URLs du Jour

2019-11-09

[Amazon Link]

  • At AEI, James Pethokoukis writes on The strange irony of hating elites — and then giving elites power to pick winners and losers in the American economy. Well, actually, he lets Virginia Postrel do the heavy lifting (from a 2017 interview):

    There are inherent contradictions. So let’s take Donald Trump. Donald Trump loves the auto industry. He wants lots of auto jobs in the US Michigan is a big part of his base. He really cares about the auto industry. But he also likes the steel industry. He wants steel to be expensive and made in the U.S. Well, wait a minute. Who buys steel? Automobile companies buy steel. What happens if the price of steel goes up? Oh, it becomes harder to make it in the automobile industry.

    When we talk about picking winners, that’s what we’re talking about. If you don’t let the marketplace, the decentralized deciders, set prices, if you’re going to have Donald Trump deciding who the winner is, he’s going to have to decide even between the automobile industry and the steel industry, never mind any newfangled things like Google or Amazon. So there’s that issue.

    And then, of course, as much as he wants to do everything himself, ultimately you’re going to have some 35-year-old lawyer in the anti-trust division or the commerce department or somebody who went to some Ivy League school who’s going to be deciding these things actually. So the whole populist, anti-elitist thing goes away because inherently you end up with technocrats running things. You get France in the best case scenario.

    Hear that? France in the best case. Eesh.


  • Ann Althouse asks the big question: "How much does anyone—on either side of this yawning national divide—care about the evidence if they know in advance how they plan to interpret it?".

    Well, actually, that's not Ann. That's Susan B. Glasser writing in the New Yorker about impeachment. But Ann gives her reply:

    I'm not following this because I believe the people who are shaping it and presenting and hyperventilating about it decided in advance the interpretation they wanted to manipulate people into having. I'm not going to sit around getting spoon fed this stuff on a daily basis, week after week.

    That's a good strategy. Neither am I about to join up with either side's cheerleading section.


  • P. J. O'Rourke writes at American Consequences: Everyone Loses in the Zero-Sum Game Called Politics.

    Right now, we have a gigantic political tumor. And I’m not optimistic about the biopsy.

    The growth of politics is the opposite of the growth of liberty. The growth of politics kills the growth of liberty.

    When liberty grows, we get the expansion of free enterprise and free markets. We create more goods, services, and benefits to society. The pie gets bigger.

    But politics is not about creating more goods, services, and benefits to society. Politics is about dividing them up.

    When liberty grows, the pie gets bigger. When politics grows, the slices get smaller.

    Politics is all about promising things to people. “The auction of goods about to be stolen,” as H.L. Mencken famously put it.

    Well, you get the point. Peej is a little too optimistic about this being a zero-sum game, I think. Almost certainly, and especially with campaign promises, it's negative-sum. (Although the propagandists for statism do a pretty good job of trying to convince you otherwise.)


  • At NR, Veronique de Rugy detects a seriousness deficit at the highest levels. Specifically: President Trump Isn't Serious about Ex-Im Being a Tool to Fight China.

    These days, the trick to get whatever expansion of government one wants is to assert that more government intervention is necessary to help fight China. Yet even people who find sense and merit in this goal must concede that, in most cases, the policies are so poorly designed that they will do no such thing. The end result is that if adopted, these policies will grow the U.S. government but have no impact on China.

    Case in point: President Trump’s recent support for a clean, ten-year reauthorization of the Export-Import Bank without insisting on fundamental reforms at the agency.

    As we have heard in the last two years, the president’s change of mind about the ExIm Bank (he wanted to get rid of it before) has to do with his belief, and those around him, that the Bank can be a tool to fight China’ expansionist aspirations. Fighting China is also the main reason invoked by many on the Hill for having switched from opposing the Bank to now supporting it. This goal is somewhat different from the one pursued through the trade war.

    To adapt a well-known adage: if the Export-Import Bank is an answer, it must have been a really stupid question.


  • And the American Council on Science and Health reports on the latest: Calorie Counts on Menus Have Virtually No Impact On What We Eat.

    The setting for the study, published in the British Medical Journal was a large franchise of a national fast-food company with three different restaurant chains located in Louisiana, Texas, and Mississippi (you can do the sleuthing and come up with some theories as to who this might be, but the franchisees who handed over data didn’t get active permission from head office to name the restaurant, so the authors couldn’t divulge).

    104 outlets were involved in the analysis, all of which added calorie information to their in-store and drive-thru menus in April 2017. Weekly aggregated sales data was made available to the researchers from the pre-labeling (April 2015 to April 2017) period to up until April 2018 – a year after labeling implementation. That’s a whole lot of data – around 50 million transactions – and a far longer follow-up than most previous evaluations of food labeling interventions.

     Virtually no impact…

    This regulation would have been a good candidate for the "suicide clause" I've occasionally proposed: new regulations (or legislations) must include one or more objective benefits that must be met within a specified time period. And if those benefits are not met, the regulations (or legislations) immediately go out of effect.