Some Non-Covid Links

by Don Boudreaux on September 4, 2021

in Books, Budget Issues, Country Problems, Debt and Deficits, Environment, Immigration, Myths and Fallacies, Philosophy of Freedom, Trade, War

Samuel Gregg continues to write informatively about the fantasy that is industrial policy. A slice:

There is, however, a wealth of evidence indicating that these policies produced similarly pedestrian outcomes in these countries. As for the Tigers, what primarily took them from the status of economic backwaters to first-world economies was economic liberalization and especially trade openness—not experts with great confidence in their own ability to foresee and generate specific economic outcomes via state intervention.

City Journal published my GMU Econ colleague Dan Klein’s important letter – a “plea for liberal norms in higher education” – to new George Mason University president Gregory Washington. A slice:

The importance of GMU’s intellectual and ideological diversity, then, extends beyond campus. Having maverick units like GMU Law and GMU Econ is crucial not only to the ideological diversity of GMU but also to keeping non-Left scholarly dissent alive.

GMU’s leadership in classical liberal, conservative, and libertarian perspectives draws many to the university. It is a reason that students from all over the country and the world come to GMU. I should think that the university would wish to build on that leadership and proven excellence.

Phil Magness explains how the scholarly peer-review process was destroyed by academia. Two slices:

Factual corrections used to be a regular practice of most scholarly journals, whether in the form of a short comment or a longer point/counterpoint exchange over the disputed claim. In the hyper-politicized state of academia today, a growing number of scholarly venues no longer see a need to attend to basic standards of factual accuracy in their pages. Factual errors – even egregious ones such as misrepresented evidence and manipulated quotations – are now apparently allowed to stand unchallenged, provided that the error aligns with a politically fashionable viewpoint. This was my own experience after a frustrating year and a half long effort to seek basic factual corrections to an unambiguous error in an article in a journal published by Cambridge University Press.


When I first encountered [Quinn] Slobodian’s thesis after reading drafts of his CEH article in late 2018, something seemed amiss. Mises had devoted substantial energy in his 1927 book Liberalism to attacking the then-popular field of eugenics. His later works such as 1944’s Omnipotent Government contained a philosophical broadside against Nazism, singling out the errors and evils of Nazi racial theory in particular. How, exactly, had Slobodian discerned a parenthetical opening in Mises’s works for the very concepts and positions that Mises condemned?

It did not take long to find an answer to that question. In both articles, Slobodian displayed a habit of misrepresenting excerpted passages from Mises’s works by either omitting directly pertinent context from surrounding passages or, in some instances, directly removing content from the quotes themselves to change their meaning. In each case, the edits made Mises’s words appear sympathetic, or at least open to, to a variety of racist and imperialist beliefs, when in fact he was condemning them. I flagged several of these passages in my notes when reading. In the months that followed their publication, other scholars began to notice the same patterns in Slobodian’s depictions of Mises as well as his use of quotations.

Hans Eicholz defends Milton Friedman against the scurrilous and utterly baseless charge that his – Friedman’s – support for school choice was motivated by racism. A slice:

The willingness to associate a great thinker with policies and motives unrelated to his actual ideas indicates a lack of seriousness in the treatment of his work and the narrative that results becomes more innuendo than history.

GMU Econ alum Abby Hall Blanco exposes the sunk-cost fallacy as used in discussions of the so-called “war on terror.” Here’s her conclusion:

I think it is more offensive to ask more men and women to die because other people died before them. Imagine talking to the mother of an enlisted soldier recently killed in action.

“Mrs. Smith, I’m sorry about your son. He didn’t have to die. But, you see, Mrs. Jones’s son was killed in action 10 years ago in an unwinnable war and, well, we didn’t want his death to feel meaningless. So, we sent your boy after him.”

For folks who still want to employ this line of argument, I’d like to know what you’d say to Mrs. Smith.

Writing in the Wall Street Journal, Bjorn Lomborg challenges the hysteria myth-making surrounding hurricane Ida. A slice:

Hurricane season has arrived in the Atlantic Ocean. Already this summer Hurricanes Henri and Ida have caused headline-generating damage and flooding in the Gulf states, the Southeast and the Middle Atlantic states. Yet despite what you may have heard, Atlantic hurricanes are not becoming more frequent. In fact, the frequency of hurricanes making landfall in the continental U.S. has declined slightly since 1900.

Airplanes and satellites have dramatically increased the number of storms that scientists can spot at sea today, making the frequency of landfall hurricanes—which were reliably documented even in 1900—a better statistic than the total number of Atlantic hurricanes.

And there aren’t more powerful hurricanes either. The frequency Category 3 and above hurricanes making landfall since 1900 is also trending slightly down. A July Nature paper finds that the increases in strong hurricanes you’ve heard so much about are “not part of a century-scale increase, but a recovery from a deep minimum in the 1960s–1980s.”

The Cato Institute’s Chris Edwards warns of the U.S. government’s soaring indebtedness.

GMU Econ alum Alex Nowrasteh reviews what appears to be a truly bad book about immigration. Here are Alex’s opening paragraphs:

Todd Bensman’s America’s Covert Border War faces several challenges right out of the gate. First, it’s a work of speculative nonfiction about how terrorists plotting to kill Americans could cross the U.S.-Mexico border, even though none are known to have done so. Second, it was published 15 years after fear of Islamic terrorism peaked. Third, the Trump administration—the biggest source of public speculation about Muslim terrorists crossing the border—is over. Only the best of writers would have overcome those challenges to produce a good book.

Bensman overcame none of them.

This book’s biggest problem is that the author has nothing to write about. Not a single terrorist has illegally crossed the Mexican border and then committed an attack on U.S. soil. Bensman systematically exaggerates threats, selectively excludes information, and blurs the line between how terrorists theoretically could have infiltrated the country and what they actually have done.

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