One of my two all-time most favorite economists — Thomas Sowell — turns 90 tomorrow, he was born on June 30, 1930. Here is Thomas Sowell’s webpage and here is his Wikipedia entry. Milton Friedman (my other all-time favorite economist) once said, “The word ‘genius’ is thrown around so much that it’s becoming meaningless, but nevertheless I think Tom Sowell is close to being one.”
In my opinion, there is no economist alive today who has done more to eloquently, articulately, and persuasively advance the principles of economic freedom, limited government, individual liberty, and a free society than Thomas Sowell. In terms of both his quantity of work (49 books and several thousand newspaper columns) and the consistently excellent and crystal-clear quality of his writing, I don’t think any living free-market economist even comes close to matching Sowell’s prolific record of writing about economics.
And while no one else unfortunately understands how he was able to become the economist he became, let me point out that his PhD was on Say’s Law and two of his earliest books were on Say’s Law and Classical Economic Theory. Nor was that just an early part of his career, but he came back to Classical Theory again in 2006.
Sowell, Thomas (1972), Say’s Law: A Historical Analysis, Princeton University Press, ISBN 978-0-691-04166-7.
——— (1974). Classical Economics Reconsidered. Princeton University Press. ISBN 978-0691003580.
——— (2006). On Classical Economics. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press. ISBN 978-0-300-12606-8.
And on this, let me add to what Currency Lad has already written on it’s always our money, via Adam Creighton. Money is a metaphor – probably actually a synecdoche – for the word resources. If you use the word “money” you can be deceived by government spending since a government can always print more of the stuff. Resources, actual labour and capital, are much harder to come by. Here is the point made by Adam Smith in 1776:
Great nations are never impoverished by private, though they sometimes are by public prodigality and misconduct. The whole, or almost the whole public revenue, is in most countries employed in maintaining unproductive hands.
That, by the way, is from the chapter “On the Accumulation of Capital, or of Productive and Unproductive Labour”. There is more sense in that chapter than in the whole of a modern economics text. It is Thomas Sowell amongst a very few others who is keeping that tradition alive.
If you are looking for a modern discussion of classical economic theory, and amongst other things a discussion of productive and unproductive labour, might I recommend my own Classical Economic Theory and the Modern Economy which has just been published.
Although the article starts with these two charts, it is not about the Chinese Flu but about why people believe things in spite of all the evidence to show they are utterly untrue. The title is Why Facts Don’t Matter to People. That is, why it is near impossible to get those who seem able to believe ten impossible things before breakfast to change their minds. It is like dealing with members of a cult, except they are now the mainstream.
Here’s his point. “Engage them in conversation”, he suggests, meaning getting others – you know, like people who want to blow up power stations and defund the police – to explain their views while listening sympathetically to yours.
If you’re wondering why so many people don’t see the world the way you do, engage them in conversation. You will find they are as well-intentioned as you are, but they are looking in a different direction. Beneath their opinions and fears, beliefs are shaping how they see the world.
Because of different beliefs, your villains may be their heroes. They may look at the world of effects while you are looking at causes. They’re hoping a better leader comes to power, while you’re considering how the presidency became so powerful and destructive.
Until their beliefs change, they will never consider how politicians and experts with too much power turned a pandemic into a catastrophe. As Einstein put it, “Whether you can observe a thing or not depends on the theory which you use. It is theory which decides what can be observed.”
The “clear guidance” politicians claim to dispense and “the truth” my friend wants to learn are not rooted in the principles of human flourishing. My friend is waiting for a government official to blow the all-clear whistle. My friend doesn’t want to believe experts are as fallible as he is, and that the prevailing scientific consensus may be false. For me to explain to him why “defining risk is an exercise in power” would bring a blank stare of disbelief.
I don’t think the author has an answer. He adds this at the end which only emphasises how deep the problem is.
Read Hayek’s famous observation about order, replacing the words “that in complex conditions” with the words “during a pandemic:” “To the naive mind that conceives of order only as the product of deliberate arrangement, it may seem absurd that in complex conditions [during a pandemic], order and adaptation to the unknown can be achieved more effectively by decentralizing decisions.”
With that simple substitution, we expose a core belief shared by many Americans. They believe centralizing decision-making is effective in unknown, complex conditions and they want their politicians to do something.
Well, that’s the problem right there. No one any longer wants governments to do nothing, even if that really would be the best thing to do. We are therefore falling towards a totalitarian state. One day no one may even notice our freedoms have gone, since those who grow up in this new world may never have known what freedom is.
And there is this comment I really liked:
People like that exist because reality doesn’t kick them in the teeth hard enough.
Imagine how life has been through most of human history. Life was hard. Being wrong could get you dead, and in a hurry. People who were prone to believing nonsense got that tendency beaten out of them.
Today the consequences for being wrong are extraordinarily mild, if they ever arrive at all. People can believe all sorts of false and ridiculous things without ever having to worry that they’ll pay a price for doing so, or that they will suffer as a result.
Early Friday morning, hundreds of Antifa attacked police and the North Precinct in Portland. They tried to set up another autonomous zone around the precinct with fencing and dumpsters, tried to lock police in the precinct and light it on fire, and pelted the police outside with objects like glass bottles.
So startling is the growth of Parler, a free speech-friendly Twitter alternative, that the leftstream and #NeverTrump media are attempting to vilify it as the refuge of racists and white supremacists and fascists. Oh my!
The headlines are hilarious:
Newsweek: “Who Owns Parler? Social Media Platform Offers Safe Space for the Far Right”
The Bulwark: “The Far Right Establishes Autonomous Zone Safe Space App Parler: ‘Free Speech!’ cry the snowflakes seeking a place to vent about their triggered feelings.”
Hollywood Reporter: “‘I’m Done’: Right-Wing Personalities Ditching Twitter for Parler Over Claims of Censorship”
Fast Company: “I joined Parler, the right-wing echo chamber’s new favorite alt-Twitter”
Forbes: “As Twitter Labels Trump Tweets, Some Republicans Flock To New Social Media Site”
Yahoo News: “Parler, a right-wing social media site, lures conservatives, but Trump sticks with Twitter — so far”
And why shouldn’t the President use both, at least for now?
The statue, erected on April 14, 1876, stands in Lincoln Park and built with “contributions from hundreds of former slaves who wanted to pay tribute to the man who had proclaimed their freedom in 1863,” The Washington Post reported. “Just after Lincoln’s death, the [Western Sanitary Commission, which aided Civil War victims] had received an intriguing request from a former slave, who sent the commission $5 — her first earnings as a free woman — to help build a monument to Lincoln, ‘the best friend the colored people ever had.’ The commission began a fund-raising campaign and invited former slaves to contribute.”
Famed orator and author Frederick Douglass spoke at the unveiling of the memorial in Washington, D.C., saying, “The sentiment that brings us here to-day is one of the noblest that can stir and thrill the human heart.
“It has crowned and made glorious the high places of all civilized nations with the grandest and most enduring works of art, designed to illustrate the characters and perpetuate the memories of great public men,” Douglass continued. “It is the sentiment which from year to year adorns with fragrant and beautiful flowers the graves of our loyal, brave, and patriotic soldiers who fell in defence of the Union and liberty. It is the sentiment of gratitude and appreciation, which often, in presence of many who hear me, has filled yonder heights of Arlington with the eloquence of eulogy and the sublime enthusiasm of poetry and song; a sentiment which can never die while the Republic lives.”
Douglass later added, “We, the colored people, newly emancipated and rejoicing in our blood-bought freedom, near the close of the first century in the life of this Republic, have now and here unveiled, set apart, and dedicated a monument of enduring granite and bronze, in every line, feature, and figure of which the men of this generation may read, and those of after-coming generations may read, something of the exalted character and great works of Abraham Lincoln, the first martyr President of the United States.”
Related: Heather Mac Donald: Where Are The Deaths? “In May, Georgia was the main target of expert contempt for its allegedly premature reopening. Since then, the media have gone silent, due to the state’s truly discouraging downward daily death toll from a high of 119 on April 7, long before the reopenings, to 10 on June 24. . . . There are no crises in hospital capacity anywhere in the country. Nursing homes, meat-packing plants, and prisons remain the main sources of new infections.”
Nearly all the studies find between 10 and 100 times the number of total infections as reported infections, with the average somewhere around 20 to 25 times.
In other words, while the CDC reports 2.34 million Americans have been infected with the coronavirus, the actual number of infected and recovered people may be closer to 50 million. (CDC Director Robert Redfield told journalists Thursday that the number of cases may be 10 times higher than the earlier 2.34 million.)
Thus, the death rate, which would be 5.2 percent based on that 2.34 million figure, is actually more like one-20th as high — or 0.26 percent.
It can be awful in some people, but overall it’s turning out to be nowhere near as bad as we feared a few months ago. And that’s good!
It is often asked why in the face of everything we see from the left that there is not more fighting back going on. Lots of reasons for that, but the most important one may be is that most of us cannot believe how insane the modern left is. Surely they can’t be that crazy, we say, but they are. A couple of examples plucked from Instapundit that are there right now. There were plenty of others yesterday, and there will be more tomorrow. We are dealing with the insane. Not that their being nuts makes then less dangerous, but these people must be treated as the nutters they really are.