Some Links

by Don Boudreaux on January 3, 2023

in Country Problems, Current Affairs, Education, Environment, Housing, Media, Myths and Fallacies

Writing at the Telegraph, Daniel Hannan warns that covidian-style illiberalism will continue to oppress humankind. Three slices:

The original justification for the restrictions had collapsed by April 2020. Sweden, which stuck to the plan that the UK had prepared in cooler-headed times, saw its cases peak and fall in line with everyone else’s, and now turns out to have had the lowest excess death rate of any OECD state.

But, by 2021, dirigisme had taken on a force of its own, and lockdowns were a policy in search of a rationale. “Flatten the curve” became “Protect the NHS”, then “Wait for the rollout”, then “Stop new variants”, then “Yeah, but Long Covid”.

The initial assumption that Britain would reopen once the vulnerable had been jabbed was dropped. For reasons that were never explained, young people had to be vaccinated. Yet the public kept cheering. Support for closing borders, shops, schools and pubs never dipped below two thirds. Oh, yes: 2020 won alright.

The following year did at least see an end to lockdowns. But, although we were no longer under house arrest, 2022 saw something which, in its way, was even worse. Covid illiberalism became permanent, despite the passing of the supposed danger. The furlough had taught us to look to government as a first resort. When prices rose, we demanded handouts. When the Ukraine war caused an energy crisis, we expected ministers to fix prices. We refused to come back to work, even when (as is the case for most civil servants) contracts obliged us to be in the office. It is not just that this was 2020 too – it is that there is no reason to expect future years to be different.

The lockdowns rendered us both grumpy and dependent. Like stroppy teenagers, we rage at the government while expecting it to solve our problems. Cut my fuel bills – and deliver on net zero! Make housing affordable – and don’t build anywhere near me! Pay the public sector more – and bring inflation down! Cut waiting lists – and Hands Off Our NHS! Grow the economy – but don’t expect me back in the office!

If, for the better part of two years, you infantilise voters, using the full force of the law to micromanage their behaviour and paying them to do nothing, you destroy their independence and their readiness to link action and consequence. Everything becomes someone else’s problem.

…..

Well, not this year. I’m afraid the lockdowns – or, rather, the public support for the lockdowns – knocked it out of me. When, in January 2020, I heard that the Chinese authorities were closing and quarantining cities, I thanked my lucky stars that I lived in a nation where such things were unthinkable. The months that followed taught me some hard truths. It became clear that many of my countrymen couldn’t give two hoots about liberty, either in the abstract or in practice. A horrifying survey in July 2021 showed that, with or without a virus, 26 per cent of people wanted nightclubs closed, 35 per cent wanted travellers quarantined and 40 per cent wanted mandatory facemasks. Incredibly, 19 per cent wanted nightly curfews – to repeat, not in response to Covid, but as a general principle.

…..

All agree that the illiberalism began nearly a decade before the pandemic. The lockdown reinforced the trend, making it seem reasonable to ask the state’s permission before travelling or enjoying your property. Who, in this darkening age, can fail to be a rational pessimist?

Even now, lockdown nostalgics are falling greedily on the news from China, beginning their clamour for yet another round of restrictions. And they will surely do the same whenever there is a new disease – or, indeed, a “climate emergency”. Lockdowns are out there now; the needle will not return to where it was.

Jacob Sullum reports that, “under government pressure, Twitter suppressed truthful speech about COVID-19.” A slice:

Consider a March 15, 2021, tweet in which the epidemiologist Martin Kulldorff responded to the question of whether “younger age groups” or people who had already been infected by COVID-19 “need to be vaccinated.” Kulldorff’s response: “No. Thinking that everyone should be vaccinated is as scientifically flawed as thinking that nobody should. COVID vaccines are important for older high-risk people, and their care-takers. Those with prior natural infection do not need it. Nor children.”

[David] Zweig reports that “internal emails show an ‘intent to action’ by a Twitter moderator, saying Kulldorff’s tweet violated the company’s Covid-19 misinformation policy” and claiming “he shared ‘false information.'” But as Zweig notes, “Kulldorff’s statement was an expert’s opinion—one that happened to be in line with vaccine policies in numerous other countries.”

Kulldorff’s tweet nevertheless “was deemed ‘false information’ by Twitter moderators merely because it differed from CDC guidelines,” Zweig writes. “After Twitter took action, Kulldorff’s tweet was slapped with a ‘misleading’ label and all replies and likes were shut off, throttling the tweet’s ability to be seen and shared by others, a core function of the platform.”

Zweig says he found “numerous instances of tweets about vaccines and pandemic policies labeled as ‘misleading’ or taken down entirely, sometimes triggering account suspensions, simply because they veered from CDC guidance or differed from establishment views.” Those actions were consistent with the Biden administration’s understanding of “misinformation,” which it defines as speech that deviates from a government-endorsed “scientific consensus.”

Jay Bhattacharya tweets:

This @washingtonpost Nov. 25, 2022 story was more sensible: “A coronavirus outbreak on the verge of being China’s biggest of the pandemic has exposed a critical flaw in Beijing’s “zero covid” strategy: a vast population without natural immunity.”

Wall Street Journal columnist James Freeman is rightly ridicules 60 Minutes newsman – ‘newsman’ – Scott Pelley for giving airtime to the consistently wrong (but never in doubt) doomsayer Paul Ehrlich. A slice:

This week Mr. Pelley notes Mr. Ehrlich’s history of failed analysis, but doesn’t seem to understand that this should make people more skeptical of Mr. Ehrlich’s climate pronouncements, not less.

Also weighing in on the 60 Minutes interview with Paul Ehrlich is Reason‘s Ron Bailey. Two slices:

Stanford University biologist and perennially wrong doomster Paul Ehrlich appeared on CBS 60 Minutes on Sunday where he once again declared, “I and the vast majority of my colleagues think we’ve had it; that the next few decades will be the end of the kind of civilization we’re used to.”

Ehrlich made himself (in)famous when he in his 1968 bestseller The Population Bomb predicted that “The battle to feed all of humanity is over. In the 1970’s the world will undergo famines-hundreds of millions of people are going to starve to death in spite of any crash programs embarked upon now. At this late date nothing can prevent a substantial increase in the world death rate.” Instead of rising as Ehrlich predicted, the global crude death per 1,000 people has fallen from 12.5 in 1968 to 7 in 2019 before ticking up to 8 in the pandemic year of 2020.

…..

CBS and 60 Minutes should be ashamed of promoting Ehrlich’s oft-debunked nonsense.

Note: I have debunked Ehrlich’s bogus prophecies many, many, many, manytimes. For more background, see my books The End of Doom: Environmental Renewal in the 21st Century and Ten Global Trends Every Smart Person Should Know: And Many Others You Will Find Interesting, with my co-author Marian Tupy.

George Leef warns of what’s going on in higher education.

Bryan Caplan is unquestionably correct: Housing markets in America are calamitously over-regulated. [DBx: Although I’m delighted that Bryan and others emphasize the importance of deregulating the market for housing, I stick to my knitting of busting fallacies about trade and trade policy!]

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