I attended a state legislative hearing on Wednesday of last week in Eau Claire that dealt with the sale of raw milk in Wisconsin. It attracted an overflow crowd that quickly packed the small auditorium of Chippewa Valley Technical College and forced many who attended to watch in nearby classrooms on close-circuit television. What I saw among the nearly 500 or so persons who registered their attendance (not including children and there were enough young children there to start a nursery) was, I believe, an example of the “freedom coalition” that Ron Paul talks about in person, live and close up.
If you take a look at the photo in the story provided with the previous link, you’ll see people wearing white, paper milk hats with the words “Freedom” and “Milk” scrawled on them. Lot of people were wearing them. And of the people there in favor of raw milk sales, what a site to behold: organic farmer hippies with dreadlocks and pierced noses sitting next to rock-ribbed, Republican farmer Oles and Lenas. Amish men in straw hats and Mennonite women wearing their full-length dresses and white headscarves there too. Raw milk drinkers from Madison were there and so were small farmers like the Wayne Brunner family, whose farm Mid-Valley Vu, is near my hometown of Arkansaw and is the epicenter of this debate. But regardless of who they were or what they were, they all came together for one cause, the freedom to responsibly sell a product they produce to customers who wish to buy it. It was a beautiful thing.
Raw milk is basically unpasteurized milk. Farm families have drank such milk for years and would sell it to customers through cow-boarding or farm-share arrangements even though the practice was technically illegal. State Ag officials in the past basically looked the other way. That was until now when officials decided to crack down on the practice threatening the livelihood of small farmers like Brunner. This prompted several bills in the legislature to be written and a state taskforce has been set up to look into the issue. Drinking such milk may or may not cause health problems. Some drink it because it “does a body good” to coin a phrase or like the taste. 25 states and many counties in Europe allow such sales. Regardless of why, do they not have the right to drink it if they are aware of potential health risks?, especially if it’s sold by licensed farms on one-to-one basis. Is this not what a free market is about?
And yet who stands in opposition? Government bureaucrats and the big farmer, big agribusiness dominated Farm Bureau. One wishes to regulate behavior and the other wishes to regulate out of existence a product that may cut in on their business. A state ag department that doesn’t have enough inspectors to monitor large farm operations and the manure finds it does have personnel to go after the little guy and his tank of raw milk on his small farm.
If there is such a thing as a “freedom movement” it showed itself Wednesday in Eau Claire, Wisconsin. If freedom brings people together of divergent backgrounds for common cause, it also clearly shows who their opponents are.
Justin Raimondo says that cosmopolitan libertarians on the coast don’t like Ron Paul because of his populism. Yet how can libertarianism advance without it? Without the citizen falsely accused by the prosecution-centric legal system or the fellow pushed around by the TSA official at the airport, or the immigrant hair-dresser denied a license for her beauty shop by city hall without a little “pay-to-play” or the small farmer fuming at all the subsidies his neighbor gets? A libertarianism that only caters to behavioral needs of its elites isn’t much of a movement. Likewise, what kind of conservatism supports the forces of bigness that uproot and scatter whole communities, churches and small businesses it should depend upon through its collusion with government ? Not one I wish to identify with.
This is the alliance of the elites in government, business and culture to push out those who they believe stand in their way. It was this alliance that Robert La Follette opposed when he began his career and the movement he helped to create, the early Progressives, came together to rescue government from such collusion. I know which side “Fighting Bob” would take in this dispute.