These men held enormous stature in their fields of nutrition and economics, respectively. Their leadership was extensive and the impact they had long-lasting; moreover, the courses of action provoked by their intellectual missteps took humanity down paths at once regrettable and unquestionably complicated. They did a thing that was exceeding familiar among intelligentsia and common to men with big white feet. They believed what they did was pure science, when in fact nutrition and economics are as much art as science; the reason being salient: the subject matter is a prejudiced thorny willful complicated creature and absolute knowledge is verboten. They did another thing in common: they used the political apparatus of the state to further their goals, fame, careers and legacies. Only now, after all of this time, is it becoming clear that these two touted geniuses have cost society in ways at first hard to imagine.
Ancel Keys is claimed to have biased a large study of Western diets relating to heart disease in over 20 countries and condensed it to the Seven Countries Study which was later to bring him recognition in the field of nutrition. I don’t know if that charge is entirely true, but Keys’ published work provided some of the foundation for the scientific support for his cholesterol theory which was widely accepted as plausible if not probable. It associated the ingestion of dietary fat to coronary heart disease and started the myth that eating cholesterol caused dangerously high cholesterol levels in the blood, that animal fat had a direct causal link to heart disease and that synthetic oils could be a healthy alternative. By the way, he lived to be a hundred years old.
He began with a hunch—this is all his scientific theory was—and perhaps prejudiced the results, maybe very well believing he was doing us all a favor. If so, the arrogance of it baffles the mind. He believed (with some inductive evidence of co-relationship) that animal fat was the factor in the alarming growth of heart disease which was then incrementally manifesting in the Western World. He also disregarded many important factors of his test groups that did better with heart disease than other countries, such as the amount of physical labor they did, how much religious fasting days they practiced and the amount of fish they ate. Having felt he proved his case—at least to his own satisfaction—he did exactly what Robert Lustig is currently doing, he moved his fight into the political sphere having found a fresh dragon to slay. Big white feet just can’t stop from doing it; they’re Platonists and sincerely believed that left to our own devices we’ll eat and eat, get fat as a vat and explode, or as I often say, left to our own devices without either religion or the state to control us, they believe we will all fall down.
The thing about Keys is, he got the main facts almost entirely wrong, and on two major fronts: firstly animal fat and synthetic vegetable and seed oils are the exact reverse—at least in theory—as he explained them, and secondly, his hypothesis—believed at the time cutting edge—was adopted by the bureaucratic malaise of the modern state and cemented into their food pyramids all around the western world, practiced by their state-licensed practitioners and regulated by the government’s healthcare institutions. This codified bad eating habits and exercise practices that are still at present recommended by many doctors, although challenged on all fronts by the paleo and whole food movements.
What we know today about the development of heart disease and how to prevent it, can be reduced to 10 general rules: (I urge you to follow the links and read the recommended books):
Avoid developing Metabolic Syndrome by monitoring daily calorie intake.
Exercise daily and walk 8 to 10 miles a day, preferably outdoors.
Fast longer than 10 to 12 hours a day.
Eat whole foods/ avoid processed food.
Remove all processed and refined sugars from your diet.
Remove all but naturally occurring salt from your diet.
Remove all bad fats from your diet.
Sleep in a quiet dark room for 8/9 hours of sleep; have 2/3 natural BMs a day.
Manage stress, keep a lifetime healthy teenage weight: dance, laugh, vacation.
Don’t smoke and don’t drink to excess.
If you read these books, you will well be on your way to comprehending the science as we know it currently, and in regards not only to heart health but to your entire overall health and moreover, to longevity with quality of life. Nonetheless, the thing about Keys is that he backdoored his theory into the creature which has a monopoly on the use of force and is attached directly to the market economy, i.e., especially the Food Industry. So his scientific views which could have been easily falsified instead became ossified inside the un-dynamic entity which we know and love as our soft cuddly democratic state and their food regulators, who by now all long suffer from Regulatory Capture. When the FDA and other food regulators try to assert their power inside the labelling debate on processed food, it doesn't strike them as ironical. They carry a massive contradiction: like tobacco labelling, processed food products should have ‘pics’ of women, men and children with metabolic syndrome with the warning: “May Cause Premature Death!”, either that or get out of the labelling business altogether.
The results of this amalgamation of events was an unmitigated disaster. Our comfort gene, essential in our evolution, has been turned against us by the purveyors of the irresistible—some of the smartest scientists in the world making food to die for. Keys’ theory was by all accounts, a relatively harmless theory. After all the industrialized domestic meat source has a lot of problems but it was brought to a carcinogenetic lifestyle by the authority of the benevolent modern state, and now, fat and unhealthy have become the norm. Keys had a role in that, but of course not as much as state licensed medicine. If you’ve never heard of the Warren & Marshall Syndrome, we are a short-smart distance away from a medical consensus of diet and exercise which will lead to a lifestyle revolution in our society and around the world. Be a part of that wave. (The Warren-Marshall syndrome is defined as the time it took from the discovery, 1982, to the medical consensus, 1998-9, so approximately two decades). But the important takeaway here is simple. Diet and exercise should have been a street-fight between the peddlers of junk food (the processed food ponzi-scheme) and the healthcare community; instead, the nutritionists have had to wage a sort of guerrilla war against the state, the doctors, pharmaceuticals, the food industry, and even sometime scientists attached to The New Ancien Régime.
Maynard Keynes was an outsider, an anti-capitalist disguised as a savior of capitalism, and at heart, an antagonist to the market economy. He was overly sympathetic to the state and especially the innocuous British concept, Rule-Utilitarianism. There are as many problems with his economic theories as there were with Karl Marx’s and there’s good reason why Ayn Rand called Keynesianism, * ‘Marxism on the Rocks’.
Firstly, he held the ludicrous view that without any training, he was a politician because he was an economist, and like all liberals and socialists, he believed that the state doesn’t act on its own best interest but only with the object of justice for society in its sights. I mean, one has to laugh at this outlook among idealists, it’s not just naivety, it’s gross wishful thinking. He held that if one party on the right expanded credit with debt in a slump (for the sake of stimulating the economy) that their predecessors on the left would pay it off in a boom, and vice versa. At a glance any skeptic of the state can see that at best it makes him an idiot savant, and at the worst, someone like George Orwell who wanted to believe in state-efficiency, all evidence to the contrary. He also thought that bankruptcies in banks were fundamentally different in kind than other businesses, i.e., he seemed not to understand that mismanagement spawning foreclosures are absolutely essential for a thriving market economy—economic corrections have a bigger upside than downside just as daily grueling exercise at first lurch is painful but in the long run beneficial. He thought runs on banks were bad, when this is just plainly false. They’re inconvenient, even hurtful for the investors directly involved, as with any business which folds and leaves individual tragedy in their wake but do not create overall financial chaos throughout global markets, i.e., it’s a localized event. He preached that the state should make the financial sector an exception to the market economy—to socialize it—he also supported the concepts of Central Banks and guaranteed savings. He believed that we could create a state-managed utopian economy without life’s nasty booms and busts.
Over time, his seeming un-revolutionary solution to local problems would lead to a revolution in banking: banks everywhere would start gambling on the markets with other people’s (government-backed) money. We have created the very fiat of a soft spongy printed money economy, sponsored by nothing other than the state itself. This brought us eventfully to The Financial Crisis and the illiquidity of the world today, 2017.
Like Keys, Keynes’ views were also easily refuted, in this case by Hayek, Mises, and the Austrian School of economics, and it is also a Warren and Marshall Syndrome away from rejection by most economists from around the world; however, this current false economy is unlike 1920’s event in that this new global disaster waiting to happen will likely be fought out in global currency wars, and the amassed public and private debt, will be much more painful to liquidate than it was in the Great Depression. This time there will be no New Deal; indeed, there will be, as there has been for 25 years in Japan—a nation which refuses to pay off their debt and revitalize their economy—constant stagnation. [We know that their debt is mostly internal and that they have the right to do this as a 'no longer dynamic' economy; moreover, that they've decided to remain a mono-cultural society at all cost, whose population in the near future will fall to under 100 million. One definition of stupidity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. Since 1989, rather than paying off their debt, the Japanese government has delivered stimulation packages over and over; now it openly considers negative interest rates for its corporations. They use this faulty economic theory as a racket to fool themselves: that's the damage Keynes has had on the global economy.]
This article was not meant to demonize either of these fine men, for unlike Marx, whose personal letters prove him to be a resentful ignorant autocrat, Keys and Keynes were balanced individuals fighting for their views and well-read intellectuals as there ever were, it’s just a fact they were wrong in many fundamental ways. They inveighed their mistakes into the political arena and we are paying for it today. It is a warning to intellects everywhere, absolute knowledge is a myth and it is why the political apparatus shouldn’t be used to resolve intellectual and social disputes; issues should be resolved in the uncensored public square without the threat of or the use of force.
ENDNOTE: * The actual quote is, “Economics departments are dominated by Marxism, which is taken straight or on the rocks, in the form of Keynesianism.” Ayn Rand in, Philosophy: Who Needs It, (Fairness Doctrine for Education).
© 2019 - E. A. St. Amant