URLs du Jour


  • At AIER, Donald J. Boudreaux shares an important insight: The Economy Is Not a Series of Supply Chains.

    The first reality is that, in our modern economy nearly every productive enterprise is connected to every other productive enterprise. This connectedness is the phenomenon alluded to by the term “supply chain.” This term, however, is highly misleading. Today’s economy is not a series of supply chains running side by side with each other, each largely distinct from, and independent of, the others. If it were, there would indeed be little challenge in pulling in one or more such chains into the domestic economy so that it fully resides there, from beginning to end.

    Instead of a collection of distinct supply chains, our modern economy is a single globe-spanning web of interconnectedness. Within this web every output is the product of countless inputs and each kind of input typically is used to produce countless different kinds of outputs. This web of interconnectedness – the complexity of which is beyond human comprehension – is indispensable for our modern mass prosperity. Yet its existence – its ‘everything-is-connected-in-some-way-to-everything-else’ reality – means that there are no objective and clear lines separating “critical supplies” from “uncritical” ones.

    The "supply chain" concept is useful (just search for it on Amazon, wow) but it's a metaphor, and once you start taking it too literally, it can corrupt thought. "Chains" are static, simple, durable, linear; the actual supply process is dynamic, complex, and flexible. If you let it work.

  • At Cato, Ryan Bourne looks at the latest misbegotten idea from two failed presidential candidates, Kamala and Liz: Senators Harris and Warren's Price Is Wrong.

    Lots of states already have anti‐price gouging laws for emergency situations. But with stories about packets of Purrell Hand Sanitizers, usually around $10–12, selling for as much $350, national politicians are now keen to step in. Congressman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) and colleagues in the House want a nationwide anti‐​price gouging law giving the Federal Trade Commission powers to punish companies if their product price today “grossly exceeds” either the price at the end of last year, their competitors’ prices, or a price sufficient to account for any increased costs the business faces. Democratic Senators Kamala Harris and Elizabeth Warren, meanwhile, want a national law that bans price increases of more than 10 percent during national emergencies.

    The implicit message of such proposed laws is clear: market prices set prior to emergencies are good, fair and reasonable; market‐​set prices after the onset of one are bad, unfair and unreasonable. At least, that is, if they go up significantly. When prices plunge, as they have for flights, restaurant food, and clothing during this crisis, nobody seems to believe that consumers are gouging or swindling companies. Our politicians have very asymmetric thinking.

    There's a surfeit of hubris among politicians with no skin in the game. Not to pick on Kamala and Liz, but they're definitely above average on that score.

  • Coleman Hughes asks the musical question at Quillette: Do COVID-19 Racial Disparities Matter? Betteridge's law of headlines applies: the answer is "no". Quoting from further down the article:

    On the sillier end of the coronavirus race obsession, CNN ran a story about black Americans who won’t wear masks because they fear being mistaken for criminals and killed by the police. A tweet from one black educator—“I want to stay alive, but I also want to stay alive”—received 124,000 likes.

    Though the CNN article suggested that the fear was valid, it did not give even one example of a black person actually being harassed in this way, much less killed. Last year, 41 unarmed Americans were shot and killed by the police—nine of them black. Meanwhile, the coronavirus has been killing over 1,000 Americans per day. There is simply no comparison. Given how high the stakes are, the media should be disabusing people of life-threatening racial paranoia, not catering to it.

    CNN is fear-stoking tendentious garbage, part CXIII.

  • In our "Of Course He Did" department, Reason's C.J. Ciaramella reports: Trump Campaign Sues TV Station for Running ‘Defamatory’ Coronavirus Attack Ad.

    Donald Trump's reelection campaign has sued a Wisconsin TV station for running a political ad attacking the president's handling of the COVID-19 pandemic.

    Priorities USA, a political action committee that supports Democratic candidate Joe Biden, produced the ad. It uses sound bites from Trump's press conferences—"the coronavirus, this is their new hoax," "we have it totally under control," "we've done a great job in keeping it down to a minimum"—played over a chart showing the precipitous rise in the number of Americans infected with the virus.

    I won't say the ad in question isn't misleading—it is, of course. But there's this little thing called the First Amendment, and it really does apply to even misleading political speech.

  • I mean, who does Trump think he is? Adam Schiff? Sister Toldjah at Red State: Sit Down: Schiff Demands Media Stop Airing WH Briefings Live Because of 'Misinformation', It Does Not Go Well. She notes Schiff's tweet:

    And comments:

    Schiff’s opinion, of course, sounds almost word for word what you hear from CNN and MSNBC anchors about the briefings. They don’t want to air them live, they claim, because they believe Trump is using them as substitutes for campaign rallies, because he can’t have any of those right now due to the crisis. It’s “propaganda”, they allege, all while completely lacking in any self-awareness whatsoever.

    I would quibble about whether Schiff's tweet is a "demand". But it is unseemly for a Congresscritter, whose Oath of Office specifies that he "support and defend the Constitution of the United States", including that pesky First Amendment.

  • As our last two items show, and as David Harsanyi points out: Authoritarianism Is Getting Out of Hand. Examples from lower-level officials

    Under what imperious conception of governance does Michigan governor Gretchen Whitmer believe it is within her power to unilaterally ban garden stores from selling fruit or vegetable plants and seeds? What business is it of Vermont or Howard County, Ind., to dictate that Walmart, Costco, or Target stop selling “non-essential” items, such as electronics or clothing? Vermont has 628 cases of coronavirus as of this writing. Is that the magic number authorizing the governor to ban people from buying seeds for their gardens?

    Maybe we'll look back on this and ask ourselves: what were we thinking?