Some Non-Covid Links

by Don Boudreaux on July 10, 2021

in Antitrust, Housing, Media, Philosophy of Freedom, Podcast, Seen and Unseen

My GMU Econ colleague Bryan Caplan, with his usual unusual insightfulness, explains media bias. A slice:

For the vast majority of human beings, the alternative to first-hand experience is not statistics, but news. And compared to news, first-hand experience is ultra-reliable, for a long list of reasons.

1. Random error. Since the news is a vast industry, this might seem like a minor problem. Due to severe media herding, however, the problem remains severe. Journalists are not independent draws, but echoes in a vast echo chamber.

2. Selection bias. Journalists are far from average humans. They are highly-educated and highly-left-wing. Even more importantly, they are desperately trying to grab people’s attention with shocking anecdotes and images. What’s more, they have impressive resources to hunt down these shocking anecdotes and images. The upshot is that media selection bias is literally off the charts. What they choose to show is outside the first-hand experience all humans on Earth. By which I mean that zero humans have personally experienced all – or even a tiny sliver – of the horrors on the news.

3. Availability bias. After filtering reality through the biases of their ideology and need to grab people’s attention, journalists take the distillate and run it through yet another filter: their own memories. So when they bring up old stories, or provide context for new stories, they are piling bias on bias.

Institute for Humane Studies president Emily Chamlee-Wright recently spoke with George Will.

University of Washington professor Tony Gill explains that democracy is more than just majority rule. A slice (typo corrected):

A more realistic view of the world, however, informs us that wherever there is a concentration of power over valuable resources, individuals who want to control those resources will seek to get it by hook or by crook. If political power can be gained via a free and fair elections with no irregularities then all is well and good. But if electoral margins are thin, and the resources to be distributed are increasingly large, shenanigans will rein. That both political parties in the United States engage in playing loose with elections is only proof positive that this is not a matter of some ideological commitment to democracy, but an age-old desire to obtain and preserve power over others.

For this reason, we shouldn’t expect electoral irregularities to stop any time soon regardless of all the well-intentioned calls for “reform.” As government grows in scope and power, and as trillions of tax dollars pile up in Washington, DC and billions elsewhere, there is all the more incentive to “rig” elections to ensure a favorable outcome for one’s favorite political team. Such “rigging” can take the form of illegal activity (e.g., stuffing the ballot box with the votes of deceased citizens) or legal “reform” of electoral laws (e.g., voter ID, absentee balloting rules, or gerrymandering electoral districts). Reform may just well be a Potemkin village established to make one side or the other feel good that things will get better.

Steven Greenhut rightly criticizes zoning.

The Wall Street Journal‘s Editorial Board wisely warns of the Biden administration’s dangerous reinvigoration of antitrust. A slice:

The new Brandeisians in the Biden Administration led by the National Economic Council’s Tim Wu (godfather of net neutrality) and FTC chair Lina Khan want to replace the rule of reason with the rule of politics. Mr. Biden’s order includes 72 directives that mostly aim to shackle businesses.

Kay Hymowitz explains why the child-tax credit will not live up to the hype offered by its supporters.

My GMU Econ colleague Dan Klein explores the “virtuous asymmetry” between gratefulness and resentfulness.

Jim Bovard blasts calls for “national service” requirements and other instances of mass subjugation. A slice:

Compulsory national service is the deranged civics version of Modern Monetary Theory (MMT). MMT theory presumes that politicians can fabricate and spend unlimited amounts of fiat money without profoundly damaging the economy. Similarly, compulsory national service proponents presume politicians can destroy a vast swath of freedom without harming America. Proponents tacitly assume that the time of young people is of zero value, so their scheme costs nothing. Since every 18-to-20 year old is squandering all their time playing video games and watching Pornhub, why not round them up? But where did politicians acquire the right to command young people to postpone building their own lives?

Compulsory national service would provide “attitude adjustment” for an entire generation.  Many proponents stress that shackling young people is the best way to encourage them to be tolerant and appreciative of people of different backgrounds. Pulitzer Prize-winning author and historian Doris Kearns Goodwin favors national service because “you get people from the city to the country, country to the city, you begin to create a new generation that has shared values.” Indoctrination would be a huge part of any such program but the media wouldn’t use that term because progressive values would be inculcated. The vast majority of young Americans spend 12 years in government schools but politicians want more control over their thoughts.

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