Sorry Bernie Bros But Nordic Countries Are Not Socialist

The myth of Nordic socialism is partially created by a confusion between socialism, meaning government exerting control or ownership of businesses, and the welfare state in the form of government-provided social safety net programs. However, the left’s embrace of socialism is not merely a case of redefining a word. Simply look at the long-running affinity of leftists with socialist dictators in Cuba, Nicaragua, and Venezuela for proof many on the left long for real socialism.

To the extent that the left wants to point to an example of successful socialism, not just generous welfare states, the Nordic countries are actually a poor case to cite. Regardless of the perception, in reality the Nordic countries practice mostly free market economics paired with high taxes exchanged for generous government entitlement programs.

First, it is worth noting that the Nordic counties were economic successes before they built their welfare states. Those productive economies, generating good incomes for their workers, allowed the governments to raise the tax revenue needed to pay for the social benefits. It was not the government benefits that created wealth, but wealth that allowed the luxury of such generous government programs.

Forbes

Socialism can take the form of government controlling or interfering with free markets, nationalizing industries, and subsidizing favored ones (green energy, anyone?). The Nordic countries don’t actually do much of those things. Yes, they offer government-paid healthcare, in some cases tuition-free university educations, and rather generous social safety nets, all financed with high taxes. However, it is possible to do these things without interfering in the private sector more than required. It is allowing businesses to be productive that produces the high corporate and personal incomes that support the tax collections making the government benefits feasible. The Nordic countries are smart enough not to kill the goose that lays the golden egg.

If the left insists on naming a system of generous government benefits combined with a free market democratic socialism, I cannot stop them. That seems unnecessarily confusing since the government is actually running no industries other than education (and meddling somewhat in healthcare). It certainly isn’t socialism. In fact, the only reason most such countries can afford those benefits is that their market economies are so productive they can cover the expense of the government’s generosity. Perhaps a better name for what the Nordic countries practice would be compassionate capitalism.

When bad ‘facts’ downplay a good economy, part 5: Are half of Americans unprepared for retirement?

Many of us get much of our news and information from social media. But much of that news and info is distorted or just plain wrong. Take this graphic I saw on Facebook. It’s the sort of thing a friend might share with you: It’s the sort of thing an activist or partisan would cook up.

Source: When bad ‘facts’ downplay a good economy, part 5: Are half of Americans unprepared for retirement?

And there’s more:

Here’s the first one: When bad ‘facts’ downplay a good economy, part 1: Stagnant wages

Here’s the second: When bad ‘facts’ downplay a good economy, part 2: Are most Americans really living paycheck to paycheck?

Here’s the third post: When bad ‘facts’ downplay a good economy, part 3: Is the economy creating enough middle class jobs?

Here’s the fourth: When bad ‘facts’ downplay a good economy, part 4: How many Americans live in poverty?

The problem using Sweden as an example of a socialist model that works? Sweden ain’t socialist

Democratic socialists like Bolshevik Bernie Sanders and Karla Marx (AOC) can no longer point to Venezuela as a socialist model that works because it failed so miserably, so they now hold up Sweden, Denmark, and Norway as their preferred examples of democratic socialism that supposedly works.

Source: The problem using Sweden as an example of a socialist model that works? Sweden ain’t socialist

Random Critical Analysis on Health Care

We pay more for health care because we have more to spend.

The excellent Random Critical Analysis has a long blog post, really a short book, on why the conventional wisdom about health care, especially in the United States, is wrong . It’s a tour-de-force. Difficult to summarize but, as I see it, the key points are the following. (I also drawn on It’s still not the health care prices .) 1. Health care spending is well predicted, indeed caused, by income.

Source: Random Critical Analysis on Health Care

For Most Things, Recycling Harms the Environment

Is Recycling Useful, or Is It Garbage?
The problem with recycling is that people can’t decide which of two things is really going on.
One possibility is that recycling transforms garbage into a commodity. If that’s true, then the price of pickup, transport, sorting, cleaning, and processing can be paid out of the proceeds, with something left over. That’s how it is with real commodities, such as wheat or pork bellies, after all. It’s expensive and complicated to produce wheat or pork bellies, and then deliver them to the market in a form that they can be used. But people will pay you for the wheat or pork bellies. In fact, the “profit test” shows that people will pay you enough to cover all those costs and still have something left over.
The other possibility, and it’s a completely different possibility, is that recycling isn’t a commodity at all. But it is a cheaper or more environmentally friendly way to dispose of garbage. After all, if you bury something in a landfill, it’s gone. And you still had to collect it, transport it, and process it into the landfill. Recycling might cost money, but if you can sell the stuff for any price you are getting some of those costs back. Further, recycling keeps things out of landfills, and we systematically underprice landfill space. The reason is that we don’t want people dumping garbage in vacant lots or by the side of the road. But that means that recycling may be cheaper, all things considered, than using the space in the landfill. The problem is that “all things considered.” You really do have to add up all the costs — resources, money, convenience, environmental damage — of landfilling, and recycling, and then compare them.
These arguments are often muddled and mixed together, by both proponents and critics. And “recycling” is, after all, not just one homogeneous activity, but a whole collection of possible streams of waste or resources, each of which has to be evaluated separately. Should we recycle aluminum cans? Probably, because the price of recycling aluminum compares very favorably to using virgin materials, the mining and smelting of which are expensive in terms of energy and harmful to the environment. 
Should we recycle toilet paper? We could, at some price. But it’s likely not worth it, because it can be composted, it would be awfully hard to clean and sort, and in any case paper products are actually a renewable resource, rather like wheat. You rarely hear someone saying, “Save the wheat! Give up bread!” But that kind of argument is often made for paper, even though the trees grown to produce pulp are simply a fast-growing crop grown on farms expressly for that purpose.
For recycling to be a socially commendable activity, it has to pass one of two tests: the profit test, or the net environmental-savings test. If something passes the profit test, it’s likely already being done. People are already recycling gold or other commodities from the waste stream, if the costs of doing so are less than the amount for which the resource can be sold. 

American Institute for Economic Research

Hate Crime Hoaxes: What Gets Rewarded Gets Repeated

Jonah Goldberg writes on manufactured hate crimes in his weekly newsletter.


Here’s something you might not know: In Nazi Germany, very few Jews staged bogus hate crimes against themselves.

Here’s some more trivia: Very few blacks in the Jim Crow South went to great lengths to pretend that they were harassed or attacked by racists.

You know why? Because that would be incredibly stupid. What, exactly, would the German Jew who staged an assault on himself gain from it? Where would he or she go to ask for sympathy or recompense? Conjure any horror story you like, the Nazi official you brought it to would say, “Yeah, and . . . ?” The black sharecropper who took the time to make his own cross and burn it on his own property would benefit . . . how?

Why am I bringing this up? Well, for a bunch of reasons. I have more points to make than can be found at an English Setter competition.

First, people who live under real oppression have no need to fabulate oppression. To paraphrase Madge from the old Palmolive ads: They’re already soaking in it.

Second, when you live in an oppressive country, there’s no one you can take your grievances to because that is what it means to live in an oppressive country! 

The Hate Hoax Bonfire

And indeed, calling a real racist “racist” doesn’t work. “Name and shame” is not very effective against those who aren’t ashamed.

Which brings me to the third point: In non-oppressive countries, there are people to take your case to. Sohrab Ahmari put it nicely in an essay a couple of years ago:

And as Pascal Bruckner wrote in his essay “The Tyranny of Guilt,” if liberal democracy does trap or jail you (politically speaking), it also invariably slips the key under your cell door. The Swedish midwives driven out of the profession over their pro-life views can take their story to the media. The Down syndrome advocacy outfit whose anti-eugenic advertising was censored in France can sue in national and then international courts. The Little Sisters of the Poor can appeal to the Supreme Court for a conscience exemption to Obamacare’s contraceptives mandate. And so on.

This is a hugely important point, and there’s an urgent need for more people to understand it. A free society is a rich ecosystem of competing institutions. Some are powerful, some weak. Some have great influence in a specific sphere of life: the American Bar Association, the military, the Catholic Church, whatever. Some only have power in a certain place: the county zoning board, the local police, your parents, etc. But none have unchecked power over the whole of the society and, thanks to the Constitution, that goes for the government itself, too.

A free society is a honeycomb of safe havens, competing authorities — legal, moral, cultural — that allow for people to find safe harbors from other institutions

ibid

And the hoaxes often get rewarded, at least for a while. And it’s rare to see one punished.

Goldberg wanders into economics. But what is economics except the organized study of how people respond to incentives?

A truism of economics is that you get more of what you subsidize and less of what you tax. I have no quarrel with that. But it seems to me we don’t think enough about how this principle applies to areas we see as outside of economics.

For instance, contrary to what one hears in the left-wing punditsphere, there’s a high cultural penalty — a tax, if you will — on open racism, which is one reason there is so much less of it today.Already, I can hear throats clearing to say “Oh yeah, what price has Donald Trump paid!!!?!?!” Well, leaving aside the merits of the cases for and against the claim that Donald Trump is a racist, it’s transparently obvious that he’s paid a political price for the perception that he is one. The reflexive opposition to Trump by many of the media outlets from which he craves approval is driven in no small part by the widespread liberal assumption that he’s a bigot of one kind or another. Similarly, he’s almost surely paid a price among many independent and moderate voters, including the millions who voted for both Trump and Obama, because of how he’s perceived, fairly or not.

But my point here isn’t to talk about Trump, but to check the box so I don’t have to talk about him further.

….

The sort of racism Smollett manufactured has never been lower in the United States, but rather than celebrate or express gratitude for this incontestable fact, people look for proof it’s worse than ever. Bereft of giants to slay, they construct windmills and pretend they are heroes for levelling their lances at them. Like the elders of Salem, they mistake their quiet hysteria for sober reality and believe every tale of witches beyond the tree line. On the principle that some things have to be believed to be seen, wearing a blanket at Oberlin is all the proof one needs for a moral panic over the invading armies of the Klan, just as the splash of a dolphin’s tale was proof of mermaids for horny sailors centuries ago.

….

Hoaxes and hysteria-fueled misinterpretations are common on the left because a certain kind of pity and hate has become institutionalized, monetized, and sacralized. But while pity and hate take a certain recognizable, custom-made form on the left — call it bespoke woke — the left doesn’t have a monopoly on the larger phenomenon. Donald Trump demands pity almost daily, and he gets it. And the pitiers get their opportunities for hatred, too. Christopher Hasson is an exceptional case, but only because he took the rhetoric of pity and hate duopoly to an extreme conclusion.

….

So I’ll leave with this depressing prediction. Obviously more Smollett-style hoaxes are coming. If the negative attention heaped on mass shooters is enough to inspire other losers to commit that kind of evil, it’s easy to imagine that the attention Smollett has gotten will inspire losers to do likewise. But that’s not my prediction. There will be a hoax involving MAGA hats, but the fake victims will be those wearing them. We already saw the hunger for this kind of thing in the Covington case — but those kids were in fact victims. President Trump invited that kid named Trump to the State of the Union precisely because he wanted to exploit this great reservoir of pity. And the coverage of this legitimate outrage will no doubt encourage others to get a piece of that on the cheap.

So mark my words, some loser, desperate to be lionized by Candace Owens or applauded at CPAC, will manufacture some story of victimhood that will ignite a bonfire of outrage on the right and a riot of sympathy about MAGA persecution. The mainstream media will suddenly remember the professional integrity it forgot in the Smollett case and debunk it. But before then, the pitiables of the right will claim victimhood by proxy and denounce the insensitivity of an uncaring media that hates them. The roles will be reversed, but the script will be the same, and the actors will all yell just a little bit louder, as the snake ups the tempo of its own repast.

ibid

What Science Could Teach Ocasio-Cortez About Climate Change — Bjorn Lomborg

The truth is comparatively boring: According to the United Nations climate science panel’s latest major report, if we do absolutely nothing to stop climate change, the impact will be the equivalent to a reduction in our incomes of between 0.2 percent and 2 percent five decades from now.

Yet by the 2070s, personal incomes will be some 300 percent to 500 percent higher than they are today.

Far from the “end of the world,” the impact of warming is what we’d expect from roughly a single economic recession taking place over the next half-century.

Many of us question how this could be true when we are constantly told that extreme weather is wreaking ever-greater devastation. In fact, research shows that extreme weather is having a rather minimal economic effect.

Since 1990, the cost associated with extreme weather worldwide has actually declined, to 0.25 percent of the global gross domestic product, from 0.30 percent.

Green fretting about Armageddon is nothing new, of course. In the 1960s, mainstream environmentalists worried that the world was running out of food.

In the 1980s, acid rain was going to destroy the planet’s forests. There were good reasons for concern, but a panicked response led to a poor, overly expensive response.

We need to get smarter. Climate change is a problem but not the end of the world. The United States now has little or no federal climate policy, which is inexcusable.

But almost every other nation is making climate proclamations that would impose huge costs for rather paltry gains.

This approach has failed to deliver progress against climate change for decades. We should instead embrace ingenuity and innovation and spend far more on green-energy research and development.

If we push the price of green energy below fossil fuels through innovation, everyone will switch.

If Ocasio-Cortez had stuck to the facts, she would have said: “The world is going to see costs worth about 1 percent of GDP in 50 years if we don’t address climate change — and your biggest issue is how to pay for it?”

Well, yes: We need to make sure our solution doesn’t cost more than the problem. If we look at the science and stop believing the end of the world is nigh, our decisions will be much smarter.

SOURCE

Medicare for All

Charles Blahous puts a price on Sanders’s proposed legislation in “The Costs of a National Single-Payer Healthcare System.” These are his key findings.

  • M4A Would Place Unprecedented Strain on the Federal Budget
    By conservative estimates, this legislation would have the following effects:
  • M4A would add approximately $32.6 trillion to federal budget commitments during the first 10 years of its implementation (2022–2031).
  • This projected increase in federal healthcare commitments would equal approximately 10.7 percent of GDP in 2022. This amount would rise to nearly 12.7 percent of GDP in 2031 and continue to rise thereafter.

These estimates are conservative because they assume the legislation achieves its sponsors’ goals of dramatically reducing payments to health providers, in addition to substantially reducing drug prices and administrative costs.

Setting Political Time Bombs

via Setting Political Time Bombs

Politics is one field where an individual or group can take economically foolish actions for which they pay no price, indeed for which they can receive praise and reward, only to leave the aftermath to be blamed on someone else.

Thomas Sowell refers to “intellectuals” as those whose only work product is ideas. In particular, they are those whose ideas are never tested against reality.

In the case of politics, the ideas may well be tested, but if they blow up, it’s never the fault of the shiny program the politicians enacted.

The “time bombs” referred to above deal with the mortgage crisis, but there are lots of time bombs in pace or on the assembly line.

Why inequality is good

Seen on Marginal Revolution:

As I pointed out in my post, Do Boys Have a Comparative Advantage in Math and Science? results like this can explain why there are proportionately fewer women entering STEM fields in richer and more gender-equal countries than in poorer and less gender-equal countries.

One point which many people are missing is that small but growing gender differences with development are only one minor effect of a much bigger phenomena. In a primitive economy, everyone does more or less the same thing, subsistence farming. Only in a market economy under the division of labor can people specialize. Specialization reflects and amplifies diverse personalities and interests. People sometimes complain about “excess” variety in a market economy but do they extend that complaint to careers, arts, and lifestyles? In a market society we get Corn Flakes, Frosted Flakes and Coconut Flakes and we get cardiologists, dermatologists and otolaryngologists and we get Chicago Blues, dub step, and K-Pop and we also get a flowering of sexual preferences and lifestyles. As Mises once said the very idea of personality as we know it today is a result of the market economy. The small gender differences some people focus on are merely the averaging by gender of much larger individual differences. Thus, I would revise the authors:

In sum, greater availability of material and social resources facilitates the independent development and expression of individual-specific preferences, and hence may lead to an expansion of individual differences in more developed and equal-opportunity countries.