National Review‘s Dominic Pino is proud to be an alum of GMU Econ. [DBx: And we at GMU Econ are proud of Dominic.]
George Will describes woke word-policing as being “now beyond satire.” Here’s his hopeful conclusion:
Wokeness is being shrunk by the solvent of the laughter it provokes.
Former attorney general William Barr, who served under Donald Trump, told me ESG is “a form of extortion” that is forcing “companies to take particular actions whether or not those actions are in the financial interests of shareholders.”
What is most disturbing about ESG, Barr told me, is the way it’s being implemented. “It’s completely non-transparent,” he explained. “And that, to me—that’s the worst. That is affecting a lot of decisions in corporate America in a non-transparent way, because of the political predilections, or the policy predilections, of a small group of people who are not using their own money, but leveraging off other people’s money.”
No sensible person could favor irresponsible research and innovation. So RRI—”responsible research and innovation“—may sound like an innocuous idea. As it takes hold in Europe, though, the term has clearly become a cover for what amounts to a Luddites’ veto. Now the notion is percolating among American academics. If it finds its way to the halls of state, RRI would dramatically slow technological progress and perhaps even bring it to a grinding halt.
That wouldn’t be an unexpected byproduct. Several RRI proponents have explicitly argued for “slow innovation,” even “responsible stagnation.” One of them—Bernd Carsten Stahl, a professor of critical research in technology at De Montfort University in the United Kingdom—has even compared technological breakthroughs to a pandemic. “We should ask whether emerging technologies can and will be perceived as a threat of a similar level as the current threat of the Covid virus,” he wrote in 2020. If so, he added, they would require “radical intervention.”
Without bothering with the camouflage of citizen engagement, RRI supporter Robert Braun of the Institute for Advanced Studies got right to the point. “Instead of asking whether we need self-driving vehicles, why not ask whether we need cars at all?” he wrote in 2018. Better, he argued, to walk, bike, or take public transportation.
RRI proponents are quite right that largely unfettered technological innovations and economic growth over the past two centuries have disrupted old social values. And certainly, they have been accompanied by downsides, such as pollution, deforestation, economic dislocation, and the discord that sometimes follows the spread of new mores.
But let’s look at what humanity has gained in that time. Absolute poverty—living on less than $1.90 per person per day—has declined from 85 percent of the world’s population in 1820 to less than 9 percent now. Total global gross domestic product (GDP) stood at about $1.2 trillion (in real dollars) in 1820, then nearly tripled to $3.4 trillion in 1900. Since then, world GDP has grown nearly 40-fold to around $134 trillion in 2021. As a result, GDP per capita increased from $2,000 per person in 1900 to nearly $15,000 per person in 2016.
Global cereal production has quadrupled from 740 million metric tons in 1961 to 3 billion tons in 2020. Before 1700, about 300 out of 1,000 infants died before their first birthday; the number is around 30 now. As a result, global average life expectancy has risen from around 30 years to more than 72 years over the same period. Global literacy has increased from roughly 10 percent in 1820 to around 90 percent today. In 1900, no country allowed women to vote; now nearly all do.
All of these positive trends occurred either as a direct result of technological innovation or as a result of the economic development that innovation made possible. Adam Thierer of the R Street Institute calls this a system of “permissionless innovation.” This is, in his words, “the idea that experimentation with new technologies and innovations should generally be permitted by default and that prior restraints on creative activities should be avoided except in those cases where clear and immediate harm is evident.” In other words, innovators engage in trial-and-error experimentation to develop new products and services, whose desirability they then test in the marketplace.
University of Illinois Chicago economist Deirdre McCloskey similarly notes that the “Great Enrichment” of the past couple of centuries was driven by “technological and institutional betterment at a frenetic pace, tested by unforced exchange among the parties involved.” She calls this “market-tested betterment,” but it’s the same “technology-market dyad” that von Schomberg and other RRI proponents aim to “challenge” by requiring that new technologies obtain “public permission” before they are allowed into the marketplace. RRI would foreclose not only new technologies but the evolving social values and ways of living they make possible.
“Fostering innovation requires a certain amount of self-sacrifice,” Thierer and James Broughel of the Mercatus Center wrote in 2019. “Sometimes we must tolerate disruption today for a better world tomorrow.” That is the core truth that the RRI movement refuses to recognize.
You have to read some of these released text messages to believe them. Children made to mask-up when they knew there was no scientific evidence, none, for doing so but the politics were good. Top bureaucrats laughing at people who would have to go from business class flights into pokey little hotel rooms for weeks on end. The explicit targeting of sceptics and dissenters, including some of the best epidemiologists in the world, to discredit them and have them silenced because that was undercutting the pollies’ messaging – no mention of truth, notice. When they were told various idiotic rules had no utility they carried on with them because to do otherwise might make them look bad. Seriously, go and read these WhatsApp revelations because we citizens can never again trust these (what’s the word I’m looking for? Two syllables. Might start with an ‘f’).
It will be extra tough reading for those whose small businesses were destroyed. Or those with children whose lives were ruined. (And yes we knew from day one that the chances of a healthy person under 30 dying from Covid was less than one one-thousandth that of someone over 75. It was essentially zero. They knew it too.) Or those who resisted useless mandates. Well, it’ll be cold comfort reading these texts but do it. Because all of us labelled ‘conspiracy theorists’ were right on almost everything. And the whole ‘fact-checking’ industry is nothing more than partisan opinion claims, often worse and verging on a propaganda operation, on behalf of out-of-control government. Laugh at the mere mention of ‘fact checkers’.