… is from page 201 of Thomas Sowell’s superb 1981 volume, Ethnic America: A History (footnotes deleted):

In the post-Civil War era, southern white employers and landowners sought to band together to restrict the money and discretion they had to give to blacks. Yet, despite the economic strength, political power, and organizational advantages of the whites, these restrictive agreements failed repeatedly in the face of competition for laborers and sharecroppers. Black income grew at a higher percentage rate than white income during the last third of the nineteenth century.

DBx: The three footnotes not shown in the above quotation are all to Robert Higgs’s remarkable 1977 book, Competition and Coercion: Blacks in the American Economy, 1865-1914.

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Bonus Quotation of the Day…

by Don Boudreaux on July 27, 2021

in Philosophy of Freedom

… is from page 83 of José Ortega y Gasset’s classic 1932 slim volume, The Revolt of the Masses:

Liberalism – it is well to recall today – is the supreme form of generosity; it is the right which the majority concedes to minorities and hence is the noblest cry that has ever resounded on this planet. It announces the determination to share existence with the enemy; more than that, with an enemy which is weak. It was incredible that the human species should have arrived at so noble an attitude, so paradoxical, so refined, so anti-natural. Hence it is not to be wondered that this same humanity should soon appear anxious to get rid of it. It is a discipline too difficult and complex to take firm root on earth.

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The opening paragraph of James Morrow’s essay in yesterday’s Wall Street Journal reads: “It’s hard to know exactly when Australia’s pandemic response crossed the line from tragedy into farce. But future historians could do worse than pinpoint the moment when Sydney’s chief health supremo told the city’s residents to stop being friendly to one another when they ventured out to buy essentials, lest they get themselves and others killed.” Here are two more slices:

Given this level of official hysteria, an outsider might imagine that Australia is a Covid charnel house. In fact, all of Australia is recording around 150 coronavirus cases a day. The current outbreak of 2,000 or so cases total over the past month has been associated with eight deaths so far, almost all of them people over 70.

This in a nation that records, on average, about 460 deaths a day from all causes. Cancer kills nearly 50,000 Australians a year. Shark attacks killed eight in 2020.


So how did Australia become a hermit kingdom? Geography plays a large part. By mistaking their good luck for brilliance in being able to pull up the drawbridge to the world at the start of the pandemic, Australians quickly became trapped in an “elimination” mindset that is now officially referred to as Covid Zero.

Politics, too, conspired to create this outcome. Labor state premiers (the equivalent of U.S. governors) quickly learned to play Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s center-right government like a fiddle, forcing the commonwealth to bail states out for the economic wreckage created every time they locked down their cities or shut their borders.

Those of you who still doubt the reality of Covid Derangement Syndrome, or doubt that Covidocrats have the mindsets of tyrants, might wish to read this report out of Australia. A slice:

Victoria Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton scolded the public. “Let’s not pretend that ‘marching for freedom’ will actually deliver the precious freedom that we all need and desire,” he lectured — a bit rich since he is the one responsible for delivering the precious freedom that we all need and desire but has no plan beyond a succession of never-ending lockdowns.

What astonishes me is not so much that people protested, but that our cultural betters seem genuinely clueless as to why the patience of citizens has finally run out.

And Charles Oliver reports this bit of you-can’t-make-this-stuff-up Australian Covid hysteria.

For still more on the Covidocratic dystopia that is now Australia, here’s Louis Ashworth. A slice:

Facing little option but to wait and see what happens, Morrison’s government has begun to look for ways to shift the blame – with the scientists who helped guide the zero Covid strategy coming under increasing criticism from officials.

Free speech dies in quarantine.

Eric Boehm reports on the likely coming surge in renewed mask mandates throughout the United States – and on Fauci’s continuing political performance. A slice:

But if this is becoming [as Fauci says] a “pandemic among the unvaccinated,” then mask mandates make little sense.

TANSTAFPFC (There Ain’t No Such Thing As Free Protection From Covid.)

Here’s the latest from Ross Clark. A slice:

I can understand how gratifying it is to quote Professor Neil Ferguson’s words back at him – words he said just a week ago when he told Andrew Marr it was “almost inevitable” that daily covid cases would reach 100,000 a day as a result of the last stage of the government’s roadmap out of lockdown. “The real question”, he added, “is do we get to double that – or even higher?”

Almost from the moment he uttered those words, new Covid infections began to plummet. Between Sunday 18 and Sunday 25 July, they fell from 48,161 to 29,173. Naturally, this will be rocket fuel for anyone who blames Ferguson’s modelling for plunging us into weeks of lockdown last spring. Not only does it show that his modelling is, to put it kindly, not all it is cracked up to be – it also indicates that you don’t necessarily need a lockdown to provoke a sudden change in direction followed by a steep decline in covid infections.

Robert Dingwall wisely warns against Covid Derangement Syndrome. A slice:

Hospitals also make good television. Our images of Covid patients are shaped by intrepid journalists creeping into intensive care units and whispering into their microphones, like David Attenborough with his gorillas. They do dangerous things so the rest of us do not have to. But there is a reason why social scientists are suspicious of this kind of data unless it is anchored in a broader framework of comparison and contrast. Dramatic images may make us sit up and think. They may move our emotions. But they are a dangerous basis for public policy.

Sherelle Jacobs decries the “digital dystopianism” proposed by some in the name of fighting Covid. A slice:

It is bad enough that No 10’s commitment to dumb technology is paralysing the country, and will soon divide it. Chillingly, a lucrative techno-surveillance industry is waiting in the wings to feed off the mayhem.

It has somehow slipped under the radar that the UK track and trace app functions via Google and Apple technology, which in future they may be able to monetise. If they do, they will join a boom in “snooper startups” – apps that promise to make the new normal run more smoothly, but which, in exchange, hoover up and then potentially sell on our information. While employers turn to HR apps that track which members of staff have been vaccinated, pubs have found that customers order more booze when they can skip the bar queue and use apps to order to their table.

Here’s a video of Jay Bhattacharya’s recent conversation with Nebraska governor Pete Ricketts about Covid and lockdowns.

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Quotation of the Day…

by Don Boudreaux on July 27, 2021

in Nanny State, Philosophy of Freedom

… is from page 348 of H.L. Mencken’s September 12, 1926, Chicago Tribune essay titled “Another Long-Awaited Book” as this essay is reprinted in A Second Mencken Chrestomathy (1995):

The savage is preëminently his brother’s keeper. He knows precisely what his brother ought to do in every situation and is full of indignation when it is not done. But the civilized man has doubts….

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Jason Riley on Thomas Sowell

by Don Boudreaux on July 26, 2021

in Philosophy of Freedom, Video

Wall Street Journal columnist Jason Riley narrates this just-released short video on the life and legacy of the great Thomas Sowell.

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Bonus Quotation of the Day…

by Don Boudreaux on July 26, 2021

in Growth, Innovation

… is from page 151 of H.L. Mencken’s August 1927 American Mercury essay titled “Aubade” as this essay is reprinted in A Second Mencken Chrestomathy (1995):

The name of the man who first made a slave of fire … is unknown to historians: burrow and sweat as they will, their efforts to unearth it are always baffled. And no wonder. For isn’t it easy to imagine how infamous that name must have been while it was still remembered, and how diligent and impassioned the endeavor to erase it from the tablets of the race? One pictures the indignation of the clergy when so vast an improvement upon their immemorial magic confronted them, and their herculean and unanimous struggle, first to put it down as unlawful and against God, and then to collar it for themselves. Bonfires were surely not unknown in the morning of the Pleistocene, for there were lightnings then as now, but the first one kindled by mortal hands must have shocked humanity. One pictures news flashing from cave to cave and from tribe to tribe – out of Central Asia and then across the grasslands, and they around the feet of the glaciers into the gloomy, spook-haunted wilderness that is now Western Europe, and so across in Africa. Something new and dreadful was upon the human race, and by the time the Ur-Mississippians of the Neander Valley heard of it, you may be sure, the discoverer has sprouted horns and was in the pay of the Devil.

DBx: And so were innovations and innovators generally thought of throughout almost all of human history, until the past two or three centuries. Things changed for the better only when bourgeois virtues and pursuits conferred dignity.

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David French writes much with which I agree. And I agree with many particular points that he makes in his recent essay titled “Structural Racism Isn’t Wokeness, It’s Reality.” But I disagree with some other particular points, as well as with his overall theme and conclusion.

Not the least of French’s errors here is his using Biblical text to justify intergenerational guilt. Immediately after quoting some Old Testament passages that justify intergenerational guilt, French writes

The reason for this obligation [of charging later generations with the responsibility of making amends for the sins of earlier ones] of repentance and atonement is obvious. The death of the offending party does not remove the consequences of their sin. Those who’ve been victimized still suffer loss, and if the loss isn’t ameliorated in their lifetimes, that loss can linger for generations.

This statement by French is both ethically dubious and factually questionable.

The notion of intergenerational guilt – the unatoned sins of the parents are rightly passed on to the children who become responsible for atoning for these sins – is profoundly at odds with liberalism. That the collectivism implied by the concept of intergenerational guilt is part of the Bible does not salvage its validity.

Also, French should read more of the works of Thomas Sowell, for at least two reasons. One of these reasons is Sowell’s wise warning against what he calls “the quest for cosmic justice.” The attempt to atone for all sins, especially ones committed long ago, is itself a source of a far larger quantity of what Christians would surely identify as sins – and what liberals identify as tyranny.

The other reason to read Sowell is for his documentation of many historical instances of ethnic groups overcoming, often surprisingly quickly, past injustices, including enslavement. Especially relevant here is Sowell’s 1981 book Ethnic America. Also on point is another of his 1981 books, Markets and Minorities.

The notion that blacks’ continuing failure in the 21st century, as a group, to progress in the U.S. as much as other groups have progressed, and are progressing, (for example, various Asian groups, and even now my people, the Irish) is attributable to slavery and to Jim Crow simply won’t wash. Sowell documents that, along many dimensions in the late 19th and early and mid-20th centuries, blacks were progressing in the U.S. – progress that was slowed, and in some dimensions reversed, starting only 100 years after the guns of the U.S. Civil War fell silent.

David French is, of course, correct that there are in place today many government-erected obstacles to black progress. Some of these were originally instituted with racist motives; others not. By all means, let’s get rid of these. But almost none of these obstacles, even the ones originally motivated by racial bigotry, remain in place today because of racism.

The most obvious example of a legislatively created obstacle to black progress is minimum-wage legislation. With racism at its roots, minimum-wage legislation continues to have a disproportionately negative impact on blacks. Yet most blacks – including most black politicians and other “leaders” – support not only the maintenance of, but also increases in, minimum wages. Thus, despite minimum-wages’ disproportionate negative effect on blacks, widespread support among blacks – as well as among many non-blacks who are emphatically not racists – alone would render as inaccurate the identification of minimum-wage legislation today as an instance of “structural racism.”

The word “racism” implies motives. And the term “structural racism” implies an invidious and insidious intent to harm members of one racial group – or, at least, to treat members of that group less favorably than another group or groups. If such a motive is no longer operative in maintaining the ‘structure’ that has disproportionate racial impact, the root of the problem is misdiagnosed. Proposed ‘solutions’ thus are less likely to work and might well backfire.

What’s true of minimum-wage legislation is true also of many other regulations and interventions the impacts of which would certainly delight racists who understood the full impact of these policies. (In point of fact, however, I’m sure that most racists are too stupid to trace out the full impact of these policies.) I have in mind here such policies as occupational licensing, mandated paid leave, government “schooling,” the so-called “war on drugs,” and many land-use restrictions. No doubt there is a tiny handful of self-consciously racist Americans who support such policies because of the resulting negative impact on blacks. But because all such policies find great support today among blacks and Progressives – who cannot legitimately be accused of harboring racist hatred of blacks – identifying such policies as evidence of “structural racism” is simply inaccurate.

The real problem is structural hubris and structural economic ignorance.

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Quotation of the Day…

by Don Boudreaux on July 26, 2021

in Hayek, Myths and Fallacies

… is from page 113 of the profound 1976 Vol. II (“The Mirage of Social Justice”) of F.A. Hayek’s trilogy, Law, Legislation, and Liberty:

There are, in the last resort, no economic ends. The economic efforts of the individuals as well as the services which the market order renders to them, consist in an allocation of means for the competing ultimate purposes which are always non-economic. The task of all economic activity is to reconcile the competing ends by deciding for which of them the limited means are to be used. The market order reconciles the claims of the different non-economic ends by the only know process that benefits all – without, however, assuring that the more important comes before the less important, for the simple reason that there can exist in such a system no single ordering of needs.

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The UCLA School and Property Rights

by Don Boudreaux on July 25, 2021

in Economics, Property Rights, Video

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From Emory University: “COVID-19 survivors may possess wide-ranging resistance to the disease.” (HT Martin Kulldorff)

Daniel Hannan continues to write insightfully, wisely, and humanely about Covid-19 restrictions. A slice:

A nightclub should have the right to insist on vaccine certificates; but it should be under no legal obligation to do so. The default assumption for an open society should be that each club (and each cruise ship and each church and so on) can decide what, if any, measures to put in place. The state needs an overwhelming reason to override ownership rights. A vague sense of “better safe than sorry” does not constitute such a reason.

Also continuing to write insightfully, wisely, and humanely about Covid restrictions is Janet Daley. A slice:

On the face of it, this looks like another chapter in the modern struggle of totalitarianism versus liberty. But it is more than a constitutional argument between free political systems and despotism. Those of us who are determined to be free – and believe that this is a rational choice – must be aware that even in mature, stable democracies, there is a deep and probably inextinguishable longing to have one’s choices controlled and limited by authority, to be absolved from responsibility, to be protected from the consequences of individual actions. A successful public messaging campaign turned that ambivalence into a degree of compliance over Covid rules which has shocked many British commentators but what is most remarkable is how unsophisticated the basic appeal remains: how easy it is to persuade people that they have unleashed vengeful dark forces which must be appeased.

This fear is at the heart of every form of neurotic anxiety and those who are prey to it as individuals (often the most intelligent and sensitive) can incorporate it into belief systems and public policies with the best of motives and little self-awareness: the urge to control others is as much a product of fear as the desire to be controlled. Put in political terms, an authoritarianism that presents itself as benign can be more invidious than a murderous tyranny because the case for overthrowing it seems so much less urgent and the pretext for maintaining it so apparently virtuous. What this version of it rules out is the possibility of constructive, reasonable discussion about how terrible consequences might be averted through innovation, discovery, experiment and cooperative effort – all the things that free people engage in when they are not scared out of their wits, or depressed beyond the point of reason.

Toby Green and Jay Bhattacharya explain that “lockdowns are killers in the global south.” Here’s their conclusion:

If lockdowns are the cause of this terrible carnage, as we maintain, and they are ineffective in preventing the direct harm from the virus, then we should eschew them as a pandemic tactic.

Martin Kulldorff says that the deranged lockdown in Sydney should end now.

Here’s Annabel Fenwick Elliott:

Many times during this pandemic, I’ve wondered why people aren’t panicking enough. Not about Covid (there’s more than enough of that hysteria to go around); rather the alarming level of control we still find ourselves under in the face of such a disproportionate threat. Caught in a cycle of abuse, each time the public is awarded even a sliver of freedom, they are too giddy with gratitude to look up and see the larger storm clouds gather.

She also reports this appalling result of Covid Derangement Syndrome: “Australia has already announced that even after its entire population is inoculated, it won’t be opening its borders to international travel.”

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