Some Cool Stuff

  • Professor Bainbridge takes apart the Supreme Court's decision on capital punishment for minors, albeit by liberally quoting from Scalia's opinion.
  • Pejman Yousefzadeh at Tech Central Station cheerleads for the good guys in the New London, CT eminent domain case argued recently before the Supreme Court. I'm not optimistic about this case, but maybe I'll be pleasantly surprised.
  • Also at Tech Central Station, Kenneth Silber talks about the (um…) "colorful" John Whiteside Parsons, involved in the early days of Caltech and the JPL.
  • Virginia Postrel points to her essay at Slate; she modestly fails to point out that it's absolutely stunning. Fans of Tom Wolfe's The Right Stuff will want to check out the picture of Pancho Barnes. Suggestion to Slate: more Postrel, less of those idiotic "Bushisms."
  • In the Needed To Be Said Department: Mr. Hog On Ice points out a few things about Hunter Thompson's suicide.
  • A general recommendation: I've seen a lot of awe expended in the blogosphere about roboposters like InstaPundit, but I'd like to put in a good word for a MSM-type, the Washington Post's Howard Kurtz. He outputs an incredible amount of stuff every day, most of it interesting, and unusually balanced for a lefty rag like the Post.

Last Modified 2012-10-26 5:36 PM EDT

CSPI vs. Salt

The pompously-named Center for Science in the Public Interest has started (or, more accurately, restarted) an offensive against salt. Their press release is here; and their 40-page PDF report is here. Essentially, they recommend massive new government regulations to decrease Americans' salt intake. They also recommend that people cut down on salt voluntarily, and that government undertake "education" programs to "encourage" people to do so. But that's pretty much a sideshow to the advocated new regulations. And even the new regulations are probably best thought of as an initial foot in the door.

(Let me confess, just to get it out of the way: I love salt. And I have high blood pressure. I think I'd think the same way if it were otherwise, but feel free to discount the below by whatever measure you think appropriate.)

There are roughly two classes of objections to the CSPI: I'll call them principled and practical.

Practical first: there's a lot of reason to doubt that reducing salt intake will actually achieve anything like the public health benefits claimed by its proponents. You can read the CSPI side of the argument in their PDF. For the other side, see this page from The Salt Institute. (Which is obviously self-interested, but you can take that into account while evaluating their arguments.) Also (via that page), see this article by Gary Taubes on Steven Milloy's Junk Science website which outlines some of the politics and history involved. (From which you'll learn that CSPI and others have been freakishly hysterical about salt for over a quarter century.) Also from the Junk Science site, see this year-old article from Milloy.

I don't think you can come away from those arguments without a healthy dose of skepticism about the anti-salt position. But … what if the CSPI and their ilk (I love saying "ilk") are right anyway, and the skeptics are wrong? Then what?

Well, there's the fallback-practical objection: maybe salt is a "killer" like they say, but the proposals aren't going to save enough people to be worth the cost. Some folks swoon in horror at such cold-blooded cost-benefit analysis involving health and human life, but in fact it's perfectly humane: the idea is that if you can spend your time and resources more effectively in other regulatory efforts, it's a net win for people's health and safety.

But what if—despite our healthy skepticism—CSPI-like regulations really would be effective, and would save 150,000-and-change Americans from a premature death? What then?

Then, I think, you make the argument you probably should have made in the first place, which is (roughly): mind your own business. This is the principled position mentioned above. That is: when adults want to ingest something into their own bodies, the state shouldn't interfere. Here's a Radley Balko article from Cato making that rough argument generally.

It would be nice if the general philosophy of our government were moving away from Nanny-Statism. Part of the problem is health-care collectivism: the notion that "society" pays for "our" health problems is a major (and maybe the major) corroder of liberty.

Your hypertension isn't just your problem, if I'm going to be paying for your cardiac bypass in a few years. And—hey, I'm talking to you, here—quite frankly, you should lay off the bonbons and mimosas, stay out of Wendy's, don't watch TV so much, join a gym or something, and … I'll get the government to "encourage" all that. Encourage it strongly, if that be necessary.

Feh. But that's the kind of mindset that's really behind the CSPI ("and their ilk"). How to fight it?

Last Modified 2005-03-01 5:48 PM EDT