Hein Hettinga in Glenn Beck’s Book

The below excerpt was taken from Glenn Beck’s book Arguing with Idiots from pages 21 and 22. This book can be purchased here.


I’m glad you brought up the Patriot Act, because it’s a good example of how the government is always able to expand its power during times of crisis. Our country’s under attack! (Please let us eavesdrop on phone calls…) Johnstown is flooded! (Please let us tax alcohol to help the victims…) Our financial system will collapse! (Please let us nationalize a few banks…) And on and on and on.

Despite all of the calls for “more regulation” (which is really just code language for bigger government), we should remember that, once put on the books, regulations are virtually impossible to get rid of. You’ve heard of archaic “blue laws” before (it’s still illegal for anyone 16 or older to yell at an official at a sporting event in Massachusetts) but those same kinds of outdated regulations also apply to business.

In 2003, a dairy farmer named Hein Hettinga had a craaaaaaaaazy idea: he wanted to undercut his competitors’ prices. Now, I know what you’re thinking, “Glenn, that’s not crazy…businesses lower their prices all the time!” Not in dairy farming they don’t. See, dairy farming is still governed by a system of regulations set up in the 1930s to protect the thousands of small farmers who ran small dairies and made their living by selling raw milk.

But look around — is that really still how the industry operates? Dairy farms now often have thousands of cows and major corporations (Dean Foods is the largest with $12.5 billion in annual revenues) are involved in every step of the process. Despite that, regulations that guarantee a set price to farmers who participate in federally operated regional pools remain on the books.

Those regulations meant trouble for our friend Mr. Hettinga. His competition hated that he had driven down prices by twenty cents a gallon at Costco (which, according to a Costco senior vice president, was creating a snowball effect as competitors were also forced to slash prices). So those competitors set out to shut Hettinga down.

With lobbyists being paid millions by Big Milk, politicians were more than happy to scratch each other’s backs and crack down on Hettinga’s tyrannous plan to save consumers money. Congress passed a bill forcing Hettinga to pay into a regional “pool” run by the federal government — the Senate voted via unanimous consent (which means there was no roll-call vote) and the House passed the bill by 13 votes. Representatives who voted against the measure found an email in their inbox the next morning expressing “disappointment on behalf of the members of the International Dairy Foods Association for your vote.” It added a thinly veiled threat: “We will be letting our member companies and their employees know of the outcome.”

Hettinga estimates that he has to pay up to $400,000 a month into an Arizona dairy-farming pool — a sum that, ironically, will go to help his competitors. In late 2006 he filed a lawsuit against the government, claiming that the new law was unconstitutional because it was a Bill of Attainder (see our Constitution chapter for more on that). The case was dismissed, but, in April 2009, a U.S. Court of Appeals reversed that decision, meaning that Hettinga still has a fighting chance.

“I had an awakening,” Hettinga, who was born in the Netherlands, told the Washington Post. “It’s not totally free enterprise in the United States.” Unfortunately, he’s right — and allowing our government to rush through more regulations now (that will likely still be on the books 70 years from now) will only make that lack of free enterprise across all industries even worse.

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