Quotation of the Day…

by Don Boudreaux on February 9, 2023

in Nanny State

… is from page 85 of Robert Higgs’s Winter 1997/1998 Independent Review essay, “Puritanism, Paternalism, and Power,” as this essay is reprinted in the 2004 collection of some of Bob’s essays, Against Leviathan:

Paternalists are more ambitious than Puritans. Whereas the latter are content to steer people away from sinful behavior, the former go further, seeking also to promote the worldly health, safety, and welfare of their wards, coercively if need be.

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Here’s a letter to the Wall Street Journal:

Editor:

William Galston’s portrayal of the Koch network as having, until very recently, been clandestinely allied with Trumpian populists is tendentious (“The Koch Network Dumps Trump,” Feb. 8). It’s true that some policies pursued during Trump’s presidency are ones long supported by the Kochs. But none of these policies are uniquely Kochian. Every one of them – including tax cutting and reducing regulations – have long been supported also by mainstream Republicans. To suggest that Trump embraced these policies only because of insidious influence exercised by the Kochs is absurd.

Mr. Galston thinks that he seals his case when he quotes remarks delivered by Charles Koch to a gathering of key network supporters in July 2018. Mr. Koch did indeed then say that “We’ve made more progress in the past five years than I’ve made in the previous 50.” But I was in that audience and can attest that, contrary to Mr. Galston’s implication, those remarks were not about Trumpian policies – as should be obvious given that for three-and-a-half of the five years prior to July 2018 the White House was occupied by Obama. Mr. Koch was instead referring to the successes of his organization, Stand Together, at empowering  individuals to realize their potential. The majority of those efforts are focused on improving K-12 and post-secondary education, and on supporting community groups that help people who are struggling.

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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Bonus Quotation of the Day…

by Don Boudreaux on February 8, 2023

in Taxes

… is from page 54 of economists Phil Gramm’s, Robert Ekelund’s, and John Early’s excellent 2022 book, The Myth of American Inequality: How Government Biases Policy Debate (footnote deleted):

The top 10 percent of households in the United States earn about 33.5 percent of all income, but they pay 45.1 percent of income-related taxes, including Social Security and Medicare taxes. In other words, their share of all income-related taxes is 1.35 times larger than their share of income. That is the most progressive income tax share of any OECD nation. In Germany, the top 10 percent earn 29.2 percent of the income and pay 31.2 percent of income-related taxes, 1.07 times their share of income. The French top 10 percent earn 25.5 percent of the income and pay 28.0 percent of the income taxes, 1.10 times their share of income.

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Eric Boehm of Reason reports on the Biden administration’s stubborn opposition to a Congressional effort to end the requirement that foreigners who fly to visit the United States be vaccinated against covid. A slice:

And whatever logic may have dictated the placement of extra burdens on foreign travelers at the beginning of the pandemic—when countries were trying and failing to slow the spread of the virus—certainly no longer applies. Once COVID became a global disease, any restriction on international travel made no more sense than imposing the same rules on people crossing from Virginia into Washington, D.C., every day.

Reason‘s Robby Soave writes about the Cochrane Library’s recent review of the effectiveness of masks. A slice:

The wearing of masks to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and other respiratory illnesses had almost no effect at the societal level, according to a rigorous new review of the available research.

“Interestingly, 12 trials in the review, ten in the community and two among healthcare workers, found that wearing masks in the community probably makes little or no difference to influenza-like or COVID-19-like illness transmission,” writes Tom Jefferson, a British epidemiologist and co-author of the Cochrane Library’s new report on masking trials. “Equally, the review found that masks had no effect on laboratory-confirmed influenza or SARS-CoV-2 outcomes. Five other trials showed no difference between one type of mask over another.”

That finding is significant, given how comprehensive Cochrane’s review was. The randomized control trials had hundreds of thousands of participants, and made useful comparisons: people who received masks—and, according to self-reporting, actually wore them—versus people who did not. Other studies that have tried to uncover the efficacy of mask requirements have tended to compare one municipality with another, without taking into account relevant differences between the groups. This was true of an infamous study of masking in Arizona schools conducted at the county level; the findings were cited by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as reason to keep mask mandates in place.

Also writing about the recent study that finds masking to be largely ineffective at reducing the spread of covid is Reason‘s Jacob Sullum. Two slices:

After questioning the value of general mask wearing early in the COVID-19 pandemic, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention decided the practice was so demonstrably effective that it should be legally mandated even for 2-year-olds. A new review of the evidence suggests the CDC had it right the first time.

That review, published by the Cochrane Library, an authoritative collection of scientific databases, analyzed 18 randomized controlled trials that aimed to measure the impact of surgical masks or N95 respirators on the transmission of respiratory viruses. It found that wearing a mask in public places “probably makes little or no difference” in the number of infections.

These findings go to the heart of the case for mask mandates, a policy that generated much resentment and acrimony during the pandemic. They also show that the CDC, which has repeatedly exaggerated the evidence in favor of masks, cannot be trusted as a source of public-health information.

…..

But one thing is clear: Instead of following the science on masks, the CDC distorted it to support a predetermined conclusion.

Jenny Holland is rightly appalled by Leonard Downie’s Orwellian call for the news media to attempt to regain public trust by abandoning objectivity. A slice:

According to the Washington Post, journalists should contort a story so it affirms every pre-conceived notion your reader has. Telling your readers how something really is, even if it risks disabusing the reader of those notions, is no longer necessary.

Wall Street Journal columnist Jason Riley is correct: Black students need better schools, not lower standards. A slice:

Some of the best public schools in the country are charter schools full of low-income black students who regularly outperform wealthier white peers on standardized tests. Yet these charter schools, which purposely locate in poor minority neighborhoods, have been criticized by civil-rights organizations for their racial imbalance. School choice has polled off the charts among black parents for decades, but opponents continue the fight to deny these families better education options.

Similarly, gifted and talented programs have come under attack for their elitism. There have been calls to eliminate them outright or at least broaden the definition of “gifted” to get a more desirable racial mix. Because the programs often enroll more whites and Asians than blacks and Hispanics, they’ve been accused of driving school segregation, but a new study published in Harvard’s Education Next magazine concludes that there is little merit to that claim.

“I find essentially no impact from gifted and talented programs on a Black or Hispanic student’s likelihood of having white or Asian students as classmates,” writes Owen Thompson, a professor of economics at Williams College. Nor does starting or ending a gifted and talented program affect a school’s racial composition, as critics allege. “I do not find any consistent evidence that gifted and talented programs have a causal effect on schools’ race-specific enrollments.” Nevertheless, efforts to oust or water down enrichment programs continue. Racial parity has been deemed more important than maintaining high standards.

You don’t help underperforming groups by pandering to them or by holding them to lower standards. And you don’t help black children by insisting that they must be seated next to white children in order to learn. It’s not only insulting and condescending but contradicted by decades of evidence. Low-income black students need quality schools, not white classmates, and the focus on racial balance at any cost will only ensure that another generation of black youth receives an inferior education.

I’m honored to have been a recent guest of Ed Kless and Ron Baker.

Philip Klein identifies a truly grotesque bipartisan moment during Biden’s State of the Union address. A slice:

There were plenty of things to dislike in President Biden’s State of the Union speech, but the most grotesque moment actually was one of the most bipartisan: when both Republicans and Democrats stood with Biden to applaud the idea of not touching Social Security and Medicare, which both desperately need to be pared if there is any hope of the United States escaping a fiscal crisis.

An e-mail correspondent, David, generously sent to me this text of a speech given in 2003 in California by the late Michael Crichton on environmentalism as religion. (I heard Chrichton give this same speech, also circa 2003, in NYC.) I’m delighted to be able to share here the text of this speech.

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Quotation of the Day…

by Don Boudreaux on February 8, 2023

in Environment, Truth-seeking & ideology

… is from page 121 of Julian Simon’s posthumously published 1999 volume, Hoodwinking the Nation:

I believe that the demands of the everyday necessity to make a living constrain the flights of fantasy and the excitement of prophesies made and believed. And as society becomes richer, fewer people and groups are prevented by this necessity from indulging themselves in these emotional orgies.

DBx: Truly prophetic.

We humans immersed in today’s spectacularly productive global, commercial economy take for granted a level of material prosperity that could not have been dreamed of by the most powerful potentate just a few hundred years ago. This prosperity is overwhelmingly good, but it’s not without serious downsides. As Simon notes, this prosperity enables more and more individuals to consume the luxury good of emotional orgies.

Enormous quantities of time and emotional energy – and resources – are spent fretting about and “addressing” environmental risks the true magnitudes of which simply don’t justify such expense. What’s really being produced and consumed by too many ‘environmentalists’ is the emotional thrill of fighting an Evil Villain and, in the process, fancying oneself superior to the masses who haven’t yet seen the full danger posed by the Evil Villain.

The fact that the Evil Villain is cartoonish is a feature and not a bug for these ‘environmentalists,’ for only by portraying the danger as coming in the form of an Evil Villain are they free to disregard real-world complexities, uncertainties, and the inescapability of trade-offs.

Very much the same mindset – made possible by our enormous prosperity – explains the fevers for DEI “initiatives,” ESG “investing,” and wokism generally. Only fantastically wealthy societies can afford to indulge this nonsense and hope to get away with it.

And only fantastically wealthy societies can and would attempt to shut themselves down in order to slow or stop the spread of a respiratory virus.

…..

Julian Simon, pictured here, died suddenly on this date 25 years ago. Only four days shy of his 66th birthday, he was struck down at far too young an age. The world needs his wisdom now more than ever.

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Some Questions for a Covid Commission

by Don Boudreaux on February 7, 2023

in Current Affairs

Jay Bhattacharya, Leslie Bienen, Ram Duriseti, Tracy Beth Høeg, Martin Kulldorff, Marty Makary, MD, Margery Smelkinson, and Steven Templeton – “The Norfolk Group” – have some questions for a covid commission. Here’s their Introduction:

America’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic failed on many levels of government and in many aspects. Certainly, deaths are unavoidable during a pandemic. However, too many U.S. policy makers concentrated efforts on ineffective or actively harmful and divisive measures such as school closures that generated enormous societal damage without significantly lowering COVID-19 mortality, while failing to protect high-risk Americans. As a result, Americans were hard hit both by the disease and by collateral damage generated by misguided pandemic strategies and decisions that ignored years of pandemic preparation guidance crafted by numerous public health agencies, nationally and internationally.

Many crucial mistakes were made early on, in January, February, and early March 2020, and not corrected later. Mistakes made during this early critical window at the beginning of the pandemic affected our ability to collect data about COVID-19 and protect those most at risk and laid the groundwork for loss of public trust and confusion. These oversights led to unnecessary morbidity and mortality, particularly in nursing homes, and a lack of much-needed medical supplies, reagents for testing, and required medications. Delays in initiating research on key questions such as effectiveness of therapeutics, modes of transmission, length of infective periods, and other questions, meant that policy decisions were based on assumptions rather than on solid data. To this day, many of these questions have not been adequately addressed through robust trials.

At hospitals, morbidity and mortality (M&Ms) conferences are used to examine errors or omissions in order to improve medical care. Aviation agencies conduct detailed investigations after airplane accidents and incidents. Pandemics are recurring events throughout history, and there will be future pandemics. It is thus critically important that we thoroughly examine federal pandemic responses and decisions so that we can identify and learn from mistakes. Individual states should take on the responsibility of conducting similar processes to analyze their own responses to the pandemic. Other countries have conducted such inquiries (Norway, Sweden, The Netherlands, the United Kingdom, and Denmark) and made results available to the public and to decision makers. The United States is notably absent from this list. These inquiries pose important questions to key decision makers during the pandemic, including (i) politicians, (ii) leaders of the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease (NIAID), (iii) state health departments, (iv) university presidents, medical school deans, hospital executives, medical journal editors, and leading public health scientists, as well as (iv) news media and technology/media companies.

This document is not a report from such an inquiry. Rather, we present a blueprint containing key public health questions for a COVID-19 commission. In separate chapters we summarize key background information and propose specific questions about failures to protect older high-risk Americans, about school closures, collateral lockdown harms, lack of robust public health data collected and/or made available, misleading risk communication, downplaying infection-acquired immunity, masks, testing, vaccine efficacy and safety, therapeutics, and epidemiological modeling.

We chose not to discuss economic issues, although we recognize that negative effects on the economy have long-term negative effects on public health. We have also chosen not to engage in issues regarding media handling of the pandemic, nor questions of how, when and why the SARS-CoV-2 virus originated. Public health responses to a pandemic are devised and implemented independently of viral origin.

This document was prepared and written solely by its eight authors. No other person discussed its content, or saw a draft or the final version before publication. Seven of us started the work at an in-person meeting in Norfolk, Connecticut, organized by the Brownstone Institute in May of 2022. We wrote and edited the bulk of this document during the subsequent six months. In honor of the place where we met, we call ourselves the Norfolk Group.

The eight of us hold a wide range of political views and are not united by any particular political viewpoints. All the authors have voiced criticisms of how the pandemic was handled by government agencies and individuals appointed by and serving in both Republican and Democratic administrations. This is a public-health document, and we write it as scientists with different specific areas of expertise, but sharing the same views regarding the basic principles of public health. Our work on this document was not on behalf of any institution, public or private. Further, the statements written in these articles by the Norfolk Group represent their personal interpretations and do not necessarily represent those of their employers. Last, as data are collected and new studies emerge, some of these documents and statements may become out of date or less accurate. These documents are based on current information as of January 2023 and may not have been updated past that date.

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Bonus Quotation of the Day…

by Don Boudreaux on February 7, 2023

in Property Rights

… is this comment by Richard Fulmer on a recent post of mine at Facebook:

The rule, “from each according to his ability, to each according to his need,” creates incentives to demonstrate minimum ability and maximum need. Poverty is the inevitable result.

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In my latest column for AIER I explain why we should be grateful to live in a world in which the wages commanded by workers such as fire-fighters and school teachers are much lower than are the wages commanded by workers such as professional basketball players and Hollywood stars. A slice:

Suppose Jones bought several dozen gallon-sized bottles filled with nothing but ordinary air: 78 percent nitrogen, 21 percent oxygen, and 1 percent other gasses. Jones then loaded these bottles into a pick-up truck and drove around town offering to sell each bottle for $229.99. As Jones drove he broadcast through a loudspeaker the following message: “Air! Authentic, breathable air available here at the amazing price of only $229.99 per gallon! Nothing, my friends, is more essential to life than air. If you’re denied air for even a few minutes, you’re a goner. So get your air here!”

How many bottles of air would Jones sell at $229.99? How many bottles would he sell if he lowered his price to $29.99? What about to $9.99? Or to $0.09?

The answer, in each case, is none. The earnings available to be reaped by sellers of air are so low that, in the real world, literally no one attempts to make a living at this trade. This outcome is the correct one. Because on the surface of the earth, breathable air is so abundant that it’s free for the taking, it would be wasteful to use even one second of human labor to deliver it to consumers of air.

But what if Jones nevertheless persisted in his attempt to earn a living selling air. He’d surely plead along the following lines: “It doesn’t make sense to pay so little – in fact, to pay nothing! – to sellers of something as essential to life itself as air when other people are paid much more to supply the likes of popcorn, beer, and bubble gum. If we don’t raise the pay of air sellers, we risk losing our access to air! Humanity will suffocate!”

Of course, upon hearing Jones’s plea, you would correctly conclude that he’s deluded. Precisely because air is naturally so very abundant, we need to devote no human effort to supplying it.

Yet Jones doesn’t give up. He, an aspiring seller of air, continues to plead, this time by taking humanity on a guilt trip: “It’s unjust for suppliers of a good – air – that satisfies an essential need to be paid so little while people who supply popcorn, beer, bubble gum, and other frivolous luxuries are paid far more! Humanity’s priorities are all wrong!”

Jones, though, has matters backwards. Yes, air is essential to life. Nothing is more so, and few things are as much so. But this fact does not determine air’s economic value. The economic value of a unit – say, a gallon – of air offered for sale comes from the satisfaction that a buyer would experience by acquiring that extra gallon of air. Because any person offered that gallon of air would, were he or she to reject the offer, continue to have access, free of charge, to all the air that he or she wishes to breathe, if that person did acquire that extra gallon of air it would add absolutely nothing to his or her satisfaction. Therefore, the maximum amount that this consumer is willing to pay for the gallon of air is $0.

Of course, what’s true for this particular consumer is true for each of the eight billion persons now inhabiting the surface of the earth.

This manner of price determination is what economists mean when they say that “prices are determined at the margin.” Air’s essentialness to human life is obvious. But the usefulness to humans of having access to any good in total, such as access to the earth’s air supply, does not determine the usefulness of any unit of that good. The determination of economic value – of market prices and wages – is affected also by available supplies.

The greater is the supply of a particular kind of good relative to the number of uses to which humans believe that good can be beneficially put, the less is the satisfaction that will be gained by using one additional unit of this good. The most urgent human wants that can be satisfied with this good are the first wants that units of this good are used to satisfy. After these urgent wants are satisfied, whatever additional units that remain of the good can satisfy only wants that are less urgent. In the case of air, it is fortunately so very abundant that any one unit of air satisfies no wants at all. Any one unit of air is useless to humans, despite the undeniable essentialness of air to human survival.

Because the price people are willing to pay for a unit of a good reflects the amount of satisfaction that acquisition of that additional unit is expected to bring, goods that are very abundant have low market prices, even if some uses of this good are utterly essential to human survival. This fact is why the market price of a gallon of air is zero: an additional gallon of air supplies zero satisfaction.

What does this esoteric economic reasoning about air and economic margins have to do with first responders and professional athletes? Answer: a lot! Just as you should be pleased that, in our world, something as essential to life as breathable air is more abundant than is frivolous bubble gum – indeed, air is so much more abundant that its price is less than the price of bubble gum – you should also be pleased that in our world something as essential as first-responder services are much more abundant than are the abilities to expertly drive golf balls onto greens or to routinely hurl 99 MPH fastballs into strike zones.

Unfortunately, supplies of first-responder and teaching services aren’t naturally superabundant, as is air. So we must pay positive prices – wages – in order to secure supplies of these services. But given this misfortune, we are fortunate that supplies of first-responder and teaching services are much more abundant than are supplies of athletic and acting abilities. The result is that the total prices that we must pay to be rescued by first responders and taught by teachers are much lower than are the total prices that we must pay to be entertained by world-class athletes and actors.

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Writing in the Wall Street Journal, John Sailer documents the malignancy of requiring “diversity statements” from candidates for college and university faculty positions. A slice:

Many critics rightly point out that diversity statements invite viewpoint discrimination. DEI connotes a set of highly contestable social and political views. Requiring faculty to catalog their commitment to those views necessarily blackballs anybody who dissents from an orthodoxy that has nothing to do with scientific competence.

The Texas Tech documents show how DEI evaluations can easily seek out these contestable social and political views. The search committees espouse a narrow definition of diversity, encouraging a myopic fixation on race and gender—a definition over which reasonable people can disagree. “Some of us were surprised that there was limited mention of BIPOC issues,” one evaluation notes, using a DEI acronym for “black, indigenous and people of color.” For another candidate, “Diversity was only defined as country of origin and notably never mentioned women.” Of course, many scholars actively seek to avoid a fixation on race and gender, preferring to promote diversity of thought and equality.

Throughout these reports, the search committees displayed an eagerness to find breaches of DEI orthodoxy. One cell biology candidate was given a “red flag” for alleged “microaggressions towards women faculty.” The report names two examples: “assuming one junior faculty was a graduate student” and “minimizing the difficulties of women in the US by comparing to worse situations elsewhere.”

The evidence shows that diversity statements function as political litmus tests, but it’s worse than that. Heavily valuing DEI while selecting cell biologists, virologists and immunologists constitutes a massive failure of priority. This is an issue of academic freedom, and it is a degradation of higher education.

“Remember to tell all of black history” – so write William Schambra and Bob Woodson. A slice:

The Hulu docuseries of “The 1619 Project” purports to “examine how the legacy of slavery shapes different aspects of contemporary American life.” But the program, which began airing right before the start of Black History Month, isn’t telling the whole story. Viewers won’t hear about Americans’ remarkable resistance to and triumph over slavery, which led to flourishing black communities and unprecedented achievements. Without that context, it’s impossible to understand the real black American story.

Black History Month would have been a great occasion to make that complex but victorious narrative better known. Black history is full of generous spirits, brave leaders and heroes who demonstrated virtue and achieved success in the face of adversity. And—perhaps above all—it is the story of racial and political coalitions that made the U.S. the most peaceful and prosperous multiethnic society in the world.

GMU Econ alum Dominic Pino, writing at National Review, understands better than does Ezra Klein, writing at the New York Times, why “we” Americans are getting worse at construction. A slice:

One of the primary reasons there are a million veto points for people to gum up the works is that government, intentionally, created those veto points to give them the ability to do so.

There is no reason, besides the National Environmental Policy Act of (guess which year) 1970, that environmentalist groups should be able to block new construction with endless litigation.

There is no reason, besides the Occupational Safety and Health Act of (guess which year) 1970, that a federal agency in Washington, D.C., should be setting safety rules for every worksite in the entire country.

There is no reason, besides the establishment of the Environmental Protection Agency in (guess which year) 1970, that construction projects should be consumed with years of federal paperwork before a single shovelful of dirt is ever moved.

Then, there’s the Clean Air Act Amendments of (guess which year) 1970, which the EPA has used (and abused) to expand its authority over just about every part of American life. The Clean Water Act came two years later, adding new regulatory hurdles for the EPA to enforce. A year after that came the Endangered Species Act, which explicitly puts “economic growth and development” in opposition to environmental protection in its preamble.

Klein considers state-level regulations and concludes that it “doesn’t lend itself to a clean story of red states and blue states, or urban states and rural states.” It never seems to occur to him that might be because federal regulations are causing the problem, specifically the federal regulations that flow from a series of laws affecting construction all passed right around 1970, when the decline in construction productivity begins.

Ross Clark explains “how the green elites are impoverishing the world.”

Howard Husock calls for letting housing markets work.

Inspired by a recent column by my GMU Econ colleague Tyler Cowen, Dominic Pino warns conservatives against joining in the left’s enthusiasm for industrial policy. A slice:

Tyler Cowen has a warning for industrial-policy advocates in his recent Bloomberg column:

Some conservatives criticize globalization while praising industrial policy. They are playing right into the hands of the Davos globalizing elite.

Cowen argues that they do so by setting up future globalization. He notes that, “Even the most successful ‘nationalistic’ industrial policies rely on a highly globalized world.” He points to semiconductors and the Covid vaccines as examples, both of which rely on highly globalized industries to produce their alleged industrial-policy successes.

I’d add that they also do so by embracing the same central-planning mindset that animates the people they claim to hate. Technocratic attempts to orchestrate economic output are going to run into similar problems whether they come from the left or the right.

Having a government official educated at Harvard, Oxford, and Yale spearhead an effort to use “transformational” subsidies to engineer a “better” economic outcome, which is what the CHIPS Act does, is exactly the kind of thing that impresses the people at Davos. That’s who they are. Those are the kind of people they admire. They believe they can do that sort of thing well, if only governments would give them the chance.

“Economics ought to be a branch of what sociology ought to be,” so explains Arnold Kling. A slice:

Students should come out of an economics course understanding that:

  • Profits are not automatic. The market is a profit-and-loss system. Profitable industries tend to expand, and expansion tends to compete away profits. Losses cause firms that make inefficient use of resources to disappear.
  • Prices are determined by supply and demand, and they are held down by competition.
  • Government-provided benefits require diversion of resources from other uses.
  • In a competitive labor market, the costs of employer-provided benefits are borne by workers.(1)
  • Markets and government are both imperfect. Markets have a mechanism for fixing problems and getting better. Profits and losses create incentives for improvement. Government lacks those incentives.
  • Non-profits are not “nice” just because they do not seek profits. The nature of such organizations is that they focus on satisfying the desires of donors. Leaders of such organizations work to please donors. They can do so without necessarily doing good for the people that the organizations are supposed to help. Profit-seeking firms are accountable to customers. If customers are not happy, then they do not buy from the firm, and it goes out of business.

It is pretty clear that most college students who take an economics course fail to unlearn some or all of what they ought to unlearn. In fact, there are people who go all the way through a Ph.D program in economics without unlearning non-economic thinking.

Michael Brendan Dougherty: “Mask drama was probably for nothing.” A slice:

Reading into the quality of the studies, a pro-masker could make the argument that what we’re really seeing is not the uselessness of masks but the uselessness of mask mandates. That is, there is still enough uncertainty that someone could argue we just needed lots more coercion into better masks and education on how to wear them. But policy-makers should actually heed “real world” application of their policies, rather than notionally perfect compliance and execution.

Of course what’s so galling about these studies is not just that public-health officials oversold this “symbol” of good behavior, but that people’s workplaces, school districts, churches, and friends made this into a sole test of virtue.

I’m thinking particularly of so many co-religionists who portrayed the case for wearing masks as synonymous with “love of neighbor.” As if the only reason to be unmasked were some kind of libertine self-satisfaction.

Michael Senger decries the damage done by covid hysteria and the resulting lockdowns and mandates.

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Quotation of the Day…

by Don Boudreaux on February 7, 2023

in Inequality, Myths and Fallacies

… is from page 29 of Eamonn Butler’s 2022 book, An Introduction to Economic Inequality:

The traditional explanations of global inequality are also both familiar and questionable. Colonialism and slavery are suggested, though colonies imposed costs on the occupying powers as well as delivering them benefits. Slavery, as Adam Smith noted, was not only morally offensive but bad economics too.

DBx: Slavers and slaveowners, of course, benefitted from slavery, just as successful thieves benefit from thievery. But just as society’s overall wealth is reduced by thievery, society’s overall wealth is reduced by slavery.

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