Lots of Neil Postman vibes reading this edition. Obviously ideas and great people play a role, but it does seem like much of society is on a rail determined by technology and economy. Even Marxism—the idea that there can be a world with zero managers—basically turned into literal death by managers.

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Apr 11, 2022Liked by Aaron M. Renn

There’s a lot of great insight here, although I’m not so resigned to accepting the inevitability of this trend. The big players all rely on legislative barriers to competition — economy of scale by itself is not a sufficient advantage. Two examples of this would be big beer vs. little beer, and big ag vs. small ag. Everyone knows that the biggest player, InBev/Anheiser Busch has been bleeding market share for years — and more recently is even reducing production, all while the total beer market is booming. It’s easy to be misled by reports based on total beer production, when what is happening is that people are spending a whole lot more money on expensive beer produced without the vaunted economy of scale. This disaster for big beer happened because market protections were removed. First, patently absurd laws against home brewing were successfully attacked, then hordes of ambitious home brewers attacked the equally bizarre restrictions on commercial production and distribution. Death (or at least losses) by a thousand cuts.

I have more experience with the big ag/small ag sector. Certainly nothing as remarkable as what has happened in the world of beer has yet happened with food production on general, but there is an ongoing battle. The presence of legal protection organizations like the Farm to Consumer Legal Defense Fund, the Farm & Ranch Freedom Alliance, and others attests to the presence of anti-competitive regulation and harassment by state actors, often goaded by corporate interests. This is an ongoing battle, fought at multiple levels from county and state health agencies up to the FDA, CDC, and USDA. The basic tactic employed against small producers is the fear mongering over food safety, leading to several attempts to burden small producers with suffocating regulations. The stupidly named Food Safety and Modernization Act is the prime example of this tactic. Were it not for the Tester Amendment to this legislation, as well as ongoing struggles with the rule making process of FDA, we would not have the continued proliferation of farmers markets that we have seen.

It’s faulty logic to assert that you need big organizations to fight big organizations. What you need is a lot of decentralized guerilla fighters. The dedication of many of those fighting these battles should not be underestimated. People have been charged with “food crimes,” have been thrown in jail, and lost their livelihoods. The latest row is over “raw butter” a food that has been safely consumed for thousands of years. But as the article mentioned, disobedience and resistance create huge problems for the managerial machine. Most people really don’t want Pfizer style managers telling them what they can’t eat.

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