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On my first trip to DC, an immigrant cabbie pointed out buildings to college-aged me. As he highlighted the Capitol, the Washington Monument, and every other building I already knew, we drove by an imposing monolith near the mall. “What’s that?” I asked. “Oh, that’s the Department of Agriculture,” he said.
As it turned out, it was just the south building of the USDA, the largest office building in the world until the Pentagon was built. Next door is the USDA’s massive Jamie L. Whitten Building, which covers four acres by itself. What on earth do they do in there? I wondered.
Well, now I know. Over the weekend, I read just one of their regulations — 23 pages dedicated to pickles. Your tax dollars paid bureaucrats to mandate that a “small gherkin” must be less than 2.4 cm in diameter, whereas a “large gherkin” can have a diameter of up to 2.7 cm.
After countless meetings with experts, the feds determined that a “Nubbin is a misshapen pickle that is not cylindrical in form, is short and stubby, or is not well developed.” They even include helpful diagrams illustrating allowable pickle curvature:
All of this silliness is just a tiny part of the gargantuan CFR:
The Code of Federal Regulations comprises every rule and reg ever concocted by the federal government, from soup (9 CFR 319.720) to nuts (21 CFR 164.110). And despite being incredibly important to businesses big and small, it doesn’t make for very enjoyable reading.
As of 2015, the CFR was a whopping 178,277 pages. That’s about 150 times the length of the Bible. If it was compiled into one volume, the book would be nearly 60 feet thick.
And while some of the CFR focuses on important issues like aviation and medicine, much of it covers everyday minutiae.
The first seven years of the Obama Administration added 18,731 pages to the CFR — a 12.4 percent increase. This despite his annual State of the Union promises to cut unnecessary red tape.
So, the next time you hear big-government advocates insist that DC is stripped to the bone and there’s not a dime that can be cut from the budget, reflect upon the humble pickle.
Or, to use the government’s definition, reflect upon the humble “product prepared entirely or predominantly from cucumbers (Cucumis sativus L). Clean, sound ingredients are used that may or may not have been previously subjected to fermentation and curing in a salt brine. The product is prepared and preserved through natural or controlled fermentation or by direct addition of vinegar to an equilibrated pH of 4.6 or below. The equilibrated pH value must be maintained for the storage life of the product. The product may be further preserved by pasteurization with heat, or refrigeration and may contain other vegetables, nutritive sweeteners, seasonings, flavorings, spices, and other ingredients permissible under the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act. The product is packed in commercially suitable containers to assure preservation.”