Category 6. Various Issues

Looking Past the Virus

As regular readers of these posts know, I have not been conventionally employed in the five years since the business I used to help manage was sold. The Beloved Spouse and I have been living off income from our portion of the proceeds of the sale.

After the sale I placed our savings in the hands of capable and sober institutional managers and paid as little attention to what they were doing as I could get away with. Once a year or so, the Beloved Spouse and I sit down with the money managers, hear what they have to say, agree with the great majority of their recommendations, and depart. Fortunately, until the last couple of weeks, the markets have been very kind.

The first time I took the initiative to ask the managers to take any significant action was three weeks ago today, when ...

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Risky Business

In the 1950s, after two miscarriages, my late mother was prescribed a drug – DES – that was thought to help women carry pregnancies to term. Thereafter she gave birth to seven healthy children, of whom I was the fifth.

The medical community later determined that DES may not have helped the women who took it with their pregnancies and that it had sometimes horrific side effects on the women who had taken it and – just as horrifyingly – on their daughters (https://www.cancer.org/cancer/cancer-causes/medical-treatments/des-exposure.html). The FDA told doctors to stop prescribing it, and a campaign was begun to inform those who had taken it of the heightened risks to themselves and their daughters.

This was precisely the sort of experience that conditioned the FDA to adopt a p...

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Communist Viruses III

The US stock market fell by about 19% last week, representing a decline in value of about $3.6 trillion – or a little more than $11,000 for every living American. Another way of looking at the numbers is that last week’s decline was about $1.2 billion dollars for each of the worldwide total of 2,941 people who, as of this morning, are reported to have died from the Wuhan Coronavirus – and that $1.2-billion-per-decedent figure doesn’t include the similar declines in European and Asian markets caused by fears about the same disease.

But that the markets’ precipitous declines are wildly out of proportion with the number of people who have died from the new virus – after all, in an ordinary year, 50,000 or more Americans die from the flu without causing any impact on the markets –...

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Communist Viruses II

Communist Viruses was the least popular Civil Horizon post in a long time; to date, it has been read by only 39 people. The many regular readers of this blog who didn’t read it were wrong. Just sayin’. In Communist Viruses I introduced an idea about the parallels between the Chernobyl and Coronavirus disasters that gets to the heart of the differences between free and unfree systems of government.  

Today’s New York Times has an excellent, richly detailed front page article on the mistakes that were made by the Chinese authorities during the first seven weeks of the Coronavirus outbreak...

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Communist Viruses

It has long been perfectly clear that neither Hong Kong nor Taiwan wishes to be ruled from Beijing, and few can be surprised by that. The people of those semi-independent polities enjoy strong traditions of respect for individual rights, the rule of law and market-based, broadly capitalist economic systems. They are also, not coincidentally, much better off economically than the great majority of their relatives in the PRC.

What’s more, as is the case with about 30% of the PRC’s population, most Hong Kongers speak a language (in their case, Cantonese) that is quite different from Mandarin-speaking Beijing.

(Entirely apart from issues specific to Hong Kong or Taiwan, I would guess that many non-Mandarin speakers within the PRC (certainly the Uighurs and Tibetans) feel more like ...

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The Climate Crusade

Although I am a skeptic regarding the extent of mankind’s impact on global warming, I don’t particularly like it when people describe the scare as a hoax or as a fraud on the public. Hoaxes and frauds executed on a grand scale require a concerted intent to deceive, which I think very few, if any, climate alarmists have. There is no global conspiracy to pull the wool over our eyes – the very idea is ludicrous.

Given the usual run of human foibles, however, systematic errors need only attractive theories, dramatically skewed incentives and confirmation bias to present themselves as seemingly unchallengable truths.    

Incidentally, you’ve probably already noticed that in the first paragraph I referred to the focus of climate alarmism as global warming rather than with the more...

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A Right to Privacy?

In writing these posts, I generally try to present myself as being both surer of my opinions and more eloquent than I actually am. I figure that expressing my thoughts boldly and as elegantly as I can makes them more worthy of your time than they would be if I simply tossed off random ideas. I will only keep half of that implicit bargain in this post, though, because while I’ll try to write it clearly, I’ll be more open about my own uncertainty as to what the right policy or personal responses should be to the dilemmas I’ll describe.

This https://www.the-american-interest.com/2019/05/06/the-new-face-of-tyranny/ article by historian Paul Rahe raises, and gives historical context to, a set of issues that I have been thinking about for some time: how the intersection of modern technology...

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Why So Many Leading Democrats Hate Charter Schools

The moral bankruptcy of much of the Democratic Party’s leadership is nowhere more obvious than in their aversion to charter schools. Democrats hold themselves out as representing the little guy, but many do lasting damage to the very people in whose interests they claim to speak by attempting to strangle the charter school movement. The reason many office-holding Democrats oppose charter schools is quite simple: such schools may be in the best interests of children who would otherwise be stuck in abysmal unionized (and effectively union-run) public  schools, but they are manifestly disadvantageous to the teachers’ unions that are the Democrats’ most important contributors and volunteers.

When Waiting for Superman was released to considerable acclaim by Davis Guggenheim, who had a...

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