Starring Lina Khan as Ursula

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Well, it's mostly about the Federal Government's war on successful companies that consumers like. Based on the theory that you're too fricking stupid to avoid those companies, or too masochistic, or something.

So let's get to it:

  • It's a perfectly cromulent word. Liz Wolfe at Reason sums up the news: Amazon Gets Sued Bigly. And her lede is spot on:

    Lina Khan is why we can't have nice things: Yesterday, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) sued Amazon, accusing it of suppressing competition and "illegally forcing sellers on its platform to use its logistics and delivery services in exchange for prominent placement and of punishing merchants who offer lower prices on competing sites," per Bloomberg.

    "Amazon is a monopolist and it is exploiting its monopolies in ways that leave shoppers and sellers paying more for worse service," said FTC Chair Lina Khan to reporters.

    The lawsuit attempts to substantiate this claim by noting that Amazon makes other sellers' products harder to find if they find their price has been undercut, so "sellers hike prices… due to fear of Amazon's penalties." (More on this by Reason's Joe Lancaster.)

    "If the FTC gets its way, the result would be fewer products to choose from, higher prices, slower deliveries for consumers, and reduced options for small businesses—the opposite of what antitrust law is designed to do," said Amazon's general counsel David Zapolsky.

    Following that are some twitter reactions. Check 'em out.

  • "Ambigopoly": another perfectly cromulent word. Peter Jacobsen defines it:

    Back in March, I answered an “Ask an Economist” question about antitrust laws and free market regulation of monopolies. In order to decide if something is a monopoly, I noted, we must first have a definition of monopoly. In that article I borrowed a pretty standard textbook definition of monopoly which read as follows: “a market structure characterized by (1) a single seller of a well-defined product for which there are no good substitutes and (2) high barriers to the entry of any other firms into the market for that product.”

    This is pretty standard for all economics textbooks, and the primary issue with this definition is the associated ambiguity. What does it mean for a product to be a close substitute for another product? Similarly, the textbook I’m currently using for Intermediate Microeconomics authored by Goolsbee, Levitt, and Syverson calls monopoly “a market served by one firm.” This definition doesn’t escape our ambiguity problem. What constitutes a market? As I say in the prior article:

    “Is a smartphone a ‘good’ or ‘close’ substitute for a computer? Is college football a close substitute to the NFL? What about the NBA? Is a grocery store a substitute for a restaurant? Is Twitter a substitute for Facebook? Is Zoom a substitute for transportation? The point of these questions is that it isn’t clear. If you define a good narrowly enough you could argue all firms are monopolies.”

    The FTC filing against Amazon recognizes this problem explicitly. It claims that Amazon has a monopoly in two markets. I’ll focus on one. Apparently Amazon has a monopoly on the “online superstore market”. Notice how important these words are for the FTC. If you remove the word “online” then clearly Amazon has no monopoly. There are lots of superstores. If you remove the word “superstore,” again there is no monopoly. Amazon does not have a monopoly on online stores.

    I've noted that if you define "market" as "places you can buy beer within 2300 crow-flying feet of my house", it turns out there's a monopoly in that market. Somebody call Lina!

  • Also piling on with that point is… Megan McArdle in the Washington Post (who properly discloses that Jeff Bezos owns that newspaper): FTC’s firebrand chair has had Amazon in her sights a long time. Making a point similar to Jacobsen's above:

    Among the familiar motifs are excruciatingly fine definitions of the relevant market. Six years ago, when Amazon was wildly popular but barely profitable, [Khan] wrote you could see predatory behavior if you focused on very particular markets — for example, how Amazon priced best-selling e-books, rather than all e-books. Today, rather than looking at all retail, or even e-commerce, the FTC complaint argues that Amazon has gained utter dominance of the “online superstore” market, a market that seems primarily defined by … describing Amazon. It’s a little like arguing that I have an anticompetitive monopoly over Post columnists named Megan McArdle.

    Why, it's almost if Lina's arbitrarily changing the rules to get the result she wants.

    "Democracy dies in darkness". But the rule of law is getting slaughtered right out in broad daylight.

  • "I'm not asking much, just a token really, a trifle!" Noah Rothman looks at what he considers to be a very, very weak FTC case and claims Lina Khan Is in Over Her Head.

    But! She might be playing the long game! 7-dimensional chess!

    And yet, though the series of high-profile face-plants to which she has committed her agency may sap Khan of “her deterrent effect,” Northwestern University law professor John McGinnis conceded, what the FTC commissioner ultimately wants is “to permanently change the law.” By playing to lose — and doing so in spectacular fashion — she may still achieve her ultimate objective.

    “She might hope after 2024 or at some point in the future that these losses will be seized upon by her allies in Congress” to revise antitrust statutes so they more closely reflect Khan’s vision, McGinnis speculated. “This is kind of a ‘winning by losing’ strategy.” Given her losing record, it’s perhaps unwise to stipulate that Khan is playing the long game, laying the groundwork for sweeping legislative reforms in 2025 and beyond in the assumption that Democrats retake both chambers of Congress. But it’s not out of the question, and nothing else explains her conduct beyond her ideological monomania.

    Frankly, Pat Carroll had Lina beat.

  • Also accused of the crime of being successful: Google. We have had our disagreements over the years. And you'll notice that the search box over there on your right sends you to Duck Duck Go. Which (sorry, DDG) in most cases, gives you inferior results compared to the same search on Google. Which implies the same rhetorical question asked by Thomas W. Hazlett at Reason: Maybe Google Is Popular Because It’s Good? He looks at the company history, and…

    Such boffo success for a capitalist start-up, ingeniously solving the needs of the World Wide Web—well, that's your American Dream scene, just as Norman Rockwell sketched it for the brochure. It's a generational blockbuster, with 200,000 Google professionals living large and enjoying a median 2022 compensation equal to $279,802. Naturally, all of this leaves public policy experts with just one option:

    Sue the bastards!

    For the record, Bing results are also worse than Google's, but slightly better than Duck Duck Go's.

  • We can generalize this rule to a fish found in any beverage. Jonah Goldberg observes The Trout in Robert Menendez’s Milk.

    “Some circumstantial evidence is very strong,” Henry Thoreau observed, “as when you find a trout in the milk.”

    Yes, it's about Senator Robert Menendez, who is (continuing that headline theme) a fish in a barrel with Jonah holding the shotgun.

    But I really wanted to quote this excerpt, because it's funny and interesting:

    There are three classic explanations of where laughter comes from. The first, which comes from Plato but really should be ascribed to the Germans, is that laughter comes from that feeling of superiority we enjoy at the expense of others’ misfortune. This is why it will never stop being funny to see men hit in the crotch with a football. Plato thought laughter was mostly evil and malicious. This view stemmed at least in part from the fact that Plato was a bit of a dick.

    Which brings me to a second theory that we get via Sigmund Freud and Herbert Spencer. We laugh to release “nervous energy.” This, they explained, is why we laugh at bawdy and scatological things (“He called Plato a ‘dick!’ Haha!”). The small taboos about bodily functions and sex are like little tension wires and when we cut through them, we laugh.

    A third explanation for laughter is closest to what I’m getting at. A lot of humor—like a lot of wisdom—revolves around pointing out the seeming incongruities or oddities in our lives and finding solutions, commonalities, or pointing out our shared experience of them. Lots of observational humor falls into this camp. “Did you ever notice…” that people named Todd smell like elderberries? Shopping carts always have one bad wheel? People who drive slower than you are idiots and people who drive faster are maniacs? Etc.

    But how does that relate to Senator Bob? Unfortunately, it's Dispatch-paywalled so you might need to subscribe to find out.

Because It Upsets the Woke Narrative

Coleman Hughes takes to the Free Press to wonder: Why Is TED Scared of Color Blindness?.

Like any young writer, I am well aware that an invitation to speak at TED can be a career-changing opportunity. So you can imagine how thrilled I was when I was invited to appear at this year’s annual conference. What I could not have imagined from an organization whose tagline is “ideas worth spreading” is that it would attempt to suppress my own.

As an independent podcaster and author, I count myself among the lucky few who can make a living doing what they truly love to do. Nothing about my experience with TED could change that. The reason this story matters is not because I was treated poorly, but because it helps explain how organizations can be captured by an ideological minority that bends even the people at the very top to its will. In that, the story of TED is the story of so many crucial and once-trustworthy institutions in American life.

What follows is pretty damning. By his own description, Hughes' April talk advocated "the idea that we should treat people without regard to race, both in our personal lives and in our public policy." I.e., "color blindness".

And you won't believe what happened next!

Well, actually, if you've been paying attention over the past few years, you probably will. TED subjected Hughes' talk to a "disparate" treatment: like no other talk, Hughes was required to debate his views with antagonists afterward. And TED seems to have done everything it could to un-publicize it.

The discussion continues on Twitter. TED head Chris Anderson defended his organization's behavior. He's very civil and complimentary toward Hughes, but it's a case study in defending the indefensible. See the accompanying comments pointing this out.

Also see the (equally civil) response from Hughes. Essentially, he forgives TED for the weaselly behavior demanded by a vocal and intolerant minority of wokist employees.

Also of note:

  • Beware the wrath of Khan. Elizabeth Nolan Brown's cover story in the latest issue of Reason is out from behind the paywall, and it's a must read, given current events: Competition, Not Antitrust, Is Humbling the Tech Giants.

    In 2017, a 27-year-old Yale Law School student published an article arguing that the online retailer Amazon had grown so large that federal regulators should treat it as inherently suspect. Amazon, the paper said, engaged in a wide variety of harmful anticompetitive practices. The article did not merely demand far greater federal oversight of the company; it called for a complete overhaul of how regulators approach antitrust, urging more frequent, more aggressive legal action founded on a generalized antagonism toward large companies and corporate mergers.

    At the time, the view was relatively novel, with few adherents in government or the academy. But today that former student, now 34, leads the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), and both the agency specifically and the Biden administration more generally are pursuing a concrete version of her antagonistic agenda.

    That student was Lina Khan, and her swift ascendance from young academic with a dream to bureaucrat with real power showcases some rapid political and intellectual shifts that have taken place over the last few years. Not only did Khan take command of a major regulatory agency, but the Biden administration found plum spots for fellow antitrust revisionists such as the Columbia Law School professor Tim Wu, who became special assistant to the president for technology and competition policy, and the attorney Jonathan Kanter, who was installed in the antitrust division of the Department of Justice (DOJ). Beyond the White House, politicians on both the left and the right have embraced versions of these theories—and called for applying them to a swath of increasingly large, increasingly successful technology companies.

    ENB's article was probably written a few months back. So it doesn't include yesterday's news from Joe Lancaster: FTC Files Antitrust Lawsuit Against Amazon.

    In the lawsuit, the FTC, along with the attorneys general of 17 states, call the e-commerce giant a "monopolist" and accuse it of "exploit[ing] its monopolies in ways that enrich Amazon but harm its customers."

    FTC Chair Lina Khan said that "today's lawsuit seeks to hold Amazon to account for these monopolistic practices and restore the lost promise of free and fair competition."

    One of my attitudinal guiding stars is from Elvis: don't be disgusted, try to be amused. But I am in fact disgusted that New Hampshire is one of those (only) 17 states suing Amazon. Using taxpayer resources. I hope our local journalists do some footwork to discover why New Hampshire is teaming up with (mostly) blue states to hamstring a successful company.

    We'll almost certainly be paying attention over the coming days, weeks, months, years… But for now, let's just append some criticism from Lancaster's article:

    Ryan Young, senior economist for the Competitive Enterprise Institute, said in a statement that "Amazon controls roughly ten percent of total retail, and about 38 percent of online retail. For Amazon to look dominant, the FTC had to invent new terms such as the 'online superstore market that serves shoppers' and the 'online marketplace services purchased by sellers.' Even if Amazon monopolizes those specially-defined markets, the FTC will have a difficult time proving consumer harm."

    "Under antitrust law, big is not automatically bad," Young says. "Big must behave badly first by harming consumers. The rapid innovation, low prices, and low profit margins across the retail and grocery industries, make it unlikely that Amazon is harming consumers."

  • More like Family Matters Last, amirite? You would have to have a heart of stone not to chuckle at James Freeman's article on the manifest indifference of most Americans to progressive/woke ideology: If You Think Socialism Is Unpopular Now.... Noting the recent discussion of Ibram X. Kendi’s Center for Antiracist Research in mainstream news, he extracts this bit of pathos from a Michelle Goldberg opinion column in the NYT: :

    “Once the center was established under the near-total control of a single individual, there were many conscientious, talented, dedicated people who came there because they recognized it as a site of power,” Spencer Piston, a Boston University professor who until recently served as faculty lead in the Center for Antiracist Research’s policy office, told me. (He says he hasn’t been able to get a straight answer about whether he’s been fired.) “Tens of millions of dollars were flowing in, and there was lots of prestige, and they thought this would be a chance to do some good.”

    Piston remains proud of some of the center’s work, particularly research projects done in concert with local organizations like Family Matters First, which helps families caught up in the child welfare system. “It’s absolutely true that many of the center’s most high-profile projects have been failures,” he said. But there were also successes, despite what he called “the many pathologies at the center.”

    Last week, however, Family Matters First found out that its contract with the center had been terminated ahead of schedule, meaning the group won’t receive $10,000 it was counting on. Tatiana Rodriguez, the founder, told me that the association with the center had meant a great deal to her tiny organization: “This was something that we were excited about as a community,” she said. Now she feels betrayed by Kendi.

    Okay, so Kendi's got money problems. Specifically, what-did-you-do-with-all-that-money problems. But there's also…

  • [Amazon Link, See Disclaimer] News you can use. New Jersey senior Senator Bob Menendez (D., N.J.) has money problems too, but unlike Kendi's, they are where-did-you-get-all-that-money problems. The WSJ's personal finance reporters Jeremy Olshan and Anne Tergesen have some guidance on The Right Amount of Cash to Keep at Home for Emergencies. Hint: Not $480,000..

    So, just how much cash should people keep at home in case of an emergency?

    When the question was put to more than a dozen advisers and disaster-preparation experts, the answers ranged from $200 to more than two weeks’ worth of expenses. Though it is personal-finance gospel to save an emergency fund of three to six months of expenses, advisers say money should be collecting interest, not dust at the back of your sock drawer.

    There was some consensus: Few, if any, Americans need to stash anything near the $480,000 in cash investigators found in the home of Sen. Bob Menendez (D., N.J.), which he said was for emergencies.

    There's some very good advice combined with snark in this article. If you do need to keep more than a couple hundred bucks close by for "emergencies", putting the currency in plastic bags in a fireproof safe would be a better location than stuffing it into random articles of clothing. And maybe …

    [Emergency preparedness expert John] Ramey suggests applying a portfolio approach to securing one’s cash. “I wouldn’t want all my cash in one safe,” he said. “Have a safe, sure, but also something hidden in plain sight—a Barbasol can with a fake bottom or a decoy wallet.”

    Yes, our Amazon Product du Jour is just for you, for a mere $15.95, the "Barbasol Diversion Safe Stash Can with Food Grade Smell Proof Bag with Hidden Compartment for Keys, Cash and Valuables (11oz Travel Size)".

    But now that it's been publicized, everyone will know about it, so…

Last Modified 2023-09-27 3:57 PM EDT

Retro Pols

Drew Cline says beware of The Politicians Stuck in the '50s.

Americans’ confidence in large institutions, and government in particular, is collapsing. We no longer trust large, complex bureaucracies with little accountability to stick to their missions and do their jobs with honor and integrity.

And yet many of our politicians continue to talk and act like business professors from 1956, arguing that we should concentrate power and authority in the hands of a few top-level managers.

“In the 1950s and 1960s, to be an able manager was to do four things well: plan, organize, direct, and control,” management professor Phil Rosenzweig wrote for Harvard Business Review back in 2010. “Leading business thinkers conceived of managers as rational actors who could solve complex problems through the power of clear analysis.”

Too many of our politicians take exactly this approach to governing. See a problem in society? Government will fix it! How? By crafting a plan, then organizing, directing and controlling citizens and/or businesses in pursuit of the plan’s objectives.

Sigh. It's only been a few days since we posted an excerpt from Timothy Sandefur's Freedom's Furies about the great enthusiasm back in the 1930s for dictatorship, as various intellectuals looked wistfully at examples set by Stalin, Mussolini, and (even) Hitler. We're still dealing with some of the governmental baggage of that era.

Also of note:

  • We're also dealing with governmental baggage from the 1910s. Like the Federal Trade Commission, which Wikipedia tells us dates from 1914. Ryan M. Yonk and Ethan Yang have been watching recent FTC antics and they describe what happens when Partisan Oversight Meets Partisan Antitrust.

    On August 21, the Republican-led House Oversight Committee launched an investigation into the Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) communications with its counterparts in the European Union (EU). Those who support FTC Chair Lina Khan say the probe is a biased attempt to score political points by scrutinizing a favorite right-wing punching bag. Those who oppose what the FTC is doing argue the agency has been politically captured by a Chair with a clear and expansive agenda. They are both right, and the end result is a realistic and workable system of checks and balances. Just as the Founders intended.

    The Committee requested documents pertaining to agency officials dispatched by the FTC to Europe to aid with the implementation and enforcement of the EU’s Digital Markets Act (DMA), a far more aggressive antitrust law than anything found in America. Although the FTC regularly coordinates with antitrust enforcement and consumer protection regimes around the world, its work with the EU on this subject raises political, legislative, and due process issues because of the expansive nature of the DMA.

    It appears that Lina Kahn's FTC, after failing to get its way under American law, is helping Europe's regulators to go after the American companies that it wants to target: "Alphabet, Amazon, Apple, Meta, and Microsoft."

    (It's somewhat surprising that those companies tilt so heavily Democratic. It's been over 30 years since Paul Weaver wrote The Suicidal Corporation; maybe it's time for an update.)

  • And it's a not even good theater. J.D. Tuccille looks at yet another sequel: The Government Shutdown Debate Is Political Theater.

    Asked if we should expect a shutdown of the federal government, House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) says "no" and points out "we still have a number of days" until funding runs out on October 1. The White House, though, insists debate over spending is "marching our country toward a government shutdown." The battling takes are political theater as are so-called "government shutdowns" which, unfortunately, are nothing of the sort. No matter how D.C. disputes end, the federal government will certainly continue spending entirely too much and, no matter what the headlines say, will never have really shut down.

    And please be aware that whatever the outcome of this particular drama, it's unlikely that anything will be done to deal with this:

    Large swaths of both parties will simply avert their eyes. Until it's too late. (And it might already be too late.)

  • In a double feature with Political Theater, we have… Comedy With No Sense of Humor. It's Kevin D. Williamson's take on Hasan Minhaj, and it's funnier than … well, anything that Hasan Minhaj has done.

    So, wait—you’re telling me that a rabbi, a priest, and a pastor didn’t actually walk into a bar?

    Hasan Minhaj, a comedian and social commentator, has come under criticism because many of his moving and outrageous stories turn out to be made-up. Made-up stories are not a problem for Hasan Minhaj the comedian, but they are a problem for Hasan Minhaj the social commentator. Minhaj has made trouble for himself, but the genre in which he works is hardly his creation and was always begging for trouble: He has, at worst, only amplified the errors and distortions of such figures as Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert, what Jim Treacher called the “clown nose off, clown nose on” routine: Offer red-meat commentary with unearned authority, and then protest, “I’m just a comedian!” when your mistakes, misunderstandings, and ignorance are pointed out. As my friend Charles C.W. Cooke points out, Donald Trump’s admirers employ a similar frame-shifting defense of their man: When he says something outrageously stupid or offensive, it’s “He’s a fighter!” but when he retreats, as he always does, into political cowardice, it’s “He knows how to win! We can’t afford your purity tests!” Minhaj’s version of that act is: “Listen to this story that proves what a racist society this is!” “Uh, that didn’t happen.” “I’m a comedian! I’m an artist, damn you!”

    That's at the Dispatch, it has one of those little padlocks at the top, but (really) if you can afford to subscribe, …

  • Also funnier than Minhaj: Marshall McLuhan. Jeff Jacoby notes his quote: 'Art is anything you can get away with'. And how that's playing out in Denmark:

    "TAKE THE MONEY AND RUN" is the name of an early Woody Allen movie and a song by the Steve Miller Band. It is also the name of a contemporary artwork by the Danish artist Jens Haaning. Or at least art is what Haaning says it is. A court in Copenhagen says it's a scam. Who's right?

    The background: In 2021, Haaning was commissioned by the Kunsten Museum of Modern Art to reproduce a pair of his earlier works, in which he attached paper money to large, framed canvases. The museum supplied the cash Haaning would need to make the new versions — it gave him 533,000 Danish kroner (equivalent to roughly $76,000) and he signed a contract agreeing to return the currency after the four-month exhibition.

    What Haaning delivered, however, was not a recreation of his earlier pieces but two empty frames, which he titled "Take the Money and Run." In an email to the museum, he said he had decided to "make a new work for the exhibition," rather than duplicate his previous pieces and that he was keeping the banknotes for himself — as part of his art.

    "The work is that I have taken their money," he told the Danish network DR. "I encourage other people who have just as miserable working conditions as me to do the same." In an interview with CNN, he denied that he was committing theft. From his "artistic point of view," he said, he had "created an art piece, which is maybe 10 or 100 times better than what we had planned. What is the problem?"

    No problem here, Jens! I assume that inflation has hit your budget for mind-altering substances, and a guy's gotta make ends meet somehow.

Feel-Good Headline of the Day

It's the front page of this morning's WSJ: Hedge Funds Make Big Profits Betting Against FTC and Khan.

The efforts by Federal Trade Commission Chair Lina Khan to protect Main Street are inadvertently enriching some on Wall Street, generating outsize profits for Pentwater Capital Management and other large hedge funds that bet on merger deals.

For the past two years, Khan has pursued an aggressive strategy as head of President Biden’s antitrust agency, attempting to block proposed deals including Microsoft’s acquisition of videogame maker Activision Blizzard and Amgen’s pursuit of drugmaker Horizon Therapeutics.

In both cases, the FTC’s intervention spooked investors and sent shares of the target companies swinging. This phenomenon complicated the playbook for a group of hedge funds whose main strategy relies on wagering that mergers and acquisitions will succeed or fail.

Yet for a handful of firms willing to stomach the volatility, the FTC’s antitrust efforts have yielded an unexpected windfall.

Their strategy? Betting big against Khan.

It's nice that you can make some money betting in favor of the rule of law, and against a massive anti-consumer change in antitrust regulatory policy.

I really wanted to make a Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan joke about this, but I couldn't make it work. I bet someone else has, though… yeah, Google is your friend. (Lina might fix that, though, so click sooner than later.)

If you're interested, Lina Khan has been an occasional mention here at Pun Salad since 2020: Pun Salad's here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here. She's not my friend, and she shouldn't be yours either.

Also of note:

  • When will Lina Khan start regulating these guys? The excellent novelist Kat Rosenfield is also a very good essayist. At the Free Press she looks at the latest instance of The Lies of Trauma Merchants. After listing some egregious examples from the past few decades (!), starting with James Frey:

    Today, the collective horror at Frey’s deception feels like the product of a more innocent time, particularly when compared with the muted response to last week’s unmasking of his contemporary equivalent. Comedian and television personality Hasan Minhaj, an alumnus of The Daily Show, built his career on stories of the persecution he had faced as an Indian, Muslim son of immigrants in a post-9/11 America. But as outlined in a devastating report by New Yorker writer Clare Malone, his most popular material contained key omissions and barefaced lies.

    The FBI informant who infiltrated Minhaj’s Muslim community and then reported his mosque to the authorities? Minhaj never met him. The hospitalization of Minhaj’s daughter after someone mailed him an envelope full of a white mystery powder that could have been anthrax? Never happened. And the high school ex-girlfriend who accepted Minhaj’s invitation to prom, only to jilt him on her doorstep for racist reasons while her new (white) date slipped a corsage on her wrist? She had actually turned down Minhaj several days earlier, and this doorstep moment—upon which Minhaj more or less built his career—was a complete fabrication.

    I note that back in 2014, the publisher of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch cancelled the columns of George Will because he had the audacity to point out that "when [colleges and universities] make victimhood a coveted status that confers privileges, victims proliferate."

    Since then, victimhood status has become coveted in larger arenas than institutions of higher education. And I'd like to think that GFW reads essays like Rosenfield's and thinks: toldya so.

  • When will the St. Louis Post-Dispatch apologize to George Will, anyway? Ed Morrissey also looks at Hasan Minhaj and the rise of the fabricated-trauma porn industry. And he wonders…

    Why? One has to wonder whether this is a sign of cultural decline, or perhaps the end result of the educational rot from decades of emphasizing America’s failings in history without any thought of the overall context of the American experiment. In its way, it seems like the same impulse that climate-change activists have in declaring every hot day and every weather event the Unmistakable Outcome Of Global Warming Denialism. The constant thirst for doom and despair comes from the desire to destroy everything and rebuild it under an Enlightened Despotism of Sciencey Goodness, in which The Experts® will run everything and tell us how to live every aspect of our lives lest we anger the gods of Gaia or racial/ethnic determinism.

    Increasing lost arts: skepticism, accepting complexity, looking for context, …

  • But it's not just comedians. It is (of course) politicians too. Scott Johnson writes that one guy is outstanding in that field: On Biden’s Lying. Quoting from an Michael Moynihan interview with Biden biographer Franklin Foer:

    MM: The other day, Biden said he was at Ground Zero the day after the September 11 attacks. He wasn’t. He said that he was a professor, I think, at the University of Pennsylvania, teaching political theory for four years. He wasn’t. Said something similar about his grandfather dying in the hospital the same day. He falsely claimed to have been arrested during a civil rights protest. He falsely claimed that he, quote, “used to drive an 18-wheeler,” falsely claimed to have visited the Pittsburgh synagogue where worshipers were killed in a 2018 mass shooting, falsely claimed to have visited Iraq and Afghanistan as president, told a false story involving a late relative and a Purple Heart, and falsely described his interactions decades ago with late Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir. He frequently refers to his son, Beau Biden, who died of cancer, dying in Iraq. At what point is that lying and not a gaffe?

    FF: It’s clearly a tendency that is deeply ingrained in him that these are not straight examples. They’re part of a pattern of the way that he describes himself and his role in events in history. And there is something both disturbing about it on some level and, I think, very reflective of something deep in his psyche, that this desire to be at the center of the narrative and to have a version of events that kind of meshes with some idealized version of those events.

    MM: But you’re reluctant to call it lying.

    FF: On the surface, yes, it is. It is lying. But there are different reasons why people lie. And I think that needs to somehow be wrapped into the way in which we morally judge them. The pattern of lies are really always about himself, not about other people. And they’re self-aggrandizing. And so it’s this tendency towards self-aggrandizement, which is super connected to the way that he exists as a politician and super connected to all of these insecurities that he has.

    On the surface it's lying. But below the surface, it's … yep, still lying.

    Or as someone said about Hollywood: strip away the phony tinsel and you find the real tinsel underneath.

  • Putting two and two together. Lawrence M. Krauss brings us a letter from Alexander Barvinok, a mathematician who is Leaving the American Mathematical Society.

    With grave concern, I see the growing use of DEI statements as a required component for job applications, in particular in mathematical sciences. In my opinion, it has an enormous corrosive effect on the math community and education in this country. Even if one is required to say “I passionately believe that water would certainly wet us, as fire would certainly burn”, the routine affirmation of one’s beliefs as a precondition of making a living constitutes compelled speech and corrupts everyone who participates in the performance.

    I grew up in the Soviet Union, where people had to affirm their fealty to ideals and the leaders embodying those ideals, on a daily basis. As years went by, I observed the remarkable ease with which passionate communists turned first into passionate pro-Western liberals and then into passionate nationalists. This lived experience and also common sense convince me that only true conformists excel in this game. Do we really want our math departments to be populated by conformists?

    Well, do we?

Hobson's Choice Is No Choice At All

[It's lemmings and sheep, all the way down.]

Of course, there's always the Libertarian Party. So Mr. Ramirez should add "… or raving loonies" to that speech balloon.

The betting market has some actual interesting movement, as of this morning:

Candidate EBO Win
Donald Trump 32.2% +3.0%
Joe Biden 31.9% -0.1%
Gavin Newsom 6.6% -0.5%
Michelle Obama 4.5% +0.1%
Robert Kennedy Jr 4.5% +0.4%
Ron DeSantis 3.7% -1.4%
Vivek Ramaswamy 3.6% -0.3%
Nikki Haley 3.4% unch
Kamala Harris 2.8% -0.1%
Other 6.8% -1.1%

Yes, the punters are favoring Trump over Biden. Slightly.

But the top two candidates are … by far the top two candidates. Which means that all of America (generally) and Steven Greenhut (specifically) is plaintively asking: Do we really have to relive a Trump-Biden election?

My favorite religious movie hands down is Groundhog Day, the 1993 Bill Murray comedy where an arrogant TV anchor is forced to relive the same day thousands of times until he fixes his attitude and learns to care about his neighbors. He can’t move on with his life until he graduates from his purgatory in Punxsutawney, Pa. It’s a brilliant allegory for our spiritual journey as individuals and, apparently, as a nation.

Yet here we go again. Whatever Americans tell pollsters, we’re locked in a partisan grudge match that shows signs of escalating rather than abating. This remains one of the freest and most prosperous nations that’s ever existed, and yet Americans are angry, pessimistic and don’t seem to like their fellow Americans very much. We can’t even agree on a basic set of facts – and virtually no one cuts their opponents any slack.

And gazing down the list… yep, Nikki's still my choice. Even though I roll my eyes somewhat when she talks about China.

Also of note:

  • From the UNH Survey Center, so it's a cloudy window. Noah Rothman takes a look through it anyway: New Hampshire Poll Gives Us a Window into 2024.

    New Hampshire occupies a valuable position on the political calendar. As one of the only early primary states that is also a contested swing state in the general election, the Granite State provides political observers with some indications as to how an ongoing primary race will shape the contours of the general election to follow. The latest poll of New Hampshire voters via CNN and the University of New Hampshire does just that, cutting through the clutter of too-early surveys of the national electorate and clarifying the state of the presidential race ahead of 2024.

    Candidates for the White House have devoted time and resources to this state, unlike many other states. The campaigns are on the air broadcasting both positive introductory messages about themselves and, perhaps more importantly, negative ads against their opponents. Many of the candidates on the GOP side are campaigning in New Hampshire, acquainting themselves with voters and building voter-contact operations. Likewise, Joe Biden’s incumbency ensures that the state is fully appraised of his conduct in office, even if his campaign isn’t broadcasting there yet.

    That dynamic allows us the first glimpse at what the electorate will look like next year. The first impression to which readers of this CNN/UNH survey are privy is that New Hampshire voters, having marinated in each candidate’s messaging, have come away from that experience with a dim view of everyone in the race.

    Yes: a dim view through a cloudy window.

    Skimming through that 46-page document of survey results definitely lends credence to Greenhut's observation that "we can’t even agree on a basic set of facts." Even in New Hampshire. Example: in response to the query "Who do you believe won the 2020 presidential election?"

    Voting Registration Biden Trump Don't know/
    Not sure
    Democrat 97% 2% 1%
    Republican 27% 54% 19%
    Undeclared/Not registered 62% 27% 11%

    It would be nice if more of my fellow registered Republicans were not wedded to alternative facts.

  • Hope springs eternal. Michael Graham sees it glimmering: Nikki Haley Is Having a Moment in New Hampshire.

    Donald Trump’s prohibitive lead in the GOP presidential primary is undeniable, and he continues to dominate the headlines. But there is another conversation Granite State Republicans are having: “What are you hearing about Nikki Haley?”

    The former South Carolina governor and U.N. ambassador has been generating buzz among GOP activists and insiders, and the volume ticked up this week — along with her numbers in two new polls.

    In the CNN/UNH Survey Center poll that dropped on Wednesday, Trump had 39 percent support, but that was down from the 42 percent he had a few months ago. Meanwhile, Haley surged over the summer from five to 12 percent in the Granite State, enough for third place behind Vivek Ramaswamy (13 percent). Ron DeSantis had fallen to fifth place.

    I'm encouraged, but 12% is still … 12%

  • Nor should anyone else. Nathanael Blake suggests that Pro-Lifers Shouldn’t Trust Trump.

    Former President Donald Trump has broken his deal with pro-lifers. The bargain was that pro-lifers would provide Trump political support in exchange for Trump giving the pro-life movement political wins. And it paid off. Trump got to be president, and pro-lifers got originalist Supreme Court justices who overturned Roe v. Wade.

    Now as Trump seeks the Republican nomination for a third time, he is making it clear that the alliance is over. Pressed on abortion in a recent interview, Trump blasted his rival, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, for signing a law banning abortions after the baby has a detectable heartbeat. Trump declared, “I think what he did is a terrible thing and a terrible mistake.”

    Trump is being honest. There is no reason to doubt that he said what he really believes: that restricting abortion to any meaningful extent is a terrible mistake and that he has no will to fight to protect human life in the womb. Before denouncing DeSantis (and, implicitly, every other Republican governor and state legislator who has protected babies from being killed in the womb, along with the voters who supported them), Trump insisted he would be able to cut a deal with Democrats to bring “peace” on this issue. However, in promising this peace he refused to commit to even a 15-week limit on abortion.

    My guess is that Trump's calculation is simple: political expediency; DeSantis's action was "terrible" because it will cost him more votes than it gains.

    Trump has no discernable position on the moral issue. Moral issues are just not on his radar.

  • The Case of the Purloined Documents would have been a pretty good Hardy Boys title. And Jacob Sullum would be a good choice to write it, judging from his take on Trump’s Preposterous Defense in the Purloined Documents Case.

    In May 2022, Donald Trump received a federal subpoena demanding all the documents with classification markings that remained in his possession at Mar-a-Lago. At that point, SiriusXM talk show host Megyn Kelly suggested in an interview with the former president last week, he was legally obligated to surrender those records.

    "I know this," Trump replied, then immediately corrected himself: "I don't even know that, because I have the right to have those documents." That startling response epitomized the lazy arrogance that Trump displayed in January 2021, when he removed thousands of presidential records from the White House, and during the ensuing year and a half, when he stubbornly resisted efforts to recover them.

    In addition to 32 counts of willfully retaining national defense information, that pattern of defiance resulted in eight obstruction-related charges, which may pose the most serious threat to Trump's continued freedom. While the other three indictments against Trump face formidable obstacles, including controversial legal interpretations, complicated narratives, and difficult questions of knowledge and intent, the story behind the documents case is relatively straightforward: Trump took a bunch of stuff that did not belong to him and refused to return it.

    And (once again) note that Trump has a lead in our weekly odds tabulation.

  • To be fair, this doesn't distinguish him from other Democrats. John Hinderaker points out that RFK Jr. Is a Crazy Left-Winger.

    Some conservatives have an unreasonably positive view of Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., based on the fact that he sounds sensible on two or three issues. But in fact, he is nuts, as manifested most grotesquely in his conviction that Sirhan Sirhan did not murder his father. Beyond that, he is, on the large majority of issues, an unreconstructed far left-winger.

    Hinderaker takes particular note of his demand to ban fracking. Part of his "10-point plan to fix the plastics pollution crisis". Which is generally Stalinist.

Last Modified 2023-09-24 10:33 AM EDT

It Can't Happen Here, Except That It Almost Did

And it's probably a good idea to remember that it's never entirely off the table.

[Amazon Link, See Disclaimer] David Boaz writes, inspired by our Amazon Product du Jour: In 1932-33 Leading Intellectuals Used 'Dictatorial' as a Positive Recommendation. In America.

In his recent book Freedom’s Furies: How Isabel Paterson, Rose Wilder Lane, and Ayn Rand Found Liberty in an Age of Darkness, Timothy Sandefur describes the intellectual climate that those “founding mothers of libertarianism” faced in the Hoover‐Roosevelt Depression years:

Between 1917 and 1919, agencies such as the War Industries Board and [Herbert] Hoover’s U.S. Food Administration appeared to vindicate Progressive beliefs in government planning. A decade later, many—including Hoover himself—pointed to that precedent, arguing that the Depression was analogous to a world war and should be dealt with in the same way.

That was the basis for the idea that General Electric’s president Gerard Swope proposed in September 1931. He recommended that the federal government create a system of industrial cartels under which all companies of more than 50 employees would be assigned to a trade association vested with authority to dictate the types and amounts of goods and services businesses could provide, and how much they could charge. This would prevent “destructive” competition, by giving companies the power to prohibit their competitors from reducing prices or introducing new or improved products, which would “stabilize” the economy and ensure full employment. “Industry is not primarily for profit but rather for service,” Swope declared. “One cannot loudly call for more stability in business and get it on a purely voluntary basis.” Although hardly the only such proposal—it mimicked the corporatism already being implemented in Italy and Germany—the Swope Plan gained the most attention and would later form the blueprint for the National Industrial Recovery Act. But at the time, Hoover labeled it “fascism” and rejected it as “merely a remaking of Mussolini’s ‘corporate state.’”

Many similar schemes were offered by prominent intellectuals, including historian Charles Beard, who proposed “A Five‐​Year Plan for America” on the Soviet model, and New Republic editor George Soule, whose 1932 book A Planned Society proposed political control over the entire economy. These writers, said one of Soule’s colleagues, “were impatient for the coming of the Revolution; they talked of it, dreamed of it.” And they were not alone. That same year, novelist Theodore Dreiser published Tragic America, which he had originally planned to call A New Deal for America. It advocated the overthrow of capitalism and the replacement of the Constitution with a government that would control industry in the style of the Soviet Union, where he thought communism was “functioning admirably.”…

Dreiser probably changed his title because A New Deal had already been taken by economist Stuart Chase, whose book of that name also appeared in 1932. Chase—who considered it “a pity” that “the road” to socialist revolution in America was “temporarily closed”—looked forward to the day when the government would seize all industry and “solv[e] at a single stroke unemployment and inadequate standards of living.” It would do this, he said, by compelling all individuals to “work for the community.” The government should forbid high interest rates, stock market speculation, the manufacturing of “useless” products, the creation of new clothing styles, businesses “rushing blindly to compete,” and other “ways of making money”—and it should do so “by firing squad if necessary.” The 44‐year‐old Chase was inspired by the “new religion” of “Red Revolution,” which he found “dramatic, idealistic, and, in the long run, constructive.” “Why,” he asked, “should the Russians have all the fun of remaking a world?”

I liked Sandefur's previous book about Frederick Douglass. Looks like I'll have to read this one too.

Also of note:

  • Or duck under it. Avoid it, in any case. Mathew Lloyd explains Why Libertarians Must Rise above the Left-Right Dichotomy of Politics.

    In the UK we have a Conservative prime minister—right wing—and the results of their governments interference in the economy and politicization of everyday life has had a negative impact on individual lives, public discourse, and the economy. In the US there is a Democrat president—left wing—and their neighbors to the north, Canada, have a Liberal government—left wing (though not truly liberal in the original meaning of the word)—and both these countries have economic troubles and heavily politicized daily lives just like the UK. The list of countries with leaders and governments from opposite sides of the spectrum goes on and on, but what all these left and right wing governments have in common is the same poor outcomes and worsening situations created by their beliefs.

    How can two supposedly vastly different worldviews result in similar outcomes? If they were truly worlds apart then the results would be worlds apart too. The reality is both sides of the spectrum rely on varying degrees of authoritarianism to achieve their popularity, and both sides deploy authoritarian policies against the economic and social lives of citizens which is why the results are so similar. Both sides cripple economies through taxation, regulation, and punishment of economic activity. Both sides forbid certain speech, certain behavior, certain views, and certain interactions. Both sides believe in the use of force against different groups of people and in punishing different groups based on immutable characteristics in the name of ‘equality’ and ‘fairness.’ Both sides are unprincipled and will change their positions based on whichever way the political wind is blowing. To put it bluntly, both sides are just different flavors of the same foul stew.

    I'm kind of sympathetic to this argument. Although when it comes to voting, the Libertarian Pary keeps insisting on nominating lunatics. So that's kind of a deal-breaker for me.

Recently on the book blog:

[Amazon Img]

Recently on the movie blog:

[Amazon Img]

Kiss Kiss Bang Bang

[4.5 stars] [IMDB Link] [Amazon Link, See Disclaimer]

I went to the Strand Theater in Dover (NH) to see this movie when it came out back in 2005, and I remembered enjoying it quite a bit. And the Writer/Director, Shane Black, went on to direct the best (imho) Iron Man movie, that would be number three (your mileage may vary, but shouldn't). (Black also had an impressive run of writing action movies, see his IMDB résumé.)

I was under the impression, a few years back, that eventually any movie or TV show that ever was would be available to stream via some provider, at a reasonable monthly fee. David Janssen's short-lived private eye classic Harry O. The goofy comedy The Big Bus. Ken Russel's surrealistic musical comedy The Boy Friend. And …

Well, wasn't I was a starry-eyed optimist. If anything, trends seem to be going the other way, with services pulling shows and movies off their lists. And adding advertising to what's left.

But I wanted to see this bad enough to send Amazon an extra $3.99.

Robert Downey, Jr. plays Harry, a small-time New York crook who, by sheer accident, gets hired for a movie role out in LA. There he meets Gay Perry (Val Kilmer) who is supposed to be tutoring him for his part. And is reunited with a childhood acquaintance, Harmony (Michelle Monaghan), who's looking to make her mark in Hollywood as well. But pretty soon, Perry and Harry accidentally witness a murder while on a stakeout.

The plot is very complicated, self-concious, and ludicrous. And a lot of fun. Downey and Kilmer are great.

Nice touch: this noirish movie has acts with titles stolen drawn from Raymond Chandler books.

The Rise and Fall of D.O.D.O.

[Amazon Link, See Disclaimer]

This finishes up my reread-Stephenson project, undertaken back in 2019 with Cryptonomicon. I first read this back in 2017 when it came out. And I agree with what my six-year-ago self said back then: it's a lot of fun to read, and highly recommended.

And my memory is currently faulty enough that I was re-gobsmacked by the sly revelation on page 164. "What!? … Oh, I get it." There are upsides to being old!

I should also add that Neal Stephenson's co-author, Nicole Galland, wrote a sequel back in 2021, Master of the Revels. I was shamefully unaware. But I picked it up at Amazon. And in an unusual move for me, paid full hardcover-price, in the hopes that Ms. Galland will get the resulting royalty.

Betteridge's Law of Headlines Reconfirmed

[Amazon Link, See Disclaimer] Johan Norberg answers the burning question: Does Capitalism Really Make Us Lonely?

Presume the economic case for free markets is true: that capitalism makes us freer and richer, creates better jobs and greater opportunities, and helps us solve environmental problems. Does it make us happier too?

The American conservative Patrick Deneen believes liberal capitalism makes us "increasingly separate, autonomous, nonrelational selves, replete with rights and defined by our liberty, but insecure, powerless, afraid, and alone." Under the exhaustive headline "Neoliberalism—the ideology at the root of all our problems," the British leftist George Monbiot claims that these problems include (but are by no means limited to) "epidemics of self-harm, eating disorders, depression, loneliness, performance anxiety and social phobia."

Freedom "doesn't make us free, it makes us lonely," adds Christian conservative Joel Halldorf. "Increasing mental illness, isolation and populism are signs that liberalism cannot sustain itself." The leftist economist Noreena Hertz argues that "neoliberalism has made us see ourselves as competitors not collaborators, consumers not citizens, hoarders not sharers, takers not givers, hustlers not helpers."

Such sweeping statements are only very rarely followed by attempts to document any causal link or even a correlation. Surprisingly often, a quick misreading of classical liberals is supposed to be enough to prove the connection between liberalism and greed and loneliness, as if the resistance to forced relationships was based on a resistance to relationships themselves.

Norberg goes on to debunk the scurrilous accusation. With statistics. The science is settled, people!

The Reason article is adapted from Norberg's new book, our Amazon Product du Jour.

Also of note:

  • As predictable as the sunrise off Martha's Vineyard. Those Soviet-style N-year plans were never gonna work. The WSJ editorialists note the latest detour on the Road to Serfdom: The Great Northeast Wind Bailout.

    If only the hot air blowing at the United Nations’ Climate Ambition Summit this week could be used to generate electric power. That would be especially convenient since Governors in the Northeast are lobbying the White House to bail out their states’ offshore wind projects, which have hit a gale of ballooning costs.

    “Inflationary pressures, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and the lingering supply chain disruptions resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic have created extraordinary economic challenges,” wrote Govs. Kathy Hochul (N.Y.), Ned Lamont (Conn.), Phil Murphy (N.J.), Maura Healey (Mass.), Wes Moore (Md.) and Dan McKee (R.I.) to President Biden last week.

    It's worth pointing out that those states are among the richest in the US. Specifically, ranked by median household income, Maryland is #1, New Jersey is #2, Massachusetts is #3, Connecticut is #8, New York is #15, and poor Rhode Island is #15. It takes some brass cojones for those states to demand that (in effect) poorer states send them more money.

    (It's also worth pointing out that the median household in the District of Columbia has a higher income than any state. It's expensive to maintain the fiction of "free money" coming from Uncle Stupid.)

  • To a first approximation: check cashing. James Freeman wonders what's going on down there in Boston, specifically: What Exactly Happens at the Center for Antiracist Research?. That would be the center at Boston University, established in 2020, under the control of Ibram X. Kendi. Producing pretty much bupkis. Even the Boston Globe is wondering!

    “Boston University and Dr. Kendi believe strongly in the center’s mission,” Lapal Cavallario said. “We look forward to working with him as we conduct our assessment.”

    BU’s announcement of the inquiry came hours after the Globe sent the university extensive questions about the center’s operations.

    In interviews with the Globe this week, current and former employees described a dysfunctional work environment that made it difficult to achieve the center’s lofty goals.

    The organization “was just being mismanaged on a really fundamental level,” said Phillipe Copeland, a professor in BU’s School of Social Work who also worked for the center as assistant director of narrative.

    Assistant director of narrative.

    It's a huge job directing narrative, folks. You need an assistant to help. Freeman comments:

    Mr. Copeland resigned from the center in June, reports the Globe. His blunt comment on the record, coupled with the fact that he is a credentialed narrative expert, suggests trouble for Mr. Kendi. For if the latter can’t rely on a friendly media narrative, what can he rely on?

    And at National Review, Charles C. W. Cooke joins the scrum, wondering: Is Ibram X. Kendi a Racist? Betteridge's Law of Headlines fails here. Turns out the answer is yes.

    CCWC also quotes from the Boston Globe story:

    Since its announced launch in June 2020, just days after the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis, the center has raised tens of millions of dollars from tech entrepreneurs, Boston-area corporations, and thousands of small donors.

    At the time, Kendi, the author of the bestselling 2019 book “How to Be an Antiracist,” said the center would “solve these intractable racial problems of our time.”

    Well, maybe the center did "solve these intractable racial problems of our time." I mean, all that money must have done something, right?

  • I grew up in Iowa and Nebraska, and I like farmers. But, as Scott Lincicome painstakingly details, there is no plan to get them off the federal tit. Just the opposite, in fact: The Farm Bill Is a Case Study in What’s Wrong With Washington.

    As many conservatives and libertarians know all too well, “bipartisanship” is one of the most annoyingly misunderstood concepts in American politics and media. Yes, sure, it’s fine and good when Congress approves a good bill with lots of votes from both major political parties, but good law can get made via party-line votes and bad legislation can sail quickly through the legislative process with nary a peep of opposition. Indeed, some of the worst laws on the books were enacted with lots of R and D votes, and—frustratingly—with advocates using that bipartisanship as a useful shield against legitimate criticism. 

    There’s perhaps no better example of this kind of bipartisanship—the bad kind—than the farm bill, which Congress is again considering (as it does every five years) and will almost surely pass later this year with overwhelming bipartisan support. On its face, the farm bill is a sprawling, $1 trillion piece of legislation ostensibly about U.S. agriculture policy; but it’s really about a lot more than that—and it’s a testament to how bad policy gets made in Washington, too often accompanied by a harmonious chorus of happy Republicans and Democrats.

    It's paywalled, from the folks at the Dispatch. If you're blood pressure can stand it, maybe you should subscribe. Or you could check out Cato's "briefing paper" from Chris Edwards, advocating something that's not gonna happen: Cutting Federal Farm Subsidies. Fun facts:

    Farm subsidies disproportionately benefit high‐income households. In 2021, the average income of all farm households was $135,281, which was 32 percent higher than the $102,316 average of all U.S. households. The median income of farm households was $92,239, which was 30 percent higher than the $70,784 median of all U.S. households. Only 2 percent of farm households have net wealth below the U.S. median household net wealth.

    And, lest we forget: The Rich Get Richer: 50 Billionaires Got Federal Farm Subsidies. I'm far from a class warrior, but come on.

"Beloved" by the Survivors II

[Amazon Link, See Disclaimer]

If our Amazon Product du Jour looks familiar to you, it's the same one we used just last month. Its full title is The National Health Service: Celebrating the 75th Anniversary of the NHS and it was officially released just last week! Amazon's description calls it a "photographic celebration of the United Kingdom's most beloved institution" and (in case you haven't got the message yet) calls the NHS a "vital institution that has long been the envy of all nations."

Recently, James Freeman looked at the current state of play: Annals of Government-Run Medicine.

One of the world’s most celebrated socialized medical systems is doing what socialized medical systems do: limiting patient care. Pending work stoppages could mean that the worst is yet to come for patients of England’s National Health Service.

For obvious reasons, American politicians seeking an even greater federal role in U.S. health care avoid discussing the staggering privations under Marxist regimes in places like Cuba and Venezuela. Instead, pols like Sen. Bernie Sanders (socialist, Vt.) point to government-run health systems within largely free, developed economies. But the U.K. is another example they’ll want to avoid.

Josephine Franks reports for Sky News that senior doctors, called consultants in Britain, will be joining their less experienced colleagues in withholding treatment:

Consultants and junior doctors are set to strike for several more days this week and early next month, bringing more chaos to the NHS after several months of walkouts and delayed appointments...
A health chief said the NHS is in “uncharted territory” due to the strikes, with thousands of patient appointments expected to be cancelled.
Saffron Cordery, deputy chief executive of NHS Providers, said this week’s strike action “can’t become the status quo”.

Sadly it can. If there’s one brutal lesson of government-run health care it’s that things can always get worse. Turning doctors into unionized government bureaucrats brings a host of problems, including the fact that politicians, not patients, decide what doctors are paid. This is of course a problem in the U.S. as well. England is a sort of preview of just how badly government management can mangle the incentives to provide medical services—and the duty to provide care.

Hey, there, "all nations". Still envious?

Also of note:

  • Look out below! Cato reports on the New Economic Freedom Report: Hong Kong Falls from Top Spot.

    Hong Kong is no longer number one, according to the Economic Freedom of the World: 2023 Annual Report, released today by the Fraser Institute and co‐published in the United States by the Cato Institute. As Hong Kong’s ratings declined, Singapore increased its score and edged the Chinese territory out for the top spot.

    The report finds that the Chinese government imposed “new and significant barriers to entry” in Hong Kong and otherwise increased the costs of doing business there. The rule of law also saw a deterioration, contributing to the city’s decline.

    Other countries ranked as follows: United States (5), Canada (10), Taiwan (11), Japan (20), Chile (30), France (47), Mexico (68), India (87), Turkey (101), Russia (104), China (111), Egypt (144), Argentina (158), Zimbabwe (164), Venezuela (165).

    "The rule of law also saw a deterioration" translated: Commies (eventually) gotta commie.

    The other countries outscoring the US were Switzerland and New Zealand.

    Hey, maybe if Hong Kong continues to fall, we can move up to #4!

    Or we could do worse.

  • George Will says The UAW can strike, but it’s running out of gas.

    Henry Ford, according to corporate legend, said that if he had asked potential customers what they wanted when he founded his company in 1903, they would have said faster horses. The infant automobile industry began by giving people what they did not know they wanted. Twelve decades later, this industry is being discombobulated by government pressure to manufacture products — electric vehicles — that the public does not much want, least of all in the quantities that Washington’s central planners deem proper.

    Fun fact, as reported by Kevin D. Williamson:

    As of late 2022, none of the largest U.S. car factories were producing Fords, any of the General Motors marques, or any of the Chrysler-Dodge-Ram-Jeep brands. The most productive car factory in the United States last year, as Bloomberg ran the numbers, was Tesla’s factory in Fremont, California, producing 8,550 cars a week. No. 2 was Toyota’s plant in Kentucky, followed by BMW’s operation in South Carolina. Next was another Toyota plant, the one in Princeton, Indiana. None of the formerly Big Three made the list until—this will not surprise you—Ford’s truck factory in Kentucky in fifth place. 

    His question about the UAW strike: "Will anybody notice?"

  • They're just after the shekels, anyway. David Bernstein notes people who just can't resist revealing their bigotry: Despite What Those Shadowy, Elite, Rich Jews Say, We're Not Antisemites.

    The "Palestine Writes Literary Festival" is being held at the University of Pennsylvania later this week. This has attracted severe criticism from Jewish groups and individuals within and without Penn because some of the speakers have a history of engaging in antisemitic rhetoric.

    The Penn administration acknowledges that people have raised concerns about several speakers who "have a documented and troubling history of engaging in antisemitism by speaking and acting in ways that denigrate Jewish people." Penn nevertheless defends hosting the conference on academic freedom grounds, but adds that the conference was not organized by the university.

    Bernstein further notes:

    Well, if you want to know how NOT to start a letter defending yourself from accusations  of antisemitism, you can use this letter as a model. After noting that the festival has been harshly criticized by "the Jewish Federation and the ADL," the organizers have this to say:

    unlike our detractors, we do not operate in the shadows nor among elite decision makers and funders. Rather, we value transparency and public access, accountability, and scrutiny. We are also acutely aware of the power disparity between these highly funded, connected and organized Zionist organizations versus our small cultural institution run by volunteers and student organizations, most of them Penn students.

    Talk about self-owns… The organizers are so clueless about antisemitism that they engage in classic anti-Jewish tropes while defending themselves from charges of antisemitism. Which kinda undermines anything else they have said or will say in their defense.

    Antisemitism: it's not just for knuckle-dragging Nazis any more!