The food busybodies are one part of the overall busybody movement that affects so much of our lives today. Busybodies — it sounds quaintly amusing and harmless, but it is anything but.
As modern life has become increasingly complex and the consequences of private, social and national decisions increasingly impactful, we have ceded much, too much, of our opinions and decisions to “experts”. There really is little alternative, since no one can keep up with all that must be known to make good decisions at all levels of society and personal life. But we should be clear on what we are doing, and we aren’t.
In a simpler time, our experts were local people, the clerks, lawyers, doctors and such that we consulted face to face for advice. We could judge their advice first hand. But that has been lost as the scope of our needs and our society has exploded.
The big advance in the reliance on “experts” was made by President Wilson. He more than anyone before established the idea that a fourth branch of government was needed to make the complex decisions that only experts were capable of doing; that was the genesis of the modern regulatory agencies. Their influence, interference actually, strikes deep into our lives in ways and degrees we are too little even aware of.
Wilson was the first of the modern Progressives, and his view, their view, was that regulatory agencies of experts were entirely benign and beneficial. That has proven not to be the case for reasons that should be obvious to all.
One obvious circumstance is that for many disciplines, the science just isn’t there. Take the relationship of food to health. Whatever the experts pronounced as harmful one year was reversed the next. The relationship is more complex than science has yet to understand. The workings of global climate are even less understood. Despite claims to the contrary, no climate scientist has ever been able to explain in any detail what caused all the thousands of climate shifts in the geologic past. (Human activity can be ruled out with certainty, at least.) No model of the climate has had any success at all in explaining the shifts that have occurred in recent history, or in predicting global temperature or climate. Scientists are still discovering new factors affecting the climate that they didn’t know existed, let alone understood.
Economics is a similarly poorly understood “science”, yet so many of our national decisions and policies are based on economic opinions presented with the certainty of facts. We spent nearly a trillion dollars on the certainty that the theories of Keynes proved that the Stimulus package would stimulate the economy into profitable growth. Total waste of money.
Another obvious fault in over-reliance on our regulatory branch of government experts is that it consists of human beings, subject to the foibles and vices of human beings. Human ego is fed in the limelight of acting the expert, of pontificating, of expounding on pet beliefs and opinions as if they were scientific facts. The agencies have succumbed to the belief that their function is the issuance of regulations themselves, more and more and more, needed or not. The federal agencies issue more new regulations each year than a person can even read in that time. It has been said, with good reason, that every American is in criminal violation of one or more regulations, without even knowing it. The vice of the expert is that they need to always be acting the expert, always pontificating.
Another serious fault in the system is that careers can be made by falling in line with the official doctrine, or can be destroyed by breaking ranks. Nowhere is this more obvious than in the Manmade Global Warming issue. When Dr. Hansen of NASA made his career in 1988 by testifying that AGW was settled science, that the debate was over, nothing was more untrue, even absurd. For a half dozen years, his ideas had little traction with climate scientists. But in 1993, Al Gore was inaugurated as Vice President, and he saw the career potential of the issue. (He was correct; he has amassed an estimated $200 million of personal wealth from advocacy of AGW.) He began to defund all grants and science contrary to AGW, and slowly to cleanse the government of scientists who did not support the official line. In academia, no grant money means no tenure means no career; hence the decline of any science at the major universities that does not tow the official line.
Today, there are many scientists, even Nobel Laureates, who disagree strongly with AGW, to the disadvantage of their careers. The common citizen has little idea they even exist, because their views are given no publicity. The idea that 97% of climate scientists agree with AGW is utter nonsense. Thanks to the internet, one can find their work and their speeches, but it takes competent digging.
There is still another dysfunction at work in our regulatory agencies of experts, and that is the temptation for politicians to misuse the natural status and deference we give scientists and experts as political tools in support of their agendas. For example, a political decision has been made to remove coal as an energy source and replace it with solar and wind. It physically can’t work, and financially doesn’t work either. So the experts in the EPA and elsewhere have been enlisted to say just the opposite, that energy costs will decline with “free” sun and wind energy, and the economy will function just fine without coal or nuclear power. The EPA and Energy Department and NASA/NOAA experts know what line they must toe and what it means to refuse. Not that there are many, or any, left in in those agencies who are non-believers.
Perhaps the greatest of the obvious flaws in our current agencies of experts is the confluence of a branch of government that is entirely unelected and unaccountable to the people, with the unwise delegation of law-making authority from the Congress to the agencies. Our regulatory agencies can make their own laws, enforce those laws on their own authority, and adjudicate cases with their own judges. And never be held accountable to the people. It is a shadow government.
If ever there was a situation ripe for totalitarian corruption, this is it.