by Carl V Phillips
I was listening to a news radio feature that got me thinking about what motivates people to get breathless about the typical current “public health” causes — not just anti-THR, but also worrying about sugar and other little joys in life. One obvious explanation is H.L. Mencken’s notion of Puritanism: they are bothered by a “haunting fear that someone, somewhere, may be happy.” But while these people may be puritans, they are not Puritans — that is, they seldom have any religious belief that would motivate them to really care that much about other people’s zero-externality choices.
My thoughts then went to other causes that people support with what a radio listener might find to be similar zeal, but really show a contrast with “public health”. I can totally understand why people become animated, breathless, and incredibly devoted for causes like stopping factory farming, stopping climate change, saving the rainforest, protecting a women’s access to abortion, reducing poverty, protecting fetuses from being aborted, eliminating blasphemy, driving out the infidels, stopping military ventures, protecting the homeland from foreign enemies, and such. Obviously I have chosen a list such that no one person would be animated about or even agree with all the listed positions — the point is that I can understand why someone would make any one of these their Mission. But getting that extra high-fructose corn syrup out of food? No, I do not get that one.
Then I thought further about it and noticed another difference. Everything on my “I can understand that” list is characterized by many people who are willing to lay down their life and freedom in support of their mission. People will live as paupers to devote their time, engage in civil disobedience, go up against people who might literally kill them, or even commit serious crimes and do jail time in support of these causes. (I am not saying I condone all such actions, obviously, or even think all are usually genuinely useful. But such actions are brave and real.)
Contrast that with “public health” causes, where none of the activists are willing to give up their comfort or take any risks. The closest they come to doing anything other than chattering and trying to use personally-risk-free force (government) to impose their will on people is occasionally vandalizing a piece of outdoor advertising. If they were to chain themselves to their handiwork and call the press and police to come see them, I might have some respect for such actions. But as practiced it is just adolescent vandalism, hiding in the shadows so they can brag about it to their friends and pretend they are similar to truly dedicated activists for important causes.
There are, of course, truly dedicated health activists who fit the model of putting their comfort or safety on the line by, say, spending their lives (not just a year of their trust-fund fueled youth) working in poor villages or taking on dangerous people who are causing harm. But the “public health” people do not do this. Indeed, I cannot think of a single person who ever did such things in their life and then slowed down to crusade against junk food and such. “Public health” has no attraction for serious and brave people, for obvious reasons.
Sorry for the tangent. But I have already posted something related to THR today, at EP-ology, so I invite you to go read that.