Betteridge's Law of Headlines Reconfirmed

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Johan Norberg answers the burning question: Does Capitalism Really Make Us Lonely?

Presume the economic case for free markets is true: that capitalism makes us freer and richer, creates better jobs and greater opportunities, and helps us solve environmental problems. Does it make us happier too?

The American conservative Patrick Deneen believes liberal capitalism makes us "increasingly separate, autonomous, nonrelational selves, replete with rights and defined by our liberty, but insecure, powerless, afraid, and alone." Under the exhaustive headline "Neoliberalism—the ideology at the root of all our problems," the British leftist George Monbiot claims that these problems include (but are by no means limited to) "epidemics of self-harm, eating disorders, depression, loneliness, performance anxiety and social phobia."

Freedom "doesn't make us free, it makes us lonely," adds Christian conservative Joel Halldorf. "Increasing mental illness, isolation and populism are signs that liberalism cannot sustain itself." The leftist economist Noreena Hertz argues that "neoliberalism has made us see ourselves as competitors not collaborators, consumers not citizens, hoarders not sharers, takers not givers, hustlers not helpers."

Such sweeping statements are only very rarely followed by attempts to document any causal link or even a correlation. Surprisingly often, a quick misreading of classical liberals is supposed to be enough to prove the connection between liberalism and greed and loneliness, as if the resistance to forced relationships was based on a resistance to relationships themselves.

Norberg goes on to debunk the scurrilous accusation. With statistics. The science is settled, people!

The Reason article is adapted from Norberg's new book, our Amazon Product du Jour.

Also of note:

  • As predictable as the sunrise off Martha's Vineyard. Those Soviet-style N-year plans were never gonna work. The WSJ editorialists note the latest detour on the Road to Serfdom: The Great Northeast Wind Bailout.

    If only the hot air blowing at the United Nations’ Climate Ambition Summit this week could be used to generate electric power. That would be especially convenient since Governors in the Northeast are lobbying the White House to bail out their states’ offshore wind projects, which have hit a gale of ballooning costs.

    “Inflationary pressures, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and the lingering supply chain disruptions resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic have created extraordinary economic challenges,” wrote Govs. Kathy Hochul (N.Y.), Ned Lamont (Conn.), Phil Murphy (N.J.), Maura Healey (Mass.), Wes Moore (Md.) and Dan McKee (R.I.) to President Biden last week.

    It's worth pointing out that those states are among the richest in the US. Specifically, ranked by median household income, Maryland is #1, New Jersey is #2, Massachusetts is #3, Connecticut is #8, New York is #15, and poor Rhode Island is #15. It takes some brass cojones for those states to demand that (in effect) poorer states send them more money.

    (It's also worth pointing out that the median household in the District of Columbia has a higher income than any state. It's expensive to maintain the fiction of "free money" coming from Uncle Stupid.)

  • To a first approximation: check cashing. James Freeman wonders what's going on down there in Boston, specifically: What Exactly Happens at the Center for Antiracist Research?. That would be the center at Boston University, established in 2020, under the control of Ibram X. Kendi. Producing pretty much bupkis. Even the Boston Globe is wondering!

    “Boston University and Dr. Kendi believe strongly in the center’s mission,” Lapal Cavallario said. “We look forward to working with him as we conduct our assessment.”

    BU’s announcement of the inquiry came hours after the Globe sent the university extensive questions about the center’s operations.

    In interviews with the Globe this week, current and former employees described a dysfunctional work environment that made it difficult to achieve the center’s lofty goals.

    The organization “was just being mismanaged on a really fundamental level,” said Phillipe Copeland, a professor in BU’s School of Social Work who also worked for the center as assistant director of narrative.

    Assistant director of narrative.

    It's a huge job directing narrative, folks. You need an assistant to help. Freeman comments:

    Mr. Copeland resigned from the center in June, reports the Globe. His blunt comment on the record, coupled with the fact that he is a credentialed narrative expert, suggests trouble for Mr. Kendi. For if the latter can’t rely on a friendly media narrative, what can he rely on?

    And at National Review, Charles C. W. Cooke joins the scrum, wondering: Is Ibram X. Kendi a Racist? Betteridge's Law of Headlines fails here. Turns out the answer is yes.

    CCWC also quotes from the Boston Globe story:

    Since its announced launch in June 2020, just days after the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis, the center has raised tens of millions of dollars from tech entrepreneurs, Boston-area corporations, and thousands of small donors.

    At the time, Kendi, the author of the bestselling 2019 book “How to Be an Antiracist,” said the center would “solve these intractable racial problems of our time.”

    Well, maybe the center did "solve these intractable racial problems of our time." I mean, all that money must have done something, right?

  • I grew up in Iowa and Nebraska, and I like farmers. But, as Scott Lincicome painstakingly details, there is no plan to get them off the federal tit. Just the opposite, in fact: The Farm Bill Is a Case Study in What’s Wrong With Washington.

    As many conservatives and libertarians know all too well, “bipartisanship” is one of the most annoyingly misunderstood concepts in American politics and media. Yes, sure, it’s fine and good when Congress approves a good bill with lots of votes from both major political parties, but good law can get made via party-line votes and bad legislation can sail quickly through the legislative process with nary a peep of opposition. Indeed, some of the worst laws on the books were enacted with lots of R and D votes, and—frustratingly—with advocates using that bipartisanship as a useful shield against legitimate criticism. 

    There’s perhaps no better example of this kind of bipartisanship—the bad kind—than the farm bill, which Congress is again considering (as it does every five years) and will almost surely pass later this year with overwhelming bipartisan support. On its face, the farm bill is a sprawling, $1 trillion piece of legislation ostensibly about U.S. agriculture policy; but it’s really about a lot more than that—and it’s a testament to how bad policy gets made in Washington, too often accompanied by a harmonious chorus of happy Republicans and Democrats.

    It's paywalled, from the folks at the Dispatch. If you're blood pressure can stand it, maybe you should subscribe. Or you could check out Cato's "briefing paper" from Chris Edwards, advocating something that's not gonna happen: Cutting Federal Farm Subsidies. Fun facts:

    Farm subsidies disproportionately benefit high‐income households. In 2021, the average income of all farm households was $135,281, which was 32 percent higher than the $102,316 average of all U.S. households. The median income of farm households was $92,239, which was 30 percent higher than the $70,784 median of all U.S. households. Only 2 percent of farm households have net wealth below the U.S. median household net wealth.

    And, lest we forget: The Rich Get Richer: 50 Billionaires Got Federal Farm Subsidies. I'm far from a class warrior, but come on.

Last Modified 2024-01-11 4:48 AM EDT