The White Working Class: Dying from Drugs–and Poor Nutrition

In 2015, life expectancy in the United States declined for the first time in over 20 years. The decline was driven mostly by the continued increase since the late 1990s in the death rate among working class, non-hispanic whites–the largest group in the country, comprising over 40 percent of the population. The disturbing increase in the death rate among this group was first revealed in a landmark study by Nobel laureate Angus Deaton and Anne Case in 2015. Now Deaton and Case are back with a new study that provides additional evidence.

Deaton and Case attribute the rising death rate among working class whites to ‘deaths of despair’–drugs, alcohol, and suicide. And as the cause of the despair, Deaton and Case focus on worsening social and economic conditions.

The authors suggest that the increases in deaths of despair are accompanied by a measurable deterioration in economic and social wellbeing, which has become more pronounced for each successive birth cohort. Marriage rates and labor force participation rates fall between successive birth cohorts, while reports of physical pain, and poor health and mental health rise.

Case and Deaton document an accumulation of pain, distress, and social dysfunction in the lives of working class whites that took hold as the blue-collar economic heyday of the early 1970s ended, and continued through the 2008 financial crisis and the subsequent slow recovery.

I suppose it’s natural for economists to focus on economic and social causes, like labor force participation and marriage rates. I’m sure these play a role in the despair of working class whites, but I don’t think they tell the whole story because ‘deaths of despair’ are only a fraction of the overall rise in deaths. In their Power Point presentation, Deaton and Case offer the following graph of the rate of ‘despair’ deaths for those aged 50-54.

As can be seen in the graph, ‘despair’ deaths–basically suicide and slow-motion suicide using drugs and alcohol–increased for both men and women by 70 or 80 per 100,000. All deaths, however, increased by a lot more than that.

For the same group of people, the death rate overall increased by about 200. Despair deaths therefore account for maybe 40 percent of the total increase. That’s a lot, but it raises the question, what accounts for the other 60 percent? My guess would be deaths from diabetes and other afflictions caused by obesity. Deaton and Case are skeptical of this explanation because among blacks, unlike whites, greater obesity has not increased the death rate. But other factors might be keeping down the black death rate despite high and rising obesity.

Deaton and Case are willing to concede (p.14) that the “contribution of obesity and diabetes to the mortality increases documented here clearly merits additional attention.” Then they proceed to pay it no additional attention, and focus throughout the rest of the paper on their social science hypotheses.

The words ‘food’, ‘diet’, ‘nutrition’ and related words appear nowhere in their 58-page paper, with the exception of a single reference on page 34 to “overeating.”

Deaton and Case are to be commended for calling attention to the deteriorating social and economic state of working-class whites. But the effect of very poor nutrition and eating habits also should not be ignored.

Seattle Environmentalists Demonstrate Fen’s Law

Fen’s Law states that leftists don’t really believe any of the crap they lecture the rest of us about.

It’s the proverbial tree that fell in the forest without making a sound, or perhaps the raw sewage that spewed into Puget Sound without making a splash.

Since the region’s largest wastewater-treatment plant was disabled in a catastrophic flood last month, the Metropolitan King County Council and Regional Water Quality Committee between them have held multiple public hearings on the disaster.
Not a single person from an environmental group or the public turned out to testify or demand action on the crippled West Point Treatment Plant, or even take notice of one of the largest local public infrastructure failures in decades.
Tons of solids are pouring into Puget Sound every day because the plant is too broken to treat wastewater properly. Yet council members say they’ve barely heard a peep from environmental groups.

The Seattle area is no slacker for environmental activism; hundreds of people have turned out of late in the streets to demand the city change banks to punish Wells Fargo for lending money to help build the Dakota Access Pipeline. And Elliott Bay swarmed with “kayaktivists” in 2015 to protest drilling in the Arctic when Shell staged equipment at the Port of Seattle docks.

“It’s odd, I have to say, I haven’t heard from any of them, not at all,” said King County Councilmember Jeanne Kohl-Welles, whose district includes the plant. “It is bizarre.”

So they’ll take to the streets to protest oil drilling or a pipeline thousands of miles away, but won’t protest sewage right in their own backyard. It’s almost as if environmentalism is not really about protecting the environment, but about advancing some ulterior agenda. And what might that agenda be? Well, stopping drilling and pipelines both have the effect of impeding U.S. oil production.

And who benefits from less U.S. oil production? Well, for one, there’s Russia. The last couple of years, the Russian government has had to make steep budget cuts as a result of relatively low oil prices, caused largely by expanded U.S. oil production. The Russians would love to curtail U.S. production.

Right now, the more febrile domains of the internet are burning up with conspiracy theories regarding Russian influence over the 2016 election. While we’re trying to get to the bottom of that, maybe we should also be investigating potential Russian funding of U.S. environmental groups. After all, we wouldn’t want to let the Russians corrupt our precious environmental organizations, amirite?

Earth Hour: *Yawn*

I’m running a little late with this, but this past weekend featured the 11th annual Earth Hour, when people all over the world are supposed to demonstrate how committed they are to stopping ‘climate change’ by turning off their electric lights for one hour.

Earth Hour is a kind of protest, of course, and a protest is not an argument, but just a way for people to show how strongly they feel about something. As a signal of feeling, however, Earth Hour seems laughingly pathetic, since the cost of participating is so meager. I mean, if you really believe that life on Earth as we know it is in jeopardy, shouldn’t you be willing to do more than just turn off your lights for one hour per year?

I’d be a lot more impressed by these folks if instead of an hour they lived without electricity for a year or even a month. Go into the woods and make a hut out of mud and pine needles and I’ll be duly impressed. I’ll still disagree with you, but I’ll at least acknowledge the strength and authenticity of your commitment to your false beliefs.

I mean, St. Francis of Assisi grew up well-to-do, but when he had his religious epiphany, he gave away literally all of his worldly possessions including his clothes, so that he was going around town completely naked. The local bishop had to tell him that he couldn’t go naked and gave him some clothes. Now, I don’t worship at the altar of St. Francis, but he certainly demonstrated his commitment.

But turning off lights for an hour is just the cheapest of cheap virtue signalling, like posting to social media about Cecil the Lion or Kony 2012.

Peace out.

The University as Holiday Resort: Yale Edition

The new video by We the Internet does a great job explaining the reasons for the current parlous state of free speech and inquiry at American universities. The focus is on Yale University, but Yale’s pathologies apply generally to academia as a whole.

Silence U Part 2: What Has Yale Become?

At pjmedia.com, Richard Fernandez reviews the video and concludes that

Yale is becoming a kind of jail which hands out professional credentials to those hardy enough to serve out their term. Until then its inmates should be careful not to make waves. The wardens in Miltmore’s story are college administrators who’ve created a kind of politically correct kingdom where they — not the professors — are the rulers; where conformity not inquiry, is the most highly valued virtue.

But the university seems like a jail only to libertarian or conservative heretics who reject the ruling-class orthodoxy. To non-heretics the university offers a pleasant experience filled with parties and a wide range of recreational activities. Instead of a jail, the modern university more closely resembles an extended four-year religious summer camp, where instruction in the ruling-class catechism is combined with social and outdoor activities, a kind of holiday resort or sanatorium for the next generation of the ruling class. The appropriately descriptive term used in the video is “the gilded camp.”

As the video points out, the reason the university has become a kind of resort is “the customer service mentality.” As a result, a huge bureaucracy–“the administrative squid monster”–has been installed in order to “keep the fun going.” As a former Yale professor says, “It’s not about what we expect from you [the student], it’s about what we can do for you.”

The squid monster is primarily interested in feeding itself and is “not that committed to the search for truth.” Instead of a place of open inquiry, therefore, we get the religious summer camp, where lots of fun is available for everyone who does not question orthodoxy, but those who dare to rock the boat shall be persecuted as heretics.

The video tellingly contrasts the Yale of today with the Yale of 1974 which produced the famous Woodward Report in defense of free speech. A primary goal of today’s campus agitators is to ban ‘hate speech,’ but more than forty years ago the Woodward Report explicitly considered that argument and rejected it.

Shock, hurt, and anger are not consequences to be weighed lightly. No member of the community with a decent respect for others should use, or encourage others to use, slurs and epithets intended to discredit another’s race, ethnic group, religion, or sex. It may sometimes be necessary in a university for civility and mutual respect to be superseded by the need to guarantee free expression. The values superseded are nevertheless important, and every member of the university community should consider them in exercising the fundamental right to free expression.

We have considered the opposing argument that behavior which violates these social and ethical considerations should be made subject to formal sanctions, and the argument that such behavior entitles others to prevent speech they might regard as offensive. Our conviction that the central purpose of the university is to foster the free access of knowledge compels us to reject both of these arguments. They assert a right to prevent free expression. They rest upon the assumption that speech can be suppressed by anyone who deems it false or offensive. They deny what Justice Holmes termed ”freedom for the thought that we hate.” They make the majority, or any willful minority, the arbiters of truth for all. If expression may be prevented, censored or punished, because of its content or because of the motives attributed to those who promote it, then it is no longer free. It will be subordinated to other values that we believe to be of lower priority in a university.

As the video documents, however, today’s Yale has effectively dropped its defense of speech. When some professors tried to defend free expression, they came under withering assault from students and some faculty, and the administration did not defend them.

Rather than the Woodward Report, today’s Yale is more accurately summarized by the exclamations of ‘screeching girl.’

It is not about creating an intellectual space! It is not! Do you understand that? It’s about creating a home here!

OK! Now that’s settled, we can get back to roasting heretics marshmallows over the (gilded) campfire.

Boys Raised by Single Parent Do Worse than Girls

A fascinating new study published by the National Bureau of Economic Research finds that boys from ‘disadvantaged’ families do worse than girls. The disadvantaged families are predominantly headed by a single female parent.

We find that, relative to their sisters, boys born to disadvantaged families have higher rates of disciplinary problems, lower achievement scores, and fewer high-school completions.

[E]mployment rates of young women are nearly invariant to family marital status, while the employment rates of young adult men from non-married families are eight to ten percentage points below those from married families at all income levels.

In other words, all else equal, non-married status matters only for boys, not for girls. The authors, as well as most commenters on the study, conclude that the sex gap in success must be environmental and not genetic. Apparently, growing up without a father at home is somehow particularly damaging for boys, but not for girls, perhaps because mothers devote relatively more attention to their daughters and sympathize more with the needs of their daughters. In any event, nobody is really quite sure of the reasons, but one way or another, fathers are more important to raising boys than girls. This result supports the longstanding assertion of social conservatives that boys need fathers.

Observers reject a genetic argument in favor of environment, I suspect, because of the study’s focus on siblings. The boys and girls in the study should not differ much genetically because the siblings share at least one, and often two, parents.

An awful lot of research, however, has shown that life outcomes have a strong genetic basis. I’m not convinced, therefore, that the results of the study in question cannot have a genetic explanation.

In particular, life success has been shown to correlate strongly with I.Q. and the personality trait of ‘conscientiousness,’ which is heritable. Conscientiousness is the only one of the Big Five personality traits that predicts career success.

[A]fter general mental ability is taken into account, the other four of the Big Five personality traits do not aid in predicting career success.

And here’s a definition of conscientiousness.

[Conscientious people] exhibit a tendency to show self-discipline, act dutifully, and aim for achievement; they display planned rather than spontaneous behavior; and they are generally organized and dependable.

Men lacking in conscientiousness seem exactly the sort of fathers unable to form stable families and to fulfill fatherly duties. Since they are not dutiful or dependable, the mothers cannot rely on them, and end up heading the household themselves.

Now, I am not a geneticist, but I see no reason why fathers could not pass on their lack of conscientiousness to their sons relatively more than their daughters. Maybe I’m mistaken, but there could be a set of genes that undermine male conscientiousness, but have a relatively muted effect in females. If in terms of heritable conscientiousness, if boys align more with their fathers and girls with their mothers, then genetics can explain the result that boys from broken homes do worse than girls.

If so, then social conservatives might not be correct about the environmental role of fathers. But the age-old wisdom that women should not have kids with irresponsible men would still hold true.

Music in Our Culture: How Much Has Been Lost

I liked the following youtube comment by “TLM”. It refers to a clip of Mario Lanza’s performance of “vesti la giubba”, from the 1959 film For the First Time.

Mario Lanza Vesti La Giubba 1958 Widescreen

Yeah, it’s easy to go through life in contemporary America and never even find out that opera and classical music exist. The stuff hardly gets any exposure, except as the occasional background music on a TV commercial. That’s a shame, because even though opera and classical are not for everyone, in fact probably not for most people, a lot more people might nonetheless appreciate this music if only they got more exposure to it.

At my gym the speakers constantly blare hip-hop and rap, even though my gym’s clientele does not generally fit the typical demographic for those genres. The other day, one of the members talked an employee into shutting the music off, and the silence was welcomed by the rest of us who were working out. Another member commented that he was sick of the fact that, at high school basketball games, the music is always that same sort of “garbage.”

It wasn’t always like this in America. During the 1950s, America boasted a thriving middle-brow culture. In 1955, attendance at classical music concerts exceeded attendance at major league baseball games. In the early ’60s, Leonard Bernstein’s classical concerts were broadcast on national network television, sometimes during prime time. Prime time Shostakovich is unimaginable today. Young people have no idea how much has been lost. Sad.

But getting back to Mario Lanza, he had an amazing voice, and is in fact my favorite tenor. Which is surprising, because he was just a movie singer and not a real professional opera singer, kind of like The Monkees weren’t a real group, but just played one on TV. Lanza’s breakthrough movie was The Great Caruso (1951) in which he played the legendary tenor. But Lanza, the actor playing Caruso, was actually a better singer than the legend himself, if you can believe it.

Unfortunately, Lanza had a problem with overeating, and died prematurely at just 38 years of age.

Heart Disease: Do Docs Have No Clue?

I am not a doctor, and I don’t even play one on TV. I’m just an academic economist who often reads stuff on blogs and in layman’s publications about health and fitness. And it seems that whenever I read something about heart disease, it contradicts the medical profession’s conventional wisdom. Heart disease is the leading cause of death in America, and doctors act as if they know and can do a lot about it, but much of the stuff I read suggests that they have hardly a clue about what really causes heart disease or how to prevent or treat it.

Your doctor carefully tests your cholesterol level, and tells you that you should follow that number as closely as a CEO follows his corporation’s stock price. But as I reported back in June, the latest research shows that cholesterol is not a problem.

Cholesterol does not cause heart disease in the elderly and trying to reduce it with drugs like statins is a waste of time, an international group of experts has claimed.

A review of research involving nearly 70,000 people found there was no link between what has traditionally been considered “bad” cholesterol and the premature deaths of over 60-year-olds from cardiovascular disease.

Published in the BMJ Open journal, the new study found that 92 percent of people with a high cholesterol level lived longer.
[…]
“What we found in our detailed systematic review was that older people with high LDL (low-density lipoprotein) levels, the so-called “bad” cholesterol, lived longer and had less heart disease.”

Vascular and endovascular surgery expert Professor Sherif Sultan from the University of Ireland, who also worked on the study, said…“Lowering cholesterol with medications for primary cardiovascular prevention in those aged over 60 is a total waste of time and resources, whereas altering your lifestyle is the single most important way to achieve a good quality of life.”…

Lead author Dr Uffe Ravnskov, a former associate professor of renal medicine at Lund University in Sweden, said there was “no reason” to lower high-LDL-cholesterol.

And yet, anti-cholesterol drugs remain today the leading class of drugs prescribed in America. Do docs read the same things I read? One of us must be missing something.

Next, consider last month’s piece in The Atlantic about unnecessary medical procedures. One of the procedures highlighted by the article is heart stents.

In 2012, Brown had coauthored a paper that examined every randomized clinical trial that compared stent implantation with more conservative forms of treatment, and he found that stents for stable patients prevent zero heart attacks and extend the lives of patients a grand total of not at all. In general, Brown says, “nobody that’s not having a heart attack needs a stent.” (Brown added that stents may improve chest pain in some patients, albeit fleetingly.) Nonetheless, hundreds of thousands of stable patients receive stents annually, and one in 50 will suffer a serious complication or die as a result of the implantation procedure.

In particular, you can die from a post-operative blood clot. For the sake of an unnecessary procedure. Good work, docs!

Unlike statins, blood pressure medications are something I have never really questioned. Cholesterol numbers might be meaningless, but surely blood pressure means something, right?. And blood-pressure medications really do effectively bring down pressure. That would seem to be obviously beneficial, since lowering pressure reduces strain on the heart. Indeed, the conventional wisdom holds that blood pressure medications, known as beta-blockers, have saved untold numbers of lives. And yet, the same Atlantic piece casts doubt on the usefulness of beta-blockers.

[T]he latest review of beta-blockers from the Cochrane Collaboration—an independent, international group of researchers that attempts to synthesize the best available research—reported that they “are not recommended as first line treatment for hypertension as compared to placebo due to their modest effect on stroke and no significant reduction in mortality or coronary heart disease.”

That somewhat awkward language might require a bit of translation. “Not recommended…compared to placebo” means the beta-blockers are worse than doing nothing. They do more harm than good. And the “modest effect on stroke” refers not to a decreased but to an increased risk of stroke. The beta-blockers modestly increase the risk of stroke without reducing the risk of “mortality or coronary heart disease.” What a deal.

Finally, here’s something else I ran across this week. The so-called Seven Countries Study is the most famous study to link heart disease to saturated fat and cholesterol. The 25-year follow up to the original study again found a significant correlation between cholesterol and heart disease. Researchers in the U.K., however, analyzed the same data and found that heart disease correlated even more closely with…wait for it…latitude.

The Pearson correlation coefficient was calculated as 0.72 for baseline cholesterol and CHD deaths at 25 years. The data in the 1993 Menotti article has been examined to repeat the correlations found with CHD death rates and mean serum cholesterol to understand the data and methodology used. The same methodology was then used to explore alternative correlations. The strongest relationship found was for CHD death rates and the latitude of the country or cohort in The Seven Countries Study. The correlation coefficient for CHD deaths and latitude of the cohort was 0.93. The correlation coefficient for CHD deaths and latitude of the country was 0.96. While Keys did find a strong association with median serum cholesterol and CHD deaths, there were stronger associations that were discoverable.
The latitude finding offers an alternative explanation for the observed relationship with cholesterol and CHD. Vitamin D is made when sunshine synthesises cholesterol in skin membranes. In cohorts further [sic] away from the equator, cholesterol is less able to be turned into vitamin D.
Population mean serum cholesterol levels are higher and concomitantly population mean vitamin D levels are lower. Higher CHD could be associated with lower vitamin D, with cholesterol a marker, not a maker, of heart disease.

So according to this theory, the problem is not too much saturated fat, but too little vitamin D from sunshine. The theory casts doubt, therefore, on the alleged benefits of the ‘Mediterranean diet.’ The Mediterranean advantage would be the sunshine, not the food.

So much of what we think we know, might not be so.

So-Called Experts Lost the Trust of the American People

Tom Nichols is a professor and soi-disant expert on foreign and defense policy. He is apparently upset that people aren’t paying him enough attention.

It’s not just that people don’t know a lot about science or politics or geography. They don’t, but that’s an old problem. The bigger concern today is that Americans have reached a point where ignorance—at least regarding what is generally considered established knowledge in public policy—is seen as an actual virtue. To reject the advice of experts is to assert autonomy, a way for Americans to demonstrate their independence from nefarious elites–and insulate their increasingly fragile egos from ever being told they’re wrong.

Well, people don’t as a rule lose confidence in experts that maintain a good track record of success. New England Patriots fans, for instance, generally retain a high degree of trust in the judgment of Bill Belichick. Only when supposed experts screw up do people start to lose confidence. And the fact is that, over the past 15 years or so, America’s experts and elites have put together an appalling record of failure that has resulted in real suffering for millions of ordinary people. Professor Glenn Reynolds offers a few of the more prominent examples.

It was experts that gave us the financial crisis, it was experts that gave us the Middle East meltdown, it was experts who gave us the obesity epidemic and the opioid crisis. And yet the experts pay no price for their failures, and cling bitterly to their credentials and self-esteem, while claiming that the problem lies in the anti-intellectualism of ordinary citizens.

Hard to improve on the pithy elegance of Reynolds’ statement, but I would like to point out just a few more of the recent failures of the elites, including the fact that many of the most eminent economists in the country said that Obamacare was going to be a resounding success.

A different group of experts at the FAA maintained until 2001 that airline passengers should not fight back against hijackers. Good thing the flight 93 passengers did not follow the advice of the experts.

Doctors spent decades telling Americans, “Stay out of the sun, you’ll get skin cancer.” Then half of Americans ended up deficient in Vitamin D, one of the most potent anti-cancer agents. Doctors also made statins the most-prescribed class of drugs in America, even though statins can cause severe unintended harm, and despite the fact that the lipid theory of heart disease on which the drugs are based has been all but discredited.

Over the last year and a half, every professional political prognosticator told us that Donald Trump would never win the GOP nomination, and then they told us that he could never win the presidency. They also told us that Brexit would never happen.

Given the record of failure, I sympathize with people wanting to “assert autonomy” from the credentialed-but-hapless experts. Trust is not given; it has to be earned. And the way to earn trust is through real success, not through lame-ass credentialism. Nichols’ piece should be re-titled “How the Experts Lost the Trust of the American People.”

They say that a picture is worth a thousand words, so I’ll close with a pic that sums up the state of ‘expertise’ in America today. But first, let’s introduce one of America’s foremost experts on nutrition and obesity.

Kelly Brownell is Dean of the Sanford School of Public Policy at Duke University, and is a professor of public policy. He also serves on the board of directors of the Duke Global Health Institute.

In 2006 Time magazine listed Brownell among “The World’s 100 Most Influential People” in its special Time 100 issue featuring those “.. whose power, talent or moral example is transforming the world.”…

Brownell has advised the White House, members of congress, governors, world health and nutrition organizations, and media leaders on issues of nutrition, obesity and public policy. He was cited as a “moral entrepreneur” with special influence on public discourse in a history of the obesity field and was cited by Time magazine as a leading “warrior” in the area of nutrition and public policy.

Brownell is the guy on the left.

Reminder: Federal judges are just bureaucrats, not entitled to rule us

I was taken aback today by the title of an article at Breitbart.

The part that concerned me was not the refugee issue but that a lowly federal trial judge could issue an “order” to the President of the United States. Is that really the way our constitutional system is supposed to work?

Last month, a different federal trial judge, this one in Seattle, placed a restraining order on President Trump’s ban on travel from seven terrorist nations, and the president obeyed the order. Leaving aside whether or not Trump’s policy or motives are wise or moral, the question I have is: How can a trial judge give orders to the POTUS? I understand that a judge can issue an opinion. After all, everybody’s entitled to their opinion! But where does the Constitution grant a trial judge the power to give orders to the president?

Well, the answer is that the Constitution grants federal trial judges no such power. Even in the case of the Supreme Court, it’s not clear that the president has to obey–Andrew Jackson certainly didn’t believe he had to obey the Supreme Court.

But in any event, for a long time now presidents have acceded to the decisions of the Court. An argument can at least be made that the Court is constitutionally co-equal with the presidency. But the same cannot be said of the federal courts below the Supreme Court.

As Michael Walsh reminds us, the Constitution created the Supreme Court, but the lower federal courts are all creations of Congress.

[F]ar from being a “co-equal” branch of government, almost the entirety of the federal court system is a creature of Congress, and can be restructured or abolished at any time. Don’t believe me? Take a look at Article III, here presented in its entirety.

That’s right–Congress brought the federal courts into the world, and Congress can take them out. Congress, if it wants, can remove that Maryland trial judge and abolish his job.

Congress has it within its power to re-organize the judiciary below the Supreme Court level in any way it sees fit. It can also change the rules concerning lifetime tenure, removal and anything else it chooses.

A federal trial judge basically serves at the pleasure of Congress. So a trial judge is not co-equal with Congress. But the president is.

It follows that the constitutional status of the Seattle trial judge is no more exalted nor secure than that of a bureaucrat at the FAA or the Consumer Product Safety Commission. Nobody would accept that such a bureaucrat could issue orders to the president and unilaterally block presidential policies. And yet the president obeyed the Seattle judge, and in the weeks following the order, thousands of people entered the United States contrary to the president’s policy.

I would submit that the president had absolutely no obligation to obey the Seattle judge’s restraining order. The president could have and should have continued to implement his travel ban as the case made its way through the appellate courts. If eventually the Supreme Court had ruled against the president, then perhaps in that case the president would have had to yield. But that would mean yielding to the Supreme Court, not to some robed bureaucrat in Seattle.

Now, many people no doubt view this conflict as a kind of David vs. Goliath situation, and believe that it’s a good thing that even a lowly federal trial judge can check the power of the President of the United States. But that’s the wrong way to look at it. Unlike Congress and the president, the trial judge is unelected and not directly accountable to the people. The people can express their will only through the elected branches. The trial judge is therefore checking not just the power of the president but the power of the people. The trial judge is not David. The people–you and me–are David, and allowing judges to rule as petty tyrants over us diminishes our liberty and is intolerable.

The problem here is not just the arrogance of the judges who think they can overrule the people’s representatives, but that the judges are granted so much deference. These judicial opinions are nothing more than that–opinions–and should be treated as such. The idea that the president is obligated to defer to the Supreme Court is questionable enough. But how did we get to a place where lowly trial judges issue orders that the president must obey? The idea is not just absurd, but anti-democratic and unconstitutional. Some degree of judicial deference is to some degree desirable, but the practice has been taken much too far.

My solution to this sort of judicial tyranny is simple: ignore them. To paraphrase a hero of the left, Joe Stalin, how many divisions does the Maryland trial judge have?

Information Gatekeeping at the National Weather Service

One of the primary reasons why I’m sympathetic to libertarianism is that it presumes that people should be treated like adults, capable of making big decisions for themselves, rather than as children who need the guiding hand of the self-appointed social elites. Case in point would be the blizzard this week in the Northeast. My elderly mother in Massachusetts believed what the TV meteorologists were telling her about the storm. They predicted up to two feet of snow and likely power outages. My mom’s home has electric heat, and she didn’t want to risk getting caught without heating. So she packed a bag and drove across the state line to spend the night at my sister’s house in Rhode Island.

Turns out she needn’t have gone to all that trouble. Her town got only four or five inches of snow, much of which was washed away when the snow turned to rain. The meteorologists were not actually caught off guard by the lack of heavy snow. Even before the storm began, the models had already revised downward the predicted snowfall. But the meteorologists decided not to share that revision with the public; instead, they let stand the alarmist forecast.

Before the first snow fell, U.S. meteorologists realized there was a good chance the late-winter storm wasn’t going to produce giant snow totals in big Northeast cities as predicted.

But they didn’t change their forecasts because they said they didn’t want to confuse the public.

National Weather Service meteorologists in Boston, New York, Philadelphia and Washington held a conference call Monday afternoon about computer models that dramatically cut predicted snow amounts. They decided to keep the super snowy warnings.

“Out of extreme caution we decided to stick with higher amounts,” Greg Carbin, chief of forecast operations at the Weather Prediction Center in suburban Maryland, told The Associated Press. “I actually think in the overall scheme that the actions (by states and cities) taken in advance of the event were exceptional.”

On Monday, the weather service predicted 18 to 24 inches of snow in New York City. By late Tuesday afternoon, Central Park was covered with a little more than 7 inches of snow with rain and sleet still falling.

The meteorologists at the National Weather Service apparently think they can’t just level with us by telling us the real forecast and letting us decide for ourselves how to respond. They think the public is stupid and easily confused, and so they tell us only what they think we should hear. I guess it never occurred to these geniuses that over-hyping storms damages their credibility so that, eventually, when the alarming forecast happens to be true, people won’t believe it.

I have no problem with meteorologists making an honest mistake about a storm forecast. But not being on the level is something else altogether. The job of the National Weather Service is to forecast the weather, not to serve as gatekeepers of information.

The problem of not playing it straight, unfortunately, is not confined to the meteorologists, but permeates America’s credentialed and managerial classes. Surveys over the past few decades have shown that the public has lost trust in virtually all the major institutions in America–news media, schools, government, churches, banks, etc. The reason for this loss of trust is that the people eventually noticed that the elites weren’t leveling with them about all sorts of things, everything from over-hyping a late-winter storm to “Benghazi was caused by a youtube video.”

And that, incidentally, is how you get a President Trump.

I’m reminded of a scene from the dystopian Terry Gilliam movie Brazil, in which a government office displays a wall poster that reads, “Who can you trust?” When you can’t even trust the National Weather Service, a lot of Americans must be asking themselves that same question.