In his underappreciated book, The Organization of Inquiry, economist Gordon Tullock explains how funding scientists can distort the scientific method. When scientists make a discovery, they rely heavily on the review and approval of their scientific peers to verify whether they are correct and how their discovery advances knowledge in other fields or helps benefit the public. Tullock likens this process to “the perfect laissez faire.”
However, when scientists receive research funds from the government, distortions in the process occur. First, scientists are encouraged to pursue research tied to political agendas rather than those encouraged within the scientific community or by private actors in the market. Second, feedback provided by the scientific community on the validity and implications of discovery becomes less important. Consequently, erroneous scientific discoveries stemming from public funding take longer to falsify and to remove from public use.
The vaccination exceptions allowed by OSHA do not include people who are resistant to COVID-19 because they were previously infected. While there is considerable debate about how the protection offered by naturally acquired immunity compares to the protection offered by vaccination, the lack of an exception for people who have recovered from COVID-19 could be another basis for questioning the necessity of OSHA’s requirements.
The National Federation of Independent Businesses, which represents small businesses, said in a September letter that the administration was forcing its members to “serve as the government’s instruments of coercion against its own employees.” Those are fighting words.
George Mason University law professor Ilya Somin, writing at The Volokh Conspiracy (which is hosted at Reason), has argued that the federal government is on its firmest legal ground when mandating vaccines for its own employees. A mandate that the employees of private companies get the shot as well, and the emergency rule-making process that the Biden administration is using to implement that mandate, “are legally dubious and would set a dangerous precedent, if upheld,” writes Somin.
The mandate comes amid a historically tight labor market and could impel some workers to quit. According to a Kaiser Family Foundation survey last week, 37% of unvaccinated workers said they would leave if their employer required them to get a vaccine or be tested weekly. A quarter of all adults said they knew someone who has left a job because of a vaccine mandate.
OSHA acknowledges “that a vaccine mandate may result in increased employee turnover,” though it says “the net effect” will “be relatively small” given the testing option. But even if only 1% to 3% of workers leave because of the mandate, as OSHA projects, employers will struggle to replace them.
OSHA says employer benefits like lower worker absenteeism will offset their costs. Perhaps, but then why not let employers set their own policies rather than impose a one-size-fits-all rule that doesn’t account for different business considerations?
As for the rule’s public-health justification, increases in infections among the vaccinated make singling out the unvaccinated less supportable. Weekly testing is also no guarantee of contagion at workplaces since a worker can test negative one day and be positive the next.
The OSHA rule is also a dubious reach of federal power. As 24 GOP state Attorneys General explained in a September letter to Mr. Biden, OSHA is stretching its authority under the law because “emergency temporary standards” are supposed to be limited to “grave danger from exposure to substances or agents determined to be toxic or physically harmful or from new hazards.” The law “deals with work-related hazards, not all hazards one might encounter anywhere in the world,” they note.
Experts generally say that natural infection almost always causes better immunity than vaccines. While the evidence is mixed, it seems clear that both natural and vaccine-provided Covid-19 immunity provide effective protection.
A new CDC review shows that infection with SARS-CoV-2 and vaccination each result in a low risk of subsequent infection for six months or more. This finding holds true for both the Delta and pre-Delta variants. In addition, both prior infection and vaccination confer high levels of protection against symptomatic Covid-19 illness.
Vaccination remains the best protection against Covid-19; everyone, especially essential workers, should be encouraged to get the shots. Nevertheless, heavy-handed mandates that reject workable accommodations risk endangering the public far more than unvaccinated workers.
The catastrophe that never came: “Sweden’s low death toll is an uncomfortable truth for the media and politicians in many countries. It proves that millions of peoples lived unfree to no avail.” – @johananderberg
Writing in the San Francisco Chronicle, Chirag Asaravala – hardly an anti-lockdowner – explains that many public-health officials in California have gone off the scientific rails. (HT Jay Bhattacharya) A slice:
Now, nearly nine months after mass vaccination implementation, it is not only reasonable to expect, but mandatory from a risk analysis principle, to recalculate the risk of disease to individuals. We know that vaccines almost completely eliminate the chance of dying or being hospitalized from COVID-19. We also know that transmission of the virus is greatly reduced in vaccinated individuals who do become infected. More importantly, we know over 80% of Californians age 12 and over have been vaccinated with at least one dose. The number of individuals with natural immunity brings the percent immunized even higher.
Most California counties, especially Contra Costa, San Francisco and Alameda, have achieved the trifecta of risk reduction scenarios: probability of infection has been reduced, severity of disease has been reduced and a highly effective mitigation is in place — vaccination. Each county’s own COVID-19 data prove this to be true; San Francisco, with nearly 900,000 residents, has a seven-day rolling average of 53 positive cases per day and no deaths as of Oct. 20.
Yet public health officials in these and other counties have abandoned scientific reasoning, layering mitigation upon mitigation for no justifiable reason. The prevailing logic appears to be that it is unacceptable for even a single person to contract the virus — an unrealistic and untenable position.
Risk mitigations incur real costs and often have unintended consequence. The cost of shuttering restaurants like In-N-Out are immense — from lost jobs and revenue to the business and the state. Perhaps a greater consequence is the loss of public confidence in California’s public health institutions.
On Covid the good news just keeps coming. Relative to seven days before, official cases have fallen for 11 straight days and the seven day average is now down about 18 per cent from its peak. Cases in kids started falling at about October 18th (a full week before half-term started) as now confirmed not only in the official cases data but in the REACT survey just out – which tests people at random and hence is unaffected by any changes in testing with schools out). And a new treatment, molnupiravir, has been approved, which, if given soon enough after symptoms start, cuts the risk of being hospitalised by about half. The SAGE epidemiological modellers now expect cases and hospitalisations to fall this winter. Indeed, in some of their models cases fall as low as 5,000 per day. Those who, even just a couple of weeks ago, were demanding an immediate shift to plan B have been proved demonstrably wrong.
Yet if you watched the main television channels you would have precisely the opposite impression. Yesterday, CNN released an interview with the Prime Minister in which he was challenged on why plan B had not been implemented given that, as CNN’s Chief International Anchor Christiane Amanpour tweeted: “Case numbers are spiking”. On Sky News, Economic Secretary to the Treasury John Glenn was interviewed on the basis that, Sky tweeted: “With the UK’s coronavirus epidemic escalating by the day, it’s no longer a case of if Plan B will be triggered but when, say experts” and since Plan B was inevitable, didn’t the government owe the public some indication as to when it would be coming in?
On BBC Breakfast, England’s Deputy Chief Medical Officer Jonathan Van-Tam was asked “Why are schools not putting masks in place, with cases rising in school age children?” The fact that cases in school-aged children are not in fact rising – indeed, on a seven day average basis they are currently down 39 percent from their peak – is apparently of no relevance.
On Tuesday I shared here the video of a recent talk given by Julie Ponesse. The Brownstone Institute has now made available a transcript of this powerful talk.