≡ Menu

Some Links

Samuel Gregg urges that trade be made free. Four slices:

The US economy’s well-being is never far from most Americans’ minds. That is one reason why advancing the free trade case to Americans today should be heavily focused on how trade liberalization contributes substantially to bolstering America’s economy: i.e., reducing import barriers, diminishing export subsidies, and limiting opportunities for the government to use economic carrots and sticks to direct trade between America and other nations. The result is greater wealth and overall economic welfare for Americans in the long term.

The evidence for this is frankly overwhelming. We know, for example, that trade liberalization accelerates GDP growth. Back in 2008, a World Bank analysis of trade’s impact upon growth estimated that, between 1950 and 1998, “countries which liberalized their trade regimes experienced annual average growth rates that were about 1.5 percentage points higher than before liberalization.” A more recent International Monetary Fund 2017 study of the trade-growth relationship illustrated how trade across borders significantly contributes to increases in per capita income. It estimated that “a one percentage-point increase in trade openness raises real per capita income by 2 to 6 percent.”


Such competition can be unsettling for American businesses and workers alike. The alternative, however, is an America cowering behind tariff walls, pretending that people abroad aren’t willing to work as hard or harder than Americans, and imagining that foreigners will somehow be magically less innovative than Americans. It also involves deluding ourselves that politicians and technocrats can know how to engineer the optimal makeup of a $26.8 trillion economy both now and into the future via tariffs and industrial policies. Lastly, it means Americans are denying that most expressions of economic nationalism are really about promoting sectional interests and have little to do with 330 million Americans’ long-term economic welfare.


If US trade policy shifts decisively in economically nationalist directions, Washington will be seen by friendly and non-aligned nations alike as no longer interested in modeling an alternative vision of international political economy to, say, China’s neomercantilist policies. By contrast, a strong American return to the trade liberalization game would send a quite different message to the world and deliver considerable benefits to America. As the foreign policy analyst Mike Watson writes, “Offering greater access to American markets would counteract China’s economic influence, [and] make friendly and neutral countries more prosperous and less vulnerable.”


Put another way: if the United States can steel itself to make trade free again, Americans as individuals and America as a nation will win in the long term while special interests and their armies of DC lobbyists will lose. That’s good news for America’s future economic prosperity but also for the well-being of the republic as a whole.

Chris Horner, writing in the Wall Street Journal, decries the EPA’s lawlessness. A slice:

Many climate activists took the lesson that they should stop bragging about clever regulatory approaches. Two weeks after West Virginia v. EPA came out, the Environmental Law Institute hosted a funereal webinar in which panelists warned about candid outbursts turning up in Supreme Court reversals, mentioning such statements as President Obama’s “if Congress won’t act soon . . . I will,” and Mr. Biden’s then-chief of staff Ron Klain’s tweeting about “the ultimate work-around” of constitutional limits to impose Covid vaccine mandates. Several panelists urged activists to be careful in their press releases and to not let appointees’ cheerleading “get out in front of the lawyers.”

That’s good advice, but the administration appears undeterred. Records obtained by policy groups I represent in Freedom of Information Act litigation show Mr. Biden’s EPA team came in with this plan to hit fossil generation with a barrage of disparate regulations as a climate strategy. One impressively prescient email sent the day after Mr. Biden’s election by law professor and soon-to-be Biden climate advisor Ann Carlson laid out the approach, even using the phrase “suite of climate policies.”

Two weeks into Mr. Biden’s term, a PowerPoint slide show—given by a lawyer named Joe Goffman, who is hailed in media profiles as the administration’s “law whisperer” because “his specialty is teaching old laws to do new tricks”—detailed a plan of tightening regulation on power plants by using solid waste, water and even visibility standards. The audience for his plan to blitz fossil power generation with these non-climate programs? The White House Climate Office. FOIA records also include activist correspondence to Mr. Goffman specifically urging the EPA to tighten “haze” rules as a back door for the climate agenda, which EPA appears to be doing.

GMU Econ alum Dominic Pino writes wisely about wildfires. Here’s his conclusion:

Wildfires don’t happen because Mother Earth is angry with us. Forest and wildlife professionals devote their careers to managing fire risks, based both on scientific research and on best practices that have been developed over many years of experience. As scientists quoted in Veronique de Rugy’s post earlier today said, wildfires are among the natural disasters least affected by climate change. The media and activists do everyone a disservice by portraying every environmental issue as a climate issue.

My former Mercatus Center colleague Bob Graboyes offers “seven salves to soothe the searing itch of irksome experts.” A slice:

History’s greatest outrages were fueled by agreement among experts and intolerance of dissidents.

My intrepid Mercatus Center colleague, Veronique de Rugy, warns of the dangers posed by Biden’s lawless antitrust bureaucrats. A slice:

For those still concerned about corporate behemoths, the Cato Institute’s Scott Lincicome reminds us that “mergers—even really big ones—don’t ensure that a firm will suddenly become an unstoppable, anti-competitive force in a market and sometimes, in fact, can spark a once-thriving company’s downfall.” Think of Yellow Trucking and Roadway, AOL and Warner, or DaimlerChrysler’s post-merger disasters.

“Who cares?” seems to be [FTC Chairwoman Lina] Khan’s attitude toward these data-rich findings. Specifically, her draft lowers the merger-concentration threshold—that which requires notifying the FTC and Justice Department of a deal—to $144 million (not exactly what establishing a monopoly costs these days). The number of corporate mergers under serious government and political examination would skyrocket as a result. That, at the very least, would add several months of delays, thus disincentivizing some healthy mergers and acquisitions. Khan and her lieutenants simply, but mistakenly, assume that there’s little-to-no cost to such delays.

Remember when the Biden Administration warned that ending the public-health pandemic emergency would result in tens of millions of people losing Medicaid coverage and going uninsured? Now the Health and Human Services Department is quietly conceding the insurance scare was exaggerated.”

Writing in the Chronicle of Higher Education, Eric Winsberg argues that “we need scientific dissidents now more than ever.” Two slices:

The Covid-19 pandemic certainly saw its share of scientific dissidents. Public-health experts in Sweden as well the signatories of the so-called “Great Barrington Declaration” challenged the claim that lockdowns would bring net health and well-being benefits to the citizens of communities that enacted them. The economist Emily Oster gathered data showing that the risks of reopening schools was low. The British epidemiologist and evidence-based medicine expert Tom Jefferson and his group at the Cochrane Collaboration, one of the most-distinguished compilers of systematic reviews of medical evidence in the world, argued that mask mandates were not preventing the spread of the virus. The oncologist and biostatistician Vinay Prasad argued that young people at low risk of serious illness were being given (and, in some cases, being forced to take) too many doses of vaccine.

Many of these “Covid dissidents” were treated quite badly. They were widely vilified by both the mainstream scientific community as well as by the public. Many had their arguments and interviews censored on social media and content-hosting sites like YouTube. Often, the large tech firms behind these platforms coordinated with the U.S. government on what ought to be censored. A few were targets of coordinated attempts by government bureaucrats to discredit them. In October 2020, Francis Collins, then the director of the National Institutes of Health, emailed Anthony Fauci, then the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, to say that The Great Barrington Declaration “seems to be getting a lot of attention — and even a co-signature from Nobel Prize winner Mike Leavitt at Stanford. There needs to be a quick and devastating published take down of its premises … Is it underway?” John Ioannidis, whom The Atlantic called “one of the most influential scientists alive” (he has over half a million citations to his name) had his video “Perspectives on the Pandemic” censored by YouTube. When Tom Jefferson and his group published a report saying “We are uncertain whether wearing masks or N95/P2 respirators helps to slow the spread of respiratory viruses based on the studies we assessed,” the editor in chief of Cochrane apologized for the wording, even though subsequent surveys showed the language was standard for Cochrane given the nature of the evidence.

We also know that many social-media sites “shadow banned” people for posting scientifically dissident information — dramatically limiting the reach of their posts. According to the journalist David Zweig, “The United States government pressured Twitter and other social media platforms to elevate certain content and suppress other content about Covid-19.” On Twitter, even tweets displaying official CDC data were labeled “misleading” if they highlighted uncomfortable, but factual, claims — such as one that showed that, in fact, Covid-19 was not the leading cause of death in children during the pandemic. All of this behavior was classic Semmelweis reflex.


Scientific dissidents will never be popular. We associate them with crazy views like “climate change is a hoax” and “childhood vaccines cause autism.” The Semmelweis reflex runs strong in all of us. Not even a figure as beloved as Jon Stewart is immune. But the world isn’t simple, what the evidence shows isn’t always clear, and things are not always as they seem. So we owe the Semmelweisses of the world a debt of gratitude — for their diligence and their courage. This doesn’t mean we should believe every heterodox thinker that comes along. But it means we should strongly resist the urge to punish them, to censor them, to call them racist, and to evaluate their claims by, in Stewart’s words, “litmus-testing each other for our political allegiances.”