The people working to legalize their right to purchase and consume raw milk are up against a juggernaut of a system. It’s a useful lens through which to view the structural issues at play and realize the importance of the Community Rights movement in attaining fundamental victories.
Using this average of 42 illnesses per year, we can show, using government figures, that you are about 35,000 times more likely to become ill from other foods than you are from raw milk.
But why should the FDA let the facts get in the way of its promotion of the (clearly more dangerous) corporate food system? It’s like saying, “don’t walk — there’s a risk that you’ll fall over and crack your head on the concrete. You’d better drive, instead, for safety.” When we all know that motorized vehicle accidents are far more frequently severe and deadly than tripping and falling on the sidewalk (which, like anything, does have its associated risks).
Yet, the FDA “reserves the right” (sic; government agencies in democracies have no rights; only delegated responsibilities) to prosecute individuals and groups who transport raw milk across state lines:
The assertion that raw milk poses any inherent public health threat has no basis in any research. Period. I would never drink raw milk from a factory-farmed (CAFO) operation, but to claim that CAFOs are proof of any inherent danger of raw milk is like saying that all transportation is unsafe because an automobile manufacturer designed an unsafe car. The mode of production has everything to do with safety.
The authority to prosecute people who infringe the 1987 ban on raw milk comes from the Commerce Clause, which gives the federal government unlimited power to regulate citizen activity:
the commerce clause power extends not just to activity withheld from the economy, but to inactivity, to mere existence itself…We see how the term “totalitarian” is not hyperbole. According to the system’s laws, courts, and constitutional interpretations, there is literally nothing the government cannot order us to do or not to do under the commerce clause
The Commerce Clause was strengthened by the Supreme Court’s ruling in the Wickard v Filburn case, but the Supreme Court itself is part of the problem — it was designed by the Framers of the US Constitution as a way to reassert the principle rule of monarchy found in English government in the 16th-17th centuries. At that time, the Crown had uncontested authority to make and interpret law, and supreme authority over the actions of all other branches of government. By the time the Framers got to work on the US Constitution, the authority of the English Crown had eroded to a mutual veto with the Legislature. Yet the Framers went back in time to the system they wanted, to prop up the interests of an elite ruling class, and created a new monarchy in the form of the Federal Government, couching it in a facade of democratic principles. (ref J. Allen Smith’s Spirit of American Government)
Today in England, the courts operate completely under democratic rule of the people. In contrast, we have yet to challenge the foundations of our own neo-monarchical system of US governance on two fronts:
- Pre-emption — the idea that all “lower” (local) forms of government are merely administrative vessels of the Crown (or Federal government), which retains all final authority over the policies, actions and behavior of its subjects. The Commerce Clause is but one example of this system at work.
- Supreme Court Authority — the idea that we have a supreme decision-making body, which in effect may make and interpret law as it sees fit without any democratic accountability whatsoever. No matter the law created, the Supreme Court may render it null, or reinterpret and pervert its application to suit the continued rule of an elite minority.
Thus, the Courts have (and have used) their supreme authority to apply civil rights laws to corporations, giving legal fictions such as governments and corporations the gift of legal personhood and the de facto ability to run roughshod over the inherent rights of real people and communities, both natural and human. All it takes is for the ruling elite to use their immense resources to bring cases to the court until they get the decision they want. Then the system of precedent helps the perverse interpretation of law become permanent — at least as permanent as the system that brought the perversion into existence in the first place.
These are structural issues — no amount of work within our current system of law and governance will effectively address the moral and ethical trespasses of this system. The democratically-elected Legislature has no legal authority to challenge or escape this system. Everything they do exists within the context of pre-emption — that is, the anti-democratic imposition of non-local authorities on local communities. When they attempt to do something truly democratic, it is subject to the nullification of other two branches (who may use veto powers for other purposes as well).
The Executive branch feeds off of pre-emption and its authority to appoint the Supreme Court, and continues to become more powerful with each new administration. We have, in effect, a two branch system of government: Executive and Judicial. These two branches, together, form an anti-democratic system of aristocratic rule, a neo-monarchy. Until we change this fact, we will find elite ruling minorities increasingly violating the rights of people, communities and nature. We will find them usurping our supposed-existing rights protections for their own purposes.
- Reject the system. Start a community rights group in your area. Affirm your beliefs that rights are inherent in the people, and inalienable. We cannot create or destroy rights, we can only recognize and protect or violate them. The government cannot give us our rights — it can only recognize and protect or violate them. Reject any element of the government that fails to recognize or protect our inherent and inalienable rights.
- Provoke and frontally challenge the totalitarian constitutional legal system. Reject the authoritarian system first at the local levels. Show the people who and what we’re really dealing with. Drive local laws into power that assert the inherent, inalienable rights of people and the rights of communities to local self-governance to protect their health, safety and welfare; recognize the inherent and inalienable rights of nature; and strip governments and corporations of their claimed “rights.” Use the tools of the existing system wherever they help the cause, and use extra-legal means wherever necessary to do what is fundamentally moral, just and necessary.
- Work together with other localities doing the same — no matter the rights they assert and elevate. One locality might focus on second amendment, another might focus on environment, another on food, another on shelter. What matters is the grassroots, democratic precedent these actions set. Once a single rights-elevation ordinance passes, it serves as a trojan horse, breaks open the system’s defenses and renders it increasingly vulnerable to democratic authority EVERYWHERE. In fact, that’s part of the beauty of an authoritarian system — it tends toward retaining the same, systemic vulnerabilities under various jurisdictions subject to its authority.
- Amend or rewrite the state constitutions to recognize the validity of the local democratic challenges to the system through clauses recognizing the rights of nature, that rights are inherent and inalienable, and that as a result, communities have an inherent right to self-governance. Amend when practical; rewrite when necessary. Continue resisting at the local level. Courts will rule against us. Ignore them, don’t back down. Don’t apologize. Dissent. Create facts of resistance on the ground. Remember: legal does not equal moral or just. Abolitionists and suffragists were charged with crimes, too.
- Repeat at the federal level, to protect the ground gained at the local and state levels: create another constitutional convention to rewrite it (amendment to address structural flaws is impractical — the Framers designed the process to be nearly-impossible). Don’t ask for permission of the corrupt system to change it.
Why do we work at the local level first? Because we want a democracy that exists solely for the purpose of rights protections. If we worked at the federal level, we’d be reinforcing the very system of top-down, pre-emptive and anti-democratic authoritarianism we are trying to change. We’d be asking a corrupt system to change itself. We ask for nothing. We demand nothing, we ask for no permission from the system, governments or corporations alike. We just do it.
When we fight for a right to access raw milk in this way, we are not only using historically-proven tactics and strategies, we are fighting for much more than just raw milk. We fight for a system of law that is more just, sustainable, and free. We fight for a better world for ourselves and our children.
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