Wednesday 12 June 2024

The hard left WHO

The WHO European Region published a new report, written mostly by British 'public health' academics. It is quite revealing. For example... 

This requires, at a minimum, that governments recognize that the primary interest of all major corporations is profit and, hence, regardless of the product they sell, their interests do not align with either public health or the broader public interest. Any policy that could impact their sales and profits is therefore a threat, and they should play no role in the development of that policy. Similarly, governments must also recognize the now overwhelming evidence (see also chapters 4, 6 and 7) that HHIs ['health-harming industries'] engage in the same political and scientific practices as tobacco companies (69) and that voluntary or multistakeholder partnership approaches do not work where conflicts of interest exist (27, 70). Instead, they must regulate other HHIs ['health-harming industries'], their products and practices, as they do tobacco.

That's just one paragraph, but there's a lot it in. 
Firstly, they are clearly not just opposed to 'health-harming industries' but to private industry in general. 

Secondly, they want to exclude all industries from the policy-making process, as already happens with the tobacco industry.

Thirdly, they want to regulate all 'health-harming industries' in the same way as they regulate tobacco. 

This is all there in black and white. It is not scaremongering or the slippery slope fallacy. It is now in an official WHO document. 

When people show you who they are, believe them.

I have written about this for The Critic.

Monday 10 June 2024

The George Orwell motherlode


As promised, there was a lot of Orwell-related activity over the weekend from the IEA.

You Do Not Exist, my book about Nineteen Eighty-Four is available to download (free) here.

You can download the whole novel plus my introduction here.

I wrote about it for the Spectator and Quillette.

And I made this little video about Orwell's London...

Friday 7 June 2024

Orwell's pessimism

It's the 75th anniversary of the UK publication of Nineteen Eighty-Four tomorrow and there is a whole load of Orwell-related stuff coming from me and the IEA. Stay tuned, but for now here's an article I've written about him for Quillette... 

Orwell may have been pleasantly surprised had he lived to see the real 1984. It is often said that his dystopian novel is a warning rather than a prophecy and Orwell himself was keen to remind people that it was “after all a parody,” but he was also quite explicit that Nineteen Eighty-Four was a conditional prophecy. Shortly after the book was published, he put out a statement saying that “something like NINETEEN EIGHTY-FOUR could happen. This is the direction in which the world is going at the present time.” But it didn’t and it wasn’t. By the time he died in January 1950, Europe had put the worst of the twentieth century behind it. Orwell was too pessimistic and it is worth considering why.

The central assumption at the heart of Orwell’s political writing from the mid-1930s was that capitalism was doomed and would most likely be replaced by totalitarian socialism of the sort satirised in Nineteen-Eighty Four. Despite his contempt for capitalism, Orwell saw the world caught between a rock and hard place. “Capitalism leads to dole queues, the scramble for markets, and war,” he wrote in 1944. “Collectivism leads to concentration camps, leader worship, and war.” The only alternative, to his mind, was a planned economy that retained democracy and allowed freedom of the individual, but he became increasingly pessimistic about the prospects for his libertarian brand of what he called democratic socialism as the 1940s wore on. Indeed, he saw “no practicable way of bringing it about.”

This explains why he was so despondent about the world’s prospects in the last years of his life and why he decided to write Nineteen Eighty-Four. But he was wrong. Capitalism did survive, subsequent communist revolutions went the same way as the USSR’s, and Orwell’s version of democratic socialism was not required to prevent totalitarianism sweeping the globe. It turned out that it was not a straight choice between democratic socialism and communist (or fascist) totalitarianism. There was a third way.

It's free so do read it all.

Tuesday 4 June 2024

Nicotine pouches: there may be trouble ahead

I sense the start of a moral panic about nicotine pouches. The government has made this more likely by completely ignoring them since they appeared five years ago, as I explain in The Critic.

The greater, unspoken concern is that widespread use of nicotine pouches among professional footballers could inspire children to emulate their idols. It is easy to imagine a moral panic erupting around nicotine pouches in schools much like the panic about disposable vapes. There was a harbinger of this last week with a sensationalist Channel Four documentary titled “Snus: Hooked on Nicotine”. The government has done nothing to head this off at the pass. These products have been around for five years and no attempt has been made to regulate them. So far, the industry has been successfully self-regulating by instructing retailers not to sell them to minors, adding health warnings and capping nicotine levels, but none of these are legal requirements and there is nothing to stop less scrupulous companies entering the market with extra-strong pouches, child-friendly packaging and deceptive marketing. 

I hesitate to write this in case it gives professional busybodies and Wes Streeting ideas, but there is a danger of this turning into Elf Bar II in which a failure of governance leads to a political overreaction and the rights of adults to consume a very low risk product are curtailed. Given the political class’s penchant for banning things first and asking questions later, this is a threat that users of nicotine pouches need to be alive to.


Also, if you don't subscribe to my Substack then (a) you should, it's free, and (b) read my latest post about Action on Sugar.