Antibacterial Soap and America’s Drift into a Sleepy Totalitarianism

Today the Food and Drug Administration announced that it is pulling a wide range of antimicrobial soaps from the market, citing a lack of evidence that they work—and reinforcing the idea that they actually might exacerbate the looming threat of antibiotic resistance.

The FDA first proposed the ban on antimicrobial soaps back in 2013. Since then, it [has] asked soap manufacturers to submit data showing their products did a better job of keeping disease-causing germs out of the body than plain soap and water, without adverse health effects. The agency found the results either incomplete or unconvincing. “We didn’t get confirmation that these products are harmful,” said FDA spokeswoman Andrea Fischer. “But there’s not enough data to make the case for their effectiveness.”

Since when did manufacturers and producers become obliged to prove to the federal government that their product is worthwhile? Why do soap manufacturers have to sell their ideas and products to the government? Isn’t it their job to sell their product to the customer?

The issue here is not science. It’s coercion. Government is not merely informing people here. Government is ordering people on what they may or may not buy, regardless of what their own judgment, experience, or various informed opinions on the subject may suggest. Big Mommy Government is trying to decide, for all people in all situations, whether it’s valid to buy a certain soap product. It’s not a new precedent, but the indifference with which the “American sheeple” greet such edicts is disturbing, at least if self-responsibility, individual rights and liberty are things you value.

For once, I’d like the burden of proof to be on the government agency, rather than the business, to justify its reason for existence. And remember, when government clamps down on a business, it’s clamping down on customers as well. People who currently don’t wish to buy or use antibacterial soap won’t care, one way or the other. But those who do, and believe they have found some use from doing so, now must follow the orders of the government. By what right does the government do this?

It’s a slippery slope, not just with soap, but with anything. The government big and powerful enough to tell you what soap you may use will eventually tell you what food you may eat, what medical services you may or may not use, what books or websites you may read, and many more things. (It’s already happening, of course.) Don’t people realize that totalitarianism like Communism or Nazism starts with little tiny attacks on freedom? Those attacks accumulate over time and one day you wake up to hear that … the government is shutting down websites, or forbidding certain candidates from running for president. Why? Because some agency or another has determined that these ideas or people are not good for you. It’s the exact same reasoning they used to take away your soap a few years earlier. It’s happening with just about everything else in society: cars, clothes, soap, food, water pressure in your shower, things now too countless to name or identify. Don’t you think it’s just a matter of time before they go after your minds, in the realm of ideas, as well? Does anyone even care?

Agencies like the FDA (along with the FCC, the FEC and so many others) don’t protect us, as most erroneously believe. We’re capable of protecting ourselves, if we apply thought, reason, personal experience and personal experimentation with matters like soap products. And these agencies are not accountable to anyone. They issue direct orders with only theoretical control from Congress or the Supreme Court. As our country moves toward essentially one-party rule, where the two nominal parties agree and cooperate on everything with only rare dissension, there’s less and less wiggle room for the minority of individualists who still exist to think and act for themselves.

The controversy over antibacterial soap is a scientific one. The government, if it insists on taking action, could simply inform people of the arguable risks and benefits of antibacterial soap and leave it to people to decide for themselves. Of course, a private organization with a good reputation could do that job even better than a government agency, but that’s a separate point. The only point that really matters here is that increasingly, government interferes with our rights and our functioning as reasoning, thinking, independent and autonomous human beings. Increasingly, it’s all command-and-control from Washington DC. They do our thinking for us and we let them.

The reaction to this decision is the one you typically hear. “Oh, so now they’re saying this soap isn’t good for you.” Who are “they,” anyway?  Is it “their” job to tell us what’s good for us? Or is it our own job, responsibility and right to do so for ourselves? Or others might counter that the soap is good for you. Almost nobody will challenge the government’s right to impose this decision on everyone. They only wonder if the edict is the right one, or if there should be a different edict. This is not the mentality that won America’s freedom from the British, the North’s victory over the South in the Civil War, nor World War II. A nation of sheep cannot function or defend itself; its economy will not continue to thrive; and ultimately such a nation will not survive.

Liberty, freedom and individual rights are not duties. They are the natural and inevitable outgrowth of independent and self-responsible thinking. How in the world are we to be mentally healthy people of strong character if we let this one-party government rule our every move? What happens when they spread their will into the areas covered by the First and Second Amendments, the only two freedoms we really still have? Stay tuned, because that’s the next chapter in our history.

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