But What About the Sanity Clause?

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Austin Bragg as…

Yes, I laughed. To keep from crying.

Also of note:

  • Hey kids, what time is it? According to Jerry Coyne, it's Time for Claudine Gay to resign.

    When the Presidents of MIT, Harvard, and Penn testified in a House hearing on antisemitism, I didn’t think any of them deserved to be fired. Sure, their performance was wooden and seemingly unempathic, but they were correct in maintaining that the First Amendment did allow calls for the genocide of Jews—under many circumstances. The problem with all three was not that statement, but their universities’ history of hypocrisy. None of them have speech codes strictly adhering to the courts’ interpretation of the First Amendment, as does the University of Chicago, and so they have enforced speech-code violations unevenly. It did not look good for them to suddenly invoke the First Amendment when it allowed for calls of Jewish genocide—not after a history of not allowing things like microaggressions. In other words, Penn, MIT, and Harvard invoked the First Amendment when it was convenient for them to do so—when it allowed dissing of Jews. Not good optics!

    Nevertheless, I didn’t think this hypocrisy was sufficient to call for firing the three Presidents. What did rise to the firing level was Penn President Liz Magill walking back her defense of the First Amendment the next day. Any President who doesn’t adhere, at least in lip service, to the First Amendment is not a President who should be leading a college. As for President Gay and President Kornbluth, I thought they should be given a chance to reform their speech codes. After all, both have been Presidents only since this year, and so can’t even be accused of most of the historical speech hypocrisy of their institutions. Perhaps the hearing was a “teachable moment” for Gay and Kornbluth, and would lead to improvements in their universities’ policy of free expression.

    No longer. Now, I think, Gay should resign—or be fired. Increasing and credible accusations of plagiarism, which now include substantial lifting of others’ prose in 7 of her 11 published papers (not much of a scholarly output, I must say), is enough to show that her academic history is ridden with theft. If a Harvard student would be kicked out for such plagiarism—and they would be—then how can a President remain in power with the same level of academic theft?

    For extra credit, this Twitter thread from Emma Pettit (reporter for the Chronicle of Higher Education) may be perused (not as funny as Austin Bragg, but almost):

  • And neither is Rearden Steel. You may have heard the fulminations about the proposed sale of U.S. Steel to Nippon Steel from a number of Wesley Mouch wannabes. Dominic Pino points out a simple truth: U.S. Steel Is Not Owned by U.S. Senators.

    The 572nd most valuable company in America is being bought out. This isn’t big news, but some people think it is.

    Senators John Fetterman (D., Pa.), Sherrod Brown (D., Ohio), J. D. Vance (R., Ohio), Marco Rubio (R., Fla.), and Josh Hawley (R., Mo.) have all expressed their displeasure with U.S. Steel’s pending sale. It is one of the enduring ironies of economic discourse that the people who sometimes accuse free-market proponents of being shills for business often get all sentimental about businesses targeted for acquisition.

    Vance, Rubio, and Hawley co-authored a letter to Secretary of the Treasury Janet Yellen urging her to block the acquisition of U.S. Steel by Nippon Steel on national-security grounds. They write that U.S. Steel is an “icon of American industry” and that the sale would have “dire implications for the industrial base of the United States.”

    U.S. Steel was at one time vital to the industrial base, but that time has long passed. Its peak employment was 340,000 during World War II when, like other companies, it was effectively government-run to supply the war effort. Today’s employment is just over 20,000. Peak market share was when the firm started, and peak output was in the 1970s. “X,” the firm’s ticker symbol, ceased being a component of the Dow Jones Industrial Average 32 years ago. It hasn’t even been an S&P 500 component since 2014.

    Two Democrats, three Republicans. Demonstrating once again that populist pandering is bipartisan.

    Pino follows up with some additional comments on how The Steel Industry Illustrates the Inconsistency of Populist Economics.

    This deal will have a negligible effect on market concentration in the U.S., and the alternative of Ohio-based Cleveland-Cliffs buying U.S. Steel, which some populists and the United Steelworkers union support, would increase market concentration significantly.

    The inconsistencies from a populist perspective don’t end there. U.S. Steel, and the steel industry more generally, is the archetypal economic-populist bogeyman.

    It was founded in 1901 as a merger between several large steel firms at the peak of the age of trusts. It was the sort of thing that populists at the turn of the century hated: industry consolidation with the backing of mega-financier J. P. Morgan himself. Along with Standard Oil, it was one of the mega firms that inspired the first wave of antitrust crusaders. U.S. Steel was the first billion-dollar corporation, and its valuation of $1.4 billion in 1901 was twice as large as the federal budget that year.

    As Jonah Goldberg noted in his review of a recent book by Patrick Deneen, “I do wonder why Deneen simultaneously laments the opening of factories in the 18th century and the closing of them in the 21st.” There’s a similar dynamic with U.S. Steel, which was the embodiment of everything populists hated at the start of the 20th century but has found populists as its last redoubt of enthusiasm in the 21st.

    Pino goes on to note that US Steel has been an eager supplicant for corporate welfare for decades.

  • A timeless observation about "free". Kevin Corcoran makes it: No Free Lunches, Air Travel Edition.

    It’s not for nothing that in David Henderson’s Ten Pillars of Economic Wisdom we find the following observation, coming in at number one: “TANSTAAFL: There ain’t no such thing as a free lunch.” Everything comes with a cost. When people say something to the effect of “Healthcare should be free” (or swap out “healthcare” with anything else you like), they are making an impossible demand. The only thing this demand could mean is “when I receive healthcare, I shouldn’t have to pay for it.” But health care doesn’t become “free” just because you, personally, didn’t receive a bill. Someone else will end up bearing the cost. So what this statement necessarily entails is “when I receive healthcare, it should be paid for by someone else.” Now, very few people would be willing to openly say “When I receive [insert good or service here], other people should have to pay for it, not me.” But advocates of free healthcare, free college, free childcare, etc, are in fact making that claim.

    Or at least some of them are. I’d say the “such-and-such should be free” crowd probably falls into two camps. The first camp is made up of people who understand perfectly well that what they’re actually saying is “other people should pay my bills,” but know better than to say that openly. So, they use language like “free”, or perhaps declare the good or service in question to be a “human right,” as a means of sidestepping the no-free-lunch issue. But I also suspect that there are a lot of people who genuinely do think that as long as no bill is received, then something really was “free” in some grand metaphysical sense – manna falling from heaven.

    Corcoran's punching bag is Southwest Airlines, which has long touted its "bags fly free" policy. And now offers "free" extra seats for fat people. Which didn't (heh) "sit" well with this mom and her two daughters:

    “Please help me understand why do I have to spend the night without any accommodations in Baltimore because an oversized person didn’t purchase a second ticket,” the exasperated mother said, claiming all of her and the teenagers’ luggage was sent to their final destination in Denver.

    But those bags flew "free".

  • AARP treats me like I'm already senile. As I previously noted. At NH Journal, Kate Day makes a related point: AARP’s Election Year Playbook on Social Security Means Seniors Lose.

    But there are likely other reasons AARP focuses so much on Social Security, and less so on Medicare’s financial uncertainty these days. Both critical programs face challenges, but AARP’s questionable support for the Democrats’ so-called Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) that raided $280 billion in Medicare prescription savings is key among them. How does AARP present itself as an advocate dedicated to securing Medicare’s long-term solvency when it supported recent legislation that diverted billions obligated to beneficiaries that instead went to fund unrelated special interest programs?

    It gets worse. In addition to using the IRA’s Medicare drug savings to pay for handouts like electric vehicle and solar panel tax credits, billions were reallocated to pay for large tax subsidies benefiting massive health insurers like AARP’s corporate benefactor, UnitedHealth. Equally astonishing, these climate and insurer subsidies were doled out immediately while the IRA provisions AARP and Democrats sold to seniors as a means to lower their drug costs had delayed implementation timeframes of two to five years. It was a huge win for Democrats and big insurers seeking a financial windfall but far less so for older Americans.

    I think I've mentioned that AARP mail goes right to the shredder.