I’m honored that AIER produced this video version – narrated by Kate Wand – of my December 14, 2020, essay, “Tyranny During Its Reign Is Unrecognized by Its Victims.”

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This economics-student correspondent of mine is determined to find justification for minimum wages:

Mr. A___:

You describe as “wise” Rep. Ro Khanna’s assertion that – as you put it – “businesses that can’t afford to pay at least $15 an hour shouldn’t be in business to begin with.”

I describe Rep. Khanna’s assertion as witless, and perhaps even as wicked. It’s also, as Christian Britschgi writes, remarkably cavalier.

Four years ago I did a blog post on the fallacy now spread by Rep. Khanna. And I could write a long paper simply listing additional weaknesses in Rep. Khanna’s ‘argument.’ But I’ll here mention only two.

First – and being a student of economics, Mr. A___, you should be aware of this reality – worker pay generally reflects worker productivity. Therefore, what Rep. Khanna’s position amounts to is a reckless disdain for businesses that employ workers whose skills do not yet allow them to produce at least $15 per hour worth of output. One would think that a tender-hearted Progressive such as Rep. Khanna would applaud businesses that provide jobs for low-skilled workers. But no. Rep. Khanna apparently believes that workers who aren’t capable of producing at least $15 per hour are unworthy of employment. (I don’t dare suppose that Rep. Khanna secretly applauds the fact that a higher minimum wage will further swell the ranks of the welfare-state’s clientele and, thus, increase his and his fellow Progressives’ political support.)

Second, workers – especially low-skilled workers – receive from their employers more than hourly wages. My late, great colleague Walter Williams, writing on pages 150-151 of his 2011 book, Race & Economics, explains:

It is important to note that most people acquire marketable skills by working at a “subnormal wage,” which amounts to paying to learn. For example, inexperienced doctors (interns), during their training, work for salaries that are a tiny fraction of what trained doctors earn. College students pass up considerable amounts of money in the form of tuition paid and income foregone in order to develop marketable skills. It is ironic, if not tragic, that low-skilled youths from poor families are denied an opportunity to get a similar start in life. This is exactly what happens when a high minimum wage forbids low-skilled workers to “pay” for job training in the form of a lower beginning wage.

Rep. Khanna seemingly wishes to deny job training to low-skilled workers. Do you share his wish?

Sincerely,
Donald J. Boudreaux
Professor of Economics
and
Martha and Nelson Getchell Chair for the Study of Free Market Capitalism at the Mercatus Center
George Mason University
Fairfax, VA 22030

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Decrying Covid Propaganda

by Don Boudreaux on February 24, 2021

in Current Affairs, Video

Speaking this week in the House of Commons, conservative MP Charles Walker rightly criticized the official propaganda meant to create in the British people an excessive fear of Covid-19.

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Phil Magness recalls Anthony Fauci’s reckless fear-mongering, nearly 40 years ago, on AIDS. A slice:

The damage was already done though, as the media went to work stoking alarm about AIDS transmission through simple routine contacts. Hundreds of newspapers disseminated the distressing theory from Fauci’s article. Writing a few weeks later, conservative columnist Pat Buchanan enlisted Fauci as the centerpiece of a rebuttal against Health and Human Services Secretary Margaret Heckler, who told him “there is no evidence…that the general population is threatened by [AIDS].”

On July 14, both Buchanan’s column and its excerpt of Fauci’s article were entered into the congressional record along with moralizing commentary that assigned blame for the disease to homosexual establishments and gatherings. Unfounded fears of transmission risk through simple contact, and accompanying social ostracization of the disease’s victims, became one of the most notorious and harmful missteps of the entire AIDS crisis.

It might be tempting to chalk Fauci’s error up to the scientific uncertainties of a novel disease. Medicine advances by investigating all plausible theories, subjecting them to testing, and ruling out those that lack evidence. In this case however, the more likely candidate was scientific negligence and unwarranted alarmist speculation.

Journalist Randy Shilts documented the incident in his classic early history of the AIDS crisis, And the Band Played On. Immunologist Arye Rubinstein had already offered a more plausible explanation for the infant case, which even cursory examination would verify: the disease transmitted from the mother to the baby during pregnancy. As Shilts explains, “Upon investigation, Rubinstein learned that Anthony Fauci had not bothered to read his paper.” The NIH scientist instead relied on second-hand information from another researcher to indulge in open-ended speculation (for a longer excerpt of Shilts, see David Henderson’s post on Fauci’s early career).

And here’s David Harsanyi on Fauci. Three slices:

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the chief pandemic adviser to President Joe Biden, is a bureaucrat. He’s not our parent, or our personal physician, or a shaman, or our life coach.
…..

This story of American ineptitude in the face of a pandemic, popular among statists, pessimists, and left-wingers pining for federalized control over states, is a myth. The United States has performed just as well as most Western nations, where fatality rates are between 100 and 190 per 100,000, with variations most likely due to density, climate, inherent social behavior, or, one imagines, reasons yet to be figured out. This is true before we even begin taking into consideration the disparity in ways nations count fatalities, the meticulousness with which they count them, or the transparency with which they report them.

…..

I’m sorry the Constitution is inhibiting Fauci’s work, but he is a public-health official. His job is to relay information to the public, not to threaten doom, or coax or trick us into doing things. Yet even now, despite the immensely promising results of the vaccination program (the United States, incidentally, easily outperforms the European Union’s “unified approach”), Fauci is underplaying the effectiveness of the vaccine for the same reasons, one suspects, that he misled us about herd immunity. Even when most American are immunized, Fauci says, we won’t be back to “normal” until new infections drop “to a baseline that’s so low, it is virtually no threat.”

This is a disqualifying statement — an insane standard that no free society would ever indulge. For Fauci, herd immunity is effectively 99 percent.

Perhaps it’s understandable that an immunologist such as Fauci, who will continue to make more money than any other official in the United States government through all of this, isn’t very alarmed about the economic, social, and constitutional tradeoffs that accompany his approach. For a year, any criticism of Fauci was immediately slotted into the alleged debate between Donald Trump vs. “science.” But it’s Fauci’s technocratic instincts, not science, that makes him more likely to praise Chicom’s lackeys at the World Health Organization than the resilience of the United States.

Here’s the Babylon Bee trying to satirize Fauci – but it’s ultimately impossible, as this man (like so much else about Covid Derangement Syndrome) has become self-satirizing. (Relatedly, see this tweet from Derek Thompson, and also this short piece by Ron Bailey.)

Speaking of impossible-to-satirize, here’s Alexander McKibbin on Lord Protector Boris’s new scheme to somewhat loosen the thumbscrews that his subjects have worn for so long now.

Maria McFadden Maffucci reports, in National Review, on New York strongman Andrew Cuomo’s other coronavirus victims.

Glen Bishop wonders why the British ignore Florida.

My, my, but isn’t the mysteriously admired-by-many Neil Ferguson tetchy.

How can any people with even the slightest pretense to being freedom-loving have ever tolerated a government issuing such totalitarian diktats? A slice:

I’m not sure how to break this to those clever chaps in the bunker at No 10, but allowing us to have a walk or even a coffee on a bench “with one person outside your household” from March 8 will not strike many as a hugely exciting relaxation of this interminable lockdown.

A quick shufty in any park, wood or country lane over the weekend would have revealed that millions of Britons had already weighed up the risk of breaching the guidelines and decided that, on balance, they’d rather have an illicit dog walk with “one person outside your household” (which used to be called “a friend”) than go mad.

I applaud this new encouragement of peaceful violations of the U.K.’s tyrannical lockdown diktats. A slice:

Here at Lockdown? What Lockdown? we know all too well what the mental and societal costs of these nonsensical lockdowns have amounted to and, therefore, we want to celebrate those enterprising individuals who have done anything from found the courage to have dinner with their “bubble”, or identified little loopholes in the regulations, right through to having hosted a massive party, or an illegal rave, all in the name of attempting to reclaim a sense of normality and because you, like us, believe that waiting for June 21st is the true definition of covidiocy.

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Quotation of the Day…

by Don Boudreaux on February 24, 2021

in Philosophy of Freedom

… is from page 298 the great Frank Chodorov’s September 1945 essay “George Mason of Virginia” as this essay is reprinted in Liberty Fund’s splendid 1980 collection, Fugitive Essays, of Chodorov’s writings, edited by Chuck Hamilton:

To be sure, the question of rights – or natural rights, as it was called – had been the subject matter of philosophic speculation for several centuries before America became a political entity, and it had also been the battle cry of a few rebellious undertakings in Europe; but never and nowhere was its content equivalent to that which it attained in the freak republic carved out of the western wilderness. Here it became a formula for the guidance of organized life, a standard by which to measure the correctness of political institutions. It was a principle, not a handout.

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Bonus Quotation of the Day…

by Don Boudreaux on February 23, 2021

in Reality Is Not Optional, Seen and Unseen, Work

is from page 10 of my late, great colleague Walter Williams’s 2011 book, Race & Economics:

The ability to prevent a less-preferred worker from accepting a lower wage is one of the most effective tools in the arsenal of racists everywhere.

DBx: Yes.

Racists who used minimum wages as a means of denying economic opportunity to others had, despite their vile motives, a correct understanding of economics. Well-intentioned people today who support minimum wages as a means of helping poor workers score better than racists on the ethical front, but worse than racists on the economic-understanding front. Minimum-wage statutes still, as always, impose disproportionate harm on societys most vulnerable individuals.

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In my latest column for AIER I offer some of the reasons why I believe that the public’s fear of Covid-19 is far in excess of what the facts warrant. I explain also why I so adamantly oppose lockdowns, mask mandates, and other hygiene-socialism measures. And in the conclusion I offer what I believe is a sound justification for describing this public hysteria with the attention-grabbing term “Covid Derangement Syndrome.” A slice:

  • Covid-19 is disproportionately lethal to the very old and ill, and heavily so. In the United States as of February 17th, 2021, nearly a third (31.8%) of “All Deaths Involving Covid-19” – as defined and reported by the CDC – were of persons 85 years old and older. Nearly 60 percent (59.6%) of these deaths were of persons 75 years of age and older. More than 81 percent (81.3%) were of people 65 years of age and older. Despite media-trumpeted exceptions, serious suffering from Covid-19 is largely an experience for very old people.
  • .

  • Although Covid-19 is indeed unusually dangerous to very old people, it’s still not close to being a death warrant. The infection fatality rate for 85-year-olds is estimated to be 15 percent; for 75-year-olds it’s estimated to be 4.6 percent. For 65-year-olds, Covid’s infection fatality rate is estimated to be 1.4 percent. For 55-year-olds it’s estimated to be 0.4 percent.
  • .

  • Covid’s overall lethality compared to that of the seasonal flu is no more than 10 times greater. (Some estimates have Covid’s lethality, compared to that of the flu, to be as low as 3.5 times greater.) Of course, because Covid’s lethality undeniably rises significantly with age, for the elderly Covid is far more than 10 times as deadly than is the flu, and for young people Covid is much less than ten times as deadly. (Keep in mind that the numbers in this and the previous two paragraphs come chiefly from before any vaccines were administered.)
  • .

  • Since the Spring of 2020, hospitals in the U.S. have had a financial incentive to inflate their Covid numbers. As reported on April 24, 2020, by USA Today, “The coronavirus relief legislation created a 20% premium, or add-on, for COVID-19 Medicare patients.” Covid inflation occurred outside of the U.S. as well. In Toronto, for example, officials admit that they are inflating the Covid death count: Here’s Toronto Public Health: “Individuals who have died with COVID-19, but not as a result of COVID-19 are included in the case counts for COVID-19 deaths in Toronto.” (I encourage you to read the whole Twitter thread.)
  • .

  • Lockdowns themselves have negative health consequences. How could they not, even if the only such effect arises because of people’s increased difficulty of visiting physicians for non-Covid-related illnesses and injuries? But there is evidence that negative health consequences of lockdowns extend beyond those that arise from delayed or foregone medical treatments.
  • .

  • There is credible evidence that lockdowns do not significantly reduce people’s exposure to the coronavirus.
  • .

  • Lockdowns have negative personal and social consequences. Avoiding contact with family and friends, even during holidays. Inability to fraternize at your favorite gym, coffee shop, bar, or restaurant. Restrictions on travel. Even if you believe that these costs are worth paying, you cannot deny that these costs are serious.
  • .

  • Lockdowns have a severe negative impact on economic activity. How could they not, given that people are prevented from going to work and from engaging in much ordinary commercial activity? There’s debate about how much of the decline in economic activity is caused by voluntary action and how much is caused by the forcible lockdowns. Even in light of the likelihood that people’s fear of Covid is further stoked by the very fact that governments’ resort to the dramatic action of locking us down, evidence exists that a great deal of economic damage was caused by the lockdowns themselves.

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Lord Protector Boris

by Don Boudreaux on February 23, 2021

in Current Affairs, Philosophy of Freedom, Video

Desmond Swayne compares the tyranny currently raging in Great Britain to the tyranny that raged in England under Oliver Cromwell.

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Arnold Kling takes on Oren Cass (who continues to deeply misunderstand the case for free markets). Here’s Arnold’s opening sentence:

In “When Market Economists Fail” (Fall 2020), Oren Cass sets up a strawman version of free-market economics, which he proceeds to burn up in a blaze of rhetoric.

Pierre Lemieux tries to demystify the mysterious shortage of microchips.

My colleague Bryan Caplan asks “What does the success sequence mean?”

Nobel-laureate economist James Heckman will discuss the role of families in human flourishing.

Who’d a-thunk it?!

Robby Soave reports on the ominous trend of government officials pressing private citizens to control the dissemination of information.

Scott Lincicome and Revana Sharfuddin ponder the demise of the department store. A slice:

As we’ve discussed here previously, other data on middle-class wages and incomes show that the primary cause of the “shrinking” middle class is Americans moving up, not down, the financial ladder. Thus, there’s little data to suggest that “the collapse of America’s middle class crushed department stores.” Instead, this is far more likely a simple case of – pandemic aside – increasingly wealthy Americans preferring the convenience and variety of e-commerce or the uniqueness of brick-and-mortar niche retail over the traditional department store model – a preference that anyone who’s recently wandered a cavernous department store looking for a shirt or toaster, only to find it’s out of stock, probably understands. (And don’t even get us started on the parking garages.)

Here’s John Cochrane on the reaction to the death of Rush Limbaugh.

Writing in the Wall Street Journal, John Greenwood and Steve Hanke worry that inflation is on the horizon. Here’s their conclusion:

So we already know that the money supply will likely increase by at least another $2.3 trillion over the current year. In other words, even without any new lending or further purchases of securities by banks, the M2 money supply will grow by nearly 12% this year. That’s twice as fast as its average growth rate from 2000-19. It’s a rate that spells trouble—inflation trouble.

Jay Nordlinger talks with Douglas Carswell, the former British MP who is now president of the Mississippi Center for Public Policy.

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Covid Derangement Syndrome cannot be spoofed, for it is an ongoing spoof – if a terribly sad and dangerous one – of itself. (HT Phil Magness) Meal-time wear:

Amelia Janaskie joins the ranks of those comparing lightly harassed Florida to tyrannized California.

GraceLife Church in Edmonton issued an eloquent statement about Covid-19 and lockdowns. (HT Michael McAuley)

Having engaged in an immense amount of research, interacting with both doctors and frontline healthcare workers, it is apparent that the negative effects of the government lockdown measures on society far surpass the effects of COVID-19. The science being used to justify lockdown measures is both suspect and selective. In fact, there is no empirical evidence that lockdowns are effective in mitigating the spread of the virus. We are gravely concerned that COVID-19 is being used to fundamentally alter society and strip us all of our civil liberties. By the time the so-called “pandemic” is over, if it is ever permitted to be over, Albertans will be utterly reliant on government, instead of free, prosperous, and independent.

As such, we believe love for our neighbor demands that we exercise our civil liberties. We do not see our actions as perpetuating the longevity of COVID-19 or any other virus that will inevitably come along. If anything, we see our actions as contributing to its end – the end of destructive lockdowns and the end of the attempt to institutionalize the debilitating fear of viral infections. Our local church is clear evidence that governmental lockdowns are unnecessary. In fact, it is also evidence of how harmful they are. Without going into detail, we recently lost the life of one of our precious congregants who was denied necessary health care due to government lockdown measures.

Britain is no longer a free country. It’s simply not.

Sonia Elijah hopes that her fellow Brits will come to their senses and protest the tyranny of lockdowns.

George Leef weighs in on the ZeroCovid cult.

A death caused by lockdown.

Three Canadian physicians discuss Covid and Covid restrictions.

Bill Gates has become a menace to humanity.

Here’s a letter sent by Philip Foster to the tyrannical U.K. Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, Matt Hancock. A slice:

Remember your tame buffoons Ferguson et al telling us the (non-existent) ‘second wave’ would be far worse than the first? Yet again they could not have been more wrong. These people should not be allowed to remain in any kind of academic post. They are frauds and liars of the nastiest kind.

One day, when a sober analysis of the last year is done, there may be criminal prosecutions; not for going on holiday to Portugal, but for infringement of human rights, destroying your country’s economy and indeed for crimes against humanity (mass false imprisonment of the innocent). I hope you do not find yourself sharing a bucket with Mr Ferguson, who has been utterly wrong about every ‘epidemic’ in the last thirty years, including Covid, and has cost the taxpayer in excess of £300billion.

It is a crime to shout ‘Fire!’ in a crowded theatre for no reason. It is a far worse crime to scream ‘killer pandemic’ to a whole nation. You are complicit in this crime unless you return to the real world and bring sanity back.

Here’s a glimpse into the reality of government-schooling overlords. (HT my intrepid Mercatus Center colleague Veronique de Rugy)

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