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Some Non-Covid Links

Uber and other ride-sharing services save thousands of lives. Brad Polumbo reports. A slice:

A study by two economists at the University of California, Berkeley examined the impact that Uber, specifically, has had on alcohol-related traffic deaths and total traffic deaths in the US. They sought to investigate a simple question. By providing people with a safe, convenient, and relatively inexpensive alternative means of transportation, would Uber reduce drunk driving and traffic deaths?

According to their findings, the answer is a resounding yes.

Uber has reduced alcohol-related traffic fatalities by 6.1 percent, the study finds, which equates to roughly 214 lives in 2019. Similarly, Uber reduced overall traffic deaths by 4 percent, likely by reducing other forms of dangerous driving such as driving while very tired. This equates to 494 lives saved in 2019. (And that’s just Uber: To understand the full life-saving impact of ride-sharing technology, we would have to factor in competitors like Lyft, too).

Arnold Kling explains that if rental contracts are ethical, then eviction moratoria are not. A slice:

Suppose that we think that renters and mortgage borrowers are deserving of charity because of the pandemic. The government chose to approach this by breaking their contracts. In effect, government took resources from landlords and mortgage lenders in order to provide charity to renters and mortgage borrowers.

Unlike many other people, I find this approach for providing charity deeply offensive. If the government wants to raise the income tax and use that money to subsidize renters and mortgage borrowers, then that seems to me more ethical than to single out landlords and mortgage lenders to provide this charity.

Jack Elbaum corrects some misinformation and economic ignorance spread by Ro Khanna. A slice:

And income has actually risen even more than that due to non-wage compensation taking up a larger portion of total compensation over time. The New York Times reported that non-wage compensation accounted for 32 percent of total earnings in 2018, up from 27 percent in 2000. Non-wage compensation includes “bonuses, paid leave and company contributions to insurance and retirement plans.”

Richard Ebeling writes about the insufficiently remembered British economist Edwin Cannan. A slice:

What stands out in Edwin Cannan’s writings is a simplicity and clarity in explaining the “miracle” of the market in a world-encompassing division of labor that connects multitudes of people for mutual improvement and peaceful cultural gains. His style, therefore, makes his volume, Wealth, for instance, an entertaining pleasure to read as he takes the reader through the various facets of the working and elements of the market order. While he did not presume to assign to the state only a minimalist place in society, he emphasized the power and productivity of free and creative initiative and incentive that comes only when people have a wide latitude of economic liberty.

As explained by Eric Boehm, Congress is doubling-down on a costly failure.

Cato’s Chris Edwards summarizes the “infrastructure” bill.

George Leef adds to my criticism of the use of the concept of the “diminishing marginal utility of money” as a justification for income ‘redistribution.

To mark the 187th anniversary of the birth of John Venn, GMU Econ alum Mark Perry reprises 20 of his famous Venn diagrams.

George Will rightly decries the rejection of meritocracy. Two slices:

This cultural moment is defined by the peculiar idea that America has such a surplus of excellence, it can dispense with something that should be rejected as inequitable — rigorous competition to identify merit. Progressives are recoiling from the idea that propelled humanity’s ascent to modernity: the principle that people are individuals first and primarily, so individual rights should supplant rights attached to group membership.

Progressives’ unease with society measuring merit when allocating opportunity and rewards is discordant with the nation’s premises. And rejecting meritocracy at a time when China — the United States’ strongest geopolitical rival ever — is intensifying its embrace of it is “an act of civilisational suicide,” Adrian Wooldridge warns.
Some progressives, who are more interested in minimizing inequality than maximizing opportunity, insist that not even industriousness makes an individual deserving because it is an inherited trait. However, less loopy progressives rightly warn that there can be inherited hierarchies in meritocratic societies. America does fall short of Thomas Jefferson’s hope for “culling” talent “from every condition of our people.” SAT prep classes are not models of social diversity; parents are conscientious (this is not a vice) about transmitting family advantages to their children.

The answer, however, is to improve the culling, not to jettison the aspiration on the ground that all metrics of merit must be unfair. A first step would be to rescue children from uneducated educators of the sort who natter about “racist” arithmetic and the “myth” that some students are more arithmetically gifted than others

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