John Locke: How to Resist Tyrants without Causing Anarchy

In the second half of Chapter XVIII of his 2d Treatise on Government: Of Civil Government, “Of Tyranny,” John Locke lays out an argument he must confront. What if his interlocutor said something like this:

§. 203. May the commands then of a prince be opposed? may he be resisted as often as any one shall find himself aggrieved, and but imagine he has not right done him? This will unhinge and overturn all polities, and, instead of government and order, leave nothing but anarchy and confusion. 

John Lock gives a subtle answer, laying out how to appropriately oppose a tyrant.

John Locke’s Rules for those Who Would Oppose Tyrants

1. Don’t escalate the use of force; don’t start by physically attacking the tyrant.

§. 204.  To this I answer, that force is to be opposed to nothing, but to unjust and unlawful force; whoever makes any opposition in any other case, draws on himself a just condemnation both from God and man; and so no danger or confusion will follow, as is often suggested, for,  

§. 205. First, As, in some countries, the person of the prince by the law is sacred; and so, whatever he commands or does, his person is still free from all question or violence, not liable to force, or any judicial censure or condemnation. … unless he will, by actually putting himself into a state of war with his people, dissolve the government, and leave them to that defence which belongs to every one in the state of nature: for of such things who can tell what the end will be? and a neighbour kingdom has shewed the world an odd example. In all other cases the sacredness of the person exempts him from all inconveniences, whereby he is secure, whilst the government stands, from all violence and harm, whatsoever; than which there cannot be a wiser constitution: for the harm he can do in his own person not being likely to happen often, nor to extend itself far; nor being able by his single strength to subvert the laws, nor oppress the body of the people, should any prince have so much weakness, and ill-nature, as to be willing to do it, the inconveniency of some particular mischiefs, that may happen sometimes, when a heady prince comes to the throne, are well recompensed by the peace of the public, and security of the government, in the person of the chief magistrate, thus set out of the reach of danger: it being safer for the body, that some few private men should be sometimes in danger to suffer, than that the head of the republic should be easily, and upon slight occasions, exposed.

Any kind of immunity of a tyrant can seem galling, but John Locke points out that personal immunity typically typically does not, by itself, allow a tyrant to do a huge amount of harm.

2. Question, oppose and resist unjust, illegal acts, regardless of a tyrant’s endorsement of them, while continuing to respect and obey just and legal actions of the tyrant.

§. 206. Secondly, But this privilege, belonging only to the king’s person, hinders not, but they may be questioned, opposed, and resisted, who use unjust force, though they pretend a commission from him, which the law authorizes not; as is plain in the case of him that has the king’s writ to arrest a man, which is a full commission from the king; and yet he that has it cannot break open a man’s house to do it, nor execute this command of the king upon certain days, nor in certain places, though this commission have no such exception in it; but they are the limitations of the law, which if any one transgress, the king’s commission excuses him not: for the king’s authority being given him only by the law, he cannot impower any one to act against the law, or justify him, by his commission, in so doing; the commission, or command of any magistrate, where he has no authority, being as void and insignificant, as that of any private man; the difference between the one and the other being that the magistrate has some authority so far, and to such ends, and the private man has none at all: for it is not the commission, but the authority, that gives the right of acting; and against the laws there can be no authority. But, notwithstanding such resistance, the king’s person and authority are still both secured, and so no danger to governor or government.  

For those on a tyrant’s staff, one of the best ways to resist an unjust or illegal command of the tyrant is to do nothing. Whenever doing nothing can stop the tyrant in his tracks, this is a very attractive option.

3. Exhaust opportunities for appeal before taking up arms.

§. 207. Thirdly, Supposing a government wherein the person of the chief magistrate is not thus sacred; yet this doctrine of the lawfulness of resisting all unlawful exercises of his power, will not upon every slight occasion indanger him, or imbroil the government: for where the injured party may be relieved, and his damages repaired by appeal to the law, there can be no pretence for force, which is only to be used where a man is intercepted from appealing to the law: for nothing is to be accounted hostile force, but where it leaves not the remedy of such an appeal; and it is such force alone, that puts him that uses it into a state of war, and makes it lawful to resist him. A man with a sword in his hand demands my purse on the highway, when perhaps I have not twelve pence in my pocket: this man I may lawfully kill. To another I deliver 100l. to hold only whilst I alight, which he refuses to restore me, when I am got up again, but draws his sword to defend the possession of it by force, if I endeavour to retake it. The mischief this man does me is a hundred, or possibly a thousand times more than the other perhaps intended me (whom I killed before he really did me any;) and yet I might lawfully kill the one, and cannot so much as hurt the other lawfully. The reason whereof is plain; because the one using force, which threatened my life, I could not have time to appeal to the law to secure it: and when it was gone, it was too late to appeal. The law could not restore life to my dead carcass: the loss was irreparable; which to prevent, the law of nature gave me a right to destroy him, who had put himself into a state of war with me, and threatened my destruction. But in the other case, my life not being in danger, I may have the benefit of appealing to the law, and have reparation for my 100l. that way.  

A key test of how bad a tyrant is is whether the tyrant tries to interfere with an appeal of his decision to a court of law.

4. Enforce the law yourself before taking up arms in civil war.

§. 208. Fourthly, But if the unlawful acts done by the magistrate be maintained (by the power he has got,) and the remedy which is due by law be by the same power obstructed; yet the right of resisting, even in such manifest acts of tyranny, will not suddenly, or on slight occasions, disturb the government: for if it reach no farther than some private men’s cases, though they have a right to defend themselves, and to recover by force what by unlawful force is taken from them; yet the right to do so will not easily engage them in a contest, wherein they are sure to perish; it being as impossible for one, or a few oppressed men to disturb the government, where the body of the people do not think themselves concerned in it, as for a raving madman, or heady malcontent to overturn a well-settled state: the people being as little apt to follow the one, as the other.  

To distil this into a maxim: “Don’t be a rebel when you can be a vigilante instead.”

5. Take up arms in civil war only if the tyranny is systematic.

§. 209. But if either these illegal acts have extended to the majority of the people; or if the mischief and oppression has lighted only on some few, but in such cases, as the precedent, and consequences seem to threaten all; and they are persuaded in their consciences, that their laws, and with them their estates, liberties, and lives are in danger, and perhaps their religion too; how they will be hindered from resisting illegal force, used against them, I cannot tell. This is an inconvenience, I confess, that attends all governments whatsoever, when the governors have brought it to this pass, to be generally suspected of their people; the most dangerous state which they can possibly put themselves in; wherein they are the less to be pitied, because it is so easy to be avoided; it being as impossible for a governor, if he really means the good of his people, and the preservation of them, and their laws together, not to make them see and feel it, as it is for the father of a family, not to let his children see he loves, and takes care of them.  

§. 210. But if all the world shall observe pretences of one kind, and actions of another; arts used to elude the law, and the trust of prerogative (which is an arbitrary power in some things left in the prince’s hand to do good, not harm to the people) employed contrary to the end for which it was given: if the people shall find the ministers and subordinate magistrates chosen suitable to such ends, and favoured, or laid by, proportionably as they promote or oppose them: if they see several experiments made of arbitrary power, and that religion underhand favoured, (though publicly proclaimed against) which is readiest to introduce it; and the operators in it supported, as much as may be; and when that cannot be done, yet approved still, and liked the better: if a long train of actions shew the councils all tending that way; how can a man any more hinder himself from being persuaded in his own mind, which way things are going; or from casting about how to save himself, than he could from believing the captain of the ship he was in was carrying him, and the rest of his company to Algiers, when he found him always steering that course, though cross winds, leaks in his ship, and want of men and provisions did often force him to turn his course another way for some time, which he steadily returned to again, as soon as the wind, weather, and other circumstances would let him?

To me, a key sign of whether the tyranny is systematic is whether resisting often leads the tyrant to give in and do better, or whether resisting leads to an escalation on the part of the tyrant against those who are resisting. Escalation by a tyrant goes a long way toward making the tyranny systematic, which, if carried far enough, may justify taking up arms against the tyrant.

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

On the Epistemology of Diet and Health: Miles Refuses to `Stay in His Lane’

What happens when someone from outside a field engages in debate with those inside the field? It depends. The more self-confident a discipline is, the more those in the field will simply point out errors in fact and logic. The less self-confident a discipline is, the more it will circle the wagons and try to exclude scholars based on lack of the approved credentials.

In general, I think allowing disciplines to keep folks from other disciplines out is dangerous. In my view, every important scientific question needs at least two disciplines looking at it. The different incentives in those two disciplines then gives some hope that there will be a bit of competition and some difference in perspectives.

Today, I thought it would be entertaining to show you some of the abuse that has been heaped on me for daring to get involved in thinking about diet and health without bowing down to those who have credentials in the field of nutrition.

For perspective, I need to emphasize that for my purpose today, the tweets below focus on the most negative moments in the Twitter discussions. There were some good substantive discussions along the way and usually a degree of rapprochement toward the end of each Twitter discussion. So people can rise above this type of exclusionary credentialism that claims a scientific monopoly on certain questions for a field. But people’s initial reflexes are often quite contrary to the ideals I personally have for open intellectual debate. You will get some sense of the ideals I have for open intellectual debate in my tweets below.

I should also note that sometimes when people are helpful and send me links so I can see more clearly what they are thinking, I discover that I have been in the middle of a scientific debate within the field. Rather than saying something ridiculous, I find I am saying what one side of the debate within the field is saying. In any case, expressing and acting on a view is a great way to get corrected, challenged, or to begin to get relevant data or experience.

Finally, note the circularity in some of the debate below. The starting point is debating whether Jason Fung encouraging people to experiment with a 28-day fast could possibly be reasonable. Then people question my credentials. I say it is really Jason Fung’s credentials that are at issue, and that he is an MD. Then someone says his credentials are worthless because he is encouraging people to experiment with a 28-day fast. I would submit that Jason Fung has a lot more experience with seeing what happens with 28-day fasts than everyone else in this Twitter discussion.

By the way, don’t try a fast longer than 48 hours without reading Jason’s books (and the cautions in them) first. And I can also warn you that if you don’t make the transition to a low-insulin-index diet first, fasting even 24 hours is likely to be miserable. See my section of links on “The Basics” at the bottom of the post.


Don’t miss my other posts on diet and health:

I. The Basics

II. Sugar as a Slow Poison

III. Anti-Cancer Eating

IV. Eating Tips

V. Calories In/Calories Out

VI. Other Health Issues

VII. Wonkish

VIII. Debates about Particular Foods and about Exercise

IX. Gary Taubes

X. Twitter Discussions

XI. On My Interest in Diet and Health

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 “Diana Kimball: Listening Creates Possibilities and my post "A Barycentric Autobiography.

Who Leaves Mormonism?

Stephen Cranney’s BYU Studies article “Who Is Leaving the Church? Demographic Predictors of Ex–Latter-day Saint Status in the Pew Religious Landscape Survey” not only answers an interesting question, but also provides some basic lessons on interpreting statistics. In as close to a representative sample of the US population as any survey that provides the needed data, he compares 191 people who grew up Mormon who no longer self-identify as Mormons and 379 who grew up Mormon and still think of themselves as Mormons. (Let me say that I refuse to accommodate current Mormon Church President Russell Nelson’s disavowal of the nickname “Mormon.” An earlier Mormon Church President Gordon B. Hinckley embraced the nickname “Mormon.”)

On overall numbers leaving, Stephen points out that it is roughly the same as the number of converts, so that growth of Mormonism in the US is largely from natural increase: births minus deaths. (Mormons still have relatively high fertility and are younger than population averages, so natural increase is substantial.)

Stephen asks the interesting question of what religious status ex-Mormons go to. The answer (with some sampling error in it) is:

  • 58% went to “no religion” or unaffiliated

  • 18% went to evangelical Protestant denominations

  • 8% went to Mainline Protestant denominations

  • 10% went to generic Christianity

  • That leaves about 6%, about equally split between becoming Buddhists, joining a Mormon splinter group or going to some other religion not listed above.

Stephen’s Table 2 in this article gives a logit for predictors of leaving Mormonism rather than staying, among this sample of individuals who all grew up in Mormonism. I favor the logit that includes all covariates at once: the rightmost column. Stephen makes no multiple hypothesis testing correction, but the hypotheses he is testing are natural enough that at least I am not worried about a lot of hidden hypotheses that are not reported.

In my own research with coauthors, I have found using a false-discovery-rate (FDR) threshold to be so convenient and practical that there isn’t much of an excuse for anyone to neglect making multiple-hypothesis-testing corrections any more. (I hope to do a blog post in the future on using the false discovery rate approach.) A false discovery rate of x% means that on average no more than x% of the claims made are likely to be false. The more claims made, the more total claims are likely to be false, but the percentage of claims that are false in expectation is below the threshold.

Doing the false-discovery-rate approach myself, I can see that in the rightmost column of Table 2, everything with *** is significant with a false-discovery-rate threshold of no more than 1.5%, everything with ** is significant with a false-discovery-rate threshold of no more than 3.75%, and everything with * is significant with a false-discovery-rate threshold of no more than 15%. (Mechanically, take the p-value for which the significance level reported in the table is a ceiling, multiply by the number of hypotheses tested—15—then divide by the number of claims made up to that point, including the current claim, when they are made starting from the lowest p-value and going up. One of the ***s is the first claim. The ** is the fourth claim. The * with the lowest p-value is the fifth claim. There are some caveats to this procedure, but it is generally quite accurate.)

Given that in this case am not worried about hidden hypotheses that were tested, found wanting and then put in a drawer, these significance levels are adequate.

Here are the results, from ones we are more sure of, to those we are less sure of, with some of Stephen’s interpretative comments.

FDR threshold of no more than 1.5%

Cohabiting and divorce are correlated with leaving Mormonism. Stephen is admirably cautious about interpreting this:

Because there is no information on when people left the Church, it is difficult to speculate about why ex–Latter-day Saints tend to be divorced more than those who remain in the Church. It is theoretically plausible that the trauma of undergoing a divorce led to a loss of faith, activity, and ultimately identification with the Church; it is also possible that a loss of faith led to intermarital strife with a member spouse; finally, it is possible that Latter-day Saint marriages tend to have lower divorce rates overall. Some incidental support exists for this last point in the fact that the Latter-day Saint sample here has a significantly lower chance of being in the divorced category than the general non–Latter-day Saint PRLS sample, whereas the ex–Latter-day Saint sample does not show a statistically significant difference with the general sample. This suggests that ex-members may simply lose whatever Latter-day Saint–specific protections against divorce that may exist.

Political liberalism is correlated with leaving Mormonism. Stephen is careful to put things in perspective:

Ex–Latter-day Saints do appear to be more liberal than those who stay (see tables 1 and 2). However, the political switch may be less of a switch from “conservative” to “liberal” than from “conservative” to “moderate.” Contrary to stereotypes about liberal ex–Latter-day Saints, many ex–Latter-day Saints (27 percent) still identify as politically conservative, with 39 percent identifying as political moderates, and only a minority (35 percent) identifying as politically liberal.

While on their face the political findings support the familiar narrative of liberal latter-day Saints leaving over social issues, the fact that only a minority of ex–Latter-day Saints identify as liberals and that hardly any of them switch to liberal Protestant denominations nuances this perspective. While social issues are undoubtedly salient for some people’s exodus from the Church, it is likely that this narrative receives a disproportion- ate amount of attention in informal and online discourse on this subject, and the size of the liberal Latter-day Saint exodus over social issues should not be exaggerated.

FDR threshold of no more than 3.75%

High education predicts a lower probability of leaving Mormonism. Again, Stephen is admirably cautious in interpreting this result:

In the summary statistics, ex–Latter-day Saints tend to be less educated, with lower income. While distinct, these findings conceptually support prior research that has shown that, unlike most religions, for Latter-day Saints education is positively associated with activity.4 However, when education is controlled for, income becomes insignificant, suggesting that those who stay in the Church are wealthier because they are more educated.

… there are a number of theoretically plausible stories for why ex–Latter-day Saints tend to be less educated and have lower incomes. It could be that there is a Latter-day Saint emphasis on education and occupational success that leads to higher incomes and more education, or it could be that people are more likely to stay in the Church if the lifestyle is working out for them socioeconomically.

FDR threshold of no more than 15%

Men are less likely to leave Mormonism. For most of those who grow up in Mormonism, gender can be taken as fairly exogenous. Given the controversies about how Mormonism treats women, one might have thought that women would be more likely to leave. Here is what Stephen says about that:

Related to the issue of leaving over social issues is the question of gender. For a religion with an all-male priesthood that treats the notion of gender seriously, it is worth investigating whether women are more likely to leave than men. In this sample, men are overrepresented among those who have left; these results comport with prior findings in the large American Religious Identification Survey that men tend to disproportionately leave the Church.2 This difference may be a Latter-day Saint– specific manifestation of the fact that in the United States men tend to be less religious than women.

Older people are more likely to have left Mormonism. Stephen tends to dismiss this finding because he focuses less than I do on the logit with everything in it. I think this is real, because a simple hazard model would suggest that if one is ever going to leave Mormonism, having more time pass makes that more likely to have happened already. (Even if some people return to Mormonism after having left, when starting with a group that are 100% Mormon in childhood, there is likely to be convergence—which is most likely to be monotonic—to a higher fraction non-Mormon.)

Those living in Utah are less likely to have left Mormonism. Stephen explains the interpretive issues:

Ex–Latter-day Saints also appear to be less likely to reside in Utah in the summary statistics (34 percent versus 26 percent, but this barely misses the cutoff for significance at p = .065), and the Utah effect is sporadically significant in the regression analysis, suggesting that, whether because they are more likely to leave when growing up outside of Utah or because they are more likely to move outside of Utah after they leave (or a combination of both), ex–Latter-day Saints are disproportionately found outside of Utah compared to Latter-day Saints who did not leave.

Being Hispanic is not associated with leaving Mormonism (in a sizeable enough way to be reliably detected in this size of sample), but being Black non-Hispanic or of a race other than White, Black or non-Black Hispanic is correlated with leaving Mormonism. Here is what Stephen writes about that:

Finally, the racial effects found here lend themselves to any number of interpretations, but perhaps the most reasonable is that being a racial minority in a predominantly white Church may cause its own stresses that make continued activity and identification with the Church less likely.

A bit of background here that Stephen doesn’t here is that the Mormon Church is thriving in Latin American countries and the Mormon Church has many congregations with church services conducted in Spanish in the US, so that Hispanics in the US may feel somewhat less like outsider minorities in the Mormon Church than their raw numbers (4%) suggest.


Don't miss these posts on Mormonism:

Also see the links in "Hal Boyd: The Ignorance of Mocking Mormonism."

Don’t miss these Unitarian-Universalist sermons by Miles:

By self-identification, I left Mormonism for Unitarian Universalism in 2000, at the age of 40. I have had the good fortune to be a lay preacher in Unitarian Universalism. I have posted many of my Unitarian-Universalist sermons on this blog.

Don’t miss these guest posts on Mormonism by my brother Chris Kimball:

In addition, Chris is my coauthor for








Paul Serusier's 'Talisman' of Modern Art

‘Landscape at the Bois d’Amour’ or ‘Le Talisman’ (1888), by Paul Sérusier     Link to the Wall Street Journal article on this painting by Mary Tompkins Lewis

‘Landscape at the Bois d’Amour’ or ‘Le Talisman’ (1888), by Paul Sérusier

Link to the Wall Street Journal article on this painting by Mary Tompkins Lewis

In her Wall Street Journal article, “A Mythic Moment in Modern Painting,” Mary Tompkins Lewis writes:

When Sérusier presented the panel at the Académie Julian in Paris, his peers were stunned and immediately pronounced it “Le Talisman,” as it precipitated the approach they would adopt thereafter in their work. These young artists, including Pierre Bonnard and Edouard Vuillard, would become known, along with Denis and Sérusier, as the “Nabis” (from the Hebrew term for “prophets”) and truly saw themselves as heralds of a fundamentally new kind of art. They formed a secret fraternity organized around esoteric rituals and proclamations, and initiated a collective artistic movement across a variety of media that was marked by its powerful aesthetic unity. The tiny panel, which hung on a wall of the Paris meeting place they christened “The Temple,” was never exhibited, but preserved as an artifact of their origins.

Defeating Donald Trump in the 2020 Election is Better for the Nation than Impeaching Him

I want to be on record with my view that although Donald Trump amply deserves to be thrown out of office by an impeachment process, pursuing impeachment is unwise not only for the Democratic Party, but for the nation. To articulate my view I will simply second what Jonathan Bernstein, Peggy Noonan and Benjamin Wittes say in the article above.

On judgments of the gravity of specific actions by Donald, the article by Benjamin Wittes, “Five Things I Learned from the Mueller Report” is excellent. I won’t try to retail what he says in detail, only recommend that you read what he says.

For an overall judgment, let me quote Peggy Noonan: this is both behind a paywall and is a judgment by someone whose GOP bona fides are difficult to question, let me quote Peggy Noonan:

And so a closing word on the Mueller report. I have thought since the beginning that appointing a special counsel to investigate Russian interference in the 2016 election was right and justified; that Robert Mueller was an excellent choice because of his experience and integrity. Also his age and stage. He was a patriot looking to finish a distinguished career with integrity. He hired killers, tough lawyers and investigators who were hunting the whale and intended to harpoon it. They did everything they could to get the story. What they produced is a more dreadful portrait of Mr. Trump than his supporters will know, because most Americans won’t read it. …

Should the Democrats move to impeach? No, not for reasons of merit but of national interest.

Peggy’s last pair of sentences is convoluted, so let me parse it carefully. She asks, should the Democrats move to impeach. Then she say, no the shouldn’t move to impeach because of national interest, but that it cannot be said that an impeachment would not be warranted on the merits. By implication, her view is that impeachment would be justified on the merits, or at least that a view that impeachment is merited is quite a reasonable view.

To back up her claim that impeachment is against the national interest, Peggy says that many people would see it (perhaps wrongly) as an effort to overturn election results. And since the next election is close, it is better to limit the bad effects of those 2016 election results by means of the 2020 election than by impeachment:

It is 2019. We elect a president in 2020.

On the wisdom of impeachment, Jonathan Bernstein makes the point that impeachment could actually get in the way of highlighting questionable things that Donald does. First, he lays out what he is arguing for:

Yes, there’s a good case — a very good case — an extremely good case — that Trump has acted contrary to his oath of office and deserves impeachment and removal. … But for now at least, Republicans are not going to vote for impeachment, and so we’re talking about a partisan impeachment and a partisan acquittal.

That’s a path that has no advantages for Democrats before, during or after impeachment.

Here are his arguments to back that up:

  • … what matters at this stage is whether Democrats can find ways to publicize Trump’s malfeasance, in hopes of both hurting Trump’s popularity and of finding new allies among any weak Trump supporters among congressional Republicans.

    One reason that doing that in the context of impeachment is harder is that it makes some potentially unpopular Trump actions irrelevant — that is, if they aren’t specifically among the impeachment charges.

  • Impeachment also creates a framing of the question that makes it easier for Republicans to remain unified, and may even lose support among some neutral outside opinion leaders. It immediately changes the overriding question from whether Trump (and others within his campaign and his administration) behaved well or badly in any actions the Democrats choose to publicize — a framing which may make it difficult for people to stick with Trump — to the question of whether actions are worthy of removal.

  • The Senate, and not the House, would set the rules under which a trial was held … A Senate trial of Donald Trump might well wind up dominated by Republican conspiracy theories about the Department of Justice and the FBI, supported by “evidence” from witnesses selected by the president’s lawyers, with rules for questioning that tilt strongly toward Trump and the Republicans.

  • … after a party-line vote to acquit? Trump would surely take that as an indicator that he could continue with every one of his assaults on the rule of law and the Constitution, not only safe from an implausible second impeachment, but with the assurance that the Senate had certified all his actions to date as perfectly acceptable. 

  • Even continued oversight hearings on any Trump abuse up through the impeachment would be difficult to justify after bringing him to trial and losing.

  • It’s true that failing to use the congressional power of impeachment under current conditions would reveal it to be a very weak power indeed. But very weak isn’t the same thing as totally useless. Keeping the threat of it alive, even if it’s not much of a threat, is still better than removing it as an option altogether, which would be the case following a partisan impeachment and acquittal.

  • … impeachment is no magic pill that achieves anything just by invoking it. The fight for the Constitution and the rule of law is the correct fight for the House to take up, but so far impeachment just isn’t the right weapon to be using.

Besides continuing to shine a light on Donald’s bad behavior, another component to an alternative to impeachment is prosecution after Donald leaves office. If this option is pursued, it should be made clear that it is being pursued because of especially egregious actions on Donald’s part, because in general prosecution of presidents after they leave office is a bad precedent. Even if in the US a president would have to leave office even if he had a deep fear of being thrown in jail afterwards, in many countries a fear of being thrown in jail if one leaves office is a potent incentive to hang on to power at all costs, damn the constitution. And in the future, good people who know that as president they will have to make hard, controversial decisions might choose not to run for president because they fear they would be prosecuted for some of those hard, controversial decisions after they left office. And finally, the prosecution of ex-presidents is a sure ticket to even greater political polarization.

Barring an escalation of malfeasance that leads a score of Republican senators to turn decisively against Donald, the feasible, safe and powerful penalty for Donald is to be defeated in his bid for reelection. I do not mean this in a partisan way. It would be wonderful if Donald were defeated in the Republican primaries; any Democrat who loves their country should breathe a big sigh of relief along with me in that unlikely event, to know that Donald would not continue to lead this country for another four years, whatever happened in the general election.

In closing, let me distinguish between policy disagreements and even moral disagreements I have with Donald and what we are talking about here. I think trade wars are unwise, and treating noncitizens as less then full human beings is immoral. But it is Donald’s treating the written and unwritten guardrails of that hold our political system with disrespect that is the most dangerous aspect of his behavior. Trade wars and mistreating human beings are great evils now. But a fraying of our political system could lead to even worse evils later.

Sutton, Beyl, Early, Cefalu, Ravussin and Peterson: Early Time-Restricted Feeding Improves Insulin Sensitivity, Blood Pressure, and Oxidative Stress Even without Weight Loss in Men with Prediabetes

Image source   : the article shown below

Image source: the article shown below

The topics of my diet and health posts often touch on areas where research is sorely lacking. One bright spot in the research outlook is that a great deal of research is being done on short-term fasting. The introductory paragraph to the June 2018 Cell Metabolism article “Early Time-Restricted Feeding Improves Insulin Sensitivity, Blood Pressure, and Oxidative Stress Even without Weight Loss in Men with Prediabetes” by Elizabeth F.Sutton, Robbie Beyl, Kate S. Early, William T. Cefalu, EricRavussin, and Courtney M.Peterson gives a nice rundown of recent work in this area. To make the paragraph easier to read, I have bolded everything that is not a list of citations:

Intermittent fasting (IF)—the practice of alternating periods of eating and fasting—has emerged as an effective therapeutic strategy for improving multiple cardiometabolic endpoints in rodent models of disease, ranging from insulin sensitivity and ectopic fat accumulation to hard endpoints such as stroke and diabetes incidence (Antoni et al., 2017Harvie and Howell, 2017Mattson et al., 2017Patterson and Sears, 2017). The first clinical trials of IF in humans began about a decade ago, including trials on alternate-day fasting (Catenacci et al., 2016Heilbronn et al., 2005aHeilbronn et al., 2005b), alternate-day modified fasting (ADMF) (Bhutani et al., 2013Eshghinia and Mohammadzadeh, 2013Halberg et al., 2005Hoddy et al., 2014Hoddy et al., 2016Johnson et al., 2007Klempel et al., 2013Kroeger et al., 2018Soeters et al., 2009Trepanowski et al., 2017aTrepanowski et al., 2017bVarady et al., 2009Varady et al., 2013Wegman et al., 2015), the 5:2 diet (Carter et al., 2016Harvie et al., 2011Harvie et al., 2013Harvie et al., 2016), and the fasting-mimicking diet (Brandhorst et al., 2015Choi et al., 2016Wei et al., 2017Williams et al., 1998). Data from these trials suggest that IF has similar benefits in humans: IF can reduce body weight or body fat, improve insulin sensitivity, reduce glucose and/or insulin levelslower blood pressure, improve lipid profiles, and reduce markers of inflammation and oxidative stress (Bhutani et al., 2013Brandhorst et al., 2015Carter et al., 2016Catenacci et al., 2016Eshghinia and Mohammadzadeh, 2013Halberg et al., 2005Harvie et al., 2011Harvie et al., 2013Harvie et al., 2016Heilbronn et al., 2005aHeilbronn et al., 2005bHoddy et al., 2014Hoddy et al., 2016Johnson et al., 2007Klempel et al., 2013Trepanowski et al., 2017bVarady et al., 2009Varady et al., 2013Wegman et al., 2015Wei et al., 2017Williams et al., 1998).

I find the topic of “early time-restricted feeding” especially interesting because my typical pattern qualifies as “early time-restricted feeding”: on days when I am working at home, I try to have an eating window from about 11 AM to 3 PM. Sutton, Beyl, Early, Cefalu, Ravussin and Peterson give this summary of previous research on time-restricted feeding (TRF) in general (again I have bolded everything that is not citations):

TRF is a type of IF that extends the daily fasting period between dinner and breakfast the following morning, and, unlike most forms of IF, it can be practiced either with or without reducing calorie intake and losing weight. Since the median American eats over a 12-hr period (Kant and Graubard, 2014), we define TRF as a form of IF that involves limiting daily food intake to a period of 10 hr or less, followed by a daily fast of at least 14 hr. Studies in rodents using feeding windows of 3–10 hr report that TRF reduces body weight, increases energy expenditure, improves glycemic control, lowers insulin levels, reduces hepatic fat, prevents hyperlipidemia, reduces infarct volume after stroke, and improves inflammatory markers, relative to grazing on food throughout the day (Belkacemi et al., 2010Belkacemi et al., 2011Belkacemi et al., 2012Chung et al., 2016Duncan et al., 2016García-Luna et al., 2017Hatori et al., 2012Kudo et al., 2004Manzanero et al., 2014Olsen et al., 2017Park et al., 2017Philippens et al., 1977Sherman et al., 2011Sherman et al., 2012Sundaram and Yan, 2016Woodie et al., 2017Wu et al., 2011Zarrinpar et al., 2014). We chose to test TRF over other forms of IF in part because TRF consistently improves health endpoints in rodents, even when food intake and/or body weight is matched to the control group (Belkacemi et al., 2012Hatori et al., 2012Olsen et al., 2017Sherman et al., 2012Woodie et al., 2017Wu et al., 2011Zarrinpar et al., 2014).

The four previous human trials of a short eating window suggested that restricting eating to the middle of the day yielded good outcomes, while restricting eating to the end of the day didn’t improve things that much. So Sutton, Beyl, Early, Cefalu, Ravussin and Peterson decided to study early time-restricted feeding (eTRF). They also made three other key decisions. First, they wouldn’t try to study whether people could adhere to a short eating window on their own, nor would they try to keep people in the metabolic ward. They used the in-between procedure of insisting study participants eat only food provided by the study staff and only in the presence of one of the study staff. Second, they were looking for health benefits that occurred even without any weight loss, and so gave participants enough food to keep their weight constant. Third, in their crossover study, each participant ate the same 3 meals each day over a 6-hour early eating window each day for 5 weeks as they ate each day over a 12-hour eating window for five weeks. The order of these two 5-week periods was randomized, and the two 5-week periods were separated by a 7-week washout period.

Unfortunately, they had a sample-size of only 8. They did find some good hints of effects across many measures, though. This that they mention in their abstract is only some of the results: “eTRF improved insulin sensitivity, β cell responsiveness, blood pressure, oxidative stress, and appetite.”

Another limitation of their study is that for at least 3 of the 5 weeks, study participants wouldn’t have been fully adapted to burning body fat during their 18-hours of no food. Fasting even 18 hours can be stressful on the body when one has not yet made the transition to metabolizing fat instead of carbs. (See my post “David Ludwig: It Takes Time to Adapt to a Lowcarb, Highfat Diet.” Burning body fat is likely to be similar metabolically to a highfat diet.)

I don’t find the restriction of their sample to people with prediabetes a serious limitation: a larger share of everyone who is overweight has some degree of insulin resistance, which is the key dimension of prediabetes. The limitation to only men with no women is a more serious limitation.

I find the comments the authors make about feasibility and acceptability interesting:

Participants also reported that the challenge of eating within 6 hr each day was more difficult than the challenge of fasting for 18 hr per day (difficulty scores: 65 ± 20 versus 29 ± 18 mm; p = 0.009). In fact, all but one participant reported that it was not difficult or only moderately difficult (<50 mm on a 100-mm scale) to fast for 18 hr daily. 

This matches my experience. Not eating at all is relatively easy, and it is hard to overeat in a short eating window.

It is fortunate that much more research on fasting is on its way.

Don’t miss my other posts on diet and health:

I. The Basics

II. Sugar as a Slow Poison

III. Anti-Cancer Eating

IV. Eating Tips

V. Calories In/Calories Out

VI. Other Health Issues

VII. Wonkish

VIII. Debates about Particular Foods and about Exercise

IX. Gary Taubes

X. Twitter Discussions

XI. On My Interest in Diet and Health

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 “Diana Kimball: Listening Creates Possibilities and my post "A Barycentric Autobiography.

John Locke: How to Recognize a Tyrant

Chapter XVIII of John Locke’s 2d Treatise on Government: Of Civil Government, “Of Tyranny,” discusses two marks of a tyrant: going beyond the law and working for their own (often unenlightened) self-interest rather than for the good of the people. John Locke says this several times in sections 199-202. I especially like this formulation:

… the difference betwixt a king and a tyrant to consist only in this, that one makes the laws the bounds of his power, and the good of the public, the end of his government; the other makes all give way to his own will and appetite.  

Drawing from sections 199-202, which you can see below, let me collect descriptors for a lawful ruler and a tyrant here:

Lawful Ruler(s):

  • making use of power for the good of those who are under it

  • commands and actions directed to the preservation of the properties of his people

  • the law as the rule

  • acknowledges himself to be ordained for the procuring of the wealth and property of his people

  • bound to protect as well the people, as the laws of his kingdom

  • glad to bound themselves within the limits of their laws

  • makes the laws the bounds of his power, and the good of the public, the end of his government

  • uses power for the preservation of the properties of the people

Tyrant(s):

  • exercise of power beyond right

  • making use of power for private separate advantage

  • his will the rule

  • commands and actions for the satisfaction of his own ambition, revenge, covetousness, or any other irregular passion.  

  • thinks his kingdom and people are only ordained for satisfaction of his desires and unreasonable appetites

  • makes all give way to his own will and appetite

  • uses power to impoverish, harass, or subdue them to the arbitrary and irregular commands of those that have it

  • transgresses law to another’s harm

  • exceeds the power given him by the law, and makes use of the force he has under his command, to compass that upon the subject, which the law allows not

In section 202, John Locke argues that rulers bear a greater responsibility to obey the law and further the public good the more power they have. Great power does not absolve them of responsibility:

… the exceeding the bounds of authority is no more a right in a great, than in a petty officer; no more justifiable in a king than a constable; but is so much the worse in him, in that he has more trust put in him, has already a much greater share than the rest of his brethren, and is supposed, from the advantages of his education, employment, and counsellors, to be more knowing in the measures of right and wrong.

Below is the context for all of these points I have drawn out:

§. 199. AS usurpation is the exercise of power, which another hath a right to; so tyranny is the exercise of power beyond right, which nobody can have a right to. And this is making use of the power any one has in his hands, not for the good of those who are under it, but for his own private separate advantage. When the governor, however intitled, makes not the law, but his will the rule; and his commands and actions are not directed to the preservation of the properties of his people, but the satisfaction of his own ambition, revenge, covetousness, or any other irregular passion.  

§. 200. If one can doubt this to be truth, or reason, because it comes from the obscure hand of a subject, I hope the authority of a king will make it pass with him. King James the First, in his speech to the parliament, 1603, tells them thus, “I will ever prefer the weal of the public, and of the whole commonwealth, in making of good laws and constitutions, to any particular and private ends of mine; thinking ever the wealth and weal of the commonwealth to be my greatest weal and worldly felicity; a point wherein a lawful king doth directly differ from a tyrant: for I do acknowledge that the special and greatest point of difference that is between a rightful king and an usurping tyrant, is this, that whereas the proud and ambitious tyrant doth think his kingdom and people are only ordained for satisfaction of his desires and unreasonable appetites, the righteous and just king doth by the contrary acknowledge himself to be ordained for the procuring of the wealth and property of his people.” And again, in his speech to the parliament, 1609, he hath these words, “The king binds himself by a double oath, to the observation of the fundamental laws of his kingdom; tacitly, as by being a king, and so bound to protect as well the people, as the laws of his kingdom; and expressly, by his oath at his coronation; so as every just king, in a settled kingdom, is bound to observe that paction to his people, by his laws, in framing his government agreeable thereunto, according to that paction which God made with Noah after the deluge. Hereafter, seed-time and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and night, shall not cease while the earth remaineth. And therefore a king governing in a settled kingdom, leaves to be a king, and degenerates into a tyrant, as soon as he leaves off to rule according to his laws.” And a little after, “Therefore all kings that are not tyrants, or perjured, will be glad to bound themselves within the limits of their laws; and they that persuade them the contrary, are vipers, and pests both against them and the commonwealth.” Thus that learned king, who well understood the notion of things, makes the difference betwixt a king and a tyrant to consist only in this, that one makes the laws the bounds of his power, and the good of the public, the end of his government; the other makes all give way to his own will and appetite.  

§. 201. It is a mistake, to think this fault is proper only to monarchies: other forms of government are liable to it, as well as that: for wherever the power, that is put in any hands for the government of the people, and the preservation of their properties, is applied to other ends, and made use of to impoverish, harass, or subdue them to the arbitrary and irregular commands of those that have it; there it presently becomes tyranny, whether those that thus use it are one or many. Thus we read of the thirty tyrants at Athens, as well as one at Syracuse; and the intolerable dominion of the Decemviri at Rome was nothing better.  

§. 202. Wherever law ends, tyranny begins, if the law be transgressed to another’s harm; and him whosoever in authority exceeds the power given him by the law, and makes use of the force he has under his command, to compass that upon the subject, which the law allows not, ceases in that to be a magistrate; and, acting without authority, may be opposed, as any other man, who by force invades the right of another. This is acknowledged in subordinate magistrates. He that hath authority to seize my person in the street, may be opposed as a thief and a robber, if he endeavours to break into my house to execute a writ, notwithstanding that I know he has such a warrant, and such a legal authority, as will impower him to arrest me abroad. And why this should not hold in the highest, as well as in the most inferior magistrate, I would gladly be informed. Is it reasonable, that the eldest brother, because he has the greatest part of his father’s estate, should thereby have a right to take away any of his younger brothers’ portions? or that a rich man, who possessed a whole country, should from thence have a right to seize, when he pleased, the cottage and garden of his poor neighbour? The being rightfully possessed of great power and riches, exceedingly beyond the greatest part of the sons of Adam, is so far from being an excuse, much less a reason, for rapine and oppression, which the endamaging another without authority is, that it is a great aggravation of it: for the exceeding the bounds of authority is no more a right in a great, than in a petty officer; no more justifiable in a king than a constable; but is so much the worse in him, in that he has more trust put in him, has already a much greater share than the rest of his brethren, and is supposed, from the advantages of his education, employment, and counsellors, to be more knowing in the measures of right and wrong.

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

Ruchir Agarwal and Miles Kimball—Enabling Deep Negative Rates to Fight Recessions: A Guide

My latest paper with Ruchir Agarwal on negative interest rate policy is out as an IMF Working Paper: “Enabling Deep Negative Rates to Fight Recessions: A Guide.” If you read one thing about negative interest rate policy, read this paper. I do have to warn you that it is quite a long paper! Ruchir and I tried to be as comprehensive as we knew how on issues around negative interest rate policy without getting too formal. (Our next priority is precisely to do more formal modeling.)

If you want to start by reading or listening to something shorter, or want more after you have finished this paper, take a look at the links and other resources in my bibliographic post “How and Why to Eliminate the Zero Lower Bound: A Reader’s Guide.” This is the post my “Neg Rates” link at the top of my blog goes to. I just updated it.

We thank many people for giving us helpful comments on early drafts of the paper. In terms of the magnitude of contribution to how the paper turned out, Ken Rogoff, Matt Rognlie and seminar audiences at Harvard, MIT, Brown and BU in Fall 2018 had the biggest impact on the paper.

Let me say something strong: No one should pretend they know what they are talking about in relation to negative interest rate policy without having read this paper. Anyone who does read it and wants to offer a critique to what we wrote, Ruchir and I will take seriously.

David Ludwig: It Takes Time to Adapt to a Lowcarb, Highfat Diet

In my diet and health posts, I have emphasized fasting as a key tool for weight loss. I have also emphasized how much harder fasting is if one is eating a lot of carbs or other foods that have a high insulin index. (See “Forget Calorie Counting; It's the Insulin Index, Stupid” and “Why a Low-Insulin-Index Diet Isn't Exactly a 'Lowcarb' Diet.”) This is an issue over several time scales:

  1. Insulin secretion stimulated by high-insulin-index foods contributes to appetite in the next few hours.

  2. Eating carbs may make it tougher to convert over to body-fat burning over the course of the next day.

  3. In addition, David Ludwig, in his post “Adapting to Fat on a Low-Carb Diet,” discusses evidence that for people who have, in general, been eating a highcarb diet, it takes at least three weeks to adjust to powering the brain from fat instead of powering the brain from carbs.

What this means is that you should go off sugar and be eating low on the insulin index in other dimensions for at least three weeks (and I would recommend at least six weeks) before trying to add fasting to your health and weight-loss regimen. That is, worry about “Letting Go of Sugar” and otherwise eating low on the insulin index for six weeks before trying to incorporate the insights of “Stop Counting Calories; It's the Clock that Counts,” “Jason Fung's Single Best Weight Loss Tip: Don't Eat All the Time” and “Lisa Drayer: Is Fasting the Fountain of Youth?” into your life. (“Obesity Is Always and Everywhere an Insulin Phenomenon” and “4 Propositions on Weight Loss talk about both steps.)

Another consequence if this at-least-three-week adaptation period for power the brain more from fat and less from carbs is that studies of lowcarb diets that last only a few weeks make lowcarb diets look worse than they really are. During the adjustment process, if your brain feels undernourished because it is used to carbs you are cutting back on, that could easily make you feel less energetic and raise your appetite. Think about metabolic ward studies in which what people eat is totally controlled. In metabolic ward studies of lowcarb, highfat diets versus lowfat, highcarb diets, the first three weeks of data will just be the adjustment period and should be disregarded if the sample is of people who are not initially adapted to a lowcarb, highfat diet. The two options for researchers is to run longer metabolic ward studies or to have a design with an initial sample drawn from two groups: one group drawn from people who have been doing a lowcarb, highfat diet for a long time in their regular life and the other group drawn from people who have been doing a lowfat highcarb diet. Then each group can be randomized in the metabolic ward into a lowcarb, highfat diet or a lowfat, highcarb diet. That randomizes each individual into either a diet similar in macronutrients to what they are used or to a diet that is quite different from what they are used to.

This matters for Kevin Hall’s and Juen Guo’s meta-analysis in “Obesity Energetics: Body Weight Regulation and the Effects of Diet Composition” of resting energy expenditure and other dimensions of energy expenditure with lowcarb, highfat versus lowfat highcarb diets. It is much easier to do short metabolic ward studies than long ones, and most metabolic ward studies have not tried to get samples of people who had distinctive dietary patterns in their regular lives before the studies. Therefore, their meta-analytic results are not the strong evidence it purports to be on the effect of these diets in the long run: if the bulk of the studies in a meta-analysis all have the same bias, that bias affects the meta-analytic summary results as well. It is not good enough to say something like “Metabolic ward studies lasting more than a few weeks are very hard to do.” Either you figure out a strategy that identifies differences between the effects of lowcarb, highfat diets and lowfat, highcarbs in the long run, or you say that the evidence can’t speak to the issue.

(When evidence is inadequate, people still need to decide what to do and often also make a decision on what to advise others to do. That is inevitable, but anyone doing so should freely admit the weakness of evidence when queried about it. And where theory comes in, they should freely explain the theoretical framework they are coming from in judging the evidence.)

An even more important research area is to look at the complementarity between lowcarb, highfat diets and fasting, both for effectiveness and for people’s ability to stick with the program.

Don’t miss my other posts on diet and health:

I. The Basics

II. Sugar as a Slow Poison

III. Anti-Cancer Eating

IV. Eating Tips

V. Calories In/Calories Out

VI. Other Health Issues

VII. Wonkish

VIII. Debates about Particular Foods and about Exercise

IX. Gary Taubes

X. Twitter Discussions

XI. On My Interest in Diet and Health

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 “Diana Kimball: Listening Creates Possibilities and my post "A Barycentric Autobiography.