This paper examines the reception and regulation of antibiotics in animal agriculture in the United States and Europe. It finds two different cultural traditions. In the United States, a libertarian ethos, aided and abetted by big agriculture, hampers effective regulation. Authoritarianism in Europe promotes active and aggressive regulation. These two thrusts have something in common: both effectively obscure science and scientific debate. Policy on the two sides of the Atlantic reflects a priori assumptions rather than thorough scientific scrutiny. We assert that there is a larger moral here. Indeed, scientism as practiced and expertise generally lack the technological competence to define an objective course. Repeated dependence on the quest for scientific objectification to resolve public issues stands as nothing more than desperate and naïve pipedreams of what science and expertise can establish; they can and do contribute precious little to the discussion. Cultural presumptions and contemporary economic imperatives have set and will continue to be the basis for “scientific” decision-making and “rational” governmental policy.

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