≡ Menu

Some Links

Writing in the Wall Street Journal, physicist Lawrence Krauss decries the U.S. Department of Energy’s wokeness. A slice:

And the new initiative doesn’t stop with research. Professional conferences bring scientists together to discuss important science issues. No longer. Now conference organizers will have to spend the bulk of their effort meeting bureaucratic requirements on diversity and “conduct.”

“Beginning in FY 2023,” the announcement states, “proposals requesting funding to support a conference will require that the host organization of the conference have an established code of conduct or policy in place that addresses discrimination, harassment, bullying, and other exclusionary practices…. Applicants will also be required to submit a recruitment and accessibility plan for speakers and attendees. This plan will need to include discussion of the recruitment of individuals from groups historically minoritized in the research community.” I’ve served on numerous national-conference organizing committees over the years, and attendees at these conferences never raised the issue of discrimination, harassment, bullying or exclusionary practices.

My intrepid Mercatus Center colleague Veronique de Rugy, writing at National Review, is rightly critical of Biden’s “deficient deficit math.” A slice:

My takeaway is that Biden is indeed a big spender. No one should let him get away with saying otherwise since we are in dangerous territory with deficits exploding and interest rates rising.

Also from Vero are these constructive proposals on how the GOP might work with Democrats. Two slices:

The upcoming midterm election has got me thinking about divided government. In normal times, the prospect of newly shared power in Washington might have me looking forward to the resulting slowdown of one party’s hyperactive agenda. The Democrats who are in power are indeed pushing a fiscal and regulatory agenda that has become a serious risk to Americans’ prosperity and freedom.

But these are not normal times. Today, I don’t know how confident I am in divided government. If it’s going to work, Republicans must bring better ideas to the table, and both parties must be more open to bipartisanship.

Here are just a few of my concerns. Some GOP candidates are either barely fit or altogether unfit for office. Democrats may be no better, but two wrongs don’t make a right. More and more, many Republicans abandon serious thinking about policy and governing and instead focus on making Democrats’ lives a living hell.


Another area where a bipartisan effort would be fruitful is marijuana legalization. While cannabis is legal for medical or recreational use in many states, it is still classified as an illegal Schedule I drug at the federal level. Biden took the first step last week by asking the Department of Health and Human Services and the attorney general to look into changing the federal government’s approach.

The GOP should get on board. Americans are pro-legalization. The War on Drugs has torn families apart and especially hurts lower-income African Americans. Republicans might recall that one of the most famous conservatives of the past century, William F. Buckley, supported marijuana decriminalization.

My former Mercatus Center colleague Brian Blase writes in the Wall Street Journal about yet another abuse of power by the Biden administration. A slice:

What happens when you combine partisan politics with an unaccountable regulatory regime? You get the White House’s decision Tuesday to extend ObamaCare subsidies beyond what is legally permitted by tax law. The Biden administration’s new rule to remove what’s been cleverly framed as the “family glitch” is a political play that should worry anyone concerned with regulatory transparency in Washington.

As I’ve written in these pages, the White House has long sought to expand coverage on ObamaCare exchanges in this way. But the law is clear; it made subsidies for exchange plans available if the employee had to pay more than about 10% of income for a self-only plan. Basing subsidy eligibility on the cost of self-only coverage meant that families that had to pay more than 10% of income for a family plan lost out on the subsidy. This created the so-called family glitch—even though the vast majority of families in these situations were insured on an employer plan.

Not only does this rule lack statutory basis, it comes with a high price tag. According to the Congressional Budget Office, it is expected to cost $45 billion over the next decade as it pushes people off their employer plans to obtain heavily subsidized exchange plans. Few currently uninsured people will get coverage.

Time for some deep optimism.

University of Kentucky emeritus professor of economics John Garen offers an argument with which I disagree but that is worth debating. Consider:

During 2021, numerous private companies mandated COVID-19 vaccination for their employees, aligning with many government policies and recommendations. Thus, many workers were under pressure to either vaccinate – against their judgment – or lose their job. In response, numerous state legislatures considered bills limiting private firms in this regard. One reaction to this, from a free-enterprise perspective, is that private firms should be able to establish whatever workplace standards they wish, within Constitutional and employment law, and legislatures should keep their hands off.

I contend that this reaction is not correct as it misses much of the picture.

Fundamentally, the status quo is not where private firms simply make their own choices in a market economy. Instead, many firms depend on government contracts, tax breaks, subsidies, and favors, and also face many government regulations. Thus, they are incentivized to remain in the good graces of government, which may include issuing COVID-19 mandates to align with government pronouncements.

Firms seem to be under a tacit and invisible (to outsiders) set of regulations and incentives, largely established by executive branch agencies, to follow government “recommendations.” The tacit regulation, and its “recommendations,” are not justified by any sensible role for government. But with enough firms thus constrained, the competitive process for workers is stifled, with distortion toward firms requiring vaccines. This suggests that such firms are opaquely acting in the government’s stead, i.e., they are “state actors.”

Thus, a legislature’s intervention to limit private vaccine mandates could be beneficial by undoing detrimental tacit regulations of the executive branch. I come to this conclusion with trepidation. My instincts are to oppose governmental interference in private contracting.

Long experience shows that such regulation typically makes matters worse. Nevertheless, a case can be made for state legislative action in this situation. “Doing nothing” is not free-enterprise friendly; it simply cements in the status quo of tacit regulatory pressure. Legislative action may be the best option among unattractive alternatives.

Here’s the abstract of a new paper by Christos Makridis:

Using data on over 50,000 individuals between March 2020 and May 2021 in the United States, this paper investigates the effects of state-level house of worship restrictions on subjective well-being (SWB). My identification strategy exploits plausibly exogenous variation in the timing of these policies on religious adherents with their non-religious counterparts before versus after the adoption of the state restrictions. The adoption of these restrictions led to a 0.117 standard deviation reduction in current life satisfaction and a 4.8 percentage point rise in self-isolation among the religious, relative to their counterparts. Numeric caps (i.e., restrictions on exactly how many people can gather) are more harmful for SWB than percentage caps (i.e., restrictions on the percent of occupancy rates during “normal times” as set out for the building). The results are robust to a wide array of controls, including income, political affiliation, economic sentiment, industry, and occupation. Moreover, they are robust to state X time fixed effects, which exploit variation between religious and non-religious adherents after controlling for all shocks common in the same state over time. Finally, there is almost no evidence that these restrictions have any public health benefits.

Steve Templeton talks with Tracy Beth Høeg about “how cultural differences between Nordic countries and the U.S. could explain differences in COVID responses.”

Jay Bhattacharya tweets:

If fact checkers were serious about their mission, they would be checking themselves and other fact checkers. They would worry about errors of omission and commission by fact checkers. I’m afraid that they do not as a whole give the impression of being serious about their mission