Prior to the war, the U.S. government had generally run surpluses, and the national debt stood at a miniscule $65 million (equivalent to about $2 billion in 2022 dollars). By the end of the war, the debt had risen to $1.3 billion, with interest alone constituting, as Lowenstein notes, “more than the entire prewar budget.” Yet that was not sufficient to cover the war’s cost. So [Treasury secretary Salmon P.] Chase, previously a hard-money Democrat, reluctantly resorted to fiat money—greenbacks—generating inflation that ultimately increased the price level by nearly 80 percent. Lowenstein considers this “hardly all bad” and bemoans postwar efforts to reestablish a gold standard.
Similar predilections are apparent in Lowenstein’s discussion of another Chase initiative, the national banking system, which came to fruition only after Chase’s resignation as treasury secretary. Lowenstein unfairly characterizes the prewar monetary system as “chaotic,” ignoring the copious scholarship that finds antebellum “free banking,” although far from perfect, to have been at least as serviceable as most subsequent U.S. monetary regimes. Moreover, Lowenstein’s praise for national banking hardly accords with his description, in his book on the Federal Reserve, of the national banking system as plagued by panics. Toward the end of Ways and Means, he even backtracks slightly, admitting that the new system gave too much dominance to Wall Street. But he never realizes that the two most serious defects were nearly identical for both prewar and postwar banking: legal limits on branch banking and requirements that banks hold government bonds (state-issued before the war and Treasury-issued afterward).
The Wall Street Journal Editorial Board is understandably impressed with a new paper by Clemson University economists Michael Makowsky and Patrick Warren – a paper that shows that black people’s access to guns reduced incidents of lynching. A slice:
The key finding of “Firearms and Lynching”is clear: “Rates of Black lynching decreased with greater Black firearm access” in the Jim Crow South.
In other words, when black Americans couldn’t count on the cops to protect them, guns made a difference. A few years ago, former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice spoke to this on ABC’s “The View.” She related a personal anecdote from her childhood in Birmingham, Ala., to explain her appreciation for the Second Amendment.
“There was no way that Bull Connor and the Birmingham Police were going to protect you,” she said. “And so when White Knight Riders would come through our neighborhood my father and his friends would take their guns and they’d go to the head of the neighborhood, it’s a little cul-de-sac, and they would fire in the air, if anybody came through.
“I don’t think they actually ever hit anybody. But they protected the neighborhood. And I’m sure if Bull Connor had known where those guns were he would have rounded them up.”
The study confirms Ms. Rice’s point.
Our understanding of how the virus spreads, how best to control spread, how to accurately diagnose a COVID-19 infection, how to treat infection, and even how effectively vaccines work against the virus gets continually revised. Scientific opinions once dismissed as “fringe,” such as employing a pandemic policy of “focused protection,” are now gaining traction as the pandemic has become endemic. (We discussed this at a Cato online policy forum last month.) Reasonable people in the public health community still disagree about the need for and timing of COVID vaccine boosters. The constant churning of scientific knowledge about how the virus works and how to treat infections means medical science doesn’t yet know enough to arrive at a standard of care.