October 1, 2011

Property and Raw Milk


Although the US system keeps claiming that a “right to property” is one of its fundamental values, in practice this is another class-based scam, just like every other “value”. Just like with everything else, an alleged right to property refers only to the property and prerogatives of the rich and big corporations. The property rights of the non-rich are cited only for propaganda purposes, but these are assaulted by Big Property on a daily basis.
This class war property doctrine was formally enshrined in the SCOTUS’ Kelo decision, and it’s been enhanced since then.
One battlefront most relevant for the food movement is the government’s War on Raw Milk on behalf of Big Dairy. (But see also the commerce clause issue, with Obama’s Stamp Mandate seeking to break new “constitutional” ground. This too is highly relevant for food, as I explain in those posts.)
A lawsuit by the Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund (FTCLDF) has already goaded the FDA into the following declaration of intent:

a. There is No Right to Consume or Feed Children Any Particular Food
b. There is No Generalized Right to Bodily and Physical Health
c. There is No Fundamental Right to Freedom of Contract

Now an FTCLDF-assisted suit in Wisconsin has caused a judge to issue a ruling expressing the official elite view of property rights:

(1) Plaintiffs do not have a fundamental right to own and use a dairy cow or a dairy herd;

(2) Plaintiffs do not have a fundamental right to consume the milk from their own cow;

(3) Plaintiffs do not have a fundamental right to board their cow at the farm of a farmer;

(4) The Zinniker Plaintiffs’ private contract does not fall outside the scope of the States’ police power;

(5) Plaintiffs do not have a fundamental right to produce and consume the foods of their choice;

(6) DATCP [Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection] . . . had jurisdiction to regulate the Zinniker Plaintiffs’ conduct.

The judge was guided by the FDA’s declaration.
What this and the FDA’s brief (and I’m sure the examples could be multiplied) really mean is an admission that “property” is nothing but what the government says it is, that it’s an artificial creation of government, and that in practice government will always make property right enforcement a priority only where it comes to the property of big corporations and the rich. (Could you imagine any government bureaucracy or judge stating in principle that the rich don’t have absolute property rights? Even if by some aberration they were going to rule against the bigger interest, they’d do so on some far more narrow ground.)
Most of all, wherever there’s a clash of property rights the bigger dog will always win. That’s what Kelo was all about. It’s straight Might Makes Right.
We see how the very existence of property concentrations causes government to act ever more tyrannically, which is no surprise since the core function of government is to create and enforce propertarianism. Without government there would be no such thing as property, and without property we wouldn’t need government. (Once again we see the basic incoherence of the “small government” ideologues. “I want small government except for all the other things I want which have to mean big, aggressive government. So I really want big, aggressive government!”)
(But for the time being we can formulate a transitional doctrine to accompany our constitutionalism. The right view is that the Constitution must be interpreted strictly where it comes to government/corporate power, loosely where it comes to the power and liberty of the people. This is truly its Original Intent, as is made clear by the original philosophy of the American Revolution.
Similarly, since “property” could only ever be valid if it referred to the rights of real people living and working within a community, so it follows that if we’re to recognize property rights at all our priority must be rights that involve constitutional liberties, rights that involve local/regional business and residence, rights that involve actual work and eating. Meanwhile the concentrated “property” of the alien rich shouldn’t be respected at all. Corporations, not being persons, can’t own property in the first place.)
The fact is that, just as smaller organizations and businesses would be better off if the corporate form didn’t exist at all, so we the non-rich people would be better off if propertarianism ceased to exist, and was instead replaced by useful possession rights on an autonomous and cooperative basis. As things are, small corporations will always exist only at the whim of big ones, and small property will exist only at the whim of big property. But if corporations and property ceased to exist, then big structures of every sort would cease to exist, while naturally-sized structures would prosper and flourish in freedom.
If someone’s coming at you with an automatic rifle and all you have is a Derringer, I suppose you’re “better off” than if you had nothing. But you’d be much better off if neither of you had any firearm.


  1. The FTCLDF is doing an amazing job here. Of course the organic farmers associations and others are hard at work as well. There are some professional trolls working against them who keep bringing up scary reports about the dangers of raw milk. And there are genuinely confused local/state boards of health who haven’t kept up with bacteriology. That is what I keep running into. The Weston Price Foundation is trying to get the facts out but they don’t have the resources to do the necessary work and they run into the trolls and the well-meaning public health boards who are manipulated and supported by big ag.

    I remember when I milked my first goat and was terrified of drinking the milk. I nearly removed the skin on my hands (never mind on the goat’s udders) trying to sterilize them, milking into a pail that was contained in an ice water bath. I could go on and on. I have since been trying to learn about bacteria, diseases and herd health and have been supported by other small farmers.
    I don’t sell my milk since I can’t afford to comply with state regulations. I do drink it myself and make it into cheese. I have been doing that for three years now with no ill effects upon me or my family. I wonder whether the Wisconsin decision, if it stands, will interfere with even that.

    Pasteurized milk is necessary in an industrialized food system. It is not necessary in a small local system. In fact, it is probably counter productive since you really don’t want to do it wrong. Raw milk sours as it gets old. Pasteurized milk hasn’t got the strong bacteria that cause souring. It rots and can be really dangerous.

    Comment by Ellen Anderson — October 1, 2011 @ 9:31 am

    • Good point about the greater dangers of pasteurized, which lacks the same built-in safeguard.

      Is it really your impression that state boards are confused rather than malevolent? It was in Massachusetts that a state legislator associated with the state board openly admitted they were persecuting legal buying clubs at the urge of Big Dairy. It’s in that same Food Freedom piece I linked above.

      Comment by Russ — October 1, 2011 @ 1:47 pm

    • Here’s a good short piece on “Farmageddon” and movement strategy.


      Comment by Russ — October 2, 2011 @ 5:51 am

      • IMHO the members of the local boards of health are not malevolent. They are educated by the state Department of Public Health and you have only to look at their web site to see what is going on there. Just about every dreadful bacterial disease you can imagine is up there. You are told to avoid them by not drinking raw milk.

        We all know that, around the turn of the last century, filthy and adulterated milk really did cause those diseases. Plus, I have been told that dairy barns were built low to keep the heat in so there was a lot of ammonia in the air. It was thought that TB patients would benefit from breathing the ammonia so many of them worked on farms and they actually infected the cows. But we have learned a lot since then and anyway nobody is saying that big industrial plants should be de-regulated.

        So I am not saying that there shouldn’t be guidelines for raw milk. But the chances of getting sick from buying milk on a small farm where the milk is not going into a bulk tank are very low. A local board of health could easily deal with these farmers without having to get state inspectors out.

        Yes, Massachusetts was getting pressure from big dairy to do something about the buying clubs. The milk processing plants are used to going around to all of the farms and getting milk for prices so low that most dairies have gone out of business. They must be worried that buyers coops will convince more farmers to transition to organic raw milk. That is certainly malevolent. It would be easier to deal with the public’s unreasonable fear of bacteria if we could break through the corporate control of media so that people could learn the truth. We talk about food freedom and they say “fine, but you are not free to feed poison to your children.” (I know, I know, McDonald’s, soda etc.)

        But as for the actual workers who come out to inspect farms – I know for sure they believe that raw milk is dangerous. At that level they are true believers. The malevolence is in the control of information flow so that people aren’t able to learn the truth. And the trouble is that we have to get lots of people educated about how to milk cows and goats so we can rebuild small farms. It’s the same problem everywhere. Right now, while we have the resources to re-localize and decentralize we are being stopped. Once the resources are gone it will be too late or at least much harder.

        I think that the groups working on the raw milk issues are really terrific and I can’t wait to see Farmaggedon.

        Comment by Ellen Anderson — October 2, 2011 @ 3:25 pm

      • I know, I know, McDonald’s, soda etc.

        I wouldn’t be dismissive about this counterattack. The corporate media advertises monumental amounts of poison directly to children every day. I’d say make that part of the general counterattack on the Big Lie Media.

        And the trouble is that we have to get lots of people educated about how to milk cows and goats so we can rebuild small farms.

        That’s exactly one of the things we need to do. One of my goals for the time bank is to get a good mix of people offering farm and food skills. We have a few, but no one yet offering milking training!

        A time bank is just one of many possibilities for this kind of training program. But you’re right, we need to get the education (philosophy, facts about the issues, and practical skills) off and running ASAP.

        Comment by Russ — October 2, 2011 @ 5:07 pm

  2. Nicely done, Russ. Good timing as I just finished Eisenstein’s (Sacred Economics) chapter 4 on the urge to own. Everything traces back to the root problems inherent in interest bearing debt. He points out that the concept of selling land/property for money was and is a human projection onto reality. (The land doesn’t admit to being owned) There was a time when such concepts were as unthinkable as ownership of the sky or the sun. In transforming the way we think of “money”, property claims will soon follow.

    “Man did not make the earth, and, though he had a natural right to occupy it, he had no right to locate as his property in perpetuity any part of it; neither did the Creator of the earth open a land-office, from whence the first title-deeds should issue.” –Thomas Paine


    Comment by Pete — October 1, 2011 @ 11:43 am

    • It’s funny how revered the name Thomas Paine is in America’s mythology, just as long as one doesn’t actually read his stuff. Even Common Sense is far better liked in name than in substance.

      Comment by Russ — October 1, 2011 @ 1:48 pm

  3. It’s incredible that they’re willing to state so baldly that people have no fundamental right to food. What do these courts think ARE the fundamental rights? What is the use of a fundamental right to property if the only sorts of property that guarantee life aren’t covered? Just bizarre, I hope this stuff gets the publicity it deserves.

    Comment by paper mac — October 2, 2011 @ 11:36 am

    • It’s getting plenty of publicity in the food politics blogosphere. Elsewhere, not much, yet.

      This theory of “rights” is elaborated in the FDA’s April 2010 brief filed for the FTCLDF lawsuit.

      Click to access ds%20mtd%20memo%20in%20support.pdf

      I wrote an analysis of it here.


      “Property” is clearly just a political trope with no principled meaning. Why would it need to have any? Power will use and abuse and disregard the concept at its whim for as long as it’s able. The difference between a property right and a contingent government-granted privilege is clearly as phony as the difference between “public” government and “private” corporations.


      I’m almost finished with Graeber, along with this Hudson paper on ancient debt jubilees.

      Click to access HudsonLostTradition.pdf

      I plan to write a lot about these as soon as I get my ideas organized.

      Comment by Russ — October 2, 2011 @ 3:05 pm

      • Hi Russ, thanks for those links. I look forward to your thoughts on Graeber. I saw your note about the third part of the Skinner paper giving you trouble. It’s strange, because the pdf shouldn’t be able to check on your subscription/institutional access paper. As far as I know its a “dead document”. I’ve tried re-uploading the raw pdf here: http://www.mediafire.com/?8aiqpnf3rd55ot4

        Let me know if that’s still giving you trouble and I’ll see if I can’t figure out what the matter is with a librarian.

        Comment by paper mac — October 3, 2011 @ 1:30 pm

      • Thanks, pm, I’ll try it tomorrow.

        Comment by Russ — October 3, 2011 @ 5:52 pm

      • I was able to print out the pdf this time, thanks. So I now have parts 1 and 3, is that right?

        What’s a “dead document”? Is that like one of Goggle’s alleged “orphan” books?

        Comment by Russ — October 4, 2011 @ 2:46 am

      • What was the file you got previously? The .rar I posted previously (assuming I copied/pasted the link correctly) was here: http://www.mediafire.com/?s4qtunizfoddaez and contains parts 1-3 as well as a further paper on village organisation. I thought from your previous remark that you had successfully extracted those papers, but that 3 gave you a message about too many downloads- but now I’m thinking that I misinterpreted you and that the mediafire site gave you that message.

        By “dead document” I meant one that doesn’t change- there are some document files which can be updated with content from the internet, check for reading permissions etc. I don’t think that’s a common way to describe them, I think I took it from the living/dead constitution argument, lol.

        Comment by paper mac — October 4, 2011 @ 2:12 pm

      • I think it was mediafire. The thing downloaded (I had the graphic showing the pieces of paper fluttering across the room) but then never showed, instead giving a message about how it was a subscription site and I was over my limit and getting the bum’s rush.

        But the latest one, which I think is just chapter 3, worked.

        If this is any kind of hassle for you, don’t worry about it. But I’ll certainly read whatever I get, just as I’ll be rereading part 1. (I have what I’m calling a farmers’ market reading cycle scheduled for this winter. I want to come up with a real strategy going forward.)

        Dead constitution, got it. Reading Graeber and especially Hudson gave me some new ideas on constitutions.

        Comment by Russ — October 4, 2011 @ 4:48 pm

      • Give these a try:


        let me know if that’s still giving you trouble.

        Comment by paper mac — October 4, 2011 @ 10:51 pm

      • Worked fine. Thanks, paper mac. I’ll give you my thoughts when I read them.

        Comment by Russ — October 5, 2011 @ 6:34 am

  4. I know that real people are being harassed and violated on account of this belief in securing the food supply at all costs. I find these FDA declarations of what our rights *aren’t* to be downright hilarious and a very important marker of the intractable relationship between government and corporation and their inexorable decline.

    The infringement on the freedom to choose what goes in my own body is the point-break for any legitimacy or moral high ground claimed by the government, the FDA, the USDA.

    If the revolution has to be about anything, it might as well be about food.

    Comment by Ross — October 3, 2011 @ 8:38 am

    • Intellectually it’s the same logic as that of the Drug War (and we see again how a main purpose of the Drug War was to set precedents like this). But to extend it from drugs to food is a radical leap, spiritually and politically.

      That’s why I agree that the revolution not only might as well be about food, but must look to food as one of the most promising political wellsprings.

      Comment by Russ — October 3, 2011 @ 11:38 am

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