We should be thankful that we live in a time period where our standard of living is high and food is in abundance. There may still be some people in this world, in third-world countries, who are near starvation, or at least malnourished. But in America, most poor people eat. America is one place where you will find that even some poor people are overweight.
When it comes to food in America, it is a mixed economy. It is a combination of the free market and government control. Sometimes I will get in to discussions with people about liberty. They will say that the government has to do this or that because that is the way it is done now. I like to respond that if the government ran the grocery stores, many people would say that the free market would not be able to provide such a service.
I have little idea how grocery stores operate. I don’t know how they predict what consumers will buy, other than past patterns. I don’t know how they get trucks to deliver food. I don’t know how they stock their shelves and how they rotate their food. But I don’t really need to know much about grocery stores. There are other people who do know what to do and the competition ensures that the best run grocery stores are the ones that stay open.
It is a scary thought to think of what grocery stores might look like if the government were in charge of them. We would probably be eating the same thing for breakfast, lunch, and dinner every day.
But while grocery stores are somewhat free market, the foods that are sold in them are under a lot of government control.
There was a recent report put out by the Institute for Justice entitled The Attack on Food Freedom. It details some of the government intrusions and outright harm that is done.
The government will often do things in the name of “protecting consumers”, but it is still an infringement on our liberty. In some cases, it even has the opposite effects.
These government intrusions come at us from all levels. They come from the federal government, state governments, and local governments.
There are obvious infringements or attempted infringements that people have heard about, such as banning the sale of large sodas. But there are also a lot of areas where people are not even aware that the government is involved so heavily.
The report discusses that much of the origin of the American Revolution was a result of economic liberty and food freedom. But while the American colonists were well aware of what was happening to them, Americans today have little idea.
Interestingly, it was a Supreme Court case involving food in the 1930s that set a bad precedent that we continue to pay for today. In Wickard v. Filburn, a wheat farmer named Roscoe Filburn exceeded his quota of wheat production, which was part of Roosevelt’s New Deal program. Filburn argued that his excess wheat was for personal consumption and therefore had no effect on interstate commerce.
The Supreme Court ruled that Filburn’s consumption of the wheat he grew could still have an effect on interstate commerce. The Supreme Court really turned the Commerce Clause on its head and this is the clause cited today for many of the violations of the Constitution, which is most legislation and edicts.
Big Government Today
In our world today, we have to live with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and crazy laws such as the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), which was passed three years ago.
It is not surprising that the FSMA particularly hurts small farmers and food entrepreneurs. It is legislation that keeps out the little guy, while big business gets the government-granted privileges. But that is far from the only thing.
In the Institute for Justice’s report, it details the government’s war against raw milk. The report states:
“Another symbol of the FDA’s attack on food freedom in the name of so-called food safety is the agency’s heavy-handed enforcement of its ban on the interstate shipment and sale of unpasteurized (raw) milk. Many states also ban the sale of raw milk. The FDA adopted its ban reluctantly in the late 1980s due to a lawsuit by Public Citizen that ultimately forced the agency’s hand.”
Opponents of raw milk argue that it can be dangerous due to bacteria. But many health proponents see this as a benefit, as your body needs beneficial bacteria to properly function.
Just like any food, raw milk can be potentially dangerous if it is mishandled. But that is also true of any food, including meats and vegetables. The point is that consumers are not being allowed to freely choose for themselves.
This gets even more egregious when you look at the government’s actions to enforce its laws. As the report states: “In 2011, for example, the FDA – along with U.S. Marshals and a state police officer – carried out an armed early morning raid on the rural Pennsylvania farm of Dan Allgyer. The raid was the culmination of a yearlong undercover investigation into Allgyer, who the FDA determined was providing raw milk to consumers in the Washington, D.C. area, in violation of the agency’s ban on interstate sales.”
So if buyers and sellers voluntarily try to do business with each other in violation of the government’s rules, they will come in with their guns loaded.
The report points out that it is not just the FDA, but also other departments such as the Department of Agriculture that continually harass people in the food business.
The report also details that it is not just rules and regulations coming down from the federal government. In many cases, it is state and local laws that we have to deal with.
The report gives one example as follows: “In 2013, Miami Shores, Fla., amended its ordinance to prohibit front-yard vegetable gardens and informed Hermine Ricketts and her husband Tom Carroll that they faced fines of $50 a day if they did not destroy their beautiful garden.”
There are many more cases where cities violate property rights with ordinances that make little sense. It doesn’t just happen in places like New York City where they try to ban big drinks. It is happening all over.
When Will This End?
The report doesn’t even get into many of the other outrageous things that government does to our diet.
Whether it is putting fluoride in our tap water or promoting high fructose corn syrup, it sometimes seems as though the government is almost trying to kill us.
In some cases, it may just be politicians and bureaucrats that don’t know better. In many cases, it is likely just pure politics, where lobbyists for big businesses get politicians to pass legislation in their favor in exchange for their support.
As long as politics exists, this will continue. Fortunately, with the technological age we live in today, we can communicate more freely. I believe that many more people are becoming aware of the fact that they shouldn’t listen to what the government tells them. They are taking their health into their own hands and finding ways around the regulations, such as going directly to local farmers.
We should continue to educate people on this subject and make them aware of the things that government is doing to them, or preventing them from doing. We each own our own body and we should be free to put whatever we want in to it. I can drink raw milk without forcing anyone else to do so.