Some Links

by Don Boudreaux on November 9, 2022

in Antitrust, Books, Competition, Current Affairs, Education, Environment, Monetary Policy, Myths and Fallacies, Science, Trade

GMU Econ alum Rosolino Candela, writing at EconLib, ponders monopoly power.

Wall Street Journal columnist Mary Anastasia O’Grady reports on a dangerous decision by the Mexican government to phase out use in that country of genetically modified yellow corn.

U.S.-Mexico relations are on the rocks again, but that isn’t because of a fast-talking American politician who insults the neighbors. (That was Donald Trump, in case you forgot.) The latest confrontation is a looming commercial conflict triggered by Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, aka AMLO.

Last month Mexico’s Deputy Agriculture Minister Víctor Suárez told Reuters that his country plans to go ahead with a 2020 decree that aims to phase out genetically modified yellow corn. The target date for implementation is 2024. AMLO wants Mexico to end the purchase and production of food that relies on the use of the herbicide glyphosate and to return to only consuming foods produced with non-GM corn.


This view is entirely in keeping with the antiscience bias that the AMLO administration is known to harbor. But it’s hard to square with the country’s obligations to keep the market open under the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement, an updated version of the 1993 North American Free Trade Agreement.

In his interview with RFD-TV, Mr. Vilsack said he hopes Mexico will recognize that under the USMCA “they have a responsibility to respect the science.” Failing that, the U.S. and Canada are likely to take the matter to an arbitration panel. If Mexico loses, its trading partners will have the right to retaliate by imposing new tariffs on Mexican exports.

Trade policy is said to produce winners and losers. But if AMLO prevails in this case, almost everyone will be a loser.

(DBx: Mary is right to have written “is said to” rather than “does” because, properly understood, free trade produces only winners.)

Robert Maranto, Michael Mills, and Catherine Salmon ask: “What do we really mean by ‘diversity, equity and inclusion’?” (HT George Leef) Two slices:

With rapidity and stealth, diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) ideology has come to replace the classical liberal values of merit, fairness and equality (MFE) in the academy, professional organizations, media, government and large technology companies. DEI bureaucracies have mushroomed. Many operate behind the scenes with ambiguous DEI definitions, goals and policies.

This is a significant cultural and ideological revolution, one that has been accomplished with almost no debate or operationalization of terminology. Who originated DEI? Why DEI and not another set of laudable values? Does “equity” refer to opportunity or result? How do those of mixed race fit in diversity assessments? Is the goal of racial representation proportionate to that of the population, the history of marginalization, or something else? DEI terms are defined so obtusely that they can refer to a spectrum of policies from mere platitudes to radical agendas including litmus tests and racial quotas.


Enter University of Chicago Professor Dorian Abbot’s DEI alternative, merit, fairness, and equality (MFE), which is consistent with traditional Enlightenment and scientific values. Under MFE, academic decisions are based primarily on academic merit, well validated standardized test scores, grades and, for faculty, publication and teaching records. Individuals are primarily evaluated on their achievements, not by their group identities. This respects individual dignity and promotes the primary mission of research in higher education: the production of knowledge.

George Leef reviews John Staddon’s book Science in an Age of Unreason. A slice:

Powerful forces that dislike the neutrality and objectivity of science threaten to take us back to earlier times when it was more important to enshrine certain beliefs than to allow free‐​wheeling research and discussion.

If you doubt this retreat is occurring, think about the way officials in the United States (and many other countries) reacted to COVID. Doctors and medical researchers were told not to dissent from government pronouncements about vaccines, masks, and treatments. For example, rather than engaging with skeptics such as the epidemiologists who wrote the “Great Barrington Declaration,” National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases director Dr. Anthony Fauci and others sought to discredit them immediately. That is not the way of science, but the way of autocracy. Galileo would have understood just how the Great Barrington authors felt after the federal government dismissed their work and denigrated them.

Staddon argues that science is in dire straits in America because of the way it has become politicized. Many topics are now “off limits” because their exploration might offend politically important groups. Science should be dispassionate, but in the modern university passion often carries the day.

Fraser Myers explains that the masses of people in poor countries need their own industrial revolutions, not so-called “climate reparations.” Two slices:

No you are not imagining it. As absurd as it may seem, it is really happening. The world’s great and the good have descended on COP27 in Egypt – in their private jets, natch – to denounce the evils of the Industrial Revolution. The process that birthed the modern world. That has lifted billions out of poverty, expanded life expectancy and delivered every modern comfort we now take for granted. According to the leading lights at COP, that process has proven to be so evil and destructive that its instigators should pay ‘reparations’. Reparations for the Industrial Revolution – as if the most liberating moment in history were the equivalent of a disastrous war or the enslavement of an entire people.


What developing countries need is to have their own industrial revolutions. Globally, thanks to industrialisation, the number of people dying from climate-related disasters has plummeted since the 1900s – by 95 per cent. And despite the focus on ‘loss and damage’ at this year’s COP, there is no evidence that economic damage from climate change is rising worldwide. In fact, as a percentage of GDP, weather and climate losses have decreased since the 1990s. In other words, even as CO2 emissions have increased substantially, and even as global temperatures have risen, the climate is causing proportionately less damage to humanity than it was 30 years ago – a time when few paid attention to the climate. This is true not just as a global trend, but also for every individual continent on Earth.

The reason is simple. As climate writer Ted Nordhaus explains: ‘Most of the costs associated with present-day climate disasters… are determined by economic development and societal resilience, not the intensity of the climate hazard.’ The only proven method of saving ourselves from climate-related disasters is development.

Yet it is precisely this development that those gathered at COP are determined to limit. And reparations, or ‘loss and damage’ payments, could easily become a tool for limiting that development.

Mitch Daniels notes that “modern monetary theory” is debunked everywhere save in the minds of big spenders of other people’s money. A slice:

One recent bit of hogwash appeared to have expired quickly. A concept dubbed Modern Monetary Theory(MMT), after percolating for years on the fringes of economics, enjoyed a brief run of massive publicity a few years ago when an academic trying to popularize it was, for a time, taken seriously in suggesting the modern equivalent of alchemy. The suggestion was that a government could borrow unlimited amounts of money in its own currency and repay it without risk simply by printing more of that currency.

There was nothing modern about a government spending wildly beyond its means and searching for an easy way out. In 1455, Henry VI granted patents to those pursuing alchemy for the purpose of “enabling of the king to pay all the debts of the crown in real gold and silver.” “Medieval Monetary Theory” would have been a more apt label for the recent version of Henry’s fantasy.

And yet for those whose zeal for bigger government was not sated by the trillions already on or headed for the government’s books, MMT offered a fig leaf of validity. It came under George Orwell’s familiar heading of an idea so absurd that only an intellectual could believe it, and the theory probably only attracted any attention at all because the academic in question was associated with a presidential campaign.

Writing in the Telegraph, Robert Dingwall worries that children will never fully recover from the damage done to them by covid lockdowns. A slice:

Pandemic isolation weighed most heavily on children who were already deprived by poverty. They could be confined to rooms in temporary housing with a single parent for long periods. Councils closed parks and playgrounds where they might interact with other children. Even where parents could work from home, children’s opportunities for language learning and social development were limited.

When small children could go out, they encountered masked faces everywhere. The importance of faces has been clear to psychologists since filmed studies of mother/child interaction in delivery suites during the 1970s. From the first moment a baby is handed to its mother, it focuses on her face and establishes eye contact.

Small children need to see lip shapes and movements to be able to form words and make the correct sounds. Too often, these instances were denied. It must be said that these fundamentals of child development were as evident two years ago as they are today. The risks were spelled out by psychologists from the beginning of the pandemic, and largely ignored.

“Sweden Wins! Country That Refused Lockdown and Kept Schools Open Has Lowest Pandemic Mortality in the World.”

Jay Bhattacharya tweets:

[M]ost of the leadership of public health during the pandemic has embraced sanctimony, bias, and bullying. Public health should be, but is not embarrassed, by its pandemic failure.

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