The Jungle

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A relatively unknown and failing author and Socialist by the name of Upton Sinclair wanted to write a political propaganda book, so he went under cover in 1904 in Chicago meat packing plants, and by 1906 he completed his semi-fictional hit piece called, "The Jungle".

It was completely debunked at the time, Teddy Roosevelt had immediately put a team of government inspectors on it, and they concluded in the Neill-Reynolds Report that the book was, "intentionally misleading and false", "willful and deliberate misrepresentations of fact", and "utter absurdity".

But it was the Progressive era, and the truth didn't matter as much as the opportunity: so Teddy suppressed the release of the report to the public, and used the book (by an author he had dismissed as a "crackpot"), as an excuse to create more federal government (the Pure Food and Drug Act, and the Meat Inspection Act).

This was the start of what we called crony capitalism and the explosion of corruption: once the fed had control over things like this, you could pay-off the correct politicians to get past inspections, or guarantee your competition did not, which resulted in consolidation (reduced competition, and higher prices).

While the quality of food and conditions did get a bit better in the short term, most of this was in response to the consumer attention being paid, not the actual regulations. And once an agency like that is created, it has an incentive to grow and expand well beyond it's value proposition. So they kept taxing and regulating and eventually this devolved into the FDA. Thus, while the quality of our products didn't change much (after the initial improvements), the size and scope of the government bureaucracy continued to grow and entropy, into the cluster-fuck that it is today, restricting choice and competition, doing very little additional good over far simpler inspection/rating systems, and often causing massive recalls not due to tainted products, but due to regulatory muscle flexing. (And thus we get more waste, expensive product, and less choice). But since those are hidden costs that most don't realize.

In rural Orange County, it wasn't uncommon for people to raise and butcher their own livestock back in the day. And despite the lack of government oversight, the meat was often safer and healthier than things sent through packing plants (despite their regulation).

Once The Jungle was thoroughly debunked as exaggerated propaganda, it became required reading in many schools even to today (it fit an agenda), and everything Upton wrote after that got the lavish support of the socialists and progressives, and adorned him with accolades: the truth was always far less important to the progressives than telling the fictions they wanted to sell the gullible voters.

So removing federal power, and bringing back more choice and competition is generally a good thing. Balances are in the middle. Maybe if we kept deregulating the FDA, in another 112 years, we'd get to a point where we're going too far, but we have a long way to get to that point.


Written: 2015.08.01