URLs du Jour

2019-12-24

[Amazon Link]

'Twas the day before Christmas, and…

  • We previously linked to Ramesh Ponnuru's National Review careful case in favor of President Trump's impeachment. Now here's Michael Brendan Dougherty's counterpoint Case against Impeachment. Bottom line:

    The Republican talking point in defense of the president — you always wanted to impeach him, you only just now found your excuse — has some purchase. It’s not strictly logical. But neither has been the American practice for impeaching presidents. If I had some sense that the political effect was to restore constitutional good order, I would happily support impeachment. But the political effect of impeachment seems to me to be aimed at restoring a Washington consensus way of doing things, a Washington culture, that has been indefensible for decades. That’s a project unworthy of support, one that is politically unwise to pursue.

    This is the consensus and culture that Trump was elected to disrupt and destroy. I think many of his supporters acknowledge freely he’s not quite the perfect man for the job. And so my own political judgement is that the best course was for Congress to inquire about, investigate, and publicize his misdeeds — and thereby encourage Trump’s challengers to campaign on them in the next presidential election.

    I've worked up an unhealthy disgust with both sides. Not a good look for the season of peace and goodwill, but there you go.

    In contrast, I have nothing but respect and admiration for folks like Ramesh and Michael, who are trying to make the best sense out of an ugly situation. Yes, that's their job, but…


  • At AIER, Don Boudreaux lays out The Case Against Oren Cass.

    Conservative scholar Oren Cass wants to “redefine the economic orthodoxy that guides the nation’s politics and public policy.” He’s convinced that economists wrongly discount the importance of work while naively giving pride of place to consumption.

    Consistent with his conviction, Cass proposes that government policies – including trade policy – pay more conscious attention to our roles as producers and workers and less attention to our roles as consumers. Cass believes that a policy of free trade – in which workers lose their jobs merely because consumers change their spending patterns – undermines human dignity by overlooking the deep yearning that each of us has to be productive rather than merely consumptive.

    That's not obviously incorrect, Don admits. But, yet, it's profoundly incorrect. Because…

    What economists mean when they insist that consumption is the sole end of production is that there is no economically meaningful production if the materials or activities that are the outcome of the exertion of human time and toil satisfy no human desire. That is, to produce is to generate some output that satisfies a human want or wants. Merely toiling to transform physical materials from arrangement X into arrangement Y is not productive unless arrangement Y contributes to the satisfaction of some consumption desire.

    To use my favorite example, if I work hard to bake a sawdust-and-maggot pie, the result of my work is not really production. I’ve produced something when reckoned in a purely physical dimension: a concoction featuring wood shavings and fly larvae. But economically I’ve produced nothing. Indeed, economically I’ve wasted time and resources that could instead have been used to produce something that does satisfy human desires. Economically I’ve reduced production from what it could have easily been.

    As far as Oren's plea for "dignity" goes, Don has some tough-but-fair advice: there's "no dignity in being parasitic".


  • My local TV news station routinely calls vaping an "epidemic", and makes the error Jacob Sullum decries at Reason: As More Evidence Implicates Vitamin E Acetate in Lung Injuries, the Press Continues to Blame E-Cigarettes That Don’t Contain It.

    The fourth paragraph of a recent New York Times story about vaping on college campuses notes "a growing health crisis that has killed more than 50 people and injured more than 2,500," which it says led Congress to raise the minimum purchase age for e-cigarettes to 21. Later the Times concedes that the deaths and injuries are "largely attributed to vaping products containing THC." But that inconvenient fact does not stop the Times from conflating college students' nicotine vaping—the main subject of the story—with vaping of potentially deadly black-market cannabis products.

    That sort of misleading reporting remains sadly common despite the mounting evidence implicating vitamin E acetate, a cutting and thickening agent that began showing up in illegal THC products this year, in the recent outbreak of vaping-related respiratory illnesses. Two days before the Times published its story, The New England Journal of Medicine published the results of a study that strengthens the case against that additive, which is not found in legal e-cigarettes.

    Standard disclaimer: vaping is a bad habit to pick up, but (other than regulating product safety) the government should butt out.