Have you ever heard the phrase, “if you like laws or sausage don’t watch either of them being made?” In my journey into food politics, I have had the opportunity to learn more than I ever thought possible about laws and regulations, (and politicians and regulators). Why does this matter? Why should anyone even engage rather than spending time farming or cooking? As farmer and activist Joel Salatin so aptly points out in his book, Everything I Want To Do Is Illegal, it is absurdly difficult for farmers to get their food to customers and the constantly expanding regulatory process makes it more difficult each year. In addition to supporting our farmers, when food freedom is on the political chopping block, we all benefit from learning the process so that we can engage the system effectively. We need to act to defeat bills that infringe on our freedom to peacefully obtain the foods of our choice from the producer of our choice. Or to repeal laws that add impossible regulatory burden on the farmers who feed us. I encourage you to view legislation and the political process not as the solution, but as an addition to the dialogue about peace, liberty and food; it is part of a bigger picture, and a resource that we can all use to bring the conversation for food freedom to everyone’s table.
My Journey Into Food Politics
I’ll admit it: when I first entered into the politics of food, I was terrified. Literally, terrified. I had NEVER seen myself as someone who could, would or needed to engage in the political process for any reason. I did not even know what the state legislature was. My ignorance ended abruptly when a couple of bureaucrats took away my cow share—my source for raw milk—by changing a definition in one regulation. My source of fresh, grassfed, raw milk from a farmer I knew and trusted disappeared overnight.
I had my first baby at 21, my second one two years later. I thought I wanted to take care of my babies, finish school, hang out with other moms, cook, be crafty and fun and do the whole “mom” thing. My life took a turn when my oldest daughter had digestive issues for which no doctor could find a cause, or suggest how to help her. So I turned to alternatives. From friends and my own research, I learned that raw milk from grassfed cows was my best option to relieve my daughter of her discomfort and digestive challenges. And it worked. Beautifully! Shortly after making the switch, my daughter was healthy, happy and vibrant! I was a happy momma. Then, a guy sitting in an office somewhere decided that he knew better than I did what was best for my babies. He used his position of self-perceived authority as a bureaucrat to take away my freedom to feed my family and myself as I see fit. This blatant perversion of the political process, utter disrespect for personal liberty and arrogant posturing from bureaucrats is what launched me into my ever-expanding political journey for food freedom.
Over time, my experiences have repeatedly reinforced the notion that bureaucrats use their positions to impose their world-view on other people while always posturing, and sometimes enforcing, the threat of violence for non-compliance.
What Is a Bureaucrat Anyway?
As Washington State Senator Harold Hochstatter said, “The issue is not the issue. Who decides the issue is the issue. If you decide the issue you are a free man. If a politician decides the issue you can un-elect him, but if a bureaucrat decides the issue you are his pawn and practically without recourse.”
When I was in high school, I got the basic civics class—the three branches of government, the “checks and balances,” but that was about it. There was little discussion and no teaching on how to engage in the political process – other than voting. Being involved in the real political process, I learned quickly that I had learned little in my official education. Most notably, I did not know what a “bureaucrat” was, what distinguishes them from other government officials, or in what function they ‘serve the people’. (Or even how to spell the word! Learning to spell it has taken almost as much time as learning about the political process.)
For others who might be in the same position I was, a bureaucrat is anyone who works at any of the executive level agencies or “bureaucracies.” They are also called “agents” in some cases like “agriculture extension agents.” Bureaucracies are referred to as “agencies” or “departments.” There are bureaucrats on the federal and state levels.
It was a revelation to me, when I finally learned that the legislative branch, that is supposed to be responsible for making our laws through a process known as parliamentary procedure, essentially makes laws giving the statutory authority to the agencies to create “rules” or “regulations” that govern every aspect of our lives. These regulations, which are not voted on by any elected official, are put into place as law and carry the weight of law. When unelected, unaccountable bureaucrats make all the rules for the rest of us, the result is what I have fondly termed a Bureaucratic Oligarchy. I don’t like it. It puts too much power in the hands of too few people. While the usually eloquent figureheads of bureaucracies change with administrations, the main administrators stay in the agencies and they are the ones that make the ‘little’ rules that run our lives. It gives them too much power!
Losing Hope and Gaining More…
Early on working in politics, I was easily discouraged when the process did not favor food freedom. I saw laws go into effect that destroyed farms and families. I witnessed as regulations crush livelihoods and ruined dreams. I saw the blatant corruption of the political process as bureaucracies and monopolistic corporations “won” repeatedly. But then I began to see an alternative, something that gave me great hope and a refreshed vigor. It was not what happened within the political process, but what was happening simultaneously on the outside, often because of the political process. What I saw was grassroots in action. And it worked! I grew hope and was re-inspired. Together we can and do make a difference! To be continued in Part 2…
Wherever you are in your personal journey toward clean living and local food, thank you for joining me in mine. I look forward to sharing it with you.