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In today’s Wall Street Journal, Barton Swaim profiles the great George Will. Two slices:

The rise of Donald Trump signaled something new. Mr. Trump himself had no interest in philosophical arguments for or against state intervention, but he won in 2016—or so a lot of Republican politicos told themselves—by promising to bring industrial production back to the American homeland. Suddenly high-level Republicans rediscovered the virtues of central planning. Sen. Marco Rubio, who in his 2015 presidential campaign announcement had bewailed “the weight of more taxes, more regulations and more government,” was soon able to proclaim the virtues of industrial policy. Several of his GOP colleagues in the Senate—Josh Hawley and J.D. Vance most vocally—are now doing the same. For the first time in many decades, Congressional Republicans don’t even claim to care about slowing the growth of mandatory social-welfare programs, which together comprise two thirds of the federal budget.

A vocal and not negligible number of conservative intellectuals, most of them marching under the banner of “national conservatism,” gleefully scorn the postwar right’s “libertarian” or “neoliberal” veneration of markets. National conservatism is a baggy term—for some it means traditional conservatism with a particular concern for the American nation-state; for others it signifies collectivist social policies combined with social conservatism.

George F. Will, columnist for the last half-century for the Washington Post, has traveled in the opposite direction. In “Statecraft as Soulcraft,” published 40 years ago, Mr. Will, now 81, made the case for government’s ability, and therefore duty, to encourage virtue in the citizenry. Readers of Mr. Will’s columns from the 1990s to the 2020s, however, are likelier to think of him as a proponent of the free market. His most recent book, “The Conservative Sensibility” (2019), makes a cogent case for the removal of government, to the extent possible, from social and economic life.


Mr. Will’s belief in the old “liberal” ideals of free speech and the settling of disputes by compromise has a corollary: He’s suspicious of too much concord. “On policy,” he says, “I’m much more alarmed by the consensus than the discord.”

One form of consensus he finds particularly destructive. “I think the political class is far more united by class interest than it is divided by ideology. From Elizabeth Warren on the left to Ted Cruz on the right, they all subscribe to the permanent powerful incentive to run deficits—peacetime, full-employment, large deficits. Because the perception that they won’t be here when the crash comes.”

David Henderson skillfully exposes the fallacies in the case for wage and price controls. A slice:

Some macroeconomists seem to forget that although inflation is an overall measure of price increases, individual price increases matter. The main problem with price controls is that they prevent prices from rising when demand increases or supply falls. If the government doesn’t allow prices to rise in such circumstances, we get shortages and line-ups. That’s what happened in the gasoline market with Nixon’s price controls. It’s true that price controls will reduce the measure of inflation, but they actually hide inflation. Inflation is, after all, an increase in the cost of living. Most of us would rather buy steak at $10 a pound from the butcher who has steak than go to the butcher who doesn’t have steak but is charging $8 a pound. That $8 a pound does not signify a lower cost of living if we can’t get the steak.

Here’s the abstract of a new paper co-authored by my GMU Econ colleague Vincent Geloso:

Wage gaps between various groups within economies are common and policy solutions to attenuate them can have different distributional effects within groups. We propose a model to think about how, when labour is relatively immobile but capital isn’t, an economy with initial wage gaps between different groups can transition toward greater equality. We apply this framework to the French-English linguistic wage gap in Quebec (Canada) between 1970 and 2000 by looking at birth cohorts from 1910 to 1970. Our findings are consistent with our model: the closing of the wage gap was caused by a change, during the 1940s in compulsory schooling which shocked the initial equilibrium and led to cohort-specific dynamics.

George Will rightly describes “New York’s Rikers Island [as] a disgraceful emblem of a benighted era.” A slice:

And disregard irrelevant cant about “systemic racism.” Equity-mongers appalled by racial “disparities” should read Rafael A. Mangual in City Journal: Nationally, Black males are victims of gun homicides at a rate almost 10 times higher than White males. In New York City in 2021, 97 percent of shooting victims were Black or Hispanic.

Wall Street Journal columnist Holman Jenkins riffs intelligently on Al Gore and the climate-hysteria complex. Two slices:

In fact, Exxon’s results were identical to those of other scientists because it collaborated with them. Its findings weren’t hidden “behind closed doors,” as one report alleged. They were published in peer-reviewed journals. Rather blatantly, to get to its desired result, the “Harvard” study had to attribute to Exxon outside research that its scientists merely “reported.”

This retread builds on Rockefeller’s previous greatest hit, paying journalists in 2016 to flaunt Exxon’s decades-old scientific efforts. Exxon was accused of “emphasizing the uncertainty” when uncertainty was the crucial scientific output. No matter what Exxon said, not sellable to policy makers at the time was spending unknown trillions to reduce future temperatures maybe by 4.5 degrees Celsius, maybe by 1.5 degrees. Yet this was the best guidance science could provide for four decades.

Rockefeller prefers to stress the $30 million Exxon once spent on climate-skeptical think tanks. This money, not the scientific uncertainty or humanity’s desire for cheap energy, explains the failure to enact meaningful CO2 reductions. It’s all Exxon’s fault.

OK, studies like this one sponsored by Rockefeller and served up by provocateurs at the Harvard history department and Germany’s Potsdam Institute exist to exploit media shallowness. They wouldn’t exist otherwise.


Mr. Gore will continue his angry prophet act. Politics will continue to fuel a sacred pork scramble. The climate press will balance on its noses whatever memes are tossed its way. And humanity will adapt to the climate it gets, which the best current guess says will probably be another 1 to 2 degrees Celsius warmer over the next century.

My GMU Econ colleagues Bryan Caplan and Robin Hanson interview Fossil Future author Alex Epstein.

Richard Fulmer is understandably unimpressed with Karl Marx’s economics.

Megan McArdle warns against the state removing parents from their minor children’s decisions to transition. Here’s her conclusion:

These are hard questions that often force difficult trade-offs, and I’m sure that parents will not always get the answer right. But I’m also sure they’ll give it their best shot. And until we have better evidence, that’s the best anyone can do.

Pamela Paul – using some words and phrases from Stanford University’s recent list of verboten words and phrases – decries the woke stifling of speech on campuses. Two slices:

Yet when in life is it more appropriate for people to take risks than in college — to test out ideas and encounter other points of view? College students should be encouraged to use their voices and colleges encouraged to let them be heard. It’s nearly impossible to do this while mastering speech codes, especially when the master lists employ a kind of tribal knowledge known only to their gurucreators. A normal person of any age may have trouble submitting, let alone remembering that “African American” is not just discouraged but verboten, that he or she can’t refer to a professor’s “walk-in” hours or call for a brown bag lunch, powwow or stand-up meeting with peers.

“You can’t say that” should not be the common refrain.

It is reasonable to wonder whether any conceivable harm to a few on hearing the occasional upsetting term outweighs the harm to everyone in suppressing speech. Or whether overcoming the relatively minor discomforts of an unintentional, insensitive or inept comment might help students develop the resilience necessary to surmount life’s considerably greater challenges — challenges that will are not likely to be mediated by college administrators after they graduate.

Rather than muzzle students, we should allow them to hear and be heard. Opportunities to engage and respond. It’s worth remembering how children once responded to schoolyard epithets: “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never harm me.” Narrow restrictions on putatively harmful speech leave young people distracted from and ill-prepared for the actual violence they’ll encounter in the real world.

Emma Camp writes about the recent empirical documentation of one of the steep costs of covid-hysteria-induced school closures.

Jay Bhattacharya tweets:

It’s time for a new generation of leadership in public health. This time with a better appreciation of the scientific method and less prone to panic and authoritarian excess. This generation failed its key test and cannot be trusted with the public’s health.