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The Editorial Board of the Wall Street Journal reports on the cronyism that infects the U.S. government’s protection of American steel producers. Two slices:

President Biden and the self-styled populists in Congress claim to represent the common man, but what they actually stand for is corporate and union rent-seeking. Cleveland-Cliffs CEO Lourenco Goncalves last week exposed the contradiction as he crowed about killing Nippon Steel’s bid to buy U.S. Steel.

“I’m not surprised. We have been in total contact with the administration, so I know what’s going on,” Mr. Goncalves boasted to Bloomberg News after Mr. Biden on Thursday issued a statement opposing Nippon Steel’s $14.1 billion acquisition. It’s nice if you know the king.

Mr. Goncalves added: “The contact is about making it abundantly clear between me and [United Steelworkers union president] Dave McCall that the only buyer the union accepts for the union-represented assets is Cleveland-Cliffs.” The United Steelworkers, which represents workers at Cleveland-Cliffs and U.S. Steel, has backed a merger between the American steel giants.
Mr. Goncalves also said he’ll scoop up U.S. Steel’s assets on the cheap after the Nippon deal collapses. U.S. Steel’s stock price has fallen 16% since Mr. Biden issued his statement. Congratulations, Mr. President, for devaluing an American business and rewarding the swampiest example of corporate-insider political favoritism in many a year.

Arnold Kling reflects insightfully on Steve Levitt’s insightful reflections on modern mainstream economics.

Randy Holcombe offers a thought about the politics of inflation.

Here’s the abstract of a new working paper by Melanie Wallskog, Nicholas Bloom, Scott Ohlmacher, and Cristina Tello-Trillo:

Combining confidential Census worker and firm data, we find three key results. First, employees at more productive firms earn higher pay at all earnings levels. Second, this pay-productivity relationship strengthens with seniority, doubling from an elasticity of 0.07 for pay on productivity for the median-paid employee to 0.15 for the top-paid employee. Consequently, more productive firms have higher within-firm inequality. Our data suggests this is driven by their greater adoption of aggressive performance-pay bonus and management schemes. Finally, the magnitude of this pay-performance slope suggests rising productivity can explain 40% of the rise in within-firm inequality since 1980.

[DBx: There are several take-aways from these findings, not the least important of which is that policies that protect less-productive firms at the expense of more-productive firms reduce pay at all earnings levels. People who are tempted to embrace protectionism as a means of increasing worker pay might wish to consider this reality.]

Mike Munger applauds how apps such as Uber commoditize excess capacity.

The Wall Street Journal‘s Editorial Board writes about Murthy v. Missouri, the censorship case to be heard today by the United States Supreme Court. Two slices:

In Murthy v. Missouri, states and individuals whose posts on Covid were censored sued federal officials for violating the First Amendment. Lower courts ruled for the plaintiffs based on copious evidence that government officials pressured social-media platforms to suppress their posts.

Former White House director of digital strategy Rob Flaherty and Covid adviser Andy Slavitt flagged posts for removal to social-media employees and berated them if they didn’t follow orders. Facebook is “hiding the ball” on its efforts to combat vaccine “borderline content,” Mr. Flaherty wrote in one email.

Mr. Flaherty also blamed Facebook for the Jan. 6, 2021, riot and said it would be blamed for Covid deaths if it didn’t increase censorship. “I care mostly about what actions and changes you are making to ensure you’re not making our country’s vaccine hesitancy problem worse,” Mr. Flaherty wrote.

Officials reinforced these private lashings with public threats. Former White House press secretary Jen Psaki said platforms could face “legal consequences” if they didn’t censor vaccine “misinformation.” White House officials floated antitrust action and eliminating Section 230 liability protections.


A bedrock constitutional principle holds that government can’t coerce private parties to do what government cannot do on its own. The High Court on Monday can reaffirm this emphatically.

Writing at Free Press, Joe Nocera reminds us of the wisdom – suddenly and tragically forgotten in early 2020 – of the late epidemiologist Donald A. Henderson. Two slices:

In 2006, ten years before his death at the age of 87, the legendary epidemiologist D.A. Henderson laid out a plan for how public health officials should respond to a major influenza pandemic. It was published in a small journal that focused mainly on bioterrorism—and was quickly forgotten.

As it turns out, that paper, titled “Disease Mitigation Measures in the Control of Pandemic Influenza,” was Henderson’s prescient bequest to the future. If we had followed his advice, our country—indeed, our world—could have avoided its disastrous response to Covid.

This month marks the four-year anniversary of lockdowns on a global scale. And though the pandemic has passed, its consequences live on. The lockdowns embraced by the U.S. public-health establishment meant that millions of young people had their education and social development disrupted, or left school for good. Mental health problems rose substantially. So did incidents of domestic violence and overdose deaths.

It didn’t have to be that way.

Last year, Dr. Francis Collins, the director of the National Institutes of Health during the pandemic, said at a conference, “If you’re a public health person, you have this narrow view of what the right decision is. . . . you attach infinite value to stopping the disease and saving a life. You attach zero value to whether this actually totally disrupts people’s lives [or] ruins the economy. This is a public health mindset.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the chief medical adviser to the president during much of the pandemic, was asked in the fall of 2022 whether he regretted his advocacy of lockdowns. He said, “Sometimes when you do draconian things, it has collateral negative consequences. . . on the economy, on the schoolchildren.” But, he added, “the only way to stop something cold in its tracks is to try and shut things down.”

It’s no secret that Fauci’s draconian recommendations did nothing to stop the virus, nor did closing schools save children’s lives. And the idea asserted by Collins and Fauci that public health is about a single metric—stopping a disease, no matter the unintended consequences—was an inversion of the principles espoused by D.A. Henderson.


Second, Henderson believed in targeted protection for the ill and medically vulnerable, and that overreacting, in the form of shutting down society, would bring enormous harm that could be worse than the virus.

[DBx: I hope against hope that everyone who dismissed the Great Barrington Declaration as unscientific, baseless, ideological, or otherwise unwise have rethought their opposition and, at least in their hearts, have come to regret their serious error.]