by Michael Maharrey

Modern American’s seem to have lost sight of essential truths clear to the country’s founders more than 200 years ago.

Today, everybody from mega agribusinesses executives to consumer advocates are lauding the Senate for passing a massive overhaul of the “food-safety” system. The legislation would grant broader inspection power to the F.D.A., allow the government to mandate product recalls, oversee farming and regulate the food production industry to an even greater degree.

“Everyone who eats will benefit,” said Caroline Smith DeWaal, food safety director of the Center for Science in the Public Interest, an advocacy group. “F.D.A. will have new tools to help ensure that we have a safer food supply that causes fewer outbreaks and illnesses.”

Benjamin Franklin would have likely taken a different view.

“They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.”

In fact, the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act represents yet another massive expansion of federal power, much of it unconstitutional. (And before you send me emails justifying this monstrosity based on the commerce clause, please do us both a favor and do a little research on the meaning of commerce as understood by the framers. Click here.)

Sadly, if history provides any insight at all, and it usually does, this act will do nothing to actually protect the American people. It will instead serve as a tool for big corporations to gain a competitive advantage over small, local farms and food producers. Don’t believe me? Ask yourself this – why else would big companies support legislation that on its face will exact huge costs in time, money and resources?

And it will also give politicians and bureaucrats yet another lever to maneuver and manipulate for their own purposes.

True to form, power hungry politicians and progressive thinkers have churned up the American public with scare tactics to gin up support for another expansion of government power –  as always, at the expense of liberty.

Proponents say the act will protect Americans from foodborne illnesses. But does the problem justify such a massive, expensive, intrusive cure?

Not really.

According the the Centers For Disease Control, only about 1,500 people per year die from salmonella and other known foodborne pathogens. Another 3,500 people die  from illnesses stemming from unknown foodborne pathogens. Many of those deaths result from improper food handling and cooking after purchase.

Certainly, 5,000 deaths is 5,000 deaths too many. Nobody wants to see fellow Americans die. Nobody wants tainted food on grocery shelves. But protecting citizens from every danger, risk and threat is not the role of the federal government – or any government for that matter.

But nanny state politicians continue taking us for a spin on a never ending carousel. Several thousand deaths under a heavily regulated system creates the panic necessary to enact even more expansive, overreaching regulation.

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To live life invites the risk of death. No law, act or government edict can mitigate that reality. Franklin was right. When we begin looking to others for protection from every eventuality, we necessarily give up our freedom, and in the end enjoy no greater safety.

Alexander Hamilton wrote of the threat to liberty posed by war. His reasoning applies equally to government’s other attempts to “protect” its citizens.

“Safety from external danger is the most powerful director of national conduct. Even the ardent love of liberty will, after a time, give way to its dictates. The violent destruction of life and property incident to war, the continual effort and alarm attendant on a state of continual danger, will compel nations the most attached to liberty to resort for repose and security to institutions which have a tendency to destroy their civil and political rights. To be more safe, they at length become willing to run the risk of being less free.”

Note: the legislation passed 73-25. Click here to see how your Senators voted.

Mike Maharrey

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