John Locke: We Are All Born Free

We are in a time when many people eager to be citizens of the United States are cruelly—and with prejudice—denied that privilege. By contrast, there are relatively few who are citizens of the United States who wish to renounce that citizenship. But they have that right. No one can legitimately be trapped as a citizen of any nation. John Locke is brilliant in arguing that case in Sections 113-122 of his 2d Treatise on Government: “Of Civil Government” (in Chapter VIII, "Of the Beginning of Political Societies").

Point #1: If people could not free themselves from the political ties of their ancestors, there could be only one or a few legitimate governments on the face of the earth.

The other objection I find urged against the beginning of polities, in the way I have mentioned, is this, viz.  

§. 113. That all men being born under government, some or other, it is impossible any of them should ever be free, and at liberty to unite together, and begin a new one, or ever be able to erect a lawful government.  If this argument be good; I ask, how came so many lawful monarchies into the world? for if any body, upon this supposition, can shew me any one man in any age of the world free to begin a lawful monarchy, I will be bound to shew him ten other free men at liberty, at the same time to unite and begin a new government under a regal, or any other form; it being demonstration, that if any one, born under the dominion of another, may be so free as to have a right to command others in a new and distinct empire, every one that is born under the dominion of another may be so free too, and may become a ruler, or subject, of a distinct separate government. And so by this their own principle, either all men, however born, are free, or else there is but one lawful prince, one lawful government in the world. And then they have nothing to do, but barely to shew us which that is; which when they have done, I doubt not but all mankind will easily agree to pay obedience to him.  

Point #2: Historically, many new governments have been set up.

§. 114. Though it be a sufficient answer to their objection, to shew that it involves them in the same difficulties that it doth those they use it against; yet I shall endeavour to discover the weakness of this argument a little farther.  All men, say they, are born under government, and therefore they cannot be at liberty to begin a new one. Every one is born a subject to his father or his prince, and is therefore under the perpetual tie of subjection and allegiance. It is plain mankind never owned nor considered any such natural subjection that they were born in, to one or to the other that tied them, without their own consents, to a subjection to them and their heirs.  

§. 115. For there are no examples so frequent in history, both sacred and profane, as those of men withdrawing themselves, and their obedience from the jurisdiction they were born under, and the family or community they were bred up in, and setting up new governments in other places; from whence sprang all that number of petty commonwealths in the beginning of ages, and which always multiplied, as long as there was room enough, till the stronger, or more fortunate, swallowed the weaker; and those great ones again breaking to pieces, dissolved into lesser dominions. All which are so many testimonies against paternal sovereignty, and plainly prove, that it was not the natural right of the father descending to his heirs, that made governments in the beginning, since it was impossible, upon that ground, there should have been so many little kingdoms; all must have been but only one universal monarchy, if men had not been at liberty to separate themselves from their families, and the government, be it what it will, that was set up in it, and go and make distinct commonwealths and other governments, as they thought fit.  

 Point #3: Parents cannot legitimately bind their children to a perpetual political tie.

§. 116. This has been the practice of the world from its first beginning to this day; nor is it now any more hindrance to the freedom of mankind, that they are born under constituted and ancient polities, that have established laws, and set forms of government, than if they were born in the woods, amongst the unconfined inhabitants, that run loose in them: for those, who would persuade us, that by being born under any government, we are naturally subjects to it, and have no more any title or pretence to the freedom of the state of nature, have no other reason (bating that of paternal power, which we have already answered) to produce for it, but only, because our fathers or progenitors passed away their natural liberty, and thereby bound up themselves and their posterity to a perpetual subjection to the government, which they themselves submitted to. It is true, that whatever engagements or promises any one has made for himself, he is under the obligation of them, but cannot, by any compact whatsoever, bind his children or posterity: for his son, when a man, being altogether as free as the father, any act of the father can no more give away the liberty of the son, than it can of any body else: he may indeed annex such conditions to the land, he enjoyed as a subject of any commonwealth, as may oblige his son to be of that community, if he will enjoy those possessions which were his father’s; because that estate being his father’s property, he may dispose, or settle it, as he pleases.  

Point #4: It is true that children often have incentives to take on citizenship in the nations of their parents in order to make real estate inheritance smoother.

§. 117. And this has generally given the occasion to mistake in this matter; because commonwealths not permitting any part of their dominions to be dismembered, nor to be enjoyed by any but those of their community, the son cannot ordinarily enjoy the possessions of his father, but under the same terms his father did, by becoming a member of the society; whereby he puts himself presently under the government he finds there established, as much as any other subject of that commonwealth. And thus the consent of free men born under government, which only makes them members of it, being given separately in their turns, as each comes to be of age, and not in a multitude together; people take no notice of it, and thinking it not done at all, or not necessary, conclude they are naturally subjects as they are men.  

Point #5: Those born in other countries often have choices about where to take on citizenship.

§. 118. But, it is plain, governments themselves understand it otherwise; they claim no power over the son, because of that they had over the father; nor look on children as being their subjects, by their fathers being so. If a subject of England have a child, by an English woman in France, whose subject is he? Not the king of England’s; for he must have leave to be admitted to the privileges of it: nor the king of France’s; for how then has his father a liberty to bring him away, and breed him as he pleases? and whoever was judged as a traitor or deserter, if he left, or warred against a country, for being barely born in it of parents that were aliens there? It is plain then, by the practice of governments themselves, as well as by the law of right reason, that a child is born a subject of no country or government. He is under his father’s tuition and authority, till he comes to age of discretion; and then he is a freeman, at liberty what government he will put himself under, what body politic he will unite himself to: for if an Englishman’s son, born in France, be at liberty, and may do so, it is evident there is no tie upon him by his father’s being a subject of this kingdom; nor is he bound up by any compact of his ancestors. And why then hath not his son, by the same reason, the same liberty, though he be born any where else? Since the power that a father hath naturally over his children, is the same, wherever they be born, and the ties of natural obligations are not bounded by the positive limits of kingdoms and commonwealths. 

Point #6: The tacit consent to being subject to the laws of a nation because on resides in it is the same as the tacit consent given by foreigners to be subject to the laws of the nation in which they reside.

§. 119. Every man being, as has been shewed, naturally free, and nothing being able to put him into subjection to any earthly power, but only his own consent; it is to be considered, what shall be understood to be a sufficient declaration of a man’s consent, to make him subject to the laws of any government. There is a common distinction of an express and tacit consent, which will concern our present case. Nobody doubts but an express consent, of any man entering into any society, makes him a perfect member of that society, a subject of that government. The difficulty is, what ought to be looked upon as a tacit consent, and how far it binds, i. e. how far any one shall be looked on to have consented, and thereby submitted to any government, where he has made no expressions of it at all. And to this I say, that every man, that hath any possessions, or enjoyment, of any part of the dominions of any government, doth thereby give his tacit consent, and is as far forth obliged to obedience to the laws of that government, during such enjoyment, as any one under it; whether this his possession be of land, to him and his heirs for ever, or a lodging only for a week; or whether it be barely travelling freely on the highway; and in effect, it reaches as far as the very being of any one within the territories of that government.  

Point #7: Land can be irrevocably subjected to the laws of a nation, but any obligation due to land ownership can be severed by sale of the land and any obligation due to residence can be severed by emigrating.

§. 120. To understand this the better, it is fit to consider, that every man, when he at first incorporates himself into any commonwealth, he, by his uniting himself thereunto, annexed also, and submits to the community, those possessions, which he has, or shall acquire, that do not already belong to any other government: for it would be a direct contradiction, for any one to enter into society with others for the securing and regulating of property; and yet to suppose his land, whose property is to be regulated by the laws of the society, should be exempt from the jurisdiction of that government, to which he himself, the proprietor of the land, is a subject. By the same act therefore, whereby any one unites his person, which was before free, to any commonwealth; by the same he unites his possessions, which were before free, to it also; and they become, both of them, person and possession, subject to the government and dominion of that commonwealth, as long as it hath a being. Whoever therefore, from thenceforth, by inheritance, purchase, permission, or otherways, enjoys any part of the land, so annexed to, and under the government of that commonwealth, must take it with the condition it is under; that is, of submitting to the government of the commonwealth, under whose jurisdiction it is, as far forth as any subject of it.  

§. 121. But since the government has a direct jurisdiction only over the land, and reaches the possessor of it, (before he has actually incorporated himself into the society) only as he dwells upon, and enjoys that; the obligation any one is under, by virtue of such enjoyment, to submit to the government, begins and ends with the enjoyment; so that whenever the owner, who has given nothing but such a tacit consent to the government, will, by donation, sale, or otherwise, quit the said possession, he is at liberty to go and incorporate himself into any other commonwealth; or to agree with others to begin a new one, in vacuis locis, in any part of the world, they can find free and unpossessed: …

Point #8: Explicitly choosing to become a citizen can only be reversed when the nation dissolves, by being stripped of citizenship or by public renunciation of citizenship.

… whereas, he that has once, by actual agreement, and any express declaration, given his consent to be of any commonwealth, is perpetually and indispensibly obliged to be, and remain unalterably a subject to it, and can never be again in the liberty of the state of nature; unless, by any calamity, the government he was under comes to be dissolved; or else by some public act cuts him off from being any longer a member of it.  

Point #6 Redux: The tacit consent to being subject to the laws of a nation because on resides in it is the same as the tacit consent given by foreigners to be subject to the laws of the nation in which they reside.

§. 122. But submitting to the laws of any country, living quietly, and enjoying privileges and protection under them, makes not a man member of that society: this is only a local protection and homage due to and from all those, who, not being in a state of war, come within the territories belonging to any government, to all parts whereof the force of its laws extends. But this no more makes a man a member of that society, a perpetual subject of that commonwealth, than it would make a man a subject to another, in whose family he found it convenient to abide for some time; though, whilst he continued in it, he were obliged to comply with the laws, and submit to the government he found there. And thus we see, that foreigners, by living all their lives under another government, and enjoying the privileges and protection of it, though they are bound, even in conscience, to submit to its administration, as far forth as any denison; yet do not thereby come to be subjects or members of that commonwealth. Nothing can make any man so, but his actually entering into it by positive engagement, and express promise and compact. This is that which I think concerning the beginning of political societies, and that consent which makes any one a member of any commonwealth.

I find myself moved by the idea that we are all born free to choose the government we owe allegiance to, or to form a new government. I am concerned about the difficulty of forming new governments because of the lack of land for settlement that is unclaimed by any government conjoined to the hardened customary rule (which John Locke is too quick to support) that sway over a particular piece of land can be irrevocably attached to a particular government.

Personally, I am fortunate to have the privilege of being a citizen of the United States of America and proud to voluntarily declare loyalty to that republic.

For links to other John Locke posts, see these John Locke aggregator posts: 

David Keith, Geoffrey Holmes, David St. Angelo and Kenton Heidel Estimate a Cost of $94 to $232 for Removing Carbon Dioxide from the Atmosphere

This is a link to an August 15, 2018 Joule article: "A Process for Capturing CO2 from the Atmosphere." Thanks to Chad for tweeting this link.

For those who think a result like this has an anti-green message, let me say that, even if true, the headline number only implies an upper bound of $94 to $232 on what a carbon tax should be. A carbon tax of $90, if otherwise justified, would still be optimal. And a carbon tax of $90 would have huge effects in greening the economy.  

As Roger Bohn tweets, once the carbon dioxide is captured from the atmosphere, something would need to be done with it. If no better commercial use can be found for the carbon dioxide, the cost of long-term storage should be added to the $94 to $232 estimate. 

Geneva Conventions for the Political Wars

I have been distressed by the rising tide of politicism: treating those who have different political views as if they weren't fully human. I'll grant that when someone's political views include not treating a class of people (defined by something other than politics) as less than fully human that it is tempting to fight fire with fire. But fighting fire with fire burns the world down. Be better than those who don't accord full dignity to all human beings by not returning indignity in kind!

The two articles shown above point to potential sets of "laws of war" for political battles. Soon-to-be-former-senator-from-Utah Orrin Hatch suggests these laws of political war:

First, we must agree on the need to shield communal spaces from politicization—just as schools, hospitals and places of worship are protected from military strikes in times of armed conflict.

Second, we must work together to resist the politicization of everything. Just as the rules of war prohibit military attacks that inflict undue burdens on civilian life, we should condemn culture-war tactics that cause unnecessary damage to civil society. Denouncing those who politicize things that should not be politicized—even when we agree with their political cause—is the only way to ensure proportionality in the culture wars.

Third, we must discourage harassment of public figures and incursions into their private lives. Just as combatants and POWs are accorded certain rights in wartime, government officials and others who participate in politics deserve privacy and respect, no matter how intense the culture wars become. ...

Fourth, liberals and conservatives alike should commit themselves to rhetorical disarmament. During the Cold War, the U.S. and Soviet Union signed treaties to reduce the proliferation of nuclear weapons. In a culture war, in which words are weapons, both sides need to ease their inflammatory language.

In relation to these laws of war, Orrin Hatch scolds Donald Trump:

... even as a strong supporter of President Trump, I have repeatedly encouraged him to use Twitter as a tool for good rather than as a cudgel for division. I have likewise discouraged him from calling the press “the enemy of the people.” Even with its flaws, the media is indispensable to our democracy. Insofar as reporters are committed to objective journalism and not political advocacy, they should be treated as noncombatants in the culture wars.

As described in the second article, after a time of troubles, a group of local leaders in Duluth suggested these nine rules for political debate:

  • pay attention

  • listen

  • be inclusive

  • don’t gossip

  • show respect

  • be agreeable

  • apologize

  • give constructive criticism

  • take responsibility

Duluth's rules for political debate are good rules for any argument, not just a political argument. They may be too much to hope for in national political debate, but Duluth has gone a long way towards getting people to abide by these rules in local political debate.

The only way laws of political warfare will ever be respected is if people enforce them on their own side. I hope you will do your part in scolding those who violate the laws of political warfare and in supporting others who take it upon themselves to do the needed scolding.  

The Trouble with Most Psychological Approaches to Weight Loss: They Assume the Biology is Obvious, When It Isn't

Psychological approaches to weight loss send people to battle hunger and food cravings head on. But a large component of hunger and food cravings is governed by biological forces that can be sidestepped and don’t need to be fought at all. In “4 Propositions on Weight Loss” I lay out the theory that there are certain foods that generate powerful biological hunger and food cravings: sugar, bread, rice and potatoes, plus others that can be determined by personal experimentation. Avoid those foods, and then you will only have to face narrowly psychological desires for food. Eat sugar, bread, rice and potatoes, and you will face strong physiological cravings to eat more than is good for you. Indeed, avoid sugar, bread, rice and potatoes and you will be well on your way to facing surprisingly little hunger even when you eat nothing at all, because your body will be able to switch over relatively easily to burning your own fat stores.

Going off sugar, bread, rice and potatoes may seem superhuman, but it isn’t when you immediately substitute other treats such as nuts, manchego cheese or cherries and cream (or cherries and canned coconut milk). Also, eating a giant salad each day before you let yourself eat anything else (other than nuts and salad ingredients) can do a lot to reduce temptation. I give practical tips in “Letting Go of Sugar” and “Our Delusions about 'Healthy' Snacks—Nuts to That.”

A lot of the idea that dietary fat is bad for weight loss comes from people combining dietary fat with sugar, as I discuss in “Does Sugar Make Dietary Fat Less OK?” If you cut out sugar and other troublesome foods like bread, rice and potatoes, then dietary fat will make you feel full quite fast. Indeed, big doses of fatty foods like avocados and olive oil in a salad are some of the healthiest things you can eat, and can do a lot to keep you satisfied long after your meal.

In the contest for best simple message to aid weight loss and health, I’d bet on “Sugar is bad” against “Reduce calories” any day. As a matter of public health, the message “Reduce calories” has only led to rising obesity. It is true that the message “Sugar is bad” is out there at some level, but it lacks the punch it needs without comparisons like

  • Sugar is much, much, worse than butter or cream or oil.

  • The worst thing about bacon is the sugar added to the bacon.

  • Don’t worry about calories, just cut out all sugar.

To go further, I would add these:

  • In bread and butter, it’s the bread that’s unhealthy, not the butter.

  • In fried rice, it is the rice that is unhealthy, not the oil the rice is fried in.

  • The worst thing about french fries is that they’re made of potatoes, not the oil they’re cooked in.

  • In a hamburger, it is the bun that is the unhealthiest part.

(Update: @sudeepj21 points out that when vegetable oil high in polyunsaturated fat is cooked at high temperatures, all sorts of bad chemicals are created. So certain oils, at high temperatures, can indeed become quite unhealthy. Summing up, @sudeepj21 writes: “So French Fries just might be the mother of all bad ideas.. (unless fried in butter..) Carbs + PUFA oxidized at high temperature for a long time.”)

The article I flag at the top of this post, Bee Wilson’s September 6, 2018 Wall Street Journal article “No, A Salad Doesn’t Make that Burger Healthier,” raises the question of whether being combined with healthy food can reduce the harm of unhealthy food. She stresses one part of the answer: a token amount of healthy food can’t redeem unhealthy food. The next part of the answer is that nothing can redeem sugar, bread or potatoes. Jason Fung, in The Obesity Code (a book I highlight in “Obesity Is Always and Everywhere an Insulin Phenomenon” and Five Books That Have Changed My Life) suggests that acidic things such as vinegar or Japanese pickled vegetables might help redeem white rice. Being full-fat helps redeem milk: I take a dimmer view of milk overall in “Is Milk OK?” (I have more to say on that in the future) but if the choice is between whole milk and skim milk, the message of Whole Milk Is Healthy; Skim Milk Less So is still helpful. Fiber can help slow down the insulin response to many things.

Thinking about things in terms of calories makes it seem obvious that adding healthy food can’t make unhealthy food less unhealthy, but thinking in terms of insulin responses can focus attention on the idea that adding oil or fiber or vinegar might help slow down the insulin kick of a not-so-healthy food. But sugar is so bad, I argue in “Does Sugar Make Dietary Fat Less OK?” that the interaction goes the other way: sugar makes dietary fat worse, which means that dietary fat makes sugar worse. With bread and potatoes, I am have less of a sense. I would start from the assumption that the harm of the bread in a sandwich is simply a big subtraction from whatever good there is in what is inside the sandwich.

That question of interactions between good and bad things in “No, A Salad Doesn’t Make that Burger Healthier” is a good one, but I am turned off by two undefended assumptions in the article: (1) that thinking about calories is helpful (see “Forget Calorie Counting; It's the Insulin Index, Stupid,” “Nina Teicholz on the Bankruptcy of Counting Calories” and “Mass In/Mass Out: A Satire of Calories In/Calories Out”); (2) the psychologizing of the problem of weight loss. To me, understanding the biology of hunger—in particular the role of sugar, bread rice and potatoes, and how done right, fasting (drinking water, but not eating food) doesn’t necessarily lead to a lot of hunger—is a much bigger deal than understanding tidbits of psychology about calories like this:

Dr. Chernev found that if you ask people to estimate the calories in a hamburger, they will usually estimate more calories for a hamburger by itself than for a hamburger with a few sticks of celery or a carrot salad on the side. Many of the participants imagined that a burger by itself was around 600 calories, whereas they reckoned that a burger plus celery was more like 500 calories.

Don't miss these other posts on diet and health and on fighting obesity:

Also see the last section of "Five Books That Have Changed My Life" and the podcast "Miles Kimball Explains to Tracy Alloway and Joe Weisenthal Why Losing Weight Is Like Defeating Inflation." If you want to know how I got interested in diet and health and fighting obesity and a little more about my own experience with weight gain and weight loss, see my post "A Barycentric Autobiography."

Evaluating the Replicability of Social Science Experiments in Nature and Science

Coauthor Brian Nosek summarized the results this way in a tweet:

We replicated 21 social science experiments in Science or Nature. We succeeded with 13. Replication effect sizes were half of originals. All materials, data, code, & reports:, preprint, Nature Human Behavior…

The link on the title of this post is to the ungated version of the article. 


Steven Pinker on Transhumanism, Means-End Rationality and Cultural Appropriation

Adam Rubinstein's interview with Steven Pinker shown above yields many interesting thoughts from Steven. I was particularly struck by what Steven said about Transhumanism, means-end rationality and cultural appropriation. Here are those thoughts, with my headings added in bold:

Transhumanism: As for “transhumanism,” I’m skeptical about that we’re going to see enhancements of human nature by genetic engineering, nanotechnology, or neural implants (though these technologies may be used to mitigate disabilities, a different matter). We now know that there is no “gene for musical talent” that ambitious parents will implant into their unborn children—psychological traits are distributed across thousands of genes, each with a teensy effect, and many with deleterious side effects (such as a gene that makes you a bit smarter while increasing your chance of getting cancer). Also, people are risk-averse (sometimes pathologically so) when it comes to their children and when it comes to genetic engineering—they don’t accept genetically modified tomatoes, let alone babies. More generally, biomedical progress in the real world is more Sisyphus than Singularity. Readers of medical newsletters are regularly disillusioned by miracle cures that turn out to be no better than the placebo, or that wash out in the meta-analysis.

As for implants, neurosurgeons have a saying: “You’re never the same once the air hits your brain.” Invading a healthy brain with foreign objects, with the risk of inflammation and infection, is a really bad idea. And neuroscientists don’t have a clue as to how the brain encodes thoughts at the nano-level of synapses and neural firing, let alone a technology that would manipulate it with precision greater than a sledgehammer.

Means-End Rationality: Reason has nothing to do with asceticism, joylessness, incuriosity, coldness, or callousness. That is because intelligence is logically distinct from motivation: an ability to figure out how best to get from A to B says nothing about what the B should be. Goals such as happiness, knowledge, love, beauty, and insight are in no way antithetical to reason.

Cultural Appropriation ... one of the greatest epiphanies of the Enlightenment: that people are equipped with a capacity for sympathetic imagination, which allows them to appreciate the suffering of sentient beings unlike them. In this regard nothing could be more asinine than outrage against “cultural appropriation”—as if it’s a bad thing, rather than a good thing, for a white writer to try to convey the experiences of a black person, or vice versa.

I am looking forward to reading Steven's new book, Enlightenment Now

  Link to the Amazon page for  Enlightenment Now

Link to the Amazon page for Enlightenment Now

Michael Lowe and Heidi Mitchell: Is Getting ‘Hangry’ Actually a Thing? explains the word "hangry" this way:

It is only in the 21st century that the word hangry, a blend of hungry and angry used colloquially to mean ‘bad-tempered or irritable as a result of hunger’, has entered common use. However, the earliest known evidence for the word dates from 1956, in an unusual article in the psychoanalytic journal American Imago that describes various kinds of deliberate and accidental wordplay.

As a noun for being hangry, the word "hanger" can work when spoken with a hard g, but in print it is too confusing , so here I'll nominalize "hangry" to "hangriness." (The other alternative is "hangry" as a noun as well as an adjective.)

Hangriness is a real thing. The Wall Street Journal's Heidi Mitchell interviewed Michael Lowe, a psychologist interested in eating disorders for an August 29, 2018 article:

The popularity of the term hangry has outstripped the scientific research on it, Dr. Lowe says. He agrees that food deprivation can contribute to “a hypersensitivity to react to things you wouldn’t react to much or at all when you’re not hungry.” However, food deprivation exacerbates other feelings, too. “If we had a list of 10 negative emotions, my guess is that as people get hungrier, the scores of most of the negative emotions would go up, not just anger,” he says.

Just after we begin eating, blood-sugar levels rise sharply, then gradually decline for hours until we eat again. “At some point, one starts to experience falling glucose levels and stomach growling and other signs of energy deprivation that trigger an alarm in the brain,” Dr. Lowe says.

Some of the best evidence for the reality of hangriness or the broader set of psychological effects of low blood sugar is from three business school professors: Shai Danziger, Jonathan Levav, and Liora Avnaim-Pesso. Michael Lowe summarizes their Proceedings of the National Academy of Science of the USA article "Extraneous factors in judicial decisions" as follows:

Dr. Lowe also points to a study of eight Israeli judges who granted 65% of convicts’ parole requests in the morning and after a snack break, but almost none at day’s end. “Someone who is very hungry and irritable is likely to react more harshly” than his or her well-fed co-worker, he says.

Michael Lowe knows something about the effects of being hangry. And I don't doubt that it is a reflection of low blood sugar. But Michael is not as clued in as he should be about the causes of low blood sugar. As I wrote in "How Sugar Makes People Hangry":

A big cause of low blood sugar is when you have eaten sugar, refined carbs or some other food with a high insulin index a couple of hours earlier. When sugar, refined carbs or something else high on the insulin index causes insulin to spike, that insulin causes blood sugar to be removed from the bloodstream (some to the muscles and some to be stored as fat in the fat cells). It is like waking up from being asleep at the wheel, seeing you are drifting off to the right, and then overcorrecting to the left. 

So, a good way to reduce the chances of blood sugar low enough to make you "hangry" is to avoid sugar, refined carbs and other foods high on the insulin index.

On the insulin index, see "Forget Calorie Counting; It's the Insulin Index, Stupid." My own experience, and that of others, is that when they eat low on the insulin index, they can go 24 hours without eating without getting hangry. So Michael is assuming a currently customary high-insulin-index diet when he told Heidi Mitchell (in her paraphrase):

There’s everyday hunger people feel five hours or so after a meal, called homeostatic hunger. There’s also hedonic hunger, which happens to some people because they become accustomed to eating simply for pleasure, so they often think about food.'

What Michael calls everyday homeostatic hunger comes on much sooner (five hours in his telling) and is much stronger for all but a minority of people these days because they are eating sugar, easily digestible carbs and other foods high on the insulin index.

Michael mentioned the Minnesota Starvation Experiment, but missed one of the main messages of that experiment:  

He cites the famous 1945 Minnesota Starvation Experiment as an extreme example: Of the male volunteers who lost 25% of their body weight in six months, most reported irritability and a decrease in mental ability.

A key to understanding why the experience of men in this experiment was so horrible is what they were eating—carbs high on the insulin index:

Their diet consisted of foods widely available in Europe during the war, mostly potatoes, root vegetables, bread and macaroni.

If they had been eating a diet low in easily digestible carbs—or eating nothing—they could have made up for fewer food calories by burning their own fat without much discomfort, as long as they had a reasonable amount of body fat left. (In the Stanford DIETFITS study I talk about in "Why a Low-Insulin-Index Diet Isn't Exactly a 'Lowcarb' Diet" and "Against Sugar: The Messenger and the Message" people replaced easily digestible carbs with either complex carbs like vegetables or with dietary fat. Either diet worked well.)

Michael's lack of understanding of the role of easily digestible carbs in causing low blood sugar also leads him astray in the stories he tells about our ancestors. Eating in an era before processed foods, before humans had come across potatoes in the Americas, and before grain was domesticated, I argue they would have gotten hangry mainly when their stores of body fat ran low, not when they simply had to go a few days without food while they had plenty of body fat left—a genuinely dangerous and often desperate situation. But processed foods, potatoes and grain have made us feel desperate for food in situations that aren't really desperate at all. (On processed food, see my post "The Problem with Processed Food.")

Not understanding the role of easily digestible carbs and other foods high on the insulin index in hangriness, Michael gives bad advice:

To avoid feeling hangry, Dr. Lowe recommends distributing food intake evenly across the day.

I talk about formal and informal evidence that substantial periods of time with no food are a key to relatively painless weight loss in these posts, among others:

You don't need to snack constantly to avoid feeling hangry. Just avoid easily digestible carbs and other foods high on the insulin index. And if despite this claim, you are worried you might feel hangry, you can carry around some nuts anywhere in a ziploc bag  (but don't go for cashews or peanuts, neither of which are true nuts and both of which have problems). See "Our Delusions about 'Healthy' Snacks—Nuts to That!" That can also help you deal with temptations, as I point out in "Letting Go of Sugar."

The bottom line is that if you feel hangry with any frequency, it is an urgent sign that you need to fix your diet. There are many other reasons to feel negative emotions, including anger, but human beings weren't meant to feel seriously hangry except in genuinely desperate situations. If you do feel hangry with any frequency, take it as a sign you are probably eating badly. 

Don't miss these other posts on diet and health and on fighting obesity:

Also see the last section of "Five Books That Have Changed My Life" and the podcast "Miles Kimball Explains to Tracy Alloway and Joe Weisenthal Why Losing Weight Is Like Defeating Inflation." If you want to know how I got interested in diet and health and fighting obesity and a little more about my own experience with weight gain and weight loss, see my post "A Barycentric Autobiography."


John Locke: Government by the Consent of the Governed Often Began Out of Respect for Someone Trusted to Govern

Even when everyone feels in their bones that legitimate government must be by the consent of the governed, it is only the experience of misrule that leads to formal constitutions or bylaws, written or not. In my experience now in two different Economics Departments—at the University of Michigan and the University of Colorado Boulder—I have seen how willing professors are to have streamlined decision-making if they agree with the policies decided on. Passionate objections about procedure almost always arise out of substantive disagreements with what was decided. 

In  Sections 111-112 and the associated not in his 2d Treatise on Government: “Of Civil Government” (in Chapter VIII, "Of the Beginning of Political Societies"), John Locke writes of how willing people are to have a monarch when they trust and look up to that monarch:

§. 111. But though the golden age (before vain ambition, and amor sceleratis habendi, evil concupiscence, had corrupted men’s minds into a mistake of true power and honour) had more virtue, and consequently better governors, as well as less vicious subjects; and there was then no stretching prerogative on the one side, to oppress the people; nor consequently on the other, any dispute about privilege, to lessen or restrain the power of the magistrate, and so no contest betwixt rulers and people about governors or government: yet, when ambition and luxury in future ages [see Note 1 below] would retain and increase the power, without doing the business for which it was given; and aided by flattery, taught princes to have distinct and separate interests from their people, men found it necessary to examine more carefully the original and rights of government; and to find out ways to restrain the exorbitances, and prevent the abuses of that power, which they having intrusted in another’s hands only for their own good, they found was made use of to hurt them.

  §. 112. Thus we may see how probable it is, that people that were naturally free, and by their own consent either submitted to the government of their father, or united together out of different families to make a government, should generally put the rule into one man’s hands, and chuse to be under the conduct of a single person, without so much as by express conditions limiting or regulating his power, which they thought safe enough in his honesty and prudence; though they never dreamed of monarchy being Jure Divino, which we never heard of among mankind, till it was revealed to us by the divinity of this last age; nor ever allowed paternal power to have a right to dominion, or to be the foundation of all government. And thus much may suffice to shew, that as far as we have any light from history, we have reason to conclude, that all peaceful beginnings of government have been laid in the consent of the people. I say peaceful, because I shall have occasion in another place to speak of conquest, which some esteem a way of beginning of governments.

Note 1. At first, when some certain kind of regiment was once approved, it may be nothing was then farther thought upon for the manner of governing, but all permitted unto their wisdom and discretion which were to rule, till by experience they found this for all parts very inconvenient, so as the thing which they had devised for a remedy, did indeed but increase the sore which it should have cured. They saw, that to live by one man’s will, became the cause of all men’s misery. This constrained them to come unto laws wherein all men might see their duty beforehand, and know the penalties of transgressing them. Hooker’s Eccl. Pol. l. i. sect. 10.

As I think of the history of bad kings and queens, I marvel at the motivations that drive people to become bad rulers. But I believe Lord Acton's adage

Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely.

I have not held a lot of administrative power in my life, nor do I think, relative to the overall distribution, I am all that power-hungry. But during my stint as Associate Chair for Administration at the University of Michigan I noticed on at least one occasion the temptation to exercise power badly, out of pique. It struck me because it seemed so alien to my self-image. But position creates potential for corruption, in small cases as well as big ones. 


For links to other John Locke posts, see these John Locke aggregator posts: 

Peter Conti-Brown: The President Crossed a Line in Commenting on Interest Rates. The Fed Needs to Redraw It.

I am grateful to Peter Conti-Brown for permission to make his latest Wall Street Journal op-ed a guest post here. Here is what he has to say:

The president probably wasn’t pleased when the Fed raised interest rates. But when the press asked Dwight Eisenhower to comment in 1956, he said: “The Federal Reserve Board is set up as a separate agency of government. . . . It would be a mistake to make it definitely and directly responsible to the political head of state.”

In the 1990s, President Clinton’s economic advisers, led by Bob Rubin, initiated a rule that the White House would make no comment on Fed policy, even anonymously. That rule held until last week, when President Trump stated in an interview that he was “not happy” with Fed policy. On Friday he followed up with a pair of tweets. The Rubin Rule is dead.

Some may celebrate its demise. The Fed isn’t supposed to be unaccountable: Politicians name key Fed personnel; Congress is active in its oversight; journalists and other outsiders engage and critique every aspect of Fed policy. That attention can make the job of central banking unpleasant, but it is vital to the Fed’s legitimacy.

What Mr. Trump did was different. The process of pushing interest rates back to historical norms has been and will be among the most uncertain policy programs undertaken in Fed history. Mr. Trump made that fraught process more complicated in two ways. First, he showed himself ready to wage war over the Fed’s decisions even without a market correction or recession—the usual times when politicians start looking for monetary scapegoats.

Second, the perception of the Fed’s decision-making will change immediately. To be sure, the substance of those decisions won’t be so easily swayed. The Fed won’t fold after one tart presidential comment; Chairman Jay Powell and his colleagues are made of sterner stuff than that. More plausibly, the Fed could overreact and seek to assert its independence by raising rates more quickly than is warranted. That would be a mistake, and it’s still unlikely.

In central banking, though, appearance matters as much as substance. How will the Fed’s decisions be perceived by markets and in political campaigns, in boardrooms and in newsrooms? If the Fed slows rate increases on the merits, the public now is likely to declare a Trumpian victory. If it speeds those increases, it may invite a Trumpian war. Either result would be devastating.

The Fed’s instincts will be to hide from this fight. Instead it should confront it. Central bankers should not give marble-mouthed nonresponses to the inevitable questions about the Trump administration. They should instead be clear with the usual assurances that the Fed hasn’t altered its course based on political pressures. And they should expand on the virtues and fragility of Fed independence and explain that these traditions are mostly for politicians, not central bankers, to honor.

Fed accountability, legitimacy and independence are fragile but valuable ideals that reinforce each other. The president crossed a line last week; the Fed should not be shy in attempting to redraw it.

Mr. Conti-Brown, an assistant professor at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business, is author of “The Power and Independence of the Federal Reserve” (Princeton University Press, 2016).