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Reason.com reports on a Florida dairy in a dispute with state authorities about the way it labels its skim milk. Until courts resolve the dispute, Florida has ordered the dairy not to sell its milk. You can read particulars of the case in the article below.

When a dispute like this one develops, you can tell that for the state, the apparent substance of the case is secondary to the challenge. Florida will not back down, no matter how reasonable the dairy’s arguments. Thus the case is not primarily about accurate labeling; it is about being defied.

The state cannot afford to be defied too often, for word gets around. A normal day of doing honest business for Ocheesee dairy amounts to bending or breaking the rules for the state. From Florida’s point of view, it has to enforce the entire rulebook to the letter, or it might lose control, entirely. Once a business entity bends one rule without consequences, other businesses start to think they can do the same thing. Then the whole structure of authority disintegrates.

We have all heard of parents who are so strict, by the time their children are teenagers, they have lost them. I don’t say that businesses like Ocheesee are rebellious teenagers, but the comparison is not so far off if you want to understand why the state tries to maintain such tight control. If a state agency cannot coerce the businesses assigned to it, it might as well not exist.

Judges understand this state of mind, so arguments about definitions, accurate labeling, safety, honest business practices and so forth will not impress them, either. The contest is about state control, not about other issues related to the way the law is written, or why the law was written. In this way, the conflict resembles the case where a parent lays down a rule, the child asks, “Why?”, and the parent responds, “Because I say so!” From the parent’s perspective, neither the rule’s substance, nor grounds for the child’s challenge, bear on the core of the conflict.

Related article

Federal Judge Rules Skim Milk Isn’t ‘Skim Milk’