National Review / Digital
Mad Cow Disuse

(Jeremy Hudson/ Photographer’s Choice RF /Getty Images)


Britain’s main export now consists of stories about a people cowed by dunderheaded bureaucrats or political correctness: A shopkeeper’s fined for selling a Miss Piggy doll within three miles of a mosque, a homeowner who takes a bat to a burglar’s brainpan gets charged with unlawful self-preservation. We read these tales as previews of coming attractions, the logical result of socialistic paternalism and an enfeebled national character, and we steel ourselves: We’ll fight back before it gets that bad. Wait until 2012! The forces of statism will crumple with dismay as Herman Cain, Secretary of Plain Ordinary Common Sense, goes around the country and yells at bureaucrats to knock that off, already.

What if we’re already too far down the road? Every summer brings more tales of lemonade stands shut down by regulators. (Next summer’s twist: While clamping down on illegal stands, the government was actually selling Sunny D to Mexican cartels.) The story hits the wires, people get mad, and they go so far as to write comments on webpages. But nothing changes. A week later you read about someone being fined for hanging a bird feeder in violation of the Transient Avian Nutritional Guidelines — the first lady was concerned about all that suet, and demanded a national conversation about pheasant obesity — and people get spun up about that. And nothing happens. The Bureaucrat-American community never demonstrates a jot of shame; candidates talk about the top-level regulations that garrote the economy; and the myriad codes and diktats pile up, criminalizing everything. Check your facial-tissues box: Some say “It is a violation of Federal law to use this product in a manner inconsistent with its labeling.” Wearing the box as shoes when you go as Howard Hughes for Halloween? You’re looking at hard time, brother. No one says “There oughta be a law” anymore, because we know there probably is.

Speaking of being cowed: A recent controversy in Wisconsin has revealed a new front in the diminution of personal liberty. Turns out you don’t have the right to drink raw cow milk. Some people believe raw milk conveys certain advantages, and these may include seeing the inside of a hospital you might otherwise not visit, since pasteurizing milk can prevent TB and diphtheria, and raw milk can have all kinds of gut-gripping wee beasties like salmonella and E. coli. Many states allow its sale. California hasn’t gotten around to banning it yet. It’s legal for pets only in Florida. Wisconsin bans it entirely, so they have to cross the border to get it in Minnesota. (Somehow this has not produced hyper-violent milk cartels. Yet.)

The raw-milk group gives off a faint whiff of the anti-vaccine crowd, and the fact that their website has a protest song is enough to turn off many. Visions of some hairy Bolshie warbling about Tom Dooley’s Pail or something. You’d think progressives would be split on a raw-milk ban — on one hand, regulating life in the name of Health is good; on the other hand, pasteurization interferes with the Natural Way of Life, which was practiced by noble indigenous people who didn’t drink soda or eat processed grains, paving the way for a healthy life right up to the moment when they died from an abscessed tooth at age 27.

October 17, 2011    |     Volume LXIII, No. 19

Books, Arts & Manners
  • Ethan Gutmann reviews Deng Xiaoping and the Transformation of China, by Ezra F. Vogel.
  • Jeremy Rabkin reviews Sovereignty or Submission: Will Americans Rule Themselves or Be Ruled by Others? by John Fonte.
  • Vincent J. Cannato reviews The Roots of Modern Conservatism: Dewey, Taft, and the Battle for the Soul of the Republican Party, by Michael Bowen.
  • Mackubin Thomas Owens reviews What It Is Like to Go to War, by Karl Marlantes.
  • Richard Brookhiser measures the hospital, from multiple angles.
The Long View  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  
Athwart  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  
Poetry  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  
Happy Warrior  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .