She was both uncooperative and ungrateful. As I discussed the acceptable forms of payment, no personal checks but we were prepared to accept a credit card, a man hurried out of the farmhouse. When I informed him of our business here he angrily began explaining how a farm really works.
Frightened, one of the enforcement people put his hand on his sidearm and yelled, “Don’t listen!” But, it was too late. I had heard what he said and my job at the Farm Improvement and Protection Bureau was now ruined. Upon our return to the office I confessed to my boss what had happened. He put his arm around my shoulder and said, “Too much knowledge leads to a loss of objectivity. You should know that.” He asked me what I knew about medical procedures. When I told him nothing at all, he brightened and reassigned me to the department that oversees and regulates neurological surgery.