Table of Contents
The last chapter examined how fiat affects the human body by distorting food markets. This chapter will examine how fiat’s influence on markets for education and science have influenced the human mind. Fiat money allows governments to play a pervasive role in these markets, at all levels, from primary education to cutting-edge scientific research. By suspending the normal workings of the market economy in education and science, government can decree who gets to be a teacher and what passes for science. Education no longer needs to meet the needs and aspirations of the student or help them succeed in life. Instead, education in government-run, government-subsidized schools need only meet the political goals of the source of fiat. Fiat’s influence on scientific research undermines open inquiry; scientific truth no longer stands on its own, open to scrutiny and debate. What passes for science in today’s fiat world has descended into blindly followed mantras that cannot be questioned by anyone who wants to be called a scientist.
There are few causes that sound more deserving of fiat funding than children’s education. In the first decade and a half or so of life, humans aren’t able to provide for themselves sufficiently, and must rely on the provision, protection, guidance, and education of older people. These years are critical for forming the habits and temperament that will shape a person’s life. A good education can open a world of possibilities, whereas truancy and lack of guidance and education could ruin a person for life. Letting a child’s entire future hinge on whether their parents are able to provide them an education in their early years appears like a dangerous proposition for society, as it could lead to a large number of misguided, uneducated, unskilled, unproductive, and dangerous citizens. With government able to effectively conjure money at will, there seem no apparent downsides to having it spend some of that money on the education of children.
Like most ideas financed by fiat, free public schooling only appears good when ignoring the many unintended consequences and unseen effects it has on the people it is meant to help. As funding for education becomes centralized, flowing from the government’s money printer, rather than the children’s parents, the providers of the service have increasingly more of an incentive to appease their funders rather than their beneficiaries. As funding education becomes a matter of policy, it inevitable becomes politicized, providing incentives for the providers of the service to toe the political line that the fiat funders prefer, relegating the interests of the children to an afterthought.
As funding is enshrined in law and provided by an authority with virtually limitless money supply, there is little need for the providers to worry about the quality of the education they provide to students. In a free market, that accountability is enforced through customers walking out of a business and bankrupting it if it fails to meet their needs. In most of the world, students are required by law to attend schools, and/or are forced to attend a particular school based on their residence district. This completely undermines their ability to hold their schools accountable by leaving a failing school for a better one. Public schools cannot go out of business, regardless of how poor student outcomes become, and teachers almost never get fired thanks to all-powerful teachers’ unions.
Since children’s education is the perfect kind of story to elicit popular approval for increased government financing, government-run schools have operated with virtually no limitations on funding and with no accountability for teachers and administrators. Infinite cash for public education is a curse, not a blessing. Public schools operate in an alternative universe where scarcity does not exist, which prevents accountability from taking hold and allows producers to get away with vast incompetence.
Corey DeAngelis, a scholar and researcher on education, has successfully highlighted how catastrophic the impacts of fiat education have been to schoolchildren. Astonishingly, DeAngelis finds that the average private school tuition in Washington DC is $23,959, while the average DC government school spending per student is $31,280. Even though they spend 81.3% as much as is spent on public school students, private school students still significantly outperform those from public schools. Clearly the issue is not in the lack of funding, but in the way in which that funding is used. Money spent by parents holding schools accountable, i.e., private schools, will be far more productively deployed than fiat from government printers with no opportunity cost. Private schools will go out of business if parents decide that their kids aren’t getting a good education. No similar mechanism exists to enforce accountability in government-run schools.
This is a very common theme in the world of fiat: the distortion of basic incentives is often worse for society than the inflation increased government spending causes. Very often, fiat’s most catastrophic effect is not price increases but the myriad distortions—and outright destruction—of incentives it brings to many areas of human life. In government-run institutions, fiat leads people to operate as if their agency or office is immune from the ironclad economic laws of nature. The consequences of living in this fiat-enabled delusion are often severe.
DeAngelis has very compellingly advocated for a very important economic reform to public education: Instead of spending government money on public schools which are protected from market competition, governments should simply hand the money to parents, and allow these parents the freedom to choose for themselves where their children are to be educated. Unsurprisingly, his ideas are met with vehement opposition by the many vested interests in the educational system whose jobs and privileges depend on collecting government fiat directly, without having to be accountable to the students and their parents.
The most vivid example I know of the economic distortion caused by public financing of education comes from Egypt, where an entire private education system takes place in the afternoon, where the teachers are paid a decent wage and the students pay a decent tuition fee, leading to productive learning. A friend told me that in some cases, entrepreneurs would rent the public schools to host the classes, leading to the surreal situation of the same students and the same teacher meeting in the same classroom twice on the same day. In the morning, the government is paying and the teacher is getting negligible pay, and so no education happens. But in the afternoon, in the privately organized schooling system, actual education takes place.
Fiat’s distortion of the university system is similar to that of the grade school system, with the added consequence of ruining entire educational disciplines, notably the hard sciences, with disastrous economic impacts. The most common misconception about modern universities is that they are private, when they are almost all reliant on government financing. Governments provide universities with a sizable portion of their income in the form of research funding. Perhaps more importantly, governments provide students with subsidized low-interest loans to attend university, heavily skewing young adults’ choice in favor of attending university and causing a large misdirection of resources in that direction. That tuition costs have risen in concert with larger subsidies for a college education is no coincidence.
In a free market where universities had to compete for tuition fees, universities would have to remain moored to the real world and receptive to students’ need to learn useful skills and become productive members of society. Universities that offer students a good education would see these alumni graduate to achieve high earnings in their professional careers. This would attract young students to these universities, and the alumni would donate to the university, helping it prosper and advance. A free market would ensure that universities remain true to their mission of educating and advancing knowledge, because if they diverged from it, they would be quickly punished by market forces. In other words, universities that do not offer superior education would become unattractive to potential students, and alumni would have neither the means nor the desire to donate.
University research would also have to remain relevant to the needs of the real world in a free market, as universities could only keep financing projects that offer significant material benefits to the world. Even highly theoretical and abstract research must demonstrate some real-world relevance for universities and their donors in order to remain funded. Fiat upends this reality. With financing for universities increasingly dependent on the judgment of bureaucrats with access to an infinite credit printer, the discipline of the free market is replaced with the whims and desires of politicians, bureaucrats, and the hoard of administrators and deans that have multiplied on university campuses. Success for a university is no longer primarily based on meeting the students’ demand to learn productive skills, but instead, on satisfying the wishes of the bureaucrats who finance the university.
Altering the incentive structure in the higher education industry has led to the perversion of the university’s purpose. Educational excellence, free and open inquiry, acquiring the knowledge necessary to be free—none of this is important for the modern university. These honorable ideals have been supplanted by irrelevant pontificating, unproductive waste, and political indoctrination. The only thing today’s university students are learning well is the ideology of allegiance to government, and universities actively export this same ideology to society at large.
With students afforded cheap credit to engage in university education, the opportunity cost of spending four years in university is reduced significantly by being deferred to a future that fiat money increasingly discounts. Large subsidies and economic thinking that discount the future mean universities don’t need to worry as much about delivering quality education. In such a system, students don’t treat going to college like it is an economic decision. Instead, higher education is merely the next stop on the government-approved path of life. This thinking insulates colleges from the basic market signals that otherwise would enforce accountability. As a result, university education has increasingly changed from an investment in a capital good into a consumption good.
Universities increasingly resemble country clubs, where students borrow money to live like aristocrats, doing little work while partying, socializing, and enjoying themselves. The heavy opportunity cost of university only becomes apparent when one looks at the future, something newly graduated high school kids are not accustomed to doing. Instead, most of them will realize all too late that they squandered their precious time. Student loan debt accumulated in university country clubs cannot be discharged, even if the debtor files for bankruptcy, and students will spend the rest of their lives paying for the fun they had when they could have been learning. In the United States, it’s not uncommon for college graduates to carry more than $100,000 in student debt, bills they will still be paying in their thirties and forties. Instead of beginning their adult lives by earning and accumulating capital and deferring the country club experience until they achieve financial independence and can afford it, young adults are getting the country club experience first and spending the rest of their lives working to pay it off.
The role of government in universities increased drastically in the United States in the 1930s after the Great Depression. With increased economic problems engulfing universities, and with fiat allowing government practically limitless spending, governments naturally began encroaching on universities’ financial and intellectual output, particularly as governments needed the help of universities in determining how to manage the modern fiat economy and direct spending toward achieving government goals.
Perhaps the most pernicious effect of the fiatization of the modern university is the destruction of the scientific method. What passes for science now is a mix of government propaganda, corporate advertising, make-work welfare programs for nerds, and research papers that amount to meaning-free irrelevant gibberish. This sad state of affairs persists and survives because government intervention has removed the market test for success. With funding for research primarily coming from government bureaucrats, academics don’t need to worry about real-world, profitable applications of their work. Irrelevant research bears no cost for the researcher or his institution. And with universities afforded an effective subsidy through subsidized loans for their consumers, the market test for success is removed, and universities, and the geeks populating their offices, are free to drift into a world of insignificance and corruption—a world with little regard for truth. The most obvious manifestation of this is the mushrooming of entire fields and departments specialized in producing completely inconsequential and incoherent noises and marketing them as scholarship.
What passes for humanities in the modern university has degenerated into an endless sea of angry grievances and rabid victimology, consisting almost entirely of politically correct platitudes and zero substance. The end result is heaps of graduates with zero marketable skills but a strong talent for finding ways to take offense at everything. These departments continue to grow, and the professors in them continue to get paid, because they face no real market test and can continue to secure financing from the world’s biggest money printer while railing against inconsequential, imaginary, and historical evils.
Unsurprisingly, these departments are heavily populated with semiliterate intellectual midgets of the Marxist variety, as that ideology is perfectly conducive to the furthering of government power and the anointing of a parasitic, unproductive class to control the lives of the productive. For all of the nonsense that Marxists spout about oppression and opposition to the power of capital, it’s worth remembering that Marx’s entire worldview rested on the need for governments to take over the function of credit and money creation and for a revolutionary vanguard to be in charge of all economic and social decisions for society at large. It makes perfect sense that parasites who live off government money pillaging the world via inflation continue to promote this criminal ideology even after all the massive death and destruction it has brought the world. For all the victimhood and self-righteous chips on their shoulders, Marxists are just the useful idiots and foot soldiers for fiat money printing.
Entire books could be written about the degeneration of humanities education in the modern university, bur for our purposes, we will simply invoke one highly indicative story. A physicist by the name of Alan Sokal had for long suspected that most humanities’ scholarship was nonsense, and chose to test it himself by handing a paper of incomprehensible gibberish for publication at a leading journal of critical studies. The paper was accepted for publication. These are the same journals in which publication is necessary for academics to keep their jobs and advance in their career. By publishing deliberately fashionable gibberish, Sokal showed us the true nature of fiat academia: nonsense devoid of meaning, churned out by the bucket load to tick bureaucrats’ boxes.
Scholars in the hard sciences are accustomed to laughing at their colleagues in the humanities, but they should remember that both of these broad fields of scholarship come from the same universities, financed by the same fiat printers, subject to the same incentive structures. There is nothing inherent in humanities that makes them liable to degenerate into nonsensical politically motivated drivel. Rather, the economic and institutional framework into which they are placed enables the degeneration, and the humanities share this framework with the natural sciences. Why would the same universities giving tenure to innumerate Marxists who write fashionable nonsense be expected to give tenure to genuine scholars in the hard sciences? One cannot help but wonder whether the natural sciences have been similarly compromised, and whether the reason they aren’t as derided as the humanities is that their sophisticated methods make the nonsense less obvious to the non specialist.
To answer this question, we must look at the root of the problem: the academic publishing industry. With government spending an increasingly important part of universities’ budgets, the freedom of each university to determine for itself how to allocate its own resources to better meet the needs of its students is compromised in favor of central planners who decide on financing, credit, and benefits for the entire university system, which is now protected from the consequences of market competition. But how can these planners allocate resources and assess the success of different universities, programs, and departments? Over time, the answer to this question increasingly came to be publications in academic journals. Successful researchers are those who get their papers published in the most important journals, and university funding came to heavily reflect that. Consequently, academics’ career prospects became increasingly tied to publication in academic journals, to the point where teaching skills are an afterthought in hiring decisions. Students the world over complain about professors who are unable and unwilling to put effort into teaching, but most universities do not and cannot care about this because the students are not the customers they are seeking to please as long as government grant money and subsidized student loans continue. The fixation with academic publication has led to the complete corruption of the academic publication industry, and professors worldwide complain about the current abomination. Academic publishers are the kingmakers of the entire university system, as their journals are the basis for determining who gets hired, promoted, and tenured in their university. Academic publications have been consolidated into a handful of academic publishing houses that are far more akin to a cartel than beacons of knowledge. If you think the cartel comparison is hyperbolic, consider the case of the late Aaron Swartz. Swartz was an American computer programmer who was arrested, threatened with prison time, and ultimately driven to suicide after he was caught downloading journal articles from JSTOR, a digital archive of academic publications.
As long as university funding is tied to publication in supposedly prestigious, accredited, and ranked journals, these journals can exploit the labor of professors who need them to secure their livelihoods. Academic journals do not pay academics for writing articles, nor do they pay them for reviewing articles or editing journals. In fact, many journals even charge academics for publishing their articles! The entire production of the journal costs the publishers approximately zero dollars, and yet, these journals are sold back to the universities at exorbitant prices, as is access to their articles online. As academic gatekeepers, publications determine who gets published and, thus, who gets promoted and who gets funded. Academic publishers have successfully maneuvered themselves to become the prime beneficiaries of the fiat education system. The facade of relevance and coherence was easier for modern academic journals to maintain before the internet, when producing physical copies and corresponding between editors and journals cost time and money. The occasionally expensive paper used for printing might have made the exorbitant prices university libraries paid for these journals appear justified. But as the internet has practically reduced the cost of producing journals close to zero, and access to academic articles has become mostly digital, the costs of these journals have gone up, not down. Universities now pay thousands of dollars to access a digital journal, and an individual needs to pay more than twenty dollars to access a single article, all when the publisher has incurred almost no cost for publication, since the writing, editing, and reviewing was done with modern academia’s professor slaves.
All along, the content of the journals has continued to deteriorate to the point where it is predominantly unreadable academic masturbation with no link to the real world, which nonetheless adheres to the correct political, grammatical, and methodological guidelines needed to keep up the pretense that actual scholarship is taking place. Almost nobody normal or productive in the real world ever bothers reading academic journal articles, nor do they have any reason to. The only real readership of most journals consists of the academics in the very narrow field looking to build on the papers in it so they can get published. Rather than communicate important ideas to the world and advance society’s understanding of the state of the art in modern fields of research, academic publication has been reduced to a circle jerk which only has consequences for the academic careers of those in the circle. For an academic to publish in the journals that guarantee them a job, their language and methods need to be so niche, arcane, esoteric, and absurd that their work would be incomprehensible for most readers. They tailor to the demands of journal editors who are completely detached from the real world. Publication in academic journals is so agonizingly time-consuming with endless rounds of review and quibbling back and forth—all for no discernible benefit to anyone. As you make the tenth nitpicking revision to the same paragraph in the eighteenth month of peer review, it begins to dawn on you that you are wasting your life typing something nobody will read or benefit from, like Jack Nicholson’s character in The Shining, who had lost his mind spending many months at a typewriter working on a novel, only for his wife to discover all his work had consisted of repeatedly typing the same single sentence over and over for hundreds of pages.
Fiat academia is the enormously wasteful redirection of the talents of masses of intelligent and conscientious people into the production of nonsense nobody will ever read. Being able to come up with something useful and intelligent to say about the world requires being up to date with the real world and its developments. Creating valuable research requires constantly evolving with the times. Rather than scholars being involved in the real world, where their knowledge is applied, today’s scholars are isolated in ivory towers, working on increasingly obscure and irrelevant minutia, constructing elaborate mental Rube Goldberg machines purely to impress other socially isolated individuals. Anyone who reads an academic’s article does so in the same way a parent goes to their child’s soccer game. The draw is not the entertainment value of watching your son and his fat eight-year-old friends attempt to play soccer; the draw is your love for your son and your desire to encourage him and make him feel like he’s significant. In private, and sometimes in public, academics will joke about the complete lack of relevance of their work to the real world, and how they need to add a few lines to the conclusion of each study to attempt to shoehorn some relevance. Almost all academics understand this and joke about it, as the only academics who survive in the field are those that have accepted the lack of relevance of their work. Those who cannot accept this life of irrelevance will leave to work in the real world, liberated from indentured servitude to multinational academic paper mills.
When you understand how academic publications operate, you start to read them in an entirely different light. Rather than a place for our smartest minds to engage in discourse about important things, you start to see academic publications as primarily aimed at helping the author (and enriching the publisher). An assessment of the economics of academic research would clearly explain why this is the case. Academic research today is not a product of a free market; it is a product of a central plan, decided by a committee. It suffers from the problems of economic production familiar to anyone unfortunate enough to have lived under socialist regimes or fortunate enough to have read Mises’s monumental works on socialism.
In his excellent book The Economic Laws of Scientific Research, biochemist Terence Kealey provides a masterful counternarrative to the prevailing wisdom in fiat academia that science needs public funding. Kealey observes how private enterprise and a free market in scientific research spurred the industrial revolution that happened in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries in Great Britain. Government funding simply did not exist during that period, and would only emerge during World War I, which, coincidentally, was the same time Britain went off the gold standard. In a free market for science, free of the intervention of fiat, research is intimately tied to the needs of the market, and any misdirection of resources results in a loss for the investor, either forcing him to learn his lesson or eventually bankrupting him. Either way, what is wasteful will cease. But with a fiat standard, the waste can continue for as long as the government’s currency can be devalued.
Government scientific and research bodies are central planning boards, able to decree by their fiat what is legitimate science, which researchers get funded, which scholars get to call themselves scholars, and which get banished as heretics. Like central planners in socialist economies, as Mises explained, these bureaucrats are unable to perform a rational economic calculation with their resources, as they do not own the resources they allocate and cannot estimate the correct opportunity costs for their different uses. There is no real feedback from the market to the decision-makers in the form of profits for productive applications of capital and losses for wasteful applications. Without the feedback mechanism of profit and loss, any bureaucracy is deaf, dumb, and blind. Whereas in the production of agricultural commodities, central planning boards led to the creation of catastrophic shortages and surpluses, in the context of scientific research, these boards have led to an enormous shortage in proper scientific research. Instead, government intervention has left us a glut of largely pointless research papers.
Without a real market test of research decisions, the bureaucrats must assess contributions using imperfect metrics. Free from the test of the market, researchers must focus on the metrics themselves, and eventually, only the best at achieving these metrics succeed. The goal is to get published, not to arrive at important conclusions. Scholars want to publish as much as possible to get more funding, while journals want to publish as much as possible to sell more subscriptions to universities. Research funding bodies also want to support as much research as possible, as that allows them to draw on larger budgets and there is no real opportunity cost. Without the real budget constraints that would be enforced by a hard money, this academic system can only head in the direction of ever-increasing amounts of research papers and ever-decreasing relevance and usefulness. John Ioannidis has published some very compelling research to show why the majority of scientific research findings are likely false, and his conclusions are intimately tied to the fiat system’s decoupling of science from market incentives and feedback. With such strong incentives to publish, the likelihood of a false result getting published increases drastically. With the enormous number of experiments that can be carried out, only the experiments with desirable results get published. With tolerable margins of error around results, there will inevitably be a growing number of scientific papers published with false findings.
Testing novel hypotheses that can attract media attention is a good way to get published, and testing many of these will inevitably lead to many statistically significant results even when the studied relationship does not exist. With the ever-increasing number of scientific journals out there, there is always a market for papers. Perhaps the most profound problem with the incentive structure of fiat science was captured by the remarks of Brian Nosek: “There is no cost to getting things wrong. The cost is not getting them published.” With little opposition to getting things published, one would expect most research findings to be irrelevant and wrong. Anyone who follows science news in mainstream media with a decent memory will notice how “scientists found” that pretty much every single thing on the face of the earth causes cancer and also protects from cancer. The requirements to produce a study that implicates coffee, meat, wine, or electronics with causing cancer is so low that it is equally plausible to find an opposite conclusion. Any sponsor of a study can “find” the result they want by hiring enough creative researchers.
The Science Industrial Complex
Science inevitably becomes very ripe for capture by special interests when funding is removed from the realm of market competition. The government boards handing out funding, loans, and titles are made up of scholars who can assess the work at hand, an arrangement that places the universities and the scholars in charge of their own regulation. Imagine the same governing structure of fiat science was applied to the production of cars. A government-appointed board staffed by car producers licenses car producers, judges output and rewards them accordingly, and assigns the cars to consumers. Clearly such an arrangement would be in favor of the car producers and not the car consumers, who have no ability to influence car production with their preferences, choices, and purchasing decisions.
With this institutional arrangement, government agencies become ripe for capture by private interests who stand to gain enormously from having “The Science” issue decrees in their favor. It is only natural to expect to see significant rent-seeking and well-funded attempts to influence and control governments’ relationship with scientific researchers. In his farewell address, U.S. President Dwight Eisenhower warned his countrymen about the dangers of the emergence of a military-industrial complex, and these remarks have become fairly well known today. Far less known are the remarks that immediately followed, warning of what may be called the scientific-industrial complex:
The prospect of domination of the nation’s scholars by Federal employment, project allocations, and the power of money is ever present and is gravely to be regarded. Yet, in holding scientific research and discovery in respect, as we should, we must also be alert to the equal and opposite danger that public policy could itself become the captive of a scientific technological elite.
The Science Says
Science is a name given to a systematic organized method for asking questions and experimenting to try to find an answer to these questions. Science relies on demonstrable experimentation precisely because it relies on the word of nobody. Under the fiat standard, Science has become a set worldview with set prescribed statements and commandments. When the practice of science and all universities are captured by a single authority with infinite fiat at its disposal, the experiments are turned into ritual exercises carried out behind closed doors, whose results are to be believed by relying on the authority of the experimenters and the bodies that regulate them. The scientific method is perverted to its exact opposite when government channels relay the supposed results. Rather than a process, “Science” has become an ideology or religion.
One indication of the state of disrepair in which modern science finds itself is the normalization of the completely absurd phrase “the science says,” very commonly repeated by academics, journalists, politicians, and the public at large. The use of this phrase indicates an understanding of science as if it is a predetermined list of unquestionable and immutable pronouncements and declarations. But science is not a sentient being capable of saying things, and science cannot refer to a set of institutions or scientists’ conclusions, no matter how much they promote them, or how much fiat they have at their disposal. The implications of this bait and switch have been ruinous for science as well as for society at large, in various fields.
Another powerful example of the depths of the degradation and corruption of modern academic sciences comes from studying the science of nutrition, mentioned in the previous chapter.
Fiat Nutrition Science
The research that is used to tout the benefits of meat-avoidance has always been based on poor statistical techniques interpreted with cavalier motivated reasoning which would be laughed out of any freshman statistics class. The main problem with these studies is that they are observational studies, and there are always many confounding factors to take into account. The most popular studies promoted by Seventh Day Adventists focus on comparing Seventh Day Adventists to the general population. They find that since Seventh Day Adventists are healthier, it must be the reduction in meat consumption that’s responsible. But that ignores that Seventh Day Adventists also avoid smoking and drinking, are more affluent than the general population and thus able to live in cleaner and healthier environments, and usually have a stronger sense of community, all of which are factors that are very helpful for longevity. These studies also rely on self-reporting of food intake, and it is well-established that this is not an accurate way of assessing food intake, as people generally report what they would like to have eaten, not what they have actually eaten, particularly when the religious group to which you are reporting has strong stigma around the consumption of meats.
More general observational studies, such as the terrible ones relied upon by the bureaucrats at the World Health Organization, find that people who eat more meat suffer from more diseases than people who eat less meat, and therefore conclude that meat must be to blame. But on a population level, the consumption of meat is very strongly correlated with the consumption of all other kinds of foods. In other words, the same people who eat a lot of meat also eat a lot of sugars, grains, flour, and all manner of industrial sludge. A proper statistical observational study would try to control for these factors, but anti-meat studies never do that, because they are based on trying to validate religious visions, and not the scientific method. Yet, even an observational study that controls for many factors cannot be viewed as definitive.
The John Maynard Keynes of nutrition science is Ancel Keys: a man as politically skilled as he is intellectually vacuous, who knew how to play politics to serve the special interests that have popularized and mandated his juvenile and borderline criminal “research” as gospel in universities around the world. Making nutrition science a closed guild protected by the state, and tasked with peddling state propaganda, has allowed it to be easily captured by special interest industries who used it to promote their products unopposed, as all dissenting voices were silenced and marginalized by not having access to the government’s printing presses. Nina Teicholz’ modern book, The Big Fat Surprise, offers a detailed accounting of the extent of corruption in modern science that has made the world eat so much poison.
The work of Ancel Keys and many generations of Harvard “scientists” was the Trojan horse with which agro-industrial businesses managed to inject their poisonous industrial sludge into the bodies of billions around the world, resulting in the disastrous consequence of the spread of diabetes, obesity, cancer, heart disease, and many other fatal ailments which most people accept as a normal part of life, completely oblivious to the fact that they are only a normal part of a life spent consuming fiat foods. It is one of the most shocking and discomforting realizations of one’s life that Keys and the scientists who peddled his ridiculous research have likely been responsible for more deaths around the world than anyone, even more than all Communist regimes combined.
Keys’ ridiculous research was based on travels he did around Europe after World War II. He collected unreliable data on the consumption of meat across seven countries, and then plotted that against rates of heart disease. After inexplicably eliminating France from the data, Keys found a correlation between heart disease and meat consumption, which he interpreted as being evidence that meat causes heart disease, and from that was born the famous Seven Country Study, popularized to the heavens by mass media and mass education as the definitive and final word on nutrition. Conveniently enough, Keys had also ignored data from 15 countries that would have made his study show different results. That France has low rates of heart disease in spite of consuming large quantities of meat is still viewed as a paradox by modern nutritionists, when there is nothing paradoxical about it except if one buys Keys’ unsubstantiated conclusions.
Keys did not stop at cherry-picking countries but also used the consumption of margarine, a toxic industrial waste, as part of the consumption of fat along with healthy and essential animal fats. With this simple trick, the increasing health problems caused by margarine were attributed to animal fats, helping lend credence to his conclusion that saturated fat was the problem, and resorting to processed plant oils was the solution.
Keys also popularized the ridiculous idea that a Mediterranean diet is one low on animal fats and high on plant fats, which has been used to heavily market poisonous seed oils (like “heart-healthy” canola oil which no human would feed to their dog, let alone eat). Keys’ travels came after the destruction of World War II, during a time in which people were severely impoverished and relied heavily on olive oil. But the people of the Mediterranean, like all Homo sapiens, rely on animal fats primarily for cooking, resorting only to plant-based fats after calamities like World War II or Harvard nutritional advice have befallen them. Teicholz shows countless sources illustrating how Mediterranean diets relied heavily on animal fats for cooking, as the basis of the diet, with olive oil used primarily for soap, lighting, skin, hair, and food dressing. Even after many years of Teicholz publishing her book, and many other researchers pointing out the absurdity of Keys’ conclusions, fiat science and all its official organs continue to tell people to eschew animal fats for highly profitable processed industrial waste.
Beyond just the vilifaction of natural fats in favor of toxic industrial waste, Harvard University played a big role in the mass promotion of sugar. The New York Times reports:
The documents show that in 1964, John Hickson, a top sugar industry executive, discussed a plan with others in the industry to shift public opinion “through our research and information and legislative programs.”
At the time, studies had begun pointing to a relationship between high-sugar diets and the country’s high rates of heart disease. At the same time, other scientists, including the prominent Minnesota physiologist Ancel Keys, were investigating a competing theory that it was saturated fat and dietary cholesterol that posed the biggest risk for heart disease.
Mr. Hickson proposed countering the alarming findings on sugar with industry-funded research. “Then we can publish the data and refute our detractors,” he wrote. In 1965, Mr. Hickson enlisted the Harvard researchers to write a review that would debunk the anti-sugar studies. He paid them a total of $6,500, the equivalent of $49,000 today.
Mr. Hickson selected the papers for them to review and made it clear he wanted the result to favor sugar. Harvard’s Dr. Hegsted reassured the sugar executives. “We are well aware of your particular interest,” he wrote, “and will cover this as well as we can.”
As they worked on their review, the Harvard researchers shared and discussed early drafts with Mr. Hickson, who responded that he was pleased with what they were writing.
The Harvard scientists had dismissed the data on sugar as weak and given far more credence to the data implicating saturated fat.
“Let me assure you this is quite what we had in mind, and we look forward to its appearance in print,” Mr. Hickson wrote.
The role of Harvard in spreading this criminal mendacity cannot be chalked off as a private institution being corrupt. Harvard, like most American universities, is primarily funded from government research grants. It maintains its prestige and importance through the very heavy influence it exerts on public policy. The founder of Harvard’s Fredrick Stare, was practically a living breathing advertisement for the worse trash concocted by American junk food producers in the twentieth century. An article from 1978 on his school is absolutely mind-blowing in the level of downright shamelessness with which he enjoyed getting rich by using his name and his government connections to ram industrial junk down people’s throats. Wikipedia summarizes some of the most shocking facts about this man:
As an adviser to the US government, Stare rejected the idea that ‘the American diet’ was harmful; stating for example that Coca-Cola was “a healthy between-meals snack” and that eating even great amounts of sugar would not cause health problems.
In his autobiography, Adventures in Nutrition, Stare states that in 1960 he obtained a grant of $1,026,000 from General Foods for the “expansion of the School’s Nutrition Research Laboratories” and that in the 44-year period as a nutritionist he raised a total of $29,630,347. For instance, Kellogg’s funded $2 million to set up the Nutrition Foundation at Harvard.
The foundation was independent of the university and published a journal Nutrition Reviews that Stare edited for 25 years.
Stare also co-founded and served as chairman of the Board of Directors for the American Council on Science and Health. In 1980, during his tenure as Chairman, he sought funding from US tobacco giant Philip Morris USA for ACSH’s activities.
It’s important to note that this new paradigm of nutrition science is based on popularizing the managerial state’s attempts at economically and efficiently mass-feeding soldiers during the Second World War. After the success of British and American soldiers in defeating Nazism, the managerial state in both countries sought to apply the successes in managing the wartime effort to managing civilian life, and the result was the modern dietary guidelines. These are written with the aim of producing the cheapest way of feeding masses of humans. Instead of allowing nutrition to be an individual choice and food production a free market process, modern governments have treated their societies as industrial lot-feeds, and tasked third rate scientists and terrible statisticians with devising the cheapest way of feeding them enough calories. Humans’ natural instincts and delectation were to be overridden by government-employed charlatans profiting from telling them how much to eat of each kind of food, and whose prime directive (as in the war years) was economy. Consequently, the biggest beneficiary from government nutritional guidance were the producers of the cheapest sources of calories and proteins: grains and pulses. But what the nutrition mandarins failed to notice, or mention, is that grains are essentially nutrient-free, while pulses contain inferior nutrients to those contained in animal meat.
A monetary system built on a pyramid of unsound debt money gave us a food system built on a pyramid of unsound grains and carbohydrates. In one of the most catastrophic scientific errors of all time, detailed thoroughly in the work of Nina Teicholz and Gary Taubes, carbohydrates were given a free pass and became the foundational basis for nutrition while animal meat and fat, the highest quality and most nutritious food available, were vilified as the cause of modern diseases and illnesses. Modern medicine took the word of slimy politicians pretending to be scientists like Ancel Keys and Fredrick Stare and spread the gospel worldwide. Astonishingly, to this day, even the least health-conscious people still worry about their consumption of animal fats, while finding nothing wrong with eating large quantities of ‘healthy’ grains, sugars, processed foods, and soft drinks.
The result of this catastrophic mistake has been that people the world over have massively increased their consumption of cheap, nutrient-deficient grains, and all manners of toxic industrial “foods” while drastically cutting down on meat and animal fats. Grains may be more abundant in our modern world but they are not more nutritious, and eating them does not satisfy people’s nutritious requirement, but instead causes more hunger and cravings, motivating them to eat more and more. The obesity of the modern world has its root in a very real lack of necessary nutrients in favor of eating highly-addictive and non-nutritious junk, while the truly nutritious food, fatty meat, has been deemed dangerous by modern governments’ diet dictators. The reason that the obese of today eat too much is not that they are affluent, rather, it is that they are utterly deprived of nutrients and are constantly hungry, and the grain and sugar which forms the vast majority of today’s diet provides close to no nutrition.
The role of the government as the nanny responsible for dictating the diets of the entire population is a natural outgrowth of the totalitarianism that fiat money engenders. When government has the ability to generate any money it needs for whatever purposes it deems necessary, any nice-sounding ideal will eventually come to be viewed as a prerogative of the state. What started off as a well-meaning religious attempt to save people from the ‘envisioned’ damages of eating meat devolved into a government bureaucracy captured by large agro-industrial food interests motivated to sell food that can easily scale industrially and provide the highest margins.
The skewed incentives of science go beyond just publishing an endless stream of trivialities that are likely untrue. The quest for publication is strengthened by researching something that attracts a lot of attention, and a very good way to attract attention is to focus on areas that invoke fear. Academics are strongly incentivized to overemphasize risks and potential catastrophes in their work, because that significantly increases the chances of publication. More importantly, perhaps, findings that are “concerning” and “troubling” are far more likely to successfully attract more funding in the future. In fiat science, there is a very strong incentive for researchers to warn of impending calamity. If their warnings prove unfounded, they face no consequences for being wrong. Like the central planners who order up expensive government projects, scholars warning about impending doom from their offices will not be the one to foot the bill for the many precautions they ask governments to impose on citizens. There is no market test that would punish a scholar for misleading people into misdirecting resources over a manufactured crisis, and government research boards have no incentive to introspect, criticize, or punish their own financing of inaccurate scaremongering research.
With the incentives aligned for panicking and little downside to it, it is no wonder many modern researchers resemble Chicken Little more than scholars. One need not invoke any grand conspiracy to push scare stories in science to understand why so many scientists are constantly so terrified of the natural world; the simple reality is that without a market test, and with unlimited government fiat ostensibly dedicated to research topics in the public good, there will naturally be more funding available for scary conclusions, and the more panicky scientists are likely to thrive and achieve prominence than their more reasonably sober colleagues. By separating researchers from the consequences of their research and action, fiat naturally selects for and magnifies the hysterical conclusions. The next chapter discusses one of the most prominent of these examples.