Writing in the Wall Street Journal, David Henderson and Phil Magness identify several instances where Hulu’s series on the 1619 Project inadvertently makes the case for capitalism and against reparations. Two slices:
Hulu’s series “The 1619 Project” blames economic inequality between blacks and whites on “racial capitalism.” But almost every example presented is the result of government policies that, in purpose or effect, discriminated against African-Americans. “The 1619 Project” makes an unintentional case for capitalism.
The series gives many examples of government interventions that undercut free markets and property rights. Eminent domain, racial red lining of mortgages, and government support and enforcement of union monopolies figure prominently.
The final episode opens by telling how the federal government forcibly evicted black residents of Harris Neck, Ga., during World War II to build a military base. The Army gave residents three weeks to relocate before the bulldozers moved in, paying below-market rates through eminent domain. After the war, the government refused to let the former residents return. Violation of property rights is the opposite of capitalism.
The series also highlights the noxious role of the Federal Housing Administration in red lining. The FHA discriminated against minority neighborhoods by classifying them as too “hazardous” for lending. The writers could have strengthened their case by citing Richard Rothstein’s 2017 book, “The Color of Law.” Mr. Rothstein quotes the FHA’s statement in the 1930s that “no loans will be given to colored developments.” This policy lasted into the 1970s, leaving a legacy of economic segregation. Capitalism wasn’t the culprit; the government was.
The answer to these problems isn’t to place the burden on the market through reparations. It’s to root out bad government policies that continue, sometimes unintentionally, the long legacy of state-sponsored racial discrimination. That would be a worthy 2023 project.
My intrepid Mercatus Center colleague, Veronique de Rugy, continues to explain the detachment from reality of those who argue that industrial policy can successfully improve America’s economy. A slice:
Unfortunately, political reality means that politicians will unfailingly impose all sorts of requirements on those receiving the funds, tack on goals in addition to those of industrial policy, direct resources to cronies, and resist admitting failure whenever their plans prove futile. The sum of it all is highly counterproductive.
Walter Grinder, a grand champion of liberty, passed last December. While not well-published, Walter was a scholar of the literature of liberty and a leader at the Institute for Humane Studies. He was dedicated to removing barriers to human flourishing by imparting the ideals of liberty. John Hagel III, Walter’s long-time friend and collaborator, explained, “Walter was consumed by the desire to share his reading and thoughts with his network of libertarian associates and protégés in more personal ways, so that they could see more clearly how it connected with their specific work and interests.” Walter shared insights from his scholarship in the form of emails addressed to single individuals and blind copied to his network.
In one of his emails, sent towards the end of his life, Walter wrote he had been “binging” the work of the Turkish-British author Elif Shafak. Walter marveled at “how well she sees into the human condition.”
Walter understood insights into the human condition are crucial to understanding the mindsets that foster or hinder human flourishing. On his recommendation, I read Shafak’s well-researched novel of the Cyprus Civil War, The Island of the Missing Trees. Using the device of a Greek-Turkish couple split apart by the war, Shafak imparts poetic wisdom about the dangers of tribalism.
In August 2021, Georgetown Law returned to in-person learning after 17 months of virtual learning. The school announced a series of new policies for the school year: there was a vaccine requirement (later to be supplemented with booster mandates), students were required to wear masks on campus, and drinking water was banned in the classroom.
Dean Bill Treanor announced a new anonymous hotline called “Law Compliance” for community members to report dissidents who dared to quench their thirst or free their vaccinated nostrils.
Meanwhile, faculty members were exempt from the requirement, though the school never explained what factors caused their heightened powers of immunity.
Shortly thereafter, I received a notification from “Law Compliance” that I had been “identified as non-compliant” for “letting the mask fall beneath [my] nose.” I had a meeting with Dean of Students Mitch Bailin to discuss my insubordination, and I tried to voice my concerns about the irrationality of the school’s policies.
Because of fear-mongering, many Americans were terrified to set foot in a grocery store, let alone a doctor’s office or hospital. How many of these people died from heart attacks or strokes? From delayed cancer care?
Many liberals [DBx: progressives] label themselves “pro-science” as if that’s a political position. Then again, so many putatively scientific studies seem intended to promote progressive policies rather than advance scientific knowledge. Such studies then get amplified by the media and self-appointed experts on social media.
Consider a recent study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that claims to find that nearly 36% of Covid cases among students, faculty and staff at George Washington University resulted in “long Covid.” The study suggests that young, healthy people face a high risk of chronic debilitating symptoms after infection despite being at low risk of getting severely ill with the virus.
The study also finds that the unvaccinated were at more than twice as high a risk of developing long Covid as those fully vaccinated who had gotten boosters. This sounds plausible. But drill down, and it becomes clear that the evidence is too thin to draw any conclusions.
Like many colleges, George Washington University held classes online during the first year of the pandemic even as some students returned to campus. Those on campus were required to undergo weekly Covid testing. During the 2021-22 school year, classrooms reopened but students were required to be vaccinated and later boosted.
Long Covid in general isn’t well-defined, but the study defines it expansively to include problems common among college students—difficulty making decisions, fatigue, anxiety, sadness, trouble sleeping and the catch-all “other symptoms.” If a student reported at least one physical or psychological problem, he was classified as having long Covid.
Physical symptoms like shortness of breath and fatigue can follow non-Covid infections, including the flu. Some people who get sick with Covid later report brain fog, but mental-health problems are prevalent among young people.
A November 2021 study in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that many people with persistent physical symptoms that are commonly ascribed to long Covid didn’t test positive for antibodies. A belief that one had Covid was more strongly associated with physical symptoms than a lab-confirmed infection.
One question that deserves investigation is how lockdowns and school shutdowns may have contributed to putative long-Covid symptoms. A JAMA study last September found that depression, anxiety, perceived stress, loneliness and worry about Covid were tied to a 1.3- to 1.5-fold increased risk of self-reported postviral symptoms as well as increased risk of daily life impairment.
It’s well documented that traumatic life events and psychological stress such as social isolation can cause dysfunction of the immune system and the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis, which regulates physiologic processes implicated in long Covid. Stress can also trigger the reactivation of Epstein-Barr virus, which has been found to occur in many long-Covid sufferers.