Worst Mandates in U.S. History

July 3, 2018

As if the ethanol lobby’s typical tactics of backroom deals and political horse-trading weren’t questionable enough, the Renewable Fuel Association’s latest scheme to promote their pro-ethanol agenda has a surprising new audience: your children.

Using a K-12 educational series—designed to teach kids about “all things ethanol”— RFA seems intent on brainwashing a generation of Americans into believing that the road to national prosperity has been paved with government mandates and undemocratic oversight. Given that many of these students have lived the majority, if not the entirety, of their lives in the RFS-era, the ethanol lobby hopes to use this propaganda to rewrite the history of the failed mandate. As the saying goes, “those who do not learn history are doomed to repeat it,” so here’s a refresher on some of the worst (and weirdest) mandates in U.S. history.

  1. Stamp Act (1765): An unjustified tax by the British government, this law required American colonists to pay fees on every single piece of printed paper—from newspapers to legal documents—without their consent or approval from the colonial legislatures. Patriots rallied against this big-government burden by protesting, “No taxation without representation!”
  2. Tea Act (1773): When the British East India Company was unable to compete in the North American tea market, they asked London for preferential treatment. Sound familiar? The company was granted a government-sanctioned monopoly on the import and sale of tea in the colonies, inspiring American resistance and the infamous Boston Tea Party.
  3. Sedition Act (1918): This addition to the Espionage Act limited freedoms of individual speech and expression during World War I, forbidding any criticism or negative opinion of the U.S. government. The Sedition Act was repealed in 1920—proving that, occasionally, federal agencies recognize and correct instances of bureaucratic mismanagement.
  4. National Prohibition Act (1919): This law enforced the 18th Amendment, which banned the production and sale of alcohol in the U.S. from 1920-1933. An idealistic crusade championed by a small minority of Americans, this amendment was inadequately regulated and entirely unreasonable, thus ultimately repealed.
  5. Retail Gasoline Dispensing Safety Act (1949): New Jersey’s outdated ban on self-service gasoline was originally enacted for reasons of consumer safety, yet still exists as a relic of a bygone era. This strange law is an unessential intervention lacking policy rationale and limiting consumer freedoms.
  6. Undiscovered Species Protection Act (1969): In Skamania County, Washington “any willful, wanton slaying” of the elusive Bigfoot or Sasquatch creatures is a felony subject to a $1,000 fine and one year of imprisonment. Talk about regulating a problem that doesn’t exist…
  7. Energy Policy Act (2005): This law is notorious for producing the Renewable Fuel Standard, perhaps the most broken policy in U.S. history. After more than a decade of government mandated biofuel use, the average American is paying more at the pump and family farmers are struggling to get by while King Corn and Wall Street cronies are unfairly profiting in a distorted market.

The ethanol lobby is attempting to revise the narrative of American energy independence, but our students deserve to receive the correct version of history—including the facts on the country’s worst mandate blunders.