(Interviewed by Louis James, Editor, International Speculator)
L: Doug, you're going to love this; there's a new study out, purporting to show that eating any amount of any kind of red meat is bad for you - making you 13% more likely to die, in fact. So, with your growing herd of cattle in Argentina, you're close to becoming a mass murderer.
Doug: I saw that. I wonder what you have to do to make it 26% more likely to die? If I go back to skydiving, does that mean I'm 1,000% more likely to die? It's rather strange, in that I always thought we're all basically 100% likely to die.
L: The study failed to consider, for example, if those who reported eating more meat happen to include more people who ride motorcycles, party hardy, or engage in other higher-risk behaviors - which could easily be true of steak lovers. This survey wouldn't catch such patterns. And yet I read one of the authors claiming:
"This study provides clear evidence that regular consumption of red meat, especially processed meat, contributes substantially to premature death ... On the other hand, choosing more healthful sources of protein in place of red meat can confer significant health benefits by reducing chronic disease morbidity and mortality."
Doug: It sounds as if the authors might have a political agenda. But what do you expect from government "science?" Much of it is politically driven, and if you don't arrive at politically correct answers, funding might dry up.
L: But this was a Harvard study...
Doug: Sure it was - but paid for by two branches of the US government health bureaucracy, the NIH. These so-called scientists may well be hacks who got paid a lot of money because they were deemed likely to deliver a result that meshes with the agendas of various politically correct groups. One of those is the anti-meat fanatics, including the animal rights activists at PETA; they're relatively few in number but very strident. Another is the environmentalists who fear the methane cows and sheep produce; because methane - CH4 - is a "greenhouse gas." They believe it will turn this rock with its thin skin of an atmosphere - floating in the cosmos where the average temperature is a couple degrees above absolute zero - into an inferno. Actuall y, termites and decomposing vegetable matter emit hundreds of times more methane than domestic animals - not to mention volcanoes. I'm of the opinion that these greens don't really love animals; what's really going on is that they hate people in particular and life in general. Anyway, these types have taken to using science as a cover. There should be a separation of science and state, for the very same reasons there should be a separation between church and state.
L: What would you say to people who say you're biased, because you're in the cattle business?
Doug: Yes, the busybodies have convinced Boobus americanus that anyone who actually makes his living dealing with nature shouldn't say anything about it. People who mine minerals, drill for oil, farm, grow animals - people who actually know something about these things, and make them available for use - have largely been intimidated into silence. They're commercial, and to be commercial is bad, QED. Of course that's a completely insane attitude. But the self-righteous busybodies have managed to claim the moral high ground and discredit the producers. They've done this by capturing the government, academia, and the media.
Anyway, I'd say the average "consumer" - which is itself a perverse and degrading way to describe a person - should start using what's left of his own brain instead of relying on experts, whether those be government-stooge scientists or... me. Just think about it: humans evolved over millions of years eating meat - and as much of it as they could get, whenever and wherever it was available. The conclusion of the anti-meat study, at least as broadly stated in the press, has serious credibility problems on its face.
L: The study does make a point of saying that processed meats, like hot dogs, are supposed to be much worse for us. That would seem to have some face validity.
Doug: Yes, I can see that. When you're providing mass quantities of stuff for the masses through industrial processes, it seems inevitable that all kinds of additives, chemicals, and preservatives will get into the mix. Indeed, how much pure beef remains in a typical modern hot dog? I think they're mostly cereal and artificial flavoring these days, plus a good measure of the "pink slime" the USDA puts into lunchmeat for school kids' government-mandated meals. Equally important in my view is that almost all meat these days is from cows raised on unnatural diets, pumped full of steroids and antibiotics, eating cardboard and unnatural food, living miserable lives, shoulder to shoulder in feedlots. How many survey respondents would know or care what kind of chemi cals and pharmaceuticals went into the meat they are eating? I doubt they could give accurate answers to such questions, if they were even asked - I'd guess the researchers didn't even bother.
Here in Argentina all my beef cows eat grass on wide open and quite pleasant pampas. No antibiotics, steroids, or cardboard are necessary. I understand that if you're going to provide meat for the masses that quality may suffer. But that's all the more reason to elevate yourself out of the masses. Entirely apart from the fact "the masses" is a term Marx originated...
Trends in demonized foods are like trends in fashion. For some time, salt was the greatest bogeyman - until some people, particularly an Iranian doctor I once knew named Batmanghelidj, pointed out the obvious, namely that salt is essential to life, and that problems attributed to too much salt are usually problems with not enough water. You need a lot of water washing through your cells. But anything in excess can be a problem, including water. If it's not salt, then it's sugar. If it's not sugar, then it's fat. Red meat has had its turn as demon du jour before, and it looks like it coming back into fashion again.
L: I see Dr. Batmanghelidj's book on Amazon: You're Not Sick, You're Thirsty. I remember the salt scare - that was a big thing back in the '70s, as I recall. The odd thing is that post-scare, salt still seems to have a bad name, but consumption has moved toward gourmet salts. Plain old iodized Morton's salt is not to be found in certain politically correct cupboards, but sea salt or rock salt you grind yourself is acceptable.
Doug: Yes, rich people can't be denied their gourmet designer salts, even though what we generally call "salt" is made of sodium and chlorine - two of the deadliest elements on the periodic table. It's all part of the War On the Periodic Table of the Elements. Plutonium was perhaps the original enemy element, then uranium, then sodium. Gold is considered an evil element by many. Now the most evil element of them all is carbon, which is the essential component of all organic matter, and hence all life on this planet.
L: Hm. Now that you mention it, sodium ends in -ium, like thorium, so it must be bad.
Doug: Yes, and if it weren't for government policy, we'd likely be generating power from thorium instead of uranium; it's a much better fuel. But that's another story. I'm sure that once the Greens discover that it's atomic number 90, it too will join the enemies list.
This reminds me of all the government-funded crash programs to find the cause of AIDS. Lo and behold, they found one and called it the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV). But as I understand it, there are people who have AIDS but no HIV, and there are people who have HIV and never show any symptoms of AIDS. And yet, to question the HIV orthodoxy is to invite accusations of being a "denialist," homophobe, and maybe even a remover of those tags you're not supposed to take off of mattresses under penalty of law. Fortunately, the AIDS hysteria, which was supposed to destroy the human race, has pretty much burned itself out.
And then there's the "overwhelming evidence" of anthropogenic global warming that fear-mongers proclaim. Again, with a lot of government "science" involved. It's turned into an industry that destroys capital.
If we could get the state and its corrupting influence completely out of the science business, I'd be much more inclined to accept what the majority of scientists believe on "soft" sciences - like climate studies and epidemiology. Those things aren't quite the same as physics and chemistry. Certainly, as long as there's government money with a political agenda involved, I'm inclined to take so-called consensus views with at least a grain of gourmet sea salt, or even as possible contrary indicators for the truth.
L: That's a pretty strong statement, Doug.
Doug: It pays to be skeptical - about everything. Most of the reading that I do is either science or history, so I consider myself fairly knowledgeable in those areas, although I'm not a professional in either. But I didn't say I would refuse to believe anything supported by solid evidence just because I didn't like its source. I just said that if the data come from what I regard as a corrupt source, I proceed with greater-than-usual caution.
Although the corruption of science is very bad, what's even worse is the continuing and accelerating encroachment of the "nanny state." This meat study - and others like it - can easily be used to manufacture a scare. The scare will then be used to implement more laws and restrictions on people's freedom to live their lives as they see fit... and to destroy another industry. One example of that is the FDA's campaign against farmers who sell unpasteurized milk to those who prefer it.
L: So, whether or not red meat is good for us, we all have a natural, or God-given right to eat what we want and go to hell in our own way? Big Brother, step aside, Big Momma is gonna make us eat our veggies.
Doug: Exactly. I'm of the opinion that quality of life trumps quantity of life. That's the exact opposite view from what rulers and would-be rulers hold; they view the rest of our species as milk cows, to be kept alive and milked for as long as possible, no matter how much joy is taken from them. The purpose of life, however, is to enjoy yourself. It's not to be treated like part of a herd and be fed what your master wants for his own purposes.
L: Is that why politicians bother meddling with whether people eat hot dogs or salads?
Doug: That, among many other reasons. They can win brownie points with very vocal activists if they beat up on an unpopular personal choice, like smoking. That's very valuable to them come election time. Politicians, with the possible exceptions of the likes of Ron Paul, always want to increase the state's - and thereby their own- power. Any scare is a great tool for manipulating people into handing over more of their freedom, which is to say, increasing their power over people.
Doug: Right. That's an important book everyone should read. The whole trend is very ominous. It's as Martin Niemoller said during WW II: "First they came for the communists, but I didn't speak out, because I was not a communist."
L: "And then they came for the Jews .... And then they came for me, and there was no one left to speak out for me."
Doug: Right. I believe in speaking out, even though it probably doesn't do any good. I do it because I have to live with myself. I do it because I believe in karma.
L: I agree. If we end up in a totalitarian police state or nanny state, I don't want my children to lift their manacled wrists before my eyes and ask me why I didn't resist while resistance was possible.
Doug: Indeed. In spite of the blatantly obvious and disastrous results of Prohibition, politicians declared open season on drug users, then smokers, then gun owners - All Things Fun. How far can it be from regulating politically incorrect eaters to regulating just about everyone's choices on every subject?
L: Not far.
Doug: And it gets worse. Now that we have socialized medical services in the US (which is not the same as health care), genuine bad health choices that used to be individuals' problems have become everyone's problems, because we all have to pay for them. Socialized medicine is terrible - it's entrusting medical services to the same bankrupt organization that can't even deliver the mail reliably. It's also a powerful excuse for the nanny state to monitor, inspect, interfere with, and control all aspects of our lives, from what we eat and drink all the way down to what we do in the privacy of our bedrooms - because everything can impact our health, which is now society's obligation.
L: But it's all for our own good. "If it saves one child..."
Doug: If it saves one child, how many children does it kill? If you ban Freon over an unproven fear that it contributes to ozone depletion, for example, and require use of a more expensive, less efficient, and incidentally more toxic and corrosive substitute, all because it might save one child, how many babies did you kill with spoiled milk and meat? What other consequences to your intervention are you ignoring?
This reminds me of the time Madeleine Halfbright was told that the sanctions she saw imposed on Iraq had killed about half a million children, and she answered: "Yes, it was costly, but we think it was worth it." These people are hypocrites - and extremely dangerous. They don't care about saving human lives - they are more than willing to expend any number of them, like pawns on a chessboard, to advance their quest for power.
L: Bastiat's broken window all over again: "the seen and the unseen." But you've gotta have a good cover story, like saving children's lives.
Doug: Of course. If you say you're doing it for the children, you can get away with almost anything.
L: Clearly, you don't subscribe to the precautionary principle - the idea that no new technology or innovation should be implemented until it can be show to be safe.
Doug: It's a load of horse manure - and you can quote me on that.
L: [Laughs] I will.
Doug: [Laughs] Good! If our ancestors had even been stupid enough to adopt such an absolutely paralyzing idea, we'd still be shivering in caves, ravaged by dread diseases and hunted by animals larger and more powerful than we. No, I misspeak; most likely, we'd have gone extinct.
If the car were invented today, it would never be approved for use. The idea of millions of people racing towards each other at high speeds in vehicles they control themselves, with tanks full of explosive gasoline... it would never make it through OSHA, EPA, or a dozen other agencies. The idea of air travel - forget about it. We're just lucky these things were in common use before the nanny state came into its own.
L: Extinction... another strong statement. That's what you think would happen now if the precautionary principle were adopted and enforced by law?
Doug: 'Fraid so. Life without risk is a patent impossibility. Almost a contradiction in terms. And life without risk, innovation, new horizons, would hardly be worth living. But that's the way the world is headed.
You know, most people hardly pay any attention to such matters these days. Important news hardly gets discussed, while Rush Limbaugh insulting some law student is headline news for a week. Whether or not the student in question is a slut, as Limbaugh said, is her business, not mine or Limbaugh's - and the whole issue is a matter of manners, not even deserving of a mention in the back of the society section of the papers.
The issue of the student's call for expanding the US's socialized medical system to include free birth control, however, is a suitable issue for conversation, as the costs affect us all - and it's another tightening of the grip of the nanny state on people's lives. And all this squabbling over what should be paid for by the state would be eliminated if nothing were covered at "public" expense (i.e., using other people's money). But most people don't even think about that possibility.
We've already beat up on Limbaugh, so we don't really have to go there, but while it's on my mind, I have to point out that he really showed what an ignoramus he is when Rush defended Joseph Kony and the Lord's Resistance Army last year. He apparently thought they were Christians fighting Muslim tyrants, not the kidnappers and murderers the preponderance of evidence says they are. There's a video about Kony that's gone truly viral on YouTube, with over 75 million views in just one week.
The fact that an ignorant hypocrite like Limbaugh, who wanted to have drug users executed even as he was getting phony prescriptions for his Oxycontin habit, has such a large following is another sad sign of our times. It's not just the socialists advocating the nanny state who are the problem. So-called right-wingers are just as dangerous to personal freedom as left-wingers.
L: Any way to stop this train wreck?
Doug: None. It's like I said to begin with: this is a sign of advanced decay in a society that has lost its elan. It's not something you can fix independently of fixing the whole rotten mess; nanny-state thinking goes hand in hand with the entitlement mentality, which goes with irresponsible and self-destructive behavior. That accelerates the other, "male" side of ever-expanding state power that people like Limbaugh favor: the warfare state, the paternalistic, authoritarian state.
The bottom line is that, with more than half the US population on one form of government dole or another, we've crossed the point of no return. We're going to have to go through the wringer before things can improve. The current situation is unsustainable. It's going to collapse.
Incidentally, as unpleasant and inconvenient as it will be, a collapse and reboot is necessary and will be a good thing. Hopefully it will destroy the nanny state, if only because the nanny state is a dead hand on the development of technology. The most positive thing going on in the world today is the advance of technology. But, just as the car and the airplane likely couldn't be developed today because of the safety-first nanny state, there are lots of other technologies that won't ever come into existence - and we might never know it. Our conversation on technology is an example of what I mean by that. Anyway, we've got to pay the piper first... and the bill is rapidly coming due.
L: [Sighs] Okay, before we go all poetic, are there investment implications to the rise of the nanny state?
Doug: Yes, but it's nothing new to longtime readers. On the wealth-preservation - and health-preservation - side, it's vital to understand that today's wealthy Western countries are increasingly hazardous to the well-being of the people who live there. They have the power and the motive to do harm to any citizen as suits the short-term goals of those in office. That's long been the case financially and is increasingly becoming the case physically, both in terms of health and safety from police brutality. Just as we said last week in our conversation on cashless societies, the time is approaching - if not here already - when the wisest course of action is to ge t out of Dodge... or at least out of countries with powerful governments.
On the investment side, the West's increasingly irrational attitudes about meat may create more buying opportunities in the cattle business. Even if every single person in the US stopped eating meat, those eating more in China and the rest of the developing world would make up the difference before long. At the same time, herds continue to go into liquidation in the West. Cattle have been in a bear market for many, many years, making it one of the best contrarian plays in decades. That's why I'm building my own herd: I'm buying low so I can later sell high. But we've talked about that before. Like any good speculator, I plan on making a lot of money while performing a public service.
Other implications are as we've discussed many times: buy gold and silver, speculate on gold and silver mining stocks, own long-term energy plays and technology plays that will do well in hard economic times, harden your assets, and diversify yourself internationally.
L: Well then, I think our readers know what to do. Thanks for another interesting conversation.
Doug: Any time.
L: Next time.