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Hans Eicholz remembers Bill Dennis.

George Will is not sorry to see 2023 coming to a close. A slice:

California’s third draft of a new K-12 math curriculum toned down the progressivism of the first two, but still urged instructors to “teach toward social justice” and “focus on complex feelings.” Oregon recommends teachers attend a seminar on “ethnomathematics.”Perhaps Oregon is influenced by nearby Seattle’s math framework, which asks, “How important is it to be right?” (Implied: Not very.) A Maryland test found that 40 percent of Baltimore public high schools had no student proficient in math. The authors of Rhode Island’s social studies standards think the Russian Revolution happened before World War I.

In 2023, “citation justice” involved scholarly articles subverting white supremacy by citing research from marginalized voices. According to Pronouns.org, International Pronouns Day (Oct. 18) celebrated “people’s multiple, intersecting identities.”

Inspired by a recent essay by Cass Sunstein, John Cochrane riffs informatively on liberalism. (HT David Levey) Two slices:

Cass Sunstein has a lovely New York Times essay that tries to give us back the word “Liberal.” I hope it works.

“Liberal” from “Libertas” means, at bottom, freedom. In the 19th century, “liberals” were devoted to personal, economic, and increasing social freedom from government restraint.  “Conservatives” wanted to maintain aristocratic privileges, and government interventions in the traditional way of doing things. The debate was not so obvious. Conservatives defended their view of aristocratic power in a noblesse-oblige concern for little people that the unfettered free market might leave behind, in a way quite  reminiscent of today’s elites who think they should run the government in the name of the downtrodden (or “nudge” them, if I can poke a little fun at Sunstein’s earlier work).

But by the 1970s, the labels had flipped. “Liberals” were advocates of big-state interventionism, in a big tent that included communists and marxists. It became a synonym of “left.” “Conservatives” became a strange  alliance of free market economics and social conservatism. The word “classical liberal” or “libertarian” started to be used to refer to heirs of the enlightenment “liberal” tradition, broadly emphasizing individual liberty and limited rule of law government in both economic and social spheres.

But broadly, “liberal” came to mean more government intervention and Democrat, while “conservative” came to mean less state intervention and Republican, at least in rhetoric.

But a new force has come to the fore. The heirs of the far-left marxists and communists are now, .. what shall we call them.. perhaps “censorious totalitarian progressives.” Sunstein calls them “post liberals.” The old alliance between center-left and far left is tearing apart, and Oct 7 was a wake up call for many who had skated over the division.


I just ran across Tyler Cowen’s Classical Liberals vs. The New Right. Excellent. And I forgot to plug my own “Understanding the Left,” which I still think is a great essay though nobody seems to have read it.

Jonathan Fortier asks: “Is this Argentina’s libertarian moment?” A slice:

Will Milei be able to implement his vision for a freer and more prosperous Argentina? Like all politicians with similar views, Milei faces the entrenched interests of the administrative state and opposition from those who benefitted from the corrupt redistributive schemes that have presided over Argentina’s relentless decline since Peron rose to power in 1946. He also faces an internal threat: the corrosive moral influence of wielding political power over others and the temptation to use that power for illiberal ends. It is early in the game, and we don’t know much about Milei’s past, his character, his executive capabilities, his political savvy, or his resolve. But we do know that the ideas he openly celebrates are the surest path to greater freedom, prosperity, and human flourishing. If Milei can hold to those principles, then his efforts in the political fray will deserve encouragement and celebration.

Joakim Book reviews Johan Norberg’s The Capitalist Manifesto. Two slices:

Global capitalism has lifted countless people out of poverty. Inequality, of income as well as living standards and life itself, is mostly falling and isn’t a cleanly detectable problem anyway. Taxing the rich doesn’t work practically (the rich just move away, or stop bringing forth the goodies you want to expropriate), nor does it make society better off in any observable way. The capitalist’s striving for betterment makes the environment better, not worse — and degrowth is the worst thing we could do on behalf of nature: “We need prosperity and technology to adapt to [global warming]. Rich countries have no fewer natural disasters than poor ones, but they are much better at minimizing their damage to life and health.”


Let’s finish as Norberg does, elegantly dismantling the anti-capitalist trump card (but what about our values?!):

Liberalism is not about finding all life’s meaning in a shopping list, it just says that we need more meaning than can be found in a ballot paper. And that those who seek the meaning of life in collective projects that they try to enforce on everybody else have less of a sense of the beautiful richness and diversity of human nature than the alleged cold and robotic market liberals.

Well said, sir.

Here’s David Henderson on freedom in the 50 U.S. states.

Arnold Kling explains the Hayekian limits of AI. A slice:

[Tim B.] Lee makes a Hayekian point. It might be tempting to

assume that all problems can be solved with the application of enough brainpower. But for many problems, having the right knowledge matters more. And a lot of economically significant knowledge is not contained in any public data set. It’s locked up in the brains and private databases of millions of individuals and organizations spread across the economy and around the world.

I would add that a lot of the “knowledge” that is available to an AI is wrong.

Lee makes another Hayekian point, which is that a lot of knowledge evolves from trial and error. It is not sitting around waiting to be sifted and regurgitated by an AI.

The past year has seen a lot of people say “AI will never be able to do such-and-such,” followed weeks later by an AI doing exactly that. So I will be cautious here. I will say that for now, it appears that AI’s have difficulty separating out superior ideas when not-so-good ideas are prevalent in its training data. And they do not demonstrate to me the ability to employ the discovery process that Hayek describes as market competition: conceiving new ideas, testing them, and evaluating them.

My intrepid Mercatus Center colleague, Veronique de Rugy, continues to speak out against the U.S. government’s fiscal gluttony. A slice:

So, as we give thanks for the year’s prosperity and gather in the warmth of family and friends, let us also spare a thought for America’s fiscal path. The national debt, if left unchecked, threatens to undermine the very foundations of our economic stability. It is the antithesis of the Thanksgiving spirit, which cherishes abundance without excess and gratitude coupled with responsibility.

Kayla Bartsch is rightly critical of progressives only just now discovering the fact that covid-era school closures were a calamity. A slice:

As early as the fall of 2020, studies showed that such closures had little to no effect on reducing Covid-19 transmission rates in the community. Even in the studies that did suggest transmission rates were slightly lessened by extended school closures, the effect was too marginal to support such a sweeping policy change. It was by no means evident that the community-health gains of closing school for an extended period mitigated the detrimental effects of keeping millions of kids out of school for semesters — even years — at a time.

So, to be clear, “science” was not the leading reason for extended school closures during the pandemic. The overwhelming indicator of whether a district would close schools was neither the Covid case rates in the area nor the presence of remote-learning infrastructure. It was political persuasion.