American ingenuity truly shines in the summer.
As we turn down our smart thermostats, sip on our craft beers, eat new varieties of fruits and vegetables, and slather our corn on the cob with artisanal butter, we can appreciate how hard work and imagination have combined to create a pretty fantastic standard of living. Heck, by 2040, most of the hamburgers on our grills will come from lab-grown meat, and we’ll be having dinner delivered by drones. Thanks to entrepreneurship, the world is just so awesome, and summer is the perfect time to appreciate all that American shelves have to offer.
However, if we want to continue or even accelerate people’s ability to innovate and create valuable goods and services for others, entrepreneurs need to be free to create. As a recent video about the explosion of craft breweries in America shows, well-crafted laws lead to well-crafted goods. Unfortunately, there are too many examples, like Wisconsin’s butter grading law, that show exactly how poorly crafted regulations can harm entrepreneurship and keep consumers from products they love.
In Wisconsin, all butter must undergo a mandatory government taste test before being sold. The state claims that this test, which is known as butter grading, informs consumers about the products they purchase and protects them from buying goods that don’t meet their tastes.
Everyone can sleep easy. The state of Wisconsin is here to protect us from dangerous, funky butter.
The problem is that these laws don’t actually inform consumers of anything. A butter’s grade is determined by a composite score that considers the butter’s taste, consistency, color, and saltiness. The grade then signifies whether the government considers the butter “highly pleasing,” “mildly pleasing,” or anything else on the pleasure spectrum.
This determination has no value to consumers. Taste is subjective; some people prefer Kerrygold, and others prefer Land O’Lakes. The state cannot know and has no business dictating consumer preferences. Instead of protecting consumers, mandatory grading only drives up costs and places a stamp of inferiority on some perfectly good products. These unnecessary laws also keep small and artisanal buttermakers out of business.
While butter grading doesn’t top the list of our nation’s biggest policy problems, arbitrary regulations like this present serious constitutional problems. Minerva Dairy, a family-owned buttermaker based in Ohio, has challenged the butter grading statute in court on the theory that it violates the Constitution’s dormant Commerce Clause and the Due Process Clause. The theory is that the policy poses a substantial burden on interstate commerce and harms the right to earn a living in the state without providing any conceivable benefit to the public. PLF attorneys have petitioned the US Supreme Court to take up the case and to affirm the Constitution’s promise of economic liberty.
Entrepreneurs should be free to make products that consumers want to buy, and consumers, not the state, should be in charge of picking winners and losers in the marketplace. With this in mind, PLF will continue fighting against crushing regulations that kill entrepreneurship.
A free economy gifts consumers with an ever-improving standard of living—even if that just means a tastier backyard BBQ.
**Note: The Supreme Court denied our petition on June 24, but entrepreneurs from all over the country remain committed to fighting for their constitutional right to earn a living.