Here are some highlights from my weekly reading and viewing.

Create Wealth Without Making Anything

by Art Carden, AIER, February 5, 2024

A popular and pernicious fallacy that Thomas Sowell calls “the physical fallacy” holds that you’re not creating value if you’re not turning material stuff into another kind of material stuff. In this view, you take some stuff, hit it with something enough times that it becomes other stuff, and presto! You have created wealth. And industrial policy doesn’t seem to account for any other kind of creative value, leading to the all-too-common, and clearly fallacious, claim that “Americans don’t make things anymore.”

The statement that we only create wealth by creating physical objects is wrong in both tenets. Just because you’re making something doesn’t mean you’re creating value. You could very well be destroying it, as someone does when he raises cattle on land that would be more profitably used for housing and office space. And conversely, someone creates wealth when they move assets from a lower-valued use to a higher-valued use. Everyone selling things on eBay is creating wealth — or trying to — by matching things with people who want them at prices that make the sale worthwhile to both parties. I’ve been buying a bunch of junk on eBay recently that I find very meaningful. Other people might disagree.

My favorite part of Thomas Sowell’s 1980 book Knowledge and Decisions is the one that discusses the physical fallacy and gives great examples.

Some Facts about Fires

by Timothy Taylor, Conversable Economist, February 6, 2024.

As you can see from the above figure, the number of career fire-fighters has expanded by about 50% over the last 40 years (from about 240,000 to 360,000). In that time, the number of fire department calls has more than tripled (from about 11 million to over 36 million). However, the number of calls related to fires has dropped by more than half, reflecting the decline in number of fires. Medical aid or rescue was already a more common fire department activity back in 1980, but it has expanded quite rapidly. Fire department also end up involved in a number of other situations like downed power lines, disaster relief, or even bomb threats. What it means to “be a fire-fighter” has been evolving over time.



The Lobby, February 3, 2024.

Not only does this bill require pet owners to register their pets with the state, but it also mandates the assignment of a “designated caregiver” for each pet. Failure to name a caregiver would result in an annual cost of $25 per pet.

There is no limit or cap on the taxation, meaning that pet owners could potentially face exorbitant costs. This tax would be in addition to any local taxes, such as dog licenses, further burdening pet owners.


by Ran Abramitzky and Juan David Torres, Stanford University; Leah Platt Boustan, Princeton University; Elisa Jácome, Northwestern University; and Santiago Pérez, University of California, Davis, Cato Research Briefs in Economic Policy, February 7, 2024, Number 369

Our data do not enable us to precisely pinpoint why there has been a sharp relative decline in the immigrant incarceration rate since 1960. Nevertheless, we can rule out three plausible explanations. First, the relative decline in immigrant incarceration is not driven by rising incarceration rates of US‐​born black Americans; the decline is also apparent when comparing immigrants with US‐​born white men only. Second, the decline is not driven by changes in immigrants’ observable characteristics—namely, their countries of origin, age, race, marital status, state of residence, or educational attainment. If anything, immigrants’ lower educational attainment in recent decades would predict that they should have higher incarceration rates than they do. Third, the decline is not driven by immigrant offenders becoming more likely to be deported (and thus absent from the incarceration data); the decline is present even among immigrants who are US citizens and thus cannot be deported. Moreover, the timing of the decline is also inconsistent with this explanation; whereas the relative decline in immigrant incarceration emerged in the 1960s, the sharp rise in deportations occurred around 2000.


A Visit to Julian Assange in Prison

by Jeffrey Sterling,, February 8, 2024

I fondly remember Charles Glass. He wrote to me while I was in FCI Englewood, the prison I was bound in after being convicted of violating the Espionage Act in 2015. He and others sent me a few of his books, notably Americans in Paris and Tribes with Flags. I was extremely grateful for such support. I had read them before, but reading from prison allows a different perspective, even on paths previously traveled. My prison eyes were reading them for the first time. In some ways, his visit with Assange was a similar overture of support for me and my experience in prison.

I make no attempts to compare myself to Julian Assange, but I know what he is going through and what he is facing. Glass’s statement that Assange’s “…days are all the same: the confined space, the loneliness, the books, the memories, the hope that his lawyers’ appeal against extradition and life imprisonment in the United States will succeed” also applied to me. But, what was particularly profound for me was reading about Glass’s experience as a visitor to someone confined to prison. For me, time with a visitor was a highly-desired oasis in the never-ending desert that is prison. It was the one time I could have a more substantial connection with the world outside the prison walls. Email and letters were always appreciated, but nothing could replace actual contact, or at least being in the same room as a loved one or supporter. The value of having a visitor cannot be understated, the other days fighting against the droll, oppression, and monotony of prison were all endured for the singular experience of a visit. I imagine that Assange has had the same longing anticipation of an upcoming visit, the one time in prison when you can be reminded that you are still alive, still human.

Surging Immigration Will Reduce Deficits by $1 Trillion

by Eric Boehm, Reason, February 8, 2024

More immigrants will also help reduce future budget deficits—which are expected to average $2 trillion annually over the next 10 years, meaning any help is desperately needed.

The changes in the labor force over the past year will translate into $7 trillion in greater economic output over the next decade, the CBO estimates, “and revenues will be greater by about $1 trillion than they would have been otherwise.”

Remy: All Oil Everything (Trinidad James Parody)

by Remy, Reason, February 9, 2024

My favorite line (at the 1:57 point):

“You all should have thought of that before I never read a book.”

NOTE: The pic above is of Julian Assange.