Actually, the Jamie Whyte interview in the New Scientist had triggered an old idea of mine.
You know how it is when you’ve been bested in a debate by some idiot who hits you with a remark that leaves you stuttering for a response, and days later while you lie in bed thinking why why why why why the response comes to you. You think “Aha, now I have got you!” But, of course, the moment is long past, and all you have is a bad memory and an untimely, unused retort.
Years ago I worked on energy and environmental policy issues for a market-oriented public policy group. On a radio show, I think it was, an associate of mine was hit with a “you guys aren’t environmental scientists, so why should anyone listen to your environmental policy recommendations.” It was true – most of use were schooled in either economics or political science – and none of us were, say, wetlands biologists.
Much later it occured to me that while we weren’t experts in wetlands science, we did know a thing or two about human social interaction in the form of governments, regulatory processes, and economic activity. Since we weren’t arguing about environmental science, but about environmental regulation, it seemed to me that we had a reasonable basis upon which to contribute to the debate.
In the New Scientist interview, Whyte blasts the British Medical Association:
Take the British Medical Association, which is always making policy recommendations. A recent example was that the government should tax the fat content of food. Why does the BMA think it knows anything about how we should live? It may know that if I live a particular way I’ll become unhealthy, but why does it think that it can tell me that I should value my health more than my chosen way of life? What makes its members think that they are in any privileged position to answer questions like that?
Also, how do they know what the effects of a tax on fatty food would be? They’re not specialists in the way that prices affect consumption and the way the economy will be affected by redistribution of spending from one part to another. They can’t even anticipate the health effects of these things. They should shut up.
Thanks again to Max Borders on The Commons for noting the interview.