Do It Voluntarily. Or Else.

Thursday, February 19th, 2009

I’m getting the impression that the Obama administration doesn’t fully grasp the meaning of the word “voluntary.”

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack told consumer groups, farm groups and meat industry leaders Tuesday that he will ask the meat industry to voluntarily follow stricter guidelines for new package labels designed to specify a food’s country of origin…

If the industry does not comply with the stricter guidelines, the administration will write new rules, according to those who spoke with Vilsack on Tuesday.

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24 Responses to “Do It Voluntarily. Or Else.”

  1. #1 |  Hamburgler007 | 

    Next comes compulsory volunteer work.

  2. #2 |  David | 

    I think they does. They’re just using it the way politicians always do.

  3. #3 |  Kristen | 

    We’re at war with Eastasia. We’ve always been at war with Eastasia.

  4. #4 |  Cynical in CA | 

    It’s already here, hamburgler.

    The elementary school my kids attend requires parents to do 10 hours of service to the school per school year.

    They call it “mandatory volunteer hours.” I shit you not.

    We live in the USO: The United State of Orwell.

  5. #5 |  Brandon Bowers | 

    To the government, volunteer just means “doesn’t get paid.” It sounds better than “slave.”

  6. #6 |  ChrisD | 

    Just like Don Corleone might call in a “favor.” They’ll make you an offer you can’t refuse.

  7. #7 |  Nando | 

    It’s like asking, in a nice way, to do something. If he refuses, you tell him to do it.

    They don’t want to make a law/regulation governing it so they are asking the industry to do it voluntarily. If they don’t, then the law/regulation becomes the way to go.

    It seems pretty logical to me.

  8. #8 |  KBCraig | 

    This is the same Department of Agriculture that insists the National Animal Identification System (NAIS) is “voluntary”. But only until it becomes mandatory.

  9. #9 |  Zargon | 

    It’s like asking, in a nice way, for your wallet. If you refuse, he whips out a knife and tell you to hand it over.

    He doesn’t want to make a scene so he’s asking the you to hand it over voluntarily. If you don’t, then the knife becomes the way to go.

    It seems pretty logical to me.

  10. #10 |  Robert | 

    I admit that the whole “voluntary/madatory” thing is messed up, but frankly I *want* to know which country my food comes from.

  11. #11 |  Hannah | 

    Mandatory “volunteer” work already exists for kids as well. In Maryland, in order to graduate from high school you have to do 80 hours of “community service”. It may have gone up since I was in High school.

  12. #12 |  Cynical In CA | 

    “frankly I *want* to know which country my food comes from.”

    Grow it yourself. Or go to a local farmers market.

  13. #13 |  David | 

    Just like Don Corleone might call in a “favor.” They’ll make you an offer you can’t refuse.

    Not really. Because Corleone will provide a favor in return.

  14. #14 |  Mojotron | 

    I think the definition of “voluntary” being used here is:

    acting or done of one’s own free will without valuable consideration or legal obligation

    so it’s mandatory under threat of the government drawing up the rules for them, not any actual legal penalty (yet). You may argue that that doesn’t mesh with the true spirit of volunteerism or whatever, but that seems like the best description.

    Which seems like a pretty empty threat considering that their lobbyists will probably be the ones helping draft the rules. This is after how many people have died from tainted, mass-produced food in the last two years- 12? and hundreds if not thousands sickened? and people here are comparing the government saying “enforce stricter standards on your own or we’ll do it for you” (which is about the mildest rebuke possible considering what happened) and the government is the one being compared to a guy with a knife?!?

    Knowing that the free market will punish these companies doesn’t raise the dead.

  15. #15 |  The Pale Scot | 

    You mean sort of like how laissez-faire proponents don’t get the “full and complete information” part of a functioning market as per Adam Smith? Yea..


    Good Peanut Butter!

  16. #16 |  Jon H | 

    I don’t have a problem with it. We’ve seen what kind of people run American companies. Mortgage brokers armed with bioweapons, basically, playing fast and loose with peoples’ lives instead of just churning out crap loans.

    Want some Chinese milk, Radley?

  17. #17 |  Wayne | 

    I understand why some folks above don’t have a problem with being made to follow “voluntary” guidelines, and I don’t want to eat spoiled peanut butter or drink tainted milk either. But I’m failing to see how simply “voluntarily” slapping a label on food will do anything to make it safer.

  18. #18 |  Zargon | 

    My example wasn’t trying to equivocate enforcing stricter standards with robbery (though in many ways, they are similar, but that’s neither here nor there). My example was pointing out the absurdity in calling something voluntary simply because they haven’t forced you to do it under threat of penalty yet, but have indicated that they have every intention to do so if you don’t comply.

    What, exactly, is the practical difference between telling somebody to do something or else we’ll fine you $5 million, and telling somebody to do something or else we’ll draft legislation and then fine you $5 million?

  19. #19 |  The Pale Scot | 


    You need to consult Emily Post. Always give someone the chance to be considerate.

  20. #20 |  Mojotron | 

    What, exactly, is the practical difference between telling somebody to do something or else we’ll fine you $5 million, and telling somebody to do something or else we’ll draft legislation and then fine you $5 million?

    because in the absence of a law if they stray from the guidelines all they can get is another warning until a law is passed, versus an actual penalty. It’s essentially the difference between a written policy and an unwritten one.

  21. #21 |  Zargon | 

    Yes, that is correct. My previous statement didn’t include enough detail to actually show the point I was trying to show.

    For the sake of argument, let’s use your definition

    “acting or done of one’s own free will without valuable consideration or legal obligation”

    Legal obligation doesn’t exist, but valuable consideration certainly does. Acting now means the industries get to set their own labeling guidelines, which will obviously be less expensive to follow than the ones congress would write up (otherwise the industries would just let congress write the labeling guidelines in the first place, since the lawyers in congress would apparently know more about efficiently labeling food than the food industries – incidentally, this is the important detail left out of my previous example – the cost of compliance now is less than the cost later). That’s valuable consideration which will save the affected industries money. That means labeling now instead of later isn’t voluntary.

    The level of doublethink required to insist that anything the government tells you to do or else they’ll make you do it anyways is voluntary is astonishing.

  22. #22 |  Robert | 

    “Grow it yourself. Or go to a local farmers market.”

    Unless you’re dense, you should realize that there’s a lot of different types of food in the world, and that not all of them can be grown in any single area (short of being rich and having your own greenhouse), and that farmers markets typically don’t have selections that include all types of foods (and there’s no guarantee that even if they did, that the food came from a local source), and that some foods require processing or extraordinary attention to while growing. Not everyone has the time or the space to grow all of their food. Then there’s fish and other seafood, etc. etc.

  23. #23 |  Cynical In CA | 

    “Unless you’re dense ….”

    Up yours.

    As for the rest, deal with the uncertainty of life. Government regulation is shitty regulation, and it crowds out good regulation.

    Good regulation would exist in a stateless society, because the market would DESTROY any company that fucked up, instead of the present system where the government bails out every piece of shit crooked corporation that spends taxpayer money on Congressional whores, the same whores who ostensibly are charged (immorally) with regulating the market in the first place.

    You asked a simple question, that you want to know where your food comes from. I gave you the answer. Who’s dense?

  24. #24 |  Douglas2 | 

    Many musicians in symphony orchestras suffer hearing loss, related to the occupation. You wouldn’t think a violin is loud, but think about the inverse-square-law and how close that thing is to your left ear….
    And trombones and timpani are even louder. There are many in the field who think “we’d better start paying attention to this and do something, because if OSHA comes in and tells us that we cannot exceed some dB SPL threshold that is appropriate for continuously-operating machinery…”