Some Non-Covid Links

(Don Boudreaux)

George Will writes wisely about technology – and the people who us it. A slice:

Today, the Internet and social media enable instantaneous dissemination of stupidity, thereby creating the sense that there is an increasing quantity of stupidity relative to the population’s size. This might be true, but blame it on animate, hence blameworthy, things — blowhards with big megaphones, incompetent educators, etc. — not technologies. Technologies are giving velocity to stupidity, but are not making people stupid. On Jan. 6, the Capitol was stormed by primitives wielding smartphones that, with social media, facilitated the assembling and exciting of the mob. But mobs predate mankind’s mastery of electricity.

Humanity is perpetually belabored by theories that human agency is, if not a chimera, substantially attenuated by the bombardment of individuals by promptings from culture, government propaganda and other forces supposedly capable of conscripting the public’s consciousnesses. A new version of such theorizing is today’s postulate that digital technologies are uniquely autonomous forces in need of supervision or even rearrangement by government because they rewire the brains of their users.

My intrepid Mercatus Center colleague Veronique de Rugy busts myths about America’s infrastructure (or “crumblinginfrastructure,” which in American English has become a word). A slice:

This is an important reminder that the private sector doesn’t seem to have any problem maintaining its infrastructure assets, as we see in the difference with railroads. Passenger rail is in mostly bad shape when owned publicly, whereas privately owned freight rail is mostly strong in quality. The best way to improve infrastructure isn’t to throw taxpayers’ money at it, but to privatize things such as passenger rail, airports, and air traffic controllers, as many other countries have done already.

The Wall Street Journal‘s Editorial Board rightly decries corporate CEOs’ wokeness. A slice:

Well, here we are back at the same stand, with prominent CEOs and businesses signing up for all the supposed virtue that progressive government has to offer. The lectures on voting access have received the most attention, though it’s notable how fact-free most of these endorsements are. They float above the messy but crucial details of electoral politics because they are essentially declarations of solidarity. They want to be on the side of the right (er, left) thinking, or at least of their woke 20-something employees and consumers.

You don’t have to wander too far into policy, however, to see what’s really going on: Old-fashioned self-interest. CEOs know Democrats are in power, so they want to make sure they stay on the good side of the government that can hurt them. If this means throwing over principles to mark out some political safe space for their business, so be it.

James Pethokoukis understandably bemoans the GOP’s willingness to let populism distort its economics. A slice:

Rising GOP political star J. D. Vance, author of the best-seller Hillbilly Elegy, took to Twitter earlier this week to attack the more-than-100 CEOs who took part in a weekend conference to discuss state voting laws: “Raise their taxes and do whatever else is necessary to fight these goons. We can have an American Republic or a global oligarchy, and it’s time for choosing. … No more subsidies to the anti-American business class.”

Of course, lots of American workers get a paycheck from what Vance calls a “global oligarchy.” And those Trump corporate tax cuts would have raised worker wages had they not been undercut by Trump’s trade wars, previously popular with right-wing populists. Likewise, most economists agree that workers bear at least some of the corporate tax burden, maybe even much of it. Raising taxes on companies also raises taxes on workers.

As it turns out, lots of things that populist culture warriors promote are bad for workers, such as immigration restrictions that make America less innovative and trade wars that make goods more expensive.

How did Dartmouth economist Meir Kohn become a libertarian? (HT Arnold Kling) A slice from Kohn’s essay:

Progressivism rests on two critical assumptions. The first is that we know how to improve society: “social science” provides us with a reliable basis for the necessary social engineering. The second critical assumption is that government is a suitable instrument for improving society. My second and third lessons taught me that these two critical assumptions were unfounded and unrealistic.

And here’s a slice from the Arnold Kling post that alerted me to Kohn’s essay:

Every other ideological viewpoint, from “state capacity libertarianism” to “national conservatism” to progressivism to socialism, presumes that government will do other jobs well. For me, those ideological viewpoints have a burden of proof to show that they are not delusional.

GMU Econ alum Dave Hebert writes knowledgeably about economists’ assumptions about knowledge.

Pres. Joe Trump.

Or, Pres. Donald Biden.

David Henderson likes my colleague Larry White’s book The Theory of Monetary Institutions.

Scott Lincicome writes about the moronic, and dangerous, senator from Missouri, Josh Hawley.

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