Now that I’ve had some time to reflect, and to digest the comments on my previous post, I’d like to take another stab at answering the question I posed about what “the real message” of authorities was in the Stowers raid.
I suggested it may have had to do with concerns about the growth of herdshares, co-ops, buying clubs, and other such approaches consumers are devising to gain access to nutrient-dense foods, and I still do think that’s part of it. But I also think it’s likely bigger than that.
I was struck by a comment in the podcast from the Buckeye Institute (which, along with the Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund, is providing legal representation to the Stowers and Manna Storehouse), in which Maurice Thompson of the Buckeye Institute explains the legal and circumstantial background of the case. He says in the interview that he spoke briefly with a Lorain County health official who said he “didn’t like the tone” of a letter the Stowers family had written to health officials a year earlier, requesting further information on why the Manna Storehouse should be considered a retail establishment.
Back before the Civil Right movement of the 1960s, Southern law enforcement officials would frequently use that same excuse for arresting and prosecuting blacks—they weren’t “respectful enough” or were “acting uppity.”
I also remembered something the California regulator I reported on last month had said: “’The scientific evidence on the health benefits (of raw milk) are not accepted by the scientific community,’ she said. So its attitude is, ‘Why can’t you just pasteurize raw milk?’” The frustration in the comment was obvious.
It’s almost as if these exasperated officials are telling us: After all we do for you, making sure all food dealers are licensed, and making sure your milk is pasteurized, and inspecting meat plants to be sure your meat is safe, this is the appreciation you show? It’s like something a parent sometimes says to a disrespectful teenager—We give you this car and new clothes and send you to private school, and this is how you pay us back?
I sense a good deal of that going on in Washington to cope with the financial crisis. Congress rejected a bailout of the auto industry a couple weeks ago, so President Bush, the supreme regulator, stepped in and gave the industry its bailout money anyway. “Hey, I know Mom wouldn’t give you the money, son, but sometimes her judgment is a little off, so here’s $17 billion, go have a good time.”
And then last week, the Federal Reserve, the regulators of our money supply, lowered the interest rate to nearly zero, as if to say, “You silly consumers and business owners think you don’t want to borrow, that maybe you want to be more responsible and save some money? Well, let us tell you, you’re going to borrow, because… because… how could you not want to borrow when we’re making it so attractive, and besides, you’re just going to because…because…we know it’s the best thing for all of us.”
There’s an excellent article in today’s Wall Street Journal by money expert James Grant, which says in part: “The public has been slow to anger in this costliest and scariest of post World War II financial crises…But pointing fingers rarely find the Federal Reserve, whose low, low interest rates helped to set house prices levitating in the first place.”
Okay, enough philosophizing. How do you deal with regulators who are so full of their self importance and omnipotence that they will wave guns at women and children? Mark McAfee has an excellent suggestion about farmers and food co-op directors having video cameras at the ready. I also think, as several people make clear following my previous post, there is a need for a more organized response.
Maybe a way to get started is to begin viewing herdshares and food co-ops and food buying clubs not just as access vehicles to food, but as political organizations. They require financial support, and a political orientation. The latter may include preparedness training for government raids and regulatory actions–in addition to having the video cameras ready, providing instant text messages to members to assemble and protest during police raids, rehearsing how to handle harassing regulatory inspections, and organizing followup demonstrations at the offices of regulators who have conducted raids. It’s time to begin turning the tables on our wardens.