Thursday, November 07, 2019

Parable of the Forms

As an ex-bureaucrat I'm always interested in forms.  Here's the link to an academic paper entitled "The Parable of the Forms". The author is trying, I think, to address some issues of legal procedure by translating them into the language of a university bureaucracy.  I was struck by some parallels in USDA history.

Very briefly, when the New Deal created the farm programs in the 1930's it seems each field crop had its own program and, sometimes, its own bureaucracy.  In addition, there were siloed initiatives for conservation, housing, rural regeneration etc.

Over the years there were a number of reorganizations of these basic elements.  Also, over the years and underway when I came on board was a drive to generalize the crop programs.  When I started we had wheat and feed grains, upland cotton, ELS cotton, producer rice, and farm rice. Over time the programs were changed so by the time I retired we just had "program crops" and "ELS cotton", but then we'd added oilseeds, and a number of other categories.

The paper's author argues there's an ebb and flow to the forms issue, and to his legal issue: sometimes focused on the differences in situations and sometimes on the commonalities.  Perhaps there's a similar dynamic with programs.  Or perhaps I'm full of it.

No comments: