It is becoming painfully clear that the United States government wants our nation to be a “nanny state.” As The Lancaster Patriot’s Michael Yoder reported, Amos Miller, a local farmer, is just the latest to fall under the crosshairs of a federal government bent on regulating our lives into oblivion.
A nanny state is one wherein government officials view their role as protecting us from our own choices. By usurping authority over the details of our lives, the nanny state attempts to replace both God and the individual conscience.
It is revealing that food production is one area the government (both state and national) seems to regulate the most. Why is that? The nanny state would have us believe that it regulates food because it cares for us and wants us to be healthy.
I’m not buying it. There is a more prosaic motive involved: control.
Henry Kissinger, former United States Secretary of State, hit the nail on the head: “Control food and you control people.”
Not only does regulating (controlling) our food supply provide the government with the means to keep us under their thumb, but it also funds the twin leviathans of both federal and state government.
In truth, we don’t need the government to regulate our food; they need us to fund their gargantuan bureaucracy.
Our nation has devolved into a nanny state because the government needs the money. The Anti-Federalists, 18th century opponents of a controlling central government, warned that this would happen. In fact, the Federalists (those who were in favor of a powerful, centralized government) argued that the government must collect money which “the necessities of the public might require.”
In other words, “Let us tax and regulate you, so that we can take care of you.” Behold, the nanny state.
But this is not the ideal of freedom laid down in the Bible or espoused by the more discerning of our founding fathers.
The vision of liberty and prosperity we ought to aspire to is presented in Micah 4:4: “But they shall sit every man under his vine and under his fig tree; and none shall make them afraid: for the mouth of the Lord of hosts hath spoken it.”
Freedom to produce, sell, and consume the bounty of the earth. There is nothing more fundamental to human flourishing and freedom than food. As John W. Moody points out, protecting our right to make our own food choices is even more fundamental than our right to keep and bear arms. If we cannot eat, we cannot do anything else, least of all protect ourselves and our families.
The solution is not more government regulation of our food, but less.
Alas, proponents of the nanny state will appeal to three claims in their quest for our submission to their control of our lives.
Let’s examine them briefly.
Lie #1: ‘We Know What’s Best for You’
The great deception of the nanny state is that Big Brother knows what is best for you. You cannot make your own choices, so we will make them for you. Nowhere is this devilish perversion of liberty more evident than in the government’s quest to control our food.
Unsurprisingly, in George Orwell’s dystopian novel, 1984, Big Brother has taken control of the food production. One of Winston and Julia’s clandestine rendezvous reveal them secretly enjoying real food, otherwise banned by the government. “Real sugar. Not saccharine, sugar,” Julia exults. “And here’s a tin of milk,” she adds.
Their black-market banquet reminds me of the “illegal” raw milk I would regularly purchase for my family when living in another state.
No, the government does not know what is best for us, least of all when it comes to nutrition.
Lie #2: ‘We Will Keep You Safe’
Does government regulation lead to increased food safety? Unlikely. In fact, it is more likely to lead to an overall decrease in food safety (and quality). Economist Murray Rothbard pointed this out regarding the meat industry: “Government meat inspection…lures the public into always thinking the food is safe and reduces competitive pressures to improve meat quality.”
A government stamp of approval—which often means some pencil pusher in Washington or Harrisburg simply collected a fee and obtained a signature—is heralded as the great preserver of food safety. Citizens nursing at the bosom of the obese nanny state are apt to accept the government’s “approval” of what they can eat. But many of us who have not shut our eyes to the government’s malfeasance are not so sure. Rather than trusting an inept government to tell us what is “safe” to eat, we would rather make our own food choices. Thanks, but no thanks, Uncle Sam.
And that is what many of us do. And that is what Amos Miller and others like him provide. We do not need the government to tell us what is safe to eat and drink. We can make our own choices. Despite the narrative spun by local media, Amos Miller’s consumers seem to be quite happy to buy food that is not regulated by the federal government.
In fact, if Miller’s consumers sensed a threat, they could self-regulate and voluntarily stop purchasing the food. As Dr. Gary North wrote, “The free market is a self-regulating system for maintaining consumer sovereignty, meaning the authority of the buyer. It is based on the principle of service to consumers.”
Lie #3: ‘Without Us, There Would Be Chaos’
In 1788, William Grayson lamented the tactics of those arguing for a powerful, centralized government: “We have been told of phantoms and ideal dangers to lead us into measures which will, in my opinion, be the ruin of our country.”
We, too, have been told of phantoms.
The phantom that without the government regulating farmers like Amos Miller, we will all get sick and die. Or the phantom that if the free market is left unmolested our meat will not be fit for human consumption.
On the contrary, it is the government’s regulatory tyranny that is leading to a decrease in food production, quality, and safety.
Yes, we’ve been told of phantoms. But as the sagacious Ray Parker, Jr. put it, “I ain’t ‘fraid of no ghost.”
For 6,000 years people got along without the FDA, the USDA, or the CDC, telling them what to eat. More recent advances in hygiene, medicine, and nutrition—and the concomitant increase in overall health—were not because of government regulation, but because of the spread of knowledge, often due to the work of explicitly Christian scientists, and the innovation that a free market brings.
Big Corporations: The Sometimes Allies of the Nanny State
The problem big corporations can pose is not because of free market capitalism, but rather government manipulation of the market (i.e., the opposite of free market capitalism). For example, Rothbard points out that it was the big meat packers themselves who agitated for increased regulation, as they knew it would hurt their smaller competitors. As a result, the increase in meat packing regulations in the early 1900s ended up lowering production, restricting competition, and raising prices to the consumers. “It, furthermore, socializes the cost of inspection to satisfy consumers by placing the burden upon the taxpayers instead of on the producers themselves,” Rothbard added.
Amos Miller is not the CEO of a multi-million-dollar corporation. He is a local farmer providing food to private buyers. The nanny state does not exist to preserve Amos Miller’s liberty to serve his neighbor. It does not exist to help you and me. It exists at the behest of government bureaucrats and certain anti-capitalistic corporations interested in consolidating their profits under the umbrella of “government regulation.” In the end, such a nanny state will consume the supposed children under her care.
True freedom means we are at liberty to do good to our neighbor. Farmers like Amos Miller are doing just that. Regrettably, our nanny doesn’t think we are mature enough to serve our neighbors with non-government approved food.
But our nanny is a tyrant. And we are old enough to do without her.
Chris Hume is the managing editor of The Lancaster Patriot. Follow @ChrisHume1689 on Twitter.