Last night I went to see the documentary Farmageddon in Chicago.
I also stayed for the full panel discussion. The film is shocking. Documentaries are supposed to shock you. Michael Moore has made millions presenting slanted facts to us.
Documentaries are designed to get you to do something. This documentary illustrates the plight of the organic farmer, specifically the organic dairy farmer. If a dairy farmer wants to sell raw milk, they will be run out of business and many times imprisoned by the federal bureaucracy.
The USDA actively tries to run Raw Milk Producers out of the business. They work closely with agents from state agricultural agencies. The documentary shows film of agents descending on various organic farms and outlets, guns drawn, SWAT teams present.
It’s straight out of science fiction and something that you can’t believe happens in America. I can understand a huge police presence when going after a drug lord, but a family farmer? Sure, farmers keep guns but in my experience they aren’t violent people.
There is a controversy raging over raw milk. The FDA says it’s bad for you and is using the long arm of the government to put them out of business and keep you from getting it. Combine the FDA/USDA brutality with the typical bureaucratic revolving door, and you have the seeds planted for a conspiracy theory.
It seems to me that this whole thing could be settled by some unbiased scientific experiments. Academics in the Ag community that are unpaid by either special interest group ought to start some trials on people. It seems to me it would be easy to also go to farms, both factory and small, and test for bacteria where it matters.
Do it randomly and create a large enough sample size (minimum of 33 times) to make the resulting statistics relevant. Then we could point to scientific data and decide.With regard to trials on people there only should be one test. Did you get sick from drinking raw milk or not? If they didn’t get any of the diseases that are talked about at the FDA website, why not allow raw milk production and sale? That was my only beef with the movie.
Lack of science. All the anecdotal stories are only hyperbole without actual data to back them up. But they do help you form a hypothesis. After seeing the movie, I want to experiment myself with raw milk. I have eczema, and wonder if drinking raw milk might help. It is said to help people with eczema. There isn’t any science right now to back up that claim, but I should be free to experiment on myself with a harmless agricultural product. I take fish oil and baby aspirin for my health, I ought to be able to drink raw milk to see if I am healthier by eating it. The movie though brings up a couple of themes that should resonate with Americans, especially when it comes to the 2012 elections.
Why aren’t we Free to Choose? Armed with information, why shouldn’t we be able to make those choices for ourselves whether we consume raw milk or not? Obamacare will take all those choices you make for your health care and institutionalize them. It’s not hard to imagine underground doctors giving banned medical treatments one day and government SWAT teams raiding their office.
The other point the movie makes is symptomatic of Big Banking, Big Pharma, Big Oil or Big Business taking roles in the federal bureaucracy and then slanting rules and regulations to help their former businesses, then leaving the bureaucracy and becoming re-employed in their former industry. The answer is not to change the system or have a counterbalance. The answer is to shrink or eliminate the system and its influence. How do you do that? Strangle it by cutting spending.
Don’t give the beast any money and it can’t operate. The additional option you must take is to change the dynamic by putting the power into the hands of individual decision makers and eliminating top down control. The situation not going to be any better if we don’t have big business involved with the government and have only academics for example.
The point is to create more choice for the individual. Right now, we constrain liberty in every facet of our lives because of the gigantic government apparatus that overseas every aspect of our lives. Constraining liberty is indifferent to who runs it. It is important to be safe-no one doubts that. But we can be “too safe”. Eventually that “too safe” attitude permeates even the most minute aspects of our lives.
The Chicago Police Department was arresting people for videotaping snow removal efforts on Lake Shore Drive after the big blizzard last winter. Does this make sense? The other broader point is this. The more we try big government programs to fix problems, the more it benefits big, gigantic business and kills off small business. It really doesn’t matter what industry you are in. Gigantic business can afford to find a way to use economies of scale and scope to overcome the cost of regulation.
The little guy can’t. One anecdote I heard was that in Virginia, small dairies were going out of business by the dozens. Milk was being imported from California to Virginia. The question I ask is “Why?”. Why can’t the dairy farmers of Virginia create enough economies of scale locally to overcome the cost of transporting milk from California? Something is wrong with the economics. It might be subsidies, might be regulation, but there is something incorrect. Or, on the other hand absent subsidy or regulation maybe the economics work out perfectly and the most efficient economic solution is for California milk to be sold in Virgina.
You don’t know by hearing an anecdote-you will know with data and numbers. The last point I want to make is that government regulation is deliberately killing off a whole industry that could create thousands of jobs across the country. Raw milk produces some of the best cheese known to mankind. If we allowed raw milk cheese production, raw milk yogurt production, raw milk butter, and raw milk ice cream an entire industry would be created. Existing dairy producers have set their production up to use pasteurized milk.
A new raw milk industry would give consumers a choice and alter industry economics. Once you see the movie, go read the book Free to Choose by Milton Friedman. Then brush up on your Coase Theorem. You will then understand that when the power lies in the individual to choose, with clearly designed property rights, whatever outcome two individuals decide on is the best for overall society. I think the raw milk debate is a textbook example of those concepts in action. ADDENDUM Here are two web pages on the pros and cons of raw milk. You can decide for yourself.