Excessive government regulation of locally produced food is enough to turn even liberals into libertarians, at least on this particular issue, as we noted in an item here a few years back.
Two recent news items reinforce the idea that food and wine are becoming a battleground for economic freedom.
A wine column by Eric Asimov in the New York Times food section runs under the headline "Wines Are No Longer Free To Travel Across State Lines." It reports on successful lobbying by wholesalers to outlaw interstate wine sales. The column concludes:
around the country it means fewer choices for consumers. Curtailing out-of-state shipping only makes it worse.
In an age where you can order just about anything on the internet, including wine, consumers deserve safe access to great retailers over state borders.
That dispatch also illustrates another principle, which is that news is often the same story over and over again. The front page of the New York Sun from April 16, 2002, under the headline "Wine Case Is a Corker," reported on litigation about New York State's ban on such sales. Randy Mastro was a lawyer involved in the case. More than 15 years later, the fight goes on, without resolution. The Times does have the newer news that Amazon is getting into the wine business, which, given that company's political clout, might be the death knell of the interstate shipping ban.
Bloomberg News, meanwhile, reports that the FDA sent a warning letter dated October 16 to the high-end New York sushi restaurant Masa, alleging that fish served there "have been prepared, packed, or held under insanitary conditions whereby they may have been rendered injurious to health." Says Bloomberg: "High-end sushi chefs have clashed with regulators before over rules that require that fish intended for raw consumption be frozen before serving."
Sometimes the costs of regulation are invisible. But when the government is preventing you from ordering wine online or eating fresh, non-frozen fish, it becomes visible. It's an open question whether that will create enough of a political backlash to change the rules, or whether, if those rules change, the anti-regulatory energy will be transferable to other areas.