The Iron Triangle

I mentioned the idea of writing a post on ‘The Iron Triangle’ yesterday. In the comments ‘brainyfurball’ apologised for pinching the subject, but there is nothing to apologies for. “All in it together”. In any case, I picked up the idea from elsewhere myself – can’t remember where now. But ‘brainyfurballs’ gives a link:

That is not where I saw it first, but it is much the same. Plaudits to Paul M Johnson.

This picture shows the basic idea:

The diagram is a triangle, but it could just as easily be a quadrangle or a pentangle, but clearly the triangle would be strongest of all because of the lack of complexity.

First, however, a couple of notes. The use of the word ‘iron’ is intended to indicate ‘the strength’ of the arrangement. It is almost foolproof. Looking at the pic, you can see that all the groups involved can protect themselves from outside interference. They can pursue their objectives and ‘repel boarders’ with ease.

But looking more closely, you see that there is an outer series of advantages for the participants and an inner series. Thus, from ‘Interest Groups’ flows ‘electoral support’ to members of congress, and from members of congress flows ‘friendly legislation’ to ‘Interest Groups’. For example, Tobacco Companies, in their heyday, undoubtedly ‘bought’ protection from Members of Congress by contributing to their campaign funds. In the triangle we would see ‘funds to congress’ on the outside, and ‘protection’ on the inside (or vice-versa).


Regarding ‘The Tobacco Control Industry’ and the WHO, we need to put different groups into place at the apexes of the triangle. But where to start? ‘brainyfurball’ had ‘tobacco control’, ‘Big Pharma’ and ‘Tobacco Companies’ at the apexes. He/she might be right, and that could be another, separate iron triangle, but I personally do not see it that way. There is no need for tobacco companies to want to be involved because they know that their customers base will grow anyway. Also, TC has specifically excluded them totally  – TC does not need them.

I really should try to master ‘Paint’ so that I could create a triangle which looks like the above, but it is too much trouble for an occasional user. Instead, let’s just replace the words. Take the top apex. The word is ‘Congress’. That indicates ‘The Power’ – the power to actually make laws. So let’s replace that word with another. In the case of the UK and tobacco control, I suggest that the replacement words should be ‘The Health Department’. I know that the DoH does not directly have the power, as compared with Parliament, but recent events have shown that the DoH gets its way every time, and that Politicians are too ignorant or scared to intervene, so ‘DoH’ will do to represent ‘The Power’.

On the left apex, we could ask ourselves what group represents ‘the interest group’. I would suggest ‘Academics’, but that word also represents the Medical Establishment as a whole. The reason for using the word ‘Academics’ will become clear in a moment.

What group should be places at the right apex? Yes, you are right. It is ‘The Drugs Companies and Foundations’. Those two can be unified because of ‘commercial links’. Thus, the Gates Foundation gets its money from commercial investments. It has major shareholdings in drugs companies, thus it is advantageous for the Gates Foundation to push nicotine patches and gum etc – drug company products. Let’s call this unified entity ‘Big Pharma’ (including the ‘Foundations’ within the word).


Going back to the left apex – ‘Academics’ – their importance seems to be of minor importance at first sight, but we must think. The reality is that ‘The Academics’ are absolutely fundamental to the success of the Triangle. It is ‘The Academics’ who provide the justification. Justification is of paramount importance to the ‘IRON’ of the triangle. The ‘Justification’ documents do not need to be true. They can be refuted, but the refutation does not matter. They are there only to provide temporary justification. Studies and Surveys do the business.

I have been looking back at ‘The Hospital Study’ by Hill and Doll (about 1950, but probably planned some years earlier). That study was the precursor to ‘The Doctors Study’. It was small scale. I personally believe that it was conducted to justify the costs of the huge Doctors Study. I’ve been trying to find out what organisation funded the Hospital Study. The best that I can do is this: “Sir Ernest Kennaway and Dr. Percy Stocks took part in a conference called by the Medical Research Council, at which this investigation was initiated, and we have been fortunate in having their helpful advice throughout its course.” I think that the highlighted words suggest that it was the Medical Research Council which funded that study.

The Doctors Study followed on immediately after the end of the Hospital Study. In fact, the delay between the two was less than a year. Plans for the Doctors Study MUST have already been in place. I believe, but am not certain, that the British Medical Research Council also funded the Doctors Study – at least at the start. I don’t know where the British Medical Research Council got its money from.


So we have the apexes:

Top: The Health Dept, being THE POWER.

Left: The Academics, being the providers of justification.

Right: Big Pharma, providing funding and bribes with the objective of increasing their business and profits.

A perfect ‘iron’ triangle.


But do we notice what is missing? For a start, Tobacco Companies are totally excluded, as per the FCTC. But also, individuals who enjoy tobacco are also totally excluded. They are regarded as ‘tobacco company shills simply because they enjoy tobacco products, in that they contribute to tobacco company profits. Consumers are excluded totally.

Also, we should note that ASH ET AL are also excluded. They are of no importance, other than having the minor task of publicising the decisions of the triangle. Even the WHO is not included in itself. Also, the FCTC is only a treaty, and a very weak treaty. Any nation which wishes to ignore it, can do with impunity. In fact, a fair number of signatories have not complied with the Treaty in that they have made no financial contributions at all. The USA signed the treaty but never ratified it, and has paid not one cent to it. The UK is the biggest contributor. 

The ‘Tobacco Control Division’ of the WHO is not in the triangle, which means that the WHO TC Division is just a useful tool for the Triangle to support and exploit.


Are there weaknesses in the Triangle?

In itself, it is very strong, but it relies upon only one of its apexes for its durability. That apex is THE POWER. For example, in the image at the top of this post, what is the weak point? It is CONGRESS! Congress can melt the iron and destroy the Triangle. The equivalent in our putative example is ‘The Health Dept’.

It is unlikely that ‘The Health Dept’ in the UK will melt. But it is possible that other department will begin to be affected by the demands of the Triangle, and start to complain. For example, it is perfectly obvious that all the demands of The Triangle’ are destructive, in the same way that windmills are costly and useless as generators of electricity as compared with power stations. The enormously expensive ‘Tobacco Prohibition Movement’ is destroying pubs and clubs in vast numbers, without any reciprocal savings at all – unless you believe in the Pell magical transformation of the Doll ‘discoveries’ of THE VERY LONG TERM effects of the enjoyment of tobacco into short term effects.


What can be done to destroy The Triangle’? It would be easy, if only politicians would consider the wishes of individuals rather than the wishes of ‘The Triangle’.

Is it not very easy? Rather than ‘The Chief Medical Officer’ dictating, ought not the elected ‘Minister for Health’ say, “You will obey obey my instructions. You will not give me instructions. Nor will you pay for or instigate any ‘studies’ or ‘surveys’ without my express permission. “Get behind me, Satan!” My job is about curing the sick. It is up to the ‘Safety Dept’ to deal with things like tobacco.

Is that not true? Tobacco use is a matter of ‘Safety’ and not ‘Health’.

An interesting idea which needs to be explored.


2 Responses to “The Iron Triangle”

  1. michaeljmcfadden Says:

    Very interesting Junican! Thanks!


    • Junican Says:

      It’s a bit tricky, trying to ‘place’ organisations like the UN, WHO, EU etc into the the triangular structure because they have no function in it – they have neither POWER, LEARNING or MONEY. POWER exists at the individual State level. I suppose that, to get it right, there would have to be some sort of grouping of the Health Depts.
      The ‘Conference of the Parties’ serves the function of suggesting common actions and time-scales. Who will be the speakers in Moscow? It is almost certain that those people will be part of ‘the committee’ (unofficial) which is directing the use of the POWER world-wide. In the past, Godber, Doll and what’s-his-name from the USA would have been prime movers, but I don’t know who they might be now. What is visible is the ‘academic’ entities, like Chapman and Glantz, but they are acting more like propagandists than academics.

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