-OpEd-

MUNICH — Some politicians seem to have a truly agonizing relationship with the term "freedom." But what exactly is freedom? Is it the right to drive down the autobahn (the German highway) at 190 kilometers per hour? Is freedom the right to destroy planet Earth because no one has the right to prohibit you from doing so?

Christian Linder, chairman of the self declared "freedom party" — the FDP (Free Democratic Party) — likes to speak out vociferously against all different kinds of bans and statutory prohibitions that his opponents supposedly or actually do demand.

A fundamental ignorance of scientific, evidence-based research.

He's against rules regarding meat consumption, for example, or frequent flying, or speeding on the autobahn. There's also the issue of sugar and salt content in food items. Agriculture Minister Julia Klöckner of the CDU (Christian Democratic Union) is still hoping, in that case, that the food industry will voluntarily self-regulate.

Linder's approach is sensible enough from a political perspective. Why not try to sway voters by convincing them that attempts by other parties to tighten regulations are an attack on basic freedoms?

The problem, though, is that his "me" and "here and now" attitude toward freedom is based on a fundamental ignorance of scientific, evidence-based research. It's shocking, in fact, because at the risk of sounding alarmist, what seems to be at play here is an actual animosity towards science.

Meat consumption is a case in point. There is absolutely no doubt that the global appetite for beef filets and chicken breasts is having a massive impact on the environment. Scientists have warned in countless publications of the dire consequences that intensive livestock farming has on soil, insects, air and, ultimately, on humans.

Another example is sugar. Renowned medical journals have been publishing studies for years about the dangerous consequences of excessive consumption of high-calorie foods. There is, once again, absolutely no doubt that sugar can make you sick!

Only the restriction of personal freedom can ensure global and sustainable freedom.

Science even goes a step further in aiding politics: It can actually demonstrate the effects of concrete policy measures. And all publications to this effect agree on one thing: Self regulation is not effective. Whether it's diet or climate change, a little pressure applied to various industries or even the consumer is, unfortunately, necessary.

Those of us who want freedom in the shape of a healthy planet that will provide a good life for our children should accept, therefore, that sometimes only strict rules and regulations will do the trick. Only the restriction of personal freedom can ensure global and sustainable freedom. Those who ignore scientific evidence, on the other hand, do not fight for freedom. All they're seeking is their own personal albeit temporary gain.


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