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Home / Tag Archives: Cross-country Comparisons

Tag Archives: Cross-country Comparisons

Authoritarianism and lockdowns

On theoretical grounds, an authoritarian government might either under-react or overreact to an epidemic. In practice, I suspect that overreaction is the bigger threat. I would not have held this view before my visit to China last year. Traveling around that huge country I experienced almost mind-bogglingly excessive levels of security. Americans are used to security checks before getting on airplanes, but in China you have such checks even before boarding a subway...

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The wrong debate

Back on April 14 I made this claim: Another common mistake is to conflate “opposition to extreme social distancing” with “libertarianism”. If America today were a 100% free market economy with no regulation, we would still be in a deep depression due to people freely choosing to isolate themselves. Now the Twittersphere is catching up to this reality: I wouldn’t say “we” have wasted a lot of time; I’d say “you guys on twitter” have wasted a lot of time.  Lockdowns...

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There is no magic bullet

People often find it easier to focus on one issue at a time. I’m no different in this regard, which is why I try to force myself to think of problems from a “multivariate” perspective. I would encourage people to be skeptical of reports that “solution X” won’t work. Tyler Cowen linked to a recent example today, which evaluates Paul Romer’s proposal for mass testing. It’s not that these studies are wrong; indeed I believe the skepticism is usually justified. Rather...

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Kealey on the South Korean response to Covid19

Terence Kealey has a very interesting article in The Sunday Telegraph. Terence thinks that “Coronavirus is a study in the East’s superior attitude to science”. What does he mean by that? He points out that “On Jan 27, the authorities in Seoul invited representatives from 20 South Korean biotech companies to develop a Covid-19 test… When the virus struck South Korea, the government’s response was swift because it was easy: it told the biotech companies that any tests...

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Sweden is not the model (Taiwan is)

People who don’t like government-mandated shutdowns often point to Sweden as a model. This is a mistake. Instead of pointing to a nation that has seen rapidly increasing deaths from coronavirus while avoiding lockdowns, we should be looking at a place with very few deaths from coronavirus, which also avoided widespread lockdowns. It’s too soon to know how Sweden will do with its current policy. But given the fact that Sweden (10.1 million people) recorded 170 deaths...

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Leiter-Caplan Capitalism vs. Socialism Debate Video

Here’s full video for the last public debate I’ll be doing for a long while.  See here, here, and here for further discussion. Update: On his blog, Leiter writes: My point–which alas Professor Caplan steadfastly ignored–is that a serious discussion of the merits of capitalism or socialism should not be based on the bad behavior of self-proclaimed capitalists or socialists.  It was striking that Professor Caplan did not have any real reply to my basic point about the...

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Hubris in the West

There’s been a lot of Monday morning quarterbacking on what went wrong, so let me give some kudos to the Economist magazine. I usually read it right away, but I have fallen behind and recently read an old issue from early March. It’s dated March 7, but the article seems to have been penned around March 4: The disease is in 85 countries and territories, up from 50 a week earlier. Over 95,000 cases and 3,200 deaths have been recorded. Yet our analysis, based on patterns...

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The white man’s disease?

With all of the controversy regarding President Trump’s use of the term “China virus” (which he recently discontinued), people have overlooked the extent to which the epidemic has recently gone from being primarily an East Asian problem to a Western problem. You may have seen graphs showing incidence by country, using circles of varying sizes. But those show cumulative totals, not current incidence. The following graph shows active cases: East Asia and South Asia...

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Leaders are followers

It’s human instinct to view leaders as important people. And they certainly are vastly more important than average people. But they are also far less important than many people assume. In past posts I’ve argued that about 3% of outcomes in the US (economics, military, etc.) reflect the president, and about 97% reflect other forces. This means that outcomes are an extremely noisy signal to evaluate presidential performance (although it is still better than nothing for...

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The Leiter-Caplan Socialism Debate

Last night, I debated the University of Chicago’s Brian Leiter on “Capitalism, Social Democracy, and Socialism” at the University of Wisconsin.   Leiter wrote the precise resolution: “Social democracy is preferable to market capitalism, but ultimately America will need to move towards a socialist system.” Here’s my opening statement; I’ve debated Elizabeth Bruenig and John Marsh on this general topic before. All First World countries are already social democracies. ...

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