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California Brews Up a New Front in the Coffee War

Garry Reed combined a professional technical writing career and a passion for all things libertarian to become The Libertarian Opinionizer.


Commentary From Your Libertarian Opinionizer

The world is simultaneously at war and at peace with coffee. This review looks at some of the bitter brawls over this sometimes bitter brew in frontlines from California to Iowa to the unexpected battlefields of political correctness and the world of mental health.

Los Angeles Times headline of March 29, 2018: “Judge rules coffee sold in California requires cancer labels.”

On the same day the American Council on Science and Health posted their own more nuanced headline: “In California, Coffee Causes Cancer And Lawyers Collect The Fee.”

Then there’s the February 2018 Forbes headline, “Coffee Causes Cancer. Coffee Prevents Cancer. Wait, What?” which points to a 2017 review that found coffee slightly reduced the risk of liver and endometrial cancers while another study found that coffee slightly increased the risk of bladder cancer.

Into this bitter brewing battle comes a new Time-Life book, TIME Coffee: The Culture. The Business. Your Health.

Book Break with a Coffee Break: Your Libertarian Opinionizer’s Pick

TIMELESS Coffee: The History. The Craziness. Your Sanity

Not only is the book a good introduction to one of the world’s most human-consumed liquids but it’s also more than merely an instant decaf look into the subject. Today’s Coffee War not only embodies a Culture War, a Business War and a Health War, but our present-day latte fray goes way beyond “one lump or two?” It stirs up clashes over political, social, economic, emotional, psychological and moral/ethical issues as well.

To understand the full depth of the ongoing brouhaha over this brew one need look no further than the recent past, at a Coffee War already in full fury.

The Hot Stuff Hinders/Helps our Health


YOUR HEALTH: “Meanwhile, the centuries old debate about coffee’s health benefits continues; some studies find that it has beneficial effects, while others suggest the opposite.”— TIME Coffee: The Culture. The Business. Your Health.

Coffee must be the most studied subject on the planet, funded almost certainly by our taxbucks. A Google search on “coffee studies” brought up “About 27,300 results” at this writing.

A sampling proves how coffee is bad for us …

Yahoo News, No amount of coffee safe during pregnancy, scientist warns.

ScienceDaily, Coffee May Be Linked To Rheumatoid Arthritis.

BBC News, Filtering coffee does not remove a chemical linked to heart disease and stroke.

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… and good for us …

American Cancer Society, Numerous studies have shown that coffee drinking is associated with a lower risk of dying from all causes of death.

CBC News, Coffee boosts memory retention, study says.

USA Today, Coffee linked to longer survival in patients with colorectal cancer, study says.

… and simultaneously bad and good for us …

The Institute for Scientific information on Coffee, Some papers concluded that coffee consumption increased the risk of urinary tract cancer. However, a 2017 study concluded that the data indicates a significant inverse association between coffee consumption and bladder cancer.

… and so on and on and on …

Mocha-Made Mental Madness


But, just as the Google search shows that coffee is/isn't good/bad for us, coffee addiction is equally a problem/non-problem:

According to a Healthline report drinking too much coffee may lead to addiction, anxiety, insomnia, digestive Issues, muscle breakdown, high blood pressure, rapid heart rate, fatigue and frequent urination and urgency.

In a libertarian world this wouldn't be a big deal. We would hear about the privately funded studies and adjust our lifestyles accordingly, or not, as each of us sees fit. But we don’t live in a libertarian world. We live in a litigious land.

Can't you just hear the former class action tobacco-litigating liability lawyers slobbering at their jowls? Which CEOs knew coffee was addictive and when did they know it? Where's the smoking memo that proves it? How much moolah can be legally looted from these mocha merchants?

Meanwhile some anti-caffeine crusaders are demanding that caffeine addiction be included in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, considered “the bible of mental disorders."

So who are these javaphobes that want to transform our pot of perk into a mental power play? Perhaps they're the same people that Ron Paul warned us about in 2004:

"A presidential initiative called The 'New Freedom Commission on Mental Health' has issued a report recommending forced mental health screening for every child in America, including preschool children. The goal is to promote the patently false idea that we have a nation of children with undiagnosed mental disorders crying out for treatment."

Funny, isn't it, how people who want everything to be classified as a mental disorder never seem to get around to classifying themselves in the same terms.

So, using language these people can comprehend, those who love power are powerphiliacs. Those who become addicted to power are addicto-powerphiliacs.

Here's how their game works: whoever makes the first accusation is automatically the winner.

If I accuse you of being an addict and you deny it, you're "in denial," which proves my case.

If you defend yourself, you're "being defensive," which proves my case.

If you call me an idiot for calling you an addict, you're engaging in an "ad hominem attack," which proves my case.

If you demand proof of my accusation, you are revealing an "abnormal and persistent preoccupation with rationality" and are therefore "lacking in compassion, sympathy, or consideration for others," which proves my case.

If you just don't give a crap that you're an addict or what harm your addiction might cause you, that means you "lack self-esteem" and "show signs of severe suicidal tendencies," which proves my case.

And, if you simply ignore me, that means you suffer "attention deficit disorder" which means you get forcibly medicated, which proves my case.

One definition for addiction from the online dictionary is: "persistent compulsive use of a substance known by the user to be harmful."

Therefore it’s time to proclaim that the persistent compulsive use of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders is addictive, and it is known by the users of said manual to be harmful. I said it first. All responses from addicto-powerphiliacs and javaphobes simply prove my case.

But wait. Here is the ultimate irony about caffeine addiction:

While caffeine produces a small rise in dopamine, it does not cause the large surge that unbalances the reward circuits in the brain and is necessary for an addiction. So even though the word “addiction” is often used casually, caffeine is not addictive (scientifically speaking).—National Institute on Drug Abuse

So grab another cup o’ Joe and relax..

Culturally Correct Coffee Crusade


Then there are the continuing issues of social justice, political correctness, cultural Marxism/socialism and identity politics. SJWs and libertarian eye-rollers will all recognize themselves.

Soon after the turn of the current millennium, while everyone’s attention was turning toward Imperial America’s impending war in Iraq, a War Against Coffee was brewing smack dab in the heartland of the nation.

THE BUSINESS: “The fact that we only sell specialty coffee makes us third wave,” says Berman. “Our commitment to farmers and sustainability begins to make us fourth wave.”—TIME Coffee: The Culture. The Business. Your Health.

On Friday, October 25, 2002 we are told by the Iowa City Press-Citizen in “Proposal Restricts Coffee Types” (article archived) that two juniors at the University of Iowa have woken up and smelled the coffee, and they think it stinks. Now they want to protect their fellow townsfolk from consuming politically incorrect java, noting that “some” coffee beans are grown using synthetic chemical pesticides and fertilizers.

At first sip, even libertarians might find the concern and care of these students to be laudatory. But, alas, their concern just naturally takes the form of oxymoronic “coercive compassion.”

The pair wants a city ordinance stating “that all brewed coffee sold in town must be brewed from coffee beans that are organic, fair-trade, shade-grown or a combination.” Grounds for punishment are as strong as the coffee grounds. If the owner of the Koffee Kup Kafe fails to pour you a mug of biodiversity-friendly Colombian he could be fined up to $1,000. Wilma the Waitress could get a three-day coffee break in the Iowa City hoosegow.

No mention is made in the Press-Citizen article concerning enforcement. Will the local police force be required to form a special Keystone Koffee Kops unit? Will eateries be subject to no-knock raids in search of contraband Arabicas? And what about those unintended consequences that inevitably percolate whenever coercion is the first choice of social engineers? Could this create a black market in Folgers, run by vicious mocha mobsters?

Makes you wonder just what those professor types have been teaching their young wards out there in Hawkeye land. Their education is woefully incomplete. True, they are only juniors, so perhaps they’ll still learn about Advanced Domestic Coffee Warfare in their senior year. As many older, world-weary donut dunkers are well aware, countless coffee consumers prefer their mud with cream and/or sugar. And that means an expansion of the Coffee War.

Current Court-Ordered Coffee Country


As this war inexorably spreads to engulf coffee’s two closest allies we can expect a steady stream of dispatches from the Iowa City frontlines:

THE CULTURE: The fourth wave of coffee is “a designation that emphasizes the quality of the product as well as the culture and lifestyle surrounding the industry, right down to who farms the beans.”—TIME Coffee: The Culture. The Business. Your Health.

Cream used in coffee must be all-natural, unprocessed, non-pasteurized and non-homogenized, produced only on people’s cooperative dairy communes. All Jerseys, Holsteins and other members of the udder sisterhood must be free-range grazers. While their milk may taste nasty from eating stinkweed and thornapples everyone knows that natural is better.

And of course the bovines may be milked only by human virgins with soft, tender fingers while crooning soothing lullabies into the ears of the noble beasts. The Animal Liberation Front shall have the authority to firebomb any corporate dairying operation that uses inhumane mechanical milking devices.

Sugar is another matter. All sources of the white sweet stuff must be one hundred percent organic, fair-trade, grown without the use of synthetic chemical pesticides and fertilizers, and hand harvested by highly paid union “human resources” during a thirty-two hour workweek who meet all racial, ethnic, minority and all other politically mandated diversity requirements.

Ideally, Iowa City restaurateurs offering coffee to their customers will replace their sugar shakers with raw chunks of sugar cane and zero tolerance non-threatening serrated plastic knives for shaving off the desired amount. Patrons can decide if they want one scrape or two in their mug of mud.

Aberrant sugar substitutes such as Equal or Sweet’N Low will, of course, be banned. Any coffee shop discovered offering sugar grown from genetically modified beets or cane shall be subject to firebombing by Earth Liberation Front.

And let’s not forget the containers. Most coffee is sold in cans, made of low-carbon steel coated with a thin layer of tin. This requires open pit mines and manufacturing operations destructive to the environment.

Milk cartons and sugar bags are the spawn of chemical processes. While the Iowa U students may be utterly ignorant as to how these products are created, just the word “chemical” smacks of icky stuff injurious to our biosphere. So they all should be outlawed.

The best containers, of course, are earthenware. Coffee, cream and sugar should never be sold in town unless they’ve been shipped in individually handcrafted natural clay pottery produced by authenticated Native Americans. Any Starbucks wannabe in Iowa City caught smuggling coffee or its common condiments in non-crockery containers will be open to firebombing by the American Indian Movement.

That may be a lot of crock, but we have to start somewhere if we want to save the Earth from civilization.

Back here in the present the Coffee War wages on with little to no change in it or the health hopes versus hazards of Hills Brothers and all the others.

The Coffee War, like the Hundred Years’ War, will continue as long as someone profits from it in some way. For good or ill California’s compulsory cancer categorizing will guarantee that.


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This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.

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