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Some Non-Covid Links

My intrepid Mercatus Center colleague Veronique de Rugy explains that Biden’s environmentally friendly infrastructure plan is good neither for the environment nor for infrastructure. A slice:

While the administration is at it, it should end the Merchant Marine Act of 1920. Also known as the Jones Act, this cronyism is a protectionist provision that restricts the waterborne transport of cargo within the United States to vessels that are U.S.-flagged, U.S.-crewed, U.S.-owned and U.S.-built. This act’s main effect is to increase the cost of waterborne transportation within the United States, which in turn encourages the use of alternative forms of transportation such as trucks and rail — modes of freight transportation that are worse for the environment than shipping on water. The Jones Act also encourages the use of older and, hence, less fuel-efficient vessels.

Also from the intrepid Vero is this exposure of yet more cronyism at that great geyser of cronyism, the U.S. Export-Import Bank.

Juliette Sellgren talks with Matt Welch about teachers unions.

Pierre Lemieux is not impressed with Joe Biden’s recent speech to Congress. A slice:

On free trade, he comes close to 17th-century protectionism and to his immediate predecessor. Among other anti-economic statements, he said:

There is simply no reason why the blades for wind turbines can’t be built in Pittsburgh instead of Beijing. No reason. None. No reason.

What about the following reasons? Because the blades are cheaper in China so that “we” can use the savings to give money to the poor. Or because they are cheaper in China so that “we” can use “our” national resources to produce something else to export in exchange for more blades—which is, ignoring the collective “we,” the essence of the law of comparative advantage.

Scott Winship busts the Josh-Hawley-fueled myth that American women are today less able than in the past to fulfill their fertility goals.

Arnold Kling reviews Shelby Steele’s 2006 book, White Guilt.

Art Carden writes again about the late G.A. Cohen’s silly 2009 book, Why Not Socialism? A slice:

I have always found it interesting and instructive that Cohen builds his case for socialism using a camping trip as a thought experiment. Socialism’s track record is ignominious: socialist governments sent millions of people on “camping trips” to gulags, prisons, and killing fields, never to be heard from again. The camping trips we take under socialism are a lot more likely to be like those than they are to be like the idyllic camping trip Cohen describes. Unfortunately, these regimes were the toast of the intelligentsia until their crimes became too numerous, grotesque, and obvious to ignore. Once it became clear that the New Socialist Man du jour was running a butcher shop, it became “not actually real socialism.” Along these lines, Kristian Niemietz calls socialism “the failed idea that never dies;” I review the book here.

Peter Van Doren concludes that “If we ban compensated organ donation, then we should ban professional football as well.” (Of course, he doesn’t believe that we should ban professional football.) (My excessive vanity incites me to share here this link to my Spring/Summer 1995 Cato Journal paper, “A Modest Proposal to Deregulate Infant Adoptions” – a paper making many points relevant to the debate over liberalizing the market for transplantable body organs.)

Writing in the Wall Street Journal, Christopher DeMuth rightly argues that America’s welfare state is running on borrowed time (and also, don’t forget, on borrowed money). A slice:

Has anyone noticed that the president has proposed increasing federal spending by nearly $1 trillion a year, while promising that 98% of Americans will pay nothing for it? The very idea would have seemed mad to every previous generation of Americans. Today it is considered conventional.

President Biden’s plans have been rightly criticized for the incontinence of the spending and the perversity of the taxes. Much of the spending is designed to exploit the pandemic crisis by transforming emergency income support into permanent middle-class entitlements for toddler care, higher education, medical services and much else. Other spending is called “infrastructure” but includes a list of progressive wants having nothing to do with capital investment. The tax increases—supposedly confined to the 2% with household incomes of $400,000 or more, but heavily weighted against capital investment—would seriously damage the economy and raise radically less revenue than claimed.

But set aside these problems and take the Biden plans as advertised, as a tremendous expansion of government paid for by a select few taxpayers plus lots of new borrowing. This is the apotheosis of a political transformation that began insensibly in the 1970s and has triumphed with barely a quiver of recognition, much less debate. It may be called the borrowed-benefits syndrome.


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