≡ Menu

Some Links

Scott Lincicome reports that free trade is good especially for the poor. Two slices:

Among the research I commended in the 2024 Economic Report of the President (ERP) last week was a solid section on free trade’s “pro‐​poor bias,” i.e., that eliminating US government barriers to cross‐​border commerce disproportionately benefited Americans with lower incomes. This week, the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis highlights a brand new paper showing much the same thing.


Given the ample academic research cited in the ERP, these new findings, while welcome, are unsurprising. However, they do raise the following question related to the 2024 US presidential campaign: If an across‐​the‐​board 10 percent reduction in US trade costs generates outsized gains for America’s poor, what does an across‐​the‐​board 10 percent increase in those same costssay, via the universal tariff proposed by Donald Trump—do?

The Editorial Board of the Wall Street Journal notes that “the U.S. already soaks the rich.” A slice:

President Biden is proposing a bevy of tax increases, and his State of the Union address included the familiar call for the wealthy to pay their “fair share.” He should examine the Internal Revenue Service data. Recently released figures for 2021 show that the top 1% of Americans reported 26.3% of the country’s adjusted gross income, while paying 45.8% of total income taxes.

Is this not a “fair share” to Mr. Biden? Then what would be? Democrats always deploy the language of fairness without defining it or answering those questions. The truth is that the income tax is already steeply progressive. The top 10% of earners in 2021 provided 75.8% of the revenue. (See the nearby bar chart.)

George Will writes wisely about the sorry state of today’s GOP. Two slices:

His [Sherrod Brown’s] Republican opponent, Bernie Moreno, once called Trump a “maniac” and a “lunatic” akin to “a car accident that makes you sick.” He scoffed at Trump’s claims of election fraud and called the Jan. 6, 2021, rioters “morons” and “criminals.” But Trump, like a marsupial, has tucked Moreno into his pouch, and the amazingly malleable Moreno calls (as does Lake) the Jan. 6 defendants “political prisoners” and says the 2020 election was “stolen,” Joe Biden should be impeached and Trump is swell.

Moreno, who projects the Trumpkins’ chest-thumping faux toughness, disdains bipartisanship. Evidently, he plans to advance his agenda with 60 Republican votes. There have not been 60 Republican senators since 1910.


The nation no longer has a reliably conservative party of sound ideas and good manners. If conservatism is again to be ascendant in their party, Republicans must stop electing the likes of Lake and Moreno. They would join other chips-off-the-orange-block in a Senate caucus increasingly characterized by members who have anti-conservative agendas, from industrial policy (government allocation of capital, which is socialism) to isolationism. And whose unconservative temperaments celebrate coarseness as an indicator of political authenticity and treat performative poses as substitutes for governance.

Who’d a-thunk it? “California won’t let homeowners insurance companies raise rates, so they’re leaving the state instead.”

Andrew Morriss reveals the bootleggers’ and Baptists’ reactions to the ruling by the Alabama Supreme Court that (in Andy’s words) “the parents of embryos created through in vitro fertilization could bring a statutory wrongful death claim when the clinic where their embryos were stored allowed the destruction of the parents’ embryos by an intruder.” A slice:

Most commentators, with the notable exception of Yuval Levin & O. Carter Snead, got the decision in LePage wrong. They got it so wrong it’s hard not to conclude that they deliberately did so. Virtually all of the media ignored what the decision actually said and the events that prompted the suit. By design or accident, the rush to portray the decision as the result of “creeping Christian conservatism” and ignorant Alabama judges who posed a threat to the availability of IVF for infertile couples put commentators of all political stripes in the position of playing regulatory “Baptists” to IVF clinics regulatory “bootleggers” in a classic “bootleggers and Baptists” coalition. That coalition delivered a sweeping exemption from normal tort liability to Alabama IVF clinics, enhancing the odds that clinics in other states will get similar immunities. In fact, LePage is nothing like the ideologically freighted, radical pro-life decision that the media claimed. It is a straightforward case of statutory interpretation in which the nine judges on the Alabama Supreme Court reasoned through a difficult issue using standard methods of reading statutes.

Economist Bruce Yandle created the bootleggers and Baptists theory after serving at the Federal Trade Commission. Why, he wondered, did regulators so often not listen to economists who pointed out how to accomplish public interest goals at lower costs, instead adopting policies that were less effective and more expensive? He reasoned that regulations were often the result of high-minded public interest rhetoric (the regulatory Baptists, just as real Baptists sought Sunday-closing laws to restrict liquor sales for wholesome reasons) and campaign contributions and other political muscle (the regulatory bootleggers, just as real bootleggers happily support Sunday closing laws to restrict legal liquor sales).

In using the decision in LePage to obtain immunity from tort suits, reproductive medicine clinics played the role of the regulatory bootleggers. Asking for absolute immunity from suit for negligence in handling embryos—embryos whose parents are likely to feel strongly about them—isn’t something for which many legislators would likely be sympathetic. After all, medical professionals, clinics, and hospitals are liable in tort for medical malpractice. Fertility clinics thus had a problem in explaining why they should get special treatment compared to other medical facilities and professionals. And negligence does occur in these clinics. A 2020 survey article in Fertility & Sterility Reports found 133 cases filed between January 2009 and June 2019 that credibly alleged the negligent destruction of cryopreserved embryos. (This does not include any losses of embryos where lawsuits were not filed.) While these losses represent only a tiny fraction of the almost 400,000 embryo thaw procedures clinics reported to the CDC in the same time period, each lost embryo was significant to the parents.

The Wall Street Journal‘s Elliott Kaufman profiles Israeli historian Benny Morris. A slice:

To many on the left, Mr. Morris says, “I seem to have turned anti-Palestinian in the year 2000,” when Prime Minister Ehud Barak and President Bill Clinton offered a two-state solution and Yasser Arafat rejected it. “I thought this was a terrible decision by the Palestinians, and I wrote that.” When the Palestinians, in response to the offer of peace and statehood, then launched a wave of terrorism and suicide bombings unlike any before it, Mr. Morris disapproved of that, too. “I began to write journalism against the Palestinians, their decisions and policies,” he says, “and this was considered treachery.”

Mr. Morris was suddenly out of step “because people always forgive the Palestinians, who don’t take responsibility,” he says. “It’s accepted that they are the victim and therefore can do whatever they like.” Mr. Morris doesn’t contest the claim of victimhood but sees it on both sides. “Righteous Victims” is the title of his 1999 history of the conflict.

GMU Econ alum Dominic Pino describes Pete Buttigieg as “a hack.”