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|Rawesome Foods Raid|
This raw milk controversy is bizarre, don't you think? After all, pasteurization was one of the greatest scientific discoveries of the 19th Century. It has saved countless lives. There's a very good reason why we pasteurize milk. It isn't just done on a whim. Raw milk can be dangerous, even deadly.
And it's not just a matter of individual rights, either, since people give raw milk to their children. Quite simply, you're not allowed to harm your children, even if you think you're doing the right thing. Would you let parents beat their children to drive out "demons"? Would you let parents deny their children medical care when they get really sick? Heck, would you even let parents deny their children an education, if they thought it was God's will? Society has an obligation to protect children, even from their own parents, when necessary.
Obviously, it's true that individual freedom is important, very important. There is always going to be a question about government regulation. Does it go too far? Does it go far enough? Yes, people have the right to decide most things for themselves, and yes, we the people need government regulation, since we are social animals who live and work together. We will never all agree on where to draw the line. Reasonable people can and will disagree.
But only unreasonable people will refuse to understand that both individual freedom and government regulation are necessary, and that it's not cut and dried where the line between them should be drawn. Personally, I think that raw milk fans are unscientific. It's just magical "New Age" thinking by fantasy-prone personalities who define "natural" as "good." In this case, I think the case for pasteurization is clear. But that doesn't mean I deny the importance of individual freedom. Of course not!
This reminds me of the debate about requiring people to use seat belts. When I was a kid, I didn't have a choice. I couldn't use a seat belt, because none of our cars had them. Well, they weren't required, and without that, they'd be expensive and very few people would opt to order them with a new car. Of course, my family bought used cars, and you just didn't find used cars with seat belts. It would be very expensive to install a custom-made seat belt, and they'd probably be quite unreliable, anyway. At any rate, when I was a kid, you just did without one of the simplest, most logical safety devices there are.
Eventually, new cars were required to have seat belts, but no one was required to use them. OK, in your own car, you could decide for yourself. But most of the time, whenever you rode as a passenger in someone else's car, the seat belts would be stuffed so far down down into the seat cushions that you couldn't find them. It was the same way with work vehicles, too. As a practical matter, seat belt usage often wasn't your choice (and almost never for kids).
And if you did have a choice, and you chose not to wear them? Well, that would cause insurance rates for everyone else to go up (insurance companies could tell when a car was equipped with seat belts, but not whether or not you used them). And even if you couldn't afford health care, hospitals would still care for you - again, increasing the costs for everyone else. Well, should they just let you bleed to death on the side of the road? Is that really the kind of society we want to live in?
Well, maybe you do. In Obion County, Tennessee, firefighters watched a family's house burn to the ground because their $75 subscription fee hadn't been paid. Yes, in this bizarre new world of ours, they're even privatizing fire departments. You see, if fire departments are supported by tax money, then the wealthy pay more than the middle class, and the middle class pay more than the poor. Oh, no! That's just socialism! We can't have that, huh? Private fire departments can charge the same for everyone. Heck, maybe they'd even want to charge the poor extra for service. Those hovels are probably firetraps anyway. And who deserves to save money more than the wealthy? Hey, the fact that they're rich just proves that God loves them best.
And this is entirely personal freedom. If you want to risk it - or if you can't afford it - then you can save on taxes and just pray that your house doesn't catch on fire. (Bad things never happen to good Christians, right?) Then, when you lose everything, you and your children can live on the street. You don't expect our tax money to help you out then, do you? And you'd better hope you don't get burned in that fire, because health care isn't free, either. Yeah, it's tough on your kids, but we don't want a nanny state, do we?
Getting back to seat belts, vehicular safety requirements have saved a lot of lives. And it's made a lot of potentially serious injuries much less serious - or avoided them altogether. Is this a bad thing? Do you feel less free now? And getting back to raw milk, pasteurization has saved countless lives and kept even more people from suffering horribly. OK, I suppose you've lost the right to risk your own health in a particularly foolhardy manner, but it's also saved children from the idiocy of their parents.
This doesn't mean that every potential regulation, every government requirement, is automatically the right thing to do. But it also doesn't meant that we're turning into a "nanny state," either, just because we have some restrictions like these. Are you worried about the slippery slope? Hey, we're always on a slippery slope, where one side or the other is completely idiotic. In the middle of that slippery slope is often exactly where rational people should be. Is it an uncomfortable place to be? Tough. Are you unsure of the exact spot on that slope that's the perfect policy position? Yeah, well, welcome to the adult world.
In this, like so much else, we Americans seem to have completely lost our sense of proportion. We see black and white, instead of gray. In our (reasonable) appreciation for individual freedom, we become completely unreasonable when it comes to any restrictions. We fantasize about weird conspiracy theories. And we are embarrassingly ignorant about science and the scientific method. It's not raw milk that's the problem here, not really. The problem is in a population of people who simply believe what they want to believe.
It's human nature to make up our minds first, and then look for ways to justify our decision. And the internet is diverse enough that you can always find someone - maybe even a "scientist" - to back up your position, no matter how loony it might be. Few people are determined enough and capable enough to closely examine the question from multiple sides, and even if you are that exceptional, it's easy to dismiss or rationalize away contrary arguments, while accepting those which seem to confirm your existing beliefs. As I say, this is all just human nature.
That's why the scientific method was developed. It's the best way we've ever found to determine the truth, instead of just what we want to believe. And so, when it comes to a scientific issue, the only rational move is to accept - provisionally, as all science is provisional - the consensus of the scientists in that field. This is true for evolution, it's true for global warming, and it's true for the raw milk controversy. If you're a scientist who specializes in a particular field, you can hold a minority opinion in it, if you want. But for us laymen, accepting anything but the scientific consensus makes no sense at all.
The scientific consensus could be wrong, but that's not the way to bet. And if it is wrong, the consensus will change.