I've Changed My Mind
I’ve been at odds with many people on the right, many on the left, and many in the approximate center for some time now. But various things I’ve learned have convinced me that many of them were right and I was wrong.
Here are some.
Bomb fentanyl factories in Mexico
I’ve run into a number of people who want the U.S. government to bomb fentanyl factories in Mexico. Although I haven’t written about it, I’ve opposed this on both moral and practical grounds. But I’m now convinced that the people who produce fentanyl are bad people even if they’re producing for good consumers who want it. And I think the history of U.S. foreign policy shows that bombing people in other countries is highly effective and has few negative unintended consequences.
Impose tougher sanctions on Iran
Earlier this week, I argued that economic sanctions on Iran harm a lot of normal, non-political Iranians. I still believe that. But I’ve now come to the view that such sanctions are justified because Iranians have a choice to overthrow their government. If they haven’t done so, that’s their problem. I am still struggling, though, with one of the apparent implications of my new view: when our government kills tens of thousands of innocent people in other countries, as, by the way, the Iranian government hasn’t done to us, are people in those other countries justified in getting their governments to prohibit trade with us even if it means that we go without needed goods?
Tax the rich more to make them pay their fair share
Even though the rich, at least as defined by high income, pay a higher percent of their income in taxes than the rest of us, they should be taxed even more. They’re not paying their fair share because a lot of their income is based on theft from the rest of us. My source on this is that noted 19th century French economist Honoré de Balzac, who noted wisely that “Behind every great fortune lies a great crime.” Along with Thomas Piketty, I’m sure he studied the data carefully before reaching that conclusion.
Ban Tik Tok
Many people today advocate banning Tik Tok because of their fear that it collects data from users and sends it to China’s government. And the Chinese government will almost certainly use this data against us and can do more harm to us with these data than the U.S. government is likely to do to us with the data it collects. So ban Tik Tok. And since we also have reason to think that various federal agencies are following us on Twitter and Facebook, ban Twitter and Facebook while we’re at it.
Bring back manufacturing jobs
While it’s true that real manufacturing output in the United States is only 5% below its 2007 peak, the downside is that the number of manufacturing jobs in June 2019 was a whopping 35 percent below its peak in June 1979.
We need more manufacturing jobs because manufacturing was one of the main contributors to the U.S. middle class. So the U.S. government should impose 10 to 20% tariff rates on all imports of manufactured goods. Doing so would cause both manufacturing output and manufacturing jobs will increase.
Tyler Cowen and the Great Barrington Declaration
I was fairly harsh in my treatment of Tyler Cowen in 2020 (here, here, here, and here) for what seemed to be his lack of concern for people who suffered from extensive lockdowns. He was very critical of Jay Bhattacharya and of the Great Barrington Declaration that Jay helped write. It came out later that one of the reasons Tyler was critical was that the American Institute of Economic Research (AIER), the place where the GBD was written, employed Jeffrey Tucker at the time. While it’s true that Tucker was neither author nor editor of the GBD, his presence at AIER when the GBD was written makes the GBD suspect. I’ve really come around to the view that guilt by association and, especially, guilt by distant association, is more appropriate than I once believed it to be.
For more on how I’ve changed my mind in the past, see this.
Apr 1 2023 at 11:46am
Apr 1 2023 at 6:26pm
Apr 1 2023 at 12:27pm
Happy April 1st to you too, David!
Apr 1 2023 at 6:26pm
Apr 1 2023 at 12:52pm
And I thought the GBD was bad because it had bad ideas and engaged in magic. No one knew how to reduce risks for older people in any realistic way and it ignored the 25% under the age of 65 who died from covid. When you looked at their more detailed suggestions that followed some were good ideas (which Cowen notes) but most of those were already in effect. It was exactly the kind of thing you would expect an academic to write who had never engaged in health care. (Had no idea who Tucker is and still dont care. )
Agree with others but ambivalent about TikTok. The NSA had already been following and storing everything on the internet anyway. National security is a real issue. I dont think we can assume war is impossible. I am just not sure the info they are able to gain is much of security risk. Talking with friends and family involved in computer science and cybersecurity doesnt seem to be a clear consensus.
Apr 1 2023 at 1:02pm
Apr 1 2023 at 1:03pm
I find most of your comment about the GBD weird, but the strangest is this comment:
The authors of the GBD are both world-renowned academics (at major institutions) but also active practitioners. Your use of the singular suggests to me you never read past the title.
Apr 1 2023 at 6:29pm
In both this article and in Cowen’s they single out Jay B and I dont really have much interest in naming all 3 of the authors every time. . I have probably read it a dozen times, along with the more detailed version. This is what I do for a living. I know what it means to be an academic “practitioner”. It means he knows a lot about his specific area of interest and not so much about everything else and it means he practices clinical medicine only occasionally, if at all. I would bet big bucks he has never cared for pts in a nursing home as a professor at Stanford he has lots of other people to take care of difficult clinical issues.
But because he does research in economics he is qualified to make recommendations about how to manage pts in nursing homes. Total academic through and through. We had never tried to selectively isolate old people from a respiratory virus. So he just assumed a can opener and it was all done.
Apr 1 2023 at 7:46pm
So, have we ever successfully isolated the entire population from a respiratory virus? Going against all previous experience, it seems that is what we tried to do.
Apr 4 2023 at 12:44pm
So, “has never engaged in health care” = not a full-time clinician. Got it.
Apr 1 2023 at 3:05pm
As usual, DR. steve and others opposed to the GBD do not say one word on the enormous negative effects on lockdowns and that study after study, starting with the Norwegian health department study, shows no effect on slowing coonavirus.
Apr 1 2023 at 9:52pm
Not true. At Cowen’s place I have noted several times that it was the job of public health people to advise what was best for public health. Someone else needs to weigh those against the economic risks. In our system that would be the politicians. I have also noted that I think lockdowns persisted much longer than useful in some places, though I have also noted as Cowen did that localities that wanted to ignore lockdowns did that. So actual decisions about lockdowns, including enforcement, were largely carried out at the local level. Since the lockdowns were of most value early I am pretty much OK with that.
Studies on lockdowns are really studies of compliance, which are hard to do and is one of the reasons there are so many heterogeneity issues with the studies. That said, we do know that in places that went to extraordinary lengths to enforce compliance like China, New Zealand, Taiwan, they had very little covid which gave them time to get everyone vaccinated if that is what they wanted to do.
Apr 1 2023 at 2:11pm
Ah, yes, April Fools. I confess that you had me going
Apr 3 2023 at 6:33pm
Oh good. It worked. 🙂
Apr 1 2023 at 6:55pm
I was into the second paragraph and thinking of responses when I realized what day it was. You got me.
Apr 1 2023 at 8:41pm
Apr 1 2023 at 11:06pm
You shouldn’t do such a good job with your pranks. You caused me to almost despair. If we’d lost David Henderson…
Apr 2 2023 at 9:33am
Thanks, Colin. I’ll take that as a compliment. That’s why I don’t do this every year. The reason it was credible, I think, is that I wanted to take arguments (1) that I’ve actually heard people with those views make or (2) that seem to be implicit in their reasoning.
Apr 2 2023 at 4:41pm
Is this the best April Fool’s ever? Witness – BBC News
Apr 3 2023 at 1:01pm
I love the gradation of indications that this was a (good) prank: the presumption of innocence (first topic), the problem of collective action (2nd), economist Balzac (3rd)… By that time, the prank should have been obvious. Despite, or rather because of, your intellectual rigor, you could not have come to believe that!
Apr 3 2023 at 1:03pm
David: What I blame you for is that you have killed the possibility of future April Fool Day pranks on EconLog.
Apr 3 2023 at 6:34pm
Two nice compliments. Thanks, Pierre. It won’t be an annual thing.
Apr 3 2023 at 2:46pm
A warning to anyone who would debate David Henderson: He’s been listening to you and knows exactly what you’re going to say.
Apr 3 2023 at 6:34pm
LOL. Thanks, Walter.
Apr 5 2023 at 12:54am
Morning on April 1 in the antipodes had long since passed when I read this post, so, I must admit you really got me on that one.
Now to pick up that jaw of mine that dropped onto the kitchen table.
Apr 5 2023 at 5:33pm
LOL. By the way, Procrustes, how has your iron bed been working our for you? 🙂
Richard W Fulmer
Apr 7 2023 at 2:18pm
We also need more agricultural jobs because agriculture was the main industry when the United States was founded. We should therefore ban automated farming equipment and go back to using sticks for plows.
Apr 12 2023 at 11:06pm
Very late comment, but I began to read the post and wonder, “What’s going on here?” until I finally went down to the comments and quickly checked the release date. You almost had me there.
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