Thursday, May 7, 2015

An Unbelievable Story From the Old Soviet Union That I Just Learned About

By Simon Black

Boris and Svetlana were simple farmers back in the old Soviet era.

They grew grapes on Russia’s bountiful Caspian coast, dried them in the sun, and sold raisins according to the quotas set by the committee.

Every year the Soviet Union’s Raisin Administrative Committee (RAC) would regulate production, often ordering farmers to destroy upwards of 40% of their crop in order to achieve some sort of bizarre, contrived equilibrium.

This adherence to the religion of central planning in the Soviet Union was so severe that even after the wall fell they couldn’t quite manage to divorce themselves from it.

In his book ‘The Company of Strangers,’ British economist Paul Seabright recounts a hilarious conversation he had just a few weeks after the breakup of the Soviet Union.

Seabright was speaking to the former director of bread production in St. Petersburg, who said:

"Please understand that we are keen to move towards a market system. But we need to understand the fundamental details of how such a system works. Tell me, for example: who is in charge of the supply of bread to the population of London?”

Seabright explained, of course, that no one is in charge of such things.

In the West we don’t have centrally planned committees to regulate the supply of bread, raisin, milk, etc.

One would think.

But guess again, comrades.

Because Boris and Svetlana are actually Marvin and Laura Horne of Kerman, California.

And yes, the Raisin Administrative Committee really, truly does exist in the Land of the Free. I am not making this up.

This happens year after year: RAC bureaucrats centrally plan precisely how many raisins will be sold in the market.

All raisins exceeding that quota are confiscated and stockpiled by RAC, which in some years has amounted to as much as 47% of US raisin production.


Aside from the unconscionable conclusion that this constitutes outright theft, it also means that American consumers are paying more for groceries than they should be.

Naturally, raisins aren’t the only crops targeted by bureaucrats.

There’s the Potato Administrative Committee, Citrus Administrative Committee, and oodles of other New Deal-era committees to set food production quotas.

Marvin and Laura Horne really did take a stand.

About a decade ago they bucked the quota and took the bold step of selling all the raisins that they had grown.

And they really have been punished severely for it. The US Department of Agriculture assessed a $695,226.92 fine against the Hornes, not counting penalties, interest, and legal fees.

The Hornes took the matter to court. And believe it or not, this case has actually reached the Supreme Court.

But even there at the Pantheon of American Justice, the issue is still hotly contested.

It’s incredible that even the nation’s most enlightened legal scholars can’t unanimously see the absurdity (and unconstitutionality) of this system.

But it only serves as further proof of how far things have fallen in the Land of the Free.

Congress is there to create the most absurd, destructive, and invasive laws imaginable.

Executive agencies are standing by to cram them down your throat at gunpoint.

And the courts can’t even recognize when theft is theft.

Under such a heavy yoke, I would respectfully submit to the Hornes that there are a lot of places in the world to grow raisins.

Or run a business. Raise your children in the way that you want. Choose what you can/cannot put in your own body.

Or just about anything else.

And do so with much more freedom and comfort, never again having to worry about Big Brother, the national debt, or the next destructive regulation to come your way.

Simon Black is founder of


  1. Pistachios:

    Congressional Committees and Subcommittees:

    1. Foreign policy genius:
      Embargo Cuba - Big Sugar
      Embargo Iran - Big Pistachios
      Yeah, I want my boys to die for some nut farmer.