We are a commune of inquiring, skeptical, politically centrist, capitalist, anglophile, traditionalist New England Yankee humans, humanoids, and animals with many interests beyond and above politics. Each of us has had a high-school education (or GED), but all had ADD so didn't pay attention very well, especially the dogs. Each one of us does "try my best to be just like I am," and none of us enjoys working for others, including for Maggie, from whom we receive neither a nickel nor a dime. Freedom from nags, cranks, government, do-gooders, control-freaks and idiots is all that we ask for.
I read some of David Brooks' column. I'm no great fan of his, but his Achievement Test is one decent yardstrick to use with policy broadly. Too bad it's rarely used.
One problem with the Achievement Test is agreeing on what achievement actually is. That's one reason for keeping government's role small -- we want freedom and government tends to evolve into the nanny-bully, a tyranny of the majority or of the minority or of the elite.
I think he is wrong when he thinks that the percentage of GDP going into government coffers is irrelevant. Governments have their proper roles and need resources to fill them (duh). When governments have more money, though, they tend to expand beyond proper roles. And when too much of the society's resources get allocated by the government, the tendency is to wind up with the very policies that Brooks rightly casts aspersions on.
No one knows what causes cancer. The causal mechanism and etiology are unknown. Anybody that tells you this or that causes cancer or this or that will prevent or cure cancer is BSing you.
Here are the facts. In 1971 President Nixon signed the national cancer act and the National Cancer Institute was tasked to find the cause of cancer. They confidently predicted they would find the cause within 5 years, by 1976. Well, have you ever seen the NCI announce they have discovered the cause of cancer? The answer is no. The last time I checked they were confidently predicting they would discover the cause of cancer by 2015. Look at this NCI website, the next to last paragraph
[url] http://training.seer.cancer.gov/disease/war/ [/url].
One reason for that being that there are many different variants, with possibly many different causes.
Another is that there's a lot of political pressure from special interest groups to declare just about anything as causing cancer in order to get it banned (mostly these are the environmental and other anti-industrial, anti-modernist groups who want to rid the world of anything to do with modern society, from fizzy drinks and shampoo to internal combustion engines and central heating).
Those groups have far larger budgets and far more political power than scientists trying to perform solid research. They of course also have a major interest in preventing the real causes from being known, as well as from any reliable treatment from being developed.