March 25, 2009
In mid-February, Joel Berg, the author of All You Can Eat: How Hungry is America, was addressing a gathering of people who have been involved in efforts to distribute surplus food to low-income families in Central Texas, mostly through food banks and food pantries. Berg cited various examples where government action had provided real improvements in American life. He especially focused on public health improvements resulting from advances in local water distribution systems and better wastewater systems – what we used to call sewage. Goodbye cholera outbreaks. Can’t argue with that. Yellow fever anyone? Nothing that a lot of DDT won’t fix . . . not for us but for those pesky mosquitoes. Of course, species higher up the food chain, specifically raptors like the celebrated Peregrine Falcon, were almost wiped out because the toxic chemical caused their eggs to become brittle and then break too easily. Some might argue that you have to break a few eggs to make a human civilization omelet. Fortunately, we figured out the problem and the raptors are making a comeback. You haven’t lived until you’ve seen one of these magnificent birds in flight.
|House Resolution 875 is so broad that it will give the federal government control of the production and distribution of all food in this nation.|
Anyway, back to Berg. He also said that despite the well-meaning efforts of bucket brigades, cities burned down from time to time before government brought us professional fire departments. Everyone loves a good fire . . . unless it’s your house burning down. Even volunteer fire departments now get professional equipment and training. No argument there.
Speaking of arguments, however, Berg’s attempt at a persuasive argument had a major flaw. He committed a classic logical fallacy. In the World of Logic (think Mr. Spock) this fallacy is called a “hasty generalization.” This is the fallacy of examining a few examples, or studying only a single case, and generalizing these to be representative of the whole class of objects or phenomena. The famous French novelist, Alexandre Dumas, put it rather succinctly: “All generalizations are dangerous, even this one.” That’s the kind of statement that would make an android fry his brain circuits. To put it into more down-to-earth terms, according to Berg, if some government is good, more government is better. Or, from another perspective, since some government-backed projects have had good results, how could you go wrong with another project, and another, and another . . .
So where, exactly, did Berg go wrong? Essentially, he argued that we need government to ensure that people don’t go hungry in America. He claimed that Lyndon Johnson’s War on Poverty cut the poverty rate in half, a statement which might be an example of another logical fallacy. Forget the fancy name. Suffice it to say that just because two things are closely correlated in time, it does not follow that one caused the other. A lot of factors come into play when one examines the complex issues of the 1960’s.
Keep in mind that during the 1960’s there was a general upsurge in the national economy, fueled by defense spending to support the war in Southeast Asia. It is not my purpose to get into all the conflicting claims about the success or failure of LBJ’s War on Poverty. There are enough statistics to support opposite conclusions and everything in-between. Mark Twain said it best when he popularized this saying: “There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.” Amen, brother.
Nevertheless, if you take money from one group of people and give it to another group of people, the receiving group appears to make economic progress. By that thinking, home burglary is a good strategy. After all, it improves the living standard of the burglar and his family, does it not? I don’t believe, however, that we should advocate taking from some and giving to others as a viable government policy designed to raise the living standard of the population as a whole. Essentially, this government-backed strategy involves endorsing something that, if practiced by individuals is a crime, but if done by the government is legal. That stinks. Forcing someone to be charitable is immoral. If you want to give money away do it with your own money, not mine. I prefer to decide the manner and amount of my charitable giving. I want to support the personal growth and development of people, not turn them into economic slaves, which our current welfare system does so efficiently.
Following Mr. Berg, Congressman Lloyd Doggett took to the stage and pronounced to the audience that “help is on the way.” Whew. What a relief. I was afraid that the government was going to leave it up to us to solve the problem they created in collusion with the bankers by repealing the major provisions of the Glass-Steagall Act in 1999. That allowed fractional reserve banking and investment speculation to go berserk. Having a 10% reserve to back up their loans was just too harsh. Why not make it unlimited? Reminds me of the pathological liar played by Jon Lovitz on Saturday Night Live . . . “Yeah. That’s the ticket!” It also reminds me of the phrase that should strike fear into the hearts of every decent person: “I’m with the government and I’m here to help.” No thanks. You’ve done enough already. Really. You don’t need to worry yourself about me. Just go away and leave me alone. Go back to your phony and interminable wars on poverty, drugs, and terrorism. Wait, on second thought, why don’t you stop that insanity also?
But no. Now comes the real help. House Resolution 875 was introduced in Congress on February 4th “to establish the Food Safety Administration within the Department of Health and Human Services to protect the public health by preventing foodborne [sic] illness, ensuring the safety of food, improving research on contaminants leading to food-borne illness, and improving security of food from intentional contamination, and for other purposes.”
It’s those “other purposes” that are especially worrisome. And how do you protect food from “intentional contamination?” If someone really wants to contaminate the food supply, do you think that even the severest form of police state could prevent it? Not likely. The best we can hope for in such a case is to track down the guilty parties after the fact and make an example out of them. Perhaps feed them on a diet of food contaminated in the same manner? That would be justice but we don’t live in a world of justice. All around the world people go to jail for injuring or killing people who break into their homes and businesses, intent on theft and bodily harm. Marijuana smokers go to jail, but people who steal billions of dollars from hard-working investors may not even go to prison. If they do, it won’t be the kind of prison they deserve.
[efoods]Back to the proposed new agency: Among the “findings” of The Food Safety Modernization Act of 2009, as it has been styled, is this: “The safety and security of the food supply require a systemwide [sic] approach to prevent food-borne illness involving the integrated efforts of Federal, State and local agencies; a thorough, broad-based, and coordinated approach to basic and applied science; and intensive, effective, and efficient management of the Nation’s food safety program.”
Sounds nice but the reality is that this law is so broad that it will give the federal government control of the production and distribution of all food in this nation. No thanks.
Here are only a few points to consider:
If you like buying shrimp right off the shrimp boats in Corpus Christi, too bad for you.
If you like to buy fresh produce from your local farmer’s market, too bad for you.
If you like growing food in your own garden or in a community garden, or if you like to buy organically produced eggs from a local farmer, you will be flat out of luck.
So the same folks who brought you the Social Security Administration and the out-of-control EPA – which harasses property-owners who have the misfortune of harboring some “endangered” species, but which does nothing to the real polluters of the earth – will bring you a new, giant, powerful agency. Hands up! Drop your garden hoe! We’re the Food Police!
Can the Thought Police be far behind?
HR 875 may get swept through Congress like the Bailout Bill in October and the recent Stimulus Bill with no opportunity to examine it or have a public debate about its provisions. When combined with the National Animal Identification System (NAIS), which the feds are trying to make mandatory, this law will drive small farmers out of business. Sounds like a good plan . . . if you own stock in Monsanto or other giant, global firms whose policies are ruining small scale agriculture around the world. Wake up! Agriculture is the foundation of all civilizations. The only realistic solution to the genetic and chemical poisoning of our food supply is locally produced and organic farming. With a little training, anyone can learn how to grow their own high-quality food, even apartment dwellers.
I don’t know about you, but I absolutely do not trust the future of my food supply to the federal government. If you choose to follow that path, knock yourself out, but don’t interfere in my right to grow my own food or to buy food from people I trust. I’ll take my chances with the occasional contamination, just like I take my chances on the highway when I drive. The world is not safe. No one will get out of it alive. However, if you really want to live, you have to be willing to take a few chances. Government cannot and should not attempt to protect you from all hazards.
Gardens will help. You had better get on the ball and get back to the earth. It’s the only way you can control your own destiny. While you’re at it, call your state and federal representatives and say NO! to this thinly-veiled attempt to eliminate our precious right to food choice.
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