It's No Way To Go Through Life

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And, really, it shouldn't be a plus in a candidate for high office. Jim Geraghty notes we got two guys who, in reality, would be flunking the job interview badly: Our Oblivious Presidential Candidates.

This presidential election is a battle between two candidates and campaigns whose primary concerns and worries are light-years away from those of the majority of the electorate.

Joe Biden would love for this year’s election to be about forgiving student loans, union jobs, climate change, gun control, abortion, those oh-so-plausible tales of him saving six people from drowning as a lifeguard, how he was arrested for standing with a black family during protests of desegregation, and how he was “runner-up in state scoring” in football . . . until his teenage asthma kept him out of the draft for Vietnam.

Donald Trump wants this election to be about how unfairly he’s been treated and how he’s being persecuted for his political views, how he was the real winner in the 2020 presidential election, and how he embodies “retribution” for his supporters.

Meanwhile, the average American voter is desperately yearning for a candidate who would just focus on fighting inflation and getting the cost of living under control. Yes, American voters have other priorities, but that is the most-often-mentioned priority by a wide margin.

Consumer note: you really get a lot of weird results when you search Amazon for "oblivious".

Also of note:

  • Speaking of weirdness… Someone named Yanis Varoufakis observes that we are living in The Age of Cloud Capital.

    I have no idea what he's talking about, but he persuaded the gatekeepers at Persuasion that his thesis was insightful enough to publish:

    Capitalism is now dead, in the sense that its dynamics no longer govern our economies. In that role it has been replaced by something fundamentally different, which I call technofeudalism. At the heart of my thesis is an irony that may sound confusing at first but which I contend makes perfect sense: the thing that has killed capitalism is… capital itself. Not capital as we have known it since the dawn of the industrial era, but a new form of capital, a mutation of it that has arisen in the last two decades, so much more powerful than its predecessor that like a stupid, overzealous virus it has killed off its host. What caused this to happen? Two main developments: the privatization of the internet by America’s and China’s Big Tech. And the manner in which Western governments and central banks responded to the 2008 great financial crisis.

    And it just gets loopier from there.

    If capitalism were dead, or even seriously ill, you'd think that would have shown up in my investment portfolio. So I'm dubious. Or maybe oblivious (see above).

    Still, for a guy I had never heard of, Yanis is actually pretty famous.

  • A good idea? Clyde Wayne Crews has a decent proposal: Subsidy-free capitalism may require a constitutional amendment.

    As I described over at Forbes, the absence of subsidies among the enumerated powers of the federal Constitution hasn’t deterred their rise to a dangerous prominence. Despite evidence showing the shortcomings of economic and social engineering subsidies, market interventionism remains popular and unabated much to the chagrin of free enterprise advocates who have yet to persuade policymakers—who often know better—to reject them.

    Subsidies famously privatize profits while socializing losses. They distort markets and steer talent into unproductive ventures; they can hinder genuine regulation by shielding actors from liability. Moreover, subsidies are accompanied by regulatory strings and chains, which in Biden’s America means the coercive promotion of progressive policies and an expansion of the administrative state’s reach.

    The history of state-level subsidies offers valuable lessons, as described in an important Mercatus Center paper called “Outlawing Favoritism: The Economics, History, and Law of Anti-Aid Provisions in State Constitutions.” While most 19th-century state constitutions contained or added clauses to prohibit private aid, loopholes emerged, leading to a resurgence of subsidies.

    I would very much like to see "subsidy-free capitalism". But Crews' proposal for a constitutional amendment? Summary: you need two-thirds vote in both houses of Congress, plus three-fourths of state legislatures to say yes.

    If you've got that kind of political support for an amendment, you have way more than enough support to just repeal existing subsidies and not enact new ones. Problem solved, with a lot less fuss.

  • The FDA wants to get back into the business of killing people. Okay, maybe that's a tad overblown, but … no, it's pretty much what's going on, as described by Ron Bailey: FDA Once Again Stands Athwart Biomedical Innovation, Yelling 'Stop!'.

    As earlier threatened, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has just issued new rules that will significantly slow down the development of new diagnostic tests. Specifically, the agency requires that all laboratory-developed tests (LDTs) be submitted to its regulators before the tests can be offered to patients and physicians. As I explained earlier, LDTs are in vitro diagnostic (IVD) tests for clinical use that are designed, manufactured, and performed by individual laboratories. They can diagnose illnesses and guide treatments by detecting relevant biomarkers in saliva, blood, or tissues; the tests can identify small molecules, proteins, RNA, DNA, cells, and pathogens. For example, some assess the risks of developing Alzheimer's disease or guide the treatment of breast cancer.

    Until now, the FDA had not sought to exercise regulatory control over the development and deployment of such tests.

    "LDTs are being used more widely than ever before—for use in newborn screening, to help predict a person's risk of cancer, or aid in diagnosing heart disease and Alzheimer's. The agency cannot stand by while Americans continue to rely on results of these tests without assurance that they work," said FDA Commissioner Robert M. Califf in a press release.

    The bureaucratic delay and expense involved in getting tests approved under the proposed rules guarantees stifled innovation, which means… yup, more people not getting diagnosed, which means… more corpses. Sad!

    But, as Bastiat would observe, if he were around: those dead folks are "unseen"; what's "seen" is only the FDA, working diligently to "protect" us.

  • It's a funny business. If you are a book reader, you might be surprised to learn: No one buys books. Elle Griffin did the research, and …

    In 2022, Penguin Random House wanted to buy Simon & Schuster. The two publishing houses made up 37 percent and 11 percent of the market share, according to the filing, and combined they would have condensed the Big Five publishing houses into the Big Four. But the government intervened and brought an antitrust case against Penguin to determine whether that would create a monopoly.

    The judge ultimately ruled that the merger would create a monopoly and blocked the $2.2 billion purchase. But during the trial, the head of every major publishing house and literary agency got up on the stand to speak about the publishing industry and give numbers, giving us an eye-opening account of the industry from the inside. All of the transcripts from the trial were compiled into a book called The Trial. It took me a year to read, but I’ve finally summarized my findings and pulled out all the compelling highlights.

    I think I can sum up what I’ve learned like this: The Big Five publishing houses spend most of their money on book advances for big celebrities like Britney Spears and franchise authors like James Patterson and this is the bulk of their business. They also sell a lot of Bibles, repeat best sellers like Lord of the Rings, and children’s books like The Very Hungry Caterpillar. These two market categories (celebrity books and repeat bestsellers from the backlist) make up the entirety of the publishing industry and even fund their vanity project: publishing all the rest of the books we think about when we think about book publishing (which make no money at all and typically sell less than 1,000 copies).

    It's a long, but interesting, read. Not book-length.