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Posts Tagged ‘COVID Lockdowns’

Doug Casey on How COVID Lockdowns Will Become Climate Lockdowns

Posted by M. C. on May 13, 2021

When it comes to climate change, these countries laugh at Westerners for their naivete, stupidity, and self-destructive tendencies. They don’t take it seriously. It’s another reason why the next century belongs to China.

The same is true of Russia, which, for all of its faults, is basically an anti-woke country. It’s been said—correctly—that there are more communists in American universities than there are in all of Russia.

https://internationalman.com/articles/doug-casey-on-how-covid-lockdowns-will-become-climate-lockdowns/

by Doug Casey

International Man: It’s been over a year since the COVID lockdowns started, and they have established a terrible precedent.

The International Energy Agency (IEA) has issued what they call a “dire warning.” They say there will be a 5% increase in carbon emissions as global economies reopen after the COVID shutdowns this year and that it will be “anything but sustainable” for the environment. This implies that the shutdowns have been good for the environment and that returning to normal is bad.

There has also been a flood of articles in the mainstream media advocating for the use of lockdowns to address so-called climate change.

Do you think that the COVID lockdowns could become climate change lockdowns?

Doug Casey: Without exception, almost everything they say in the above article is either an overt and intentional lie or just factually incorrect. Things that are controversial at best are presented as incontrovertible facts.

Let me first reiterate a few facts about COVID.

It’s hard to be sure because everything about it has become highly politicized, but COVID itself seems no more serious than the Asian Flu, Hong Kong Flu, Bird Flu, or Swine Flu that have come and gone in recent decades and is not even remotely comparable to the Spanish Flu of 1918.

The numbers show that COVID is a risk for people over 70, the obese, and the sick—but a medical non-problem for everyone else. That’s why the average age of decedents is 80, even though it appears that everyone who dies with the virus in their system is reported as a statistic—even if they die of an auto accident or a heart attack. People with zero symptoms are, nonetheless, listed as “cases” if they fail the overly sensitive and very expensive PCR test.

We might ask: “What’s behind this insane flu hysteria—which is radically restructuring the world’s political and economic landscapes? And why now?” It seems very oddly coincidental with a few other phenomena.

One is that the world is on the cusp of a fantastically devastating depression due to the insane creation of currency units all over the world by central banks. Is the phony COVID hysteria—and, yes, I believe it’s 80% phony—being used as an excuse for the coming collapse, a way to recuse those responsible for the insane economic policies causing the depression? In other words, is the COVID hysteria an artificially constructed force majeure used to distract from the real cause of the Greater Depression?

Another phenomenon is that the COVID hysteria has proved an excellent way to scare the hell out of the public everywhere. Terrified people demand “strong” leaders and strict controls. It’s a godsend for the kind of people who go into government, anxious for any excuse to self-aggrandize and take more power. “Never let a serious crisis go to waste” has been an operating principle of powermongers since Day One. And war is the most serious kind of crisis. Don’t forget what Randolf Bourne said in 1914: “War is the health of the State.” But a real war with a real enemy is always risky and may not always be feasible. So powermongers create phony wars. In order to fight a war—any kind of war—you need a State to organize and legitimize it.

The first major phony war in living memory was Lyndon Johnson’s war on poverty—the poor lost. Then came Richard Nixon’s war on drugs. Then, Baby Bush declared war on terror. They’re all still ongoing, but it seems time for a two-front war. A war on global warming combined with a war on COVID will be ultra-effective for breeding fear in Boobus americanus. They say global warming can destroy the planet and COVID can kill everyone. A sure-fire combination. They’re certain to get widespread support from the usual suspects.

As a bonus, there’s a very high correlation between those who support the COVID hysteria and those supporting the climate change agenda. And both of them claim to have a new ally, “the science,” to sell the wars to scared chimpanzees. Not just in the US, but everywhere in the world. These two new wars will bring out the worst in everyone, everywhere.

Once you wash away their social veneer, the patina of civilization, you find that humans are tribal. Put them in groups and they revert to the lowest common denominator—they act like our anthropoid ancestors and relatives. Get people excited, hooting and panting like chimps, and they’re anxious to wage war on one thing after another. Imagine them as the anthropoids contesting the watering hole in “2001: A Space Odyssey.” Conflict gives them a sense of solidarity and gives their lives meaning.

That’s especially true of humans with collectivist views, which is to say, Leftists and busybodies. In today’s world, they include the “woke,” social justice warriors, progressives, BLM supporters, Antifa, and, of course, socialists, communists, Marxists, and all their fellow travelers. They’re all Puritans motivated to control other humans. The Left has always been that way, although it occasionally disguises itself as pro-freedom to seduce the naive.

For instance, during the ’60s, the Left was pro-drugs. But that’s not because they were for personal freedom or because they believed you have the right to do what you want with your own body. They were pro-drugs because widespread and irresponsible drug use can destroy civilization.

Even when the Left seems to have good intentions, it’s not the case. For instance, the Left was against the Vietnam War. It wasn’t because they were anti-war, but because the war was against their fellow communists. It was clever, in both cases showing up the Republicans as dim-witted, unethical, and hypocritical.

Today the Left, in its various incarnations, is all for the COVID lockdowns. Those will mutate into climate change lockdowns. Both will act to compromise human freedom—even more than previous phony wars. It’s ironic that the word “lockdown” used to be used mainly in prisons—it’s rather indicative of where the world in general and the US, in particular, are headed.

International Man: What are the chances climate lockdowns will work if and when governments try them?

Doug Casey: Climate change lockdowns will work. Why shouldn’t they? COVID lockdowns worked wonderfully.

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Fauci and the Communists – AIER

Posted by M. C. on March 14, 2021

The news comes following the revelation last week that Fauci and his deputies were directly coordinating with the Chinese government over COVID-19 messaging during the early outbreak in Wuhan, China. The transparency watchdog organization Judicial Watch has released new government emails acquired via the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), which show U.S. government health institutions signed off on COVID-19 related non disclosure agreements requested by Chinese Communist Party officials.https://platform.twitter.com/embed/Tweet.html?

https://www.aier.org/article/fauci-and-the-communists/

Jordan Schachtel

Jordan Schachtel

This past week, Dr. Anthony Fauci shared a platform with a Chinese Communist Party “health expert,” and it went largely unreported by any Western media outlets. Chinese state media, on the other hand, could not get enough of it, because Fauci delivered a propaganda coup for the communist regime in Beijing. Countless state media outlets and CCP official praised the co-panelists for endorsing the endless amounts of anti-American propaganda shared during the event, which included demanding more devastating draconian restrictions in order to “combat” COVID-19. 

Dr. Zhong Nanshan, a top “expert” in China’s National Health Commission who has been described as “China’s Fauci,” shared a panel with the NIAID chief over Zoom last week. The two discussed COVID-19 policy in a webinar organized by the University of Edinburgh, which also featured “experts” from the Gates Foundation and the World Health Organization. 

In his comments, Zhong hammered the Trump Administration and America in general, but praised the Biden Administration for rejoining the WHO. The Chinese official shared provably false information about China’s COVID-19 response and statistics, and claimed China’s brutal lockdown of Wuhan resulted in China winning its battle against COVID-19. 

A loyal CCP member, Zhong spewed endless streams of false information, as lockdowns have not worked anywhere they have been tried, and they have been tried in almost every country in the world, with no demonstrable positive results.

Zhong continued, showing a slide presenting the U.S. as having the world’s worse COVID-19 response, with China demonstrating the world’s best response, which again, he attributes to the lockdown in Wuhan.

Zhong ended his presentation urging other countries not to open their economies just yet, and to perhaps wait until the entire world is vaccinated, which will take a few years. He also made the baseless claim that vaccine immunity is superior to natural immunity, which he falsely described as “less-scientific.” Meanwhile, China’s economy and society, which includes a largely unvaccinated population, has been open since March of 2020.

Fauci endorsed Zhong’s comments, saying he “would underscore everything that Professor Zhong said.” The so-called public health expert added that he wants “a multi year decades commitment, and that is to make and strive for essentially access to quality healthcare for everyone in the world, so that health is really a human right in many respects.”

Fauci embraced the Chinese propaganda, emphasizing the importance of Wuhan-style lockdowns to “suppress” the virus.

“To emphasize something that both of us said; if we do not completely suppress this, we will continue to be challenged by variants which have a way of coming back to bite us,” Fauci said.

“We have been successful in the past by global cooperation with smallpox, with polio, with measles. There’s no reason in the world why we cannot do the same thing with COVID-19 by a combination of cooperative public health measures and the application of science,” he added.

You can watch the entire panel here: https://www.youtube.com/embed/frQtUFfFQzU?enablejsapi=1?feature=oembed

Fauci’s appearance was praised endlessly by Chinese state run media outlets and Chinese Communist Party officials. Here’s a small sample size of the Chinese state apparatchik responses to the Fauci-Zhong panel.

Prof. Zhong Nanshan, the leading #Chinese respiratory disease expert, & Dr. Anthony Fauci, the top #US infectious disease expert, met via video link to exchange views on #COVID19 control ystd(2/3) evening. A right way for the two countries to work together in defeating the virus. pic.twitter.com/LxJppoGYQ1— Ambassador Deng Xijun (@China2ASEAN) March 3, 2021

When Dr. Zhong Nanshan meets Dr. Fauci. Their consensus: solidarity and cooperation against #COVID19.https://t.co/aoIdCR9Cd0 pic.twitter.com/4tKGdaQNgY— Hua Chunying 华春莹 (@SpokespersonCHN) March 3, 2021

Leading Chinese respiratory disease expert Zhong Nanshan, top U.S. infectious disease specialist Anthony Fauci call for more efforts to enhance global solidarity and cooperation to beat the deadly #coronavirus https://t.co/TA52T239D2 pic.twitter.com/F79DG9AAf7— China Xinhua News (@XHNews) March 4, 2021

What are the lessons we can learn from the pandemic?
Dr. Fauci and Dr. Zhong Nanshan speak about the need for international cooperation, strategy, and honesty from leaders in public health emergencies. pic.twitter.com/aR1KiDRwPM— CGTN America (@cgtnamerica) March 3, 2021

When Dr. Zhong Nanshan meets Dr. Fauci. Their consensus: solidarity and cooperation against #COVID19. pic.twitter.com/ry55dToXMy— China Economy (@CE_ChinaEconomy) March 3, 2021

The news comes following the revelation last week that Fauci and his deputies were directly coordinating with the Chinese government over COVID-19 messaging during the early outbreak in Wuhan, China. The transparency watchdog organization Judicial Watch has released new government emails acquired via the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), which show U.S. government health institutions signed off on COVID-19 related non disclosure agreements requested by Chinese Communist Party officials.

These Fauci emails offer tremendous support for the claim that US officials allowed Chinese communists to script the US response in the pandemic. https://t.co/DNFcVGpamN pic.twitter.com/LTyyt2FF9s— Jeffrey A Tucker (@jeffreyatucker) March 5, 2021

It’s important to recall that the United States and over 100 countries initiated lockdowns exclusively because of the “data” that was being transmitted out of Wuhan. It was faulty, unchallenged Chinese data, repeated by authoritative figures like Fauci and his colleagues, that convinced the world to undergo lockdowns and embrace early, aggressive ventilation of COVID-19 patients, among other botched, unscientific treatment and mitigation measures.

China instigated global panic through a deliberate disinformation campaign surrounding the novel coronavirus. Moreover, Beijing invented the concept of a healthy quarantine lockdown.

Reprinted from the author’s blog

Jordan Schachtel

Jordan Schachtel

Jordan Schachtel is an investigative journalist and foreign policy analyst based in Washington, D.C.

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Dr. Bhattacharya: Lockdowns The ‘Biggest Public Health Mistake We’ve Ever Made’

Posted by M. C. on March 9, 2021

Stanford University Medical School professor Dr. Jay Bhattacharya is featured in Newsweek Magazine condemning the lockdowns across the United States to fight the virus, calling them the biggest mistake ever made by public health authorities. A new study released by none other than the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) ironically appears to bolster Dr. Bhattacharya’s claim. Is the truth starting to seep out from the Berlin Wall of lies? CDC report cited in this episode: https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/70/w…

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The New York Times Finally Discovers Unintended Consequences

Posted by M. C. on February 15, 2021

Perhaps more importantly, he argues that extreme caution can backfire and produce outcomes that have the opposite of their desired effect. He uses the AIDS crisis as an example, pointing out that demonizing sexual intercourse and trying to frighten people away from it had the unintended consequence of increasing unsafe sex.

A similar phenomenon appears to be at work today.

“Telling Americans to wear masks when they’re unnecessary undermines efforts to persuade more people to wear masks where they are vital,” Leonhardt writes.

Jon Miltimore
Jon Miltimore

The New York Times published an article on Friday under a simple headline: “Covid Absolutism.”

The article opens by noting that during public health emergencies, absolutism—the idea that people should cease any and all behavior that creates additional risk—is a tempting response. Times writer David Leonhardt gives various examples of this “absolutism” on display in America today.

“People continue to scream at joggers, walkers and cyclists who are not wearing masks. The University of California, Berkeley, this week banned outdoor exercise, masked or not, saying, ‘The risk is real,’” he writes. “The University of Massachusetts Amherst has banned outdoor walks. It encouraged students to get exercise by ‘accessing food and participating in twice-weekly Covid testing.'”

Examples like these are virtually endless. They invite two key questions, Leonhardt notes: How effective are these behaviors in reducing the spread of the virus? And is there a downside?

As Leonhardt notes, many of these actions are essentially a kind of “hygiene theater,” the subject of a recent article in the Atlantic written by Derek Thompson.

The phrase basically speaks for itself. According to Leonhardt, these actions are not rooted in science, and are primarily a form of theatrical presentation that will have little or no actual impact.

Taking every possible precaution is unrealistic. Human beings are social creatures who crave connection and pleasure and who cannot minimize danger at all times.

“Prohibiting outdoor activity is unlikely to reduce the spread of the virus, nor is urging people always to wear a mask outdoors,” he writes. “Worldwide, scientists have not documented any instances of outdoor transmission unless people were in close conversation, Dr. Muge Cevik, an infectious-disease specialist at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland, told me.”

Have there been any documented instances of transmission among unmasked people who are outdoors and *not* in close conversation with each other?

Eg joggers, walkers, bikers, beachgoers, etc. https://t.co/zTo2ddQ5pz — David Leonhardt (@DLeonhardt) February 10, 2021

So the answer to Leonhardt’s first question—How effective are they at reducing the spread of the virus?— is not difficult to answer: they’re not effective.

The second question, and its answer, is more interesting.

One might be tempted to argue that these theatrics still produce positive outcomes, since they are likely to make people more conscious of the pandemic and slow the spread of the virus.

Taking extreme precautions is simply “playing it safe.” What’s the harm in that?

The answer is, “plenty.” First, Leonhardt argues it’s not part of human nature to live in a perpetual state of extreme caution.

“Taking every possible precaution is unrealistic,” he writes. “Human beings are social creatures who crave connection and pleasure and who cannot minimize danger at all times.”

Perhaps more importantly, he argues that extreme caution can backfire and produce outcomes that have the opposite of their desired effect. He uses the AIDS crisis as an example, pointing out that demonizing sexual intercourse and trying to frighten people away from it had the unintended consequence of increasing unsafe sex.

A similar phenomenon appears to be at work today.

“Telling Americans to wear masks when they’re unnecessary undermines efforts to persuade more people to wear masks where they are vital,” Leonhardt writes.

For many, this statement probably doesn’t sound particularly noteworthy. It basically has the ring of common sense, a variation of The Boy Who Cried Wolf, one of Aesop’s famous parables, which taught that false alarms can harm humans by inhibiting their ability to detect actual danger.

The COVID-19 pandemic has been a case study in “unintended consequences,” a term popularized by American sociologist Robert K. Merton in the twentieth century. Basically, it’s the idea that virtually every action comes with outcomes that are not foreseen or intended.

The French economist Frédéric Bastiat alluded to this concept in his famous essay, “That Which is Seen, and That Which is Not Seen.”

“In the department of economy, an act, a habit, an institution, a law, gives birth not only to an effect, but to a series of effects,” Bastiat wrote.

The problem, he noted, is that humans rarely pay attention to the unseen or unintended effects of a given action or policy. Ignoring these outcomes is one of the great mistakes in public policy, the Nobel Laureate Milton Friedman once observed.

Unfortunately, ignoring unintended consequences and focusing on intentions is precisely what we saw in 2020, and nobody has been more guilty of this than the Times.

No one is served by ignoring unintended consequences. And the adverse unintended consequences of lockdowns are legion.

If you search for articles discussing the unintended consequences of COVID-19 policies, which are boundless, you’ll find virtually nothing on their site. I was able to find two articles using the phrase “unintended consequences” of COVID lockdowns.

One article, published in September, is a profile of Dr. Bonnie Henry, a Canadian physician and British Columbia’s top doctor who spoke of minimizing the unintended consequences of government interventions. The other is an article in May that discussed how lockdowns could result in a surge of mental illness.

This dearth of coverage is unfortunate. The Times is one of the most influential papers in the world. It has immense reach and a news staff of 1,300 people. And yet—our tiny writing team at FEE has produced more articles on the unintended consequences of lockdowns than the Grey Lady.

No one is served by ignoring unintended consequences. (Well, maybe politicians.) If we’re to understand the damage wrought in 2020 and prevent it in the future, lockdowns must be judged by their actual consequences, not what they were designed to achieve.

And the adverse unintended consequences of lockdowns are legion.

The fact that even the New York Times is finally beginning to discuss the unintended consequences of COVID-19-inspired actions is a sign that we may be, however belatedly, moving in the right direction.

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EconomicPolicyJournal.com: Minimum Wage Hikes Kick in Across the Country—at the Worst Possible Time for Small Businesses

Posted by M. C. on January 10, 2021

Many of these same small businesses teetering on the brink of collapse are about to get slapped in the face with surging labor costs. A total of 20 states had minimum wage hikes take effect this month as part of scheduled ramp-ups.

These might not sound like massive hikes in absolute terms, but you have to think of it like this. Payroll is often one of the largest expenses small businesses have—and it may have just arbitrarily spiked by 5 to 15 percent.  

The timing here could not be worse. 

https://www.economicpolicyjournal.com/2021/01/minimum-wage-hikes-kick-in-across.html

By  Brad Polumbo

2020 was one of the worst years in modern American history for small businesses. And now, thanks to a wave of minimum wage legislation that kicked in on January 1, things are about to get even worse.

Make no mistake: small business owners are already seriously hurting. 

When state and local governments responded to the outbreak of COVID-19 in the spring with harsh lockdowns and restrictions, businesses were forced to shutter. Many in the restaurant and hospitality industry remain shut down many months later, or were briefly allowed to reopen then shut down again this fall. Meanwhile, much of the taxpayer-financed aid meant to help these businesses was instead captured by big corporations or lost to fraud and waste

To add insult to injury, thousands of small businesses were vandalized and looted during the summer unrest after the death of George Floyd. (No, insurance doesn’t eliminate the harm).

At least 100,000 small businesses that were forced to close in 2020 will not reopen, according to Yelp. In a recent survey, almost 60 percent of small business owners said that they don’t expect their enterprise to survive through June 2021.

Many of these same small businesses teetering on the brink of collapse are about to get slapped in the face with surging labor costs. A total of 20 states had minimum wage hikes take effect this month as part of scheduled ramp-ups.

“New Mexico will see the largest jump, adding $1.50 to its hourly minimum and bringing it up to $10.50,” the Hill reports. “Arkansas, California, Illinois and New Jersey will each increase their minimum wages by $1.”https://platform.twitter.com/embed/index.html?creatorScreenName=feeonline&dnt=false&embedId=twitter-widget-0&frame=false&hideCard=false&hideThread=false&id=1345953362878074881&lang=en&origin=https%3A%2F%2Ffee.org%2Farticles%2Fminimum-wage-hikes-kick-in-across-the-country-at-the-worst-possible-time-for-small-businesses%2F&siteScreenName=feeonline&theme=light&widgetsVersion=ed20a2b%3A1601588405575&width=550px

Additionally, many localities have enacted area-specific minimum wage hikes. For example, Flagstaff, Arizona just raised its minimum wage to $15 an hour while Belmont, California just upped its rate to $15.90 an hour.  

These might not sound like massive hikes in absolute terms, but you have to think of it like this. Payroll is often one of the largest expenses small businesses have—and it may have just arbitrarily spiked by 5 to 15 percent.  

The timing here could not be worse. 

“A dramatic increase in the minimum wage even in good economic times has been shown to be harmful,” Employment Policy Institute Managing Director Michael Saltsman said. “In the current climate, for many employers it could be the final nail in the coffin.”

And employees will suffer perhaps just as much as employers. Even though they’re ostensibly meant to uplift workers, increases in the minimum wage always and inevitably hurt more than they help.

Why? A wage is important for the living standards of the worker, but that isn’t its only important aspect. A wage is a price. Prices are essential for order in an economy, so price controls throw markets into chaos.

“By the simplest and most basic economics, a price artificially raised tends to cause more to be supplied and less to be demanded than when prices are left to be determined by supply and demand in a free market,” famed free-market economist Thomas Sowell explained in his book Basic Economics. “The result is a surplus, whether the price that is set artificially high is that of farm produce or labor.”

 “Making it illegal to pay less than a given amount does not make a worker’s productivity worth that amount— and, if it is not, that worker is unlikely to be employed,” Sowell writes. “Unfortunately, the real minimum wage is always zero, regardless of the laws, and that is the wage that many workers receive in the wake of the creation or escalation of a government-mandated minimum wage, because they either lose their jobs or fail to find jobs when they enter the labor force.” 

Thus, as free-market economist Murray Rothbard put it, the minimum wage amounts to outlawing jobs:

“In truth, there is only one way to regard a minimum wage law: it is compulsory unemployment, period. The law says: it is illegal, and therefore criminal, for anyone to hire anyone else below the level of X dollars an hour. This means, plainly and simply, that a large number of free and voluntary wage contracts are now outlawed and hence that there will be a large amount of unemployment. Remember that the minimum wage law provides no jobs; it only outlaws them; and outlawed jobs are the inevitable result.”

 So, it’s no surprise that the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office projects that a national $15 minimum wage would destroy up to 3.7 million jobs. Of course, these hikes aren’t nationwide, and many aren’t quite up to $15 yet. Nonetheless, struggling small businesses already have so little wiggle room in their budgets and are on the brink of collapse. Thus the negative effect minimum wage hikes have on local economies will be severe.

Of course, there’s little doubt that the legislators who enacted these pre-planned minimum wage hikes hoped to help workers, not put them out of work amid an economic crisis. But the laws of basic economics are unmoved by compassionate hand-wringing—and good intentions never guarantee good results.

Brad Polumbo (@Brad_Polumbo) is a libertarian-conservative journalist and Opinion Editor at the Foundation for Economic Education. The above originally appeared at FEE.org.

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COVID Lockdowns Crippled the Division of Labor, Setting the Stage for Civil Unrest | Mises Wire

Posted by M. C. on June 20, 2020

We only have three options for getting what we want: we can produce it, we can take from somebody who has produced it, or we can exchange peacefully with somebody who has produced it. The third option is the division of labor, and it is the only one that involves peaceful cooperation with others. It is also the only option that sustains civilization. Looting, vandalism, assault, and arson are regressive—they are not a means to advance society. They are the unraveling of society and the social harmony brought about by the division of labor.

https://mises.org/wire/covid-lockdowns-crippled-division-labor-setting-stage-civil-unrest?utm_source=Mises+Institute+Subscriptions&utm_campaign=8dfb5f87ae-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_9_21_2018_9_59_COPY_01&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_8b52b2e1c0-8dfb5f87ae-228343965

In his podcast, Dave Smith has likened the lockdowns to gasoline and the murder of George Floyd to a spark.

But why were the lockdowns fuel for social unrest? One of the reasons the lockdowns paved the way for social unrest is that they led to a widespread breakdown in the division of labor. This could only result in more conflict and social unrest.

Economist Ludwig von Mises has explained why this is so. In Human Action, Mises presents the division of labor as more than a purely economic concept. Although he certainly expounds the increased productivity attributable to the division of labor, he also heralds it as civilization itself. It is social cooperation and mutuality. He presents it in opposition to conflict and violence. The division of labor is predicated on and also results in peaceful relations between individuals.

Here, I want to discuss the gasoline, and not the spark. Mises.org writers have discussed the spark and the related issues of institutional problems with police departments, police brutality, a breakdown in trust in the police, and police militarization.

What Is the Division of Labor?

The division of labor is just what it sounds like: one person does one job while another person does a different job. In a market economy, these jobs are not assigned randomly, but are purposefully chosen by each individual according to his or her own skills and values. Instead of trying to produce everything we want to consume on our own, we produce one good and offer it in exchange for a variety of goods we prefer.

The ability to consume a larger variety of goods is not the only benefit of the division of labor. Total production increases enormously, such that each individual who participates in the division of labor enjoys a massive increase in his standard of living. The division of labor allows us to emerge from bare subsistence and flourish as a civilization, producing art, writing philosophy, celebrating holidays, and exploring space. These things are impossible for man in economic isolation.

One of the greatest laws of economics is the law of association, which Mises proves mathematically (uncharacteristically) in Human Action. The law of association shows that everyone who participates in the division of labor gains as a result. No one is excluded from this opportunity. Thus,

The law of association makes us comprehend the tendencies which resulted in the progressive intensification of human cooperation. We conceive what incentive induced people not to consider themselves simply as rivals in a struggle for the appropriation of the limited supply of means of subsistence made available by nature. We realize what has impelled them and permanently impels them to consort with one another for the sake of cooperation. Every step forward on the way to a more developed mode of the division of labor serves the interests of all participants. (p. 159)

Unraveling the Division of Labor

The undoing of the division of labor and the social cooperation that it both requires and entails is social conflict.

The market economy involves peaceful cooperation. It bursts asunder when the citizens turn into warriors and, instead of exchanging commodities and services, fight one another. (p. 817)

During the months of government-imposed lockdowns, everybody was prevented from participating in the division of labor as they were accustomed to. Even those who kept their jobs could not exchange goods with those who did not keep their jobs. The entire social nexus was reduced to a small list of government-defined “essential” services. The increase in unemployment is really only a part of the picture of the economic harm caused by the lockdowns. Everybody who relied on the goods and services produced by the so-called nonessential businesses was harmed: consumers, employees, and proximate businesses in the structure of production alike.

Man shall not live by government-defined essential services alone, however. For a short time, and where possible, citizens resorted to black markets and self-sufficiency (which, as we have seen, is hardly sufficient). But a spark and the cover of protests in the streets gave some a chance to acquire goods by theft. These opportunists are aided by additional mayhem like vandalism, violent assault, and arson. Unfortunately, both insufficient and over-the-top responses by police also add to the mayhem, giving violent rioters more opportunity and also poorly reasoned, two-wrongs-make-a-right self-justification for their aggression.

We only have three options for getting what we want: we can produce it, we can take from somebody who has produced it, or we can exchange peacefully with somebody who has produced it. The third option is the division of labor, and it is the only one that involves peaceful cooperation with others. It is also the only option that sustains civilization. Looting, vandalism, assault, and arson are regressive—they are not a means to advance society. They are the unraveling of society and the social harmony brought about by the division of labor.

Restoring Social Harmony

But even the opportunistic looters should want the mayhem to end and the peaceful division of labor to resume, according to Mises:

Seen from the point of view of the individual, society is the great means for the attainment of all his ends. The preservation of society is an essential condition of any plans an individual may want to realize by any action whatever. Even the refractory delinquent who fails to adjust his conduct to the requirements of life within the societal system of cooperation does not want to miss any of the advantages derived from the division of labor. He does not consciously aim at the destruction of society. He wants to lay his hands on a greater portion of the jointly produced wealth than the social order assigns to him. He would feel miserable if antisocial behavior were to become universal and its inevitable outcome, the return to primitive indigence, resulted. (p. 164, emphasis added)

Peace can only resume when entrepreneurs find it profitable to reopen their businesses. Government lockdowns and violent mobs are data for the entrepreneur’s decision-making process. Mises warns that it can get so bad that civilization crumbles:

If apart from the market and outside of the market there is robbing and plundering, these facts are a datum for the market. The actors must take into account the fact that they are threatened by murderers and robbers. If killing and robbing become so prevalent that any production appears useless, it may finally happen that productive work ceases and mankind plunges into a state of war of every man against every other man. (p. 646)

This, then, is the difficulty. Peace and cooperation are both a prerequisite and an outcome of the division of labor. Entrepreneurs need to be assured that laws against looting, murder, and property destruction will be enforced to such an extent that they can reopen their businesses and rehire employees.

But this leads to yet another problem: when the police themselves are guilty of mishandling justice and sometimes even instigating violence, all trust breaks down and businesses may simply leave the area.

Mises had some comments about the issues police departments have in properly carrying out their jobs, and they have to do with the lack of economic calculation:

Success or failure of a police department’s activities cannot be ascertained according to the arithmetical procedures of profit-seeking business. No accountant can establish whether or not a police department or one of its subdivisions has succeeded. (p. 305)

When I posted this quote to social media recently, somebody asked what Mises proposed as a solution to this problem. The quote is taken from a discussion about the profit and loss mechanism of the market, which is contrasted with bureaucratic management. Mises’s guidance was that citizens and government officials should keep a close eye on budgets to make sure that government services are provided in the best possible proportions and in the best ways. Mises’s greatest student, Murray Rothbard, would later provide a solution that allows security production to be regulated by the same profit and loss system of the market economy.

 

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What the Failed 55-MPH Speed Limit Law Tells Us About COVID Lockdowns | Mises Wire

Posted by M. C. on May 28, 2020

These claims likely overstate the role of speed reduction in declining fatalities. A downward trend was already in place before 1974, and the trend continued after the law’s repeal. Nevertheless, many researchers claimed—rather plausibly—that (all else being equal) lowered speeds resulted in fewer fatalities. As the World Health Organization (WHO) has concluded, “Studies suggest that a 1 km/h decrease in traveling speed would lead to a 2–3% reduction in road crashes.”

The WHO is hardly more credible now.

https://mises.org/wire/what-failed-55-mph-speed-limit-law-tells-us-about-covid-lockdowns

During the oil crises of the 1970s, Congress attempted to lower gasoline consumption by mandating a lowered speed limit for vehicles on all highways. But the efforts quickly evolved into a national campaign to increase traffic safety through lowered speed limits. Government data showed that thousands of lives could be saved per year by enforcing lower speed limits.

Millions of American motorists, however, were unimpressed. Widespread noncompliance resulted as many Americans concluded it was better to accept higher risk of death on highways—for themselves and for those around them—than to travel at reduced speeds. Government propaganda efforts such as the “55 Saves Lives” slogan proved ineffective, and the national speed limit was repealed in 1995.

The experience may be instructive today as many American policymakers insist that Americans must accept ongoing mass lockdowns and stay-at-home orders in the name of reducing deaths from COVID-19. Yet given that Americans have proven to be unwilling to reduce highway speeds—even in the face of the threat of traffic citations and deadly accidents—it is likely that they will soon be generally ignoring the lectures from “experts” and policymakers about the righteousness of destroying businesses and livelihoods in the name of safety.

A National Speed Limit

In 1974, Congress passed the National Maximum Speed Law (NMSL). The bill mandated that states lower maximum allowable highway speeds to 55 miles per hour in order to receive federal highway funds. Most states up to that time had speed limits ranging from 60 mph to 70 mph.

The law was passed in the hope that lower speeds would lead to lower gasoline consumption in the midst of the oil crisis at the time.

Yet when the oil crises ebbed and the price of oil crashed in the early 1980s, the national speed limit law remained.

By then, supporters of the law were claiming that a 55-mph speed limit was necessary as a safety measure and that it saved thousands of lives each year. One 1977 public service announcement claimed that “since 1974, 55 has been the single biggest factor in reducing highway deaths, by 36,000 people. One of them may be you.” A 1978 announcement concluded, “55 mph. It’s a law we can live with.” The narrator reminded viewers: “by 1975, highway deaths were down by over 9,000 since 1973.…all of us, by slowing down, helped save more than 9,000 people.”

The goal was laudable. Nowadays, more than 38,000 people die every year in crashes on US roadways. An additional 4.4 million are injured seriously enough to require medical attention, and auto accidents are the leading cause of death in the US for people aged 1–54.

Fatalities were even more common in the past. In the early days of mass automobile use—i.e., the 1920s—auto fatalities per million vehicle miles traveled (VMT) were many times higher than they are now. In 1925, for instance, fatalities totaled 16.9 per million VMT. Twenty fifteen’s rate was 1.2. In 1974, when the NMSL was passed, fatalities per million VMT were nearly triple what they are today, totaling 3.5.

On a per capita basis, fatalities were significantly higher in the past as well. In 1974, accident fatalities totaled 21.1 per 100,000 but were only 11.6 by 2015.

55
Source: National Center for Statistics and Analysis, 2017 Fatal Motor Vehicle Crashes: Overview (Washington, DC: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 2018). Fatalities per capita reached a postwar peak during the 1960s, although road fatalities have been generally declining for decades now.

Supporters of the “55 Saves Lives” campaign were happy to take credit for the decline in auto fatalities during the 1970s and 1980s. A 1984 report from the National Research Council claimed that when traffic fatalities fell by 9,100 from 1973 to 1974, the new speed limits could be credited with as many as 5,000 lives saved. A 1980 report from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimated that 41,951 lives were saved by lower speed limits from 1974 to 1979.

These claims likely overstate the role of speed reduction in declining fatalities. A downward trend was already in place before 1974, and the trend continued after the law’s repeal. Nevertheless, many researchers claimed—rather plausibly—that (all else being equal) lowered speeds resulted in fewer fatalities. As the World Health Organization (WHO) has concluded, “Studies suggest that a 1 km/h decrease in traveling speed would lead to a 2–3% reduction in road crashes.” Moreover, when auto accidents do occur, they’re more likely to be fatal at higher speeds. This all makes sense, of course. The faster the speed at which one is traveling, the less time one has to react an unexpected event up ahead. Impact at 80 miles per hour is more deadly than impact at 60 miles per hour.

The National Speed Limit Is Repealed

In spite of all this, however, political opposition to the NMSL grew and noncompliance was widespread.

After all, the safety measures were not without cost, and ordinary people knew it. For those who commuted long distances, time in the car could be significantly reduced by driving faster than 55 mph. Given that long commute times have been shown to impact the health and quality of life of commuters, speeding up one’s commute is no mere luxury. The effects of reduced speed limits on the cost of living could also be significant. The reduced speeds applied to all commercial drivers as well, increasing the cost of shipping goods while raising prices and reducing employment in services that involved driving a large number of highway miles. As with COVID-19-inspired regulations, regulations designed to achieve a smaller death toll on highways impose costs elsewhere. People make calculations based on these realities.

Not surprisingly, then, American motorists overwhelmingly traveled at illegal speeds in excess of 55 miles per hour. Many states with large rural areas—where speedy road travel was most economically valuable—found ways to minimize enforcement through measures such as reducing fines and not counting speeding tickets against driver’s license “points.”1

By 1995, political opposition was sufficient to lead to the total repeal of the National Maximum Speed Law. At that point, most states went back to speed limit laws similar to what had existed before the adoption of the NMSL. Americans were happy to drive at higher—and potentially more deadly—speeds with lessened risk of speeding tickets.2 As repeal drew near, a pro-repeal 1995 column in the Los Angeles Times compared the national speed limit to national alcohol prohibition and called the speed limit mandate the “most-violated law in American history.”

Americans Accepted Higher Risk for Higher Speed

Through it all, in spite of repeated efforts by government officials and safety activists to harangue motorists into slowing down, American motorists showed they were willing to accept higher risk of death in order to travel more quickly on highways. This was especially true when it became that clear safety could be enhanced in other ways. These included better safety features on the cars themselves and constructing safer highways. Nonetheless, as fatality rates increased rapidly during the 1960s, Americans bought more cars and drove more miles.

But, overall, from the very beginning of the days of automobile driving, Americans had simply come to terms with the fact that driving fast is a fairly risky activity. But the fact remains that hundreds of thousands of Americans die in auto accidents every decade. Decade after decade.

It is likely that this will prove instructive in the age of COVID-19 lockdowns as Americans are told to abandon in-person activities such as schooling, put off important medical treatments, and close their businesses because all these things might save lives.

Americans weren’t willing to slow down to reduce traffic deaths. Will they be willing to live in isolation in the hope that they might help reduce COVID-19 deaths? Experience suggests many will not.

If We Treated Traffic Deaths Like We Do COVID Deaths

On the other hand, Americans might be more cautious about driving were government agencies and media to take an approach similar to what they have done with COVID-19 deaths.

Imagine a world where the media reports daily with above-the-fold headlines on total nationwide traffic deaths while framing those deaths as a problem to be solved through nationwide collective action and draconian government policies. Imagine if the New York Times every year published a huge front-page article along the lines of this week’s headline: “US Deaths Near 100,000, An Incalculable Loss.” This would mean an annual headline like “Traffic Deaths Near 40,000, an Incalculable Loss.” The Times would then go on to list the tens of thousands of people killed each year in auto accidents because irresponsible people refused to slow down or just stay home rather than burdening the highways with unsafe amounts of traffic. Dead mothers and children and grandfathers would be profiled and listed in large national publications illustrating the grievous burden of death imposed on daily life by unnecessary driving. Fearmongering clickbait websites like The Drudge Report would post daily articles about the gruesome details of heinous deaths that had occurred on our nation’s roads the week before.

It’s possible that in the face of all that, many Americans might think twice about making “nonessential” road trips or errands. After all, by staying out of your car and off the roads, “the life you save may be your own.”

Or, as is now happening, the daily drumbeat of death may recede into the background and people will simply accept that we must daily assess the amount of risk we are willing to accept as a result of our activities.

In the days of “55 Saves Lives” countless Americans were willing to flout the speed limit laws in order to take on greater risk of both traffic accidents and legal penalties. The sanctimonious hectoring from safety officials and activists didn’t stop them. Stay-at-home orders are likely to experience a similar fate.

  • 1. Many other state and local governments capitalized on reduced spped limits by issuing large numbers of traffic citations for speeding. The propsect for greater revenue thus  limited opposition from state and local governments in many cases.
  • 2. Strictly-enforced reduced speed limits still have their advocates. Lee S. Friedman et al. write:We found a 3.2% increase in road fatalities attributable to the raised speed limits on all road types in the United States. The highest increases were on rural interstates (9.1%) and urban interstates (4.0%). We estimated that 12 545 deaths (95% confidence interval [CI] = 8739, 16 352) and 36 583 injuries in fatal crashes…were attributable to increases in speed limits across the United States.…Reduced speed limits and improved enforcement with speed camera networks could immediately reduce speeds and save lives, in addition to reducing gas consumption, cutting emissions of air pollutants, saving valuable years of productivity, and reducing the cost of motor vehicle crashes.See Lee S. Friedman, Donald Hedeker, and Elihu D. Richter, “Long-Term Effects of Repealing the National Maximum Speed Limit in the United States,” American Journal of Public Health 99, no. 9 (September 2009): 1626–31, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2724439/.

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