Here’s Mackintosh’s other big error that is as egregious as the one Pierre highlights: “Sure, free markets work—but only when a bunch of vital assumptions hold.” That’s false. Free markets work if a bunch of assumptions hold. They also work well even when many of those assumptions don’t hold. We don’t, for example, need “perfect competition” to have healthy competition among firms.
Moreover, as Jon Murphy pointed out in the comments on Pierre’s [Lemieux’s] post, we should ask “work compared to what?” Did Mackintosh look at how well Amtrak is run, how government-built housing works, or how carefully the feds and the California state government handed out unemployment benefits in 2020, to name just three? And I was left wondering whether the economists whose classes he sat in on ever raised that issue. When he was at the University of Chicago, economist Harold Demsetz pointed out in a famous 1969 article that many economists use the “Nirvana approach.” They compare actual markets with ideal government programs run by all-knowing bureaucrats with benevolent motives rather than comparing actual markets with actual government.
Writing in the Wall Street Journal, University of Washington professor of atmosphere sciences Clifford Mass explains that last-week’s air pollution from Canadian wildfires did not come from climate change. Two slices:
An extreme environmental event struck New York last week. The city experienced some of the worst air quality in the world—and the worst to hit the city in at least a half-century—as dense wildfire smoke surged south from the province of Quebec. Headlines suggested that the primary culprit was climate change, but these claims are inconsistent with peer-reviewed science, the observational record and our growing understanding of the meteorology associated with wildfire events.
It was the perfect storm for smoke in New York, with several independent elements occurring in exactly the right sequence. It’s difficult to find any plausible evidence for a significant climate-change connection to the recent New York smoke event. The preceding weather conditions over Quebec for the months prior to the wildfire event were near normal. There is no evidence that the strong high pressure over southern Canada that produced the warming was associated with climate change, as some media headlines claim. In fact, there is a deep literature in the peer-reviewed research that demonstrates no amplification of high- and low-pressure areas with a warming planet.
The long-term trend in Quebec has been for both precipitation and temperature to increase. Temperatures have warmed about 2 degrees Fahrenheit over the past half-century. Even assuming that this warming is entirely human-induced, it represents only a small proportion of the excessive heat during the event, in which Quebec temperatures climbed to 20 to 25 degrees above normal. The number of wildfires in Quebec is decreasing; there is no upward trend in area burned, which would be expected if global warming was dominant.
The recent intense New York smoke event is a good illustration of the underlying origins of many extreme environmental and weather events. The atmosphere is a chaotic system, dominated by random natural variability. Such variability is like a game of cards—rarely, by the luck of the draw, one is dealt a full house or a straight flush. Climate change’s effects on weather are relatively small compared to random variations inherent in a hugely complex system.
Stupid taxes have bad consequences.
There is growing evidence that during the pandemic the BBC morphed from a national broadcaster founded on impartiality into a state broadcaster that stifled voices challenging the authoritarian response to Covid.
The Telegraph has spoken to current and former BBC journalists who described a “climate of fear” existing in the corporation during the pandemic, with experienced reporters “openly mocked” if they questioned the wisdom of lockdowns, or called “dissenters”.
Some complained to senior managers about the BBC’s blinkered stance, but were ignored. Others communicated via secretive WhatsApp groups to share their frustrations, like members of a resistance movement.
While other news organisations made their own assessments of conflicting scientific evidence on coronavirus and the best ways to weigh them up, the BBC was alone among news gatherers in attending the Counter-Disinformation Policy Forum, which was chaired by ministers or civil servants.
The BBC has claimed it only attended the meetings as an “observer”, and has played down its significance, but it inevitably leaves the corporation open to accusations that it was taking dictation from the Government, rather than allowing its journalists to scrutinise all of the evidence independently and impartially.
“There was open censorship,” says one journalist. “There was no debate about who should and who should not be given airtime, that was very clear.