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GMU Econ alum Stephen Miller explains that “economic development deals are a curse, not a blessing.” A slice:

The programs’ supporters insist that economic development incentives work. But their evidence is almost always flawed and anecdotal, with an emphasis on the jobs “created” by the businesses receiving incentives. An example in my own state is Alabama’s “winning” of a Mercedes plant in the 1990s. Given the evidence, that doesn’t look like a win to me, nor did it to The New York Times in 1996. Careful analysis shows that Alabama won the battle for Mercedes but ultimately lost by overpaying, as is usually the case with these programs.

Proponents often cite economic impact studies in support of the incentive packages, but — and I cannot stress this enough — economic impact studies are not evidence, not even a little bit. They are predictions, often wildly optimistic, of the overall increase in economic activity based on a multiplier effect steeped in the Keynesian economic logic of circular flows. Enormous benefits are always predicted by these studies, but do they materialize?

Based on simple division, each Mercedes job cost Alabama taxpayers roughly $170,000. If the incentives succeeded, there would be clear evidence that the benefits exceeded the costs, not for Mercedes and its suppliers, but for the taxpaying public. No such evidence exists. The evidence could be gathered, but lawmakers tend to lose interest in quantifying economic impact once taxpayers’ money has been spent. Such studies could be done with current statistical inference techniques, comparing economic growth in areas where new businesses have received economic development incentives to those where new businesses have located but did not receive the incentives. It would be irresponsible for lawmakers to renew or expand incentive programs without first gathering this information.

Available here, free of charge, is the full text of David Henderson’s and Phil Magness’s superb February 21st, 2023, Wall Street Journal piece on how Hulu’s 1619 Project vindicates capitalism.

Peter Suderman is correct: “Biden’s ‘Economic Plan’ is industrial policy that will be terrible for workers and consumers.” A slice:

In speeches and tweets, Biden has credited the construction of new manufacturing facilities to what he calls “my economic plan.” But what Biden calls his economic plan bears more than a little similarity to Trump’s vision of restoring American might through government largesse targeted at private industry.

It’s industrial policy on a massive scale, and it amounts to a plan to deploy Foxconn-style manufacturing subsidies nationally in an expensive bid to protect American industry and national security.

Biden’s projects may not fail quite as spectacularly as Foxconn’s, but history suggests the results probably won’t be much better. Indeed, there are already signs that his economic plan is running into trouble.

Biden’s industrial policy is, not surprisingly, far more expansive than Trump’s. And unlike the Foxconn facility, which was subsidized by the state of Wisconsin, it has been bolstered by major legislation from Congress. Biden’s industrial policy rests primarily on three pieces of legislation: the bipartisan infrastructure law signed in 2021, and the Inflation Reduction Act and the CHIPS Act signed last year. Together, this trio of bills provided hundreds of billions in subsidies, tax breaks, and inducements for domestic manufacturing, with a particular emphasis on semiconductor production and clean energy and transportation.

But these subsidies are already being used as vehicles to pursue unrelated goals: The Commerce Department, for example, recently announced that companies receiving subsidies from the CHIPS Act would have to provide child care for their workers.

Eric Boehm makes clear that fiscal reality isn’t optional.

Here’s part 26 of George Selgin’s splendid series on the Great Depression and the New Deal.

Fraser Myers reports on “how lockdown exposed our illiberal elites.” Two slices:

Our establishment – in party politics, in the civil service, in the media and in the legal profession – likes to make a great show of its commitment to liberalism and human rights. It is also keen to pose as being on the side of the ‘most vulnerable’ in society. And yet lockdown took a wrecking ball to our most fundamental civil liberties, and the destructive impacts of it were felt most keenly by the poor and isolated. Why has lockdown been given a free pass?

England was put into full lockdown on three occasions. It was illegal to leave the house without a valid excuse for seven gruelling months, between spring 2020 and summer 2021. The period of lockdown represented, in the words of one Court of Appeal judge, ‘possibly the most restrictive regime on the public life of persons and businesses ever’ – more restrictive, that is, than even those infamous Blitz-era curfews. The liberal assumption that we are free to do whatever we please unless the law expressly forbids it was turned on its head. Instead, we were banned from doing anything outside the home, unless an exemption was specifically granted.

Even outside of full lockdown, the state’s micromanagement of everyday life was extraordinary. There were bans on singing, casual sex and ‘mingling’. There were curfews. There were rules on where you could sit or stand, and on which foodstuffs constituted a ‘substantial meal’. We ceased to be a free country.

Clearly, our ‘liberal elites’ are anything but liberal. Because, during the Covid era, these stringent rules elicited barely a peep of protest from them. It was the same when parliament was shut down and declared ‘non-essential’ at the beginning of the pandemic. When health secretary Matt Hancock began imposing new rules by decree, the objections were minimal. On the contrary, liberals learned to love the lockdown and all that it represented.

The opposition Labour Party – led by former human-rights barrister Keir Starmer – similarly refused to oppose the measures. Labour grandee Harriet Harman, who is leading the parliamentary inquiry into Johnson’s rule-breaches, was once the legal officer for the National Council for Civil Liberties (today known as Liberty). Did she have anything to say about the house arrest of every healthy man, woman and child in the nation during lockdown? Of course she didn’t.

What of the damage caused by this experiment in authoritarianism? The economy now lies in ruins. In lockdown, the UK economy experienced its largest fall in output since the Great Frost of 1709. Inflation, prompted in part by aggressive quantitative easing during lockdown, is now through the roof. The poorest in society have paid the largest price.


The irony in all this is that our not-so-liberal elites have spent years now warning about the threat posed by authoritarianism. Ever since the Brexit vote they have claimed that the UK is in danger of drifting ever rightwards and away from liberal, democratic values. They have somehow interpreted the mass vote to leave the illiberal and anti-democratic EU as a harbinger of an illiberal and anti-democratic shift in British electoral politics. And yet, when an authoritarian moment actually arrived in Britain, when basic civil liberties and democratic norms were upended overnight, they all either stared at their shoelaces or actively cheered it on.

Here’s the abstract of the not-yet-peer-reviewed draft of a new paper by Kelley Krohnert, Alyson Haslam, Tracy Beth Høeg, and Vinay Prasad:

Background: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has been a major source of information during the COVID-19 pandemic, guiding policies and practices in many aspects of life. As such, it is imperative that the information be free of errors, or, if errors are made, that they are corrected quickly.

Methods: We sought to compile instances of numerical and statistical errors made by the CDC during the COVID-19 pandemic by reviewing CDC publications, press releases, interviews, meetings, and Twitter accounts. Further, we catalogued mortality data from both the National Center for Health Statistics and the CDC COVID Data Tracker and compared reported results.

Results: We documented 25 instances when the CDC reported statistical or numerical errors. Twenty (80%) of these instances exaggerated the severity of the COVID-19 situation, 3 (12%) instances simultaneously exaggerated and downplayed the severity of the situation, one error was neutral, and one error exaggerated COVID-19 vaccine risks. The CDC was notified about the errors in 16 (64%) instances, and later corrected the errors, at least partially, in 13 (52%) instances.

Conclusion: A basic prerequisite for making informed policy decisions is accurate and reliable statistics, even during times of uncertainty. Our investigation revealed 25 instances of numerical or statistical errors made by the CDC. Our investigation suggests 1) the need for greater diligence in data collection and reporting, and 2) that the federal entity responsible for reporting health statistics should be firewalled from the entity setting policy due to concerns of real or perceived systematic bias in errors.

Still doubt that covidians are authoriarian?

Kunal Purohit decries the terrible damage done to young Indians by lockdowns.

Martin Kulldorff tweets:

In defiance of the rest of Ontario, the Haldimand-Norfolk health district adopted focused protection, resulting in 30% lower Covid mortality. Its health director, Dr. @strauss_matt, is one of the few heroes of this pandemic.

Steven Greenhut explains the damage done to property rights by governments’ reaction to covid. A slice:

As that (probably fake) George Washington quotation put it, “Government is not reason, it is not eloquence—it is force.” Government officials aren’t wiser than the rest of us, so when they tried to deal with a serious public health problem, they did so in a forceful, ineloquent, and unreasonable manner. Unfortunately, many of its worst approaches leave permanent scars.