March 18, 2001
comments powered by Disqus
The lead, front-page news article in this morning's New York Times, about the fact that Americans "may be more likely to get sick from what they eat today than they were half a century ago," is an editorial for more government regulation, masquerading as a news article.
Consider the named sources the article relies on: four government regulators/bureaucrats, one official of a non-profit group that has been a consistent advocate of more government regulation, one public health professor. The article quotes not a single restaurant owner, food manufacturer, grocer or representative of a food industry trade association. It quotes not a single economist or skeptic who might offer an analysis of the costs of additional federal inspections as compared to the benefits. To the extent that the food industry's views are expressed in the article at all, they come in paraphrases, without naming any sources and without direct quotes.
And while the article tells us that the supposed increase in food-related illnesses has taken place while the Food and Drug Administration's resources have "scarcely changed," the article says nothing about what has happened to resources devoted to inspections at the state and local level. Many inspections of restaurants and sidewalk food-vendors are done by state and local officials, not the Food and Drug Administration. If the resources devoted to those state and local inspections have markedly increased over the past half century -- as they may well have -- and food-related illnesses have still soared, it may be an indication that additional federal regulation is not the solution to the problem of food-related illnesses.
The Times article seems to assume that federal inspectors are the only force that can reduce the incidence of food-related illnesses. There's no consideration of the legal risks to companies and the damage to sales that result when bad food goes on the market and the word gets out. Those potential damages to a company's profits already have a more powerful regulatory effect on corporate behavior than increased inspections probably would. Another potentially powerful force that the Times doesn't consider is education -- advising consumers that they need to cook certain foods through and wash other foods and surfaces. The government could send out an army of 10 million F.D.A. inspectors to inspect every inch of every seafood factory in the country. But if a consumer then takes the duly inspected seafood and leaves it out on his dirty home kitchen counter for a week, then eats it raw, the consumer is likely to end up with a food-related illness. And the Times would no doubt fetch up with a front-page news article editorializing about the need to send government inspectors into your home kitchen.
' Cold War Mindset': An "editorial observer" column in today's New York Times reports that the Central Intelligence Agency was locked in "an inflexible cold-war mindset" during the Gorbachev era. The Times column describes these views as "moldy," and says the American government "didnÕt get its money's worth" from the CIA. What is the evidence of this? All the column offers up is that "Just nine months before the Kremlin stood aside as the Berlin Wall fell, the C.I.A. was confidently predicting that Moscow's long-range objectives included preserving Soviet hegemony in Eastern Europe and driving a wedge between Western Europe and the United States." The truth is, those were Moscow's long-range objectives. The CIA was right about that. Just because the Soviet Union was unable to achieve those objectives does not mean that it did not want to.
'A Few Hard-Liners': An article in today's New York Times magazine reports that, on abortion, "The great coup de grace of the new Bush administration was to rescind federal financing for groups promoting abortion abroad -- hardly the end of reproductive choice as we know it. A few hard-liners clambered to the rooftops, but few listened and fewer followed them."
A New York Times editorial from January 24, 2001, about the abortion-abroad question said the administration's move "cuts against Mr. Bush's campaign statement that the United States should act with humility rather than arrogance in foreign relations. It is a form of arrogance to impose a gag rule on doctors and health advocates in other countries as the price of receiving vital assistance for its poorest and most defenseless citizens, particularly its women, especially when it involves an activity that is constitutionally protected in the United States."
Is the Times magazine suggesting that the newspaper's own editorial board is composed of "hard-liners" and that "few listened" to that January 24 editorial and that "fewer followed" it?
Subscribe to the Mailing List
© 2017 FutureOfCapitalism LLC