Poke and Sniff: A Lesson from 1906, by Jeffrey A. Tucker

True capitalists, as a rule, don’t kill off their customers, unlike governments. From Jeffrey A. Tucker at brownstoneinstitute.org:

In 1906, Upton Sinclair came out with his book The Jungle, and it shocked the nation by documenting the horror of the meat-packing industry. People were being boiled in vats and sent to larders. Rat waste was mixed with meat. And so on.

As a result, the Federal Meat Inspection Act passed Congress, and consumers were saved from ghastly diseases. The lesson is that government is essential to stop enterprise from poisoning us with its food.

To some extent, this mythology accounts for the wide support for government’s involvement in stopping disease spread today, including Covid and the catastrophic response.

Not only that, but the story is also the basis for the US Department of Agriculture’s food inspection efforts, the Food and Drug Administration’s regulation of medical drugs, the central plan that governs food production, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the legions of bureaucrats who inspect and badger us every step of the way. It is the founding template for why government is involved in our food and health at all.

It’s all premised on the implausible idea that people who make and sell us food have no concern as to whether it makes us sick. It only takes a quick second, though, to realize that this idea just isn’t true. So long as there is a functioning, consumer-driven marketplace, customer focus, which presumably includes not killing you, is the best regulator. Producer reputation has been a huge feature of profitability, too. And hygiene was a huge feature of reputation — long before Yelp.

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