Yesterday, I read a piece by Olumayowa Okediran on the capx.co site discussing a new set of regulations introduced by the UK Food Standards Agency. The author reveals that:
Last month, the Food Standards Agency (FSA) implemented a new set of regulations that dictate how all food businesses must serve minced meat products (such as burgers). Businesses must now obtain specific approval to serve anything different from what the FSA regards as “thoroughly cooked”. This new requirement is applicable in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland (different regulations apply to Scotland). If a restaurant is caught violating these new regulations, it will either be served a notice or immediately prosecuted.
As I discovered on a recent trip to Gourmet Burger Kitchen restaurant in Edinburgh, The Scottish government already decrees that all burgers should be cooked ‘well done’. I rolled my eyes but nodded understandingly as the waitress explained why I couldn’t have my delicious buffalo burger cooked medium. She gave me a look as if to say “it’s ridiculous I know, but I can’t give you what you want because we’d be breaking the law.”
Just consider that for a moment. It is a crime for a restaurant to cook meat according to the individual preferences of its customers and not according to the preference of a few government health and safety officials. Can we really say we live in a free society when this is the case?
That’s why we should all find this deeply disturbing. It’s not just that some faceless government ‘expert’ has such low opinion of my intellect that they believe I can’t accurately assess the risk of my own actions to my own body – and so I must sometimes be prevented from acting according to my own choices for my own welfare. Or that they believe restaurateurs have no incentive to cook food safely and not make their customers sick.
It’s also that such people seemingly have no compunction whatsoever about using force (i.e. do as I say or have money stolen from you or be imprisoned) against innocent people voluntarily engaging in peaceful exchanges. Isn’t that a form of sociopathy?
It is hard to admit it because it’s sad, but we live in a country where our freedom to live according to our own peaceful will is being steadily eroded by an expanding body of government regulations. Today it’s how our burgers are cooked and many other things, but for our children, it could just as easily be what job they do, where they live, what their children eat, where they go on holiday, who they marry, who they have sex with etc. The possibilities are endless and the potential for state control over our lives is limitless because the state already has the necessary legal powers to control people in such ways and to such degrees.
If you think this is too far-fetched and unlikely, then you might be right. Certainly, I hope you are. But consider that our society already thinks that restaurateurs would give us food poisoning unless government officials hold guns to their heads and force them to cook burgers well done.
It’s not a great logical leap from that to believing, for example, that men will rape women unless relations between men and women are regulated by the state, or that parents will let their children starve unless the state regulates family life. The intellectual pathway has already been cleared to these nightmarish destinations. Our society just needs to keep plodding along, intellectually and philosophically speaking, in the same direction to reach them.
Every choice that is taken away from us, however apparently trivial, shrinks the sphere of our freedom and we become less capable of living according to our own free and peaceful will. And that most certainly is not trivial. For that is what makes life worth living and that is what gives life meaning.
The erosion of our freedom by countless regulations is an insidious and almost imperceptible process, analogous to how rain erodes a mountaintop. But just as we can measure erosion, we can measure how much freedom we have lost. For the UK, just look up how many regulations exist today compared to a century ago by searching through legislation.gov.uk. You’ll be stunned. And I imagine my ancestors, my great, great grandparents, say, would be stunned to see, if they could, just how far and how often the government encroaches into our lives today.
Perhaps our best hope of seeing the expansion of the regulatory state arrested before it denies future generations freedoms we were fortunate enough to retain is the impending bankruptcies of the western world’s states. Once the UK government’s debts come due and it has to drastically cut its spending, it probably won’t have the resources and the manpower to enforce the tens of thousands of regulations that exist. What a glorious moment that will be.
Growing government encroachment into our lives is often called nanny state-ism. But that’s the nice way of putting it; that’s using weasel words to avoid calling an evil what it really is: authoritarianism.