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Some Non-Covid Links

Arnold Kling is thoughtful and wise. A slice:

Another concern that I have is the need for turnover. When agencies perpetuate themselves, there is little chance for new thinking to emerge. In government, we need to find a way to balance the advantage of institutional knowledge with the adverse consequences of thinking that becomes stale and rigid.

But most of all, we need an overall political culture that does not suffer from excessive faith in central government. Too many well-educated people believe that credentialed experts have all the answers. And too many anti-elitists believe that popular opinion provides all the answers. Skepticism, epistemic humility, and appreciation of my four propositions are all too rare.

Writing in the Wall Street Journal, Adam White warns against the further politicization of the the U.S. Supreme Court. A slice:

It is remarkable to see how little the court’s loudest critics even attempt to anchor their attacks to our basic constitutional principles. They attempt to delegitimize the court for failing to act like a legislature. They accuse it of being insufficiently representative and promoting the wrong policies.

In all of it, these critics ignore the fundamental requirements of their own role as citizens. Judicial legitimacy isn’t simply a matter of hecklers’ vetoes. It requires the critics themselves to grapple seriously with the court’s explanations. And it requires all of us to recognize that disagreements are a part of constitutional government.

Tim Padgett reviews, in the New York Times, William Neuman’s new book, Things Are Never So Bad That They Can’t Get Worse: Inside the Collapse of Venezuela. A slice:

Neuman skillfully explains just how insane. “Chávez’s socialism was all means and no production,” he writes. “It was showcialismo,” an endless bacchanal of multibillion-dollar projects — like a national electricity monopoly, Corpoelec — that were essentially left to rot after the ribbon-cuttings. As Venezuela gorged on imports and prices ballooned, Chávez and his handpicked successor, the witless ideologue Nicolás Maduro, kept forcing price controls that further discouraged domestic industry, spawning huge shortages and extortionate black markets.

“It was a Yogi Berra economy,” Neuman wryly observes. “Stuff was so cheap that nobody could afford to buy it anymore.”

Epic graft schemes proved even more crippling, especially after oil prices went south again. Using fraudulent contracts and invoices, Chavista mandarins and their business cronies gamed the chasm between the official and black-market bolívar-to-dollar exchange rates. They reaped Mafia-grade profits; they also bled the state-run oil monopoly, PDVSA, of cash and robbed Venezuelans of urgent necessities like food, housing and energy infrastructure.

And here’s an excerpt from Neuman’s book.

Here’s a short course from David Henderson in oil economics.

Robert Bork, Jr., busts some of today’s myths about the alleged monopolization of the American economy. Here’s his conclusion:

Perhaps the administration is right about one thing. There is excessive concentration of power – in Washington, D.C.

Stephanie Slade asks if libertarians must care about more than state power. A slice:

As good libertarians, we know better than to ask the state to solve these sorts of problems, but we don’t have to pretend they aren’t real. To say that a good society just is a free society and a good life just is a free life is to miss all of that. Greater freedom from force and fraud is always a positive thing. Greater freedom from cultural constraints may not be.

Smoke does not get into George Will’s eyes. As slice:

Today, many corporations slather their business calculations with a syrup of fashionable blather. By the time this geyser of corporate-gush concludes, no progressive trope has been unused: Ending “exclusionary policies” will ameliorate “climate change” and “institutionalized inequity.” PMI wants to achieve “a smoke-free future” by selling noncombustible tobacco products — e-cigarettes. PMI and Altria rightly resent those who insist that only zero-risk products are virtuous alternatives to the known high risks of cigarettes.

The behavior of many millions of Americans is generating an ocean of data that can be acquired no other way — data about harm-reduction from smoke-free, non-combustion products. Do they, over time, wean smokers off cigarettes? Or do they, particularly with flavors that delight the young, become a gateway to cigarettes? We will find out, unless government regulations truncate the experiment.

Robby Soave reports on the New York Times‘s admission of the dangers of cancel culture. A slice:

The New York Times published a terrific editorial on Friday that takes note of “America’s free speech problem” and points to both right-wing legislation and cancel culture—enforced by an uncompromising strain of progressivism—as culprits.

“For all the tolerance and enlightenment that modern society claims, Americans are losing hold of a fundamental right as citizens of a free country: the right to speak their minds and voice their opinions in public without fear of being shamed or shunned,” wrote The Times.

The editorial includes a predictable (and mostly well-deserved) condemnation of conservative attempts to legislate away uncomfortable discussions about sex and race in schools. But it stands out for directly attacking the left’s censorship impulse.

“Many on the left refuse to acknowledge that cancel culture exists at all, believing that those who complain about it are offering cover for bigots to peddle hate speech,” wrote The Times.

Daniel Hannan explains that “[i]dentity politics is eroding the values which set the West apart from Putin.” A slice:

Could we be returning to that older ethic? We might dismiss Putin as an outlier. But can we be certain that he is not also an augur? It might seem a trivial thing, but look at how quickly we have extended our quarrel with Putin to all Russians. An orchestra in Montreal cancels a Russian pianist, despite his opposition to the invasion; Tchaikovsky is dropped from programmes; Russian paintings are removed from exhibitions. My tribe good, your tribe bad.

These cancellations are happening in a culture newly primed to categorise and condemn. We damn institutions for some ancient benefaction. We stop publishing authors because of opinions that had nothing to do with their work. We teach identity politics, encouraging people to believe that they have grievances or obligations purely on grounds of their physiognomy.

GMU Econ alum Eli Dourado offers several excellent suggestions for raising economic productivity. A slice:

If we wanted to raise American productivity, for example, we could simplify geothermal permitting, deregulate advanced meltdown-proof nuclear reactors, make it easier to build transmission lines, figure out why high-speed rail is so expensive, fix permitting generally, abolish the Jones Act, automate our ports, allow drones to operate autonomously, legalize supersonic flight over land, reduce occupational-licensing requirements, train more medical workers, build more hospitals, revamp our pandemic-response institutions, simplify drug approvals, deregulate land use to allow denser housing and mixed-use neighborhoods, allow more immigration, cancel inefficient programs, restrict cost-plus procurement contracts in favor of more effective methods, end appropriations based on job creation, avoid political direction of scientific research, and instill urgency in grantmaking.