When you see Big Business getting into bed with Big NGOs to get Big Government to pass a law, alarm bells have to start going off. Case in point, from Walter Olson:
Surprisingly or otherwise, some big business groups like the Grocery Manufacturers of America have allied with consistent Big Government advocacy groups like the Consumer Federation of America and Center for Science in the Public Interest to push S. 510, the food safety bill pending before the Senate (which might win consideration in the lame-duck session).
How socially responsible of the GMA to join hands with food cops like CSPI, right? Corporate social responsibility at its finest, right?
The GMA may talk the socially responsible game, but what they're really doing is creating barriers to entry. Back to Olson's post:
In a post at Cato at Liberty recently, I cited writer Barry Estabrook, an ardent critic of the food industry (“Politics of the Plate“), writing at The Atlantic, who says the bill could “make things worse”:
You needn’t go along completely with Estabrook’s dim view of industrialized agriculture to realize he’s right in one of his central contentions: “the proposed rules would disproportionately impose costs upon” small producers, including traditional, low-tech and organic farmers and foodmakers selling to neighbors and local markets. Even those with flawless safety records or selling low-risk types of foodstuff could be capsized by new paperwork and regulatory burdens that larger operations will be able to absorb as a cost of doing business.
It’s true that S. 510 includes language not in earlier drafts that nods toward the idea of tiering regulatory burdens. But as the Farm and Ranch Freedom Alliance notes (background), most of the small-producer-friendly changes are left to FDA discretion, so it really depends on how much you trust that process.
Being "socially responsible" often has costs. Often those costs don't scale. As a result, they tend to be borne disproportionately by small and medium size businesses. Which is why big business loves it when government mandates some purportedly socially responsible law. It creates barriers to entry making it tough for new competitors to succeed.
One of the interesting questions about the Tea Party movement is whether it will become a critique of bigness in general--taking on the Big NGOs and Big Business, as well as Big Government.