Some Non-Covid Links

by Don Boudreaux on January 19, 2022

in Civil Asset Forfeiture, Economics, Education, Growth, Immigration, Inflation, Innovation, Philosophy of Freedom, Trade

Now available here (by scrolling down) is Ramon DeGennaro’s Liberty Matters essay on my late, great colleague Walter Williams.

Wall Street Journal columnist Jason Riley explains Progressives’ need to ignore racial progress. A slice:

With the White House struggling to advance its economic agenda, the president’s job-approval rating stuck in the mud, and midterm elections looming, it’s no great shock that Mr. Biden is resorting to racial demagoguery. The Democratic Party has long depended on keeping black people scared and paranoid to maintain their support. That’s how its activists raise money and how its candidates typically turn out the base. For many on the political left, racial progress is something to be played down or ignored altogether, and nothing seems to inconvenience them more than the incredible strides America has made in recent decades on voting rights.

You would never know it from listening to Mr. Biden’s nasty tirade in Atlanta, but black voter turnout has been rising since the mid-1990s even as more states have passed voting requirements that the president and his backers insist are “Jim Crow 2.0.” Nationally, the black voter-turnout rate exceeded white turnout for the first time in 2008, when President Obama was elected. It happened again when Mr. Obama was re-elected in 2012, prompting the Census Bureau to note that the “increase in voting among blacks continues what has been a long-term trend.” True, black turnout dipped in 2016, but only to the pre-Obama level. And the decline almost certainly reflected apathy toward Hillary Clinton more than any efforts to disenfranchise blacks. Two years later, “all major racial and ethnic groups saw historic jumps in voter turnout,” according to a Pew Research Center analysis.

George Will humanely argues that “[m]edical aid in dying should not be proscribed by society’s laws or condemned by its mores.” A slice:

Increased life expectancy, increased medical competence, increased secularism, and increased insistence on privacy and autonomy are producing increased support for legal regimes that respect the right of mentally capable and terminally ill individuals to protect themselves from lingering intense pain and mental decrepitude. A November survey by Susquehanna Polling and Research found that 68 percent of likely voters believe that a mentally sound person with no more than six months to live should have access to a prescription medication that will produce a peaceful death while asleep. Ten states and the District of Columbia, with a combined 22 percent of the U.S. population, have comparable laws.

Compassion & Choices, which advocates for medical aid in dying, sensibly insists that this terminology, not “assisted suicide,” is proper. Suicide connotes despair and perhaps derangement. Dying is a facet of every life. An anticipated death, in the presence of loved ones, a death chosen after reflection about predictable, unavoidable pain, should not be proscribed by society’s laws or condemned by its mores.

George Leef introduces us to York College professor Erec Smith. A slice:

America’s colleges and universities are loaded with professors who insist on teaching students various theories that amount to nothing but fringe opinions and who don’t engage intellectually with those who disagree, but merely try to “cancel” them.

There are, however, still some professors who won’t play those games.

One of them is Erec Smith, who teaches rhetoric at York College of Pennsylvania. He recently wrote an article for Newsweek, “Black People Who Oppose Critical Race Theory Are Being Erased.” In it, he attacks the methods that are used to ignore and silence blacks (and others) who don’t accept the mainstream narrative about black victimization.

Smith writes, “We hear endlessly about systemic racism, white supremacy, the black/white income gap, and police brutality. So powerful an ideology has this narrative become that those of us who pose a credible counter-narrative—black anti-woke writers, for example—frequently find our words being misconstrued in an effort to stanch their impact.”

He proceeds to explain how intellectuals who feel the need to uphold that narrative employ an “erase and replace” tactic to brush aside blacks who argue against them. They combine a pair of well-known logical fallacies, the strawman and ad hominem. They target the character of the opponent rather than his actual argument.

University of Cambridge philosopher Arif Ahmed explains how colleges and universities have become the west’s “sheep factories.” A slice:

My own university, Cambridge, wants academic staff to undergo “race awareness” training. This advises you to “assume racism is everywhere”. Attendees are also reminded that “this is not a space for intellectualising the topic”. You might have thought “intellectualising” — ie thinking about — it is the kind of thing Cambridge academics should do. But don’t feel bad about getting that wrong; or at least, don’t feel bad about feeling bad: we are also told that these sessions aim at “working through” the feelings of shame and guilt that you might have on your journey in “developing an antiracist identity”.

It isn’t just Cambridge and St Andrews. There is anti-racism or “unconscious bias” training being offered to, or more likely thrust upon, staff and/or students at Aberdeen, Edinburgh, Goldsmiths, KCL, Liverpool, Oxford Medical School, Sheffield, Solent, Sussex and doubtless hundreds of other universities and departments across the country.

It isn’t just training either. The very purpose of a university is being redefined. You might think they exist to conduct teaching and research. That would be naïve. Most universities now routinely call themselves anti-racist institutions, where this means: actively campaigning for a political end.

Jacob Sullum reports on another Institute for Justice lawsuit to rein in the banana-republic tactic of civil asset forfeiture.

James Pethokoukis draws important lessons from a new paper – by Michael König, Zheng (Michael) Song, Kjetil Storesletten, and Fabrizio Zilibotti – on Beijing’s industrial policy. A slice:

The authors note that many Chinese firms “respond to R&D subsidies by relabelling non-R&D expenditures as R&D expenses.” And innovation is about more than just R&D. “Economic reforms improving investor protection and the independence of the judiciary system are preconditions for nurturing the type of grassroots innovation culture which flourished earlier on in some Western nations.” But there is a deeper issue with top-down planning, and it gets at an inherent problem with national industrial strategies:

Another reason for R&D expenditures to be potentially inefficient is misallocation. The investments could be carried out by the wrong firms and in an ineffective way. China’s economic policy biases resource allocation in favour of state-owned firms and private firms that are connected to the state (e.g. Song et al. 2011, Hsieh and Song 2015, and Bai et al. 2020). . . . Altogether, our analysis indicates that already in 2007–12 R&D was an important determinant of aggregate productivity growth in China, despite large distortions attenuating its benefits. The result is robust to introducing international knowledge spillover in the theory. In a counterfactual policy experiment, we find that a moderate increase of R&D subsidies across the board could enhance TFP growth, although an overly generous subsidy policy would backfire and reduce growth by hindering technology diffusion. Reducing misallocation (e.g. state support to politically linked firms) would also have a powerful (and potentially less expensive) growth-enhancing effect.

James Pethokoukis also asks the intriguing questions “What if the Industrial Revolution had started 2,000 years ago rather than 200? (And why didn’t it?)” A slice:

And why didn’t the Industrial Revolution start 2000 years ago? One important reason: Those pre-industrial societies intentionally extinguished the sparks of progress. For millennia, stasis had powerful defenders. The Roman Emperor Tiberius executed rather than rewarded a man who had invented unbreakable glass. Queen Elizabeth I declined to grant a patent to the inventor of the stocking-frame knitting machine, worrying that the invention would deprive textile workers of their employment. The guilds of preindustrial Europe played a key role in making sure Europe stayed preindustrial by blocking new technologies.

Ron Bailey writes on research into making kidney transplants, into humans, from pigs a reality.

Alex Nowrasteh documents the unfortunate decline in legal immigration.

Bruce Yandle is correct: The monetary chickens have indeed come home to roost.


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