Throwback Thursday: Federal Government Spent $160K to See if Hexes Work

The only people who were being sapped of strength were the taxpayers.

In 1985, what was then known as the National Institute of Neurological and Communicative Disorders and Stroke spent $160,000 — more than $418,000 in 2022 dollars — to study if someone could successfully hex an opponent.

For this study, Sen. William Proxmire, a Democrat from Wisconsin, gave what’s now the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke a Golden Fleece award for wasteful and nonsensical spending.

The study looked at whether someone could hex an opponent during a strength test by drawing an X in front of the other person’s chest.

“The Institute is paying to determine whether a hulking, muscle bound subject will lose in a strength test, like arm wrestling, to an obviously weaker opponent,” he said sarcastically in a press release. “That opponent, however, knows a secret – making an ‘X’ causes those muscles to turn into jelly.”

It continues, “The Institute is sponsoring a series of tests. In one case, the spaghetti arms will be tested against the hulk’s without performing the ‘X’. Other times, they will use this secret technique and see if they do better.”

In addition to making an X, researchers also tested whether sapping the energy of the opponent could be an effective tactic.

In a memo to justify this spending, the Institute argued, “…the phenomenon under investigation cannot be understood or explained by information currently available and it is of obvious interest to determine what other heretofore unknown factors or mechanisms significantly influence muscle strength and movement…”

Studying muscle function would have been of obvious interest to the Institute. But Proxmire had the right idea when he claimed that the only people who were being sapped of strength were the taxpayers.

The #WasteOfTheDay is presented by the forensic auditors at OpenTheBooks.com. This article originally appeared on RealClearPolicy. 

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