Closing or Reopening the Economy

That the expressions “closing the economy” or “reopening the economy” are widely and unthinkingly used suggests a deep problem: the state—governments at all level—has become so incredibly powerful that it can open or close large parts the complex and multifaceted network of exchanges between millions of individuals. It’s like if the government were a store owner and we were its store employees.

As I pointed out in an earlier post on this blog, even the Wall Street Journal writes unblinkingly that “countries,” by which it means national governments, can “reopen their societies.” If the state is so powerful as to open and close “its” society, perhaps it’s time for society to close its government—or, certainly, big chunks of it?

This language acknowledging Leviathan- or Hydra-like power of the state should worry even those who think that there was some justification for government measures to combat an epidemic such as Covid-19.


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Oksana Boyko Interviews Henderson on RT

The interview went 28 minutes and is here.

I won’t do my usual time-stamping because I’m busy with other things.

What I will point out is that approximately the first half is on my Wall Street Journal article, co-authored with Jonathan Lipow, that analyzed the findings of the major cost/benefit analyses of lockdowns and other measures that were in response to the coronavirus. We get into an interesting discussion of the value of a statistical life. It also gave me a chance to use the main thing I took away from my debate with Justin Wolfers back in April: how the concept of least-cost avoider strengthens the case against lockdowns.

The second half is about my latest article for Hoover’s Defining Ideas, “Black Livelihoods Matter,” Defining Ideas, June 17.  We get into the minimum wage, Senator John F. Kennedy’s racist case for increasing the minimum wage, occupational licensure, how restrictions on housing supply drive up housing prices in San Francisco, Los Angeles, New York City, and other cities, and charter schools. Early in the second half, I dealt briefly with the issue of white privilege.

Also, right at the end, I get in a major criticism of mega-murderers Chairman Mao and Joseph Stalin.

Oksana Boyko did her homework and so the result was an excellent conversation.

P.S. I wanted to do a screenshot at the 1:27 point that shows both Oksana, me, and my Rocky movie poster, but with my new MacBook Pro, I couldn’t figure out how.



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The Supreme Court is a follower, not a leader

Both progressives and conservatives obsess about who is appointed to the Supreme Court, as if political ideology determines whether someone is a highly qualified judge. Or perhaps it is because they believe their preferred justices will produce a better set of public policies.  In fact, the hope of remaking the Court to fit one’s ideology remains a mirage, always hovering just over the horizon.  Here’s Janan Ganesh of the FT:

Whoever was “right”, the evidence that liberalism won continues to amass. Last week, the Supreme Court ruled to extend LGBT rights. It also frustrated President Donald Trump over the treatment of young undocumented migrants. And this is after the right’s Long March through the judiciary, masterminded by the Federalist Society and other campaign groups. Away from the recent cases, which dealt with statutes, the call for the strictest possible adherence to constitutional text has the romantic aura of all lost causes.

Ganesh’s essay is entitled “How conservatives lost the culture war”:

The failures do not end there. Take immigration. When conservatism hardened into a movement in the mid-20th century, 5 per cent of the US population was foreign-born. Now the level is near an all-time high at 14 per cent. Or take the status of gay people. Public opinion on same-sex marriage has flipped from two-to-one against to two-to-one in favour since the millennium.

President Trump recently put a hold on H1-b immigration, but given polling data (increasingly favoring immigration) I expect a surge in immigration in the future, perhaps as soon as 2021.  That’s partly because the pause in high-skilled immigration is like shooting ourselves in the foot, while “Making Canada Great Again“:

Mr Trump’s decision to extend a ban on permanent US residency applications and stop issuing other work permits such as H-1B visas has transformed Canada’s ability to compete for scarce talent, said technology and consulting executives who are among the biggest users of such visas.

“This may be a Canadian Jobs Creation Act. You can go to Toronto and hire people there and work quite effectively,” Cisco chief executive Chuck Robbins told the Financial Times this week. . . .

Rich Lesser, chief executive of Boston Consulting Group, told the FT that his firm had already offered jobs to several candidates who would be affected by the new H-1B and L1 visa rules. Instead of rescinding those offers, “by necessity we will move them to other countries, probably Canada”.

The US risked suffering “a migration of top talent” which would otherwise have been paying American taxes, he warned, dismissing the administration’s argument that the measures would speed the recovery of the US economy.

A CBRE study last year found that Toronto was North America’s fastest-growing market for tech jobs and its third largest after the San Francisco Bay Area and Seattle. . . .

“Interest has exploded,” said Irfhan Rawji, who founded a company called MobSquad 18 months ago to help American start-ups place tech workers rejected by the US immigration process in Canada.

Note that Toronto was already booming before the recent US moves to limit immigration.


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