Worst of Both Worlds

Those who support a strong regulatory state argue that only the government has the power and the incentives to make sure products are safe.  Anarcho-capitalists like myself argue that where consumers demand high-quality or assurances of safety, the market will provide it as competitors, always alert for ways to differentiate themselves, will seek out ways to create a brand around safety or security (see Volvo, for example).  If those competitors gain market share, then others will have to emulate them.

The Bush Administration has, at least for mad cow disease, chosen to take the worst of both of these worlds, resisting calls for the government to test more than 1% of the beef while actually barring private firms from competing on the basis of better testing.

The Bush administration said Tuesday it will fight to keep meatpackers from testing all their animals for mad cow disease.

Agriculture Department tests less than 1 percent of slaughtered cows
for the disease, which can be fatal to humans who eat tainted beef.

But Kansas-based Creekstone Farms Premium Beef wants to test all of its cows.

meat companies feared that move because, if Creekstone tested its meat
and advertised it as safe, they might have to perform the expensive
test, too.

Basically, Creekstone's competitors are asking to be protected from having to respond to innovation by their competitors.  Their response is roughly equivalent to Barnes and Noble saying in 1998, "Amazon should be banned from selling books on the internet because if they do so, we may have to bear the cost of doing the same."  No shit.  Deal with it.

Again, regulation is being used to protect companies from the cost of full competition.


  1. AustinContrarian:

    What's your source for that quote?

  2. Craig:

    The B&N quote? He made that up, to make a point.

  3. tribal elder:

    Once again, government makes us less safe and less free. we don't get to vote with our dollars for safer or cheaper beef.

  4. Jim Collins:

    The issue here isn't with the US Government, it is with the lawyers. The other meat producers don't want to incurr the expense of testing all of their cattle, but are afraid that if Creekstone goes ahead with it's plan to test it's cattle, they can be sued if they don't test. If they can get the Government to take responsibility for the testing they can't be held liable.

  5. la petite chou chou:

    Here is the real problem.

    You can only test cattle for BSE (mad cow disease) upon killing them. The reason is because the only way to be sure is by testing brain tissue. Now, if a cow is slaughtered and found to have BSE, it is already too late for the rest of the herd, since it is required that all animals who have contacted the infected animal be destroyed.

    The only reason you would be testing an animal for BSE is if you have reason to believe it has the disease. There are symptoms which show up in basically all cases---I've not heard of finding a case where there weren't symptoms that led to the culling and testing. If you have no symptoms, you wouldn't have cause to do the test even for the simple fact that your carcass would probably be unusable by the time the results came back. Also, all 3 US cases of BSE have come from cattle originating in Canada.

    Something that most people don't know is that ALL species of ruminant animals have their own form of BSE. Even wild animals, which merely demonstrates that it's causes remain unknown in many cases. Also, the only way a person can get CJD is by eating infected matter...such as the brain, eyes, and spinal cord. BSE does not affect muscle or blood at all, which is why the only way to know a cow has it is by doing tests on the brain. Therefore, the only meat that would be remotely likely to be affected would be hamburger, and that is simply because the butcher may not be as careful when cutting the meat away from the carcass, and even that's a long shot since all the affected parts I listed are removed well before any butchering happens. And, lastly, humans have been getting CJD long before the disease was ever discovered in cattle. Cannibals got it from eating other people.

    Sorry for the long post. A degree in Animal Science with a beef and equine emphasis comes in handy sometimes.

  6. TJIT:

    Apparently the original AP article had the court arguments completely wrong.

    the danger of trusting anything that a journalist says about a legal proceeding.

    In the lawsuit, the government did not make an argument about "false positives." To the contrary, the government's brief in support of a motion for summary judgment (as well as its other briefs) argued that BSE tests would provide a overwhelming number of false negatives.