Why The Save The Statins Campaign Will Fail

As you’ve probably heard, there was quite a stir across the pond last month when two British medical journals got into a verbal war over statins.  Hostilities began when The Lancet published a study claiming that by gosh, statins are indeed wunnerful, wunnerful drugs  — which means that people who raise doubts about them are killing babies and should perhaps be silenced.

No wait, let me check my notes … okay, slight correction:  The Lancet suggested that statin skeptics are killing adults, not babies.  Sorry for the confusion, but when The Anointed trot out the “we must shut you up because your skeptical opinions could kill the planet—er, we mean people” line, I sometimes get brain-lock.

Anyway, The Lancet specifically warned that those who question the effectiveness and safety of statins might be killing adults with heart-disease risk factors (defined in such a way as to include almost every adult with a pulse) by scaring them away from statins.

Here are some quotes from a U.K. Guardian article that appeared after The Lancet published its pro-statin study:

Statins to lower cholesterol prevent 80,000 heart attacks and strokes every year in the UK, far outweighing the harm from rare side-effects, according to a review of the evidence which aims to put a heated controversy to rest and reassure the public that statins are safe.

The review is published by the Lancet medical journal, whose editor, Richard Horton, likened the harm done to public confidence by the critics of statins to that caused by the paper his journal published on the MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) vaccine in 1998.

“Controversy over the safety and efficacy of statins has harmed the health of potentially thousands of people in the UK,” he wrote in a comment published with the review. In six months after the publication of “disputed research and tendentious opinion” on the side-effects of statins in 2013, a study estimated that over 200,000 patients stopped taking a statin. It predicted there would be 2,000 extra heart attacks and strokes over the next decade as a result.

“Disputed research and tendentious opinion” means there are scientists and doctors out there who – egads! – dared to examine the research and conclude that The Anointed are wrong.  Worse yet, those researchers have managed to catch the ear of the public through books, blog posts, documentaries and even some articles in major media outlets.

The Anointed don’t take kindly to being questioned, which is why The Lancet’s editorial included this gem:

Some research papers are more high risk to public health than others. Those papers deserve extra vigilance. They should be subjected to rigorous and extensive challenge during peer review. The risk of publication should be explicitly discussed and evaluated. If publication is agreed, it should be managed with exquisite care.

Let me interpret that gobbledygook:  Research papers that suggest We The Anointed are wrong should be squashed – for the sake of public health, of course.  We can’t have the little people doubting us.

What we’re seeing here is a ramping up of the Save The Statins Campaign – which is very much like the Save The Grains campaign.  Both are a reaction to the fact that people are deciding those wunnerful, wunnerful products they’ve been told to consume might not be so wunnerful after all – a result of the Wisdom of Crowds effect, which actually is wunnerful.  The Anointed are fighting back with articles that say, in effect, “Damnit, people!  Those negative effects you think you’re experiencing are all in your tiny little heads!  Stop listening to people who disagree with us!  We’re The Anointed, and we know what’s best for you!”

The British Medical Journal has been critical of the statins-for-everyone position taken by The Lancet.  So after The Lancet slammed the critics of statins, the British Medical Journal chimed in to slam The Lancet. This is almost as much fun as a good football game.  (I’m talking about the kind of football where wide receivers make acrobatic catches, running backs collide with linebackers and touchdowns are scored, not the kind where men in shorts run around for two hours, during which perhaps one goal is scored.)

Let’s have the U.K. Daily Mail pick coverage of the game – er, the controversy from there:

Patients who take statins were plunged deeper into confusion last night after the country’s two leading medical journals went to war over the safety of the drug.

The row was triggered by a major review in The Lancet last week that concluded the pills are safe and their benefits far outweigh any harm.  It was the biggest ever review into their use, but now the rival journal The BMJ has cast doubt on the assertions by claiming ‘adverse’ side effects are far more common than the study implied.

Professor Rory Collins, lead author of the Lancet review undertaken by a team of Oxford researchers, concluded the pills were so beneficial that six million more adults should be taking them.

Collins and his cohorts, by the way, receive a ton of research money from the pharmaceutical industry.   I’m sure that doesn’t surprise you.

The Lancet’s editor, Richard Horton, also launched a strong attack on research published in The BMJ that had warned of the possible side effects of the pills.  He said two studies that had appeared in the journal in 2013 resulted in 200,000 patients stopping their statins, potentially harming their health.

Or potentially avoiding diabetes, joint pain, permanently damaged muscles, liver damage and memory loss.

But last night The BMJ defended this research and questioned The Lancet’s claims that the pills are safe and effective.

Writing for the journal, Dr Richard Lehman, a retired GP and Oxford University academic, said muscle pain and fatigue were ‘prevalent’ and ‘recurrent’ in many patients on statins. And Professor Harlan Krumholz, a cardiologist at Yale University in the US, said many scientists still had ‘persistent concerns’. Also writing for the journal, he added there was a ‘lack of good evidence’ for the pills’ benefits in elderly patients.

Health experts urged the two journals to resolve their differences so they could work together to uncover the truth about statins. Tam Fry, of the National Obesity Forum, said: ‘I find it unbelievable that the medical establishment should be at loggerheads over whether they are worthwhile or not.

Say what?  I find it entirely believable that there’s an ongoing battle over statins.  It’s believable for the same reason that the Save The Grains Campaign will fail and the Save The Statins Campaign will fail:  once people know something, it’s impossible to persuade them to not-know it – especially when it comes to their own well-being.

I’ve mentioned that I have a co-worker whose wife suffered from migraines for years.  She went from doctor to doctor looking for relief.  One prescription pill after another failed to provide that relief.  Back in the dark ages of, say, the 1990s, that’s where the story would have ended:  with her suffering from migraines and hoping for the magic pill to come along someday.  That’s because in the dark ages, access to information was limited and it generally flowed from the top down.

But we’re not in those dark ages anymore.  Thanks to the internet, the average person has access to almost endless information, and that information flows in every direction.  So here’s how the story ended:  at a dinner party one night, a friend-of-a-friend mentioned that some people have gotten relief from migraines by giving up grains.  He knew this because he’d done some online research on migraines.  So my co-worker’s wife stopped eating grains as an experiment and – voila! – the migraines went away.

She now knows that giving up grains put a stop to her migraines.  She’ll never not-know it – no matter how many pro-grain articles the Save The Grains Campaign manages to place in media outlets.  Likewise, I’ll never not-know that after giving up grains, I waved goodbye to psoriasis, arthritis in my shoulder, a mild case of asthma and frequent belly aches.

The promoters of the Save The Grains Campaign and the Save The Statins Campaign apparently haven’t figured out how the game works now.  They still think it’s the old game, where most people only know what the officially-sanctioned experts decide they should know.  That’s how we ended up with pretty much everyone believing low-fat diets prevent heart disease.  Several prominent researchers disagreed, but the arterycloggingsaturatedfat! crowd won the war and became the information gatekeepers.

That strategy doesn’t work anymore because the gates are gone.  Yes, there are still official proclamations handed down from on high, but those proclamations are easily undermined by the Wisdom of Crowds effect.  If you suffer from migraines and someone who’s done a bit of research online suggests that giving up grains might cure them, you’ll probably give it a try.  If the migraines go away, you’re not going to be persuaded to eat grains again because a researcher funded by the Save The Grains Campaign releases An Official Study saying grains don’t cause migraines.  You know your migraines went away when you dumped the grains, and you can’t not-know it.

That’s why the Save The Statins campaign will fail.  We may be outraged when journals like The Lancet insist side-effects are rare (I saw plenty of outrage on the internet), but seriously, it’s no big deal.  Let the industry-funded hacks at The Lancet and elsewhere publish all the b.s. studies they want.  It won’t make any difference.

My mom dutifully took her statin despite the muscle and joint pains for only one reason:  she didn’t know the statin was the cause of the pains.  But once she knew statins were the cause (because I told her), she couldn’t not-know it.  In fact, I didn’t have to convince her that statins were absolutely, positively the cause of her muscle pains.  I just had to convince her they were a likely culprit.  Going off the statin and experiencing the happy result was the final convincer.   Hundreds of thousands of people are being similarly convinced.

The Save The Statins Campaign is already a failure – although the hacks at The Lancet may choose to not-know it for some time.


119 thoughts on “Why The Save The Statins Campaign Will Fail

  1. Anne

    Hang on, you can’t make comparisons about a game where they spend half the game off the field to REAL football (that is played with the feet).

    1. Tom Naughton Post author

      I’ll grant that point. Nonetheless, I find the off-the-field moments more captivating than watching people run back and forth across the same field over and over and over and over, kicking the ball back and forth over and over and over and … zzzzzz … what? You mean someone finally scored a goal after an hour of that action? Sorry, I fell asleep and missed it.

      I should probably mention that I record football games and blow through all the commercials and timeouts.

    1. Tom Naughton Post author

      Yup. And I’ll bet they know their advice is wrong and they’re worrying themselves silly trying to find a graceful way to back away from it.

      1. Dianne

        Wooo Hooooo — love it! It must really have hurt the ADA to take all that on the nose, but at least they let those comments stand on their Facebook page. We have to give them credit for that if they did it out of choice. Maybe that’s step one in the graceful retreat you spoke of.

        I would think that at this point both the ADA and the manufacturers and pushers of statins would be quaking in their boots for fear of class action suits. They’ve both pushed worthless, destructive advice long after there was ample and well-researched proof that they were wrong, wrong, wrong, and in the process have ruined lives and caused untold misery. Surely there are some law firms out there that are smelling blood about now.

        1. Tom Naughton Post author

          I believe that’s part of the reason they’re dragging their feet. If they admit to being wrong, lawsuits are a real possibility.

      2. Jan Marra

        Nah, they don’t GAF. They’ll just gradually reword their website advice–it’s happening now in their mention of “good fats.” After a while it’ll be like they advocated low-carb all along.

          1. Walter Bushell

            But they are going to have a much harder time denying that they recommended statins in the first place. Sort of a matter of public record and everyone of a certain age has had statins recommended to them.

    2. netposer

      Haha, the comments on that ADA post are pure gold. Not sure how the ADA can ignore almost 1000 comments which most are “don’t follow the ADA’s advice”. LOL

    3. Bonnie

      Thanks for the link! This is the now the 2nd time I’ve posted on the ADA fb about my better health without them. My fbg was a 85 this morning & has been mostly under 100 for the last month (when it hasn’t been I know why – too much food!). My after-meal readings used to be well over 140 – now they don’t go over 125. Why would I ever want to eat the way the ADA says I should?

  2. JillOz

    Great post Tom!

    I was very happy going off grains, and it certainly helped my general condition, but unfortunately my main medical problem remains, as does the presence and damage of incompetent so-called “health” practitioners.

    I must say people who know exactly what causes their afflictions are very lucky – it’s not always easy to tell!

  3. Cam Cunningham

    Thanks for your article – confirms all that I believe – and I have fended off requests from my GP and practice nurse to continue with my statins ( I am 72) – and then last month I had a friend of mine giving me the hard sell on statins – he is already a low reading on cholesterol but is taking statins “just in case” and persuaded by his daughter to do so – but also his son in law is the Oxford statistician (Dr. Emberson) that co-wrote the Lancet article !

  4. Vicente

    Hi Tom,
    this is a critical commentary of mine that the BMJ censored in one of their blogs:


    “The protective effects of statins are not in doubt and are proportional to the degree of cardiovascular risk.”

    “Statins remain among the most important advances in medical history”

    According to the data from Collins et al., reducing your LDL 1 mmol/L with statins delays the death, each year, of 1 out of 500 people taking the drug.

    People should stop trusting medical doctors.

    NOTE about the Cholesterol Treatment Trialists’ (CTT) Collaborators:

    “This group is part of the Clinical Trials Service Unit in Oxford, which has received hundreds of millions of pounds over recent years to conduct research on behalf of the pharmaceutical companies“.

    Excerpt from: “How statistical deception created the appearance that statins are safe and effective in primary and secondary prevention of cardiovascular disease”. Expert Rev. Clin. Pharmacol. 8(2), 201–210 (2015)


    It got censored instead of being refuted, and I received no explanation for the precise reason this comment deserved to be censored.

    Wisdom of the crowds? We can see how much the BMJ values patients’ opinions.

    1. Tom Naughton Post author

      Whether the BMJ values patient opinions or not, those opinions and experiences are posted all over the internet. That’s what great about all this. It’s nice if the BMJ is critical of statins, but not crucial. People will become aware of the nasty side-effects either way.

      1. Vicente

        Hi Tom,
        I don’t disagree with you. My point was that The BMJ is part of The Anointed just as The Lancet is. They both believe they are the ones chosen to establish the rules and that we, patients, don’t have a say in it.

        1. Stephen T

          The BMJ has consistenty stood up for patients and minimising drug intervention. They have stood up against polypharmacy in the elderly.

          The establishment and pharma resent this deeply and have been bitterly critical. Don’t ignore your friends who have at least some chance of changing things. They have sown the seeds of doubt in doctors’ minds and I think they deserve great credit. It’s entirely principled and has cost them. The editor, Fiona Godlee, is something approaching an heroine. Sometimes the annointed are all the same; sometimes they are not.

          1. Vicente

            Hi Stephen,
            may be you can ask them why my commentary was censored. I wasn’t important enough to deserve an explanation, but may be you are that important. Or may be you can tell me what part of the commentary is defamatory.

            This is the site: Richard Lehman’s blog.

            I can’t see heroicty in censoring critical views. I feel insulted and despised by your BMJ heroes.

            (Please, let me know if they answer your request)

            1. Stephen T

              Vincente, your commentary made good points and I have no idea why they were censored, but they are under attack from Collins and may be being careful.

              The BMJ are still the most influential statin sceptics here because doctors respect them. Collins regularly complains that doctors are under prescribing statins and millions of people are benefitting from GPs doubts. Whatever their imperfections, the BMJ have stood out on a number of occasions against pharma. I’ll have to settle for imperfect allies and flawed heroes.

          2. Vicente

            Fiona Godlee, the heroine: “Though the benefits of statins for secondary prevention or in people at high risk of cardiovascular disease are undisputed, proposals to offer them to large numbers of people at lower risk remain controversial”.

            In secondary prevention, 83 people should take the drug for 5 years so 1 of those 83 people dies after that 5 years period instead of dying during that period. The drug doesn’t save a single live.

            As a patient, I don’t see an undisputable benefit. People should look for the facts, instead of believing what medical doctors say.

  5. Brand

    Well, technically, I think the gates are still there, just that the walls have fallen down and you’re now free to walk around the gates while the gatekeepers look on helplessly.

  6. Tom Welsh

    I believe Dr Kendrick explained a year or so back why establishment support for statins is weakening rapidly.

    1. The patents will expire soon.

    2. So there is a new set of “super-statin” drugs ready to replace them.

    3. Unsurprisingly, the new “super-statins” will cost even more.

    4. Now it is OK – indeed, quite desirable – for adverse findings about statins to be published and publicized.

    1. Tom Naughton Post author

      Yup, but The Lancet is still promoting statins, so apparently they’re not getting sufficient funding from the super-statins yet.

    2. Walter Bushell

      But, I think they still want to push cholesterol lowering and letting the meme that cholesterol lowering is dubious at best might reduce the market for the new drugs whose selling point is that they are better at lowering cholesterol.

      I have heard and read that Lipitor et al. black box warning states that they are not proven to reduce death or even CV problems only to lower cholesterol. It just that you die from something else, perhaps because you become so annoying that someone just decides to kill you.

  7. Martin

    Well, I have been on a ketogenic diet for 10 months now:

    I lost 23 Kilos from obese to “just” overweigth with weight loss still ongoing. 18 centimeters of waist circumference gone. My triglycerides went from >300 to 75(!!). My hbA1C went from pre-diabetic 5.7 to a perfect 4.9. I had a non-alcoholic fatty liver – totally gone. I was on gout medication – not anymore. Almost crippling and increasingly worsening pain in my hands is almost totally gone. I am starting to reduce my thyroid medication. Cortisol levels are perfect. My C-reactive protein is less than 1.0 i.e. I probably have no infections in my body anymore. Also my depressive symptoms are receding more and more. I never used to be able to play with children and used to be somewhat distant. Not anymore – my nephews and nieces all love me as the uncle who will play with them and read to them and connect with them.

    It is almost scary just how much I improved and it feels almost fraudulent and impossible…

    And no, I am still pretty much sedentary. Little to no exercise. Something I am slowly changing.

    1. Galina L.

      Here is the common problem – result from very limited carbs diets are so great, that people have trouble to believe you, let alone to listen to the end the long list of previous troubles which have gone on your diet regiment. On another hand you will never unlearn your experience, and may be somebody else with unmanageable health issues decides to follow your example. I started VLC as the last resort migraine cure, and it created the list of other things which have got miraculously cured, but I haven’t turn into a rail-thin individual. May be it is better that way.

      1. Walter Bushell

        Oh, yes. People don’t believe how much weight and inches I lost, even when I demonstrate with my old clothes. Besides the overweight ones all know that weight loss is very hard to impossible to sustain even 5 to 10 pounds.

        The skinny ones think the fat ones are just lazy slobs.

  8. Bob Parker

    I was on statins a few years ago, for about 6 months. I had a leg muscle tear when I was running to catch a bus. A few weeks later I tripped while running to catch a train and tore another muscle, this time in my upper leg at the back. I flushed the statins and have since rejected all medical advice to take them again. No more torn muscles!

    1. Tom Naughton Post author

      So you’re one of those very rare people who experienced side effects. I seem to know most of the rare people.

    1. Tom Naughton Post author

      That looks like a game I could enjoy watching. I watch Canadian Football League games now and then too. The rules are just different enough to make it interesting.

  9. Walter Bushell

    I’m glad you’re posting again and I assume this means you squashed the bug.

    I assume that the difference between the two games called football amongst the fans is the amount of study and exposure one just doesn’t see what’s going on with out acquiring some mental structures of the game.

    What I like about the other football is the play where the defense stands in front of the goal with their hands protecting their family jewels. Really American football should be called handball, but that name is already taken.

    As for the satin replacements perhaps they recognize that they are far to expensive to be paid for by insurance or the government except perhaps for a very small part of the population. IIUC, the cost of putting any substantial part of the population on the new drugs
    would immediately bankrupt everyone whereas statins could be provided to everyone with a pulse at least fiscally. Hell, they would give them to people without a pulse, if they could find a way.

    1. Tom Naughton Post author

      The bug is indeed squashed.

      Since only punters and place-kickers can legally move the ball with their feet, I’m not sure how American football got its name.

      1. Bengt

        I saw an explanation somewhere that “football” refers to a game where you run on your feet, as opposed to e.g. Polo where you sit on a horse.

  10. Mike

    I’m not convinced that the negative effects of statins ARE side effects. Cholesterol is important to us. These might be the effects, and a new generation of super cholesterol lowering drugs may just worsen the problem.

      1. Walter Bushell

        You know this situation reminds me of my youth like when I was in 7th grade (late 1950’s) grand my main connection to sanity was Mad Magazine.

        1. Galina L.

          A lot of people report that eating oatmeal to their breakfast lowered their total cholesterol, but it increased their weight. Total cholesterol number doesn’t mean much.

  11. Beccolina

    One good has come out of the statin mess. They’re so bad that when my husband’s cholesterol numbers came back high, and the doctor mentioned the possibility of using them, my husband finally agreed to cut out the sugar, grains and junk food! I’m only hoping that he’ll stay with it. In the meantime, I’m using my yummiest low-carb foods to keep him happy.

  12. Walter Bushell

    It occurred to me that we are all going to pay for the PCSK9 drugs. First they will be prescribed to a few, then more and more as people will demand the “best” drug.

    We can hope this brings the system down.

      1. S

        I think after all I miss your political posts. It’s pretty hard to have lively discussion when everyone agrees with each other.

          1. S

            Don’t know if you’re still having to drive to work every day…

            Imagine working for a democratic worker cooperative. You could collectively decide that working from home is a-okay, and there would be no incentive to slack off while you were there because the profit would fall back to the workers – the harder you work, the more profit for you would get.

            1. S

              You sound like capitalism’s anointed.

              In any case, they aren’t some kind of make-believe “workers-paradise plans”, they are real and are well-studied:


              It’s a shame that many Libertarians react like you, because I really think that worker cooperatives are where the libertarian right and left should be able to meet and shake hands. It seems that at least some on the right agree:


            2. Tom Naughton Post author

              I will happily shake hands if there’s no government coercion involved. If a bunch of people agree to all work at a company and share the profits, I of course have no objection. If the owners of a corporation decide to give employees a piece of the pie as motivation, I also have no objection. If 100,000 people want to start a commune where each gives according to his abilities and each takes according to his needs, I’m fine with that too.

              In other words, I don’t care what voluntary arrangements people make. It’s when the state declares a “social contract” (ignoring the fact that contracts are voluntary agreements by definition) and forces people into economic arrangements they didn’t choose that I have a problem with it.

            3. S

              I agree.

              I believe that the advantages of worker coops are significant – to the individuals inside them and to society as a whole. So I would like to see them flourish, but how to do so?

              I’m not sure how strict your version of “government coercion” is. Do government incentives count? For example, if there was legislation passed that gave workers first right of refusal to purchase the business they worked for, would this be coercion?

              If the government couldn’t get involved (due to strict ideological constraints) then I guess the only way would be through grass-roots education. But it’s pretty hard to get a Libertarian’s attention because of their obsession with the idea that the government perverts capitalism, rather than the opposite, that capitalism perverts government (I think both are true – they are really two sides of the same beast).

            4. Tom Naughton Post author

              If government passes law that says the owners of a firm must give the workers first refusal, as opposed to allowing the owners to sell their property to whomever they please, then yes, of course that’s coercion.

              Keep in mind that every law — every single one — is backed up with the threat of armed violence. That’s why it’s called “enforcement” and not “ensuggestionment.” I don’t believe many situations justify the threat of armed violence against individuals by government.

              So I’ll ask you my version of your question: would you support committing armed violence against owners of a company who decided they’d rather sell their property to someone other than a group of employees?

              As far as perverting government … seriously? It’s power that perverts government. Surely you don’t think non-capitalist countries have governments free of cronyism, favoritism, bribery, etc. My friends from former Soviet-bloc countries would beg to differ.

            5. S

              Would I support committing “armed violence” against owners of a company who decided they’d rather sell their property to someone other than a group of employees? Well, I’m not as idealogically pure as you, so I’m going to go ahead and say yes. In any case, the employees should have some rights in the matter; a bad sale could mean they lose their jobs and community.

              As to the question of power, it’s late and I’m having trouble articulating my thoughts so I’ll just pass you a link: http://www.truth-out.org/opinion/item/21559-political-corruption-and-capitalism.

            6. Tom Naughton Post author

              Okay, we’ve established the difference between your beliefs and mine. I think it’s immoral to commit armed violence against people to force them to engage in what you consider the “correct” behavior.

              As for the link to article, it’s typical left-wing gobbledygook. For example:

              The structure provides them with every incentive of financial gain and/or career security and advancement to behave in those ways. Thus, boards and top managers seek the maximum obtainable assistance of government officials in all these areas …

              As usual, the lefties don’t understand the root of the problem. As long as government officials can provide that “maximum obtainable assistance” — i.e., as long as they have powers they shouldn’t have — bribing them to provide it is the rational thing to do.

              And as always, the goofball essayist seem blissfully unaware that government corruption is just as bad or worse in non-capitalist countries. Why? Because the governments in those countries have a helluva lot of power, which makes them worth bribing. If the root of the corruption was the “structure of capitalism” that wouldn’t be the case, would it?

              And here’s some major intellect at work, as the essayist tries to explain that yes, self-directed enterprises might also try to corrupt government officials, but it wouldn’t work because …

              Any effort by one or a group of workers’ self-directed enterprises to obtain corrupt decisions from officials would activate other workers self-directed enterprises – hurt or disadvantaged by those decisions – to object.

              Yeah, that’ll stop it from happening. Becuz ya know, when corrupt government officials in our oh-so-evil “capitalist structure” pass laws to benefit one industry at the expense of the other, it’s not as if the industry being screwed is ever activated to object. Boy, if only they’d object, the government officials would cease to be corrupt.

              The writer is a moron. Based on his pie-in-the-sky ideas about the supposed purity of collectivism, my first thought was “This idiot is probably in academia.” So I clicked the link. Yup.

            7. S

              I’m not an anarchist, I believe the state has a role to legislate for the betterment *and* protection of society, and that the line between these two is very blurred. But the state needs to ultimately be accountable to the masses to temper this power. This is supposed to be achieved through democracy, which is unfortunately corruptible in its current form.

              What you’re missing about that article is that the *motive* for corruption exists through the desire for profits, and is *enabled* because a small amount of people have hugely more wealth and influence than the masses. Both of those are hallmarks of capitalism. Of course the govt has the power to enact the will of the corrupt, but this is by definition. If you’re going to have a govt at all, they must have coercive power.

              As to your last point, of course other systems are equally or more corrupt than capitalism. But that doesn’t mean we can’t try and *improve* capitalism! Ultimately corruption can only be stemmed through an equal spread of influence/power throughout society. Read the end of the article and tell me he’s wrong.

            8. Tom Naughton Post author

              Like I said, we’ve identified the difference in our beliefs. I believe the state has a role in protecting us from those who would deprive us of life, liberty or property through violence, theft or fraud. I also believe the state is justified in using armed violence in that limited role. I most definitely do not believe the state is justified in using armed violence to deprive people of life, liberty or property in pursuit of the “betterment” of society, especially since what constitutes “betterment” is very much in the eye of the beholder.

              The *motive* for corruption exists in the natural human desire to have more, whether having more means increasing profits, receiving more state largess, being granted special favors, or whatever. But corruption is not enabled by wealth. Has any wealthy person ever tried to bribe you? No? Of course not … because you don’t have any powers the wealthy person wants to leverage in his favor. Government corruption is enabled by (and is the inevitable result of) government power, period, which is why it always has and always will exist in countries where governments acquire the power to grant special favors, rig the economic game, pick winners and losers, regulate competitors out of business, etc. — whether or not the evil “capitalist structure” exists.

              Yes, if you’re going to have a government at all, it must have coercive power. That’s why Jefferson referred to government as a necessary evil — necessary to protect life, liberty and property from those who would deprive us of it. Once government steps beyond those bounds, corruption will grow exponentially. It’s as reliable as the law of gravity.

              And yes, we can *improve* capitalism. We do that by limiting government power. Then you don’t have to worry about wealthy people and corporations using their money to buy influence, because there’s nobody who can grant them that influence.

              People who want a big, powerful government but also want it to be nice and fair and free of corruption remind me of children who want a grizzly bear as the family pet and watchdog, but would be shocked and outraged when it killed the neighbors. Then they’d blame the “structure of capitalism” for corrupting the bear’s morals.

            9. S

              OK, first of all, corruption isn’t enabled by wealth per se. It is enabled by wealth inequality, or more precisely the *control* of this unequal wealth by a small number of people, done behind closed doors. This is exactly what democratic worker coops try to fix, through income equality and transparency of the decisions on what to do with profits.

              Now onto the other side of the coin: limiting government power. Yes, I agree, this needs to happen. But the key question is *how*? There is going to be zero political will to do this unless you first fix the unequal wealth-control problem, and/or there needs to be a “dual power” mechanism.

            10. Tom Naughton Post author

              How does wealth inequality create corruption? If government is limited to its legitimate functions — protecting life, liberty and property from those who would deprive us of it — who in government do the unequally wealthy bribe and why?

            11. j

              If these coops are so great in theory..round up a bunch of like minded individuals and their money..and start as many as yall like..
              Leave the rest of us alone..

            12. Tom Naughton Post author

              Bingo. No one’s stopping people from starting companies where the employees are all owners.

            13. S

              Money = Influence (think lawyers, lobbyists, etc). Influence = More Money. Rinse, repeat.

              I understand your argument about limiting the government. It’s just the same old, tired, libertarian party-line. I’m just trying to get you to see the other side of the coin.

            14. Tom Naughton Post author

              You still haven’t answered the question, which I’m now convinced you’re dodging. If government is limited to its legitimate function of protecting us from those who would deprive us of life, liberty or property, who in government would the lawyers and lobbyists hired by unequally wealthy people want to corrupt, and why? Who in his right mind would hire a lobbyist if government couldn’t pass laws and regulations that rig the economic game in someone’s favor?

            15. S

              I just saw J’s comment.

              Well, it’s not quite fair to say that no one’s stopping the formation of worker coops… It’s harder to get finance for one. Education about them us sorely lacking (eg. what are the benefits?), and know-how is limited. I mean, they don’t teach you about coops in business school, do they?

              I’ll admit that Libertarians are the worst when trying to persuade, because they literally think *nothing* is wrong with capitalism, and all problems are 100% government. It’s stupid.

            16. Tom Naughton Post author

              Thomas Sowell has written about the “tragic view” vs. the view of The Anointed. “Tragic” doesn’t mean “everything is awful.” It means understanding that all systems have flaws and accepting that our choices are therefore between flawed systems. The Anointed, by contrast, see flaws in a system and declare that system The Bad, which they believe they can replace with The Good — by spending other people’s money and restricting other people’s freedoms. To me, that’s true stupidity.

              So no, I don’t think there’s nothing wrong with capitalism. I think allowing people to make voluntary choices free from government coercion is 1) the best of the flawed systems and 2) a more moral system than one that requires coercion under threat of armed violence.

              Difficulty in setting up a worker coop doesn’t mean anyone is stopping you. It’s difficult to set up any successful business. What you want is to restrict other people’s property rights and economic freedoms in order to make setting up your dream coops easier.

            17. S

              Slightly hypocritical of you to say I’m dodging your question. On the pure logic, you are correct. But where you’re completely wrong is that it would be impossible to actually achieve under capitalism. Here’s why:

              First, let me note that capitalism causes unprecedented income inequality. The whole system is geared towards capital accumulation. Marx theorised it, Piketty provided empirical evidence. It’s also obvious. And money = influence. Those with the most money have the most influence. So large corporates aren’t going anywhere, they’re just getting bigger. Government “help” just accelerates this process.

              Now I’ll tell you why it wouldn’t work: The big capitalists REALLY LIKE the current setup. And the govt REALLY LIKES having all that power. So like I said in a previous post, there will be ZERO political will to remove government power because capitalists & govt – who have all the power & influence – LIKE it too much.

              If by some miracle a libertarian government did get into power, any political change would slowly erode away because the underlying forces are still in place: systemic accumulation of capital & influence, controlled by the few behind closed doors. A libertarian society with capitalism would die in the same way the New Deal died: by 1000 cuts.

            18. Tom Naughton Post author

              We’ve found an area of agreement. People like to brand all big corporations as “capitalist.” Many are, in fact, only too happy to leverage government to stifle competition, which means they like crony capitalism, not real capitalism. It’s exactly what Adam Smith wrote about in The Wealth of Nations. In a truly free market, there’s nobody to bribe. Allow the regulators to step in, and now the businesses can bribe them as a part of a mutually-beneficial relationship.

              But it doesn’t make sense to say it’s impossible to achieve under capitalism. It’s impossible to achieve under a big government. True capitalism is what happens in the absence of a government that rigs the game.

              Income inequality is not the problem. If my income goes up by $500,000 and yours goes up by $50,000, you are better off even though we’re more unequal. In a system free enough to produce prosperity, you will always have big winners. If they earned their millions through voluntary exchanges, they haven’t taken anything from you and you have no reason (other than ego) to worry about them.

              Dale Carnegie was the richest man in the world in his day. His income was very, very, very unequal. He became the richest man in the world by finding ways to reduce the cost of steel by 90% — which set off a building boom that in turn provided employment and prosperity for countless people. People weren’t worse off because he became so fabulously rich. They were better off.

            19. S

              I was going to say thanks and finally leave you alone, but then I re-read your last response and I now feel compelled to put in my two cents…

              First, regarding markets, I’m not sure if you’ve noticed, but capitalists hate them. A competitive market kills any good profits. So they will try to avoid them at all costs, and will manipulate the system in doing so. It’s part of the game. There really needs to be strong mechanisms in place to preserve markets. Not surprisingly, legislation against anti-competitive behaviour has been shown to be beneficial to economies (I’m not sure where *that* fits into the Libertarian world-view…). Medieval islam protected their markets by incorporating market-protection into their religion.

              There is no “true capitalism” because if there was it would eventually descend back into what we have now – crony capitalism.

              You say that income inequality isn’t the problem, then cherry-pick some dude that is supposed to support this (see “cult of the entrepreneur”). I guarantee there are more cases of the opposite; companies that aren’t led by some iconic entrepreneur, but but an unfeeling board of directors whose sole purpose is to get shareholder return, and will do anything within the law & reputation to achieve that. But note that a company can’t besmirch its reputation when deals are done *behind closed doors*.

            20. Tom Naughton Post author

              Saying “capitalists” hate free markets is like saying Christians hate religion. Once again, you are confusing “capitalists” with anyone in business who wants to make a profit. As I’ve already explained, plenty of business owners are only too happy to use government to stifle competition, which means they’re not capitalists. They’re statists who want to leverage the state in their favor. And if you truly believe a competitive market kills profits, you should be all in favor of free markets, since you seem quite concerned about some people making too much profit. There’s no internal logic to what you’re saying.

              If a corporation is led by an unfeeling board of directors only interested in profit, that’s not your concern. In a free market — that is, one not distorted by government or fraud — the only way they can earn those profits is by producing something people find worth buying.

            21. S

              When I day “capitalist”, I literally mean someone who owns a business in the capitalist mode of production; ie. they have wage-labour employees. I don’t mean “someone who loves free markets”. Markets exist in plenty of other economic system. Markets =/= Capitalism. However a free *labour* market is what really distinguishes capitalism. Another subtlety here us the difference between a “free” market (which I assume you mean free of govt interference) and a “competitive” market. Surely the latter is preferable? There are plenty of ways to distort a market without govt help (otherwise competition law wouldn’t exist).

              In any case, the point I’m really trying to make is that companies need to be more socially responsible, and a great way to do that is for the workers themselves to own and control the company. Just imagine the current system, except large would-be crony capitalist enterprises were democratic worker coops. How different do you think society might be?

            22. Tom Naughton Post author

              Companies don’t need to be more “socially responsible.” That’s you wanting to impose your definition of morality on them. What companies need to do is produce products and services people want. As long as they do that without engaging in fraud or leveraging the power of government to give themselves an unfair advantage, they don’t have to answer to you or me or anyone else who decides he knows what they “need” to do.

              Most anti-competition laws are b.s. Go through U.S. history and look for the monopolies, you’ll find most of them became monopolies courtesy of government. Others were labeled as monopolies because they (horrors!) captured most of the market by offering better products at better prices than their competitors. Then the U.S. government steps in and goes after them … often with comical results, such as when the feds went after Kodak for having a “monopoly” in the film business — shortly before digital cameras destroyed Kodak’s film business.

            23. S

              Competition law is not bullshit: https://core.ac.uk/download/files/153/6690227.pdf. Your response is typical for Libertarians when their utopian system can’t deal with a problem: deny the problem exists (e.g. climate change).

              I still don’t get your opposition. If there was another mode of production that was both more productive and more socially responsible, then surely that’s a good thing? Surely we shouldn’t settle for the first voluntary system that comes along (capitalism) when better ones are available?

            24. Tom Naughton Post author

              Look, I hate to break it to you, but if you think you’re going to change my mind by posting links to the ramblings of loony-lefty academics, you’re sorely mistaken. With a little Google work, you can dig up an academic paper to support any position. But if you can name specific examples where companies created a true monopoly by any means other than offering better products and/or better prices (that is, by appealing to consumers) or through voluntary business deals, be my guest … and remember, monopolies that were created with the help of government don’t count.

              If you don’t get my opposition, you haven’t been paying attention. So I’ll state it again, in capital letters in case you’re sleepy: I AM OPPOSED TO USING THE THREAT OF ARMED VIOLENCE BY GOVERNMENT TO COERCE PEOPLE INTO ECONOMIC EXCHANGES THEY DID NOT CHOOSE, PERIOD. Anything that ISN’T a voluntary system is nothing more than people with guns hijacking other people’s freedom and property. I consider that immoral. I have more respect for the mafia — at least they don’t pretend they’re being “socially responsible” when they use the threat of violence to force people into business arrangements they wouldn’t otherwise choose. Do you understand my opposition now?

              If you think worker coops or whatever are better, great. Go start one. I promise not to stop you. If it’s a more productive system, you won’t need to threaten to send men armed with guns to force people into adopting it. They’ll adopt it to survive.

              You think libertarians are utopian? That’s laughable. Libertarians don’t advocate for utopia; they advocate for freedom, period, with the full understanding that no system will ever be perfect. The utopians are the people who think they can create a better and more “socially responsible” system if only they’re allowed to confiscate and spend enough of other people’s money and/or restrict other people’s freedoms to make their own choices and dispose of their own property as they see fit. Go do some reading on the actual utopians. Most were Marxists, and they all believed in a utopia achieved by “socially responsible” state control — the exact opposite of libertarians.

            25. Tom Naughton Post author

              What do you mean by “the first voluntary system that comes along”? How many voluntary systems do you think there are? Voluntary exchange is what happens in the absence of fraud or force. There aren’t multiple forms of it, and it isn’t some newfangled idea that came along a century ago and got adopted by people choosing from multiple alternatives. Negotiating and trading is what humans have been doing since the dawn of time. Likewise, some humans since the dawn of time have decided they don’t like having to negotiate and trade, so they take what they want through fraud or force. Anything that isn’t the “first voluntary system that comes along” falls into the latter category.

            26. S

              I mean voluntary modes of production. The capitalist the employer-employee relationship is voluntary. The relationship between workers in worker cooperatives is voluntary. However the slave-master relationship is *not* voluntary.

              So worker coops should be satisfactory for libertarians in terms of “voluntaryness”.

              Now, given than capitalism has evolved to crony-capitalism, it might be wise to choose another (voluntary) mode of production that has inbuilt protection against cronyism. The worker coop.

            27. Tom Naughton Post author

              Yes, of course I have no objection to a voluntary coop. As I said before, I don’t have a problem with any voluntary business arrangement. And if by “choose,” you mean freely choose, I’m fine with that as well.

              But I’m pretty sure slavery was outlawed some time ago.

          1. Tom Naughton Post author

            There’s so much nonsense in that article, it would take days to cover it all. We’re supposed to believe that if not for government, the internet and the smart phone never would have been invented. Riiiight. Because it was only through government “investment” that we got telephones, automobiles, cameras, airplanes, light bulbs … no, wait …

            But I agree with this:

            the risk has been increasingly moved to the public sector while the private sector keeps the rewards.

            Libertarians are, of course, vehemently opposed to moving the risk to the public sector — which only happens through government.

            1. j

              The ACA website was a beautiful example of the glorious wonders gov can achieve when it has an over bloated budget at its disposal..

              Every time gov takes on a project, you can pretty much guarantee it will be at least 3 times more costly. What you cant guarantee is that it will work properly or at all…

            2. Tom Naughton Post author

              Yup, it cost more $700 million and didn’t work until millions more were sunk into it. I saw interviews with heads of firms that build sites of that magnitude — including the firm that built Amazon.com — and they all said their firms could have built the whole thing (one that worked) for $40 million or less.

            3. j

              Cant reply above so doing here..

              Regarding formation of worker coops…

              Im under the impression that there are plenty of rich liberals and politicians that preach to the rest of us..
              Crowd fund from them..You guys always talk about what we should do and how to do it, but never take it upon yourselves to show us the “better” way to do things through example. It’s always a “first, do what we tell you to do” approach.

              Regarding things wrong with capitalism..
              The problem is what we currently have is NOT capitalism. Its crony capitalism; where certain entities are buying special favor from Washington bureaucrats. These favors constrict a playing field thats suppose to reward “merit, ability and achievement”

            4. S

              I don’t think “rich liberals and politicians” are going to encourage worker coops at all. They are very much in support of the establishment. I’m not a “liberal” (I’m assuming that just means “Democrat”) and I almost take offense to that. I’m from New Zealand.

              I’m just trying to share with you a different way to organise production, which should be beneficial to yourselves and your communities.

            5. Tom Naughton Post author

              You’ve read my posts about The Anointed, right? So you know The Anointed like to decide they know what’s best and will happily force their plans on others — for their own good, of course.

              That’s exactly what you’re advocating here. If the “different way to organise” is beneficial, you won’t have to impose it by force. It will thrive and squeeze out the less-productive systems.

            6. S

              I’m just trying to point out a good idea. Libertarians hardly even know they exist; that it’s even possible.

            7. Tom Naughton Post author

              I see. So you believe if you point out an example of government coercion that’s a “good idea” (in your opinion), libertarians will finally see the light and agree that The Anointed should, in fact, be allowed to use the threat of armed violence to restrict other people’s freedoms — for their own good, of course.

              Good luck with that.

            8. j

              Interesting how ‘we should have gov involvement’ now becomes ‘I’m only trying to share an idea’.

              Fine to share ideas. But once you imply gov needs to be behind your idea and educate us about it.. well then it says you want to force it on others.

              First convince others it’s a good idea, and if it is good, it will become popular (as Tom suggests).

              If not enough people accept your idea, find like-minded individuals and prove them wrong by building a real world model..Again, if it’s good it’ll be embraced.. people are smart in that sense.

            9. S

              Jesus dude, shut the hell up about government coercion. You’re obsessed with it! All I did was *ask* if you thought govt incentive for coops was coercion, which you answered yes, and I’m fine with that. F**k me. The “good idea” I’m talking about is the coops themselves.

              I understand if you choose to moderate this comment.

  13. Ed

    Sometimes when liberals describe their version of utopia, it does sound appealing.

    The problem is that it doesn’t work, never has worked, and given human nature never will work.

      1. Tom Naughton Post author

        Great. People who prefer them should go out and start as many coops as they can. No one is stopping them.

      2. Tom Naughton Post author

        If that’s true, then you can stop complaining. If these workers’ paradise companies are indeed larger and more productive, they will end up dominating their markets, and more companies will have to switch to the same model in order to survive. No government coercion required.

    1. Tom Naughton Post author

      Let’s hear it for skepticism. (Although I’m sure some “scientists” will refer to the skeptics as “statin deniers.”)


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