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John Tierney decries “the WHO’s power grab.” Two slices:

The response to Covid was the greatest mistake in the history of the public-health profession, but the officials responsible for it are determined to do even worse. With the support of the Biden administration, the World Health Organization (WHO) is seeking unprecedented powers to impose its policies on the United States and the rest of the world during the next pandemic.

It was bad enough that America and other countries voluntarily followed WHO bureaucrats’ disastrous pandemic advice instead of heeding the scientists who had presciently warned, long before 2020, that lockdowns, school closures, and mandates for masks and vaccines would be futile, destructive, and unethical. It was bad enough that U.S. officials and the corporate media parroted the WHO’s false claims and ludicrous praise of China’s response. But now the WHO wants new authority to make its bureaucrats’ whims mandatory—and to censor those who disagree with their version of “the science.”

The WHO hopes to begin this power grab in May at its annual assembly in Geneva, where members will vote on proposed changes in international health regulations and a new treaty governing pandemics. Pamela Hamamoto, the State Department official representing the U.S. in negotiations, has already declared that America is committed to signing a pandemic treaty that will “build a stronger global health architecture,” which is precisely what we don’t need.

If we learned anything from the pandemic, it was the folly of entrusting narrow-minded public-health officials with wide-ranging powers. The countries that fared best, like Sweden, were the ones that ignored the advice of the WHO, and the U.S. states that fared best, like Florida, were the ones that defied the White House Coronavirus Task Force and the Centers for Disease Control. This wasn’t a new lesson. Previous research had shown that giving national leaders new powers to respond to a natural disaster typically leads to more fatalities and economic damage.


Until the WHO acknowledges its pandemic blunders and holds China accountable, the U.S. should suspend any further financial contributions to the agency. It certainly shouldn’t enter into any agreement that gives the organization new powers and more money whenever its director declares a “potential public health emergency of international concern.” That would create the sort of perverse incentive that the economist Friedrich Hayek recognized decades before Covid. “‘Emergencies’ have always been the pretext,” Hayek wrote in 1979, “on which the safeguards of individual liberty have been eroded—and once they are suspended it is not difficult for anyone who has assumed emergency powers to see to it that the emergency will persist.” If the U.S. and other countries endorse the WHO’s power grab at the meeting in May, there will be many more emergencies in our future.

Colin Grabow ably defends – against Helen Andrews’s arguments – his assessment of the current condition of U.S. manufacturing. A slice:

Andrews counters that the rise in manufacturing output is largely a statistical quirk. Citing the work of economist Susan Houseman, Andrews argues that these gains were largely due to impressive increases in a single subsector — computers — and more reflected qualitative improvements in the products than production efficiency gains. Once computers are stripped out of the data, a bleaker manufacturing picture emerges.

“We weren’t making more stuff with fewer people,” Andrews writes. “[W]e were making less stuff.”

The assertion is false. As Houseman herself stated in a 2016 interview, manufacturing output was about 8 percent higher than in 1997 even with the computer industry excluded. Meanwhile, manufacturing employment declined over the same period by nearly 30 percent (approximately 17 million versus 12 million). That’s certainly making more stuff — modestly more, to be sure — with significantly fewer workers.

More importantly, while Houseman’s observations about the computer sector’s outsized contributions to output are interesting, they hardly invalidate US manufacturing’s performance in recent decades — especially when compared to other countries (which would face similar data issues). Computers are not a trivial or unimportant part of the US manufacturing sector. Just as their inclusion arguably paints a somewhat skewed picture, so would their exclusion.

Indeed, what’s the limiting principle to such logic? Would eliminating sectors that, due to changing societal or technological trends (trends that have nothing to do with trade), exert a disproportionate drag on manufacturing performance provide a more accurate portrayal of the sector’s health today?

For example, from 1997 to 2018 smoking rates among US adults nearly halved. Not surprisingly, US tobacco product manufacturing also experienced a sharp (nearly 73 percent) decline in real value-added. Similarly, decreases in paper and paperboard consumption in recent decades (When’s the last time you read a physical newspaper?) correlate with a 36 percent decline in the sector’s real value-added.

Should these and other manufacturing industries that have declined or disappeared through no possible fault of trade (the trend of dematerialization, for example) be excluded from the sector to produce a more accurate sense of domestic manufacturing’s resilience — one that would cast it in an even better light? Once one begins making such data adjustments, there’s no logical end.

David Henderson makes the long case for free trade.

GMU Econ alum Nikolai Wenzel warns of “the fatal conceit of national commercial policy.”

Steve Stewart-Williams – with help from a new paper by Amit Bhattacharjee and Jason Dana – explores why human beings are generally so awful at understanding basic economic realities. (HT Steve Hardy) Two slices:

Bhattacharjee and Dana make a persuasive case that laypeople’s views on economic questions routinely part company with those of the experts, and thus that folk economics – unlike folk physics, biology, and psychology – is systematically misguided.

Of course, in principle, the laypeople could be right and the experts wrong. But if I had to bet money on it, I know which way I’d go. Aside from anything else, it makes good sense that our untutored intuitions about economics would tend to fall short of the mark. Whereas humans have dealt with the physical, biological, and psychological worlds for as long as we’ve existed on this planet, not so the modern economic world. Thus, biological evolution hasn’t equipped us for it, and culture hasn’t either – not unless we’ve studied economics.

With that as backdrop, here are some excerpts from Bhattacharjee and Dana’s paper. Note that the excerpts only just scratch the surface of the paper’s contents. Other topics covered include the benefits of immigration, the problems with buying local, the fairness of CEO pay, the effects of markets on the environment, and criticisms of the degrowth movement. If you like the excerpts and want to read the whole paper, you can request a copy from the authors here.



Among economic experts, the consensus that free trade (international or otherwise) is mutually beneficial and positive-sum is overwhelming and nearly universal. The benefits of economic specialization and division of labor increase greatly with population size, and extending these practices to a global scale allows everyone to benefit from the wealth and efficiency gains that arise when production reflects the comparative advantages of countries, regions, organizations, and individuals around the world. However, public perceptions of international trade are strikingly different: lay people tend to believe that importing cheaper foreign goods solely benefits the nations that export them while weakening domestic industry, overlooking the possibility that domestic consumers can also benefit from paying lower prices.

Scott Atlas talks with Alex Epstein about the moral case for fossil fuels.

The Editorial Board of the Wall Street Journal understandably fears the rising ranks of the U.S. government’s Army of the Environment. A slice:

The political model is FDR’s Civilian Conservation Corps, which paid Americans to work when nearly one in four were jobless. The U.S. now has a labor shortage, but the Biden Administration wants to mobilize more than 20,000 initially for the Climate Corps—and some 50,000 by 2031. Ms. Ocasio-Cortez and Massachusetts Sen. Ed Markey want the Climate Corps to employ 1.5 million over five years.

Aaron Brown unpacks “the bad science behind Jonathan Haidt’s call to regulate social media.”