Much Good Economics Is Little More Than Debunking Man-In-the-Street Fallacies

A meme going around states that some number of Nobel laureate economists assert that Biden’s “Build Back Better” plan will improve the lot of everyone. Here’s a thought about why the most brilliant economists might not have gotten that right.

(Don Boudreaux)

In my most-recent column for AIER, I distinguish one kind of economists from a second kind. The first, as did Adam Smith, spend much of their time debunking fallacies embraced by the man-in-the-street; the second specialize in spinning intricate theoretical justifications to support man-in-the-street superstitions.

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Economic reality being complicated, it’s nearly always true that a set of conditions can be imagined under which outcomes that are highly improbable in reality can be shown to be possible. Conditions can be described under which, in reality, it’s possible for protective tariffs or export subsidies to result in greater prosperity in the home country. Yet such conditions are wholly implausible.

Possibility, be aware, is a very weak standard. Almost every outcome that is possible – such as you surviving a fall off of a skyscraper because you luckily land in a huge drift of freshly fallen snow – will never occur. And so just because some outcome is possible doesn’t mean that it’s plausible. Furthermore, just because some outcome is plausible doesn’t mean that it’s probable.

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Every undergraduate econ major learns by her junior year how to draw a graph depicting a minimum wage having only positive, and no negative, effects on low-skilled workers. And if well-taught, this econ major also learns that the conditions under which such a graph describes reality are highly implausible. But no matter. Because the public’s desire to believe in the goodness of minimum wages is so intense, the supply is ample of anti-Smithian economists willing to satisfy this desire – willing to assure the man-in-the-street that his utter ignorance of economics is, in fact, economic brilliance.

Source: Much Good Economics Is Little More Than Debunking Man-In-the-Street Fallacies

For Your Consideration

As we close out 2021, you can find some interesting (and brief) essays about current events at Bari Weiss’s Common Sense. And whether or not I agreed with them in full, they were worth reading. A few excerpts:

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From Ayaan Hirsi Ali on liberalism:

Since I left the world I was born into—the world of Somalia, the world of Islam, and all of the strictures that society and religion put on me as a woman—I have always identified as a liberal. I mean that in the most capacious sense of the world: a belief in the rule of law; in individual liberty; in equality between men and women; in due process; and in, yes, a belief that some cultures—namely, liberal and democratic ones—are better than others.

Lately, I worry that liberalism is insufficient. Or to put it another way: that the weak version of liberalism we see across the West cannot compete with muscular ideologies, like Islamism and populism rising on the right and the left across Europe and here in America.

A value-neutral liberalism that insists that all cultures and choices are equally good is liberalism in name only. For liberalism to win, it needs to stand up to its enemies yet again.

Source: For Your Consideration

WELL, GOOD: Trump Was Right: UV Light ‘Disinfectant’ Injected Into the Body Shows Promise in COVID P…

Trump Was Right: UV Light ‘Disinfectant’ Injected Into the Body Shows Promise in COVID Patients.

Source: WELL, GOOD: Trump Was Right: UV Light ‘Disinfectant’ Injected Into the Body Shows Promise in COVID P…

Not “drinking bleach”.

Also…

CNN’s Don Lemon Rails Against Misinformation About Covid – By Omitting Key Part of Trump Quote. “However, the clip was selectively shortened to exclude the full quote, which showed that Trump, contrary to popular misconception, did not tell people to inject themselves with bleach in response to Covid.”

The ‘Experts’ Are Wrong: The American Health-Care System Is World-Beating

Our system needs many fixes, but when it matters most, there’s no better place to get sick.

The most tedious allegation that critics of the U.S. health-care system make is that we spend exorbitantly for poorer results compared with socialized systems in other rich countries. It underpins the Democrats’ ongoing mission to expand Medicare and levy price controls on prescription drugs.

But these critics distort the truth. If a person is going to get sick — and we all are at some point — there’s no better place to do so than the United States.

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Government-run systems simply guarantee equal access to long waits for care.

Take Canada, where I grew up. Patients face a median wait of nearly six months between getting a general practitioner’s referral and receiving treatment from a specialist. While the average emergency-room wait time in the United States is about 40 minutes, ER wait times in Nova Scotia averaged two and a half hours this summer — the highest they’d been in four years.

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Detractors of the U.S. health system also tend to ignore evidence that mitigates the United States’ poor performance on some health metrics.

For instance, the United States ranks last among the Commonwealth Fund’s eleven rich countries in life expectancy. But the unpleasant truth is that Americans kill each other at a rate seven times higher than in other high-income countries. And no health-care system in the world can revive the dead.

It’s not just homicides. We’re twice as obese as other rich countries. We die in car crashes and from drug overdoses at nearly four times the rate of such peer nations as Sweden, the United Kingdom, and the Netherlands.

There’s also wide regional variation in health outcomes throughout the United States. A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that “the life expectancy of Minnesota, a state comparable in size and demographics to Sweden or Denmark, has more similar population health outcomes to these countries than Minnesota has in comparison to Mississippi.”

Then there’s infant mortality, where the United States routinely ranks lower than our peers. Yet countries report births differently around the globe. France counts only the babies born after the 22-week mark, while Poland imposes a one-pound, two-ounce threshold.

In contrast, the United States reports every live birth. And our doctors work to save more premature babies than in any other developed nation. Thanks to superior care and medical technology here in the States, most of those preterm babies survive. And the Herculean effort we undertake to rescue babies that other rich countries don’t even count as live births skews our infant mortality rate higher.

Source: The ‘Experts’ Are Wrong: The American Health-Care System Is World-Beating

The left’s ‘crossing state lines’ canard

T.R. Clancy:

It seems the Left cares about borders after all, depending on the border and who crossed it.

Consider Kyle Rittenhouse’s trial and how the continuing progressive slanders about white supremacism and murder always include the unspeakable fact that he crossed the state line with a rifle.

Rittenhouse didn’t cross the state line with a rifle. And if he had, it wouldn’t have been illegal.

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Now consider that last week, ten FBI agents with a battering ram showed up before dawn to handcuff the underwear-clad Project Veritas founder James O’Keefe and search his house and cell phone, after having done the same to his fellow journalists. The pretext was a search for Ashley Biden’s diary, but the FBI already knew O’Keefe didn’t have it or have anything to do with its disappearance. Besides, since when does a petty-larceny case local police would manage with a stolen-property report rate a federal investigation?

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Just before the Project Veritas operation, Attorney General Merrick Garland sicced his FBI on uppity parents who dared to question the hive-mind wisdom of school boards. In what has now been exposed as the product of collusion between the White House and the progressive National School Boards Association, the NSBA sent a letter to Biden claiming the nationwide upsurge in angry parents showing up at school-board meetings made the parents domestic terrorists, requiring an aggressive Security State to stop them.

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All this makes it no surprise that an obstreperous Rep. Jerry Nadler would immediately claim the Rittenhouse verdict “justifies federal review by DOJ.” This wasn’t just Jerry being spontaneous. The Biden administration always intended to use the DOJ to destroy Rittenhouse on the slimmest pretext if the mob didn’t get its way. Between a brave American jury and a raging mob, the jury cannot be allowed to win. And we can never forget that, like the Pinkertons’ unblinking eye, the Left never sleeps.

Source: The left’s ‘crossing state lines’ canard

Microbes in oceans and soils are evolving to eat PLASTIC 

Any molecule that has stored energy is going to represent a niche that bacteria can take advantage of.

Microbes in oceans and soils are evolving to eat PLASTIC Researchers in Sweden measured samples of DNA at hundreds of locations around the world, taken from both soil and water. They found 30,000 enzymes in these DNA samples that have the potential to degrade 10 different types of commonly used plastic, including the widely-used polyethylene terephthalate (PET).

Microbes in oceans and soils are evolving to eat plastic, a new study reveals in a breakthrough that could help boost recycling of commercial packaging waste.

Researchers in Sweden measured samples of DNA at hundreds of locations around the world, taken from both soil and water.

They found 30,000 enzymes in these DNA samples that have the potential to degrade 10 different types of commonly used plastic, including the widely-used polyethylene terephthalate (PET).

What’s more, there appears to be a higher concentration of plastic-eating microbes where there is more plastic waste for them to break down.

It’s thought the soaring use of plastic for packaging over the last 70 years has given ‘sufficient evolutionary time’ for various microbes present in the environment to respond to these compounds.

Source: Microbes in oceans and soils are evolving to eat PLASTIC Researchers in Sweden measured samples of DNA at hundreds of l…

The Doc Savage Formula

Lester Dent was the staff writer who, the house name Kenneth Robeson, penned all but 20 of these 181 novel-length tales of the science adventurer and globetrotting detective Clark Savage, Jr. Dent created a workmanlike product, on tight deadline, to his wordcount.

 

Lester Dent Master Plot Formula

This is a formula, a master plot, for any 6000 word pulp story. It has worked on adventure, detective, western and war-air. It tells exactly where to put everything. It shows definitely just what must happen in each successive thousand words. No yarn of mine written to the formula has yet failed to sell. The business of building stories seems not much different from the business of building anything else.

Here’s how it starts:

  1. A DIFFERENT MURDER METHOD FOR VILLAIN TO USE
  2. A DIFFERENT THING FOR VILLAIN TO BE SEEKING
  3. A DIFFERENT LOCALE
  4. A MENACE WHICH IS TO HANG LIKE A CLOUD OVER HERO

One of these DIFFERENT things would be nice, two better, three swell. It may help if they are fully in mind before tackling the rest.

A different murder method could be — different. Thinking of shooting, knifing, hydrocyanic, garroting, poison needles, scorpions, a few others, and writing them on paper gets them where they may suggest something. Scorpions and their poison bite? Maybe mosquitos or flies treated with deadly germs?

If the victims are killed by ordinary methods, but found under strange and identical circumstances each time, it might serve, the reader of course not knowing until the end, that the method of murder is ordinary.

Scribes who have their villain’s victims found with butterflies, spiders or bats stamped on them could conceivably be flirting with this gag.

Probably it won’t do a lot of good to be too odd, fanciful or grotesque with murder methods.

The different thing for the villain to be after might be something other than jewels, the stolen bank loot, the pearls, or some other old ones.

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Here’s the second installment of the master plot.

Divide the 6000 word yarn into four 1500 word parts. In each 1500 word part, put the following:

FIRST 1500 WORDS

  1. First line, or as near thereto as possible, introduce the hero and swat him with a fistful of trouble. Hint at a mystery, a menace or a problem to be solved — something the hero has to cope with.
  2. The hero pitches in to cope with his fistful of trouble. (He tries to fathom the mystery, defeat the menace, or solve the problem.)
  3. Introduce ALL the other characters as soon as possible. Bring them on in action.
  4. Hero’s endevours land him in an actual physical conflict near the end of the first 1500 words.
  5. Near the end of first 1500 words, there is a complete surprise twist in the plot development.

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SECOND 1500 WORDS

  1. Shovel more grief onto the hero.
  2. Hero, being heroic, struggles, and his struggles lead up to:
  3. Another physical conflict.
  4. A surprising plot twist to end the 1500 words.

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THIRD 1500 WORDS

  1. Shovel the grief onto the hero.
  2. Hero makes some headway, and corners the villain or somebody in:
  3. A physical conflict.
  4. A surprising plot twist, in which the hero preferably gets it in the neck bad, to end the 1500 words.

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FOURTH 1500 WORDS

  1. Shovel the difficulties more thickly upon the hero.

  2. Get the hero almost buried in his troubles. (Figuratively, the villain has him prisoner and has him framed for a murder rap; the girl is presumably dead, everything is lost, and the DIFFERENT murder method is about to dispose of the suffering protagonist.)

  3. The hero extricates himself using HIS OWN SKILL, training or brawn.

  4. The mysteries remaining — one big one held over to this point will help grip interest — are cleared up in course of final conflict as hero takes the situation in hand.

  5. Final twist, a big surprise, (This can be the villain turning out to be the unexpected person, having the “Treasure” be a dud, etc.)

  6. The snapper, the punch line to end it.

Source: The Doc Savage Formula

L. Ron Hubbard wrote a large amount of pulp stories, and quickly settled on a “practical joke” format. The plot twist, by which the hero wins, would take on the form of a practical joke played upon the adversaries. They would think they had victory in the bag, and the hero would be three or four steps ahead by the end of the story.