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Food Control, Out of Control

After we slay the gun control dragon, food freedom may end up being my next pet issue. If the Government can control what you eat, any freedom you may think you have is an illusion. Much like having the means to protect one’s own life and liberty, having a freedom to eat foods of one’s own choice is fundamental. We might have to rename the blog “Don’t Eat the Yellow Snowflakes” with a tagline “Or Uncle Sam Will Shoot You.” It’s for your own good, you see.

Now it looks like the ATF is going to make sure everyone knows beer is bad for you, because if they don’t, FDA will, and we can’t have one out of control federal bureaucracy stepping on the turf of another out of control federal bureaucracy now, can we? At least one former inside the beltway blogger thinks that the GOP is utterly powerless to help us in this regard:

A big part of my thinking in coming to DC was to try and help to create a synergy between the Right on-line and the establishment GOP. I had hoped to forestall anything like an insurgency from the Right by finding common ground. What I didn’t realize is that today’s GOP is interested in no such thing. It can’t hear anyone outside the Beltway echo chamber and isn’t interested in listening to them even if they could.

Of course they aren’t interested. They are part of the problem too. As another blogger notes, the only way you can change anything is by getting folks back home fired up — you need a real grassroots movement:

What every Blogger should do, is get to know their local GOP clubs and Central Committees, and if time and distance permits, their County clubs too.  Don’t just figure in publicity, but figure out other ways to expand your club (or committee’s) reach.  Funds matter.  Knowing your County history and voting numbers also matter. […]

To make the RNC understand Bloggers and Tea Partiers, we have to crack County and State levels first. By the time of Election 2012 and 2014, we will become the establishment.

That’s likely what it’s going to take to change anything. But there is another model other than working through the political parties, and that’s working through single-issue interest groups that help channel grass roots efforts politically — basically the NRA model. That’s one thing the various “food lobby” groups have so far failed to understand. From the Belmont Club:

If sugary drinks become the new cigarettes the American Beverage Association bids fair to become the new Big Tobacco bogeyman. Wikipedia writes: “fighting the creation of soft drink taxes, the American Beverage Association, the largest US trade organization for soft drink bottlers, has spent considerable money to lobby Congress. The Association’s annual lobbying spending rose from about $391,000 to more than $690,000 from 2003 to 2008. And, in the 2010 election cycle, its lobbying grew more than 1000 percent to $8.67 million. These funds are helping to pay for 25 lobbyists at seven different lobbying firms.”

They can spend all the money they want, but without votes to reward the supporters of food freedom, and punish the food nanny’s, lobbyist aren’t going to help all that much. What’s most likely to happen, realizing the futility, the industry will actively acquiesce to regulation, then realizing it can game the system to entrench the major players at the expense of upstarts, will engage in regulatory capture.

This is not inevitable; we’ve largely saved guns from this fate. We’ve not saved the industry from regulation, but firearms regulation has not, generally, resulted in a contraction of the industry into the hands of a few big players, and to a large degree, manufacturers are still allowed to design and market guns within a fairly broad regulatory framework. That might sound fantastic, but in comparison to the requirement for operating a pharmaceutical company, gun manufacturing is regulatory cake.

The big problem we have is honestly not from the left, but from conservatives and libertarians themselves. The problem is, to make an effect in politics requires collective action — something libertarians are very poor at. Collective is one of those dirty commie words, after all. People on the left are much more willing than libertarians and conservatives to put aside their personal agendas for the sake of the greater good, and for the sake of their cause. That’s why they are very effective at getting Government to do what they want. There’s a certain amount of selfishness that drives libertarian thought, but that becomes a barrier when it comes to convincing people that self-interest can be a good thing for a whole as well. That’s a paradox we’re going to have to figure out if we’re going to beat back leviathan.

19 Responses to “Food Control, Out of Control”

  1. There’s a reason “libertarian organization” is an oxymoron–way too much individualism! Sad to say, the crowd that ends up in politics tends to be…unique. My wife worked for Citizens For The Republic, Reagan’s organization between his 1976 and 1980 runs for President. She got to know a lot of people who later went on to important government jobs. An “interesting” bunch, that’s for sure.

  2. Here’s a thought: the reason that sugary soft drinks are a problem is an shortage of parents prepared to set some limits on their kids. This wasn’t a problem when I was young–but then again, my generation still had full-time parents.

  3. Sebastian says:

    I thought there was an article, maybe around 2000 timeframe, about the California State Libertarian Party Convention being made up almost entirely of potheads who were pushing legalization. It may have been an Onion article, but the fact that I’m not sure highlights the problem.

  4. Sebastian says:

    That might be, but I’d rather pay the cost of fat kids and live in a mostly free society with free markets in soft drinks than allow the Government to come in and regulate in place of parents.

  5. Alpheus says:

    I remember a local-to-Utah talk-show host who said that high-fructose corn syrup is a gift of God, because it allowed us to make so much food so cheaply. Later, I learned that one reason that high-fructose corn syrup was so cheap, is that corn is heavily subsidized by the government.

    While I would agree that something like this could be a gift of God, if it came about naturally, I’m more inclined to think of it as a curse of Satan, if it came as a natural result of government interventionism!

    Which isn’t to say that corn syrup is the sole source of our problems (as Clayton Cramer pointed out)…but I see this as yet another example of something caused by government regulation, blamed on greedy businesses, resulting in cries that the “government do something!” that would most likely make the problem worse, and almost always results in the loss of our freedoms.

  6. Sebastian says:

    I’m no friend of agricultural subsidies either, or the protectionism corn receives in this country. The big issue you have there is the biggest corn state happens to play a very big factor in who wins the presidency.

  7. Changing collective to coalition might be more palatable, but it still requires cat herding. Is there an effective way to break through to the all-or-nothing crowd?

  8. Sebastian says:

    I think the problem is broader than just pragmatists vs. all-or-nothingists… for lack of better terminology. It’s mostly an unwillingness, on the part of Libertarians, to put aside their personal feelings or agenda when coalition demands it (that is probably a better term)

    I’ll give you an example… a lot of folks in my district hate Mike Fitzpatrick. They thought Gloria Carlineo was the better candidate. So did I, which is why I voted for her. Now, NRA endorsed Fitz in the primary, and I’m an NRA volunteer. I had a few folks who wanted me to be public with the whole Carlineo thing, but I couldn’t be, without undermining NRA’s endorsement, which I would not do.

    But even though I personally did not vote for Fitz in the primary, I’ll back him in the general any way I can. He doesn’t have to be better than Gloria Carlineo, he just needs to be better than Patrick Murphy. Same with Sam Rohrer, though as much as I like Sam, I voted for Corbett because this race is too important to lose, and Corbett is a better campaigner and fundraiser than Rohrer.

    But you have plenty of people who can’t get over their candidate losing in the primary, and who’ve said they’re done with the 2010 election. As long as that’s the attitude, libertarians are always going to be a flash in the pan politically.

  9. Alpheus says:

    Come to think of it: this is the first year I participated in Utah’s caucus system. My experience was a little bizzare, but I did manage to become a County Delegate (I was hoping for State…) and I learned a lot in the process.

    One thing I noticed is that, if I had the time and was more familiar with the deadlines, I would have been able to attend the Libertarian Party’s State convention as well: I just needed to pay dues and show up! But I also noticed that they didn’t have local caucuses, and they didn’t have county conventions…so I’ve been wondering: how the heck will the Libertarian Party affect local politics?

    This is very important, because all politics is local.

  10. I don’t know what the California LP convention in 2000 was like. I was a delgate to one in the 1980s, and it wasn’t quite like that. I had one rather unpleasant conversation with one of the holier-than-thou sorts who was quite stoned, smoking a joint in one of the meetings.

    On the other hand, I also talked to LP activists had withdrawn from party activities for a while after one convention where another of the holier-than-thou sorts was walking around the convention floor dragging a Hefty trash bag full of marijuana with him. (Personal consumption only, I’m sure.)

    Part of how the LP managed to get ballot status in California in 1979 is that some of their activists had gone to Venice Beach with a big sign that said, “Legalize pot here,” and had those who showed up sign a petition to put the LP on the ballot. My guess is that a fair number of the signers had not a clue what they were signing–and surprise, surprise, many of those who registered Libertarian because of this were impossible to find when I was trying to find campaign workers in 1980. It isn’t clear how many of them had moved, or had simply given false names.

  11. But you have plenty of people who can’t get over their candidate losing in the primary, and who’ve said they’re done with the 2010 election. As long as that’s the attitude, libertarians are always going to be a flash in the pan politically.

    That’s one of the dangers of highly ideological movements–you get people that are so certain of their rightness on principles that soon, everything becomes a matter of principle, and those who disagree are evil or at least wrong.

    The movie Reds, about the origins of the Communist Party, came out during the time that I was an LP activist–and several LP activists who went to see it commented how much its depiction of the internal struggles of the nascent Communist Party reminded them of the internal politics of the LP. The difference, of course, is that LP members aren’t prepared to murder people to get their way.

  12. Alpheus says:

    That’s one of the things I find frustrating about the LP in general: I’m attracted to it for idealogical reasons, but it seems that those idealogical reasons are also the reasons that keep the LP from gaining any traction!

    That, and the entrenched two-party system we have to deal with…

  13. I think the problem is broader than just pragmatists vs. all-or-nothingists… for lack of better terminology. It’s mostly an unwillingness, on the part of Libertarians, to put aside their personal feelings or agenda when coalition demands it

    I see it as the same thing. If they can’t have all of what they want right now, they take their toys and go, rather than take what they can get, then reach for more. It’s part of how the LP drives people away in my area.

    Gun culture has the same problem. I’m not sure how to convince them incrementalism has better track record.

  14. Sebastian says:

    I think ideological libertarians are better off working within the major parties. More often than not, it’s going to mean the GOP. The problem with a lot of them in that realm is that the GOP has social conservatives as part of its coalition, which some libertarians find impossible to deal with.

    I think that’s often short sighted. The left has generally supported far broader restrictions on freedom than social conservatives. In a so-con world, TX could still have sodomy laws they hardly ever enforce, I couldn’t get an abortion, or get gay married. Well heck, that’s going to ruin my weekend plans!

    But tell me I can’t have tools to defend myself, and you’re going to eat what we tell you… that’s pretty fundamental.

  15. Sebastian says:

    You can’t escape it the problem completely, CapitalistPig but the question is how much it consumes the movement. We still have the issue in guns, but it hasn’t stopped us from being effective. I suspect because we have so many single issue voters in this issue.

    My current state rep relayed a story about a guy who came out of the voting booth with his NRA magazine, saying he would have voted for him if he hadn’t been a “?” on NRA’s candidate rankings in the magazine. The ? was a result of a campaign screwup, apparently causing him to call his campaign manager and say “We better not lose this by one vote, because I know where that vote just went.” Truth is there are millions of those folks out there. That’s why we win.

    In issues like, say, legalizing pot, I suspect most of the casual devotees to the issue are too stoned to make it out to the voting booth on the election day.

  16. The big problem we have is honestly not from the left, but from conservatives and libertarians themselves.

    I disagree, Sebastian.

    As a libertarian, I would be more than happy to vote for a Republican if I could find one that wouldn’t screw me as soon as he got the chance.

    As you keenly noted, Republicans could care less about liberty, only about being the ones holding the knife that slices the ever-growing pie.

  17. Sebastian says:

    Yes, but who is getting to pick the people you don’t want to vote for?

  18. “As a libertarian, I would be more than happy to vote for a Republican if I could find one that wouldn’t screw me as soon as he got the chance.”

    Sad to say, social conservatives have the same problem! People get elected, and it takes a very strong character to not become completely corrupted by the money, alcohol, beautiful young men and women, and other blandishments that the rich and powerful have to make you help them stay rich and powerful.

    Perhaps it is good that I am unelectable.

  19. “In a so-con world, TX could still have sodomy laws they hardly ever enforce, ”

    Keep in mind that both of the cases that went to the Supreme Court on this issue, Bowers v. Hardwick, and the Texas case, were the result of truly remarkable circumstances. The Georgia case was because a peace officer was serving a warrant in a house, and saw two guys going at it through an open door. (The phrase “Get a room” implies, “and close the door.”) The Texas case involved a false report of a crime in progress–and I find myself wondering, from reading the account, if it was a setup to have a reason to challenge the law.

    Even in Colonial times, when this was a capital crime, there are few cases. Why? Because if it was consensual, neither party is going to confess to it and risk getting the noose. If it isn’t consensual, you would have to be not only a rapist, but a rapist with a death wish.

    The abortion laws would certainly have a MUCH larger impact on the lives of ordinary people. The fight against sodomy laws had more to do with self-esteem than any actual criminal charges, for a group with serious self-esteem problems.

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