Annual heat deaths have increased significantly among people 65 and older world-wide. The average deaths per year increased 68% from the early 2000s to the late 2010s. But that is almost entirely because there are so many more older people today than there were 20 years ago, in no small part thanks to medical innovations that keep us alive longer. Measured across the same time span the Lancet maps heat deaths, the number of people 65 and older has risen by 60%, or almost as much as heat deaths. When the increase in heat mortality is adjusted for this population growth, the actual rise that can be attributed to rising temperatures is only 5%.
It is hard not to see the Lancet study’s failure to adjust this figure as a deliberate act of deception. Any academic who works with statistics would know to adjust the deaths to account for population growth. I’ve actually raised this issue to the Lancet before. Last September the journal published a study with the same fallacious argument, and I sent the editor a detailed letter explaining the problem. The Lancet never corrected it and here it is, over a year later, committing the same error.
This year’s study also cherry-picks data by discussing only heat deaths. Around the world, far more people die each year from cold than heat. In the U.S. and Canada between 2000 and 2019, an average of 20,000 people died from heat annually and more than 170,000 from cold. This omission matters even more because cold deaths are decreasing with rising temperatures. Modeling from the Global Burden of Disease replicates the relatively small increase in heat deaths shown by the Lancet, but shows a much larger decline in cold deaths from rising temperatures. Based on today’s population size, the current temperatures cause about 17,000 more heat deaths in older people, but also result in more than half a million fewer cold deaths. Reporting one finding without the other is misleading about the true effect of climate change.
My GMU Econ colleague Bryan Caplan is rightly impressed with Alex Epstein’s work on energy, the environment, and climate hysteria. And Bryan’s admiration continues here. A slice from the second link:
Needless to say, I’m skipping over piles of details. Epstein however, does not. What makes his treatment of the details credible, though, is his Big Picture: Given all of the horrors of nature that humanity has already mastered, humanity can clearly master some more. Yes, we can imagine worst-case scenarios that overwhelm our abilities. Imagination, after all, is infinite. But that doesn’t show that such scenarios are likely enough to worry about.
As I’ve argued before, our default should that worst-case scenarios are highly unlikely. After all, humanity already got this far. If specialists with a long track record of hyperbole warn us of doom, we should ignore them. Unless, of course, specialists with a long track record of calm, measured thought chime in, “For once, the doomsayers are right.” Show me these specialists, and I’ll read them.
The book’s three authors are former US senator and former economics professor Phil Gramm, Auburn University economics professor Robert Ekelund, and former assistant commissioner of the Bureau of Labor Statistics John Early. The authors take a deep dive into the data and use largely government-generated data to make their case. They point out that in computing household incomes, the US Census, part of the Department of Commerce, systematically leaves out two-thirds of the transfer payments that federal, state, and local governments give to people. This dramatically understates income of people in the lowest-income two-fifths (which economists and statisticians call quintiles) because these two quintiles, and especially the lowest, receive a hugely disproportionate share of transfer payments. The Census also leaves out taxes paid to federal, state, and local governments. Because higher-income people pay most of the taxes, failure to subtract these taxes substantially overstates the income of higher-income people. Both factors cause the Census Bureau to systematically overstate income inequality. They also show that the government’s usual measure to adjust for inflation, the Consumer Price Index, systematically overstates inflation and, therefore, understates the growth of real wages and real household incomes. Adjusting the data for both transfer payments and the overstatement of inflation, the authors show that the percentage of US households in poverty, rather than being in the low teens, is actually only about 1.1 percent.
Along the way, the authors show that US income mobility is high: the vast majority of people, over their lifetimes, move from one quintile to another. They also dispel a number of myths about the rich, the top 1 percent, the top 0.1 percent, and the incredibly wealthy Forbes 400. As a disturbing bonus, they show that in recent years some federal government agencies have encouraged people to be more dependent on government welfare.
The authors end with three suggested reforms, making a strong case for each: (1) having Congress require the federal government to report more-complete data, (2) legislating school choice, and (3) reforming occupational licensing to make it easier for workers to advance in the economy.
They end with an inspiring message: “Our goal must be an America where people can rise as high and go as far as the sweat of their brows will take them and know the triumph of that achievement, whether it be large or small, belongs uniquely to them and those who love them.” Amen.
A recent posting at the American Compass describes a trade problem that is not really a problem and then prescribes three bold solutions that are not really solutions. If implemented, their proposals would in fact create real problems for an American economy struggling to tame inflation and dodge a recession.
The U.S. trade deficit is not a problem to be solved, but a basic feature of a U.S. economy that excels at attracting foreign investment from around the world. That investment, which even American Compass folks occasionally celebrate, keeps domestic interest rates lower than they would be otherwise and fuels job creation, innovation, and the construction or modernization of plant and equipment at U.S. factories.
American Compass complains that years of trade deficits have only succeeded in piling up “more than $13 trillion of trade debt.” That figure is a misleading way of describing America’s “net international investment position”—the difference between the value of assets abroad owned by Americans and the value of U.S.-based assets owned by foreigners. At the end of 2020, the difference was indeed more than $13 trillion, with foreign‐owned assets in the United States totaling $46.7 trillion and U.S.-owned assets abroad $32.0 trillion. But that difference is not “debt” in any normal sense. Most of the assets that foreigners own in the United States are in the form of foreign direct investment (FDI) in U.S. companies and portfolio investment in equities. When people outside the United States invest $1 billion in Apple Inc. stock or an automobile factory in Tennessee, this is not debt our children need to repay, but an infusion of new capital into the American economy.
The critics push back that almost all inward FDI comes in the form of mergers and acquisitions rather than “greenfield” investment in new plants. But as my Cato colleague Scott Lincicome has argued, this misses the important fact that those mergers and acquisitions allow U.S. sellers to reinvest those funds in other enterprise, injecting additional capital into the U.S. economy. Those transactions also encourage further investment in domestic firms that may then draw foreign partners in the future. Foreign acquisitions also typically lead to improved production methods, better marketing and customer service, and greater investment in research and development. The net inflow of FDI enhances the productivity of the nearly 8million Americans who work for foreign‐owned affiliates in the United States, boosting their wages and benefits.
A tax on inward capital flows is arguably the most serious of the three “solutions.” It at least has the virtue of aiming at the underlying cause of the trade deficit—the persistent net inflow of foreign capital to the United States. A bill has been introduced in the U.S. Senate that closely resembles the American Compass proposal. But like the two clubs aimed at imports, it’s hard to imagine how making U.S. assets less attractive to foreign investors will make Americans more wealthy and prosperous. Russia’s war in Ukraine has made its assets less attractive, downright toxic, to foreign investors. This may have even contributed to an “improvement” in Russia’s trade balance, but the flight of foreign capital has caused real damage to its domestic economy and living standards.
Too often Washington has treated sanctions as costless to the United States, but that is clearly not always the case. Aside from prioritizing multilateral over unilateral controls, policymakers should consider some simple steps to ensure a proper calibration between national security and economic considerations. For example, a tighter definition of “national security” is needed. The Trump administration’s bogus invocation of national security to restrict imported steel and aluminum is a perfect example of disguised protectionism. Though semiconductors are clearly a component of a country’s national security given their importance to weapons systems, the government should still explain how the controlled products in question are undermining U.S. national security (within reason; obviously certain intelligence must remain classified).
Likewise, policymakers should ensure that export controls are not unduly burdensome over the long term. A simple sunset with judicial scrutiny would be appropriate for export controls, particularly for products in which the technology is rapidly evolving. A high‐end semiconductor needed for surveillance or a weapons system today may not be fit for that purpose tomorrow, yet such product could still be useful in commercial and civilian contexts. The government should be required to periodically show that the control is still necessary to protect national security or other vital U.S. interests. Finally, Commerce should be required to consult closely with affected businesses to determine if there are ways to mitigate potential national security risks without damaging commercial considerations.
Writing at National Review, my intrepid Mercatus Center colleague Veronique de Rugy explains that there is no escaping the pain of fighting inflation (save, of course, not igniting inflation in the first place – but the past cannot be undone).
Terence Corcoran, writing in Canada’s Financial Post, warns of Canada and other western governments increasingly warm embrace of statist interventions of the sort that are championed by Chairman
Mao Xi. (HT Jonathan Fortier) A slice:
But here’s the intellectual flip and liberal backslide behind these major shifts in economic policymaking. To counter Russia and China, the supply-siders are essentially adopting the economic control model favoured by the very countries that are menacing world peace, trade and prosperity. In many ways, the Freeland Doctrine and the PPF document read like speeches of Chinese leader Xi Jinping and his legion of Communist flunkies.
I wish that Fauci and Collins had tried to engage with them rather than smear them as ‘fringe’ scientists
(DBx: Yes. See today’s “Quotation of the Day.”)
Listening to the news on French public radio. An expert is explaining that yes, public health’s terribly suffered from the contradictions of the COVID response, but we “didn’t know”. Was so obvious. Some of us damn well knew, but we were censored, that’s why you “didn’t know” 😡
Being socialist headbangers, Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and her Welsh equivalent Mark Drakeford brought in new restrictions anyway, including cancelling Hogmanay and fining Welsh people who refused to work from home £60 – decisions that now look beyond absurd.
Yet it isn’t with the benefit of hindsight that we know many of the UK’s coronavirus measures were not only wholly unnecessary but also a worse cure than the disease; some of us had been saying that all along, only to be ridiculed and demonised for it.
What we are talking about here is decision-making that destroyed lives. This is not the same as a lack of understanding about how Covid was spread. While we may have been, in certain periods, in the dark about variants, transmission and the efficacy of tests, anyone who truly had a balanced view of lockdown suspected that the economic, social, educational and indeed physiological aftershocks would prove more injurious for society in the long run.
Those self-righteous zealots who used “saving the NHS” as a taxpayer-funded shield for their own one-dimensional thinking need only look at ambulance response times and waiting lists to see the folly of their moral superiority.