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EconLog Library

Fear Me Not! I Got My COVID Vaccine.

I’m now fully vaccinated.  How should I change my behavior?  How should anyone? One popular answer is: Not at all.  Why not?  The top reason I’ve heard is: Because even those of us who have been vaccinated can’t be absolutely sure we won’t be infected – or spread infection to others.  Some use the same reasoning to argue that people who have recovered from COVID shouldn’t change their behavior either.  As immunologist Alexander Sette puts it: Not taking any...

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Privileges and Privacy for the Rulers

Recent journalistic investigations revealed that the family and friends of New York governor Andrew Cuomo benefited from nomenklatura privileges at the time when ordinary people had problems getting Covid-19 tests and timely results. These state-privileged people could be tested rapidly, often at home and many times if they wished. Their tests were often rushed to laboratories by state troopers and treated in priority. Liz Wolfe of Reason Magazine writes: There was...

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Charles Ball’s Humanity

I participated in a Liberty Fund colloquium on Zoom Friday and Saturday on the topic “Slavery and the New History of Capitalism.” It went very well. One of the most interesting readings was by Charles Ball, an escaped slave. Ball’s book, published in 1837, was titled Slavery in the United States: A Narrative of the Life and Adventures of Charles Ball. In it, he describes his experience as a young man who was moved from Maryland’s Eastern Shore in 1805 to the cotton...

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Cancel culture? Internet culture? Human culture?

Not all innovation makes things better. I doubt that WWI would have been as bad if not for the invention of guns. If soldiers had still used swords in 1914, it seems unlikely that trench warfare would have dragged on for 4 years, with nearly 10 million deaths. At the same time, war has been around for thousands of years, and the percentage of humans dying in war seems to be trending downward over the very long run.  So technology is not the primary problem. This story...

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Whose Body Is It Anyway?

When I taught benefit‐​cost analysis at the Naval Postgraduate School, one of the first principles I explained was that, to do a good analysis, you need to consider the costs and benefits to the various people affected rather than taking as gospel the desires of policymakers. We studied both good and bad examples of benefit‐​cost analyses. In the bad ones, a common error was to leave out the gains to consumers when they consumed items that policymakers did not want...

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Comparing Apples to Oranges: America versus Europe in the Response to COVID

I have listened to pundits and medical experts on networks from PBS to DW speak at length on the failures of America to adequately deal with the pandemic in comparison with European countries. Most recently, one of these sources cited Americas high fatality numbers as compared to other western European countries and specifically criticized the American system of states and federalism as presenting an unworkable patchwork of policies. One cited the per capita death...

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When to blame?

This comment by Arthur Schopenhauer raises some interesting questions: If a person is stupid, we excuse him by saying that he cannot help it; but if we attempted to excuse in precisely the same way the person who is bad, we should be laughed at.  And yet the one quality, like the other, is inborn.   This proves that the will is the man proper, the intellect the mere tool. While one can question any of these three claims, there is a real issue here that cannot be...

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The Solution to Expensive Housing Is More Housing

Finally, a book by a New York Times reporter who understands the crucial link between restrictions on the supply of housing and the price of housing! Golden Gates, by economics reporter Conor Dougherty, is a tour de force. It’s a rare book that mixes careful, nuanced reporting, painless economics lessons, interesting history of California, and pitch‐​perfect humor, but Dougherty has written one. Dougherty, who was a housing reporter for the Wall Street Journal for...

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Boris Johnson’s two cheers for capitalism

Boris Johnson saluted fast development of COVID vaccines as a triumph of capitalism, even though he associated, somehow infelicitously, capitalism with greed (on the point, read Eamonn Butler). It is a bit bizarre that Johnson on the one hand sees R&D as a success of the market system, but at the same time wants to put more government money in it- committing £800 million to a new agency called ARIA (the Advanced Research and Invention Agency.) Johnson is never...

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Moral Relativism and Moral Fanaticism

In high school, Ayn Rand’s writings convinced me that moral relativism was a grave social problem.  Not in the weak sense that, “If everyone were moral relativists, there would be bad consequences,” but in the strong sense that, “Moral relativism has terrible consequences already.”  Soon afterwards, I read Paul Johnson’s Modern Times, and he reinforced my Randian belief.  In Johnson’s words: At the beginning of the 1920s the belief began to circulate, for the first...

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