Monday, March 11th, 2013...3:37 pm

Liberal libertarian vegetarians?

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Have government subsidies in agriculture driven our food system in a failing direction?

Should raw milk be legal?

Do people have the right to know what’s in their food?

If you answered yes to these questions, you are probably a supporter of the food movement.

You also have a fair amount in common with Libertarians. The two are not incompatible, it turns out.

Many people associate the “food movement” with crunchy, left-wing liberals. A story from a new friend I met at the student garden’s recent Campus Cultivation Conference supported this association. She told me she had gone to a town meeting near her college, Middlebury, to support the labeling of genetically modified foods (a good general breakdown of this issue can be found here). As she was walking through the parking lot, she noticed the vast majority of the cars were bumper-stickered Subarus, which are the stereotypical car of choice for liberal Democrats (Subarus were “found to be the auto brand with the second-highest percentage of owners registered as Democratic voters in a 2005 survey by market researcher Scarborough Research,” according to

Her point? The town meeting supporting the labeling of GMO’s was decidedly liberal.

However, criticisms of government intervention–a role of the government under the Democratic Party’s social liberal platform–in the food system pervade the “food movement.” Government subsidies have pushed American agriculture to consolidation and monoculture practices. The Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank, argues, “The flow of subsidies from Washington hinders farmers from innovating, cutting costs, diversifying their land use, and taking the actions needed to prosper in a competitive global economy,” and many “liberal foodies” would agree.

Similarly, Libertarian Ron Paul left Congress last year with a farewell speech in which he listed 32 questions, the second of which was, “Why does the federal government restrict the drinking of raw milk?”

This question is similar to one many food movement proponents ask.

For more about the raw milk issues and the “Food Freedom movement,” check out this article, “The War on Milk.”

In an article on TakePart’s website, Steve Holt argues, “Libertarian sentiments run through the food movement.”

So how can the food movement be categorized and stereotyped as liberal yet hold similar beliefs to Libertarians?

The food movement is embedded in greater political struggles, namely that of a two-party system in which the two parties are largely similar. Despite their similarities, members of either party pit themselves against members of the other party because of deeply entrenched loyalties to their party. It is rare to see politicians or politically active individuals step out of the loyalty framework and approach individual issues from a personal angle rather than lumping them in with party platforms. Parties help people identify their enemies and overlook spaces of collaboration and like-mindedness.

This issue brings up the point that the food movement is amorphous and can easily cross political lines, but is hardly recognized as such.

Emily Sohn, author of the “War on Milk” article linked earlier, writes, “Perhaps more than any other issue, the Food Freedom movement and its corresponding push for access to raw milk, cross political boundaries and tie people together who couldn’t be more different.”

As foodies grapple with the complexities that make up our industrialized food system, there’s the potential and even the need to dismiss political alignment and work on problems with a unified voice rather than one fragmented by party affiliations.

And here’s a cool infographic about the different eating habits of our dominating parties (while this infographic draws your attention to the differences, also think about what it says about their similarities):




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