Thursday , October 29 2020
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One of Tyler Cowen’s Points is Right

As noted earlier today, Tyler Cowen posted about my critiques of his views on lockdowns. I don’t have time to answer thoroughly but I do think I did him an injustice on one issue. Cowen writes: And my remark about “It just doesn’t seem worth it”, cited by David as me dismissing school reopenings?  Here is what I actually wrote: Indoor restaurant dining and drinking, for example, is probably not a good idea in most parts of the U.S. right now. Yes, many of the Covid...

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I’m Not “David Henderson”

Tyler Cowen posted a response to my critiques of his articles this morning. Unlike Tyler, I will do him the courtesy of linking to his post. Someone named David Henderson responded. If you know me, you know that that’s not me. That’s not my style at all. I did post two comments on Cowen’s post, under my name David R. Henderson, the one I always use to post comments and the one I always use in my articles. I didn’t address the merits of Cowen’s case. I simply posted...

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Counterfactuals: What If Clinton Had Won in 2016?

Some historians like counterfactuals. In his book Escape from Rome (Princeton University Press, 2019), Walter Scheidel analyzes counterfactual scenarios about how the Roman empire could have aborted earlier or could have been later succeeded by another European empire. In general, counterfactuals are inseparable from rational understanding. To identify a cause is to know what would have happened if, ceteris paribus, this cause had been absent. Take economics, for...

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Unschooling + Math

One popular variant on homeschooling is called “unschooling.”  The practice varies, as practices always do.  The essence, however, is that the student does what he wants.  He studies what he wants.  He studies for as long as he wants.  If he asks you to teach him something, you teach him.  Yet if he decides to play videogames all day, the principled unschooling response is: “Let him.” Almost every parent is horrified by the idea of unschooling.  Even most...

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(Un)Orthodox economics

Politics can be very depressing, but a recent Bloomberg article discussing my home state kind of made me smile.  I hope you enjoy it as well: And then there are backers like Derek Orth in Lancaster, Wisconsin, who are sticking by the president. Orth, a 34-year-old dairy farmer, appreciates the financial help Trump has channeled to the agriculture industry. “I can’t think of a single close friend in agriculture that is voting for Biden,” Orth said this month. An active...

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Tyler Cowen Doubles Down

I criticized (here and here) a recent article that Tyler Cowen wrote in Bloomberg about COVID-19 and lockdowns. Last week he doubled down by raising the issue of the elderly. The title fits his theme, is “Yes, Covid-19 Is More Serious for the Elderly. So What?” Cowen starts with an analogy to 9/11. (Everything in the shaded areas is a quote from his article.) Consider 9/11, when some 3,000 Americans died. The U.S. mounted a very activist response that included new...

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Viral Silence

This semester I volunteered to teach both of my classes in-person.  I’ve also given four public talks in Texas, and one at GMU.  All of these venues had mask mandates.  And in each case, I noticed an eerie pattern: Almost no one talks to each other anymore!  In the past, I had to ask classes to quiet down so I could start class.  Now I usually face dead silence.  Public lecture halls used to overflow with the chatter of the crowd.  Now you can practically hear a pin...

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Krastev on Pandemic and Politics

On “Persuasion” (the newsletter-think tank launched by Yascha Mounk after the Harper Letter) there is an excerpt of Ivan Krastev’s forthcoming book, Is it Tomorrow Yet? Paradoxes of the Pandemic. Krastev struggles with the impact of the pandemic of different political regimes. His starting point is that “more than any other crisis, a public-health emergency can induce people voluntarily to accept restrictions on their liberties in the hope of improving their...

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Illinois Restaurants Collude to Expand Output

Seventy local businesses met Thursday night, agreeing to keep serving customers indoors despite a new state order, a Bradley restaurant owner said. Thomas Spellman, owner of Hoppy Pig, said his restaurant will continue serving patrons inside, defying Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s new order on some regions to cease indoor dining to lessen the spread of the coronavirus. “We have families. I have forty employees, you know, they have families, they have houses and they have kids...

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Look at money!

I ended a recent MoneyIllusion post with this amusing equation, as a sort of throwaway: M*V = C + I + G + (X-M) The comment section convinced me to say a bit more about the equation. How should we think about it? Start with a barter economy and look at the exchange of apples and oranges. If the price of apples in terms of oranges moves over time, how should we think of that change? Obviously it might reflect a shock in the apple industry, the orange industry, or both....

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