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My GMU Econ colleague Bryan Caplan has some wise, practical advice for those many of today’s conservatives who are clamoring to expand government’s power and reach to achieve conservative goals.

Writing in the Washington Post, the Cato Institute’s David Bier and Jeffrey Singer explain that the fentanyl crisis is not the fault of the Biden administration. A slice:

The harsher the crackdown, the more smugglers shift to more potent, easier-to-conceal drugs, such as fentanyl.

This is similar to the unintended consequences of the crackdown on prescription painkillers. Non-medical users who relied on stolen or diverted pills did not stop using opioids as a result of the crackdown; they switched to the more dangerous heroin. Meanwhile, genuine pain patients suffered immensely.

Fentanyl is entering the United States because consumers — almost all of them U.S. citizens — are willing to pay for illicit opioids. As long as there is demand, supply will follow. That’s the lesson of the past century of prohibition — first of alcohol, then drugs. Policymakers must focus on helping people with addictions, not on banning immigration or throwing more taxpayer dollars at ineffective border measures.

Rich Vedder urges colleges to “go back to basics.”

John O. McGinnis writes about meritocracy and multiculturalism. Two slices:

Meritocracy has long been a feature of advanced liberal democracies. Whether determining who goes to elite universities or who gets what job, making decisions on the basis of merit—the ability to perform well in education or at work—has substantial economic, political, and even geopolitical advantages. Economically, it puts the most productive and talented people in the places where they will make the most difference in making scientific breakthroughs, shaping technical applications of those breakthroughs, and managing the business organizations bringing that technology to market. Meritocracy also encourages citizens to gain skills that make them more productive than they otherwise would, because the efforts over which they exert their control, like studying and working hard, earn a return regardless of the characteristics that they cannot change, like family, tribe, neighborhood, or race.

Meritocracy has moral and political benefits too. It gives everyone a sense of agency over their own lives and opposes the fatalistic belief that their lives are predestined by relatively immutable characteristics. Moreover, the alternative to meritocracy empowers political factions and thus political conflict. For instance, when decisions were made on the basis of tribal affiliation, it made that identity an axis of political warfare. And by removing from political discussion the questions of what characteristics gain access to jobs and education, modern meritocratic democracy makes politics more tractable and less chaotic. Politics then hinges on a debate about whether and how much we should redistribute the wealth that meritocracy facilitates.


Moreover, multiculturalism leads to some groups turning against the culture—Western civilization—that has been responsible for meritocracy and much of the rise in standard of living in the world. That opposition is doubly ironic. First, Western civilization is itself the product of many cultures, including the ancient Greek philosophical culture and the Semitic religious culture from which Judaism and Christianity emerged. Second, there are thinkers in the West who have questioned meritocracy. But the wholesale rejection of Western tradition can be the most destructive of all to meritocracy, because like any political structure, it rests on cultural and philosophical foundations—in this case premises of individual responsibility and the possibility of objective truth nurtured by the predominant strands of that tradition.

David Henderson remembers the late economist Shirley Svorny.

Having watched last night on Netflix the new version of All Quiet On the Western Front, I agree with Michael Brendan Dougherty’s assessment and praise of this film. (DBx: Long ago – I think in 1980 – I read the 1929 novel, authored by Erich Maria Remarque. It was a memorably moving experience. I still recall a scene in the book, which I did not see in the movie, that was especially gruesome yet effective: A wounded soldier was crawling across a battlefield keeping himself alive by clamping shut with his teeth a severed artery in his arm. It’s possible that over the past four decades I’ve forgotten some of the details of this scene, but I’ve never forgotten its essence.)

Oh, if you’re unfamiliar with Elton John’s 1982 song “All Quiet on the Western Front,” check it out. It too is moving.

The Wall Street Journal‘s Editorial Board rightly decries the physical attack on Paul Pelosi. A slice:

The political and media classes can help by avoiding hateful rhetoric aimed at their opponents. They can also not pile on Justice Samuel Alito, as some did this week after he said that the leak of his draft Supreme Court opinion in the Dobbs abortion case led to the threats against Justice Kavanaugh. Justice Alito was right, but left-wing Twitter treated him like a paranoid complainer.

The risk of violence will grow as the election nears and passions get hot, and as more people come to mistakenly believe that any one election will determine the country’s fate. Small-d democratic tolerance is in short supply these days, but it behooves everyone in public life to practice it.

Michael Senger rightly refuses to let anyone get away with falsifying the record on covid lockdowns and tyranny. A slice:

By pretending that all of these horrors were attributable to public panic, apologists for the response to Covid are attempting to shift blame away from the political machines that imposed lockdowns and mandates onto individuals and their families. This is, of course, despicable and bunk. People did not voluntarily go hungry, or stand in the freezing cold to get food, or remove themselves from hospitals while they were still sick, or bankrupt their own businesses, or force their own kids to sit outside in the cold, or march hundreds of miles in exodus after losing their jobs in factories.

The collective denial of these horrors, and the refusal of media, financial, and political elites to report on them, amounts to nothing less than the greatest act of gaslighting that we’ve seen in modern times.

Further, the argument that all of these terrible outcomes could be attributed to public panic rather than state-imposed mandates would be far more convincing if governments hadn’t taken unprecedented actions to deliberately panic the public.

As the straw man continues – more than two years after being called such – to terrorize the Chinese people, the Telegraph reports that “China’s zero-Covid policy has enabled Xi Jinping to consolidate supreme power.” A slice:

Three years after it came to global attention as home to the world’s first Covid cases, Wuhan has been plunged back into lockdown. While the rest of the world is putting the pandemic behind it, China obsessively maintains a zero-Covid policy which is imprisoning its people and its economy. Naturally, it is not just the destructive policy itself which is rigorously policed, but any criticism of it, too. While US Senate Republicans said this week the virus most likely escaped from a lab, the Chinese regime continues to shut down any debate over its origins.

(DBx: Well, thanks to Chairman Xi, at least tyrannized and impoverished Chinese citizens might be less likely to come into contact with the covid monster.)

Jay Bhattacharya tweets:

A reminder: public health and medicine serve the public, not the other way around.

I get the impression that many in public health and medicine have forgotten this basic fact.