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Some Non-Covid Links

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Writing in the Atlantic, Jonathan Haidt explains why life in America over the past decade has become “uniquely stupid.” [2] Two slices:

This, I believe, is what happened to many of America’s key institutions in the mid-to-late 2010s. They got stupider en masse because social media instilled in their members a chronic fear of getting darted. The shift was most pronounced in universities, scholarly associations, creative industries, and political organizations at every level (national, state, and local), and it was so pervasive that it established new behavioral norms backed by new policies seemingly overnight. The new omnipresence of enhanced-virality social media meant that a single word uttered by a professor [3], leader [4], or journalist [5], even if spoken with positive intent, could lead to a social-media firestorm, triggering an immediate dismissal or a drawn-out investigation by the institution. Participants in our key institutions began self-censoring to an unhealthy degree, holding back critiques of policies and ideas—even those presented in class [6] by their students—that they believed to be ill-supported or wrong.

But when an institution punishes internal dissent, it shoots darts into its own brain.

…..

American politics is getting ever more ridiculous and dysfunctional not because Americans are getting less intelligent. The problem is structural. Thanks to enhanced-virality social media, dissent is punished within many of our institutions, which means that bad ideas get elevated into official policy.

Bill Peacock warns of the troubles that await us if the war on fossil fuels continues to discourage investment in fossil-fuel infrastructure [7]. Here’s his conclusion:

But while markets are doing the best they can to meet consumer demand for energy from fossil fuels, the country is living on borrowed capital. America’s current energy infrastructure can keep the lights on, cars running, and homes heated for a while. But if efforts to shut down new investment succeed, it will only be a matter of time before Americans see long-term shortages. Wind turbines and solar panels won’t be able to provide the same level of reliability and affordability if we eliminate fossil fuels anytime in the near future.

Joel Zinberg explains that Obamacare is nothing to celebrate [8].

My colleague Bryan Caplan lays out “the ironclad argument against racism.” [9] A slice:

Racism is wrong because collective guilt is wrong.

The intuition has been around for a long time: If a man commits murder, you shouldn’t punish his son. Why not? Because it’s not the son’s fault; he’s a different person than his father. And if that’s wrong, it’s even more wrong to punish someone because he lives on the same street, resides in the same city, practices the same religion, or is a citizen of the same country. Collective guilt [10] may be emotionally tempting [11], but it is intellectually absurd [12].

Scott Sumner makes the case for free trade in a dangerous world [13]. A slice:

Over the years, I’ve argued that Russia is a much greater threat to world peace than China (although China is certainly a non-trivial threat, especially to Taiwan.) Thus I’ve opposed the economic sanctions the US has applied to China, as well as the broader US trade war against China. My critics counter that we can’t afford to be economically integrated with a dangerous country such as China.

I respond that we cannot afford not to be integrated with China, precisely because it is dangerous. We need China to be so deeply enmeshed in the global economy that it would pay a heavy price if it were ostracized. A sullen isolated China, a North Korea with 1.4 billion people, would be a far greater threat to world peace. Our current policy of isolating China makes it more dangerous, not less. After WWII, the victorious powers realized that the best hope for peace was to have Germany closely integrated into the broader European economy. This idea led to the European Common Market, and later the EU.

Matt Welch reports that Joe Biden is indeed – and unfortunately for Americans – the big-labor president [14]. A slice:

The awkward truth of contemporary unionism is that it’s largely an effort to remove taxpayers from negotiations between white-collar union reps and the lawyer/politicians they help elect. Teachers, cops, and civil-service bureaucrats treat the tax base like a guaranteed revenue stream, which they try to maximally divert for their own self-interest at the expense of the people paying their salaries and guaranteeing their pensions. In the zero-sum game of government budgeting, blue-collar workers in the hinterlands will continue to foot the tab for paper pushers in the capital. At most, Biden will extend some of those benefits to the building trades, jacking up costs while claiming to save money.

Marcus Witcher and Rachel Ferguson praise Booker T. Washington [15].

The Wall Street Journal‘s Editorial Board is correct: Rising inflation today in the U.S. is not caused by Putin [16]. A slice:

President Trump signed onto an unnecessary $900 billion Covid relief bill in December 2020, and Democrats threw kerosene on the kindling with another $1.9 trillion in March 2021. The Federal Reserve continues to support negative real interest rates nearly two years after the pandemic recession ended. This inflation was made in Washington, D.C.