MCViewPoint

Opinion from a Libertarian ViewPoint

Posts Tagged ‘Central Planning’

Lockdowns Destroy What Makes Us Human

Posted by M. C. on November 27, 2020

There is no denying that during a pandemic there will be a need to alter one’s behavior, but just as no state bureaucrat can successfully plan the economy, no public health official is capable of centrally planning a response for hundreds of millions of people who are all in different conditions of life, with different material and spiritual needs.

Central health planning. That should be a scary thought.

https://mises.org/wire/lockdowns-destroy-what-makes-us-human?utm_source=Mises+Institute+Subscriptions&utm_campaign=10466a8663-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_9_21_2018_9_59_COPY_01&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_8b52b2e1c0-10466a8663-228343965

Zachary Yost

While GMU economist Tyler Cowen may have dismissed the idea of more pandemic lockdowns as being “a straw man” and saying that the extreme measures that started in March of this year “are now behind us,” it seems that governors and other politicians around the country have failed to get the message. More and more states have begun to once again impose ruinous lockdowns. The media and Twitter are filled with self-righteous scolds shrieking about the impending doom of families gathering together for Thanksgiving. CNN host Jake Tapper suggested that “Christmas is probably not gonna be possible.” 

If such people had their way, everyone would remain under veritable house arrest and not see anyone else for months or even years, as the duration of such onerous impositions has gone from “fifteen days to slow the spread” to months or even years into the future. That such ideas are even being considered demonstrates just how out of touch with human reality much of our “expert” class and their hordes of lemming-like followers are.

Things have not changed much from when I addressed some of the disastrous unintended material consequences of lockdowns in April of this year. However, as 2020 has dragged on, it has made clear that at least some of the lockdown logic is rooted in a fundamentally flawed and relatively recent conception of human nature.

Nearly every culture and religion throughout human history has held that humans are both material and spiritual beings. However, living in the secular age as we do, the material aspect of our existence has supplanted the spiritual to such an extent that it is barely recognized to exist.

Russell Kirk goes so far as to claim that the dividing line in contemporary politics hinges on this difference in understanding, stating that “on one side of that line are all those men and women who fancy that the temporal order is the only order, and that material needs are their only needs, and that they may do as they like with the human patrimony. On the other side of that line are all those people who recognize an enduring moral order in the universe, a constant human nature, and high duties toward the order spiritual and the order temporal.”

A purely material outlook on human existence will of course lead to certain policy prescriptions, especially in the face of a pandemic. To deny the spiritual existence of man is to deny the possibility of life after death—only the void of annihilation awaits. From this perspective, it makes sense that one might conclude that earthly life must continue on at any cost—that no tradeoff is too high to put off the coming oblivion.

In contrast, those who retain a more traditional conception of human nature, no matter the specific religion or creed to which they belong, can easily see an entire world of costs to lockdowns that those with a purely materialist perspective are not even capable of understanding.

Humans are social beings. Our very existence and development as human persons rests upon this social nature. Social contract thinkers like Hobbes, Locke, and Rousseau may fantasize about a solitary human existence, but all evidence from feral or isolated children indicates that without other humans a solitary individual would swiftly perish, not to mention fail to develop self-awareness or the ability to think and speak with language.

Some personalist scholars, such as political theorist David Walsh, argue that our entire conception of self can only be formed in relation to other persons. In contrast to Descartes’s famous line that “I think, therefore I am” a personalist would argue that we are not even capable of understanding the existence of “I” until we have first understood the existence of an “I” in others. Much like we can never truly see our own face, but only the faces of others, which in turn allows us to understand our own unseen face, we cannot become aware of ourselves until we find ourselves in the context of others, and through them recognize the mutual nature of our interior lives that makes us persons.

Many religions, in some form or another, speak of the interconnectedness of the world and of people and of the illusion of separation. While most often associated with Eastern religions such as Buddhism, this spiritual unity is not foreign to Christianity and the West. Indeed, the Christian Trinity is understood to be one God in three persons. Jesus Christ references this unity in the seventeenth chapter of the Gospel of John when he prays “that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you…that they may be one as we are one—I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity.”

Leaving the specific religious implications aside, humans have recognized for millennia that when persons gather together we enter into one another on a spiritual level through the recognition of our mutual personhood. However, this spiritual unity that is so essential to our very existence as human persons does not occur in a vacuum, but rather in the context in which we gather in the material world.

Humans could acquire all the nutrients we need by imbibing Soylent Green in solitude, but instead, we often turn our meals into ritualistic social occasions. Shared meals not only provide material nourishment but spiritual sustenance as well. Dancing alone in your kitchen is all well and good, but it pales in comparison to experiencing a crowd of thousands moshing at an electronic dance music festival or the pounding feet of a Sufi sect dancing the dhikr. We are fortunate to be able to access great art at the click of a mouse, but watching Swan Lake home alone on YouTube is no substitute for the experience of seeing it live in a crowded hall as every person is moved to tears.

There are few events more brimming with the spiritual unity of the attendees than a wedding, a celebration of the literal unity of two persons as one in the presence of their friends and loved ones with feasting, singing, and dancing.

Yet how many weddings have been canceled or celebrated in private this year thanks to lockdowns? How many shared meals have not been eaten? Dances left undanced, songs left unsung, conversations not had? How many parents and grandparents in nursing homes did not get to see their loved ones before they departed this earth? How many children have suffered in front of a screen alone all day? These are not mere frivolous luxuries that we humans can do without. The dual material and spiritual contexts of our personhood cannot be separated. These contexts of our families and communities are not nice additions to life, they are human life itself.

There is no denying that during a pandemic there will be a need to alter one’s behavior, but just as no state bureaucrat can successfully plan the economy, no public health official is capable of centrally planning a response for hundreds of millions of people who are all in different conditions of life, with different material and spiritual needs.

Every person must decide for himself what the proper course of action is in light of his unique life circumstances. Ripping these decisions from every person and placing them in the hands of public health bureaucrats has yielded disaster.

Suicide rates are up all around the country, in some places as much as 70 percent compared to the same time last year. Military suicides are up 20 percent. Drug overdose deaths are on track to reach an all-time high. The RAND Corporation has found an upswing in heavy drinking this year. The Associated Pressreports on the horrific conditions in nursing homes around the country that may have led to the deaths of tens of thousands of residents in excruciating and horrific circumstances, as their families have been forbidden from caring for them. What’s more, it seems many patients simply withered away, their spirits broken from being locked in veritable solitary confinement with no contact with friends or family for months.

Medical central planning that doesn’t even recognize the spiritual and social aspect of human existence has caused the deaths of untold numbers of people around the country, perhaps more than the virus itself in the long run.

Our vaunted leaders may act like pure materialists when it comes to their dictatorial decrees obliterating society and our very humanity, but on some level they obviously understand the importance of their own spiritual health. Why else would the leaders of California be breaking their own rules to dine at luxurious restaurants or flying to Hawaii for meetings and not be content with takeout and Zoom like the rest of us peasants? But what else can be expected from a system of top-down control?

Humans are both material and spiritual beings. Just as we have material needs that central planners cannot anticipate, so too do we have spiritual needs that can only be filled in a myriad of ways that central planners cannot plan for, especially when they don’t even recognize they are needs at all. When they are not fulfilled, our physical health suffers just as assuredly as if we had a virus. The social and communal aspects of human life, whether a holiday dinner with family, going to church, having a wedding, or even the mundane relations of everyday life are not mere luxuries that can be dispensed with, they are human life itself. People must be free to navigate these difficult times armed with the knowledge of their circumstances that only they possess. Author:

Zachary Yost

Zachary Yost is a Mises U alum and freelance writer.

Be seeing you

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

Erie Times E-Edition Article-Innovation’s secret sauce is freedom

Posted by M. C. on October 10, 2020

The vast and lingering damage done by the global lockdown will include governments’ opportunistic expansions of their controls of almost everything, and an increased tendency of people to look to government for shelter from all uncertainties. But one enormous benefit may result: There is an unflattering contrast between the tardy, lumbering, often blunderbuss response of many governments to the coronavirus and the nimble adjustments of individuals in their behavior and of commercial entities in their arrangements. So, perhaps there will be a healthier appreciation of the creativity of a free society’s unplannable spontaneous order.

Elegant way of saying stating the evermore obvious: central planning never works.

https://erietimes-pa-app.newsmemory.com/?publink=075c5fb4b

“The most exciting phrase to hear in science, the one that heralds new discoveries, is not ‘Eureka!’ (I found it!) but ‘That’s funny…’”

— Isaac Asimov

Matt Ridley, the British writer, calls himself a “rational optimist,” which today probably strikes many people — their health and finances threatened, their equanimity destroyed by the horrors of close confinement with family members — as an irrational coupling of adjective and noun. Nowadays, cheerfulness can be irritating.

Ridley, however, is right.

For many millennia, artificial light was a luxury: In 1880, a minute of the average worker’s toil earned enough to purchase four minutes of light from a kerosene lamp. Then came innovation: the incandescent bulb, and successors.

Today, a minute of work purchases 7,200 minutes (120 hours) of light.

In 1922, a government commission concluded that “already the output of [natural] gas has begun to wane.” In 1956, an expert predicted that U.S. gas production would peak in 1970. Until around 2008, the consensus was that cheap natural gas would soon be exhausted. Then came innovation: hydraulic fracking. Today, cheap gas has supplanted coal in electricity production. One reason is property rights — the mineral rights of local landowners. Ridley quotes an innovator: “Shale production was hotly pursued by many small companies resulting in a multitude of varied drilling and completion methods being implemented and tested across multiple basins.”

When, in August 1928, Alexander Fleming took a vacation from his London laboratory, a cold spell stimulated the growth of the fungus Penicillium, a spore of which, blown through an open window into the lab, landed in a petri dish containing a bacterial culture. Then a hot spell stimulated the growth of this culture — but not around the Penicillium, which killed proximate bacteria. When Fleming returned on Sept. 3, a friend watched him examine this result and heard him say: “That’s funny.” After various innovations, penicillin would radically reduce World War II deaths from wounds, thanks to a 1928 gust of wind.

An epidemic — polio — was worsening in the 1950s, from 10,000 cases in 1940 to 58,000 in 1952, when a Pittsburgh researcher, Jonas Salk, innovated a technique for growing polio virus in minced monkey kidneys. One thing led to another, and to a vaccine, and the almost complete eradication of polio.

These mind-opening vignettes are from Ridley’s “How Innovation Works: And Why It Flourishes in Freedom.”

There are others: Pre-coronavirus pandemic, more than 10 times as many people were flying as in 1970, when the number of air fatalities was more than 10 times higher than today. This safety improvement, Ridley writes, “has happened in an era of deregulation and falling prices. Far from leading to cut corners and risk taking, the great democratization of the airline industry over the past half-century, with its fast turnarounds, no-frills service and cheap tickets, has coincided with a safety revolution.”

Increased competition also increased innovation.

In the half-century between 1960 and 2010, the acreage needed to produce a given quantity of food declined about 65% because of agricultural innovations. If this had not happened, most acres of forest, wetland and nature reserve would be turned to agriculture. Instead, most are increasing. Innovation has driven “dematerializing,” doing more with fewer resources: “By 2015 America was using 15% less steel, 32% less aluminum and 40% less copper than at its peaks of using these metals, even though its population was larger and its output of goods and services much larger.”

There are more bank tellers — and they are doing more interesting things than counting out money — than before ATMs arrived.

It is serendipitous that the new book by Ridley, who has a keen sense of serendipity’s role in scientific and (hence) societal advances, arrives during the pandemic. “The main ingredient in the secret sauce that leads to innovation,” he writes, “is freedom. Freedom to exchange, experiment, imagine, invest, and fail.”

The vast and lingering damage done by the global lockdown will include governments’ opportunistic expansions of their controls of almost everything, and an increased tendency of people to look to government for shelter from all uncertainties. But one enormous benefit may result: There is an unflattering contrast between the tardy, lumbering, often blunderbuss response of many governments to the coronavirus and the nimble adjustments of individuals in their behavior and of commercial entities in their arrangements. So, perhaps there will be a healthier appreciation of the creativity of a free society’s unplannable spontaneous order.

George Will is a Washington Post columnist.

His email address is georgewill@washpost.com.

George Will

Be seeing you

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

Calls for Central Planning in the COVID-19 Panic Are like the Calls for the “War Socialism” of Old | Mises Wire

Posted by M. C. on April 14, 2020

The opposite is true. It is the private economy that wins wars. The private economy is yielding more goods and services to alleviate the corona epidemic. The efficiency of private companies these days is amazing. Uncounted solutions are coming from the private sector, which is switching to the production of masks, medical suits, drugs, ventilators or coming up with safe new ways of delivering goods and services to consumers.

https://mises.org/wire/calls-central-planning-covid-19-panic-are-calls-war-socialism-old?utm_source=Mises+Institute+Subscriptions&utm_campaign=acaee256f8-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_9_21_2018_9_59_COPY_01&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_8b52b2e1c0-acaee256f8-228343965

In dark hours, when people fear for their lives, they eagerly deliver their freedom to the state. Many want the government take control of their lives, because they think it will be better for them. Ludwig von Mises has written extensively about the erroneous belief that in an emergency the state must take control of the economy because the market economy supposedly fails. Specifically, Mises dealt with this subject in his writings on war socialism.

In Human Action, he writes about the reasoning in favor of state planning:

The market economy, say the socialists and the interventionists, is at best a system that may be tolerated in peacetime. But when war comes, such indulgence is impermissible. It would jeopardize the vital interests of the nation for the sole benefit of the selfish concerns of capitalists and entrepreneurs. War, and in any case modern total war, peremptorily requires government control of business.” (1998, p. 821).

In Nation, State, and Economy Mises similarly remarks:

So-called war socialism has been regarded as sufficiently argued for and justified with reference mostly to the emergency created by war. In war, the inadequate free economy supposedly cannot be allowed to exist any longer; into its place must step something more perfect, the administered economy. (2006, p. 117).

The similarity between the reasoning in favor of war socialism and the arguments that have been brought forward during the corona emergency is striking. Today war rhetoric abounds. Emanuel Macron explicitly stated, “We’re at war,” and sent, as in Spain, the military to the streets. US president Donald Trump similarly speaks of “Our Big War” and invokes the wartime authority of the Defense Production Act. We hear the slogan “We are in this together” all the time.

Mises discusses German war socialism during the First World War in detail. He points out that Emperor Wilhelm II basically lost all powers to the General Staff. General Ludendorff “became virtually omnipotent dictator,” he explains in Omnipotent Government (1985, p. 42), and subordinated everything to the war effort.

Winning the war was thought to be the outstanding goal, which could only be achieved by centralizing all powers. These powers were given to the military. After all, they were the experts in military matters.

Today, we face a similar tyranny of experts, to borrow a term from William Easterly. In the medical emergency, enormous power lies in the hands of doctors such as Anthony Fauci in the US or Christian Drosten in Germany. These experts advise governments what to do—for instance, which size of gatherings shall be prohibited (events of 1000, 100, or 3 persons), if and for how long economies shall be locked down, and if the wearing of masks shall become mandatory. And politicians follow the advice of the doctors. After all, they are the experts.

The similarities to war socialism do not end there. Indeed, to different degrees we are experiencing war socialism, because the war against the virus involves a massive central invasion of private property. Almost all economic activity has become subordinated to the war effort. In many countries businesses not considered essential to the war effort are forced to close down, such as retail stores, gastronomy businesses, or hotels. Others are forced indirectly to close, as their customers are confined.

In a sense, the whole population has been conscripted in the fight against the virus. Some people are allowed to continue producing, because it is considered worthwhile. Other people have been conscripted and ordered to fight the war on the home front. They are not allowed to leave their homes, as the experts consider this the best way to fight the virus and win the war. Even children are forced to contribute to the war effort by staying home. The central planners also decide when it is worthwhile to leave the home trenches, i.e., to walk the dog or buy groceries.

As in other wars, borders are temporarily closed and the international division of labor is severely hampered. War is financed in three main ways (Mises 2006, pp. 136–42).

First, goods and services are confiscated. In the corona war, medical material is being seized. Companies are closed and individuals confined. They shift their “production” toward the war effort. They produce “social distancing,” which is considered the main “good” necessary to win the war against the virus. Second, taxes are increased. Indeed, war profit taxes are especially popular. We are already hearing the first proposals in that direction. Third, the printing press accelerates, which we are experiencing as well.

In sum, the government interventions in the corona epidemic can be considered as a form of war socialism.

The next question is: is war socialism true socialism?

According to Mises, true socialism exists when there is a “transfer of the means of production out of private ownership of individuals into the ownership of society. That alone and nothing else is socialism. (Mises, 2006, p. 142).

Mises declares: “the measures of war socialism amounted to putting the economy on a socialistic basis. The right of ownership remained formally unimpaired. By the letter of the law the owner still continued to be the owner of the means of production. Yet, the power of disposal over the enterprise was taken away from him” (2006, p. 143).

In socialism, the central authority decides what is produced. In corona socialism, the government indirectly does that also: it decides which businesses are allowed to open and which are not. Thus, it decides what can be produced (masks, ventilators) and what will not be produced (tourism or sporting events).

Mises clarifies: “War socialism was by no means complete socialism, but it was full and true socialization without exception if one had kept on the path that had been taken” (Mises 2006, p. 144). Of course, corona socialism, as an instance of war socialism, is considered to be temporary, as “exceptional provisions for the duration of the war” (Mises 2006, p. 146).

But does war socialism achieve its aim? The defenders of the centralized effort claim that “the organized economy is capable of yielding higher outputs than the free economy” (Mises 2006, p. 117).

The opposite is true. It is the private economy that wins wars. The private economy is yielding more goods and services to alleviate the corona epidemic. The efficiency of private companies these days is amazing. Uncounted solutions are coming from the private sector, which is switching to the production of masks, medical suits, drugs, ventilators or coming up with safe new ways of delivering goods and services to consumers.

Private companies swiftly shift their production efforts due to anticipated profits. In a market economy, it is profits that direct production, quickly taking all human needs into account. In contrast, the medical production czars tend to have only one end or human need in mind. They want to slow down infection rates at all costs. They disregard other human ends, such as creating successful businesses and enjoying a vast array of goods and services such as vacationing or other leisure activities. When these ends cannot be reached, there may be other health problems, such as heart diseases or psychic issues. The forced lockdown brings economic misery. A general fall in living standards ensues with all its consequences.

The central medical planning focuses only on measurable variables such the infection rate. By not taking into account other ends (and not being able to do so), this planning exerts enormous harm from the point of view of voluntarily interacting individuals. In contrast to the central planning approach, which focuses on one end, all ends in human society are taken into account in the market economy through (expected) profits. Production is adjusted swiftly and efficiently toward the changing ends of consumers.

It is entrepreneurial profit seeking that unleashes human creativity and genius and thereby satisfies human needs as efficiently as humanly possible. The right answer to a war, and to the corona war as well, is therefore to eliminate all barriers to entrepreneurship:

For anyone of the opinion that the free economy is the superior form of economic activity, precisely the need created by the war had to be a new reason demanding that all obstacles standing in the way of free competition be set aside. (Mises 2006, p. 117)

In other words, in order to win the corona war, government should cut taxes and regulations vigorously. Unfortunately, governments around the world have opted for the opposite path, namely war socialism. If they do not quickly rectify their responses and end their war, the socialization of our economies will continue. Mises warns: “in the long run war and the preservation of the market economy are incompatible” (1998, p. 824).

Be seeing you

 

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Why Central Planning by Medical Experts Will Lead to Disaster | Mises Wire

Posted by M. C. on April 12, 2020

More important, however, may be that in making recommendations to address COVID-19, those with detailed knowledge of the disease (the experts we have been told to obey) do not have sufficient knowledge of the consequences of their “solutions” for the economy and society to know what the costs will be. That means that they don’t know enough to accurately compare the benefits to the costs.

One major problem with such attacks is the substantial literature documenting the adverse health effects of worsening economic conditions. For just one example, an analysis of the 2008 economic meltdown in The Lancet estimated that it “was associated with over 260,000 excess cancer deaths in the OECD alone, between 2008–2010.” That is a massive “detail” to ignore in forming policy.

https://mises.org/wire/why-central-planning-medical-experts-will-lead-disaster?utm_source=Mises+Institute+Subscriptions&utm_campaign=439656abdd-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_9_21_2018_9_59_COPY_01&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_8b52b2e1c0-439656abdd-228343965

A great deal of the coverage of the COVID-19 crisis has been apocalyptic. That is partly because “if it bleeds, it leads.” But it is also because some of the medical experts with media megaphones have put forward potentially catastrophic scenarios and drastic plans to deal with them, reinforced by assertions that the rest of us should “listen to the experts,” because only they know enough to determine policy. Unfortunately, those experts don’t know enough to determine appropriate policies.

Doctors, infectious disease specialists, epidemiologists, etc. know more things about diseases, their courses, what increases or decreases their rate of spread, and so on than most. But the most crucial of that information has been browbeaten into the rest of us by now. Limited and imperfect testing also means that the available statistics may be very misleading (e.g., is an uptick in reported cases real or the result of an increasing rate of, or more accuracy in, testing, which is crucial to determining the likely future course COVID-19?). Further, to the extent that the virus’s characteristics are unique, no one knows exactly what will happen. All of that makes “shut up and listen” advice less compelling.

More important, however, may be that in making recommendations to address COVID-19, those with detailed knowledge of the disease (the experts we have been told to obey) do not have sufficient knowledge of the consequences of their “solutions” for the economy and society to know what the costs will be. That means that they don’t know enough to accurately compare the benefits to the costs. In particular, because of their relative unawareness of the many margins at which effects will be felt, the medical experts we are being told to follow will likely underestimate those costs. When combined with their natural desire to solve the medical problem, however severe it might get, this can lead to overly draconian proposals.

This issue has been brought to the fore by the increasing number of people who have begun questioning the likelihood of the apocalyptic scenarios driving the “OMG! We need to do everything that might help” tweetstorms, on the one hand, and those who are emphasizing that “shutting down the economy” is far more costly than planners recognized, on the other.

Those who have brought up such issues (how long before they are called “COVID deniers”?) have been pilloried for it. Exhibit A is the vilification of President Trump for “ignoring the scientists,” such as the New York Times‘s claim that “Trump thinks he knows better than the doctors” after he tweeted that “We cannot let the cure be worse than the problem itself.”

One major problem with such attacks is the substantial literature documenting the adverse health effects of worsening economic conditions. For just one example, an analysis of the 2008 economic meltdown in The Lancet estimated that it “was associated with over 260,000 excess cancer deaths in the OECD alone, between 2008–2010.” That is a massive “detail” to ignore in forming policy.

In other words, the tradeoff is not just a matter of lives lost versus money, as it is often portrayed as being (e.g., New York governor Cuomo’s assertion that “we’re not going to put a dollar figure on human life”). It is a tradeoff between lives lost due to COVID and lives that will be lost due to the policies adopted to reduce COVID deaths.

Larry O’Connor put this well at Townhall when he wrote:

Why should the scientific analysis of doctors solely focusing on the spread of the coronavirus carry more weight than the very real scientific analysis of the deadly health ramifications of shutting down our economy? Doesn’t the totality of the data make the argument for a balanced approach to this crisis?

This issue reminds me of a classic discussion of specialists and planning in chapter 4 of F.A. Hayek’s The Road to Serfdom. “The Inevitability of Planning” is well worth noting today:

Almost every one of the technical ideals of our experts could be realized…if to achieve them were made the sole aim of humanity.

We all find it difficult to bear to see things left undone which everybody must admit are both desirable and possible. That these things cannot all be done at the same time, that any one of them can be achieved only at the sacrifice of others, can be seen only by taking into account factors which fall outside any specialism…[which] forces us to see against a wider background the objects to which most of our labors are directed.

Every one of the many things which, considered in isolation, it would be possible to achieve…creates enthusiasts for planning who feel confident…[of] the value of the particular objective…But it is…foolish to quote such instances of technical excellence in particular fields as evidence of the general superiority of planning.

The hopes they place in planning…are the result not of a comprehensive view of society but rather of a very limited view and often the result of a great exaggeration of the importance of the ends they place foremost…it would make the very men who are most anxious to plan society the most dangerous if they were allowed to do so—and the most intolerant of the planning of others…there could hardly be a more unbearable—and much more irrational—world than one in which the most eminent specialists in each field were allowed to proceed unchecked with the realization of their ideals.

Panic has seldom improved the rationality of decision-making (beyond the “fight or flight” reaction to facing a “man-eater,” when to stop and think means certain death). However, much of media coverage has fed panic. But the illogical and intemperate media attacks against those questioning the rationality of draconian “solutions” drown out, rather than enable, objective discussion of real tradeoffs. And if “Democracy dies in darkness,” as the Washington Post proclaims, we should remember that it does not require total darkness. The same conclusion follows when people are kept in the dark about major aspects of the reality they face.

 

Be seeing you

 

 

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

COVID-19: The “Experts” Have No Crystal Ball | Mises Wire

Posted by M. C. on March 27, 2020

To believe in the utility of central planning you must be able to fall for the idea that someone somewhere has a crystal ball. Individual freedom is not only moral, it provides utility and risk mitigation in moments of crisis, precisely like the one we now face.

American federalism provides for fifty experiments. Individual freedom in America provides for 330 million experiments. Some win, some lose. That’s life. Authoritarianism that drags everyone down a common path merely ensures that all will eventually lose.

https://mises.org/wire/covid-19-experts-have-no-crystal-ball?utm_source=Mises+Institute+Subscriptions&utm_campaign=9b99efe5d7-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_9_21_2018_9_59_COPY_01&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_8b52b2e1c0-9b99efe5d7-228343965

On the night of Tuesday, November 8, 2016, and in the wee hours of Wednesday, November 9, 2016, Donald Trump became US president-elect. I am not aware of a single media source that predicted that. Many predicted Hillary Clinton would win. Some stayed out of the fortune-telling game.

The most striking thing was the lack of admission running up to election night that the experts were all making guesses. “Of course they were making guesses, no one has a crystal ball,” the rational observer might say, but petabytes have been dedicated to making the social sciences and all of their guesswork appear like, well, “science.” That means that it’s all very measurable and clear, when it actually isn’t.

Science, on the other hand, is science. Observable details can be used to solidify hypotheses into theory. Sometimes facts are even arrived at, though theory is usually the best a scientist can hope for.

And then there is the murky area between the two, where scientists use models to predict the future.

This starts to look a lot like when psephologist (election scientist), sabermetrician, and prognosticator Nate Silver in the weeks and months before the 2016 election replaced the term “algorithm” with the suggestion of fact, or referenced a peer-reviewed, proprietary model that one is supposed to believe tells the future. There is no question that the vast portion of social scientists who make predictions want their model to be seen as a crystal ball. “Algorithm” is a fancy word for “guess.” “Model” is a fancy word for “guess.”

The work is built on presumptions that are not philosophically or logically solid, but then a lot of math is used to cover up the illogical and unsteady foundations.

Hundreds of academic authors that I encounter over the course of a year cannot have a logically sound conversation or write logically sound arguments. They fail at the foundation of their arguments, yet proceed to built atop that unsteady foundation, knowing that few will notice. This is intellectual dishonesty, also known as lying. So rooted they are in the social scientist’s belief that their field is a science and that modeling can plausibly predict the future that some may not even be aware of the fundamental shortcomings of such a professional outlook. Yes, perhaps they themselves do not even notice the lie that they profess.

There are economists that put lots of math on top of bad presumptions. Metrics can be incredibly valuable in understanding a discipline or theory. When the logical foundation is faulty, though, the metrics may simply be window-dressing that adds legitimacy where none belongs. Complicated terminology can have the same purpose. Laymen have long understood that con-artist politicians, con-artist salesmen, and con-artist academics alike have opaque jargon, the use of which seems to demonstrate an unwillingness to be understood.

Warwick McKibbin and Roshen Fernando of Australian National University, the authors of a paper about the tens of millions who will die from coronavirus that has been widely cited in the media (“The Global Macroeconomic Impacts of COVID-19: Seven Scenarios“) show off their crystal ball.

To their credit, the corona prognosticators did a good job of stating pretty clearly: “We don’t really know what we are talking about; we are really just guessing” (actual quote: “These results are very sensitive to the assumptions in the model, to the shocks we feed in and to the assumed macroeconomic policy responses in each countries [sic]”), and “Our scary death counts are not reliable and are not even the focus of our work or this paper, we are doing this to provide some sort of economic estimate for people to start working with” (actual quote: “The goal is not to be definitive about the virus outbreak but to provide important information about a range of possible economic costs of the disease. At the time of writing this paper, the probability of any of these scenarios and the range of plausible alternatives are highly uncertain. In the case where COVID-19 develops into a global pandemic, our results suggest that the cost can escalate quickly”).

They also openly admit, “Our intent is to profess political support for global bureaucratic structures in health and medicine and to call for shifts toward better funded and socialized medical systems” (Actual quote: “Many governments have been reluctant to invest sufficiently in their health care systems, let alone public health systems in less developed countries….This study indicates the possible costs that can be avoided through global cooperative investment in public health in all countries”).

The most important takeaway from the paper is not a prognostication, but an observation from the past, the notion that social contagion is the great ill that results from an outbreak, not the contagion itself: “From studying many outbreaks, the real risk is not the disease but public and governmental reaction to the fear of the disease,” (Actual quote: “The fear of an unknown deadly virus is similar in its psychological effects to the reaction to biological and other terrorism threats and causes a high level of stress, often with longer-term consequences (Hyams et al., 2002). A large number of people would feel at risk at the onset of a pandemic, even if their actual risk of dying from the disease is low.”)

If you read the 44-page paper, uncertainty around the data and biases are disclosed by the authors.

But the media took it and ran with it for a salacious headline. The Chicken Littles of the world ran with it. The politicians, emergency services, military, and public health bureaucrats, seeking greater control for themselves, ran with it.

This is all predictable. What is far from predictable is whether you or I will believe any of this salacious nonsense. We don’t need to fall for it. We can look at the prognostication of 15 million deaths by corona, along with anyone who cites it as if it were fact, and challenge them quietly or openly as a heretofore discredited and unreliable person using an unreliable source in a moment where reliable journalism and sources are so badly needed.

Generations, centuries, millennia of humans around the globe have known what November 2016 reminded an entire country of: no one has a crystal ball.

Let us not forget this valuable lesson so quickly.

Will you be a willing megaphone to Chicken Little? Will you laugh at the nonsense, or will you be among those who chase Chicken Little into the henhouse where he belongs?

Whatever you choose, any person lying to you—economist, social scientist, prognosticator—deserves the same skeptical treatment across disciplines, because charlatans find their way into every discipline.

No matter how much modeling they do, the underlying truth is that no one has a crystal ball. Everyone is guessing. The experts didn’t know in 2016 how the election would shape up. The experts don’t know now how corona will shape up. Don’t sacrifice basic liberties to an expert claiming to have a crystal ball. Don’t sacrifice your basic sense of self to an expert claiming to have a crystal ball. Don’t offer the power of your fear, the power of your belief, and certainly not the power of your trust to an expert claiming to have a crystal ball.

Skepticism is the proper tool to use with any holder of any crystal ball. That is true, regardless of the complexity of the algorithm that they claim shows irrefutable proof of what the future will bring one day from now, one year from now, or one century from now.

The future is unknown to us and investing all of a society’s options in one path is detrimental to a successful outcome. One way that free societies have long prospered is by allowing individuals to produce many varying paths, some of which work, some of which fail. That is the risk mitigation method of freedom and individual choice. A single, unified path that no one may oppose removes a great deal of risk mitigation and forces many to make a single bet on a single path. That is a truly foolish idea given the fact that no one has a crystal ball.

To believe in the utility of central planning you must be able to fall for the idea that someone somewhere has a crystal ball. Individual freedom is not only moral, it provides utility and risk mitigation in moments of crisis, precisely like the one we now face.

American federalism provides for fifty experiments. Individual freedom in America provides for 330 million experiments. Some win, some lose. That’s life. Authoritarianism that drags everyone down a common path merely ensures that all will eventually lose.

Be seeing you

 

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

EconomicPolicyJournal.com: Lefty Confusion About Price “Gouging”; Face Masks and Purell

Posted by M. C. on March 8, 2020

One example of why central (government) planning does not work.

The Soviet Union, Venezuela and North Korea are others.

https://www.economicpolicyjournal.com/2020/03/lefty-confusion-about-price-gouging.html

Joe Weisenthal is an interesting writer and thinker. He is co-host of the Odd Lots podcast and ‘What’d You Miss?’ on Bloomberg TV and editor at Bloomberg.

I have been following him for years at @TheStalwart.

I am not sure he would identify as a Lefty but he sent out a snarky tweet yesterday that sure fits into the Lefty model of not thinking deeply about economic issues.

Here is the tweet I am referring to:

Joe is missing a lot here.

First off, without price signals, manufacturers don’t know how intense the demand for N95 masks and Purell are.

Would people be willing to pay an extra $10 per item or $25?

This is important to know.

The higher the price, the more resources a manufacturer would be willing to devote to providing more supply.

To illustrate my point, let us, just for argument’s sake, say that people were willing to pay $1,000 for an N95 mask. Well that is a lot more than only being willing to pay $5.00 extra. Thus it tells the manufacturer that if a key component of the mask is in another part of the country or the world that it might make sense to have the part flown over by plane rather via usual ocean shipping modes.

In other words, the size of the price “gouging” signals to a manufacturer how aggressive he should get in making more masks.

But that is not all.

Mask price “gouging” also signals to consumers how in demand masks are. If someone wants to buy a mask to travel by subway to go to a movie and the mask is $200, the consumer might think twice and not buy the mask, Thus leaving it for someone else. At the same time, a heart surgeon may want to buy a mask to travel the same subway to perform heart surgeries. He might be very willing to pay $200 for a mask.

Thus price signals provide much more complex signals then what Joe implied in his tweet that manufacturers only get the idea there is a lot of demand for masks. A lot of complex signaling goes on at different price levels to signal manufacturers, retailers and consumers.

RW

Be seeing you

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

EconomicPolicyJournal.com: UCLA Professor: ‘We need to seriously question the ideal of private home ownership’

Posted by M. C. on January 12, 2020

Who owns the property if we don’t. You guessed it. Think about YOUR home.

Private property includes capital. Buildings, factories, machines…

“more collective” cities. Where have I heard that term collective?

https://www.economicpolicyjournal.com/2020/01/ucla-professor-we-need-to-seriously.html

In a recent op-ed for The Nation, Professor Kian Goh, assistant professor of urban planning at UCLA, whose specialties include urban ecological design, spatial politics, and social mobilization in the issues of climate change and global urbanization, stated that what makes the California forest fires even worse is urban planning.

The essay’s subtitle reads, “if we want to keep cities safe in the face of climate change, we need to seriously question the ideal of private homeownership.”

“Yes, climate change intensifies the fires—but the ways in which we plan and develop our cities makes them even more destructive. The growth of urban regions in the second half of the 20th century has been dominated by economic development, aspirations of homeownership, and belief in the importance of private property,” she writes.

Goh compared two ideas of thought: The American tradition of private property ownership and the collective property theories. She suggested the cause of the issue is private homeownership and advocated for “more collective” cities.

In other words, she has no understanding of how stricter respect for private property would reduce fire risk (See: Foundations of Private Property Society Theory).

It is remarkable how often socialists blame capitalism or private property for problems that emerge because of government institutions, that is, some degree of central planning, and then call for more central planning which would only intensify the problems via inefficiencies, distortion of incentives to protect property and plain old power grabs.

RW

(via Campus Reform – HT John K)

Be seeing you

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Do We Need a ‘Department of Children’?

Posted by M. C. on July 29, 2019

https://www.targetliberty.com/2019/07/do-we-need-department-of-children.html?m=1

I am sure glad Democratic presidential candidate Marianne Williamson is not registering at significant levels in the polls. I hope it stays that way.

She appears to have no idea as to the problems with central planning. She talks about the problems inner-city pre-school children have but appears to have no ability to link it to government programs that encourage the split-up of families, programs of coerced public school cockroach education that create multi-generational problems and government minimum wage laws which prevent inner-city youth from getting that very important first job.

She doesn’t notice any of this government failure and instead calls for more government “solutions”!

The answer is, of course, free markets and the end to government interventions in families, education and employment, not an expansion of government in the abuse, and that is what it would be, of pre-schoolers.

Quite frankly, Willaimson wouldn’t pass a background check for babysitting even Donald Trump.

According to a 1992 Skeptical Inquirer magazine article by Martin Gardner, in the past she has been “mired in a series of unhappy love affairs, alcohol and drug abuse, a nervous breakdown, and endless sessions with therapists” and she holds the view that “sickness is an illusion and does not actually exist.”

UPDATE

From a new Willaimson press release:

One of the pillars of my campaign for the presidency is a commitment to see every child in America — regardless of their zip code — attend schools that are, as I have called them, palaces of learning, culture and the arts…

Even in the most advantaged schools, children’s needs often go unmet…

This new department will implement integrated and systemic “wrap-around services” that focus on providing a whole-systems approach through intensive family and community-based programs focused on addressing and improving factors that impact ALL children living in the U.S.

RW

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

4 New Reasons to Fear a Universal Basic Income | Mises Wire

Posted by M. C. on June 21, 2019

While it’s true people ought to be able to spend their own money as they see fit,  how they spend other people’s money is another matter.

This is Cloward-Piven in action.

The Cloward–Piven strategy is a political strategy outlined in 1966 by American sociologists and political activists Richard Cloward and Frances Fox Piven that called for overloading the U.S. public welfare system in order to precipitate a crisis that would lead to a replacement of the welfare system with a socialist system of “a guaranteed annual income and thus an end to poverty”

Take this to it’s natural conclusion. What happens when everyone is on the dole?

Who will teach, put out fires, be your doctor?

https://mises.org/wire/4-new-reasons-fear-universal-basic-income

Most of us have heard the arguments from the Left on the emancipatory power of the Universal Basic Income Guarantee to free us from the chains of work, stress and poverty, and to liberate the creative impulses of man. We also hear from conservatives like Charles Murray, who stress that welfare cliffs under the current system create a poverty trap, where by earning more people will take home less, creating a permanent disincentive to work which the UBI would partially solve.

There is a contingent of libertarians who also hold the view that the UBI is better than the current system. They highlight the fact that bureaucratic costs will be lower and, theoretically, many public sector workers could be axed from welfare departments — reducing the overall size of the state. Government outgoings on law enforcement could be reduced, if the UBI leads to a drop in poverty-driven crime. And, if people are already receiving the basic means of survival, we can cut regulations around hiring and firing people and labor laws, since workers, faced with poor conditions, will have the f-you money to walk away from them. What’s more, if people can shop around for services currently provided by the government then some programs can be cut into the bargain.

Ultimately, since people would be given their basic income directly to spend as they please, it would preserve the market economy relative to more intrusive forms of government assistance or central planning, where officeholders and bureaucrats attempt to organize production “on behalf of the poor” (or “the workers” or “the people”) leading to a disastrous misallocation of resources and authoritarian dictatorship.

At least that’s what the pro-UBI libertarians claim…

One: Even if the UBI will allow us to replace all sorts of systems and reduce the size of government, that will not be the end of the story. UBI will inevitably grow arms and legs.

After the UBI is instituted, it will only be a matter of time until we hear this group or that group should be earning an even higher basic income. “I am disabled, I should have a higher basic income, some may say. Or other may object “All my relatives live in a more expensive city, so I need a higher basic income.” And so on. Then people will advocate for a higher UBI for the elderly, disabled, people who live in areas where the rents and costs of living are high, or where they have to travel long distances to work, and so on. Ad infinitum

Two: Perhaps the scariest aspect of it all is that in most cases when the government creates handouts, there is always a group that stands to benefit and another that stands to lose. With the Universal Basic Income it seems on the face of it that there is no “out” group. Everyone is in on the action.

But that’s not really the case.

The state, policymakers, and government employees will benefit relative to everyone else.

After all, the UBI legitimizes government and brings everyone into a system which they could otherwise often ignore. The state is provider, and each of us becomes its ward…

Three: The UBI will not get rid of those who constantly call for ever higher levels of social benefits, and total  numbers of people who “need” UBI will not decline. This is because a UBI will not, and cannot, address the underlying causes of poverty and inequality — which is that poor people have low skills and no capital…

Four: With the UBI, the state is potentially handing out a large sum of money each month to people who may spend it to ruin their own health, or destroy their lives. Individuals with substance addictions, gambling problems or bad spending habits which get them in trouble. People who are addicted to computer games or Facebook might benefit from getting out to work in a bar or cafe and mingling with the public for some occupational therapy. But the UBI will allow them to isolate themselves further. Thus, in many cases with the UBI, payments may not actually be helping people. Recipients lives could be made worse by payments.

It takes a pretty callous person to say, “Well, it’s their life, they’ve got a right to ruin it. Let them take out their UBI and spend it on hard drugs if they want to.” While it’s true people ought to be able to spend their own money as they see fit,  how they spend other people’s money is another matter…

 

 

 

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

EconomicPolicyJournal.com: New York City Restaurant Jobs Are Collapsing in the Face of a Higher Minimum Wage

Posted by M. C. on May 18, 2019

Some tend to tip less when they know wages are up. Oops!

Another central planning success story.

https://www.economicpolicyjournal.com/2019/05/new-york-city-restaurant-jobs-are.html

The New York City minimum wage has been exploding:

….and restaurant jobs in the city have crashed.

In addition to the general minimum wage of $15.00 for large employers,  restaurant employers are required to pay servers and bartenders who generally get a lower hourly base pay but substantial tips, $10 an hour, a 16 percent jump from the previous $8.65 per hour mandate.

Is it any wonder the jobs are disappearing, with restaurants running with less staff?

RW

Be seeing you

https://christianfunnypictures.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/free-lunch-cartoon.gif

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »