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Don Boudreaux

Don Boudreaux

He is a professor of economics at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia. Previously, he was president of the Foundation for Economic Education.

Articles by Don Boudreaux

Some Covid Links

2 days ago

Lionel Shriver is rightly appalled by what she calls the “Covid pantomime” that demeaned her father’s funeral in New York City. Two slices:
What’s especially pertinent to this anecdote? New York City has no general indoor mask mandate currently in force. Nor does it require social distancing. All the above nonsense is voluntary — the great and the good going overboard to seem even greater and gooder. The Grand Neurosis that gripped the Big Apple in 2020 is showing the sharpness of its talons.
For at least in New York, hypochondriacal hysteria seems here to stay. Sure enough, even the co-op board of my parents’ apartment building, where family gathered before the service, has not got the metropolitan message about elective indoor masks. In order to traverse the 30ft from the front door

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Quotation of the Day…

2 days ago

… is from page 123 of Thomas Sowell’s superb 1984 book, Civil Rights: Rhetoric or Reality?:
There was a time, back in the heady days of the civil rights movement, when people expected to “solve” the racial “problem” – almost as if life were an academic exercise, with answers in the back of the book. Twenty years and many disappointments later, the question is whether we can even discuss the subject rationally.
DBx: Now sixty years and many more disappointment later, the question Sowell poses here has been answered: Because of Woke irrationality, rational discussion of the question is impossible.

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What’s To Blame?

3 days ago

Here’s a letter to the Wall Street Journal:
Editor:
Daniel Yergin and Matteo Fini blame today’s serious shortage of computer chips on pandemic lockdowns and on a drought in Taiwan, a fire at a Japanese semiconductor factory, and a winter storm in Texas. (“For Auto Makers, the Chip Famine Will Persist,” Sept. 23).
Alas, only one of these four events is to blame: lockdowns.
Factory fires, droughts, and winter storms – along with hurricanes, earthquakes, floods, tsunamis, tornados, and dust storms – happen every year, yet they never cause global supply disruptions of the sort that have become commonplace since Spring 2020. The only events of the past 18 months that are out of the ordinary are lockdowns; these, therefore, are the only genuine cause of today’s supply disruptions.
Blaming

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Human Intolerance is Never Far Beneath the Surface

3 days ago

The following few paragraphs are from pages 142-143 of Amor Towles’s marvelous 2016 novel, A Gentleman in Moscow; the setting is one of Moscow’s finest hotels in 1924 (ellipses original):
Having followed Andrey across the dining room, through the kitchen, and down a long, winding stair, the Count found himself in a place that even Nina had never been: the wine cellar of the Metropol.With its archways of brick and its cool, dark climate, the Metropol’s wine cellar recalled the somber beauty of a catacomb. Only, instead of sarcophagi bearing the likeness of saints, receding into the far reaches of the chamber were rows of racks laden with bottles of wine. Here was assembled a staggering collection of Cabernets and Chardonnays, Rieslings and Syrahs, ports and Madeira – a century of

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Some Covid Links

3 days ago

Let’s hope for success for this lawsuit in opposition to NYC strongman Bill de Blasio’s vaccine mandates.
Speaking of vaccine mandates, J.D. Tuccille warns that “We’re on our way to having to ask for permission to go about our daily lives.” (Unsurprisingly, Covid-related restrictions for travel even within the United States are endorsed by the authoritarian Anthony Fauci.) A slice:
Raising concerns about vaccine mandates isn’t the same thing as objecting to vaccination. Control freaks like to conflate the two, as if every good idea should be forced on the unwilling by threats of fines and imprisonment. But it’s perfectly reasonable to endorse vaccination and the near-complete protection it provides against severe illness while accepting that people have the right to decide for

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Quotation of the Day…

3 days ago

… is from page 227 of George Will’s hot-off-the-press 2021 book, American Happiness and Discontents: The Unruly Torrent, 2008-2020 – a collection of many of Will’s columns over these years; (the column from which the quotation below is drawn originally appeared in the Washington Post on September 22nd, 2017):
In the accelerated churning of today’s capitalism, changing tastes and expanding choices destroy some jobs and create others, with net gains in price and quality. But disruption is never restful, and America now faces a decision unique in its history: Is it tired – tired of the turmoil of creative destruction? If so, it had better be ready to do without creativity. And ready to stop being what it has always been: restless.

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Some Covid Links

4 days ago

My GMU Econ colleague Dan Klein finds inspiration in the writings of Hugo Grotius. A slice:
Grotius taught European rulers their accountability to their subjects, to God, and to nature. He taught that the individual human being, as such, has natural rights. He taught rulers, through conscience and justice, to moderate their rule and their conflicts. There is a direct line from Grotius to Adam Smith’s “liberal plan of equality, liberty, and justice” and to what Deirdre McCloskey calls The Great Enrichment.
Grotius was a great liberal because he saw that everyone has moral agency, as an individual: Rulers are to be judged by the ruled. Everyone has the capacity and the responsibility to judge. Even in war, he suggested that all declarations of war be “accompanied by a declaration of the

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Quotation of the Day…

4 days ago

… is from page 134 of the late Deepak Lal’s 2013 book, Poverty and Progress; this passage appears in that part of Lal’s book in which he exposes some of the many flaws in the case for industrial policy (references omitted; link added):
This so-called coordination of investment plans is of course nothing but the planning syndrome – the search for a centrally determined investment plan which takes into account not merely current but all future changes in the demand and supply of a myriad of goods. It is well known that no market economy can attain the intertemporal Nirvana promised by the utopian theoretical construct of Arrow and Debreu. But neither can the planners, as pointed out by Hayek and Mises in the interwar debate about the efficiency of Soviet-type central planning. The

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Some Covid Links

5 days ago

Those of you who doubt the reality of Covidocratic tyranny should ponder this brief report from Reason‘s Charles Oliver:
Residents of Durham, Ontario, Canada, will have to keep records of anyone who comes into their home for a “social gathering,” no matter how small, and turn them over to the local health department if requested. Dr. Robert Kyle, Durham’s chief medical officer, has mandated that homeowners keep a list of the full names and contact information of anyone attending a social gathering in their home for one month. They must turn that information over within 24 hours if requested. Kyle said the order is aimed at stemming the spread of COVID-19. Those who do not comply face a fine of up to $5,000 ($3,925 U.S.).
And those of you who still trust Covidocrats to act with

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Quotation of the Day…

5 days ago

… is from page 231 of George Will’s hot-off-the-press 2021 book, American Happiness and Discontents: The Unruly Torrent, 2008-2020 – a collection of many of his columns over these years; (the column from which the quotation below is drawn was originally published in the Washington Post on September 18th, 2015):
[Pope] Francis deplores “compulsive consumerism,” a sin to which the 1.3 billion persons without even electricity can only aspire. He leaves the Vatican to jet around praising subsistence farming, a romance best enjoyed from 30,000 feet above the realities that such farmers yearn to escape.

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Quotation of the Day…

6 days ago

… is from page 83 of George Will’s hot-off-the-press 2021 book, American Happiness and Discontents: The Unruly Torrent, 2008-2020 – a collection of many of his columns over these years; (the column from which the quotation below is drawn was originally published in the Washington Post on August 9th, 2019) (original emphasis):
What socialists are so fond of saying, national conservatives are now saying: This time will be different. It never is, because government’s economic planning always involves the fatal conceit that government can aggregate, and act on, information more intelligently and nimbly than markets can.

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Bonus Quotation of the Day…

7 days ago

… is from page 3 of Richard Epstein’s 2020 book, The Dubious Morality of Modern Administrative Law:
The key explanation for why such a high level of discretion is applied by courts [to the decisions of administrative agencies] is an uncritical belief that administrative agencies will act in the public interest and resist pleas for partisan outcomes. In all too many cases, that optimistic assumption is false.
DBx: Yep. Politicians – even those duly elected by majorities – never have the motivation (or the knowledge) of gods. Ditto for appointed administrative officials and all other government employees. The reason for why this reality escapes so many people escapes me.

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Some Covid Links

7 days ago

{I’ve removed this first link as potentially severe problems with the data, that I did not initially notice, have been brought to my attention.}
Paul Alexander understandably wonders why the CDC recognizes natural immunity for chicken pox but not for Covid-19.
Jay Bhattacharya on Twitter:
Barring schoolhouse doors revealed our willingness to sacrifice children on the altar of infection control.
Not surprisingly, we achieved the sacrifice (learning loss, & shorter, poorer, & less healthy lives) but did not get the infection control.
Jay Bhattacharya talks with Tom Woods.
Martin Kulldorff talks with Dan Proft and Amy Jacobson.
Covidocratic tyranny metastasizes in Australia.
Geoffrey Sommers, writing from dystopian Australia, warns of the dangers of what we might call ‘long lockdown.‘ A

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Quotation of the Day…

7 days ago

… is from pages 16-17 of Ludwig von Mises’s 1932 essay “The Myth of the Failure of Capitalism,” as translated from the original German by Jane E. Sanders and reprinted in Ludwig von Mises, The Clash of Group Interests and Other Essays (Richard Ebeling, ed., 1978):
In the interventionist state it is no longer of crucial importance for the success of an enterprise that operations be run in such a way that the needs of the consumer are satisfied in the best and least expensive way; it is much more important that one has “good relations” with the controlling political factions, that the interventions redound to the advantage and not the disadvantage of the enterprise. A few more Marks worth of tariff-protection for the output of the enterprise, a few Marks less tariff-protection for the

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Socialism Must Lower – It Cannot Raise – Living Standards for the Masses

8 days ago

My latest column for AIER is the first of a two-part series on the indispensability, for the productive use of resources, of market-determined prices. A slice:
The reason socialism inevitably wastes resources is rooted in the fact that, under such a regime, the state owns all means of production (or what Mises called “goods of higher order”). Without private ownership of the means of production, there is no genuine exchange of the means of production. There is no transfer of ownership of plots of land, of factories, of commercial lathes, or of stockpiles of iron ore and bauxite. With no exchange of the means of production, there are no prices of the means of production. (Each price, after all, is among the terms on which one thing is exchanged for another.) And with no prices of the

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Some Covid Links

8 days ago

Texas Tech economist – and GMU Econ alum – Ben Powell understandably worries about what we might call ‘long lockdown.’ A slice:
Today the risk of death from COVID-19 for children and most vaccinated adults is no greater than other routine risks we accept in our daily lives without thought. Fewer than 500 American children under 17 have died from the disease since the start of the pandemic, while a few thousand die in car accidents each year. For children and vaccinated adults, the New York Times recently summarized the situation by writing, “For the vast majority of people, the virus resembled a typical flu, rarely causing serious illness.” However, the incentives of health bureaucrats will be to continue to propagandize us by inflating the risk in order to maintain their own

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Quotation of the Day…

8 days ago

… is from page 83 of George Will’s hot-off-the-press 2021 book, American Happiness and Discontents: The Unruly Torrent, 2008-2020 – a collection of many of his columns over these years; (the column from which the quotation below is drawn was originally published in the Washington Post on August 9th, 2019):
The aristocrats were not wrong in seeing their supremacy going up in the smoke from industrialism’s smokestacks: Market forces powered by mass preferences do not defer to inherited status.
DBx: Don’t miss Nick Gillespie’s recent conversation with George Will.

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How Much Would You Pay to Watch GFL Games?

9 days ago

Here’s a follow-up letter to my correspondent from this morning:
Ms. S__:
Thanks for your follow-up e-mail.
I regret that you find “simplistic” what you call my “economics self interest explanation of pay [differences between] men and women employees.”
I’ll grant that because the U.S. Soccer Federation is a not-for-profit organization its decisions on pay (and other matters) aren’t driven as much by competitive market forces as are the decisions of most employers. Not-for-profit organizations do indeed have a greater scope to unjustly discriminate than do for-profit organizations. And so it might well be that there’s merit in the lawsuit brought by the women soccer players
But I don’t believe that the economic explanation for pay differences generally is more simplistic than is an

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The Goal Is Deeper Understanding

9 days ago

Here’s a letter to a college sophomore writing a paper for one of her courses:
Ms. S__:
Thanks for your e-mail.
You ask for my thoughts on the U.S. Women’s Soccer team suing to receive pay equal to that of the U.S. Men’s Soccer team. Alas, because I’m unfamiliar with the details of the suit, I’m in no position to comment on it. Ditto for the recent decision of the U.S. Soccer Federation to equalize the pay.
But I will make one substantive point: It’s illegitimate to infer from the fact that female soccer players are paid less than male soccer players that female soccer players necessarily are victims of unjust discrimination. The likely explanation for the difference in pay is simply the fact that the market demand for watching soccer played by men is higher than is the market demand

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Some Non-Covid Links

9 days ago

Julian Simon’s son David Simon draws lessons from his own family about the bankruptcy of woke-ism.
My intrepid Mercatus Center colleague Veronique de Rugy calls out some sloppy reporting on that great geyser of cronyism, the U.S. Export-Import Bank. A slice:
Don’t get me wrong, I am sure it is easy to find companies that will say that they loved having their loans subsidized by the American taxpayers, and that they missed the perks when the Ex-Im was dormant. That’s a whole different thing than claiming that on net the U.S economy suffered. That would require us to believe that economic growth, trade, or even business decisions rest on the competition between government banks extending export subsidies to special-interest clients in higher-income nations where capital is easy to

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Some Covid Links

9 days ago

Mike Munger ponders the response to Covid-19. A slice:
My own view is that both of the dominant “models” of Covid response, suppression and mitigation, are unworkable in a large federal system such as the U.S. (Suppression is also problematic even in small unitary systems, but that is another subject). The only plausible response is a flexible version of focused protection, a system that takes seriously the very real constraints of social acceptability and medical feasibility. In my view, “focused protection” should be seen as an extension of the Hayekian notion of “local knowledge,” with individual responses augmented by state capacity where it is necessary for the most vulnerable populations.
This would mean that the least vulnerable would have substantial freedom to mingle, go to

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Quotation of the Day…

9 days ago

… is from pages 256-257 of Frank Chodorov’s November 1950 essay, in analysis, titled “The Revolution of 1913,” as this essay is reprinted in Liberty Fund’s excellent 1980 collection, Fugitive Essays, of Chodorov’s writings, edited by Charles H. Hamilton:
The principal preoccupation of the framers of the Constitution was with restraints on authority, and those who opposed it argued the insufficiency of these restraints. Much has been said about the “checks and balances” incorporated in the Constitution, but entirely too little emphasis is put on the temper of the times that made these provisions necessary. In the light of the present abdication of social power in favor of political power, the early American attitude toward government is most striking. True, there were some who favored

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Bonus Quotation of the Day…

10 days ago

… is from George Will’s latest column, titled by the Washington Post “Presidential impatience with covid doesn’t excuse wielding extra-constitutional power“; this passage from Will is prompted in part by a remark made recently on CNN by the authoritarian, and appallingly uninformed, Leana Wen:
The word “travel” is not in the Constitution. Neither is the word “bacon,” but we have a right to have bacon for breakfast, and to raise our children. This puzzles people who think rights are privileges — spaces of autonomy — granted by, and revocable by, government. Such thinking paves the road to what some seem to want: a permission society, where what is not explicitly permitted is implicitly forbidden, or at least contingent on the grace of government.

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Some Covid Links

10 days ago

Jay Bhattacharya talks with Megyn Kelly about Covid vaccines, natural immunity, and the incentives facing hospitals to diagnose Covid.
Martin Kulldorff debates Paul Offit on vaccine mandates.
Carl Heneghan and Martin Kulldorff defend Jay Bhattacharya from efforts by Bhattacharya’s Stanford University colleagues to silence his voice in scientific debate. Two slices:
Last week, anonymous posters with the portrait of Stanford University Professor of Medicine Dr. Jay Bhattacharya were plastered on kiosks around the Stanford campus, linking him to COVID deaths in Florida. Even though cumulative age-adjusted COVID mortality is lower in Florida than in most other large states, these smears appeared.
Taking it one step further, the chair of Stanford’s epidemiology department, Professor

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Quotation of the Day…

10 days ago

… is from page 576 of the 1988 collection of Lord Acton’s writings (edited by the late J. Rufus Fears), Essays in Religion, Politics, and Morality; specifically, it’s a note drawn from Acton’s extensive papers at Cambridge University; (I can find no date for this passage):
Behind the man of action, and above him, is the thinker. You must keep to the line where they meet – the history of political ideas.

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What I Fear Is In Humanity’s Future

10 days ago

On a flight home yesterday (Tuesday), on United Airlines, from southern California to northern Virginia I was given this napkin. It depressed me deeply because it describes, in an approving – indeed, encouraging – tone, a future that I fear is likely, yet one that I dread.

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Bonus Quotation of the Day…

11 days ago

… is from page 80 of Amor Towles’s wonderful 2016 novel, A Gentleman in Moscow:
Fate would not have the reputation it has if it simply did what it seemed it would do.

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Some Covid Links

11 days ago

Art Carden reminds us of the proper role of experts – and of the different, proper role of each individual. Here’s his conclusion:
Mandates, lockdowns, and control–even when urged by experts who mean nothing but the best–throw away a lot of valuable information. First, there is a lot more to life than whatever the expert is an expert on, and this isn’t to suggest people should throw caution to the wind and do whatever is pleasant and convenient. Second, people adapt to new information. They adopt different policies for their schools, restaurants, and businesses. They say “yes” or “no” to invitations based on new information. They wash their hands with varying degrees of care. The experts, moreover, can get things exactly right but also get things generally wrong. Like experts on

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Quotation of the Day…

11 days ago

… is from page 199 of George Will’s excellent 2019 book, The Conservative Sensibility:
Because there is more to American political morality than sweeping aside impediments to unmediated majorities, courts matter in America more than in any other democracy.

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Some Covid Links

12 days ago

Writing in the Wall Street Journal, Johns Hopkins medical professor Marty Makary criticizes the CDC’s continuing insistence on ignoring important data on Covid. A slice:
Sound data from the CDC has been especially lacking on natural immunity from prior Covid infection. On Aug. 25, Israel published the most powerful and scientifically rigorous study on the subject to date. In a sample of more than 700,000 people, natural immunity was 27 times more effective than vaccinated immunity in preventing symptomatic infections.
Despite this evidence, U.S. public health officials continue to dismiss natural immunity, insisting that those who have recovered from Covid must still get the vaccine. Policy makers and public health leaders, and the media voices that parrot them, are inexplicably

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