"Wisconsin raw-milk supporters say people are getting the product directly from farms illegally, and that allowing the practice would make it safer because regulations would be put in place to monitor the sales."
J\S Online article on regulated raw milk
"The liberties of our country, the freedom of our civil Constitution, are worth defending at all hazards; and it is our duty to defend them against all attacks. We have received them as a fair inheritance from our worthy ancestors: they purchased them for us with toil and danger and expense of treasure and blood, and transmitted them to us with care and diligence. It will bring an everlasting mark of infamy on the present generation, enlightened as it is, if we should suffer them to be wrested from us by violence without a struggle, or to be cheated out of them by the artifices of false and designing men."
Of course, the law as such prevents people from doing some things they might want. For example, the common law of torts (which is what you use when you sue someone for damages) exists to resolve conflicts between people: it forbids, in effect, that we assault or injure others by force. It enforces the principle of live and let live.
By contrast, regulation goes further: it prescribes how to live. If you live in Washington, D.C. or London, where there are height restrictions on construction, you are forbidden to build, and therefore live, in a skyscraper. In New York City and throughout California, you can't choose the fat content of restaurant food: the government sets limits for you. Regulation covers wide swaths of the economy. Anti-trust regulation decrees how businesses may talk to each other and set production levels, ownership, and prices. Pharmaceutical regulation controls what chemicals may be legally sold as medicines and who may prescribe them. Industry regulations in agriculture, transport, energy generation, mining, children's products, and many other fields mandate certain technologies and forbid others.
The trouble with regulation is that it makes what was worth something worth less, or even worthless (as in the processing of milk which makes it nutritionally worthless to many). But regulation doesn't just impose the costs of paperwork. Using mandated methods, it interfere's with our very ability to value. This is because regulation prevents people from choosing.
"Value is that which one acts to gain and/or keep," wrote Ayn Rand. A bee searches out pollen: the pollen is a value to it. A plant sends out roots to get water: the water is a value to the plant. For humans, the issue is similar, though made more complex by the fact that we have free will. We must make a choice whether to act for a goal or to not act. Our reasoning minds are our ultimate means of guiding choices: we only truly value something if we judge it to be good and choose it on that basis. To be objective, one’s judgment must take in all the relevant facts, referring back to man's life as the standard of ethics and to one’s own individual life as the goal and context of one’s actions.
When our ability to choose is curtailed, so is our ability to value.
When we value, we prefer one thing to another. Knowing that we have made a good choice depends on knowing what the other possibilities are. It depends on knowing the broader context.
Regulation often follows a typical pattern. It begins by enforcing a practice that most sensible people choose anyway. But as time passes, technologies change, tastes change, and wealth changes, rendering what was sensible in the past, senseless in the present.
Regulation creates relations of irresponsibility. The government makes a regulation, forcing you, on penalty of fine or imprisonment, to accept certain practices that the government chose. And then, if those practices blow up in your face, who bears the cost? You do. Health and nutrition regulators are experimenting world-wide with new dietary laws: in Europe, genetically modified food is out. In U.S. cities, there is a growing campaign to ban certain fats, or to mandate the right kinds of fats to eat. These rules rob you of the ability to choose your own food. Yet who will be malnourished if you choose wrong? Who will go hungry if food prices are too high, or if unprotected crops succumb to disease? You will.
Since the Great Depression, Americans have been taught to look to the government to shield them from private vice, private miscalculation, and private malfeasance. Private investors have lost their shirts in the current financial collapse, and pundits howl that corporate CEOs are to blame (and to be sure, many are). But who goosed the money supply to create the bubbles? Who put themselves in loco parentis over the financial system? Who held the power? The Federal Reserve did. The SEC did. The Congress did. Yet who bore the responsibility? You did.
There is a different way to live. We can take responsibility for ourselves. We can invigorate our public institutions by rooting our society in the right of the individual to live and chart his own course in life. Then advice about fat can be just that: advice. Then knowledge can grow about diet and about all the arrangements we need to make in life, shared through companies and organizations that have customers, not subjects.