Editorial: The Golden Age of Barbecue doesn't need excessive government regulation

AP file photo.

Texas Agriculture Secretary Sid Miller has a terrible notion for all the right reasons. It’s an example of a solution in search of a problem, and of even conservatives contributing to governmental bloat.

Miller has written an essay for the Texas Tribune and, naturally, opened it with a Bible verse, from Proverbs 20: “Differing weights and differing measures, both of them are abominable to the Lord.”

Miller wants Gov. Greg Abbott to veto a bill that would exempt barbecue restaurants from having to use public scales that are checked and verified by his office. These scales, used to weigh up orders, slow down service and add expense to what are often shoestring operations.

“Right now, state law says that any business that uses a scale in a commercial transaction must have that scale checked by the state for accuracy, and must have the scale where it can be seen by the public,” Miller writes. “When you go and buy a pound of brisket from that corner barbecue restaurant, you can rest assured the scale they use will be accurate and where you can see it. It prevents any dishonest business owner from putting their thumb on the scale and ripping us off. But somehow, the Legislature has decided that everyone that runs a barbecue joint is as honest as the day is long, that they’re so trustworthy they should be exempted from consumer protection laws.”

The first question this raises is whether there has been a recent outbreak of bad actors opening barbecue joints. This does not seem to be the case; indeed, Texas Monthly has declared that we’re in a Golden Age of Barbecue.

“By our own declaration, we’ve entered into an unparalleled era of Texas ‘cue, and our latest 50 best barbecue joints introduces you to the visionaries behind it,” the magazine writes as it introduces a list that includes two East Texas entries. “Like Johannes Vermeer and his mastery of painting with light, these pitmasters have ushered in a new gold standard.”

You know what every Golden Age needs? A slew of regulations and governmental oversight. That’s why the States General in Amsterdam sent out regulators to ensure that the Dutch Masters, including Vermeer, were using the proper pigments and weights of canvass.

Not really.

Miller’s intentions are sincere; he is only extending on a valid function of government - regulating weights and measures. That’s important with a product like gasoline, for example, where the consumer has no idea what’s passing from an underground take through a pump and into his or her vehicle.

But need it really extend to barbecue joints? The product is right in front of the consumer (ideally on butcher paper).

The reasoning for the bill is that government has grown too large and intrusive; and that reasoning is valid.

The free market is the best way to ensure barbecue joints are serving out the right amount of meat. Word gets around about overpriced and undersized portions.

We need to roll government intrusion back; this is a good place to start.


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