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No matter where you are, whether it’s Fort Lauderdale or Daytona Beach, you may notice some hungry homeless man and decide to give him a bite to eat. But, wait, stop right there! Put down the bagel, because many cities across the United States have banned giving food to the homeless. So much for altruism!

Unfortunately, this is just one example of how the government undermines our food freedom. Last May, the Institute for Justice released a report called The Attack on Food Freedom, highlighting a multitude of ways the government harms our food freedom in the United States and Canada. The state of food freedom has gotten so bleak that organizations like the Farm-To-Consumer Legal Defense Fund have risen to the task of legally defending food producers who face troubles with government authorities.

But, what is “food freedom”?

Simply put, food freedom is the right to grow, raise, produce, buy, sell, share, cook, eat and drink what an individual wants.

For that reason, food freedom is inseparable from economic freedom, as restrictions on the food we produce, exchange, and consume limit an individual’s ability to flourish by their voluntary means. Despite some of the food freedom (or food rights) movement’s victories, the government’s rampant infringement on our food freedom is still in full-swing. They continue to stifle our basic necessity to nourish our bodies, putting the livelihoods of the tired and hungry masses in jeopardy. This issue must be addressed.22-300x200

Property rights are imperative in the fight for food freedom because the absence of property rights has negatively impacted the freedom to produce food. In many municipalities around North America, local governments have bylaws prohibiting property-owners from taking full advantage of their land to produce food. For example, a Floridian couple was forced to dig up their 17 year old organic garden due to their local government deeming front-yard gardens off-limits. Local ordinances such as this do not just harm suburban gardens, but they also put innovative ideas like urban agricultural practices into question.

If individuals are refused the right to produce food on their property, then the government is taking away a unique opportunity to empower urban communities to produce food for themselves.

The lack of property rights also harms food producers experiencing negative environmental externalities (an environmental cost on a third-party such as soil erosion and the runoff of pollutants) as they are unable to legally address the costs put on their food production, and thus are subjugated to the poor environmental practices of others.

Another prevalent issue regarding food freedom is the bureaucratic over regulation of food production. Big Business is better able to adapt to regulatory changes, so it is no surprise that small businesses, such as small-scale local farmers, will suffer heavily due to their constraints on resources and time spent chasing constantly changing standards. While food safety is certainly important, the government simply cannot do it well. In fact, it has been argued that the free market can do it better (by providing private food quality services). Because consumer preferences send indicators to business owners in the market, the call for greater food safety would certainly be addressed with substantial quality compared to the government’s outdated and scientifically illiterate understanding and methods.

Moreover, there have been many attacks on the individual’s ability to exchange and distribute food, which matters greatly to the welfare of communities. Even decent citizens collaborating in private food clubs experience the wrath of government crackdowns and raids; nearly treated in the same manner as illegal drug rings. With food trucks emerging as a competitive force against traditional restaurants, it’s no surprise that they have also been subject to spotty city ordinances and a legal grey area regarding mobile vending. Even distributing home-cooked meals is met with disdain from local and federal government agencies due to perceived food safety concerns.

3-300x228Simple products like kombucha, aged cheese, large volumes of pop, and, most notoriously, raw milk, have become targets in the government’s  crusade to mandate safety and health for the public. Even if a consumer is informed about his/her choice, the Nanny State attempts to limit that choice all too often. Amish raw milk producers, such as Dan Allgyer, have been met by raids of their private property from armed government agents, due to fears of food-borne illness (despite the lack of scientific evidence). I think you would agree that the government treating Amish raw milk producers in Virginia with the same contempt as they treat Islamic terrorist organizations in Pakistan is out of hand.

Now, even though local food producers are often the most vocal about food freedom, national and foreign food producers also face obstacles. Both domestically and internationally, barriers to the exchange of food do exist, whether they take the form of tariffs, quotas, or regulations. These barriers limit the food available on the market, whether it is stifling the entry of foreign wine into the country, or banning the interstate shipment of raw milk. In either case, it harms both the producer and consumer, all because the government is meddling in affairs that do not concern them, as usual.

To conclude, even the founding fathers of the United States were aware of the government’s threat to our food freedom. Thomas Jefferson once stated  that

“If the people let government decide what foods they eat and what medicines they take, their bodies will soon be in as sorry a state as are the souls of those who live under tyranny.”

This quote is timeless and holds just as much meaning now as it did in the 18th Century. Food freedom is not just for Kombucha-drinking, GMO hating hippies, but for everyone. We should all be free to produce, exchange, and consume food free from government intervention, whether it is raw organic goat milk or genetically-modified corn.

This piece solely expresses the opinion of the author and not necessarily the organization as a whole. Students For Liberty is committed to facilitating a broad dialogue for liberty, representing a variety of opinions. If you’re a student interested in presenting your perspective on this blog, visit our guest submissions page. Like what you read here? You can sign up for a weekly digest of the SFL blog and subscribe for a weekly update on SFL’s events, leadership programs, and resources here.

robynStudents For Liberty is delighted to announce the promotion of Robyn
Patterson to Students For Liberty International’s Design Director.
Robyn joined Students For Liberty in February 2014 and had a major
impact on SFL’s corporate design and branding.

Robyn brings a wealth of experience to her new role and we are excited about her new role in the global pro-liberty student movement.

Please join us in congratulating Robyn on the promotion!

Once again, the government has solved a problem that doesn’t exist. On Thursday, Feb. 26, the FCC ruled 3-2 in favor of net neutrality, meaning Internet service providers (ISPs) such as AT&T, Verizon, and 76582a77da3d81000ca6d19ea20e5924Comcast cannot prioritize certain data over others. As billionaire Mark Cuban and owner of the Dallas Mavericks basketball team explains in an interview with talk show host Glenn Beck, “Bits are bits.” These bits are the information that pass through the Internet (or as television) consisting of ones and zeroes. Net neutrality says that every one and zero has to be treated equally. For example, Netflix could not pay ISPs to artificially accelerate the speed of its bit streaming video services at the expense of other websites.

With major communications companies opposed to the plan, such as Verizon’s infamous Morse code statement, and many grassroots activists in support of it, it may seem as if this ruling favors the common person and stands up to corporate lobbyists.

However, the truth is that the average Internet user will have their freedoms curtailed. By establishing the Internet as a public utility, the FCC now has free reign to regulate the Internet as it so chooses.

At the most fundamental level, net neutrality is a solution looking for a problem. There currently aren’t any companies paying ISPs for favoritism, and no clear indication that any will. Plus, even if they did, Internet speeds are increasing at an exponential rate, making the argument irrelevant. To illustrate this point, the University of Surrey in the UK is testing 5G Internet that will give mobile phones terabit speeds, faster than even the best fiber optic Internet connections today. At that speed, full-length movies in high quality would download in a split second. Spinning wheels in front of videos will be a thing of the past, no matter how much any company pays another. Yet, the FCC will still be able to regulate the Internet as it pleases, even if there is no longer a need for the regulation (if a need for the regulation ever existed in the first place).

In the aforementioned Glenn Beck interview, Mark Cuban argues against net neutrality, saying, “Net neutrality at its base says all that data should be delivered together, net-neutrality-money-tubeand no one should have priority. So if there’s no priority for television, and it’s just part of the open Internet and delivery, your traditional television, watching the evening news, it’s over.” Under current connection speeds, television and Internet might compete for bandwidth, and under net neutrality rules, Internet could in fact disrupt television. However, In several years, connection speeds will have increased to the point where high-speed Internet and high-definition television can go through the same medium and not interfere with each other due to continued innovations, such as 5G and the expansion and improvement of fiber optic cables.

While net neutrality doesn’t solve any actual problem, and the theoretical problems it may solve will likely never actually pan out, it nonetheless has garnered significant support from many grassroots activists due 670px-us-fcc-seal-svgto classic political gamesmanship. The phrase “net neutrality” is a nice sounding euphemism in the same league as the “Affordable Care Act,” and both phrases represent legislation that runs contrary to what the phrase would ordinarily mean. Additionally, net neutrality has an anti-corporate appeal to it, which, leading up to the FCC decision, helped mobilize many on the left. These activists have civil libertarian beliefs and good intentions, but fail to see how the decision will affect regulation in the long term.

All in all, the debate on net neutrality is one that follows a familiar pattern in politics: create a catchy and euphemistic title, promise benefits, ignore negative long-term consequences, and pass detrimental legislation that is nearly impossible to reverse. Nonetheless, one can only hope that net neutrality advocates will recognize their error and advocate for a truly free and open Internet.

This piece solely expresses the opinion of the author and not necessarily the organization as a whole. Students For Liberty is committed to facilitating a broad dialogue for liberty, representing a variety of opinions. If you’re a student interested in presenting your perspective on this blog, visit our guest submissions page. Like what you read here? You can sign up for a weekly digest of the SFL blog and subscribe for a weekly update on SFL’s events, leadership programs, and resources here.

1601334_10152923629905180_3567958573785548389_nAre you looking start or to take the next step in your career promoting liberty? If so, you’re in luck! Students For Liberty currently has five job openings varying from level entry to managerial levels of experience. Check out our job postings page, submit a résumé and cover letter if you’re interested, and you could soon be working at the largest network of libertarian students in the world.

Job Openings:

Director of Alumni Relations

Students For Liberty is seeking a dynamic and strategically minded individual to be our next Director of Alumni Relations. The position will be responsible for Alumni For Liberty (AFL) as well as other programs related to serving our alumni. AFL is our alumni association with the dual mission of raising support for the student movement as while empowering our alumni to be agents of change throughout their lives. AFL is poised for substantial growth and we are looking for the individual with the vision and dedication to take it to the next level.

(more…)

Life is all about moving forward. It is easy to stay in our comfort zone and do what we know, but we only grow as individuals and communities when we step up to embrace new challenges.

In that spirit of constant growth it is time to announce that I will be wrapping up my time on staff at Students For Liberty in April and preparing for my future as the Director of Development for The Atlas Network. I am thrilled and humbled to be joining their excellent team and in our mission to advance the worldwide freedom movement and I want to publicly thank them for the opportunity. But before we turn to the future, the historian in me feels compelled to look backward and attempt to put everything that has come to pass at SFL into perspective.

Back in the spring of 2009 I remember reading Saul Alinsky’s Rules for Radicals while sitting in a DC park thinking about how much potential for community organizing existed with libertarians on college campuses. Fortunately Alexander McCobin, Sloane Frost, and a handful of others were a step ahead of me. They had already founded the organization that would become the bedrock of the student movement for liberty.

Within a month I had gone from applying to interviewing to accepting an offer to be the first employee of Students For Liberty. On Memorial Day I sat down at the first ever SFL Leadership Retreat with 10 people with some wild ideas who were too young and dumb to know what couldn’t be done. Little did any of us know what the coming years would bring.

The stories from that first retreat alone would be enough to fill a chapter of a book (I’m sure there will be an SFL The Untold Story written at some point, so I’ll leave those for another day). Yes we clashed at times, but throughout that retreat, that first year, and everything to come I was blessed to make friendships that will last a lifetime. I said it many times and will continue doing so; the best people I have ever met in my life have been through Students For Liberty.

Listing everyone who I need to thank for making Students For Liberty possible would take up pages, so if you’ve been a part of the SFL family I want you to know how much I love you for the positive impact you’ve made on my life and surely the lives of so many others. But here I want to thank two people who are usually the ones doing the thanking and rarely receive it themselves: Sloane Frost and Alexander McCobin.

To Sloane, thank you for being the heart and soul of SFL. You are the most kind and generous person I have ever met. You have never been paid a dime for your effort but you always made time to talk with us, whether to greet us at an event or calm our fears and anxieties on 3am phone calls. You instilled the value of family into SFL and I and all other SFLers are better people for having known you, however briefly. Thank you.

To Alexander, whose passion and dedication are unmatched. Your boundless vision, bravery, and principled commitment to liberty have turned the student movement for liberty from a quaint idea into a global powerhouse that has changed the lives of thousands and is making tremendous strides for liberty around the world. Lord knows I’ve cursed you many a time and you’ve been a constant pain in my ass but you’ve driven me to push my limits and I would not be half the man I am if not for working with you. Thank you.

And this is the lesson I hope to instill over and over again for all the SFLers to come. Sure you’ll enjoy and remember the books you read, the arguments you had, the protests and conferences and everything else wrapped up in the student movement, but at the end of the day it is the people that matter. The friendships you make that will pay dividends over and over and over again. Every new friend you make is a chance for you to learn, to grow, and to love. It is easy to get caught up in petty fights and debates but those will pass. The people and the mark they leave on you will remain.

So please cherish each and every one of them. Stop and tell your peers, even and especially the ones you disagree with, how much you appreciate them.

We have a rare and precious thing here at SFL. Communities like this one, united by common purpose, are what give our lives purpose and meaning. My favorite moments in SFL were at regional conference when brand new students walk in wide-eyed and bewildered. “Are all these other people libertarians?” Yes. “How much do these books on the table cost?” They are free. “Where am I?” Welcome home. Seeing their eyes light up with excitement is what made all the sleepless nights worthwhile.

Fortunately I can make this change at a time when I have never been more confident about the future of Students For Liberty. We have fantastic lineup of student leaders around the world, true rock stars for liberty, who are supported by a talented and battle tested staff. The future is very bright for SFL, the student movement, and the world.

So thank you to each and every one of you, those who briefly passed through and those I’ve worked with for years. This is not goodbye, SFL never really leaves you. As long as we keep liberty and each other in our hearts it never will. We grow in life through embracing new challenges and it is time for me to embark on my next one. Upwards and onwards my friends.