Some Links

by Don Boudreaux on November 13, 2022

in Country Problems, Current Affairs, Education, Podcast, Politics, Risk and Safety, Truth-seeking & ideology

My GMU Econ colleague Bryan Caplan talks with Princeton mathematician Sergiu Klainerman.

Arnold Kling rightly worries about naive realism . A slice:

My own stance on these issues is that I am not anti-intellectual. I am against what in philosophy is called naive realists. A naive realist believes “I see the world clearly. What I perceive to be true, is true.” In politics, if you are a naive realist, then you think more highly of your opinions on public policy than you should.

Ordinary voters suffer from naive realism. But intellectuals can suffer even worse from naive realism.

I think that the best protection from naive realism is having ideas tested in the market rather than imposed by monopoly government. The market will expose and weed out misconceptions. Government will not.

Williams College Professor of Biology Luana Maroja decries assaults on freedom of inquiry and speech in the academy. Two slices:

We each have our own woke tipping point—the moment you realize that social justice is no longer what we thought it was, but has instead morphed into an ugly authoritarianism. For me that moment came in 2018, during an invited speaker talk, when the religious scholar Reza Aslan stated that “we need to write on a stone what can and cannot be discussed in colleges.” Students gave this a standing ovation. Having been born under dictatorship in Brazil, I was alarmed.

Soon after that, a few colleagues and I attempted to pass the Chicago Statement—what I viewed as a very basic set of principles about the necessity of free speech on campus. My shock continued as students broke into a faculty meeting about the Chicago Statement screaming “free speech harms” and demanding that white male professors “sit down” and “confess to their privilege.”


In psychology and public health, many teachers no longer say male and female, but instead use the convoluted “person with a uterus.” I had a colleague who, during a conference, was criticized for studying female sexual selection in insects because he was a male. Another was discouraged from teaching the important concept of “sexual conflict”—the idea that male and female interests differ and mates will often act selfishly; think of a female praying mantis decapitating the head of the male after mating—because it might “traumatize students.” I was criticized for teaching “kin selection”—the the idea that animals tend to help their relatives. Apparently this was somehow an endorsement of Donald Trump hiring his daughter Ivanka.

GMU Econ PhD candidate Giorgio Castiglia explains that human societies flourish to the extent that they encourage each person to pursue his or her individual goals, whatever these might be, in ways benefit others – and private property institutions provide such encouragement.

Pierre Lemieux explains that human societies flounder to the extent that they encourage anyone to pursue his or her individual goals, whatever these might be, by deceiving others – and political institutions provide such encouragement.

Reason‘s Eric Boehm is correct: “The GOP has hit the dead end of Trump-style personality-cult populism.” A slice:

In fact, if you want to trace the roots of Tuesday’s debacle for the GOP, a good place to start would be the 2020 Republican National Convention in Charlotte, North Carolina. That’s where the top officials in GOP politics decided to dispense with the traditional drafting of a platform—the document that outlines the ideals and policy goals for which the party stands—in favor of a statement pledging allegiance to then-President Donald Trump.

It was, in essence, a codification of the evolution that the party had undergone since Trump descended from a Fifth Avenue escalator to declare his candidacy five years earlier. Personality had fully triumphed over policy.

Even before Tuesday, there were clear signals about the limits of that approach. Trump was an unpopular president who’d lost both chambers of Congress during his one term in office. His chaotic response to losing the 2020 presidential election likely cost Republicans control of the Senate for the past two years.

After Tuesday, there can be no more debate about the diminishing returns of that approach. Even in places where Trump’s favored candidates won—like in Ohio, where J.D. Vance was elected senator—they underperformed non-Trump candidates. Elsewhere, personality-first and policy-poor candidates in Trump’s mold, like Arizona’s Senate hopeful Blake Masters, flopped hard.

Michael Senger praises Ron DeSantis’s opposition to covidian tyranny. A slice:

Unlike some leaders such as South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem, DeSantis didn’t initially see through the lockdowns. But he was one of the few political leaders to quickly and publicly recognize his error, vowing that Florida “will never do any of these lockdowns again.”

Where DeSantis really stands out, however, is in his wholehearted embrace, from that point forward, of the anti-lockdown movement in its entirety. He’s consulted and hosted roundtable discussions with prominent anti-lockdown activists and scientists including Dr. Jay Bhattacharya, Dr. Martin Kulldorff, and Dr. Sunetra Gupta, and appointed Dr. Joseph Ladapo, a strong opponent of Covid mandates, as his Surgeon General.

My former Mercatus Center colleague Bob Graboyes is critical of Emily Oster’s call for “pandemic amnesty.” Two slices:

So, for disagreeing (partially) with one particular public health diktat [school closures], Oster was smeared in the basest terms—and this was standard operating procedure with the advocates of public health orthodoxy. There were campaigns of disparagement, vilification, censorship, and personal destruction against those who dared to deviate from the official line. The media, with epidemiology degrees from the University of Wikipedia, portrayed official pronouncements—the things that Oster admits were “totally misguided”—as unquestioned truths. Dissidents, no matter how highly credentialed, were accused of spreading anti-scientific falsehoods.


In the U.S., Florida was the standout dissenter—rejecting calls to close beaches, schools, and businesses and rejecting mask and vaccine mandates. How did Florida fare? Again, reasonable people can debate that. Florida’s COVID death rate is higher than the national median. But educations, incomes, recreation, and social interactions were not demolished. How did the pandemic affect death rates in total—not just death rates from COVID? Did Floridians fare better because other areas of healthcare were less disrupted than elsewhere? Did Floridians experience less in the way of depression, domestic violence, and suicide because they still had lives? Are Florida children more resistant to respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) than those in lockdown states? Will Floridians enjoy better health in the future because their incomes and educations were not as damaged as elsewhere? My sense is that the benefits from Florida’s light touch well exceeded the costs. But, again, reasonable people can debate that question. But, once again, public discourse was not dominated by reasonable people debating. Governor Ron DeSantis was pilloried as “DeathSantis.”

Eyal Shahar makes a strong case that “[t]he greater good would have been served if normal life continued, undisrupted, throughout the pandemic.” A slice:

Shutting down countries erroneously is no small mistake that can be ignored as if it never happened. The horrifying effects of reckless, panic-triggered actions cannot be erased by changing the agenda to the count of Covid deaths, or to personal Covid stories. Countless lives have been lost and countless livelihoods have been destroyed — in vain. The world-wide death toll would have been lower, not higher, if all countries behaved like Sweden! Record-high inflation and a looming recession would have been avoided. Human rights, achieved over decades of slow progress, would not have been sacrificed in the blink of an eye. Children would not have been deprived of precious years of education.

UnHerd‘s Freddie Sayers tweets: (HT Jay Bhattacharya)

China announces change of Covid strategy:

“Identify population base of the elderly, patients with underlying diseases, pregnant women, patients with chronic diseases and other groups, and formulate health and safety protection plans for them.”

Ummm @gbdeclaration 2 years late?

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