Wall Street Journal columnist Mary Anastasia O’Grady reports on how the political left in Brazil is assaulting free speech. (DBx: Democratic norms are assaulted not only by persons on the right.) Two slices:

Brazil’s runoff presidential election—scheduled for Oct. 30—between two-term former President Luiz Inácio “Lula” da Silva and incumbent Jair Bolsonaro looks close.

How close is reflected in recent moves by Brazil’s seven-member electoral tribunal, or TSE. Led by a notoriously anti-Bolsonaro judge, Alexandre de Moraes, the TSE has grabbed extraordinary powers and is using them to gag Lula critics.

Brazil’s Constitution forbids censorship, and the court’s brazen crackdown on free speech has alarmed the nation. But Judge de Moraes, who is also president of the Supreme Court, shows no sign of backing down. If Brazil’s democracy is at risk, it’s not, as the chattering classes allege, because of Mr. Bolsonaro.
To demonstrate how far from Brazil’s free-speech norms the TSE behavior falls, Mr. Escosteguy quoted Judge de Moraes, writing from the Supreme Court bench in 2018: “The fundamental right to freedom of expression is not only aimed at protecting opinions that are supposedly true, admirable or conventional, but also those that are dubious, exaggerated, reprehensible, satirical, humorous, as well as those not shared by the majorities. It should be noted that even erroneous statements are under the protection of this constitutional guarantee.”

Now the electoral tribunal wants to dispense with these civil liberties. It makes one wonder what Brazil will look like if Lula wins.

My intrepid Mercatus Center colleague Veronique de Rugy draws a lesson about industrial policy from California’s crazy train. A slice:

Building a high-speed rail connecting Los Angeles and San Francisco was always going to be challenging due to California’s geography. And of course, most of you will not be surprised to learn that this large-scale government project is in fact failing, in large part because of the perverse incentives that pervade such a government project. From conception to planning to building, the incentives consistently encourage waste and error. Again, legislators aren’t funding this boondoggle with their own money. Nor will they be personally accountable for cost overruns, failure to deliver, or what are certain to be many technical problems.

The cost overruns here are almost comical for something that literally hasn’t been built yet. In 2008, the train’s cost was projected to be $33 billion. Fourteen years later the final plan is projected to cost $113 billion – a mere 242 percent more than the sum used to peddle the scheme to the general public.

In addition, decisions on construction are unduly – but not unsurprisingly – influenced by special interests rather than by good economic sense.

Juliette Sellgren talks with Rachel Ferguson about how markets liberate blacks.

Laura Williams decries government restrictions on the building of housing in California.

Stephanie Slade celebrates the 200th anniversary of the birth of Gregor Mendel.

Roger Pielke corrects some misinformation about the climate.

David Henderson explains why he applauds Biden’s decision to release some of the petroleum in the Strategic Petroleum Reserve. A slice:

The philosophical justification is that the government shouldn’t be in the business of supplying oil. One of the strongest arguments for futures markets is that they give private actors a strong incentive to store oil when they think the price will rise in the future and to sell oil when they think it will fall in the future. The government gums up the works by being an unpredictable participant in the market for oil. So it’s best not to have the government in that market at all. The way to get to that point is to sell the oil.

Progressive policies destroy capitalism’s prosperity.”

Jeffrey Tucker is right: apologies for lockdowns are in order. A slice:

Then one day, the kids were locked out of the universities that they pay to attend. No parties. No study sessions. No going to other people’s rooms. No in-person instructions. Many thousands of students in this country have been fined and harassed for noncompliance. They’ve had masks forced on them even though their risk from the virus approaches zero, and the memory of this humiliation will last a full lifetime. Then came the vaccines, forced on college students who did not need them and are most vulnerable to adverse events.

Geoff Shullenberger tweets: (HT Jay Bhattacharya)

The other point is that a stated justification of these policies early on was that they would buy time to build health care capacity, but once the propaganda sunk in everyone forgot that and decided that futile efforts to delay viral spread indefinitely were good in themselves.

Here’s the abstract of a new paper by Jay Bhattacharya, Phil Magness, and Martin Kulldorff:

During the first year of the pandemic, East Asian countries have reported fewer infections, hospitalizations, and deaths from COVID-19 disease than most countries in Europe and the Americas. Our goal in this paper is to generate and evaluate hypothesis that may explain this striking fact. We consider five possible explanations: (1) population age structure (younger people tend to have less severe COVID-19 disease upon infection than older people); (2) the early adoption of lockdown strategies to control disease spread; (3) genetic differences between East Asian population and European and American populations that confer protection against COVID-19 disease; (4) seasonal and climactic contributors to COVID-19 spread; and (5) immunological differences between East Asian countries and the rest of the world. The evidence suggests that the first four hypotheses are unlikely to be important in explaining East Asian COVID-19 exceptionalism. Lockdowns, in particular, fail as an explanation because East Asian countries experienced similarly good infection outcomes despite vast differences in lockdown policies adopted by different countries to control the COVID-19 epidemic. The evidence to date is consistent with our fifth hypothesis – pre-existing immunity unique to East Asia – but there are still essential parts of this story left for scientists to check.

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