Episode 24: How "Public Health" Lost its Way: Chris Snowdon

February 20, 2018

 

The policy debates that accompany scientific research generate a lot of controversy, especially when it comes to so-called public health issues. Medical experts, politicians, activists and bureaucrats all argue about how you will behave; whether you should be allowed to smoke, drink, eat junk food or engage in any number of other potentially dangerous activities. 

 

Science informs these discussions to some extent, of course. But there's a question that often goes unasked when government-sanctioned experts try to make decisions for everybody else: why should they get to decide how private individuals will live their lives?

 

My guest today says the experts shouldn't make those decisions.

 

Institute for Economic Affairs (IEA) scholar Chris Snowdon argues that individuals are better equipped to make decisions about their health than government officials. The "killjoys," as Snowdon calls modern public health crusaders, simply don't posses the economic and scientific information they need to properly regulate the lives of millions of people.

 

Despite this knowledge deficit, killjoys continue to push for more control over society because their worldview dictates that they should make decisions for other people. This is why they have turned legitimate public health efforts to purify drinking water and promote vaccination into a political crusade to eradicate behaviors they see as vices.  But Snowdon says their philosophical case for paternalism is as weak as their scientific and economic rationales for treating us all like children.  

 

 

Resources:

 Killjoys: A Critique of Paternalism (free download)

Free markets neutralize junk science

The nanny state vs. electronic cigarettes: Chris Snowdon

 

 

 

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