Nice raisin crop you’ve grown there. Now hand over 47% of it to the state.

Max Boot, who has written a new book on the history of guerrilla movements, tells how Shamil, firebrand leader of a celebrated 19th-century Muslim insurgency in Chechnya and Dagestan, began to lose the allegiance of “many ordinary villagers who balked at his demands for annual tax payments amounting to 12 percent of their harvest.” Instead, they switched their allegiance to the rival Russian czar, whose demands were more modest.

Compare the pending case of Horne v. U.S. Department of Agriculture, where, as my Cato colleague Ilya Shapiro explains,

the USDA imposed on the Hornes (long-time California raisin farmers Marvin and Laura Horne) a “marketing order” demanding that they turn over 47% of their crop without compensation. The order — a much-criticized New Deal relic — forces raisin “handlers” to reserve a certain percentage of their crop “for the account” of the government-backed Raisin Administrative Committee, enabling the government to control the supply and price of raisins on the market. The RAC then either sells the raisins or simply gives them away to noncompetitive markets—such as federal agencies, charities, and foreign governments—with the proceeds going toward the RAC’s administration costs.

The U.S. government denies that it owes anything to the Hornes under the Takings Clause, and also says that to contest the legality of what has been done to them, the Hornes are obliged to pay the USDA what it demands — $438,000 for the raisins not handed over, plus $200,000 or so in penalties — and then sue in the Court of Federal Claims to get it back. The Supreme Court has granted certiorari and will hear oral argument March 20.

One Comment

  • Theft is theft, no matter what you call it. Thugs are thugs, not matter whether they are called the “USDA” or not.

    I hope the Supreme Court throws this garbage out.