URLs du Jour


[Amazon Link]
(paid link)
Our Amazon Product du Jour is subtitled "Unique, Hand-Illustrated Adult Coloring Pages Starring Your Quarantine Dreamboat". So if you're in the market for that…
  • But I'm not a fan. Marty Makary ("M.D., M.P.H.") takes a look at Dr. Fauci's Legacy and he is not kind.

    Anthony Fauci is ending his long and celebrated government career by being widely lauded for getting so much so very wrong on Covid-19.

    Now 81 years old, Dr. Fauci has spent 38 years as head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, part of the National Institutes of Health. He has been rightly honored for his many contributions over the decades, most notably during the fight against AIDS, for which he was awarded a Presidential Medal of Freedom by George W. Bush. But to Covid-19 he brought a monomaniacal focus on vanquishing a single virus, whatever the cost—neglecting the damage that can follow when public health loses sight of the public’s health. 

    As the lead medical authority to two administrations on Covid-19, Dr. Fauci was unwavering in his advocacy for draconian policies. What were the impact of those policies on millions of Americans? And what would the country look like now had our public health experts taken a different approach? As Dr. Fauci is preparing to leave his post, those are a few of the questions worth asking as we consider his various Covid-19 legacies.

    Also worth a snort is this tweet from Jay Bhattacharya. David French tries to make a point that I probably shouldn't have made a couple days ago, and Jay says nay:

    Uh, yeah, that's what I should have said.

  • So you're saying there's a chance. Bjørn Lomborg asserts, plausibly, that The Inflation Reduction Act Does Little to Reduce Climate Change.

    Top administration officials are fanning out across the U.S. in a victory lap for the new Inflation Reduction Act, which President Biden calls “the most significant legislation in history to tackle the climate crisis.” America, we are told, is a global climate leader again. This narrative has serious problems.

    The foremost issue is that the act will have a trivial impact on climate change. The Biden administration claims the law will enable the U.S. to reduce carbon emissions in 2030 by around 40% below 2005 levels. This is less than the 50% reduction Mr. Biden promised only last year, but it still sounds impressive. One major wrinkle: Most of that cut has nothing to do with the Inflation Reduction Act.

    Unlike most other nations on the planet, the U.S. has substantially reduced its carbon emissions over the past 15 years. This is largely owing to the fracking revolution that replaced a lot of America’s coal with natural gas, which is cheaper and cleaner. Even without the new law, the U.S. was on track to cut emissions substantially by 2030, according to research by the Rhodium Group. Averaging their high and low emission predictions, the U.S. would drop emissions by almost 30% absent the new law. With the new law, emissions will decline instead by a little over 37%. The “most significant legislation in history” will actually cut emissions by less than eight percentage points.

    If you're making plans for New Year's Eve 2099, the legislation's "impact on global temperature will still be almost unnoticeable, at 0.028 degree Fahrenheit."

    (Also underdelivering: I'm sure you've noticed that the trivial amount of "deficit reduction" contained in the Act was totally wiped out by Biden's "debt forgiveness". Sorry if you were depending on that.)

  • Resembling the GOP's promise to repeal Obamacare… Michael Lucci reveals the reason Why the Democrats Kept Trump’s Tax Reform.

    President Joe Biden signed the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) into law last week, adding to a long history of legislation that will achieve the opposite of what its name claims. Consider the quality of K-12 education after the No Child Left Behind Act, or the affordability of health care after the Affordable Care Act. Already, the Congressional Budget Office projects that the law will have zero impact on inflation. This will not surprise Americans, who, by a three-to-one margin, expect the law to increase inflation, not reduce it.

    Yet one surprise about the new tax law is not yet making headlines. In passing their own version of tax reform, the Democrats left the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) completely intact, despite five years of promises to repeal it. No less than President Biden himself made a campaign promise that “on day one, I will move to eliminate Trump’s tax cuts.”

    Deference to the TCJA reveals that it is, in fact, good policy with bipartisan appeal. The most obvious thing to fix about the TCJA is to make its key provisions permanent.

    Let's give the Democrats one cheer for bowing to reality. Although they will still continue to demagogue on the issue, so maybe make that a half-cheer.

  • Good advice. Jack Fowler suggests you Sue the Thought Police.

    Bias-reporting systems, by their existence, are institutional deep freezers that create those “chilling effects” on campus speech. They are the instigators of the cautionary thought Should I risk speaking up in the first place? Which is why the foes of BRS, including admirable organizations such as FIRE (newly reminted as the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression), charge that it prevents students and professors — from the non-woke to the surely conservatives to the leave-me-aloners — from voicing opinions, or even telling jokes, lest they get caught up in a crypto-Soviet dragnet (anonymous accusers, no due process) with an array of consequences: hostility, reprimands, suspensions, the boot, and finding themselves at the dangerous intersection of Here’s My Opinion and You’re Unhireable after Graduation.

    In a paper for the American Enterprise Institute calling for the elimination of BRS from colleges, Cherise Trump, a George Mason University graduate who is Speech First’s impressive executive director, railed against its expansiveness and the consequence of its unsubtle silencing: “The fear of being anonymously reported to authorities and subjected to process-is-punishment investigations, diversity and anti-bias trainings, and public stigmatization is a present and powerful force on campuses nationwide.”

    Students, faculty, and staff of the University Near Here can check out their "New [February 2021] Reporting Tool for Incidents of Bias, Discrimination and Harassment" here.

  • And use it wisely. Caitlin Flanagan at the Atlantic offers a good deal: America’s Fire Sale: Get Some Free Speech While You Can.

    Two years ago, a friend emailed me: Some writers were composing an open letter to appear in Harper’s; it would address the growing threats to freedom of expression in this country. Did I want to read and possibly sign it? I read it and said to myself, This is going to be a shitstorm of biblical proportions, and wrote to my friend, “In.”

    Of course I was in. I have shown up for free expression when it was a major cause of the left, and I show up for it now that it has become a cause of the right. Freedom doesn’t belong to a political party, and it’s not the tool of the powerful; it’s the tool of the powerless.

    The letter came out, and in the small, bitter, vengeful worlds of journalism and publishing—we’re a fun crowd—it was a festival of freedom of expression, a gathering of like-minded antagonists from the mighty to the dweeby. Someone named Richard Kim, who was then the enterprise director of HuffPost, tweeted (enterprisingly), “Okay, I did not sign THE LETTER when I was asked 9 days ago because I could see in 90 seconds that it was fatuous, self-important drivel.” (It was the I also got into Cornell of tweets: Of course I think it’s gross, but I want you to know I was asked.)

    Flanagan is funny, and also pissed about the unprincipled "free speech, but not for…" crowd.

    Of course, this appears at the Atlantic, which fired Kevin D. Williamson for well, speech they didn't like.

  • And finally… On the international LFOD watch:

    Chinese citizens in Beijing are creatively hitting out at President Xi Jinping and his Communist Party for the government's zero-COVID policy and strict control around the country.

    What Happened: Citizens from in and around Beijing shared on social media that a series of graffiti have been drawn by people in the city’s various PCR testing stations, which criticize the government for its handling of COVID-19.

    This came when the Chinese government was cracking down on people criticizing its COVID-19 policy. And to avoid being in legal trouble, the protestors chose to write only "one word only at each location, so it doesn't mean anything,” Jennifer Zeng, a Chinese-born human rights activist, and author, said in a social media post.

    However, combined, they read: "It's been 3 years, I feel numbed" and "Live Free or Die."

    Now that the Gadsden Flag is considered a sign of violent extremism, maybe liberty-lovers could come up with a similar scheme.

Last Modified 2024-01-16 3:53 PM EDT

The Power of Creative Destruction

Economic Upheaval and the Wealth of Nations

[Amazon Link]
(paid link)

This book was one of the nominees for the 2022 Hayek Book Prize, so I thought I'd give it an Interlibrary Loan try. It came up I-95 from UMass Dartmouth, and… well, it's one of those "wish I'd liked it better" books.

It purports to be an economic policy guidebook about the future of capitalism. It adopts Schumpeter's terminology of "creative destruction", the displacement of old technologies and employment by innovation. That can (and does) lead to greater overall prosperity for the participants; it arguably is tough on the businesses and people who were making a decent living until those dang new-fangled ways of doing things caused all the upheaval.

The authors argue for a highly-regulated capitalism to deal with problems like climate change, inequality, and unforeseen catastrophes (like Covid). They highly recommend a strong safety net for innovation-displaced workers (dubbed "flexicurity" after the Danish policies they really like).

So, basically, an argument for Elizabeth Warren-style stakeholder capitalism. I'm pretty sure she wouldn't find much to disagree with here. I, on the other hand, am surprised about the Hayek Book Prize nomination. (Hayek does show up, but not until page 294 or so, where his insights into governance are discussed.)

Some random thoughts:

A back cover blurb from Joel Mokyr compliments the book's "accessible prose". Which is nice, and sort of accurate: there are no particularly advanced concepts here. (Unless you consider graphs to be advanced. Lots of those.) But accessible prose can also be pretty boring, and that's the case here. The authors make Hayek look like Lee Child in comparison. (I wonder if the original French version was livelier and the translator squeezed all that out?)

I was puzzled by notable absences. An early chapter discusses economic "takeoffs": the causes of phenomenal increases in general prosperity around the world. Missing entirely from that discussion: Deirdre McCloskey. Maybe the authors disagree with McCloskey's explanation of what she calls the "Great Enrichment". Fine, but let's have that discussion instead of ignoring her theories. Equally ignored is the less-capitalist economist Mariana Mazzucato, who's written well-known takes on entrepreneurship and innovation. Basically, it seems the authors are reluctant to deal with counter-narratives.

The concept of "path dependence" is central to a lot of the book's argument. Understandably; when people are wedded to an inferior technology it can slow or prevent better ones from being adopted. Unfortunately, their Exhibit A for path dependence (they deem it a "glaring example") is a hoary one: the QWERTY keyboard saddling us with inefficient typing when the Dvorak layout is obviously superior. I find a Reason article from 1996(!) by Stan J. Liebowitz and Stephen Margolis to offer a serious and plausible rebuttal to that myth: Typing Errors. (They also discuss why the myth is so seductive to free-market haters.)

The authors take as a given that "inequality" is bad. The (to my mind sensible) view is that it's OK if it drives overall prosperity. Poverty is the actual problem, and the superior way to deal with that is…?

The authors have a yen for statist interventions. As far as USA stuff goes: they like DARPA, and that's a pretty plausible example. But they ignore (say) the Export-Import Bank and other corrupt boondoggles wasting taxpayer money on the politically well-connected.

The authors are also full-fledged climate hysterics. More nuanced views of the Lomborg/Koonin stripes are, yup, ignored. But "climate change" is yet another excuse for them to recommend (yup) increased government spending on R&D, mandates, subsidies, regulations, etc.

Last Modified 2024-01-16 3:53 PM EDT