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]

Samizdata quote of the day

We’ve a new little report, piece of scientific research, telling us that cheese and red meat are good for us. This in entire opposition to everything governments have been telling us about diet for decades now. This telling us that government is a seriously bad way of doing anything.

Sure, of course, humans are wrong, most humans are wrong a lot of the time. The problem with government being that when that wrongness gets propagated by our rulers it becomes the established fact. Meaning that we’re all affected by it, there is none of that natural variability of error which protects some and harms others. We all become subject to the error that is

Tim Worstall

30 comments to Samizdata quote of the day

  • jim jones

    So much of Government advice is absurd so I never believe any of it

  • Mr Black

    Now can we apply that piece of wisdom to something like… vaccination? Or is this wisdom sometimes true, sometimes not and we all have to think for ourselves.

  • Lord T

    The real problem with when government sticks it’s oar in is that if enough people object and don’t follow their ‘suggestions’ is that they make it compulsory by making it illegal.

  • Now can we apply that piece of wisdom to something like… vaccination? Or is this wisdom sometimes true, sometimes not and we all have to think for ourselves.

    You seem to be missing the point.

  • Mr Black

    No, I made my point quite clearly. Vaccines are of little value if half the herd are not vaccinated, which is the point of making them near mandatory.

  • No, I made my point quite clearly.

    Yes, your point is very clear, the point you are missing is the one made by Tim Worstall (& Bastiat) 😉

  • Runcie Balspune

    One of the biggest defects of socialism is the requirement or encouragement to collectivize decision making, whilst this is ordinarily seen as a “good thing” that “gets stuff done” the problems come when the ones making decisions are unaccountable, irresponsible and are morons you can’t get rid of, which is a “feature” of socialism as well.

    Now can we apply that piece of wisdom to something like… vaccination? Or is this wisdom sometimes true, sometimes not and we all have to think for ourselves.

    And why can’t this just be “encouraged”? A requirement for adult employment, or for a child’s attendance at school or other group activities, perhaps payment for undertaking it, lower insurance premium, certification to work with the general public, etc?

    There is a natural incentive for employers and schools to have vaccinated attendees, either because sick people don’t work, or a child may die or be seriously effected, and there is the ensuing legal issues that may arise.

    Equally, whilst there is an individual risk of not taking vaccination, there is the extensional risk that you may pass the disease on to someone else and they may not be too happy about that and may seek compensation.

    Given the choice, most educated people would vaccinate, it is after all the “low risk” solution.

    With the government involved, you can be sure they even f*ck up mass vaccinations, causing inconvenience and expense for everyone.

  • Surellin

    I knew it. If I waited long enough, I figured that the government would finally confirm that cheesburgers are good for me.

  • Ljh

    Mr Black: a successful vaccination prevents the vaccinee from developing the disease(measles, polio, mumps, rubella and other viruses) or ameliorating it(BCG) or the effects of toxins produced by bacteria(diphtheria, tetanus). Herd immunity is a secondary effect by which those unable to be vaccinated because of inability to mount an effective response egimmunosuppressed post transplant or chemotherapy are protected from the infectious disease because the disease is unable to propagate within the community due to high enough levels of vaccination. Anyone who fails to vaccinate their child against measles, tetanus or diphtheria is a dangerous fool.

  • Mr Black writes:

    Now can we apply that piece of wisdom to something like vaccination? Or is this wisdom sometimes true, sometimes not and we all have to think for ourselves.

    Under the assumption that he is entirely sincere in his comment, I think we have to go with the “sometimes true” option. But he then writes:

    Vaccines are of little value if half the herd are not vaccinated, which is the point of making them near mandatory.

    On government compulsion, IMHO and recollection, for most disease types this is not true. The compulsion I have found was for children in private secondary school (with boarding, though that is probably not a leading issue). It was a condition of acceptance and attendance that all pupils must receive a flu vaccination every year – to ensure compliance, the school arranged delivery of the vaccinations (into the pupils). There is clearly no government compulsion here, just compulsion under private contract. The reason being (I assume) less sickness and so more efficient delivery of both education and general health care.

    On herd immunity, that is not the case for tetanus. This is because the human contagion route is extremely minor (pre-natal infection from the mother being a partial exception, in some less developed countries, and for which vaccination does presumably help); Clostridium tetani (the bacterium) is all pervasive in soil.

    On herd immunity and (UK) government compulsion, that is not the case with flu. Despite being a fairly common cause of death in the very elderly, this is largely because herd immunity does not usefully exist because of fast evolutionary variation – not enough preservation of strains from year to year for herd immunity to build up – nor is it cost-effective to have many-strain vaccinations (beyond the annually different 4 or so predicted major strains) to try and build up herd immunity.

    Thus we have on vaccination, mainly very strong government recommendation (including free delivery ‘bribe’ for the mechanism and age government chooses), but not compulsion. That arrangement looks to work well: take-up is mostly very high.

    So back to cheese and red meat, also Red Bull, we can surely see that (if there are any health risks at all) the are mostly overcome by mixed diet combined with moderate consumption. And what is the practical place for Government compulsion on mixed diet and moderate consumption: does not work with under-18 cigarette smoking: does not work with any illegal recreational drugs.

    Total waste of taxpayers’ money!

    Best regards

  • RRS

    Is “government” really composed of “our Rulers?”


    Is it composed of little batches of little people, individuals, with separate motivations, limitations, insights; grasping delegated or arrogated “powers” (many of seemingly insignificant degree [license bureaus, e.g.]).

    What do we abandon to those batches of people we call “government;” and why?

  • Stonyground

    “…we all have to think for ourselves.”

    Yes and? Government advice is likely to be wrong but, like a stopped clock, occasionally right. So ignore the government advice and check out the facts for yourself and make your own informed decision. When it comes to diet, plenty of variety and nothing to excess is the easy answer, and it is pretty much that simple. So all the government’s nagging that you are eating too much this, or not enough that, can then be safely ignored.

  • Sam

    Anyone who seriously heeds the US federal government’s advice in [current year] is going to be screwed. Even travel warnings (or lack thereof) should be checked with a quick internet search. They have no credibility, have overstepped their legitimate functions, have failed to consistently provide their core functions, and have overspent our money to do it.

    I know, let’s insist they get more power and money so they can punish those poo poo heads in Silicon Valley! (Looking at you Glenn Reynolds, Sargon, et al)

  • Runcie Balspune

    We discuss many times here about root causes, immigration caused by generous welfare, the housing shortage caused by overzealous land bureaucracy, isolated communities caused by enforced multiculturalism, and here we have the mandatory healthy lifestyle caused by imposed national healthcare provision.

    The compulsory guideline is consistent with the original proposal of government provided healthcare (in some cases sole provider), if nanny is going to make you better, then nanny will make certain you cannot get sick.

    This leads to the overarching issue as demonstrated by the original post – that governments generally wont admit to f*cking up an issue and reversing it, but instead just dollop another layer of b*llsh*t to cover the first one.

    If the government ever admitted that perhaps it would be better if they did _not_ get involved it would be a first, but today’s house full of control freaks on both sides this looks ever the more unlikely.

  • Stonyground

    I hear on the radio that the Bansturbators have got energy drinks in their sights once again.

  • bobby b

    No one more vociferously attacks Dr. Robert Atkins than government “health” functionaries, mainly because he was the first and most successful at questioning the established wisdom of a food triangle that mandated carbs as the mainstay of diet. He was the first, really, to make government foodies look stupid.

    Turns out he got it completely right, and government got it completely wrong.

  • Stonyground

    Regarding carbohydrates, things are always more complicated than we would wish them to be. I am a type 2 diabetic. This means that my ability to metabolize carbohydrates is reduced and, as a consequence, I have to carefully monitor my carb intake. However, the effects of the condition are significantly reduced if I take regular exercise. Eating too few carbs causes problems during exercise sessions so I have to plan ahead and try to consume roughly the correct amount of carbohydrates for the amount of exercise that I am planning to do. I know from following a forum for diabetics that some less active sufferers swear by the Atkins diet.

  • Julie near Chicago

    Actually, Atkins was (AFAIK) the first to make the high-protein, low-carb diet famous. I was doing strictly-protein (plus light additions of ketchup and mustard) — no carb, veg, or fruit — at least two years before “Atkins.” This from a book whose arguments I found persuasive, by a doctor who should have been famous for it, but whose name I unfortunately forget.

    It worked very well. (Of course, such a diet tends to be also low-calorie, which was still the prevailing theory of dieting at the time. But part of the point of the book was that while a strictly-rabbit-food diet would eventually give weight loss, in fact veggies in the suggested diet would slow down the weight-loss effect, partly because of the water-weight they encourage, and partly because of the effect of preventing or discouraging what is today called ketosis.)

    [And also, all-veg causes loss of muscle tissue, which the body uses for energy instead of the protein it should be getting; or so I understand. May be garbled, of course. IANAN (Nutritionist, gawd-help us).]

    And as far back as the late ’50s, when I was in high school, there was the Two-Day diet: unlimited cottage cheese plus 2 Rye-Krisp each day.

    The book did garner attention, especially from the ladies’ mags, but not to the degree that Atkins did.

    None of which is anything against Atkins, of course. It’s really a minor point in the interest of correction to the record.


    More to the point: Internet searches and Learned Tomes do not necessarily give the Truth, the Whole Truth, and Nothing But; nor even suggest same.

    As recently as a year or two ago I was seeing such diluted anti-egg advice as that “an egg or two per week should not be too harmful” (from memory). And even now there isn’t all that much full-throated advice that most of us should be eating animal protein on a daily basis.

    Few to this day point out that our bodies need considerable fat (“considerable” meaning not-low-fat consumption). You can find it, but not I think from Mayo, and for sure not from the American Heart Association.

    Saturated Fats Are Bad for You, we were all told, which is why Butter was Evil and oleomargarine the Way of the Lord. Except that the latter, of course, was made by taking mono- or poly-unsaturated vegetable oils and hydrogenating them, thereby constructing — voilá! — a nicely saturated ersatz “butter,” only not as tasty nor as good for cooking.

    And, of course, Crisco. And family.

    Heaven forfend we should fry in lard!


    Omnivore Forever, egg-and-butter-and-meat-eater, with sides of taters, toast, veggies and fruit, from appearance of baby teeth.red

    (Hated all forms of noodles, including “pasta,” as a child. De gustibus, &c. )


  • Julie near Chicago

    I should add, and especially in light of stony’s comment just above, that IMO optimal or even adequate diet depends on the individual person’s particular physical makeup, not to mention kind and degree of exercise. Which can even vary substantially from day to day even in a person of generally good health, and even from hour to hour.

    There is no one-size-fits-all amongst even the generally healthy population, and certainly not amongst those who suffer from some malady; such stony’s, or less severe diabetics’, or the allergic, or others.

    We go by our own experience first, and then by whatever advice we come across that sounds reasonable to us; and this last is influenced by the general opinions of our personal or on-line social circles, our society at large, and of course, the Experts that at least seem to us sort credible. Chief among whom is not usually The Gov.

    (I have read, though I have no idea of whether it’s true, that Jim Bridger and Lewis & Clark conducted their explorations fueled nearly entirely on a diet of fish & game — protein, and relatively low-fat for the most part — caught by themselves. And that they expended something like 4000 food calories per day on hiking, climbing up and down, and bushwhacking.)

    Still, we oughtn’t to despair. Most of us have made it this far, in spite of all the wrongheadedness. The smart money does not rely on a diet strictly of carrot juice to dispose of cancer.

  • CaptDMO

    Golly, imagine if a gub’mint food “program” (forced upon public institutions of course) were to ultimately
    generate “the masses” that were eventually plagued with “issues” that ONLY the approved gub’mint health program could address with gub’mint approved drugs.
    ALL “suspendable” for the slightest “infraction” against “social justice”.
    Just sayin’
    I wonder what CO2 penalties, and kilotons of discarded food, would do to world, and domestic “organic” agriculture.

  • Nicholas (Unlicensed Joker) Gray

    I remember a science show which featured a story about a family in Italy who ate fatty foods, and stayed slim and healthy! The secret was that their stomach acids were slightly different to the ‘average’, and fatty foods were not a problem for these mutants. (I bet they don’t get their own comic book line!)
    These government guides are for average people. Samizdataists are not average. So we can ignore them.

  • Julie near Chicago

    Well, Capt., we would all just have to get by somehow on inorganics. Sulphur, tin, palladium, so forth.

    At least we probably would not be emitting CO2 with our every breath.

  • Julie near Chicago

    Nicholas: Good point, and for once I’m serious.

    Not sure wrt Samizdatistan metabolisms, but I agree w/ the compliment!.

  • Paul Marks

    I am having a few problems with my eyes – so I have not read the comments with as much care as I should have (so I apologise if I am just saying what other people have said) – but the problem with government having opinions on various health matters is a simple one…..

    The government tries to impose its opinions (about health, or about “anti discrimination”, or about…..) by FORCE, by the threat of VIOLENCE.

    Oddly enough the “liberal” elite (including the Internet companies and much of the rest of “Big Business” now) who are so eager to smear people as “violent” for the “crime” of defending themselves against attack by Marxist thugs (such as “Antifa” – Google, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube have no problem at all with people being attacked for such “crimes” as wearing a Donald Trump cap, but should attacked people dare fight back…..well then they will be driven from Social Media and, more recently, such things as Credit Card and banking services are likely to be denied to victims who fight back, or to voluntary groups who support the right of victims to DEFEND themselves and others) have no problem at all with GOVERNMENT using violence, government using OFFENSIVE (not defensive) violence.

    When government imposes taxes and regulations to “nudge” people into not eating X and instead eating Y, this is the threat of VIOLENCE – try not paying the taxes or not obeying the regulations, and see what they do to you. So why does not the “Southern Poverty Law Centre” and other far-left smear groups not identify government (the permanent government – the Civil Service and so on that appears to treat election results with a mixture of indifference and contempt) as a “Hate Group”. Modern government threatens violence against people who disagree with its opinions on health and other matters – surely that is a proper definition of a “Hate Group”.

    If it were not for the threat of VIOLENCE I would not care less if a Prime Minister or a President said that red meat is evil, or that X percent of employees should have blue skin with orange spots, or that one should lend money to people unlikely to pay it back. It is the threat of offensive VIOLENCE that is the problem.

  • Runcie Balspune

    There is no one-size-fits-all amongst even the generally healthy population, and certainly not amongst those who suffer from some malady; such stony’s, or less severe diabetics’, or the allergic, or others.

    The bizarre conclusion is that in a world of food scarcity, those who retained fat and did not burn it off easily were the survivors, so this has become the dominant gene, certainly in the western world. Nowadays, those who are lucky enough to have metabolisms that allow a food rich environment are deemed healthy, when in fact, they are mutant, and luckily so (I am not one of them, my jealousy is showing).

    Ignoring for one moment the flawed analysis of BMI*, it is a wonder the majority of the population are not ballooning up at an incredible rate. Admittedly there are a large amount of uneducated who simply stuff their face with whatever they can find and go running to nanny NHS when they get a condition as a result and there are those who due to age or illness can never get enough exercise, but you’d have thought given the evolutionary circumstances that least half the population is not representing something out of a Wall-E movie whereas the top rate is around 25%.

    In my own case, I would be considered “overweight” but only slightly (I need to grow a few cm taller!) with a “not too large” waist, and it has wavered around +/- 2 kg for the last seven years. The government would be all too keen to march me at gunpoint to a fatty-farm for that 500g or so I can’t really shed, meanwhile ignoring that this actually might be my “ideal weight” and I as long as I stay this way I shouldn’t really deteriorate.

    The dirty little secret about BMI is that it varies according to ethnicity, given today’s climate you can imagine if the government produced race-based guidelines, so the end result is the “one size fits no-one” policy that accomplishes little.

    * this is anything up to “moderately obese”, where waist measurement is more a factor.

  • Fraser Orr

    In regards to vaccinations I think it is a more complex topic than a simple one of liberty. What we are dealing with is a child, incompetent to make their own decisions. Because of this incompetence the agreement we have is that the child’s liberty is surrendered to the parent or guardian, but it is not done so unconditionally, but rather under the condition that the parent act in the child’s best interest, or at least does not act in a manner harmful to the child.

    I think this is one of the trickest things to balance in the practical application of libertarianism. There is no more horrendous agency of government than the DCFS, however, the plain fact is that children are abused, treated badly or neglected by parents and we must surely have some mechanism to deal with that.

    For sure, one of the duties a parent has (by consequence of accepting the parental “contract”) is that of providing adequate medical care, and this must meet some objective standard of adequacy. If, for example, you child is suffering from anaphalictic shock due to a peanut allergy then a parent has no right to chose to pray rather than give them a shot of epinephrine. If you are a Jehovah’s witness and your child is suffering from an injury with serious exsanguination, I do not consider your religious liberty to pray rather than give blood products to be under the category of “adequate medical care”.

    Of course if you are a JW and you suffer such an accident, you have every right to bleed to death if you choose to, however, you do not have the right to make that choice for another.

    It is tricky though because this is the very definition of a slippery slope. And vaccination sits right on the greasiest part of that slope. I think it is simply child neglect not to vaccinate your child against some diseases (though certainly not all the vaccinations in the standard childhood protocol.) But does it rise to the level of inadequate care where state intervention is acceptable? Probably not, but it is, in my view, right on the edge. In a sense the approach many governments have made — to make it non mandatory, but extremely difficult to not do so through school attendance requirements — seems a reasonable compromise to me.

    It is made even more tricky by the fact that the DCFS are among the worst government workers, and that the alternative to a parental home they offer is nothing short of dreadful.

  • Stonyground

    I would like to add that I am not what most people think of as a typical type 2 diabetic. I’m a slim athletic build and am extremely fit being into triathlon and distance running. Diabetes can be a serious affliction but if you are disciplined and do what you have to to keep it under control it is much less so. Diet of course is a big part of this.

  • Julie near Chicago

    Tim & S.I.: Excellent.


    For some reason to me the word “obese” is aesthetically ugly, both to read and to hear. Instead of “morbidly obese,” why can’t we say “seriously overweight”?


    BMI. For a few years, up until a couple of years ago, I had a GP who told me that BMI is fairly meaningless in terms of a person’s health.


    Fraser. Re DCFS: ‘Strewth !!!

  • Snorri Godhi

    I remember a science show which featured a story about a family in Italy who ate fatty foods, and stayed slim and healthy!

    So what?? Everybody who eats fatty foods stays slim and healthy!

    Unless they also eat shit like pasta, pizza, bread, or dessert, of course.
    Or add sugar to their espressos.

  • CaptDMO

    Apparently, it’s now safe again to have buttered toast (lightly carbonized bread), slightly runny eggs,(more if you dont have a beard/mustache) bacon, cheese sandwich, and coffee, in California.
    No consequences cited for New Jersey, or California, “scientists”, nor First Lady’s School lunch program food pyramid, all originally citing “latest research”, “wellness”, or “safety”.
    No word yet on reconstituted powdered fruit punch drink with sugar, – because,…you know….that one time in Guyana.