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Britain’s veteran television presenter Richard Madeley has a weekly agony uncle column in The Telegraph.

Recently, a 76-year-old lady from Argyll and Bute in Scotland wrote to him complaining about her 73-year-old husband’s smoking and drinking.

Excerpts of the letter and Madeley’s wise reply follow, emphases mine.

Anon writes:

I am 76 and I don’t smoke or drink. My husband is 73: he drinks strong lager every day, he smokes and he takes no exercise whatsoever.

All of this is making me increasingly worried and angry. He is a good man, but I fear that he has deliberately set himself on a path to self-destruction. (Certainly he seems to take no evident pleasure from his habits.) He knows my views on the matter but we have never argued about it.

Richard Madeley begins by asking where the harm is in her husband’s habits, as he is in his eighth decade. He tells the woman that she is:

over-worrying a bit about this.

It’s not as if your husband is shooting up on class-A drugs every night or downing a whole bottle of whisky before sunset; he is indulging in some pretty mild vices. Yes, smoking is especially harmful, but if he hasn’t managed to kick the habit by now I think it’s probably a lost cause.

You say that he knows your views on the matter but quietly carries on puffing away and snapping open those tinnies anyway. You also say that you don’t argue about it and he doesn’t behave objectionably after he has sunk a few.

So my advice? Leave him be. It is not a perfect situation and you are quite right to be concerned about what his habits are doing to his liver and his lungs, but ultimately that is his responsibility, isn’t it? Carry on enjoying your own retirement in your own way and let him enjoy his on his terms.

Live and let live. Or, rather, live and let smoke and drink. There are worse things in a marriage, you know.

I couldn’t agree more.

This lady should be thanking God for a lasting marriage — and enjoying her husband’s company more often. No doubt he was smoking and drinking lager when she married him. If it wasn’t a problem then, it shouldn’t be one now.

On Monday, May 17, 2021, Guido Fawkes posted a summary of Christopher Snowdon’s Nanny State Index 2021:

It says (emphases in the original):

The Nanny State Index (NSI) has been updated for 2021, and it makes for grim reading for any libertarian – with author Christopher Snowdon claiming “everything is steadily getting worse” and that “all the momentum is with the paternalists of ‘public health’” in the wake of the pandemic. Lifestyle restrictions on eating, drinking, smoking, and vaping have all steadily increased across Europe for the past four years…

The post includes a summary quote about the UK from Snowdon. Among the European countries he researched, we’ve become somewhat more free only because of certain duty freezes during the pandemic:

It is a sign of how much nanny state activity there has been in Europe since 2019 that the United Kingdom has slipped from fourth place to eleventh in the table without liberalising anything. This can be partly explained by the government freezing beer and spirits duty since 2018 and freezing wine duty in 2020. Adjusted for income, its alcohol taxes are now only the ninth highest of the 30 countries in the index. It also helps that the UK takes a common sense approach to e-cigarettes… It remains to be seen whether the government uses Brexit as an opportunity for further liberalisation, but it remains highly paternalistic on food, soft drinks and tobacco.

However, what follows is the biggest news gleaned from the report (purple highlight mine):

The nannying countries at the top of the table – Norway, Lithuania, and Finland – don’t boast higher life expectancies or lower hospitalisations connected to smoking or drinking, though that hasn’t stopped governments pushing illiberal policies further and further – especially under the cover of the pandemic. It’s gesture politics at its most dangerous.

Many of us who are libertarians thought so.

It’s always good to have proof of that fact.

Readers can find Christopher Snowdon’s chart here along with his full 44-page report.

Page 4 of the report discusses the Nanny State’s adverse impact on the poor, who rely on alcohol and cigarettes to calm their nerves. It states (emphases mine):

Insofar as ‘public health’ campaigners acknowledge the damage done by their policies, they argue that it is more than offset by the benefit to health – the ends justify the means. But there is little evidence that countries with more paternalistic policies enjoy greater health or longevity. As Figure 1 shows below, there is no correlation whatsoever between Nanny State Index scores and life expectancy.

Although the UK has dropped from fourth place to 12th in a year, making it freer, this is only because dealing with the pandemic has hoovered up funds that normally would have been spent on tobacco and alcohol control.

As an avid follower of the UK Parliament’s debates, I am sure, sadly, that tobacco control will once again be on the agenda when it can be funded. The Government would like to resume this year. We’ll see.

In any event, I am grateful that Chancellor Rishi Sunak froze tobacco duty in this year’s budget, after having raised it twice last year.

Lifestyle Control is a leftist construct.

You won’t find libertarians or true conservatives backing it.

I arrived at this conclusion during the French presidential campaign this past Spring. The Greens and far Left parties, especially those which have strong union links, denounced tobacco and alcohol.

Several weeks ago, a Californian reader of mine, Tom, gave a rundown on the politics in the greater San Francisco Bay area. Smoking bans correlated with left-wing politics, including the town with a Communist mayor — Santa Cruz, if I’m not mistaken.

This year, despite our Conservative-Liberal Democrat Coalition, it seems the Lifestyle Control folks are going at it hammer and tongs. A leading light (!) in Tobacco Control (TC) was pleased to observe that all the TC measures were easily transportable to other campaigns. This, despite the fact that TC have said on more than one occasion that tobacco is a ‘unique’ product requiring the most stringent regulation.

I’ll come to killer bacon in a moment, however … within the past few weeks, we have had a stream of headlines, not just about removing tobacco from view but minimum pricing for alcohol and killer food. What follows is but a brief selection:

– From Jay at Nannying Tyrants, we discover that Andrew Brown, an Australian now working for the UK government in TC, is pushing not only for plain packaging for tobacco products but also wants to ban smoking in private vehicles ‘to protect children and young people. Regrettably, this is the first time I have ever levelled a criticism at a former member of the military; Brown is a retired Royal Australian Air Force officer.

Also from Nannying Tyrants, we find out that hospital in Letterkenny, Donegal, has forced smokers to the perimeter of the hospital grounds in order to have a quiet five-minute puff in peace. Like many of you, I hadn’t heard of Letterkenny before, but its hospital grounds are, well, a campus. So, your loved one is dying or you’re relieved they’re recovering from a serious operation, but you’re not allowed — nor are they — to step outside for a smoke. Cardiac Rehabilitation Nurse Martina McDaid said that smoking ‘is not a lifestyle choice’. However, it can provide brief comfort when awaiting news of a loved one. Hospital visits and stays are not exactly entertainment, are they?

Belinda at F2C [Freedom to Choose] Scotland tells us that Novartis has spelled out their support for smoking bans. They trot out the good old ‘Tobacco is the single largest cause of avoidable death in the EU’ line along with everyone else. Is it really? Is that why we have so many 50-pluses whose houses the British government and housing associations are trying to lay claim to? Pull the other one, Novartis.

Also from Belinda, it transpires that Mexico, which some perceive to be an emerging economy has nine times the number of people aged between 70 and 74, yet only a fraction of the lung cancer deaths that Scotland has. How can that be? Are the causes really ‘smoking-related’ or is there a prevalence of something else in the Western world, e.g. exhaust fumes or another industrial component? Fredrik Eich has more. Both sites have charts to study.

Then, there’s strong drink:

Dick Puddlecote reports that Bulgaria, a recent entry to the EU, has firmly objected to minimum pricing for alcohol. One John Watson disparages their objections. It turns out that, prior to entering the lofty realms of Alcohol Control, not only worked for ASH Scotland but Amnesty International. What should we make of that? The Left strikes again.

Also from Puddlecote Towers comes the news that Alcohol Control object to better pension payouts to drinkers, up to the tune of £2,000 per annum.  Dick notes that unlike the bogus science of Lifestyle Control in all its guises, seasoned actuaries determine who gets paid what and how much. The bright side is that drinkers might die sooner, giving Gen X and Gen Y along with the government access to said drinkers’ houses for ‘families in need’. Uh huh.

As for minimum pricing per unit of alcohol in Britain, the Pub Curmudgeon reports that there will be a windfall for supermarkets should a 50p per unit pricing come into play. The Telegraph has more. Like tuition fees, prescription charges and everything else, it will only go up. Who knew? The Pub Curmudgeon has been predicting this ever since minimum pricing became a topic of blogging conversation about a year ago. Rightly, the Snowolf wants to know how the Scottish government is so certain it can save ‘up to’ 300 lives a year through minimum pricing. Yes, an interesting question which deserves an honest answer. Were the health officials doodling numbers on the back of a cigarette packet?

Now, on to food:

The Pub Curmudgeon recounts his experiences trying to obtain a proper Ploughman’s Lunch. All it is is cheese, bread and pickles. What could be simpler? These days, it can come with ham or a pork pie. The mind boggles. Who doesn’t know what a Ploughman’s Lunch is? A lot of bar staff, it seems.

The French news site, L’Internaute, reports that there is no safe amount of genetically-modified grain. Apparently, even a small amount of genetically-modified corn NK 603 can poison or kill rats. I read in passing elsewhere that the EU, including Russia, rejected American corn recently. It ended up going to feed the poor in Africa.

Chris Snowdon reports that the New York City ban on sodas was passed a couple of years ago. Australia wishes to carry that mantle until the finish line.  Sigh. Australia used to be such a confident country — whatever happened? In any event, they would like to extend plain packaging to junk food.

Bacon has more salt than, erm, sea water, Consensus Action on Salt and Health — CASH — says. Sound familiar? Like ASH? Note the word ‘Consensus’. Count me out of that one. How many centuries have we had bacon? Of course, it has salt. It has to be cured somehow. CASH wants the Department of Health to mandate that meat companies lower the salt in bacon. You have got to be kidding. Next thing we know, bacon will be sold behind shutters, like tobacco: ‘BACON PRODUCTS’.

On that note, former accountant now blogger Ken Frost has a range of shirts extolling the ‘joy of lard’. They read, ‘I’m happy because I eat lard’. Nice one!

On his blog, Ken Frost reports that M&M Mars has taken Aberdeenshire’s Carron Fish Bar to task for serving deep-fried Mars bars, a treat it has been serving up for 20 years. The American confectionary company is asking the fish bar to put a disclaimer on its menus saying that Mars does not approve of this use of their product. Here is a token gratuitous recipe, filmed by an Australian, for deep-fried Mars bars:

Finally, A Very British Dude says that Lifestyle Control has hit mass media, with an Australian radio personality asking — nay, petitioning — Sun editor Dominic Mohan (whom I remember as the celebrity gossip columnist in the 1990s) drop their Page Three feature. As the blogger says, why not just tell readers not to buy the Sun if they object to Page Three? But this might go deeper (emphases mine):

I am reasonably sure that anyone signing this petition has already voted, by not buying ‘the Sun’, so the signers of this petition are simply looking to impose their preferences on other people …

The arguments are so weak they essentially boil down to “we, the enlightened object to something you, the proles, do; so we’re banning it“. This has happened to smoking, which died out in the middle-classes but persists amongst the kind of people who build houses and clean streets. Once this happened, pubs, clubs, businesses were denied the right to allow their patrons to smoke. “For the children” was invoked, but pubs, the kind where working class people gather, not the nice gastro-pub, closed as a direct result. How is anyone happier or better off, drinking at home rather than in a pub?

The people who are most keen on clearing “slums”, temperance, drug prohibition, anti-smoking, anti-obesity, sure-start, parenting classes and means-tested welfare are the political left, who are also most keen on taxing the poor’s few remaining pleasures. The left claim to act in the poor’s interest, but they don’t seem to much like the poor, and so wish to alter them “for their own good”. This isn’t about the working class’s self-improvement, it’s about power and class and brute, miserable prejudice of purse-lipped puritanism and middle-class hypocrisy. C.S Lewis:

Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.

The Left’s utopia is another man’s prison.

The debate over proposed minimum alcohol pricing rages on.

‘Something must be done’.

Yes, so why not implement government price controls on drinks?

It is unbelivable that at a time when alcohol consumption in Britain has been decreasing over the past several years, our experts and politicians want to impose a minimum price per unit.

Yes, there will always be a handful of people who get out of control when they drink. However, most Britons consume alcohol sensibly.

This is more social engineering. Create a ‘problem’ then ‘solve’ it with tax.

It is certainly social engineering when anti-smoker Sir Ian Gilmore gets involved. Having dealt with tobacco, he has moved on to alcohol. Something must be done!

The Telegraph reports:

Senior doctors, including Sir Ian Gilmore of the Royal College of Physicians [RCP], have also said that the plan could save 10,000 lives a year by making alcohol more expensive for heavy drinkers. The changes will mean that a bottle of wine cannot be sold for less than £3.60, a can of lager will cost at least 80p, and a bottle of spirits between £10.40 and £11.20.

‘10,000 lives a year’ saved. Another spurious figure which requires backup. The RCP probably came up with that over dinner with wine. But, after all, they are physicians, and, by definition, drink responsibly, unlike we serfs who pay their salaries.

The Office of Fair Trading — in the same article — says the plan, already implemented in Scotland, will backfire:

In evidence to MPs, the watchdog said supermarkets and the drinks industry would gain “additional profit for every unit of low-cost alcohol that they sell”.

The OFT is also worried that the Government’s interference in prices will set a dangerous precedent, undermining the free market. It found similar price controls in France and Ireland meant households had a higher cost of living.

Precisely. And while the supermarkets and drinks industry would make more money, so would the government. No wonder that Terry Leahy, former head of Tesco, was in favour. It’s a win-win.

The OFT also warned of the potential for scope creep:

By legitimising intervention to control prices in a competitive market, it will be harder for the Government to resist calls for similar measures in other parts of the retail sector in future.

Just so. It’s not inconceivable that the government could control all prices. If you find that far-fetched, think of the taxes and bans we have in place at present. Why not add a few more?

Feature a steady diet of scaremongering and people will agree and clamour for a solution. ‘Something must be done!’

And this is exactly what is happening in our society, a mass panic about alcohol — just as there was with smoking and obesity.

Read the comments following the Telegraph article.

The gold medal has to go to Cransley, the policeman who said something must be done about public drunkenness:

As a  middle-ranking police officer, who manages the policing for one quarter of a county in the heart of England, can I make an observation:

There needs to be, in my humble opinion, a proper, adult, debate in this country about drugs and alcohol. The fact is that if you read the newspapers you will think that Ecstasy, for example, is a terrible drug. Billions of tablets have been consumed in the last 25 years and it has resulted in the deaths of around 400 people.

400 deaths in 25 years is very bad.

But, alcohol kills over 8,000 people EVERY SINGLE YEAR.

So which is the problem drug?

If you walk into my local Accident and Emergency department on a Saturday night, and ask yourself the question “what substance is causing all of these issues”, the answer you come up with won’t be cocaine, it won’t be heroin, it won’t be cannabis, it will be alcohol.

Now we all know that prohibition doesn’t work (and I’m glad about that, given that to me, a day without wine is like a day without sunshine), but there should be some control on the amount people consume and in particular there should be:

A public intoxication limit.

(With instant, penal, fixed penalty notices for breaches)

There is a limit for drinking and driving. There should be a limit (3 times the drink drive limit?) for intoxication in a public place.

Every citizen should have a responsibility whilst in a public place, to maintain a certain degree of sobriety so that they are not completely legless. Yes! enjoy yourselves, have a good evening out.

But you should not be allowed to get drunk to the point of losing your ability to look after yourself, make reasoned decisions, walk-without-falling-over and all the other symptoms my officers see week in and week out where people get larey, aggressive and completely unable to function in a reasonable and responsible manner.

If alcohol were invented, as a drug, today, it would be banned because of the health and behavioural issues it causes. There should be much tighter controls around drunkenness in order to allevaite the massive costs it causes to the emergency services, NHS and society in general.

There are already laws and penalties for public drunkenness. Why don’t Cransley and his constables take action? Most documentaries on binge drinking show groups of constables standing by watching the drunk and disorderly instead of arresting or fining them.

Between the police, politicians and physicians like Ian Gilmore, we’re in a sorry state — as well as being trapped by tax. Minimum pricing will surely result in more tax.

This manufactured mass panic over drink will go a long way to denormalising it — as with tobacco — unless we keep pointing out the reality of the situation.

Yesterday’s post introduced John Banzhaf to my readers who are less acquainted with Tobacco and Food Control personalities.

Most smokers and libertarians know of Banzhaf for his influence in bans. He lives up to his name.

However, what many of us do not know is that he has filed two complaints against Catholic University of America, one of which was against a Cardinal.

Banzhaf’s archaic-looking website includes many links to his appearances on television. One of these was on the late Robert Novak’s Crossfire show (CNN). In 2002, Novak intimated that Banzhaf would sue anyone at the ‘drop of a hat’. Banzhaf replied (emphases mine):

Anytime I see wrongdoing, I will sue. I’m an equal opportunity litigator. As you know, I’m one of the few people, who when you first had the CROSSFIRE program, and you had the liberal and conservative, I got fired at by the conservative, and I got fired at by the liberal. I go after anybody.

Just so. A year ago, Catholic News Agency reported:

Catholic University of America is going ahead with its plan for single-sex residence halls despite a complaint filed on July 14 by Professor John Banzhaf, known for his lawsuits over fast food and women’s bathrooms.

In a July 19 statement provided to CNA, the university said it “is moving ahead with its plans to house the incoming class of freshman in single-sex residence halls when they arrive on campus next month.”

The university said it received a copy of Banzhaf’s complaint and will study it, but it remains “confident that the law does not require that men and women be housed together in residence halls.”

Banzhaf filed the complaint with the District of Columbia Office of Human Rights, saying the University is practicing illegal sex discrimination by eliminating mixed-gender dormitories.

Call me old school, but a properly Catholic university should have segregated dorms.

Just a few months later in October 2011, Banzhaf filed a complaint on behalf of Muslim students against Donald Cardinal Wuerl, the Archbishop of Washington (DC) and Chancellor of Catholic University of America. The university’s Muslim students would like dedicated prayer rooms.

Banzhaf’s statement on PR Log reads in part:

In a formal legal complaint at the Office of Human Rights, it is charged that Wuerl, Chancellor of the university, aided and abetted discrimination at CUA against Muslim students by denying them the same equal access to its facilities and services enjoyed by other student groups, including Jewish ones, solely on the basis of their religion.

The complaint cites “clearly established law that a private (even Catholic) university must make its facilities and services equally available to all student groups without regard to factors like religion and/or sexual orientation, even if it does not have to provide formal university recognition to all such groups.”

The 60-page complaint “further charges that an attempt was made to cover up the animus in such a decision against Muslim students, based solely upon their religion, by falsely claiming that the reason for the discrimination was that CUA ‘should be sponsoring an organization that is not Catholic,’ whereas the University does in fact have a student organization for Jewish students.”

It seems odd that Muslims would wish to attend a Roman Catholic institution, then expect prayer facilities.

Whilst some lawyers take on cases just to see if they can win them, on some level it just seems intellectually and ethically dishonest to do so.

Note what appears to be at play in both complaints: Banzhaf’s dictating of property rights to a private institution (prayer rooms) and denying freedom of religious belief (segregated residence halls).

However, now we see that Banzhaf has little regard for Christian life and practice. I do wonder, if Christian students complained against a Muslim institution, whether he would have taken the case.

My deepest concern with all these movements against property rights and personal liberties is that someday they will be coming for believing Christians.

These authoritarians are driven and would stop at nothing.

And now for a footnote on Banzhaf and another organisation with which he has ties.

Center for Science in the Public Interest

John Banzhaf is legal advisor to the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), which calls:

the undisputed leader among America’s “food police.” CSPI was founded in 1971 by current executive director Michael Jacobson, and two of his co-workers at Ralph Nader’s Center for the Study of Responsive Law. Since then, CSPI’s joyless eating club has issued hundreds of high-profile—and highly questionable—reports condemning soft drinks, fat substitutes, irradiated meat, biotech food crops, French fries, and just about anything that tastes good.

CSPI fancies itself a “watchdog” group but behaves more like an attack dog, savaging restaurants, disparaging adults’ food choices, and discouraging even moderate alcohol consumption. It famously dubbed fettuccine alfredo a “heart attack on a plate.” Its nutrition nags encourage the public to “just say no” to fried mozzarella as though it were an illegal drug.

Have you ever wondered where all the Food Control madness comes from? Look no further than CSPI.

In July of 2003, Jacobson teamed with legal shark John Banzhaf to formally warn six U.S. ice cream retailers that lawsuits may result from their refusal to immediately “list the calorie (and, ideally, saturated fat) content of each item” on menu boards.

CSPI’s self-anointed “experts” also encourage “a whole lot of lawsuits” against fast-food restaurants (the group says it is “looking at tobacco as a model”), mostly because they see legal action as leverage to enact all the restrictions on food they have long supported. These include, but are by no means limited to:

    • extra taxes on foods with fat, sugar, and sodium (the so-called “Twinkie tax”);
    • government-mandated “warning” labels on high-fat, high-calorie menu items;
    • mandatory nutrition information on restaurant menus, menu-boards, meat packages, hamburger wrappers, food commercials, ice cream stores, movie theatres, bakeries, hot dog stands, etc., etc.
    • requirements that broadcasters give free “equal time” to government-supported advertisements of “healthy” foods;
    • restrictions on baby food packaging requiring that tapioca be labeled as “chemically modified food starch”;
    • labels warning parents that soft drinks may be replacing low-fat milk, fruit juice, and other drinks in their children’s diets;
    • labels warning of contamination from fresh, unpasteurized juices;
    • a government-sponsored “Must-Not-See-TV Week” campaign; and
    • stricter regulations on genetically enhanced foods, which are already the most regulated food products in the U.S.

To accomplish these goals, CSPI sends a flurry of petitions and letters to the FDA, the Department of Agriculture, the FTC, the Department of Health and Human Services, and any other government agency that has a role to play in regulating food.

As those of us from outside the US know, we’re experiencing the same onslaught of horrors pumped up by the media about obesity epidemics and necessity for additional taxes on ‘unwholesome’ foods. Those of us in England recall this year’s Cornish pasty tax, which has been revised but not repealed. The Cornish must have been appalled to learn that their centuries-old meal baked in crust is akin to junk food!

Now, I have worked with many a coffee drinker who delights in disparaging smokers. After all, smokers take ‘ciggie breaks’. Coffee drinkers enjoy a refined beverage over conversation. There, you would find that the CSPI disagrees. Coffee is every bit as bad for you as a cigarette.

CSPI co-founder Michael Jacobson considers caffeine such a blight on civilization that he complains about people socializing over coffee. Unsurprisingly, he suggests that Americans patronize a “carrot juice house” instead. CSPI’s in-house food policies are so strict that Jacobson once reportedly intended to get rid of the office coffee machine—until one-third of his 60 employees threatened to quit.

CSPI also has a bias against meat and dairy. Jacobson, himself a vegetarian, wrote in an issue of CSPI’s Nutrition Action Healthletter that proper nutrition “means eating a more plant-based diet … It means getting your fats from plants (vegetable oils and nuts) and fish, not animals (meats, milk cheese, and ice cream).” In keeping with his personal vegetarianism, Jacobson quietly sits on the advisory board of the “Great American Meatout,” an annual event operated by the animal rights zealots at the Farm Animal Reform Movement (FARM)

And then there’s Demon Drink:

Alcohol, even when consumed in moderation, is perhaps CSPI’s most hated product. The group’s Healthletter has asserted that “the last thing the world needs is more drinkers, even moderate ones.” CSPI wants hefty increases in beer taxes, increased restrictions on adult-beverage marketing, and even poster-sized warning labels placed in restaurants. George Hacker, who leads CSPI’s anti-alcohol effort, has accused winemakers of “hawking America’s costliest and most devastating drug.”

CSPI also opposes wineries’ plans to promote the well-documented health benefits of moderate wine consumption. As the Washington Times observed, “Jacobson argues that people can’t be trusted to make wise and healthful decisions on their own. He says that’s why CSPI is fighting the industry’s bid to include information about the health benefits of wine on the label of bottles.”

Humans = animals

This is just so pathological as to be off-putting, however:

The thousands of readily available and relatively inexpensive food offerings we enjoy today are for CSPI something to lament. “People tend to eat most healthily during hard times,” Jacobson has argued. “Heart disease plummeted in Holland and Denmark during the most severe food shortages of World War II. Records of English manors in the 1600s reveal that the peasantry feasted on perhaps a pound of bread, a spud, and a couple of carrots per day.” And that, to Jacobson is “basically a wonderfully healthy diet.” Yum.

Yes, and I recall seeing a documentary on the Nazis giving the Dutch people wheelbarrows of tulip bulbs to eat near the end of the war. That was all there was. It seems certain that the Nazis weren’t eating them, though. They had proper food for themselves.

Heart disease no doubt ‘plummeted’ during that time because people starved to death.

Jacobson gets worse:

At least you can get your fill of spuds and carrots, right? Wrong. Not only does Jacobson argue that you should avoid most foods you currently enjoy, but he insists that you should limit your consumption to just-above-starvation levels. “With animals,” notes Jacobson, “hundreds of studies show that if you give them 80 to 60 percent of their normal calories, they live much longer” …

Like some evangelical Jack Spratt, [CSPI co-founder] Michael F. Jacobson seems to have made it his mission in life to warn society of the dangers of eating—and becoming—fat,” writes the Cleveland Plain Dealer. “The success of this apparently well-intentioned crusade may be giving rise to other, less obvious dangers to our collective health—those of desensitization, oversimplification and omission.” And sometimes, we might add, exaggeration and misrepresentation that abandon reality altogether.

It was the CSPI who called salt the ‘silent killer’.

It was the CSPI who called for a ban on trans fats. ‘But,’ you say, ‘didn’t Jacobson tell us we should get our fats from plants?’ Yes, he did:

While he insists that trans fats are responsible for as many as 30,000 deaths a year (a highly questionable figure), Jacobson fails to mention that he is largely responsible for their heavier concentration in the American diet. In fact, CSPI was originally one of trans fats’ most vocal proponents.

According to trans fat opponent Dr. Mary Enig, a Ph.D. nutritionist who has edited both the Journal of the American College of Nutrition and Clinical Nutrition, the blame for trans fat falls largely on Jacobson and CSPI. She wrote in the fall of 2003:

It is impossible to measure the hazards and grief that [CSPI Director of Nutrition Bonnie] Leibman and Jacobson—the leaders of the major nutrition “activist” consumer organization—have inflicted on many millions of an unknowing public.

The story dates to the mid-1980s, when CSPI launched an all-out assault on fast food restaurants that used beef fat and palm oil to cook their French fries. Jacobson led protests in front of restaurants and organized a massive postcard campaign aimed at their corporate headquarters. By the early ‘90s, most chains had replaced CSPI’s hated beef fat and tropical oils with the only viable alternative: partially hydrogenated oil, which contained trans fats. Jacobson claimed victory.

Along the path to this “success,” CSPI busied itself exonerating hydrogenated oils from a number of studies linking them to increased levels of blood cholesterol. In 1988 CSPI wrote in its Nutrition Action Healthletter: “All told, the charges against trans fat just don’t stand up. And by extension, hydrogenated oils seem relatively innocent.” And in a second article a year later, CSPI’s Leibman wrote, “The Bottom Line … Trans, shmans.”

Yet, in 2004:

Jacobson published an op-ed in The San Francisco Chronicle renewing his call to outlaw trans fats from the American diet. He wrote: “It’s time to dump partially hydrogenated vegetable oil, the quintessential symbol of modern food technology, into the garbage disposal of history.”

And there are people who agree with him. I worked with a young woman with a degree from Oxford who said:

They really need to ban trans fats. They’re so unhealthy. People have to be saved from making choices they don’t know how to make. They’re not educated enough.

She had done some work for left-wing organisations and inveigled a young Englishman — a self-avowed Communist — into our office for a period of time doing temporary work. His goal was to move to a Communist country, which he did a few months later:

I hate England and everything about it. If I could destroy it, I would.

So, this is the mindset behind food bans.

And this is the mindset behind a hatred of Christianity and freedom.

Think I’m overdramatising? Think again.

What follows is an instructive story about the mind of a prohibitionist.

In addition to working on a general hypothesis that prohibitionists are by nature megalomaniacs, I am also working on another which posits that many of them are hiding something serious.

A third hypothesis, that they are all leftists, has little relevance to the following — although communitarianism, which fits here nicely — certainly does. Leftism and communitarianism need each other in order to work.

You might have heard of the town of Zion, Illinois, north of Chicago. It is very close to the Wisconsin border and the coastline of Lake Michigan. Today, it’s just another pleasant town and is home to conservation areas as well as a large resort and conference centre complex.

However, its beginnings were quite different.  A Scot, John Alexander Dowie, founded the town in 1900.

Dowie’s outlook on humanity

Dowie was born a Congregationalist and appears to be yet another Calvinist (e.g. Jehovah’s Witnesses’ founder Charles Taze Russell and the Crystal Cathedral’s Robert Schuller) who defected from doctrine and Scripture for his own glory.

Born in 1847, he moved with his parents from Edinburgh to Adelaide (Australia). There, he worked for his uncle who owned a shoe business before moving on to other employment where he did well financially. Dowie returned to Edinburgh to study theology although he was ordained a Congregationalist minister in Alma in Southern Australia in 1872. He married and had three children, only one of whom lived into adulthood.

Dowie had interesting influences and perspectives during his life of 59 years:

– His father was one-time president of the Total Abstinence Society in Adelaide

– He married his cousin

– He left the Congregational Church to become an independent evangelist

– He considered himself a faith healer and disparaged other faith healers

– He was involved with the Salvation Army for a time

– He managed to cause a schism in a Melbourne church because of his authoritarian leadership

– He spent several weeks in jail for conducting an unauthorised procession

– He moved to San Francisco in 1888

– Later, in Chicago, he set up his own tabernacle and healing homes

– In 1896, he founded the Christian Catholic Apostolic Church where he forbade his followers from:

– drinking

– smoking

– eating pork

– consulting doctors

– taking medicine

– He stylised himself as Elijah the Restorer with robes modelled on Aaron’s in the Book of Leviticus (see the illustration above)

– He fought off lawsuits for practising medicine without a licence

– In 1900, he founded the town of Zion, where his church was the only one in town

Zion – total control

Dowie owned every property in Zion. As part of his insistence on the aforementioned outer holiness, he also forbade residents from setting up theatres, dance halls and doctor’s surgeries.

This is what stood at the city limits (another version here):

The notice carries the name W G Voliva. Wilbur Glenn Voliva, also a man of the cloth, joined Dowie’s church, later moved to Zion and became his lieutenant.

By then, Dowie had embraced a lavish lifestyle, including a 25-room mansion. He considered himself akin to a prophet for the end-times and sent several missionaries to South Africa, a place he had not himself visited. They established the Zionist Churches, which still exist today. Dowie’s openness to racial harmony — probably the only good thing one can say about him — and his experiential pre-Pentecostalist church proved popular. Even today, the Zionist Churches around the world hold Dowie in high regard.

In 1903, Dowie found out about his opposite number in Islam, Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, who believed himself to be the Mahdi, or Promised Messiah. The two men exchanged letters, each disparaging the other. Ahmad challenged Dowie to a prayer duel, which Dowie accepted. Each asked God to punish the other.

In 1905, Dowie suffered a stroke during a visit to Mexico. Voliva took advantage of the circumstances to take over Zion. Dowie pursued litigation, but was finally forced to back down and accept an allowance from the church.

The Voliva years – the end

Although the congregation, now tired of Dowie’s authoritarianism, elected Voliva (pictured at right) as head of the Christian Catholic Apostolic Church in 1906, they merely traded in one tyrant for another. Voliva went so far as to dictate marriage partners to single townspeople. He also terminated housing leases at will.

Voliva expanded the local Zion Industries, diversifying from selling the Scottish lace of Dowie’s time to biscuits and chocolate.  Zion was a company town and, characteristically, its working residents were underpaid.

Voliva believed the earth was flat. This was his understanding of astronomy:

The idea of a sun millions of miles in diameter and 91,000,000 miles away is silly. The sun is only 32 miles across and not more than 3,000 miles from the earth. It stands to reason it must be so. God made the sun to light the earth, and therefore must have placed it close to the task it was designed to do. What would you think of a man who built a house in Zion and put the lamp to light it in Kenosha, Wisconsin?[2]

As a result, Voliva issued additional bans: on globes (yes!), lipstick, high heels and oysters. He named the police force the Praetorian Guard and issued a 10 p.m. curfew.

Meanwhile, Dowie suffered more strokes. His family also left him. He suffered a final stroke in 1907 and died of paralysis. The self-proclaimed Mahdi, his opponent in the prayer duel, died a year later.

Afterward, Voliva began to live as lavishly as Dowie. He had his own radio station from which he preached against the evils of believing in a round earth and evolution. My parents remembered hearing some of his broadcasts as children and found them strange indeed.

The Great Depression forced Zion Industries into bankruptcy. The townspeople grew disgruntled with Voliva’s extravagance. In 1937, an angered employee of Zion Industries set the town’s huge church alight. Voliva filed for personal bankruptcy shortly afterward.

He ended up getting cancer, which proved to be fatal. In 1942, Voliva tearfully confessed to the congregation that he had misappropriated church funds for his personal use and that he had committed other serious sins. 

Voliva died that same year, aged 72.  He  had predicted that he would live to be 120 thanks to his diet of Brazil nuts and buttermilk.

Dowie and Voliva’s church split after that.  A small remnant of the congregation reformed, meeting in the local auditorium, but that was also set alight in 1959. An English family was living in a flat in the building. Fortunately, they were out when the fire started, otherwise, they would have perished as Zion’s fire crew lacked the equipment to reach the upper storeys of the structure in those days. Today, a new house of worship stands on the site: Christ Community Church.

Through Dowie and Voliva’s lives we see what authoritarianism is about: megalomania, total control of others, extravagant freedom for oneself, misappropriation of other people’s money and serious sin.

This, I suspect, lies in the lives of other prohibitionists, although we cannot make a blanket statement for all of them.

Recalling the late Nancy Reagan’s words, the next time someone asks for support in prohibition:

Just say no.

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