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Letter From The Editor: Tipping Point?

Opinion

Long before 9/11, I knew a couple of guys who worked for an electric company and they traveled by commercial airlines a good deal. I don’t how it started, but at some point they got into competition with one another over who could make the most last minute arrival and still get on a flight.

It was great fun. The stories are legendary. Rental cars left on the tarmac of major airports. Being waved through what amount to “security checks” back then by airline employees who knew about the competition. Many of the incidents would today land anyone involved hard time in federal prison, if not a ride to Gitmo.

On a couple of occasions was I a spectator to this competition, but I still miss it.  Smoking on commercial airlines was gone before 9/11, but I still miss it too. Not because I smoke, but because it was the most effective method for separating the adults from the crying, snot-nosed children.

All of us now, as we assume our most Zen-like states as we approach the TSA station, have thoughts and fears about losing personal rights and freedoms in this country. How much freedom are we willing to give up for security?

The answer to that question might be different for each of us. Whether its restricting calories in school lunches, removing junk food from school vending machines, prohibiting commercial sale of raw milk, or limiting soda pop sizes, it means the police power of the state is being used to limit someone’s freedom in the name of some greater good.

With so much more contributing to this than just policies about food and nutrition, it would be nice if someone were thinking about whether there is a “tipping” point in our futures. Is there going to be a day when we just don’t think about freedom anymore and remain in our most Zen-like states 24/7?

Or will we reach a point where we’re not going to take it anymore? The “Food Freedom” folks have already answered that one. What about the rest of us?

I have to say I was surprised to see that The Pew Research Center for the People and Press is thinking such thoughts and putting them into some historical perspective with some new survey research on the subject.

In a very credible poll, Pew Research last week said that for the first time in history a majority of the American people believes the federal government threatens their rights.

“As Barack Obama begins his second term in office, trust in the federal government remains mired near a historic low, while frustration with government remains high,” says Pew Research.

Pew’s findings are based on survey research conducted Jan. 9-13 involving completed interviews with 1,502 adults. It found 53 percent of those interviewed think the federal government threatens their personal rights and freedoms, while 43 percent disagree.

Pew Research is the third largest think tank in Washington D.C., and is funded by the Philadelphia-based Pew Charitable Trusts.

It says majorities consistently rejected the idea that the U.S. government threatened people’s rights and freedoms from 1995 through 2003. As recently as March 2010, the number saying they felt threatened stood short of a majority at 47 percent.

But not anymore.

“The growing view that the federal government threatens personal rights and freedoms has been led by conservative Republicans,” the  pollsters reported. “Currently 76 percent of conservative Republicans say the federal government threatens their personal rights and freedoms and 54 percent describe government as a ‘major” threat.”

Pew found that 38 percent of Democrats also think government is a threat to personal rights and freedoms with 16 percent saying it is a major threat.

Luckily most people are more frustrated with government than angered by it, according to Pew. And partisan anger has shifted from Democrats at Bush to Republicans at Obama. For example, liberal anger has cooled since Bush left office to just 8 percent, down from 44 percent. It has been replaced by anger among conservatives rising to 31 percent, up from 6 percent.

“Public frustration with the federal government is now new,” Pew notes.

Also interesting was Pew’s finding that by a 56 to 32 margin, the public thinks the problem in Washington, D.C. is the people elected to Congress, not the political system that is the problem.

The survey did not address the specific personal rights and freedoms that people fear losing, so there is no way of knowing how much food safety and nutrition policies might be causing the concerns.

It will be interesting to see how leaders in the food safety and nutrition movement, including those who work at Pew Health, respond to these findings. It might be good if someone smart thinks about the cumulative impacts of personal restrictions.

None of us would ever want to forget those five most important words in the Declaration of Independence about how government must be based on: “the consent of the governed.” We can live with no more games at the airports, but if we lose the consent of the governed, it’s game over.

© Food Safety News
  • http://twitter.com/safetysecurityi firoze zia hussain

    homeland security and TSA needs to be tough yet pragmatic—–those guys need a lot of training to really be able to catch a terrorist rather than submitting each passenger to the drill ………..does not help either way………….air port checking is becoming a complicated methodology consisting of big data and machines ………..more importantly if the security measures are upgraded globally rather than only a few airports it will help to prevent crime and terrorism——–this means some o the rich nations need to provide high end security equipment to countries which cannot afford the same so that a symbolism of global security is maintained………….with the kind of pricng of airport security equipments many of the poorer nations are simply giving it a go bye ……….a global patenting solution is required rather than few corporates having all the patents for things like explosives detection which could be done in same way as it is being done for medicines or in agricultural seeds

  • http://twitter.com/RustyBrown47 Russell La Claire

    Equating food safety and childhood health to loss of freedom seems to me pretty much of a non-issue. Large agro firms selling fake/tainted food to children may be ok for some, but thankfully most of us disagree. 

  • http://burningbird.net Shelley Powers
  • http://burningbird.net Shelley Powers

    There’s no surprise at the results. How many front groups blare out messages about ‘nanny’ state? How often are people hit with suspicious, and loud cries of “I’m losing my freedom!”, for whatever freedom an individual feels they’re losing. 

    At no other time in history are people hit with messages from the extreme elements of society as they are right now. And many in government have done little to push back at these extreme messages—too busy worrying about being re-elected. And yes, I include President Obama in this, as he has not done a good job actually being a spokesman for the government. 

    I also noticed that the publications that are playing up the results of this reports—in portentous tones—are primarily right wing or libertarian publications who are, ultimately, responsible for much of the fear supposedly being evidenced in this research. 

    And then there’s Food Safety News. Hmm.  

  • ethanspapa

    It’s been going on since 9/11.   Furiously Being pushed by hardened controlling burnt out Law Enforcement who has this idea that a police state will protect this country. Applauded by the conservative right.
    Then the  over reaction by President  Bush and Congress. Without thinking, they get these horrid laws passed. The Homeland Security and Patriot Acts. The conservative Supreme Court loves this. The great courts of yesteryear would bristle at such laws as unconstitutional. The Warren Court are turning over in their graves along with our forefathers.
    Why do you think this police officer in LAPD  did this,” for fun”. Read his transcripts from what he’s witnessed and what was done to him. They pushed him over the edge. He saw all the racism,bigotry and hate from people that work for us the taxpayer. Reread the side of your cruiers. To protect and to serve. Not bully, beat and lie.
    Don’t believe it. Go to      http://www.cops gone crazy.com/you tube. Or read the paper and watch the news every night.
    We may be headed for another civil war.
     People are angry. For this old frail disabled man, all I can do is weep for my country I fought for and  love dearly.
    I didn’t sacrifice my life for this.
    Shame on them.

  • ethanspapa

    On another note while waiting for approval of my previous post. This web site has probably saved myself and my family’s life on being educated about these awful illnesses due to malfeasance or just plain avarice.
    I am extremely grateful.

  • Oginikwe

    If Pew had asked me this simple question I would have been one of those  in the majority of the American people believes the federal government threatens their rights.  Not because I feel threatened by the government in and of itself but because the government works hand-in-glove with the business industry to remove our rights and slant everything  in favor of big business.   Nowhere was this made more clear than in John Munsell’s ordeal with his small business when government agencies ignored the obvious in order to not offend big agriculture.   And, each time a much needed “any industry” whistle-blower comes forward, they are crucified, too often by someone in government who has one foot in the revolving door of the industries they are supposed to regulate. 

    Their question just didn’t go far enough.  They should poll on how much we trust anyone in corporate America–if their numbers can go that low.

  • http://www.facebook.com/visalia.vaportrailers Visalia Vapor Trailers

    Like most problems, our government is not goping to the core of the problem. Tobacco use is legal. Obesity is a problem, why are children obese? It’s hard to burn calories if you’re plugged into a game boy, computer, Tv set. Cheap entertainment, a cheap baby sitter, bring back physical fitness programs. Make them nadatory for kids until they graduate from high school. Watch many of these problems go away. Our government is doing everything the easy way and our rights are eroding away.