Tuesday, April 26, 2011

The Jungle is Fiction and Upton Sinclair is a Liar

I wrote this post long ago on a forum I frequent. Many people use Upton Sinclair's The Jungle as their basis for fear of an unregulated market. I wrote this to show that the fear is unfounded because the book is a lie. I thought readers here would enjoy it.

I wanted this thread to mostly be about how the FDA and pure food and drug act came about. Most point to publication of The Jungle by Upton Sinclair. People read that and are appalled by how meat was handled back then. But should we really have kids reading this thinking that this is how things actually were? After all, The Jungle is a work of fiction. Theodore Roosevelt called Sinclair a "crackpot." In one of his correspondences, he wrote of Upton Sinclair, "Three-fourths of the things he said were absolute falsehoods. For some of the remainder there was only a basis of truth."

In terms of legislation, the real starting point was Neill-Reynolds Report. This was the report that was needed for the food safety regulations that were passed. But, of course, there were problems with it.

It turns out that neither Neill nor Reynolds had any experience in the meat-packing business and spent a grand total of two and a half weeks in the spring of 1906 investigating and preparing what turned out to be a carelessly written report with predetermined conclusions. Gabriel Kolko, a socialist but nonetheless a historian with a respect for facts, dismisses Sinclair as a propagandist and assails Neill and Reynolds as “two inexperienced Washington bureaucrats who freely admitted they knew nothing” 9 of the meat-packing process. Their own subsequent testimony revealed that they had gone to Chicago with the intention of finding fault with industry practices so as to get a new inspection law passed.

In the same year, the Department of Agriculture's Bureau of Animal Husbandry came out with a report that point-by-point refuted the worst of Sinclair's claims. Interesting that not many people hear about this.

According to the popular myth, there were no government inspectors before Congress acted in response to “The Jungle,” and the greedy meat packers fought federal inspection all the way. The truth is that not only did government inspection exist, but meat packers themselves supported it and were in the forefront of the effort to extend it so as to ensnare their smaller, unregulated competitors.

. . .

In the end, Americans got a new federal meat inspection law, the big packers got the taxpayers to pick up the entire $3 million price tag for its implementation, as well as new regulations on the competition, and another myth entered the annals of anti-market dogma


  1. Progressivism was built upon a foundation of BS.

    Companies don't make money poisoning and killing their customers.

  2. Yet that is what is taught to children all over this country, that without government controls we would all be dying because there would be no way to ensure that the food is safe. I can't believe that they get away with it. I can't believe that adults don't question it.

  3. Can you please provide sources for this? I really want to use this in order to refute my uneducated history teacher's claims.

  4. The website that had all of these quotes has been shutdown, but try searching for those quotes and see what you find.

  5. You might find my recent article on the Mises wiki useful:


    It cites the article you cite and brings in a few more sources as well

  6. Yeah may you please cite as much sources as you can because I need to use articles and facts like these to refute the progressive propaganda (especially in my area of Washington D.C.). Thanks man.