Published in Econ Journal Watch, Volume 5, Issue 2, May 1, 2008, pages 240-268.
Many public-health researchers are quick to raise charges of bias to explain away the few studies that reach politically incorrect conclusions. Claims of bias are often thrown at researchers who are funded by the industries targeted for aggressive intervention. This paper discusses whether it makes sense that bias is a relevant issue only when researchers have connections to private industry or find fault with government intervention. I focus on the issue of whether smoking bans harm any restaurant or bar owners. This area of research has experienced a large number of claims of bias and deception, leveled against research that does not enthusiastically support expanded intervention. This paper diagnoses the groupthink and deep biases of the structures and cultures within which pro-ban research comes into being. It also shows how intimidation is used to silence dissent and enforce taboos. It shows why it is important that we address the question: Who else would fund research that might come to politically incorrect conclusions on such issues?
The definitive version is available at Econ Journal Watch Online.