Making matters worse, Ahmari claims, is that an entire ideological superstructure exists to convince us that this tyranny does not exist. The “neoliberalism,” he says, constructed by free-market thinkers like Milton Friedman and F.A. Hayek, combined with Americans’ conviction that liberty is primarily about minimizing government coercion, prevents us from seeing certain realities: that, for example, consent in economic exchanges is not real for workers; or that property rights are a means by which capital can coerce workers. Hence, we must “unmask the structural class-based domination that gives purpose to the system.” Workers must wake up in what Ahmari calls an “act of noticing.”
It’s not coincidental that Ahmari’s phraseology resembles that of woke ideologues. The conviction that we are trapped in a web of “linguistic tricks” and that nothing is as it seems has been part of radical-left (and, for that matter, far-right) discourse since Rousseau. So too is the point of making such claims: If you contest the argument, you are obviously part of the problem and should be treated accordingly.
To make his case that Americans’ freedoms have been crushed by their capitalist overlords, Ahmari marshals several data points. He highlights, for instance, individual cases of hardship. One example is a woman who worked in food service and was making her way up the income ladder. Then she had a baby. Suddenly she found herself having to work several shifts to cater for her family’s life-necessities.
Only those with hearts of stone would not sympathize with these circumstances. But particular cases of distress do not constitute proof of systematic injustices pervading the American economy. Employees adapt to unexpected changes every day. Many subsequently end up in better jobs and life-situations. In fact, we learn that the woman eventually found a better, less-stressful administrative position 18 months after her baby’s birth.
Nonetheless, there is substantial evidence that (1) wages and incomes for typical workers have not been stagnant for 30 years, (2) most American households have experienced broad quality of life improvements for several decades, and (3) Americans still generally experience upward economic mobility. Growth in total employee compensation (wage and non-wage compensation) in America, moreover, has matched productivity gains. Before COVID, the normal inflation-adjusted wage for America’s regular workers (defined as “production and nonsupervisory” employees) was at an all-time high.
According to the text of KOSA, a state attorney general could bring a civil lawsuit against a platform if it doesn’t take down content that falls under the bill’s definition of harmful. For instance, a state could sue Instagram for violating the act’s duty of care if it doesn’t take down posts that make a child feel more anxious.
The categorization of content as “harmful” is ripe for political misuse. Partisan state attorneys general have been eager to exert power over online discourse. California Attorney General Rob Bonta supported a similar bill in Sacramento that would, if passed, similarly hold social-media companies liable for children’s mental health. If states bring these cases before a judge, they will need to demonstrate that their actions aren’t impeding upon the editorial discretion of platforms and users’ free speech. At best, KOSA enforcement won’t pass legal muster. But that still means costly litigation at taxpayers’ expense. In the interim, social-media companies would have an incentive to take down content that would—absent government intervention—remain on the platforms.
Ultimately, protecting children from online harm should be up to parents, schools and communities. KOSA would result in censorship and the politicization of what constitutes appropriate content for young users. Amid calls from both outside and within the government to curb controversial or unpopular views, lawmakers have a duty to protect Americans’ constitutional rights.
Does your preferred candidate support censorship of social media in the name of misinformation suppression?
If so, do you think you oppose authoritarian power or support it?
In their recent book, The Myth of American Inequality: How Government Biases Policy Debate (Rowman & Littlefield, 2022), economists Phil Gramm, Robert Ekelund, and John Early use government data and a number of academic studies to estimate where the 17% “gender pay gap” comes from. They find that it is nearly all explained by factors stemming from personal preferences, circumstances, and choices: more hours worked by men on average (this explains 4.0 percentage points of the gap); longer vacations of school teachers, the vast majority of whom are women (1.3); women’s fewer years of average work experience (5.4); women’s frequent choice of occupations that are not paid as much (3.3), and their selection of university courses related to these lower-paying occupations (1.5). Together, these factors explain 15.5 percentage points of the 17% pay gap. Women who have not married show a much reduced 9% pay gap. (See pp. 76-78 of Gramm et al. for rounded numbers; the non-rounded ones above were provided to me by John Early.)
Consider this a corollary to the Biden administration’s more well-publicized Buy American mandates: a “Sell to Americans” rule—or, at least, a “don’t sell to anyone the American government dislikes” rule. While the former mostly involves dumping billions of taxpayer dollars into questionable subsidies for semiconductors and other high-end tech manufacturing, the latter is aimed at policing how American investors and businesses spend their money. With the help of allied governments in Europe and Canada, the goal is to cut off huge swaths of global capital markets in order to curb investments in China.
The approach moves U.S. trade policy from a defensive posture to an offensive one, putting the nation’s economy on what amounts to a war footing.
Over the past five years, America’s trade war with China had targeted imports and sought to prop up domestic manufacturing in expensive and mostly ineffective ways. The new approach targets exports and investments in any technology the U.S. government deems vital to national security—a category that may be nearly limitless, given the government’s propensity for stretching the limits of that term.
These new barriers will likely change how investments flow around the globe. In prioritizing national security above all, America might be willfully cutting off the fuel that powers the engine of global trade.
In December, as the Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company, the world’s leading chipmaker, announced the installation of its equipment in a new fabrication plant in Arizona, company founder Morris Chang offered a bleak assessment of the global semiconductor trade.
“Globalization is almost dead and free trade is almost dead,” he said. “A lot of people still wish they would come back. But I don’t think they will be back.”
The Scottish Covid inquiry recently heard from Ashley Croft, an epidemiologist, who said that there never was any reliable evidence to confirm facemask mandates and that “the evidence base has not changed materially in the intervening three years”. He referred to “individual, societal and economic harm” of lockdown “that was avoidable and that should not have occurred.”
We can see a new vocabulary creep in, with euphemisms deployed to avoid discussing the big questions. It’s said, for example, that teenagers waiting for their exam results have been hit “by the pandemic”. I’m writing this in Sweden, where there certainly was a pandemic but, studies show, no educational damage. Schools stayed open and lockdown was rejected. At the last count, Sweden’s total rate of “excess deaths” – from all causes – is lower than any other country in the developed world.
The damage from Covid lockdowns continues to appear, and another example is an increase in more lethal cancers. A new study in the Lancet finds that patients were more likely to be diagnosed with advanced cancer in 2020 following delays and disruptions in non-Covid healthcare.
Researchers from the American Cancer Society compared the change in the stage of new cancer diagnoses in the U.S. in 2019 versus 2020. Early in the pandemic, routine healthcare was disrupted as hospitals prepared for a surge of Covid patients that didn’t materialize in most places. States also suspended “elective” care, including cancer screenings
While most physician offices reopened in summer 2020, many faced a backlog of patients, which delayed screenings, exams and treatment. Some patients also delayed doctors’ visits for symptoms that may have been caused by undiagnosed cancers because they were afraid of catching Covid.
As a result, patients were 5.4% less likely to be diagnosed with a stage 1 cancer and 7.4% more likely to be diagnosed with a stage 4 cancer in 2020 than in 2019, according to the Lancet study. The biggest relative increase for stage 4 disease occurred for liver (13%), stomach (13%), prostate (14%) and thyroid (19%) cancers.
This is more evidence that the lockdown enthusiasts Americans mistakenly trusted during Covid lost sight of the costs in lost livelihoods, learning and lives.