We are developing the social individualist meta-context for the future. From the very serious to the extremely frivolous... lets see what is on the mind of the Samizdata people.

Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

The totalitarian mindset

On 27th of May, two eminent medical professors wrote a letter to the Daily Telegraph newspaper. Professor N.J. Wald and Professor A.V. Hoffbrand are seriously peeved that the recommendations of the advisory scientific committee on nutrition (COMA) are not going to be supported by the government. Those recommendations are to require by law that all bread in the United Kingdom is fortified with folic acid. This is already mandatory in the USA. In their letter the government funded professors wrote:

We believe that the decision of the Food Standards Agency [not to accept the COMA conclusions] is a mistake and illustrates the structural weakness in our ability to make rational public health decisions. The problem goes further than folic acid. It affects our whole approach to public health.

The contemporary view is that public health is essentially an issue of personal choice. In fact, the essence of public health is that it is a collective strategy that does not require personal choice (it is just there for all to benefit from). At present, individual decisions relating to public health [emphasis added] are a separate issue. We need an agency that is mandated to consider public health in a rational, evidence-based manner, with the authority to recommend policy to government and monitor its implementation. We are, regrettably, far from this paradigm.

We hope that ministers will ignore the view of the Food Standards Agency and implement the strategy proposed by COMA, the Governments’s own scientific advisory committee

First off, let me say that I certainly agree that increasing ones intake of Folic acid has beneficial effects (I take a pill of the stuff myself every day). However that efficacy or otherwise of folic acid is utterly irrelevant. By what warped moral value does COMA and professors Wald and Hoffbrand have the right to decide that the entire population are going to be medicated by the state? There is only one person who has the right to decide if I will add chemicals to my body and that person is me. The only conceivable morally justified circumstances in which I might be medicated against my will is that of highly infectious dangerous diseases, on the theory that if I have smallpox (or whatever) then I would pose a clear threat to others.

Yet that is not the case here, and neither is it in the case of water fluoridation. Both are probably harmless and even beneficial yet it would seem that the morality of using the violence of the state to impose the judgement of technocrats like Wald and Hoffbrand does not even get a mention.

If because it is said to be objectively beneficial to force people to ingest certain chemicals, then why not also allow Wald and Hoffbrand to decide what the nations subjects will be required to eat and not eat? High fat low fibre MacDonald’s burgers? Why not just make them illegal and require all restaurants to serve state approved menus set by COMA? If these professors have no moral problem forcibly medicating millions of people every day ‘for their own good’ then why not try to reduce the incidence of heart disease by shutting down the burger joints and pizza parlours? Except for communicable diseases, there is no such thing as ‘public health’. My diet and supplements are none of Wald and Hoffbrand’s damn business. How dare they try to put chemicals in MY body without my personal and explicit permission?

Of course the totalitarian mindset demonstrated by these people, rooted in collectivist hubris and moral relativism, sees choice itself as irrational… morality does not even come into it. Yet even on the amoral utilitarian basis under which such people operate and to which they would required us to submit our very body chemistry, we all know how well the state’s retained scientists can be trusted regarding ‘public health’. Look at how well they did regarding ‘mad cow disease’.

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