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Some Non-Covid Links

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Writing in yesterday’s Wall Street Journal, my long-time friend Roger Koppl and GMU Econ alum Abby Devereaux warn of the dangers of the Biden administration’s new Disinformation Governance Board – the “DGB.” [2] A slice:

The stated goal of combating mis- and disinformation is framed to seem unobjectionable. Who objects to truth and pines for falsehood? DGB experts will guide the way, separating the informational wheat from the disinformational chaff. But there’s one small problem with empowering “truth experts”: Experts are people.

People respond to incentives. Therefore experts respond to incentives. Graham Medley, a British expert involved in the U.K. policy response to Covid, illustrated the point in recent testimony [3] before Parliament. “The worst thing for me,” he said, “would be for the government to say, ‘Why didn’t you tell us it could be that bad?’ Inevitably, we were always going to have a worst case which is above reality.”

Put yourself in his shoes. If you predict doom and nothing much happens, it was because of your wise warning. If you don’t predict doom and reality is worse than you predicted, you will be blamed and shamed. The incentives are clear. Truth experts at the DGB will proclaim grave threats around every turn even when any “threats” are minor to nonexistent.

By creating the DGB, the U.S. government is creating a crisis monitor with the dial permanently set to “existential threat.” No one inside the board will have the incentive—or the courage—to dial it down.

Here’s the headline of a recent piece by Robby Soave: “Homeland Security Chief Admits New Disinformation Board Already Did a Bad Job of Informing Public.” [4]

Nate Hochman wonders why the New York Times is ignoring the DGB? [5]

Richard Ebeling looks back on Joseph Schumepter’s magnificent Capitalism, Socialism, and Democracy, published 80 years ago [6].

Katherine Mangu-Ward explains why a wealth tax is a bad idea [7].

Wall Street Journal columnist Mary Anastasia O’Grady reports on recent attempts to push Mexico further down the road to serfdom [8]. A slice:

The left calls what AMLO wants “participatory democracy” but it is instead a dangerous flirtation with mob rule.

When he took office in 2018, Mr. López Obrador promised to deliver an irreversible “fourth transformation” of Mexico, an ambiguous utopian vision that seems to require the centralization of political power and the state as the dominant player in the economy. With only two years and seven months left in his six-year term, he’s running out of time.

The April 17 defeat in Congress of constitutional reforms to reverse the 2014 opening of Mexico’s energy markets is a major setback for AMLO. Those reforms were aimed at restoring the monopoly power of state-owned oil company Petróleos Mexicanos, or Pemex, and of the state-owned Federal Electricity Commission, or CFE.

Mexicans don’t seem to see a future in inefficient and corrupt state energy monopolies. The reforms never had backing from the necessary qualified majorities in Congress. Even Morena knew they were a long shot, which is why it tried to reduce the number of opposition legislators who would show up to vote by scheduling the session during Holy Week and then abruptly moving it to Easter Sunday. Desperate Morena supporters even tried to get up a rabble to block opposition legislators physically from entering the chamber.

My GMU Econ colleague Bryan Caplan’s new book – How Evil Are Politicians? Essays on Demagoguery – is now available for sale! [9] (I am honored beyond words that Bryan dedicates this book to me.)