Tonight's guest post comes to us from James Quigley. James very graciously wrote this at my request, however he has an agreement with the James River Journal to provide columns for them, so this was actually published there this past Monday.
James is the Chair of the Peninsula Libertarian Party covering Hampton and Newport News, Virginia. He is a former active duty military officer with time served in Iraq and Afghanistan, and is now serving as a contractor. He has a wife named Nicole and three children: Makenna, Emeline and Thomas. Mr. Quigley was also the 2010 Congressional candidate under the Libertarian ticket for the 3rd District of Virginia.
I want to thank him for sharing his insight with us about this topic that is so important to liberty and freedom.
The Food Freedom Movement
Libertarians have supported a strong and vibrant food freedom movement for many years, advocating for the rights of those attempting to produce food for both personal consumption and sale. The food freedom movement is largely focused on promoting organic foods in competition with processed foods. Our human bodies have evolved to consume nutrients from our food that is lost when food is heavily irradiated. We also consume chemicals that our bodies are not equipped to handle when ingesting food that was been treated with pesticides or preserving chemicals. Members of the food freedom movement are not seeking to force their own beliefs when it comes to food production, but instead are promoting access to organic and non-processed food sources.
People may prefer organic foods for a number of reasons, ranging from an individual’s concern over personal health to moral concerns. For instance, five years ago the USDA approved the selling of genetically modified rice that contains human proteins. A purchaser may decide not to buy and consume such rice due to concerns of long term health effects from this new technological breakthrough or because of a moral feeling that eating such rice may equate to a sort of light cannibalism. Ensuring that organic foods are easily accessible in the market place helps those who dissent from such a purchase.
Americans love large and powerful organizations, which has led to the reduction of individual and community rights. We’ve suffered an ever-expanding centralized government, along with much larger corporations over the last few years. Under our current American reality, large corporations purchase the favors of our Congressmen and state officials, who in turn give tax breaks and subsidies to the same corporations, fattening both government and favored corporations who play the game with ever increasing largess paid for by the citizenry. Corporate farms pay much less in taxes than their family-owned competitors, receive subsidies from the government and do not have to sell off pieces of their land to pay the “death tax” when their founder dies, unlike family owned farms. This allows the corporate farms a significant advantage over private business (as a business needs a ‘charter of incorporation’ from the government to become a corporation, granting it legal immunities a normal private business lacks. I consider a corporation to be a quasi-governmental entity and not a true capitalist private business). One of the costs of this merger of corporate and government interests has been the elimination of small, family owned farms and the regulations that prevent people from producing or selling certain food products. Government regulation has resulted in a black market for unpasteurized milk, where federal officers now raid private farms with the same kind of intensity of an illegal narcotics sting. Local regulations also impair family farms, usually because of concern over property values. For instance, a local land owner on state road 49 in New Kent County talked to me about how his land was no longer zoned for cattle, despite it being in his farming family for generations where they historically had used that same land for raising chickens and cows.
Because of unfair regulations, free passes when corporations break current regulations imposed on less powerful small farms, and because of tax loopholes, food production is now concentrated in the hands of the few. A decade of surging cases of obesity, diabetes and heart conditions have led to questions being asked about whether the food being produced by these few is fit for consumption. There have been greater calls for the government to intervene further in the market. A people unable to take care of themselves will support whoever provides for them, creating a situation where the citizens desire a larger government who offers to provide proper sustenance. It is ironic that the people are demanding action from the same body which caused the situation in the first place. Since government has been the cause of such inequality under the law, it should look internally for the cause of problems instead of creating more agencies, more tax loopholes and more regulations.
Libertarians and supporters of the free food movement are not asking for much. Just common sense rules and oversight that allows for greater independence in the food market and equality under the law.