FDA, Salt, Mises, and Friedman

Gary Wolfram
Issue CCXLVI - April 27, 2010
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In 1927, during Prohibition, Ludwig von Mises wrote that government attempts to prohibit people from doing things which simply harm themselves would not be successful, and would establish the principle that the majority can impose its lifestyle on the minority. In recognizing the ill effects of alcohol and morphine use he wrote: “But this is far from demonstrating that the authorities must interpose to suppress these vices by commercial prohibitions, nor is it by any means evident that such intervention on the part of the government is really capable of suppressing them or that, even if this end could be attained, it might not therewith open up a Pandora’s box of other dangers no less mischievous than alcoholism and morphinism.” Mises then goes on to explain how there will be no limit to government intervention, for there is no bright line where the government can limit our use of alcohol, but not our use of tobacco or any other harmful substance.

What brought this to mind was the recent report that the Food and Drug Administration plans to limit the amount of salt allowed in processed foods. To quote The Washington Post: “Officials have not determined the salt limits. In a complicated undertaking, the FDA would analyze the salt in spaghetti, breads and thousands of other products that make up the $600 billion food and beverage market, sources said.” This is indeed the Pandora’s box Mises was writing about. We are now at the point where the federal government gets to decide how much salt we can have in our spaghetti sauce. We have become so ingrained with the idea that the federal government can properly regulate behavior that there is clearly no limit on what our federal government can do to coerce us.

Thanks to the innovation, YouTube, which government will surely limit our use of in order to protect ourselves from harmful content, we can get Milton Friedman’s take on the prohibition against the sale and use of certain recreational pharmaceuticals. Friedman, who was a teenager during Prohibition, makes many of the points Mises did. It is well worth the time to take a look at the late Nobel Prize Winner’s consistent logic on the issue:
Mises had it right when he wrote "A free man must be able to endure it when his fellow men act and live otherwise than he considers it proper." It will not be long before men forget what it was like to be free.

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Learn about Mr. Stolyarov's novel, Eden against the Colossus, here.

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