Some Links

by Don Boudreaux on January 7, 2023

in Competition, Current Affairs, Regulation, Risk and Safety, Seen and Unseen, Taxes, The Profit Motive

Josiah Neeley rightly criticizes the recent report in the New York Times on how deregulation allegedly results in higher utility prices. A slice:

The Times is similarly confused when it comes to the intricacies of real-time electric market auctions. In an organized wholesale electric market, generators submit bids to supply power to the grid and the market automatically chooses the cheapest mix of bids needed to supply customer demands. The article portrays this approach as wasteful because the lowest-cost generators get paid the same price as the most expensive bid chosen. The truth is the approach rewards low-cost generators more than high-cost generators and, thus, pressures all generators to work more efficiently. This isn’t just theoretical speculation. There is plenty of research demonstrating that this “uniform clearing price” approach works to promote efficiency in practice.

That leaves the third explanation by the Times, the old staple of anti-market thinking: Competition leads to higher prices because of “profits taken in by energy suppliers.” Based on reading the Times article, you might be surprised to learn that monopoly utilities also make profits. Indeed, utility rates are typically set to give the utility a set percentage of profit based on their past investments. This, needless to say, does not encourage utilities to find ways to lower costs.

Arnold Kling identifies important differences separating institutions from networks.

My intrepid Mercatus Center colleague, Veronique de Rugy, ponders the public reaction to the release of Trump’s tax returns. A slice:

Blaming the unfairness of our system on Trump’s use of such loss-carryforward provisions, as if these are illegitimate or fraudulent, is silly. It becomes laughably hypocritical when it is offered by the same people who never stop pushing for bigger tax credits for their favorite causes.

Steven Greenhut reports that government in California continues to chase people away. A slice:

The news about California is alarming. Our nation’s population growth has increased post-COVID, but the distribution has been uneven. Texas gained an astounding 471,000 people last year and Florida gained 417,000, while California lost 114,000. This is the third year in a row that California—with its can’t quite reach 40-million population—has lost people. This isn’t slowing growth, but actual losses (although the rate of decline slowed this year).

Gary Galles debunks several false claims about the alleged morality of labor unions. Here’s his conclusion:

As an entreaty from an employer to a worker, “Why don’t you go somewhere else?” deserves more respect. It is not callous nor uncaring. In many areas of our lives, to exit (to other opportunities) is often a more effective mechanism than to negotiate (talking others into adopting your point of view). You are not a cold-hearted curmudgeon every time you take your business elsewhere, when unsatisfied with your current arrangements. It is why America’s Founders thought “voting with your feet” was a core protective feature of federalism. Advocates of unionization efforts, who utilize exit opportunities to their advantage throughout their lives, would deny similar exit protections to employers and unwilling workers, forcing them to abide after a one-time majority vote to unionize.

David Henderson productively unpacks the holiday woes of Southwest Airlines and its customers. A slice:

Think about how the owner sees the issue. If he refuses to give satisfaction, he will lose my business. Not only that, but also I’ll spread the word, telling others that the owner treats customers badly. That loss of business hurts his revenue: his residual is less. Until about the late 1990s, the ways we could spread the word were orally and with letters to the editors of local newspapers. But now we have so many ways to do so: Facebook, Yelp, and Nextdoor, to name three.

We consumers are ruthless. Businesses know that and, unless they’re bailed out by governments, they need to take that into account.

Hmmm…. Fake covid information spread on Twitter? (HT Robert Blumen)

David Zweig writes that spending time with kids might actually help to better protect older people from covid. A slice:

The two studies were published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences — one in August and one last month [November] — and together they achieved something rare: They offered dramatic and important new information suggesting a correction to a commonly held narrative about children as dangerous viral vectors during the pandemic. But their results, according to multiple experts interviewed for this article, were also entirely expected.

The August paper found that “exposure to young children was strongly associated with less severe COVID-19 illness.” In an analysis of the records of more than 3 million adults in the Kaiser Permanente Northern California health system, the authors found that “those without identifiable household exposure to children based on health insurance enrollment had a 27% higher rate of COVID-19 hospitalization and a 49% higher rate of COVID-19 hospitalization requiring ICU admission than those with young children.” (In comparing adults with and without exposure to young children, the analysis matched each group for known COVID risk factors such as age, hypertension, diabetes, and BMI.) The study’s researchers, from Kaiser, Stanford University, and Columbia University, said their findings suggest that cross-immunity from common coronaviruses — which sometimes cause the colds and sniffles that children tend to carry — may play a role in protection against severe COVID-19 outcomes.

The study published in November, by researchers from Harvard Medical School, Boston University School of Medicine, and the Veterans Administration, offered biological evidence for the Kaiser study’s epidemiological finding. The researchers found that, during the first year of the pandemic, VA patients who had tested positive for some of the common-cold coronaviruses had an 80 to 90 percent reduction in likelihood of testing positive for SARS-CoV-2 infection. In other words, at least for a limited time, getting the common cold appeared to help some people’s immune system protect against COVID.

These two studies — one relying on laboratory data, the other on observational data — complement each other so compellingly that the researchers behind the November study cite the August paper as the inspiration for theirs. Taken together, the findings suggest that social distancing and isolation at a population level, particularly from young children, may have counterintuitively put some people at greater risk of COVID infection or severe disease once they resumed normal contact. (Several of the experts I spoke with noted that this doesn’t mean social distancing wasn’t beneficial for those at high risk of bad outcomes who were able to remain uninfected until they were vaccinated.)

Jeffrey Tucker calls for an immediate end to travel restrictions.

Jay Bhattacharya tweets:

Health care in blue states will be last to return to status quo ante. The leadership of hospitals and health care will need to change because this generation of leaders will be loathe to admit they read the evidence so poorly and got the policy so wrong.

Martin Kulldorff tweets:

As a vaccine epidemiologist I have focused on scientific evidence, letting the chips fall where they may. In the current fight between vaccine fanatics and anti-vaxxers, the walls have now closed in from both sides. I can no longer support my family doing vaccine safety research.

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