Safety Is Subjective… and Takes Away Our Liberty

Founder’s Note: Today’s essay from Joel Salatin really gets to the core of what we do here at Manward. He’s challenging the status quo and – in typical Joel fashion – demanding folks think long and hard about what our keepers in Washington say we can (and can’t) put in our bodies. Whether you live on 40 rural acres or in a swanky high-rise, it’s crucial that you pay close attention to what follows. Make no mistake… your Liberty is at stake.

Last week, I dealt with the self-regulating beauty of Uberization applied to food safety regulations. This week, I’m going to examine a different thread on this issue because it’s foundational to liberty.

As we live in a technologically advanced and science-worshipping culture, most Americans assume safety is some empirically recognized thing. Something is either safe or unsafe. What’s to argue?

Ben Franklin is credited with saying that societies willing to give up freedom for security get neither and deserve neither.

That’s a far cry from today’s ubiquitous regulatory market interventions in the name of safety, which is a close cousin to security. When we try to codify, either in legislation or regulation, a defined safety, it creates all sorts of problems.

In the name of food safety, we criminalize selling raw milk to a neighbor. But many of us view pasteurization as food adultery.

Plenty of science points to pasteurized milk as having fewer enzymes, causing more allergy problems and creating other issues. For every point a pasteurization proponent makes, you can find credible evidence for rebuttal. It’s definitely not a clear issue.

How about childhood vaccinations? There’s research that points to all sorts of maladies, including autism, as a direct result of modern vaccination regimens.

Modern medical orthodoxy, on the other hand, tries to ostracize, if not criminalize, a “no vaccine” parental decision.

Plenty of science exists to support both sides.

Unfortunately, the polarization pushes both sides to an extreme, and few talk about returning to the vaccination protocols of 60 years ago (far fewer vaccines, more spread out and given later in life.)

I could go on in this vein, but you get the picture. Good people debate both sides.

So what is a culture to do?

Safety Is Subjective

I happen to think high fructose corn syrup is far more deadly than raw milk. And in fact, the epidemiological evidence backs me up.

The problem is that nobody drops dead from high fructose corn syrup. They just get whacked up as elderly amputees when diabetes wreaks its havoc.

We know, every year, 50 children will drown in backyard swimming pools. That’s more deaths than have occurred from raw milk in a century… even with a prejudicial reporting system.

If we really cared about safety, we’d have a national lobby tomorrow to outlaw backyard swimming pools.

Obviously, we’re able to tolerate risk in some areas, but not others.

I don’t think squeezable cheese is safe… or factory-farmed chicken… or pesticides… or genetically modified organisms.

You won’t find me bungee jumping or wrestling deer from the runners of a helicopter in New Zealand.

Goodness, I don’t think it’s safe to put your kids in public school.

The point is safety is in fact not empirical – it’s not objective. It’s in fact highly subjective, and we get into strange discussions when we try to codify it.

It’s perfectly fine to feed your kids three cans of soda per day, each containing 16 tablespoons of sugar, but not one tablespoon of raw milk.

It’s fine to dump a ton of glyphosate (Roundup) on your soil because that’s safe, but an outdoor privy on your soil is unsafe, so it’s illegal.

A cheesemaker friend of mine is struggling with regulators right now over her well water. The food police say her unchlorinated well is unsafe. She’s tested it every year since she’s been in business, with nary one bad sample. She tests her cheese. She’s never had a single customer sickness complaint… ever. But in the name of “safety,” the government food police demand chlorination, which would ruin her purity and brand integrity. They say it’s too big a risk.

On our own farm, regulators told me that processing chickens outdoors was inherently unsanitary. Inspectors took the position that the air was inherently filthy.

I guess they’ve never gone on a picnic.

Interestingly, they took this position even after lab tests showed our chickens had 25 times fewer bacteria than their chlorinated, industrial, federally inspected counterparts in the supermarket.

An Abysmal Track Record

If you examine the government’s track record for identifying unsafe foods, it’s staggeringly abysmal.

How many decades did official government dieticians exhort us to do away with butter and lard and substitute them for “healthy” hydrogenated vegetable oil? How about antimicrobial soap? How about the notion that breastfeeding was Neanderthal and barbaric? How about the 1979 food pyramid, with crackers and Cheerios on the foundational level?

Now it’s genetically modified organisms, factory farming and of course the new techno-glitzy darling: nanoparticles coursing through our veins. Yum.

It should give us all pause to realize we would be a much healthier nation had the government never told us what to eat. Safe is a close cousin to healthy, too. Healthy is a nice way of saying nutritionally safe.

But that too is highly subjective. Some folks thrive on lower-protein diets, and others don’t. Some folks heal skin rashes and allergies with raw milk; others get digestive problems with it.

As well-intended as the consumer advocates might be… as sincere as the government oversight proponents may be… the bottom line is that codifying safety is a slippery slope toward tyranny and eliminating choice.

The other day a fellow told me he was sure glad we had building inspectors to make sure we had safe houses to live in. He said this standing in my kitchen, which is in a house built in 1790. I wonder how many government-inspected, “safe” houses built today will last more than 200 years?

These regulations do not make us more safe.

They simply give us a false sense of security and incentivize our laziness to not check things out for ourselves.

If the government says it’s okay, we trust it.

Forget knowing anything. Forget personal responsibility.

It gives us more time to connect with the Kardashians… and we all know that’s the most important thing.

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