2018's Most Popular Posts

The "Key Posts" link at the top of my blog lists all important posts through the end of 2016. Along with "2017's Most Popular Posts," this is intended as a complement to that list. (Also, my most popular storified Twitter discussions are here, and you can see other recent posts by clicking on the Archive link at the top of my blog.) I put links to the most popular posts from 2018 below into four groups: popular new posts in 2018 on diet and health, popular new posts in 2018 on other topics, and popular older posts in those two categories.

I am no stranger to bragging; however, I give statistics not to brag, but because I am a data hound. I would love to see corresponding statistics from other blogs that I follow! The numbers shown are pageviews in the first six months of 2018 according to Google Analytics. In that period, I had 313,231 pageviews total, of which 42,241 were pageviews for my blog homepage. 

New Posts in 2018 on Diet and Health

  1. How Fasting Can Starve Cancer Cells, While Leaving Normal Cells Unharmed  7034

  2. Why a Low-Insulin-Index Diet Isn't Exactly a 'Lowcarb' Diet  5707

  3. What Steven Gundry's Book 'The Plant Paradox' Adds to the Principles of a Low-Insulin-Index Diet 3038

  4. Stop Counting Calories; It's the Clock that Counts  4825

  5. The Case Against Sugar: Stephan Guyenet vs. Gary Taubes  2594

  6. Using the Glycemic Index as a Supplement to the Insulin Index  2469

  7. Intense Dark Chocolate: A Review  2065

  8. Vindicating Gary Taubes: A Smackdown of Seth Yoder 1428

  9. Is Milk OK?  1374

  10. 4 Propositions on Weight Loss 1281

  11. Why You Should Worry about Cancer Promotion by Diet as Much as You Worry about Cancer Initiation by Carcinogens  1180

  12. The Case Against the Case Against Sugar: Seth Yoder vs. Gary Taubes  1028

  13. Exorcising the Devil in the Milk 1016

  14. Which Is Worse for You: Sugar or Fat?  851

  15. My Giant Salad  774

  16. Our Delusions about 'Healthy' Snacks—Nuts to That!  772

  17. Letting Go of Sugar 703

  18. Carola Binder—Why You Should Get More Vitamin D: The Recommended Daily Allowance for Vitamin D Was Underestimated Due to Statistical Illiteracy  703

  19. A Barycentric Autobiography 702

  20. The Problem with Processed Food  700

  21. Diseases of Civilization  550

  22. My Annual Anti-Cancer Fast 516

  23. Best Health Guide: 10 Surprising Changes When You Quit Sugar 483

  24. How Sugar, Too Much Protein, Inflammation and Injury Could Drive Epigenetic Cellular Evolution Toward Cancer  398

  25. Good News! Cancer Cells are Metabolically Handicapped  374

  26. Hints for Healthy Eating from the Nurse's Health Study  372

  27. Carola Binder: The Obesity Code and Economists as General Practitioners 347

  28. A Conversation with David Brazel on Obesity Research  332

  29. Which Nonsugar Sweeteners are OK? An Insulin-Index Perspective 324

  30. The Trouble with Most Psychological Approaches to Weight Loss: They Assume the Biology is Obvious, When It Isn't 323

  31. Yes, Sugar is Really Bad for You 297

  32. The Heavy Non-Health Consequences of Heaviness  245

  33. Jason Fung's Single Best Weight Loss Tip: Don't Eat All the Time 241

  34. Gary Taubes Makes His Case to Nick Gillespie: How Big Sugar and a Misguided Government Wrecked the American Diet  241

  35. Eating on the Road 241

  36. Magic Bullets vs. Multifaceted Interventions for Economic Stimulus, Economic Development and Weight Loss  212

  37. Against Sugar: The Messenger and the Message 210

  38. Anthony Komaroff: The Microbiome and Risk for Obesity and Diabetes 206

  39. In Praise of Avocados 193

  40. Evidence that Gut Bacteria Affect the Brain 188

  41. Nina Teicholz on the Bankruptcy of Counting Calories 165

  42. Does Sugar Make Dietary Fat Less OK? 146

  43. Prevention is Much Easier Than Cure of Obesity 145

  44. Heidi Turner, Michael Schwartz and Kristen Domonell on How Bad Sugar Is 141

  45. How Important is A1 Milk Protein as a Public Health Issue? 117

  46. Black Bean Brownies 109

  47. Podcast: Miles Kimball Explains to Tracy Alloway and Joe Weisenthal Why Losing Weight Is Like Defeating Inflation 104

  48. 'Is Milk Ok?' Revisited 95

New Posts in 2018 on Other Topics

  1. Economist Twitter Stars 4978

  2. The Social Contract According to John Locke  4820

  3. On Teaching and Learning Macroeconomics  2906

  4. 2018 First Half's Most Popular Posts 2587

  5. John Locke: Freedom is Life; Slavery Can Be Justified Only as a Reprieve from Deserved Death  2285

  6. On the Achilles Heel of John Locke's Second Treatise: Slavery and Land Ownership  1226

  7. Must All Economics Papers Be Doorstoppers? 1059

  8. Gabriela D'Souza on Failure in Learning Math  988

  9. Marriage—Not for the Faint of Heart 930

  10. John Locke: The Purpose of Law Is Freedom  890

  11. John Locke on Legitimate Political Power  759

  12. William Strauss and Neil Howe's American Prophecy in 'The Fourth Turning: What the Cycles of History Tell Us About America's Next Rendezvous with Destiny' 678

  13. The Most Effective Memory Methods are Difficult—and That's Why They Work 606

  14. Noah Smith—The Replication Crisis in Economics: Even After Downloading the Same Data, Economists Don't Get the Same Answer 571

  15. The Shards of My Heart  566

  16. John Locke Against Natural Hierarchy 549

  17. John Locke and the Share of Land  530

  18. John Locke's Argument for Majority Rule 501

  19. Cousin Causality  407

  20. Critical Reading: Apprentice Level 400

  21. New Mormon Prophet Russell Nelson Shakes Things Up 386

  22. 2017's Most Popular Posts  377

  23. My Organized-Tweet Stories, In Order of Popularity, in Their Flight from a Dying Storify to the Haven of Wakelet  375

  24. On Perfectionism 348

  25. Gauti Eggertsson, Ragnar Juelsrud and Ella Getz Wold: Are Negative Nominal Interest Rates Expansionary?  340

  26. Martin Feldstein Shows Too Little Imagination about How to Tame the US National Debt  340

  27. A Conversation with Clint Folsom, Mayor of Superior, Colorado 332

  28. Tushar Kundu: Pulling America Back Together 329

  29. Robert Barro: Tax Reform Will Pay Growth Dividends 329

  30. On Rob Porter 327

  31. On Being a Good Guy 317

  32. Math Learning for Kids Who Have a Tough Time  307

  33. Christian Kimball: Revelation and Satan 306

  34. The Economist: Improvements in Productivity Need to Be Accommodated by Monetary Policy  296

  35. The Partitioned Matrix Inversion Formula  286

  36. John Locke Explains 'Lord of the Flies'  284

  37. Charles Murray on Taking Religion Seriously  281

  38. John Locke's Smackdown of Robert Filmer: Being a Father Doesn't Make Any Man a King 280

  39. Greg Ip: A Decade After Bear’s Collapse, the Seeds of Instability Are Germinating Again  270

  40. Most of the Gender Wage Gap Stems from Inequality in the Household, Inequality in the Culture, and Hostile Workplaces  269

  41. Why We Want More Jobs  267

  42. Netflix as an Example of Clay Christensen's 'Disruptive Innovation' 262

  43. Chris Kimball: Having a Prophet in the Family  261

  44. Why America Needs Marvin Goodfriend on the Federal Reserve Board  238

  45. John Ioannidis, T. D. Stanley and Hristos Doucouliagos: The Power of Bias in Economics Research 225

  46. Why Donald Trump's Support Among Republicans Has Solidified 224

  47. Noah Smith: Nurture Counts as Much as Nature in Success 218

  48. Less is More in Mormon Church Meetings 215

  49. The Real Test of the December 2017 Tax Reform Will Be Its Long-Run Effects  210

  50. Relative Price Changes, 1997-2017  209

  51. On Guilt by Association 207

  52. Oren Cass on the Value of Work 206

  53. Miles Kimball, Time Traveler: Regrets and Gratitude 203

  54. Sam Brown and Miles Kimball on Teleotheism  197

  55. False Advertising for College is Pretty Much the Norm 195

  56. John Locke: Government by the Consent of the Governed Often Began Out of Respect for Someone Trusted to Govern 195

  57. John Locke: The Law of Nature Requires Maturity to Discern  194

  58. Eric Weinstein: Genius Is Not the Same Thing as Excellence 188

  59. The Metaphor of a Nation as a Family 186

  60. Tropozoics  179

  61. John Locke: Thinking of Mothers and Fathers On a Par Undercuts a Misleading Autocratic Metaphor  179

  62. Manifesto #1: I Am Enough 171

  63. Dan Reynolds, Lead Singer of Imagine Dragons, on the Human Cost of the Mormon Church's Stand Against Gay Marriage 167

  64. Jacob Bastian and Maggie Jones: Do EITC Expansions Pay for Themselves? Effects on Tax Revenue and Public Assistance Spending 163

  65. David Holland on the Mormon Church During the February 3, 2008–January 2, 2018 Monson Administration  162

  66. Martin A. Schwartz: The Willingness to Feel Stupid Is the Key to Scientific Progress  162

  67. Alexander Trentin Interviews Miles Kimball on Next Generation Monetary Policy  155

  68. John Locke: The Public Good 154

  69. John Locke: By Natural Law, Husbands Have No Power Over Their Wives 153

  70. Glenn Hubbard on National Debt Ethics  148

  71. Christian Kimball: Revelation and Satan 133+

  72. The Hidden Cost of Not Having a Carbon Tax 131

  73. Ricardo Hausman: Tacit Knowledge Is a Key Component of Productivity; That Means Prosperity Depends on Allowing Skilled Immigration--Especially into Poor Countries  131

  74. John Locke: Defense against the Black Hats is the Origin of the State 128

  75. Should the U.S. Dollar Be Weak or Strong? 123

  76. The Argument that We Are Likely to Be Living Inside of a Computer Simulation 122

  77. Economists' Open Letter Open Letter to President Trump and Congress Against Protectionism  110

  78. John Locke: The Only Legitimate Power of Governments is to Articulate the Law of Nature 109

  79. Equality Before Natural Law in the Face of Manifest Differences in Station 105

  80. Shane Phillips: Housing and Transportation Costs Have Become a Growing American Burden  102

  81. Peter Conti-Brown: The President Crossed a Line in Commenting on Interest Rates. The Fed Needs to Redraw It. 100

  82. Tom Bartlett: What’s So Dangerous About Jordan Peterson? 95

  83. The US Military Needs to Beef Up Its Artificial Intelligence and Cyberware Capabilities 95

  84. Martin Kocher, Konstantin Lucks and and David Schindler: Self-Control Problems Can Cause Irrational Exuberance 94

  85. John Locke Argues for the Historicity of Social Contracts 94

  86. Geneva Conventions for the Political Wars 94

  87. Alexander Napolitan on GMOs 87

  88. John Locke: We Are All Born Free 87

  89. Stephen Williamson on an Inverted Yield Curve as a Harbinger of Recession 86

Older Posts with Continuing Popularity on Diet and Health

  1. Forget Calorie Counting; It's the Insulin Index, Stupid  18808

  2. Obesity Is Always and Everywhere an Insulin Phenomenon  4181

  3. Five Books That Have Changed My Life  2857

  4. Key Posts 2507

  5. The Keto Food Pyramid  1518

  6. Whole Milk Is Healthy; Skim Milk Less So  1353

  7. Jason Fung: Dietary Fat is Innocent of the Charges Leveled Against It  868

  8. Meat Is Amazingly Nutritious—But Is It Amazingly Nutritious for Cancer Cells, Too?  801

  9. Salt Is Not the Nutritional Evil It Is Made Out to Be  464

  10. Sugar as a Slow Poison  383

  11. Mass In/Mass Out: A Satire of Calories In/Calories Out  235

  12. How Sugar Makes People Hangry 184

  13. Diana Kimball: Listening Creates Possibilities 102

Older Posts with Continuing Popularity on Other Topics

  1. John Stuart Mill's Brief for Freedom of Speech 8015

  2. There's One Key Difference Between Kids Who Excel at Math and Those Who Don't  (with Noah Smith) 3185

  3. The Logarithmic Harmony of Percent Changes and Growth Rates  2954

  4. Five Books That Have Changed My Life  2857

  5. There Is No Such Thing as Decreasing Returns to Scale 2782

  6. William Graham Sumner, Social Darwinist  2638

  7. The 7 Principles of Unitarian Universalism 1922

  8. On John Locke's Labor Theory of Property  1918

  9. Joshua Foer on Deliberate Practice  1783

  10. How and Why to Eliminate the Zero Lower Bound: A Reader’s Guide  1767

  11. The Complete Guide to Getting into an Economics PhD Program (with Noah Smith) 1845

  12. The Medium-Run Natural Interest Rate and the Short-Run Natural Interest Rate  1725

  13. Monetary vs. Fiscal Policy: Expansionary Monetary Policy Does Not Raise the Budget Deficit  1661

  14. John Stuart Mill on Freedom from Religion  1553

  15. Why I Write  1454

  16. Why Taxes are Bad  1404

  17. John Locke on Punishment  1360

  18. John Stuart Mill’s Vigorous Advocacy of Education Vouchers  1336

  19. The Message of Mormonism for Atheists Who Want to Stay Atheists  1267

  20. John Locke's State of Nature and State of War  1128

  21. John Stuart Mill’s Defense of Freedom  1113

  22. Government Purchases vs. Government Spending  1077

  23. Daniel Coyle on Deliberate Practice  928

  24. Shane Parrish on Deliberate Practice  902

  25. How to Turn Every Child into a "Math Person"  881

  26. Next Generation Monetary Policy  866

  27. The Descent—and the Divine Calling—of the Modernists  806

  28. Ezequiel Tortorelli: The Trouble with Argentina 804

  29. On Master's Programs in Economics  767

  30. An Agnostic Prayer for Strength  716

  31. What is a Supply-Side Liberal?  691

  32. Robert Shiller: Against the Efficient Markets Theory  682

  33. What is the Effective Lower Bound on Interest Rates Made Of?  679

  34. John Locke on the Equality of Humans  637

  35. John Stuart Mill's Brief for Individuality 597

  36. Roger Farmer and Miles Kimball on the Value of Sovereign Wealth Funds for Economic Stabilization  586

  37. John Stuart Mill on Balancing Christian Morality with the Wisdom of the Greeks and Romans  563

  38. Economics Needs to Tackle All of the Big Questions in the Social Sciences  529

  39. Returns to Scale and Imperfect Competition in Market Equilibrium 510

  40. Freedom Under Law Means All Are Subject to the Same Laws 504

  41. John Stuart Mill: In Praise of Eccentricity  500

  42. The Volcker Shock  499

  43. The Shape of Production: Charles Cobb's and Paul Douglas's Boon to Economics  480

  44. Noah Smith: You Are Already in the Afterlife  473

  45. Peter Conti-Brown's Takedown of Danielle DiMartino Booth's Book "Fed Up: An Insider's Take on Why the Federal Reserve is Bad for America"  471

  46. Sticky Prices vs. Sticky Wages: A Debate Between Miles Kimball and Matthew Rognlie  459

  47. John Locke: People Must Not Be Judges in Their Own Cases  459

  48. Japan's Move Toward a Sovereign Wealth Fund Policy  447

  49. Cognitive Economics  446

  50. The Message of “Sal Tlay Ka Siti”  445

  51. John Stuart Mill: In the Parent-Child Relationship, It is the Children that Have Rights, Not the Parents  438

  52. John Stuart Mill on Freedom of Thought  431

  53. The Unavoidability of Faith  408

  54. John Stuart Mill: Two Maxims for Liberty 404

  55. An Experiment with Equality of Outcome: The Case of Jamestown 403

  56. Let's Set Half a Percent as the Standard for Statistical Significance  396

  57. The Extensive Margin: How to Simultaneously Raise Quality and Lower Tuition at Elite Public Universities 389

  58. Two Types of Knowledge: Human Capital and Information  389

  59. Expansionist India  386

  60. Matthew Shapiro, Martha Bailey and Tilman Borgers on the Economics Job Market Rumors Website  384

  61. Nicholas Kristof: "Where Sweatshops are a Dream"  380

  62. Franklin Roosevelt on the Second Industrial Revolution  375

  63. Why I Am Not a Neoliberal  364

  64. John Stuart Mill’s Brief for the Limits of the Authority of Society over the Individual  361

  65. Miles Kimball - Google Scholar Citations  358

  66. John Stuart Mill on Public and Private Actions  355

  67. Paul Krugman on John Taylor and Admitting Error 339

  68. International Finance: A Primer  335

  69. John Locke Treats the Bible as an Authority on Slavery  332

  70. The Coming Transformation of Education: Degrees Won’t Matter Anymore, Skills Will  329

  71. John Stuart Mill Applies the Principles of Liberty  327

  72. John Stuart Mill on the Role of Custom in Human Life  321

  73. Greg Shill: Does the Fed Have the Legal Authority to Buy Equities?  313

  74. Michael Weisbach: Posters on Finance Job Rumors Need to Clean Up Their Act, Too  312

  75. Bret Stephens and Paul Krugman: What Should a Correction Look Like in the Digital Era? 311

  76. The Deep Magic of Money and the Deeper Magic of the Supply Side  309

  77. John Stuart Mill on the Chief Interest of the History of Mankind: The Love of Liberty and Improvement vs. Custom  309

  78. How Albert Einstein Became a Celebrity  305

  79. On Having a Thesis  296

  80. Silvio Gesell's Plan for Negative Nominal Interest Rates  293

  81. John Locke: When the Police and Courts Can't or Won't Take Care of Things, People Have the Right to Take the Law Into Their Own Hands 277

  82. Why GDP Can Grow Forever 274

  83. How Subordinating Paper Currency to Electronic Money Can End Recessions and End Inflation  273

  84. Heroes of Science Action Figures  270

  85. John Stuart Mill on Freedom of Contract  267

  86. Jeff Smith: More on Getting into an Economics PhD Program  266

  87. Miles Moves to the University of Colorado Boulder  258

  88. Noah Smith: Why Do Americans Like Jews and Dislike Mormons?  258

  89. Will Women Ever Get the Mormon Priesthood?  257

  90. Can Taxes Raise GDP?  257

  91. 18 Misconceptions about Eliminating the Zero Lower Bound  245

  92. John Stuart Mill on Benevolent Dictators  239

  93. Why Scott Fullwiler Misses the Point in ‘Why Negative Nominal Interest Rates Miss the Point’ 238

  94. Democracy is Not Freedom 237

  95. The Wall Street Journal's Quality-Control Failure: Bret Stephens's Misleading Use of Nominal Income in His Editorial ‘Obama's Envy Problem’ 234

  96. My Objective Function  233

  97. John Stuart Mill on the Protection of ‘Noble Lies’ from Criticism 232

  98. Karthik Muralidharan, Abhijeet Singh, and Alejandro J. Ganimian: Disrupting Education? Experimental Evidence on Technology-Aided Instruction in India  228

  99. Teleotheism and the Purpose of Life  223

  100. David Byrne: De Gustibus Non Est Disputandum 223

  101. Restoring American Growth: The Video  222

  102. On the Great Recession  220

  103. Rodney Stark: Historians Ought to Count—But Often Don’t  219

  104. Discounting Government Projects 219

  105. Rodney Stark on the Status of Women in Early Christianity  219

  106. Contra John Taylor  214

  107. Electronic Money: The Powerpoint File  213

  108. After Crunching Reinhart and Rogoff's Data, We Found No Evidence High Debt Slows Growth 213

  109. Social Liberty 210

  110. Higher Inflation Is Not the Answer 206

  111. Why I Am Not a Physicist  206

  112. One of the Biggest Threats to America's Future Has the Easiest Fix (with Noah Smith)  199

  113. Marriage 102 195

  114. Noah Smith: Sunni Islam is Failing 195

  115. Why I am a Macroeconomist: Increasing Returns and Unemployment  194

  116. Noah Smith: Buddha Was Wrong About Desire 194

  117. My Dad  192

  118. Christian Kimball on the Fallibility of Mormon Leaders and on Gay Marriage 191

  119. Marriage 101  189

  120. In Praise of Partial Equilibrium 188

  121. Even Central Bankers Need Lessons on the Transmission Mechanism for Negative Interest Rates  188

  122. Human Beings as Social—and Trading—Animals 188

  123. Brio in Blog Posts  186

  124. Clay Christensen, Jerome Grossman and Jason Hwang on the Agenda for the Transformation of Health Care 185

  125. John Stuart Mill on the Historical Origins of Liberty 184

  126. Barbara Oakley: How We Should Be Teaching Math 182

  127. John Stuart Mill on Rising Above Mediocrity 181

  128. An Agnostic Grace 180

  129. How I Became Optimistic  179

  130. How the Original Sin of Borrowing in a Foreign Currency Can Reduce the Effectiveness of Monetary Policy for Both the Borrowing and Lending Country 178

  131. How Conservative Mormon America Avoided the Fate of Conservative White America . 177

  132. John Stuart Mill’s Roadmap for Freedom  176

  133. The Costs and Benefits of Repealing the Zero Lower Bound...and Then Lowering the Long-Run Inflation Target  174

  134. John Stuart Mill on the Rich and the Elite 172

  135. How Increasing Retirement Saving Could Give America More Balanced Trade  172

  136. Paul Finkelman: The Monster of Monticello 171

  137. Robert Eisler—Stable Money: The Remedy for the Economic World Crisis  169

  138. Why Thinking about China is the Key to a Free World  164

  139. Scrooge and the Ethical Case for Consumption Taxation 161

  140. The Racist Origins of the Idea of the ‘Dumb Jock’ 160

  141. Why Financial Stability Concerns Are Not a Reason to Shy Away from a Robust Negative Interest Rate Policy 158

  142. John Stuart Mill on Being Offended at Other People's Opinions or Private Conduct 157

  143. John Stuart Mill on the Gravity of Divorce 156

  144. Alexander Trentin Interviews Miles Kimball about Establishing an International Capital Flow Framework  154

  145. Cass Sunstein on the Rule of Law 155

  146. John Locke: Lions and Wolves and Enemies, Oh My 154

  147. Barack Obama: Football as the Best Sports Analogy for Politics 153

  148. Janet Adamy and Paul Overberg on Immobility in America  152

  149. John Stuart Mill on Puritanism 152

  150. ‘The Hunger Games’ Is Hardly Our Future--It's Already Here 152

  151. Pro Gauti Eggertsson 151

  152. The Mormon View of Jesus 150

  153. Godless Religion 149

  154. John Stuart Mill: How Laws Against Self-Harm Backfire 149

  155. John L. Davidson on Resolving the House Mystery: The Institutional Realities of House Construction 149

  156. Is Taxing Capital OK?  148

  157. Isaac Sorkin: Don't Be Too Reassured by Small Short-Run Effects of the Minimum Wage 146

  158. The Egocentric Illusion 145

  159. Matt Waite: How I Faced My Fears and Learned to Be Good at Math  145

  160. Jordan B. Peterson on the True Purpose of a University Education  143

  161. Fields Medal Winner Maryam Mirzakhani's Slow-Cooked Math 143

  162. Electronic Money: The Quiz  142

  163. The Supply and Demand for Paper Currency When Interest Rates Are Negative 142

  164. Signalling When Everyone Knows about Last-Place Aversion: An Application to Economics Job Market Rumors 142

  165. Big Brother Speaks: Christian Kimball on Mitt Romney 142

  166. Inequality Is About the Poor, Not About the Rich 141

  167. Contra Randal Quarles 140

  168. John Locke: The Law Must Apply to Rulers, Too 140

  169. David Pagnucco: The Eurozone and the Impossible Trinity 139

  170. John Locke Pretends Land Ownership Goes Back to the Original Peopling of the Planet  138

  171. When the Output Gap is Zero, But Inflation is Below Target 138

  172. John Stuart Mill's Argument Against Political Correctness 138

  173. Miles Kimball, Colter Mitchell, Arland Thornton and Linda Young-Demarco—Empirics on the Origins of Preferences: The Case of College Major and Religiosity 137

  174. Hannah Katz: The Pros and Cons of Tipping Culture 135

  175. Benjamin Franklin's Strategy to Make the US a Superpower Worked Once, Why Not Try It Again? 135

  176. Marc F. Bellemare's Story: ‘I'm Bad at Math’ 135

  177. The Rise and Fall of Venice 134

  178. Mary O'Keeffe on Slow-Cooked Math 134

  179. Student Guest Posts on supplysideliberal.com 133

  180. More on Original Sin and the Aggregate Demand Effects of Interest Rate Cuts: Olivier Wang and Miles Kimball 131

  181. Defining Economics 129

  182. Martin Wolf: Why Bankers are Intellectually Naked 129

  183. Believe in Yourself 129

  184. Dr. Smith and the Asset Bubble 129

  185. Books on Economics 129

  186. Inside Mormonism: The Home Teachers Come Over 128

  187. Owen Nie: Monetary Policy in Colonial New York, New Jersey and Delaware 126

  188. America's Big Monetary Policy Mistake: How Negative Interest Rates Could Have Stopped the Great Recession in Its Tracks 125

  189. How and Why to Expand the Nonprofit Sector as a Partial Alternative to Government: A Reader’s Guide 124

  190. An Underappreciated Power of a Central Bank: Determining the Relative Prices between the Various Forms of Money Under Its Jurisdiction  123

  191. The Swiss National Bank May Need to Cut Its Target Rate Further Now That It Could Get In Trouble with the US If It Keeps Buying So Many Foreign Assets 122

  192. John Stuart Mill on the Adversary System 120

  193. John Stuart Mill on Having a Day of Rest and Recreation 118

  194. Building Up With Grace  117

  195. Andrew Carnegie on Cost-Cutting 117

  196. How the Romans Made a Large Territory 'Rome'  116

  197. John Stuart Mill on the Need to Make the Argument for Freedom of Speech 116

  198. Markus Brunnermeier and Yann Koby's ‘Reversal Interest Rate’ 116

  199. John Locke: Property in the State of Nature 116

  200. Edmund Burke's Wisdom 116

  201. Why I Read More Books than Economic Journal Articles 116

  202. John Locke on Diminishing Marginal Utility as a Limit to Legitimately Claiming Works of Nature as Property 115

  203. The Mystery of Consciousness 115

  204. John Stuart Mill: The Central Government Should Be Slow to Overrule, but Quick to Denounce Bad Actions of Local Governments 113

  205. The Equilibrium Paradox: Somebody Has to Do It 113

  206. Scott Adams's Finest Hour: How to Tax the Rich 113

  207. Jing Liu: Show Kids that Solving Math Problems is Like Being a Detective 113

  208. Cathy O'Neil on Slow-Cooked Math 112

  209. On the Virtue of Scientific Disrespect 111

  210. John Locke on the Mandate of Heaven 111

  211. The Government and the Mob  111

  212. Leveling Up: Making the Transition from Poor Country to Rich Country 111

  213. Libertarianism, a US Sovereign Wealth Fund, and I 111

  214. Why the US Needs Its Own Sovereign Wealth Fund 111

  215. Steven Pinker on the Goal of Education 110

  216. How Big is the Sexism Problem in Economics? 108

  217. Annie Atherton: I Tried 7 Different Morning Routines — Here’s What Made Me Happiest (link post) 108

  218. An Agnostic Invocation 107

  219. Glenn Ellison's New Book: Hard Math for Elementary School 106

  220. Noah Smith—Jews: The Parting of the Ways 105

  221. Democratic Injustice 105

  222. Bruce Bartlett on Careers in Economics and Related Fields 105

  223. Christian Kimball: Anger [1], Marriage [2], and the Mormon Church [3] 104

  224. So You Want to Save the World 104

  225. Janet Yellen is Hardly a Dove—She Knows the US Economy Needs Some Unemployment 104

  226. The Mormon Church Decides to Treat Gay Marriage as Rebellion on a Par with Polygamy 103

  227. Michael Huemer's Immigration Parable 103

  228. Monetary Policies in the Age of Uncertainty 102

  229. Amy Morin and Steven Benna: 13 Things Mentally Strong People Don’t Do (link post) 102

  230. John Locke: Law Is Only Legitimate When It Is Founded on the Law of Nature 101

  231. Top 52 All-Time Posts and All My Columns Ranked by Popularity, as of May 23, 2014 101

  232. Gather ’round, Children, Here’s How to Heal a Wounded Economy 99

  233. The Arbitrage Pricing Theory as a Noise Trader Model 98

  234. So What If We Don't Change at All…and Something Magical Just Happens? 98

  235. How Freedom of Speech for Falsehood Keeps the Truth Alive 97

  236. Luigi Zingales: Pro-Market vs. Pro-Business 96

  237. Expert Performance and Deliberate Practice 96

  238. John Stuart Mill on the Sources of Prejudice About What Other People Should Do 94

  239. Legitimate Power and Authority 94

  240. Michael Huemer's Libertarianism 94

  241. Noah Smith: God and SuperGod 94

  242. Marvin Goodfriend on Electronic Money 93

  243. Miles's Recipe for Success 92

  244. Wallace Neutrality and Ricardian Neutrality 91

  245. Kevin Remisoski on Teaching and Learning Math 91

  246. Jaewon Lee: Lobbying vs. Bribery 90

  247. Inequality Aversion Utility Functions: Would $1000 Mean More to a Poorer Family than $4000 to One Twice as Rich? 90

  248. Eric Schlosser on the Underground Economy 89

  249. Magic Ingredient 1: More K-12 School 89

  250. John Stuart Mill on China's Technological Lost Centuries 89

  251. Liberty and the Golden Rule 87

  252. Governments Can and Should Beat Bitcoin at Its Own Game 87

  253. The Wrong Side of Cobb-Douglas: Matt Rognlie’s Smackdown of Thomas Piketty Gains Traction 87

  254. Selfishness and the Fall of Rome 87

  255. Clay Shirky: Why I Just Asked My Students To Put Their Laptops Away 86

  256. Bruce Greenwald: The Death of Manufacturing & the Global Deflation 86

  257. Dynamic Map of Europe from 1000 A.D. to 1900 86

  258. Safe, Legal, Rare and Early 86

  259. John Locke: Rivalry in Consumption Makes Private Property Unavoidable 85

  260. Miles's Linguistics Master's Thesis: The Later Wittgenstein, Roman Jakobson and Charles Saunders Peirce 85

  261. Joshua Foer on Memory 85

  262. Bret Stephens Issues a Correction: ‘About Those Income Inequality Statistics’

  263. Italy's Supply-Side Troubles 85

  264. Samantha Shelley: Why I'll Never Regret Being Mormon 83

  265. Q&A With Gerard MacDonell on My Presentation ‘Enabling Deeper Negative Interest Rates by Managing the Side Effects of a Zero Paper Currency Interest Rate’ 83

  266. Vigilantes in the State of Nature 83

  267. What is a Partisan Nonpartisan Blog? 82

Christmas Dinner 2018 with the Kimballs in Colorado

Photography in this blog post by Jordan Matthew Kimball

Photography in this blog post by Jordan Matthew Kimball

Our son Jordan’s long-time girlfriend, Caroline, is a fabulous cook. She cooked Christmas dinner for Jordan, Gail, me and herself this year. What is even more remarkable, Caroline was good enough and talented enough to dream up and create dishes consistent with the way Gail and I are trying to eat—in accordance with principles I write about here on this blog in my weekly diet and health posts. Caroline graciously wrote up the recipes below.

Slow Roasted Prime Rib with Horseradish Cream and Balsamic Reduction 

  • 8 lb Standing or Bone-In Prime Rib

  • 2-3 tbs Grated Horseradish

  • cup Sour Cream

  • ½ cup Avocado Oil Mayo

  • ½ tsp White Wine Vinegar

  • 1 cup Balsamic Vinegar

  • Salt & pepper

●      The balsamic reduction can be made up to a week before. I recommend making it at least a day before to keep your kitchen from reeking of vinegar. Heat the balsamic vinegar in an uncovered pot on medium until just boiling. Reduce heat to medium-low and allow it to simmer until it has been reduced by half. If you make this beforehand, let the reduction cool a little before storing in a heat-proof container. Once the reduction cools, it will be harder to pour.

●      A day before serving the prime rib, coat the outside of the prime rib with salt & freshly cracked black pepper. Optionally loosen the fat cap from the bottom so that it hangs downward like a flap. This allows air flow when it roasts and helps crisp the fat. Leave uncovered in the fridge to allow to air dry.

●      Also on the day before, mix the horseradish, sour cream, mayo and white wine vinegar together and refrigerate so the flavors have time to meld. Adjust the amount of horseradish to taste.

●      Preheat the oven to 250 F. Place the roast on a deep roasting pan with a wire rack inside. Roast for 3 hours or until an instant meat thermometer shows an internal temperature of 135 F for a rosy pink prime rib. Remove the prime rib from the oven and allow to rest between 30 minutes to 1 hour. Just before serving, heat the oven to 450 F and blast the rib for 10 minutes to brown the outsides.

●      Serve with horseradish cream and balsamic reduction.

 Baked Brussel Sprouts with Pancetta, Chevre, Pine Nuts & Dried Cranberries

  • 1 lb Brussel Sprouts

  • 12 oz cubed Pancetta or Bacon

  • 8 oz chopped Chevre or Creamy Goat Cheese

  • ½ cup Pine Nuts

  • (optional) ¼ cup Dried Cranberries

  • Salt & pepper

●      Preheat the oven to 450 F.

●      Steam the brussel sprouts until a fork can just slide into the center. You can do this over a traditional steamer or by covering with a wet paper towel and microwaving for 5-7 minutes depending on the wattage of your microwave.

●      Place steamed brussel sprouts in a flat roasting pan & cover with cubed pancetta. Roast until sprouts are crisp and browned on the outside and the pancetta or bacon is crisp. Turn off the heat and allow the pine nuts to gently toast in the residual heat for another minute.

●      Once removed from the oven, season with salt & pepper to taste. Add goat cheese and dried cranberries if using and serve immediately.

Creamed Pearl Onions

  • 1 lb frozen Pearl Onions

  • 1 cup Chicken Stock

  • 1 cup Heavy Whipping Cream

  • 1 Bay Leaf

  • Salt & pepper

●      Heat chicken stock, pearl onions, and bay leaf over medium-high heat. When chicken broth comes to a boil, reduce heat to medium and add the cream.

●      Simmer the pearl onions for 15-20 minutes until onions are translucent and tender. Strain the creamy broth and save all but ½ cup for the Cream of Mushroom Soup.

●      Add the reserved broth back to the onions and simmer until reduced. Season with salt & pepper to taste.

Cream of Mushroom Soup

  • 1 cup Dried Mixed Mushrooms (I used oyster mushrooms, black trumpets, portobello & porcini.)

  • 1 cup chopped fresh Button Mushrooms

  • 1 diced Onion

  • 2 tbs Butter

  • 3 tbs Soy Sauce

  • ½ cup Heavy Whipping Cream

  • 1 tsp Dried Thyme

  • Reserved liquid from the Creamed Pearl Onions

  • Salt & pepper

●      Wash the dried mushrooms to remove any remaining grit. Then soak the mushrooms in hot water for 15 minutes. Once the mushrooms have been reconstituted, reserve 1 cup of the liquid for the soup.

●      Heat butter in soup pot over medium-high heat. Add the onions and cook until tender. Then add the fresh and dried mushrooms. Saute for 1 minute. Add the soy sauce and stir to distribute evenly.

●      Add the reserved mushroom liquid and thyme. Cover and bring to a boil. The mushroom liquid may be a little bitter depending on your mix. Sweeten with the reserved pearl onion broth and add the cream. Season with salt & pepper. Keep covered over low heat to keep warm until ready to serve.

Blueberries, raspberries, blackberries and Camembert cheese

Blueberries, raspberries, blackberries and Camembert cheese

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. 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: No One is Above the Law, which Must Be Established and Promulgated and Designed for the Good of the People; Taxes and Governmental Succession Require Approval of Elected Representatives

John Locke’s views are important because so many of the framers of the US Constitution had read his works. In Sections 141-142 of his 2d Treatise on Government: Of Civil Government, he completes and summarizes his Chapter XI (“Of the Extent of the Legislative Power”) delineation of what powers rulers have and what they don’t have. In reading these sections, it is important to remember that John Locke uses the word “legislative” to refer to the ruler or rulers of a commonwealth.

As with taxation, John Locke views the transfer of power from one ruler to another as something that requires authorization by elected representatives—though his lack of insistence that a monarchy must be elective suggests that this authorization by elected representatives could be long prior to the existing ruler dying or stepping down:

§. 141. Fourthly, The legislative cannot transfer the power of making laws to any other hands: for it being but a delegated power from the people, they who have it cannot pass it over to others. The people alone can appoint the form of the commonwealth, which is by constituting the legislative, and appointing in whose hands that shall be. And when the people have said, We will submit to rules, and be governed by laws made by such men, and in such forms, nobody else can say other men shall make laws for them; nor can the people be bound by any laws, but such as are enacted by those whom they have chosen, and authorized to make laws for them. The power of the legislative, being derived from the people by a positive voluntary grant and institution, can be no other than what that positive grant conveyed, which being only to make laws, and not to make legislators, the legislative can have no power to transfer their authority of making laws, and place it in other hands.  

In addition to succession within a commonwealth of a given geographical extent, this seems to imply that annexation of lands that were outside the commonwealth—or cession of lands that were in the commonwealth to the control of some ruler outside the commonwealth—requires approval by elected representatives of the people in those lands. However, John Locke does not directly address that issue in this passage.

In Section 142, John Lock gives a good summary of the limits to the power of rulers, I have boiled down this summary still further into the title of this post.

§. 142. These are the bounds, which the trust, that is put in them by the society, and the law of God and nature, have set to the legislative power of every commonwealth, in all forms of government.  

First, They are to govern by promulgated established laws, not to be varied in particular cases, but to have one rule for rich and poor, for the favourite at court, and the country man at plough.  

Secondly, These laws also ought to be designed for no other end ultimately, but the good of the people.  

Thirdly, They must not raise Taxes on the property of the people, without the consent of the people, given by themselves, or their deputies. And this properly concerns only such governments, where the legislative is always in being, or at least where the people have not reserved any part of the legislative to deputies, to be from time to time chosen by themselves.  

Fourthly, The legislative neither must nor can transfer the power of making laws to any body else, or place it any where, but where the people have.

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

Bloomberg #2—>False Advertising for College is Pretty Much the Norm

“False Advertising for College is Pretty Much the Norm” is my second piece as a Bloomberg columnist. I am grateful to Bloomberg Opinion for permission to reprint the full text of my column here. They retain all rights. You can see links to all my other columns in the popular press here.

For those who want a deeper dive into one of the points I mentioned, here is an ungated link to Stacy Dale and Alan Krueger's paper "Estimating the Payoff to Attending a More Selective College: An Application of Selection on Observables and Unobservables."


The administration of President Donald Trump just made it easier for for-profit colleges to get away with making fake promises about things like graduation rates and job placements. That's regrettable. But let's not let prestigious institutions off the hook. They aren't exactly rigorous when they tout the benefits of higher education, either.

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos has proposed new rules to make it harder for students to get loan forgiveness from schools that lured them with false advertising. Notably, the government wants to make aggrieved students show that the schools actually intended to defraud them, a high burden of proof.

The problem is that the prestige schools have undermined the case for making it easy to go after the bad ones, which just pretend to provide an education without really delivering. Though most colleges and universities mean well, they are also responsible for false advertising and don't always deliver the education they promised. If all institutions of higher education were held to higher standards, it would be easier legally to penalize the worst.

Colleges and universities claim to do two things for their students: help them learn and help them get jobs. It's hard to find even one college or university that provides solid data to back up these claims.

On job placement, the biggest deception by prestigious colleges and universities is to claim credit for the brainpower and work habits that students already had when they arrived. Another important deception is to obscure the difference between the job-placement accomplishments of students who graduate from technical fields such as economics, business, engineering or the life sciences, and the lesser success of students in the humanities, fields like communications or in most social sciences.

Solid data to back up a claim that a school helps students find jobs should include the following:

  • Graduation rates for different types of students,

  • The current jobs of graduates, separated out by major and year of graduation.

  • Data on the other schools a student was admitted to. That’s to identify the consensus view of admissions departments at many schools about the brainpower and work habits a student already had before entering college.

It's no wonder that schools don’t want to provide such data, given what the facts would probably show. Many students incur large educational loans going to a prestigious school but still can’t get a good job. And the economists Stacy Dale and Alan Krueger, former head of the Council of Economic Advisers, used data on which other schools a student was admitted to in a 2002 paper that casts doubt on the benefit from going to a more prestigious school instead of a less prestigious school.

To demonstrate that a school helps students learn, schools should have every student who takes a follow-up course take a test at the beginning of each semester on what they were supposed to have learned in the introductory course. The school can get students to take it seriously enough to get decent data — but not seriously enough to cram for it — by saying they have to pass it to graduate, but that they can always retake it in the unlikely event they don’t pass the first time. To me, it is a telling sign of how little most colleges and universities care as institutions about learning that so few have a systematic policy to measure long-run learning by low-stakes, follow-up tests at some distance in time after a course is over.

When I hear people talk about “fly-by-night” schools, the image I get is one of a “no-name” school with bad intentions. But for a school to meet its implied warranty, it is not enough for it to have a famous name and good intentions. We need to be able to distinguish between good and bad actions.

It's unlikely that colleges and universities will be held to high standards anytime in the next few years given the Trump administration’s strong push toward deregulation. But the next administration could go a long way toward turning the world of higher education right-side-up if it were to require all colleges and universities receiving federal funds to publicly post data on graduation rates and jobs of graduates by major, and provide systematic data to researchers on the other schools a student was admitted to and on long-run student learning.

Black Bean Brownies

image source    (a different recipe for black bean brownies)

image source (a different recipe for black bean brownies)

Christmas is a day for treats. But it doesn’t have to be a day of sugar. Our massage therapist Shannaw Martin pointed us to a recipe for black bean brownies that my wife Gail then modified. These brownies cannot match the addictive quality of sugary brownies, but for those who have gone off sugar and flour, the recipe below produces brownies that are surprisingly good.

Black Bean Brownies

Ingredients:

2/3 cup dried black beans that have been soaked overnight in 3 cups water—ideally with some baking soda added—which is then drained and replaced with another 3 cups water, then cooked in a pressure cooker. Follow the instructions of your pressure cooker when cooking the beans. (The presoaking and pressure cooking is to help destroy the lectins that I worry about in my post “What Steven Gundry's Book 'The Plant Paradox' Adds to the Principles of a Low-Insulin-Index Diet.”)

3 organic eggs

1/2 tsp baking powder

1/4 C cocoa powder (100% cocoa)

1/4 tsp salt

1/2 C Chocolate bar chipped

2/3 C Swerve (play with less—it's supposed to be sugar, so bear that in mind)

1 tsp organic vanilla

3 TBS coconut oil (warmed in the oven or on the stovetop to a liquid form)

1/2 tsp coffee

Preheat oven to 350.


The secret is in the order...

Wet -- pressure-cooked black beans, eggs, little extra vanilla, a little extra coffee in mixer, (mix good)

Dry — Swerve, baking powder, kosher salt, heaping cup of 100% special dark cocoa powder.

Add wet to dry and mix together. Add the heaping spoons of coconut oil that you warmed in the oven into mix.

Before adding 72% or higher organic chocolate chunks grease the pan with lots of coconut oil.

Mix all together and pour into pan. Bake 35-40 minutes at 350 degrees. The above recipe is for 10 brownies. I always double it! Enjoy!!

Grease pan with coconut oil

References:

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. 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.

Kenneth W. Phifer: My Sermon

Ferenc Dávid  holding his speech at the Diet of Torda in 1568, (today  Turda ,  Romania ) when the Unitarian Church was recognized legally by the Transylvanian Diet. By  Aladár Körösfői-Kriesch  (1896)    Link to the Wikipedia article “Unitarianism.”       Link to the Wikipedia article “Universalism.”

Ferenc Dávid holding his speech at the Diet of Torda in 1568, (today Turda, Romania) when the Unitarian Church was recognized legally by the Transylvanian Diet. By Aladár Körösfői-Kriesch (1896)

Link to the Wikipedia article “Unitarianism.” Link to the Wikipedia article “Universalism.”

When I left Mormonism for the Unitarian Universalism in 2000, Ken Phifer was the minister of the Unitarian Universalist Congregation in Ann Arbor, Michigan. He gave beautiful sermons. I am grateful for his permission to reprint one of them here.

Ken’s sermon The Faith of a Humanist also appears on supplysideliberal.com. And you will find links to some of my own UU sermons here.

Below are Ken’s words.


It is a truism among those of us who have chosen homiletics, that is, preaching, as our field of expertise that we each have only one sermon in us. Since our work requires that we deliver far more than just one sermon, and preaching the same sermon every week would likely clear the pews/chairs very quickly, we have to learn how to ring the changes on our one message so that we can continue to “mount the pulpit” week by week and remain at least minimally interesting. 

In that regard, all of us who preach do well to remember the biting words of Anthony Trollope in his novel Barchester Towers: “There is, perhaps, no greater hardship on mankind in civilized and free countries than the necessity of listening to sermons. No one but a preaching clergyman has, in these realms, the power of compelling an audience to sit silent and be tormented.”

I, of course, have no power to compel you to do anything, much less to force you “to sit silent and be tormented.” Indeed, it is one of the great strengths of our Unitarian Universalist religion that people participate according to their free will and not some notion of eternal suffering if they fail to attend.

UU’s don’t sit in torment. They leave, as during a section of one of my sermons that dealt with money some 15-20 people did. Only later did I learn that they were all headed for their children’s RE class for a special presentation. I learned only at the coffee hour why they had gone: because they were good parents, not because they did not like what I said.

I think.

Some stay physically but leave mentally, preparing grocery lists, ruminating on a problem at work, or admiring some fine specimen across the way. Albert Shanker once noted that people generally listen to the first ten

minutes of any talk and doze through the next ten minutes. After that, he remarked, people begin to have sexual fantasies.

This is the reason that I always talk for more than 20 minutes, so that every one can come away with at least something of interest.

Whatever congregants may do, preachers, unless they are genuinely unselfaware, preach their one sermon but in different ways, using different words with different emphases, expanding, contracting, amending, finding better phrases to express their one message.

Like a jazz musician who has played a tune hundreds of times but never the same way—Coleman Hawkins playing his classic Body and Soul, for example, or Art Tatum playing anything in his virtuoso piano style—preachers try to keep the message fresh and interesting, comforting and inspiring, challenging and caring, seeking always better ways to state the message.

The work of the preacher is not unlike that of the singer in a story told by Saul Bellow. She was young and making her debut at La Scala. After a particularly beautiful but difficult aria, the applause was thunderous. There were cries for her to do it again. After the fourth such encore, worn out from the challenging music sung again and yet again, she asked her audience how many more times she must sing it. A voice cried out, “Until you get it right!!” 

Each week we preachers hope that we will get it right, or at least get closer to right than before. We know that we will likely fail, but we do not share the philosophy of the man who said, “If at first you don’t succeed, quit!”

Let me try this morning to get it a little bit right, placing before you three themes that are at the heart of my faith and, I believe, at the heart of the Unitarian Universalist faith. They form the core of my one sermon.

The first theme is history.

I majored in history in college because I saw history as an academic discipline within which I could study virtually anything. My doctoral work in Christian anti-Semitism continued this interest in the historical as the human arena within which all subjects could be studied.

As I began the process of moving into Unitarian Universalism, one of the most attractive features of the movement was its attitude towards history.                                                                                                                                                                                      In UU understanding, history, human experience, is where we find authority for our theologies and our moral values. 

UU’s see past, present, and future linked together without thinking that one part of history is more important than another. All three matter. All are intertwined. Each affects the other two.

What we know and think about the past helps us to live in the present and plan for the future.

How we live in the present helps us to redeem the past and shape the future. 

How we dream of and work for the future helps us to live meaningfully today and to accept the past.

This is in contrast to the orthodox understanding of history where some person, event, or revelation in the past is determinative. The orthodox believer says that all the truth that matters is in the past.

This rigid commitment to the past is why it was only twenty or so years ago that the Roman Catholic Church agreed that evolution was a sound theory, amounting to a fact, a position that creationists, now using the alias of intelligent design advocates, are still unable to accept.

Or consider the power of the violent right-wing Islamic believers, who are able to justify murder in their own minds because they think that the critical truths of life took place in the seventh century.

The radical says that the most important moment is yet to be. Despise the wicked past, loath the evil present, and look only to the glorious future is the message of the radical. The 20th century saw the coming to power of various totalitarian communist governments who blithely murdered millions in order to usher in that glorious future, ignoring present day evils and their own wickedness in the process.  

Christopher Buice, a UU minister in Knoxville, Tennessee, captures the spirit of the UU approach to history, when he writes of bowling as a spiritual discipline. Bowl a ball too far to the right and you end up in the gutter of orthodoxy, trapped in the past. Bowl too far to the left and you end up in the gutter of radicalism, postponing a good life to a never-to-arrive future. To knock down the pins, you must strive to roll the ball in the lane between the gutters.

The Buddha taught the same wisdom: seek the Middle Way between the extremes that seem so tempting. Aristotle called it the Golden Mean.

UU’s respect the past, knowing in what measure it affects our lives. Our genetic inheritance, the social history of our species as well as the history of our family, and the environmental developments of the ages that have produced our present earth all have significance for us.

Historian Donald Kagan says that writers of history have “the responsibility of preserving the great, important, and instructive actions of human beings.” By knowing what has happened, we can see what good and evil are, what actions help human beings and what actions harm us.

History shows us clearly the wickedness of slavery and the oppression of women, the folly of war and of designing societies that are unjust so a few get rich and the many live in misery.  Hitler and Stalin were evil and did monstrously evil things. Clara Barton and Sophia Lyon Fahs were good and did wonderfully good things. 

Our moral values emerge out of seeing what actions and systems do good and which ones hurt people.

Then we create a vision of what might be and begin working to realize it. We understand the truth of Reinhold Niebuhr’s words that “nothing worth doing is completed in our lifetime.”

Worthy goals are not easily accomplished. The time to start working on them is now. We must do what we can, even if we do not see the completion of the task, and trust that others will carry on the work to make real the vision of a peaceable and just community.                                                                                                

History is about two things: remembering and dreaming.  

We remember so that we can overcome the mistakes of the past and carry forward the noblest aspirations of humanity.

We dream so that we never become complacent about who and what we are, always striving to be better and help the world to be better.

The importance of history is the first theme of my sermon.

Humility is the second.

Humility is an impossible virtue. How on earth can we ever know if we are properly humble?

If I go on a diet, I have something to measure how well I am doing—the scales, how many times I succumb to the delicious pecan pie that I love or have that gorgeous Reuben sandwich, how many days I do not exercise. I can keep a chart of how I am doing and give myself pep talks about doing better.

How can I tell if I am improving in humility? How do I know if my humble demeanor—or yours—is not really a mask for vanity and arrogance?

I have never thought of myself as a particularly humble person. I am not sure if that means that I am or that I am not humble! I just do not know.

Despite the difficulties, I am persuaded that humility is a great virtue. I like what Max Ehrmann said about humility in “Desiderata,” though he did not use the word: “If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain and bitter; for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.”

That is excellent advice for staying on course—the middle way!—but hard as the dickens to do. Most of us at one time or another do compare ourselves with others and find ourselves either desperately wanting or wallowing in self-admiration. Ehrmann was right to caution against it.                                               

The trick is to appreciate ourselves, respect others, and enjoy life. Several things can be helpful in doing this.

First, who is not humbled by an awareness of the sheer vastness of the universe: hundreds of billions of stars in our galaxy which is one of hundreds of billions of galaxies. In the microscopic world, we seem to keep discovering teeny, tiny, miniscule little things that count as fundamental pieces of the make-up of physical reality. The last count I saw was 64 such elemental pieces.

There is vastness in time also, billions and billions of years of time that the earth has been around, billions and billions of years since the universe started, and no one knows what came before that point of singularity.

My goodness! How could anyone be uppity in the face of that knowledge?

The earth and its various life forms are also amazing. Beetles seem to be the most prolific life form with 400,000 species. Cockroaches seem to be the most durable form of life, said to be capable of surviving and prospering even in a nuclear war. Giraffes! Hippopotamuses! Duck-billed platypuses! Monkey pod trees! Roses and thorns! Mountains! Water! The human being!

Life is strange and beautiful and full of mystery and it long predates our brief interlude as part of it.

One last element of humility is the limits that constrain us.

The first and most painful of these limits is our mortality. Religions may propose faith commitments about living beyond this life, but there is not one scrap of evidence that we do. Even if we survive for another go-round—and I would welcome that, as most people would—that does not make this life any easier.

Here’s the truth about our mortality, told in two statements a quipster thought up in the heyday of the God Is Dead movement of the 1960’s.  First came these words: “God is dead—Nietzsche.” Then came these words: “Nietzsche is dead—God.”                                                                                          

Whatever we consider the ultimate force of the universe to be, whatever our God is, it will long outlast our very short existence. 

There are limits as well in what we can do. Like it or not, no matter how hard I might apply myself, I will never be able to play the piano as well as Fats Waller or Van Cliburn. For that matter, I can’t play as well as Fats Cliburn or Van Waller!

Very few are those gifted in all aspects of life. Some of us can cook and some of us cannot. Some of us are comfortable and capable with technology and others of us are not. Some of us are good with numbers and others of us are not. Some of us can hit a curve ball and others cannot.

Nobody does everything well.

Humility is an attitude firmly rooted in the reality of our situation, an infinitesimal part of life in a vast space-time universe in which our mortal days are few and our talents limited.

Accepting our real condition frees us to enjoy life, to appreciate what we have and what we can do rather than long for what we do not have or cannot do, to respect others and take delight in their accomplishments.

In the UU movement, humility is part of the reason why we have no binding dogma, no required creeds to believe, no rituals one must perform on pain of eternal loss. Humility teaches us that no one of us has the truth, no individual, no religion. At best, we may each have a little bit of the truth. Sharing humbly we can enlarge our understanding.

Humility is the reason we celebrate diversity.

Humility is the second theme of my sermon.

The third is learning how to distinguish between that which is of enduring value and that which is of only passing worth.                                                                                                   

One of the watershed moments in UU history was the occasion of the installation of the Rev. Charles C. Shackford on May 19, 1841. At that ceremony, Theodore Parker preached a sermon called “The Transient and the Permanent in Christianity.”

Parker made the point that the authority of Christianity or of any religion rests on the truth of its words, not on who said the words, not on any doctrines of the faith. Doctrines are transient. So are rituals. So are people.

The permanent is found in love and morality and divine living, acting on the goodness that is part of every one of us. Parker said that what is demanded of us is “a divine life; doing the best thing, in the best way, from the highest motives.”

He went on to note that living in this way does not “demand that all men...(and women) think alike, but to think uprightly, and get as near as possible to truth; not all men…(and women) to live alike, but to live holy, and get as near as possible to a life perfectly divine.”

There are many ways of speaking the wisdom in Parker’s words. That wisdom is found in the words of the prophet Micah, when he declared that what is required of us is not rituals or sacrifices properly performed  or doctrines correctly stated and believed, but that we “do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with our God.”

Jesus taught us to love not just family and friends and those who agree with us, but also to love our enemies.

The Koran instructs us in the many ways that Allah’s voice can be heard, different voices in different places to different people.

The permanent is about love and morality, not transient things like wealth or power or fame or comfort.

We live in an age that celebrates the transient. A cartoon in a recent New Yorker showed a man being held up on the street and the robber saying, “Hand over your most recently acquired technology.”                                                                                                

Not even the thieves can keep up with the rapidly changing array of technological gimcrackery that crowds our lives and demands our attention. It’s all very exciting and all very lucrative for the inventors and sellers and all very temporary.

What religions are supposed to do is to remind us of what we need, remind us of the things that endure, the things that really matter: love and morality, justice and compassion, laughter and learning, sharing and hope, respect and thoughtfulness.

What the UU religion says is that these things can be found everywhere in life, not just in the teachings of one religion.

At the 2005 commencement exercises of my alma mater, the actor John Lithgow, a member of the class of 1967, spoke of what he had learned from some of the recipients of the Harvard Arts medal, awarded each year at the springtime Arts First Festival that Lithgow founded. “I began to see,” he said, “that many of the qualities that made them great artists were the same qualities that made them good people.” He then referred to folksinger Pete Seeger, who spearheaded efforts to clean up the Hudson River, to blues guitarist and singer Bonnie Raitt, who donated funds for guitar lessons for inner-city kids, and filmmaker Mira Nair, who started a film school in Uganda.

He briefly suggested four qualities these and others who have contributed to the welfare of humanity have. He urged his audience--he urged us all—to “be creative, to be useful, to be practical, and to be generous.”

That is wisdom that fits any age, truth that endures.

So is the kind of celebration of life that the poet Mary Oliver expresses in her poems, like this one:

Some things, say the wise ones who know everything,
are not living. I say,
you live your life your way and leave me alone.

I have talked with the faint clouds in the sky when they
are afraid of being left behind; I have said, Hurry, hurry!
and they have said: thank you, we are hurrying.

About cows, and starfish, and roses, there is no
argument. They die, after all.

But water is a question, so many living things in it,
but what is it, itself, living or not? Oh, gleaming

generosity, how can they write you out?

As I think this I am sitting on the sand beside
the harbor. I am holding in my hand
small pieces of granite, pyrite, schist.
Each one, just now, so thoroughly asleep.

—Mary Oliver, “Some Things Say the Wise Ones,” in Why I Wake Early (2004) 

To see the sacredness in every part of life, to really live the truth of being part of the “interdependent web of all existence,” is to be in tune with the universe, with that which goes on, with that which endures.

Hold fast to love, morality, life, to that which endures.

We live best when we live consciously in history, when we live with humility, and when we live with permanent values not transient ones.  

That is the central message of our Unitarian Universalist faith. When we live it, we make the world a better place and we make ourselves better people.

That is my faith.

That is My Sermon.

Bloomberg #1—>Fight the Backlash Against Retirement Saving Nudges: Everyone Benefits When People Save More for Old Age

Link to the article shown above. Originally published in Bloomberg Opinion June 29, 2018. Reprinted with permission.

Link to the article shown above. Originally published in Bloomberg Opinion June 29, 2018. Reprinted with permission.

"Fight the Backlash Against Retirement Planning Nudge" is my first piece as a Bloomberg columnist. Thanks to Noah Smith for recommending me to my new Bloomberg editor, Jonathan Landman. I am grateful to Bloomberg Opinion for permission to reprint the full text of my column here. They retain all rights. You can see links to all my other columns in the popular press here.


Wall Street Journal analysis recently concluded that “more than 40 percent of households headed by people aged 55 through 70 lack sufficient resources to maintain their living standard in retirement.”

It isn’t easy to solve the problem for those already at retirement age, but behavioral economists, working at the border of economics and psychology, have a magic bullet for getting younger people to save more: make enrollment in retirement savings plans automatic. In 2006, Congress blessed this approach by shielding companies from legal complaints if they automatically enrolled workers in life-cycle funds that use a formula to choose a mix of stocks, bonds and other assets appropriate to a worker’s age.

A key aspect of automatic enrollment is that workers are allowed to opt out. So it isn’t forcing anyone to do anything, just nudging them in the right direction. This idea of nudging people to do the right thing without forcing them has been called “libertarian paternalism.” It's a politically attractive approach to improving decisions about health, wealth and happiness, and is the core idea of the book "Nudge" by the Nobel-prize-winning behavioral economist Richard Thaler and the Harvard University law professor and Bloomberg Opinion columnist Cass Sunstein, who was head of White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs in former President Barack Obama’s first term. The conservative opinion writer George Will wrote in favor of libertarian paternalism in a 2008 essay, “Nudge Against the Fudge.”

Many states, with Oregon leading the way, have begun to roll out automatic enrollment in individual retirement accounts for workers not covered by company retirement savings plans.

Automatic enrollment has now gained so much traction that it has generated a backlash. Some of it targets extra paperwork for small companies. But the stronger critique is coming from analysts who unearthed evidence that workers may run up debt to make up for the reduced take-home pay (when money is deducted to feed the retirement account).

Andrew G. Biggs of the American Enterprise Institute, a top conservative think tank, is one of those leading the charge against automatic enrollment. He is on target in saying that the low-income workers for whom automatic enrollment has the biggest effect are also the ones who may not need to save much for retirement because their Social Security checks will be almost as big as their paychecks. And many people at the bottom of the heap economically would be better served by encouragement to pay off credit card debts than encouragement to save in a retirement account.

Biggs also finds some support for the idea that automatic enrollment can cause people to run up debt in research by many of the key players who got the idea of automatic enrollment off the ground. In a Jan. 29 essay posted on aei.com, “Can retirement saving increase your debt,” he wrote:

If we push low-income workers who don’t need to save more for retirement to do so, one reaction might be to borrow more elsewhere. Sure, state auto-IRA plans would let you withdraw if you chose, but inertia is strong. Many households might remain in the IRA plan and have contributions automatically deducted from their paycheck, but then borrow in order to make up for the lost take-home pay.

But the story is complex. Though it is true that the U.S. Army’s 2010 introduction of automatic enrollment in its Thrift Savings Plan caused employees to run up more debt, this was because it helped people save up for down payments for houses and cars.

Rather than failing to get people to save, the Thrift Savings Plan had an intentional loophole that let people "borrow" their own savings for near-term purchases of cars and houses rather than requiring them to use it in retirement. That's probably a good thing, since Biggs has made the point that low-income people don't need much retirement saving. 

Crucially, comparing employees in the years just before and the years just after automatic enrollment was introduced, there wasn’t any evidence that those automatically enrolled in the Thrift Savings Plan took on more credit-card debt. What they did do was to take out larger mortgages and larger auto loans. It is possible that they took out larger mortgages and auto loans because they made smaller down payments as a result of having less take-home pay. But given the ease of borrowing from their Thrift Savings Plan account, it seems more likely that they borrowed more because they were able to put down bigger down payments for better houses and cars than they would have been able to swing otherwise.

It's important to get the facts straight about automatic enrollment because there's more at stake than making sure people have enough resources for retirement.

When people save more, the whole economy benefits. A higher saving rate has the potential to reduce the trade deficit without protectionism. If accompanied by appropriate monetary policy, and not canceled out by bigger government budget deficits, a higher saving rate would also make more funds available for research and development. It should raise wages and reduce inequality. Advocates of automatic enrollment have been underplaying their hand by focusing only on the benefits for financial security in retirement.

Update December 21, 2018: Robert Flood writes on the Facebook page for this post:

Nudge is "rules vs discretion" dressed up and wearing a mustache.

Evidence that Gut Bacteria Affect the Brain

Some of the most important unknowns about diet and health center around the effect of different foods on one’s gut bacteria—also called the gut microbiome. Different types of gut bacteria like different kinds of food, so what we eat affects which types of gut bacteria flourish and which types of gut bacteria wither away.

The best types of gut bacteria do part of the processing of food and can serve as a buffer between problematic aspects of food and the intestinal wall. And the worst types of gut bacteria can themselves produce unpleasant chemicals. And even if a type of gut bacteria is neutral in and of itself, if it crowds out the worst types, that is a big service. So it matters which types of gut bacteria are flourishing.

So far, the one set of recommendations I have discussed that are heavily informed by thinking about gut bacteria are those I discuss in “What Steven Gundry's Book 'The Plant Paradox' Adds to the Principles of a Low-Insulin-Index Diet.” And I talk about evidence that eating sugar causes bad gut bacteria to thrive in “Anthony Komaroff: The Microbiome and Risk for Obesity and Diabetes.”

Possible mechanisms involving gut bacteria should keep you from being complacent about the effects of diet on your health. David Kohn’s Atlantic piece, “When Gut Bacteria Change Brain Function,” points to likely effects of gut bacteria on the brain. Here are some key passages from that article, shown by indentation, with my characterizations interleaved without indentation:

By now, the idea that gut bacteria affect a person’s health is not revolutionary. Many people know that these microbes influence digestion, allergies, and metabolism.

Putting B. fragilis bacteria into a mouse model for autism reduces repetitive behavior and symptoms that look like anxiety and being noncommunicative:

In a paper published two years ago in the journal Cell, Mazmanian and several colleagues fed B. fragilis from humans to mice with symptoms similar to autism. The treatment altered the makeup of the animals’ microbiome, and more importantly, improved their behavior: They became less anxious, communicated more with other mice, and showed less repetitive behavior.

Exactly how the microbes interact with the illness—whether as a trigger or as a shield—remains mostly a mystery. But Mazmanian and his colleagues have identified one possible link: a chemical called 4-ethylphenylsulphate, or 4EPS, which seems to be produced by gut bacteria. They’ve found that mice with symptoms of autism have blood levels of 4EPS more than 40 times higher than other mice. The link between 4EPS levels and the brain isn’t clear, but when the animals were injected with the compound, they developed autism-like symptoms.

Lactobacillus and bifidobacterium reduce anxiety-like symptoms in mice, while gut bacteria from anxious humans increases anxiety-like symptoms in mice:

Stephen Collins, a gastroenterology researcher at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, has found that strains of two bacteria, lactobacillus and bifidobacterium, reduce anxiety-like behavior in mice (scientists don’t call it “anxiety” because you can’t ask a mouse how it’s feeling). Humans also carry strains of these bacteria in their guts.

Collins transferred gut bacteria from anxious humans into “germ-free” mice—animals that had been raised (very carefully) so their guts contained no bacteria at all. After the transplant, these animals also behaved more anxiously.

Humans who were fed the a favorite food of Lactobacillus and Bifidobacteria—galactooligosaccharide (GOS)—ended up with lower levels of cortisol and were drawn more to positive words:

Some subjects were fed 5.5 grams of a powdered carbohydrate known as galactooligosaccharide, or GOS, while others were given a placebo. Previous studies in mice by the same scientists had shown that this carb fostered growth of Lactobacillus and Bifidobacteria; the mice with more of these microbes also had increased levels of several neurotransmitters that affect anxiety, including one called brain-derived neurotrophic factor.

In this experiment, subjects who ingested GOS showed lower levels of a key stress hormone, cortisol, and in a test involving a series of words flashed quickly on a screen, the GOS group also focused more on positive information and less on negative.

Gut bacteria produce many chemicals that could potentially affect the brain:

It’s not yet clear how the microbiome alters the brain. Most researchers agree that microbes probably influence the brain via multiple mechanisms. Scientists have found that gut bacteria produce neurotransmitters such as serotonin, dopamine and GABA, all of which play a key role in mood (many antidepressants increase levels of these same compounds). Certain organisms also affect how people metabolize these compounds, effectively regulating the amount that circulates in the blood and brain. Gut bacteria may also generate other neuroactive chemicals, including one called butyrate, that have been linked to reduced anxiety and depression. Cryan and others have also shown that some microbes can activate the vagus nerve, the main line of communication between the gut and the brain. In addition, the microbiome is intertwined with the immune system, which itself influences mood and behavior.

Two types of effect not clearly stated in this extensive just above are the possibilities that (a) certain gut bacteria could intercept and neutralize chemicals from food that might otherwise affect the brain and (b) certain gut bacteria could intercept and neutralize chemicals that might otherwise damage the intestinal wall, which in turn would let other nasty chemicals into the bloodstream.

Why would certain types of gut bacteria do helpful things? One possibility is that it might help aid the spread of that type of gut bacteria:

Cryan suggests that over time, at least a few microbes have developed ways to shape their hosts’ behavior for their own ends. Modifying mood is a plausible microbial survival strategy, he argues that “happy people tend to be more social. And the more social we are, the more chances the microbes have to exchange and spread.”

The other possibility is that, other things equal, killing off one’s host is bad for the spread of one’s type of bacteria. But it takes many humans dying over a long period of time for this to create significant cumulative evolutionary pressure towards nice bacteria, and any change in dietary habits can put in motion a much quicker process of nasty bacteria flourishing.

Conclusion

There are many things about gut bacteria that we still don’t understand. For a simple example, to what extent do gut bacteria themselves burn calories so that get absorbed through the intestinal wall are less than the calories that are eaten?

In terms of guesswork, an argument I alluded to above is that it takes many generations of humans, with those infested with bad gut bacteria being more likely to die, in order to cumulate a significant evolutionary advantage to nice gut bacteria. That is, coevolution of gut bacteria with humans requires many human generations, since it is differential survival of the human hosts that gives an advantage to the nice bacteria. Other than evolutionary pressures from the deaths or degradation of human hosts, evolutionary pressures on bacteria are all for the benefit of the bacteria, not for the benefit of humans.

Evolutionary pressures on bacteria for the benefit of the bacteria, without regard to their effects on their human hosts, can act very fast. It is likely to be quite delicate to maintain a short-run equilibrium that keeps a nice type of bacteria ahead of the nasty type of bacteria for long enough to gain the long-run benefit from human hosts not dying as much. Dietary changes could easily disrupt that short-run equilibrium so things shift toward a nasty type of bacteria that persist for a long time before the long-run disadvantage of killing of human hosts takes its toll on that type of bacteria.

So the bottom line is that it is wise to eat in a way that is close to how our ancestors ate over the period of time when gut bacteria coevolved to be nice to humans. Eating in a newfangled way that changes the competitive environment for bacteria is likely to hurt the competitive strength of some of the old friends we have among gut bacteria. “True paleo” (as distinct from what is called “paleo”) is what I talk about in ““What Steven Gundry's Book 'The Plant Paradox' Adds to the Principles of a Low-Insulin-Index Diet.”

In principle, we should be able to figure out the details of which bacteria we need to take care of to stay healthy and what we need to do for them. In the meanwhile, before we have figured everything out about the gut microbiome, eating in a fairly traditional “true paleo” way is a good precautionary strategy.

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. 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: Legitimate Taxation and other Appropriation of Property by the Government is Limited as to Quantity, Procedure and Purpose

John Locke takes for granted the necessity of taxes, but stipulates three conditions for taxes and other government appropriations of property to be legitimate.

  1. The taxes cannot be so high that some individuals would be better off in the state of nature than as taxpayers within the nation.

  2. The taxes must be approved by some kind of majority vote of the populace representatives of the populace who still have the interests of the populace at heart.

  3. The taxes must be for the good of the nation as a whole—or at least include among their beneficiaries many who are not themselves politically powerful.

These views are laid out in John Locke’s 2d Treatise on Government: Of Civil Government, Chapter XI (“Of the Extent of the Legislative Power”), Sections 138-140.

The first point—that taxes cannot be so high that some individuals would be better off in the state of nature instead, I infer from the beginning of Section 138:

 §. 138. Thirdly, The supreme power cannot take from any man any part of his property without his own consent: for the preservation of property being the end of government, and that for which men enter into society, it necessarily supposes and requires, that the people should have property, without which they must be supposed to lose that, by entering into society, which was the end for which they entered into it: too gross an absurdity for any man to own. 

The remainder of Section 138 sets forth the need for representatives to approve taxes who still have the populace’s interests at heart:

Men therefore in society having property, they have such a right to the goods, which by the law of the community are theirs, that nobody hath a right to take their substance or any part of it from them, without their own consent: without this they have no property at all; for I have truly no property in that, which another can by right take from me, when he pleases, against my consent. Hence it is a mistake to think, that the supreme or legislative power of any commonwealth can do what it will, and dispose of the estates of the subject arbitrarily, or take any part of them at pleasure. This is not much to be feared in governments where the legislative consists, wholly or in part, in assemblies which are variable, whose members, upon the dissolution of the assembly, are subjects under the common laws of their country, equally with the rest. But in governments, where the legislative is in one lasting assembly always in being, or in one man, as in absolute monarchies, there is danger still, that they will think themselves to have a distinct interest from the rest of the community; and so will be apt to increase their own riches and power, by taking what they think fit from the people: for a man’s property is not at all secure, though there be good and equitable laws to set the bounds of it between him and his fellow subjects, if he who commands those subjects have power to take from any private man, what part he pleases of his property, and use and dispose of it as he thinks good. 

The beginning of Section 139 then speaks of “consent”:

§. 139. But government, into whatsoever hands it is put, being, as I have before shewed, intrusted with this condition, and for this end, that men might have and secure their properties; the prince, or senate, however it may have power to make laws, for the regulating of property between the subjects one amongst another, yet can never have a power to take to themselves the whole, or any part of the subjects’ property, without their own consent: for this would be in effect to leave them no property at all.

Consent is then defined in Section 140 as majority approval:

§. 140. It is true, governments cannot be supported without great charge, and it is fit every one who enjoys his share of the protection should pay out of his estate his proportion for the maintenance of it. But still it must be with his own consent, i. e. the consent of the majority, giving it either by themselves, or their representatives chosen by them: for if any one shall claim a power to lay and levy taxes on the people, by his own authority, and without such consent of the people, he thereby invades the fundamental law of property, and subverts the end of government: for what property have I in that, which another may by right take, when he pleases, to himself?

For current debates, John Locke’s most important stipulation is about the legitimate purposes of taxation. In the latter part of Section 139, he is not explicit about exactly what purposes are appropriate, but has a very revealing parable: a general can order a soldier to almost certain for a public purpose—the preservation of the nation from destruction by its enemies in war—but cannot legitimately steal a penny from the soldier for the general’s personal enrichment:

§. 139. … And to let us see, that even absolute power, where it is necessary, is not arbitrary by being absolute, but is still limited by that reason, and confined to those ends, which required it in some cases to be absolute, we need look no farther than the common practice of martial discipline: for the preservation of the army, and in it of the whole commonwealth, requires an absolute obedience to the command of every superior officer, and it is justly death to disobey or dispute the most dangerous or unreasonable of them; but yet we see, that neither the serjeant, that could command a soldier to march up to the mouth of a cannon, or stand in a breach, where he is almost sure to perish, can command that soldier to give him one penny of his money; nor the general, that can condemn him to death for deserting his post, or for not obeying the most desperate orders, can yet, with all his absolute power of life and death, dispose of one farthing of that soldier’s estate, or seize one jot of his goods; whom yet he can command any thing, and hang for the least disobedience; because such a blind obedience is necessary to that end, for which the commander has his power, viz. the preservation of the rest; but the disposing of his goods has nothing to do with it.

Debates about quantity and procedure for taxes are frequent and obvious in the news. Debates about purpose of taxes are even more frequent, but come in a slightly different guise: they show up as debates about whether particular government expenditures are appropriate or not. In many countries, the battle for what John Locke argues for in these three sections has been won. We are fortunate to have democratic governance of taxes and government spending.

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