An article  by Chris Snowdon about Public Health England in the Spectator:

Eating, drinking, smoking and lazing around are personal matters that may or may not have personal consequences. In the liberal tradition, this makes them nobody else’s business and, despite spurious claims about the cost of lifestyle-related diseases to the public purse, they are none of the government’s business either.

Needless to say, ‘public health professionals’ do not subscribe to the liberal tradition. As self-appointed guardians of our wellbeing, they will make us healthy whether we want to be or not.

Are they “self-appointed”? They’re paid very handsomely by the government, most of them, as far as I know. Doesn’t that mean that they’re government-appointed?

I could say that, as a blogger, I’m self-appointed. Nobody pays me to write anything.

And isn’t Chris Snowdon a self-appointed author? He’s written several books. I’ve even got a couple of them. Did anyone commission him to write them? I don’t believe so. I think he just wrote about things that interested him. Isn’t that what most authors do?

And might one not say that all authors are self-appointed? And also all artists and musicians as well? Did anyone commission Vincent van Gogh to paint all those sunflowers?

I suppose that musicians like the Beatles or the Rolling Stones were actually commissioned to make records for the music industry. But at the outset, before they were famous, they were just a bunch of self-appointed musicians playing music that they liked.

Maybe even all real scientists are self-appointed as well. Or they used to be. Nobody commissioned Isaac Newton to investigate the laws of motion and gravitation or light. He was a professor of mathematics. But hardly anyone attended his lectures. All the motion and gravitation stuff was done in his own time. He was hired to teach mathematics, not to study physics. So he was a self-appointed physicist.

Same with Einstein when he worked in the patent office in Berne. He did all the relativistic thinking at home, after hours. So he was another self-appointed physicist.

Both of them were following their own noses, studying what they themselves were interested in, not somebody else.

The same was true of Darwin. Nobody commissioned him to write the Origin of Species.

These days, most scientists seem to be working in universities. And most of them seem to have been commissioned to investigate something or other. Back when I was a post-graduate in a university, I’d been commissioned to study heat flow in buildings by the Science Research  Council. I had a job to do which was pretty highly defined. But in my own time (and I had plenty of it) I dreamt up Idle Theory. Nobody paid me to do that.

And perhaps it’s because most scientists have been commissioned to study one thing or other, and not follow their own noses wherever their curiosity takes them, that science seems to be going backwards, and more and more of it looks like pseudoscience.

After all, if you’ve been hired by somebody to find out how carcinogenic tobacco smoke is, or how hot the planet is going to get as a result of global warming, you have to come up with some findings about that. And you probably need to come up with the right sort of results while you’re about it. You can’t waltz off looking at something else. It won’t help your prospects of winning new research contracts if you find that, actually, tobacco is completely harmless, or global warming isn’t happening.

In fact, once you’re commissioned to do anything, you’re immediately very highly constrained.

And so all the people working in PHE are very highly constrained as well. They’ve been hired to find health risks everywhere, and that’s exactly what they do. If they don’t do the job they’re paid to do, they’ll soon be fired.

The same is probably true of Deborah Arnott and Stanton Glantz. I don’t know what kind of money Glantz gets paid, but according to Guido Fawkes she gets £160,000 a year as head of ASH. And her job is all about Action on Smoking and Health. And she does the job very well, doesn’t she? She’s very adept at getting herself in the news. It’s her job.

And it’s perfectly possible that both her and Stan have no belief whatsoever in what they’re doing. They’re doing a job because they’re being paid to do it. For all I know both of them might be secret smokers. But their job is to make life hard for smokers, and that’s exactly what they do. Just like it’s the job of soldiers to shoot at a designated enemy rather than be the compassionate human beings that most soldiers actually are when they’re off duty.

But back to the “self-appointed” guardians of our wellbeing, who are trying to make us healthy whether we want to be or not. Are they ever likely to make any of us any healthier? I think not. In fact, I think they’re very likely to create a public health catastrophe. In fact I think it’s inevitable that they will.

But that’s another topic.

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12 Responses to Self-Appointed?

  1. Rose says:

    Are they ever likely to make any of us any healthier? I think not. In fact, I think they’re very likely to create a public health catastrophe. In fact I think it’s inevitable that they will

    I couldn’t agree more, they never put things in context, like Doll never looked for confounders unless he was using his smoking theory to get some toxic industry or misguided government policy off the hook. Not putting things in context is lying by omission.

    You do know that the government believed that it’s own policy of sending all the clean coal for export and leaving Londoners with only sulphurous coal to burn was reponsible for the thousands of deaths during the Great London Smog?

    Fear of political embarrassment led to government cover up of link between air pollution and lung cancer
    “Delegates attending an international conference in London today to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Great London Smog of 1952, which caused an estimated 12,000 deaths, will hear how governments from the late 50s onwards deliberately downplayed the huge threat to public health caused by air pollution, and sought to shift the blame firmly onto cigarette smoking instead.”

    Doll’s London Hospital Study, published only two years before gave them an escape route..

  2. Rose says:


    I was watching the Daily Politics today and heard about the plan to start a public lottery to build another Britannia to replace the one that Blair flogged off as soon as he got into power.

    The news was published over the Christmas holidays when I didn’t have access to the computer and I missed the story entirely. Apparently things have moved on and they’ve had designers and buisnesses offering their services for free.
    I don’t play lotteries but for this one I’d make an exception.

    Britannia to win the Lottery! Fifty Tory MPs back new lotto game to let public pay for new royal yacht
    27 December 2017

    “Ministers are being urged to launch a lottery game to raise funds for a new £120million Royal Yacht Britannia to “showcase post-Brexit Britain and bring trade to our shores”.
    Fifty Tory MPs have written to three of Theresa May’s most senior Cabinet ministers urging them to help “right the wrong” of the Labour government’s decision in 1997 to decommission Britannia.”

    I can’t bring back the traditional pubs that Labour closed, but if I could help pay for even a couple of rivets on a new Royal Yacht Britannia, I’d be very proud.

  3. Peter Carter says:

    If you apply for post of ‘health guardian’ it presumably means you think you are the person for the job. Doesn’t that, at some level, make you a ‘self-appointed’ health guardian?

    • waltc says:

      My thoughts exactly

    • Frank Davis says:

      I don’t think I’ve ever thought I was the right person for any job I’ve ever had. It was usually just that I thought I could do it. My devotion to the job usually stopped the minute I left to go home, because I never usually had much enthusiasm for it. And my impression with most other people (not all) was that they had much the same attitude as me..It was a job, and it earned them money, and that was pretty much all that mattered.

  4. Emily says:

    O/T but I have just been reading “The Story of the Trapp Family Singers” published in 1957. The father, Georg Trapp, dies of lung cancer and I was interested to note that though it is mentioned elsewhere in the book that he was a smoker, it was not mentioned in connection with his death in the book at all.

    In fact Maria Trapp who wrote the book mentions that “…A few weeks after his death I heard of a doctor who, in his own practice, had had seventeen cases of cancer of the lungs, of which every patient was a U-Boat man from the First World War.” Georg had also been a submarine officer so I wonder if that was seen as a possible cause?

  5. beobrigitte says:

    It won’t help your prospects of winning new research contracts if you find that, actually, tobacco is completely harmless, or global warming isn’t happening.

    In fact, once you’re commissioned to do anything, you’re immediately very highly constrained.
    Career prospects often get in the way of truth.

    The WHO, bought and riddled with anti-smokers&friends, demonises tobacco and declares the tobacco industry enemy number 1 to save “the chiiiildren, our future!” from countless imaginary deaths.
    Surely the anti-smoker&friends riddled WHO must know that countless chiiiildren play near lakes or streams or even puddles.
    During the past few decades, antibiotics have been widely used in human clinics, animal husbandry and aquaculture, aiming to fight bacterial infections. The unmonitored and continued use of antibiotics has led to significant antibiotic contamination of diverse environments, generates an increasing selective pressure on microorganisms and consequently increases the prevalence of antibiotic resistance (AR) among bacteria (41).
    Ok, this paper goes back to 2013 and lake Taihu is in China. I came across a German investigation in 2016 by accident after a man died from a multi-resistant bug in 2015 after falling into a stream on his way home. It was found that not only this stream and mud around it contained multi-resistant organisms, but also lakes (often used for swimming in) as well as the recycled water in sewage treatment plants etc. etc. (I have not yet found such an investigation in England but considering the use of antibiotics in the meat industry I expect similar results here)
    We do have a major problem: there are not many effective antibiotics left:
    Availability of Few New Antibiotics
    The development of new antibiotics by the pharmaceutical industry, a strategy that had been effective at combating resistant bacteria in the past, had essentially stalled due to economic and regulatory obstacles (Figure 3).14 Of the 18 largest pharmaceutical companies, 15 abandoned the antibiotic field.14 Mergers between pharmaceutical companies have also substantially reduced the number and diversity of research teams.13 Antibiotic research conducted in academia has been scaled back as a result of funding cuts due to the economic crisis.13
    Academia no longer (locally since 1996) accepts funding from the tobacco industry. Looks like the pharmaceutical industry has not kept it’s word.

  6. In fact, I think they’re very likely to create a public health catastrophe. In fact I think it’s inevitable that they will.

    In my book they’ve already gone and done it… In recent decades, neurodegenerative diseases rates have been skyrocketing, more so than if ageing was the sole culprit. If being a smokers affords a 50% protection against them, then if a 80% smoking population has been forcibly turned into a 20% smoking population, 60% percent of it would have taken up or kept on smoking instead of giving it up or shying away from it, therefore antismoking is responsible for up to 30% of Alzheimer’s & Parkinson’s cases that are diagnosed nowadays.

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