Mark Skousen expresses, in the Wall Street Journal, his justified exasperation with the American Economic Association’s absurd decision to require that all attendees of its 2023 annual meeting be vaccinated, boosted, and masked. Here’s his conclusion:
The AEA is cagey about who planned this particular policy. When I emailed, the AEA said it was a decision made by “the AEA’s leadership.” Did someone do a cost-benefit analysis? Who knows! Why didn’t they make allowances for people with religious or health concerns about vaccines? I share the sentiments of George Mason University’s Tyler Cowen who said on his blog: “How about allowing a members’ vote on this? Or should I just be happy that the AEA is making itself irrelevant at such a rapid pace? It is remarkable the speed at which the economics profession isn’t really about economics anymore.” Peter Drucker once observed that “there are no slower learners than economists.” I never believed that until now.
Students at North American universities risk disenrollment due to third dose Covid-19 vaccine mandates. We present a risk-benefit assessment of boosters in this age group and provide five ethical arguments against mandates. We estimate that 22,000 – 30,000 previously uninfected adults aged 18-29 must be boosted with an mRNA vaccine to prevent one Covid-19 hospitalisation. Using CDC and sponsor-reported adverse event data, we find that booster mandates may cause a net expected harm: per Covid-19 hospitalisation prevented in previously uninfected young adults, we anticipate 18 to 98 serious adverse events, including 1.7 to 3.0 booster-associated myocarditis cases in males, and 1,373 to 3,234 cases of grade ≥3 reactogenicity which interferes with daily activities. Given the high prevalence of post-infection immunity, this risk-benefit profile is even less favourable. University booster mandates are unethical because: 1) no formal risk-benefit assessment exists for this age group; 2) vaccine mandates may result in a net expected harm to individual young people; 3) mandates are not proportionate: expected harms are not outweighed by public health benefits given the modest and transient effectiveness of vaccines against transmission; 4) US mandates violate the reciprocity principle because rare serious vaccine-related harms will not be reliably compensated due to gaps in current vaccine injury schemes; and 5) mandates create wider social harms. We consider counter-arguments such as a desire for socialisation and safety and show that such arguments lack scientific and/or ethical support. Finally, we discuss the relevance of our analysis for current 2-dose Covid-19 vaccine mandates in North America.
But the slippery-slope argument often resonates as a criticism of modern progressivism and liberalism. By leaving the space open for debate and increased equality, liberalism tends to empower those who, unwittingly or not, seek to overthrow anything that can be called liberal. The race to ever-changing equality takes on a logic of its own. The slippery-slope argument is therefore plausibly applicable to progressive politics, by dint of the latter’s own nature to push onward.
Slippery-slope arguments thus deserve some respect. The mere fact that an argument follows that form is largely irrelevant to determining its veracity. Someone accused by his interlocutor of using the slippery-slope argument should reply that the debate should not focus on the notion that cause A could lead to cause B—which is unremarkable—but rather, on how likely it is that cause A could lead to cause B. If recent experience is any indication, the slippery slope against which that interlocutor had protested is likely to unfold in all its decadence as the years progress.
Others are calling to roll back local zoning and other land-use rules that restrict housing construction and drive up home prices, especially in coastal cities where ordinary people can barely afford to live. In a 2020 article for The New York Times, I explained how “modest housing deregulation, such as upzoning to allow taller structures, can substantially increase the supply of housing in the most prosperous areas of the country. This promotes economic migration to these areas, which can reduce poverty and inequality by giving lower-income workers greater access to higher-wage labor markets.”
Ultimately, more than four decades of the U.S.-led war on drugs abroad has not only failed to reduce the supply of illicit substances, it has actually made them more dangerous. A recent U.N. report found that global drug use is up 26 percent from a decade ago. Another survey by the Drug Enforcement Administration confirmed that despite decades of these source control measures, drug prices remain steady, purity and potency remain high, drugs remain widely available, and overdoses are skyrocketing.
We, the present authors, are worried that putatively upright countries today are in danger of descending into tyranny. A tyranny—once capacities for control and despotism are constructed, in some cases including expansive government employment, dependency, and largesse—can be nearly impossible to reform. The key to the descent into tyranny, and the stability of tyranny once it is achieved, is this: Tyrants use tyranny to fortify their keep and to protect themselves against the sanctions due them for their crimes.