‘Trust the science,’ until the science doesn’t support the nanny state

After some bureaucrats decided that strip clubs can be open while schools can’t and that bars and restaurants can be open although churches can’t, unelected bureaucrats are now contemplating changing the definition of “moderate drinking” for men from two drinks to one. I don’t know if this government intervention is worth taking up our pitchforks and storming the Capitol over, but it at least makes it extremely clear that our government is taking its role as a nanny state seriously. The hard part is stopping this overreach.

Let’s take a closer look at this proposed change to see just how severe the problem is.

Every five years, the Department of Health and Human Services publishes new dietary guidelines. With the next update due in December, the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee has published its recommendations. Ever since the introduction of guidelines in 1980, the committee has been tasked with providing “science-based advice to promote health, reduce risk of diet-related chronic diseases, and meet nutrient needs.” In fact, the committee claims to have looked at 270,000 articles, 1,500 primary research articles included in 33 original systematic reviews, 16 existing Nutrition Evidence Systematic Review reports, and conducted more than 155 analyses of federal data sets.

But for whatever reason, the committee chose to ignore this wide data set that interfered with its nanny state aims.

As was pointed out by the editors at RealClearHealth, “They had access to over 60 studies. But when explaining their break from precedent, it could only produce one that showed any negative correlation with men having two drinks [a day] versus one.”

That doesn’t sound like science. That sounds like a hit job.

The problem here isn’t the change to the definition — I will decide what is moderate for myself. The problem is that the committee spent time, money, and resources to develop an arbitrary set of guidelines that we are supposed to follow. And they are using the argument of science although largely ignoring the scientific evidence.

If a government committee can cherry-pick the science that fits its agenda and use the cover of government and science to promote its agenda, future science and belief in science are undercut.

We don’t all have the time or money to conduct our research on these things, so we are forced to trust people who say they have followed the science to come to their conclusions. And while something like the definition of “moderate” might not affect most of us, the incorrect use of science has some severe implications.

That’s how we got into this mess, featuring closed schools but open strip clubs, in the first place.

Fortunately, there is a lot of information available for us to fact-check our government in today’s world. But that involves time, resources, and attention to regulatory detail that is infuriating. We need a smaller government, one that doesn’t have the resources to come out with arbitrary guidelines itself. I love science, and I have taught my kids to love science. Science is going to help overcome the pandemic. However, all that goes out the window the more that fake science dominates government decision-making.

Charles Sauer (@CharlesSauer) is a contributor to the Washington Examiner’s Beltway Confidential blog. He is president of the Market Institute and previously worked on Capitol Hill, for a governor, and for an academic think tank.

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