URLs du Jour


  • Because we looked at this issue before and came up with the wrong (premature) result: a guy at the WaPo asks and answers: By how many votes did Joe Biden beat Donald Trump?

    But one of the paradoxes of our electoral college system is that, while the popular vote margin of more than five million may seem like a landslide win, the vote margins that gave Biden the presidency are razor-thin. Flipping just a little more than 81,139 votes in four states would have changed the winner of this election. That is just over the margins that gave Trump the presidency in 2016. The vote count has not yet been completed and those margins could change, but they are unlikely to shift dramatically.

    The states in question: Nevada, Wisconsin (misspelled at the WaPo), Georgia, and Arizona.

    The comparable numbers in the 2016 election: 77,744 in three states (Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Michigan) gave Trump the win.

    In the (I think unlikely) event that Trump's lawyers ever manage to prove their electoral misfeasance/malfeasance claims, these numbers could be significantly updated, of course. But otherwise: you can't help but think that if Trump had been only slightly less Trumplike, he could have won pretty easily.

    (Or if any one of dozens of things that happened, didn't.)

  • The Issues & Insights folks note that Bidenomics Is Off To A Really Bad Start. And I'm not sure if this is more funny than sad:

    At Monday’s briefing, Biden was practically giddy about a meeting he’d had earlier in the day with CEOs at four big companies – Microsoft, The Gap, Target, and General Motors – along with five union bosses.

    “It was really encouraging, quite frankly,” he said, to get “business and labor agreeing on the way forward.”

    Why these companies? Biden didn’t say. But if he wanted advice on how to grow the economy and create jobs, he picked a sorry lot to get it from.

    The Gap closed 230 of its stores last year. GM’s sales have been steadily declining since 2016. Target’s annual revenue growth has been more or less flat since 2013. Microsoft’s glory days are well in the past.

    As far as jobs go, the four companies had a combined loss of 10,000 jobs from 2015 to 2019 – years overall job growth topped 8% – according to data from Macrotrends. Only Microsoft created a significant number of new jobs over those years.

    No word on whether Biden's next meeting will be with manufacturers of buggy whips, VCRs, and kerosene lamps.

  • If you've been wondering if arbitrary COVID-19 control measures will make Americans more likely to "hang in there" until vaccines are available… well, Jacob Sullum has an answer for you at Reason: Arbitrary COVID-19 Control Measures Will Not Make Americans More Likely To ‘Hang in There’ Until Vaccines Are Available. In response to the surge in new cases and hospitalizations:

    The legal restrictions imposed this fall cover a wide range, from mask mandates to renewed lockdowns. But in many cases, governors and mayors do not seem to have learned much from the bitterness and defiance engendered by last spring's restrictions, which were often arbitrary and hard to square with what we know about the coronavirus.

    Jacob cites some "do something" measures in New Mexico, Chicago, New York. And notes the obvious problem:

    When there is little rhyme or reason to COVID-19 control measures, politicians should not be surprised by the skepticism and resentment they provoke. Worse, arbitrary legal restrictions may encourage Americans to disregard official advice and resist the voluntary steps that are crucial to reducing virus transmission.

    A perennial Pun Salad observation: when government treats its citizenry as irresponsible children, a significant fraction will start acting like irresponsible children. Covid is just the latest example.

  • We previously looked at the anti-free speech writings of Richard Stengel. Today, Jerry Coyne takes him on: “We must add new guardrails”: Biden transition team official wrote op-ed asking for hate speech laws. Jerry (I call him Jerry) takes on Stengel's argument in said op-ed:

    Yes, Stengel is a Pecksniff who wants hate speech laws, but is curiously silent about who will make them? Who will be The Decider? We all know the problems with that, and they are pretty much insuperable. For every Biden official who disallows criticism of Black Lives Matter and Islam, there will be a later Trumpy official who criminalizes speech that liberals favor. The best solution is to allow everyone to say their piece, with a reasonable few exceptions that the courts have carved out as outweighing free speech (false advertising, defamation, harassment of individuals, and so on).

    You know what my worries are: that Stengel will influence and also reflect a general censorious wokeness on the part of the new Biden administration. Granted, this editorial was written over a year ago, but I think it’s fair to ask Stengel if he still stands by it. If he does, then we should keep a weather eye on his behavior—and that of the Biden administration’s actions about speech.

    Biden was a primary pusher for the Obama Administration's Title IX "Dear Colleague" letter. His respect for Constitutional restraints on the Federal Government is minimal. Point to Stengel if you want, but I suspect the actual attacks on civil liberties over the next four years will be emanating from the top.

  • Ann Althouse pointed me to a Louis Menand New Yorker book review: Wikipedia, “Jeopardy!,” and the Fate of the Fact. Good stuff, somewhat free from the political manure spread throughout the Condé Nast magazine stable. And, in addition to Alex Trebek and Jimmy Wales, a third Pun Salad hero is mentioned:

    A major influence on Jimmy Wales’s conception of [Wikipedia] was an essay by Friedrich Hayek called “The Use of Knowledge in Society,” published in 1945, and Hayek is virtually the father of postwar neoliberalism. His tract against planning, “The Road to Serfdom,” published in 1944, has sold hundreds of thousands of copies, and is still in print. Hayek’s argument about knowledge is the same as the neoliberal argument: markets are self-optimizing mechanisms. No one can know the totality of a given situation, as he puts it in “The Use of Knowledge” (he is talking about economic decision-making), but the optimal solution can be reached “by the interactions of people each of whom possesses only partial knowledge.”

    Well, not entirely free from politics; "neoliberal" is a trendy progressive slur against people who like capitalism.

    I'll quibble a tad further: I would wager that Hayek did not claim that markets automatically deliver "optimal solutions". I'd buy a significantly weaker claim: markets deliver better solutions than do "planners". Seventy-five years after The Road to Serfdom, that's still on target.

Last Modified 2024-06-03 5:58 AM EDT