Random observations

1. The scientific community is coming around to my view of the origin of Covid:

Andersen said the studies don’t definitively disprove the lab leak theory but are extremely persuasive, so much so that he changed his mind about the virus’ origins.

“I was quite convinced of the lab leak myself, until we dove into this very carefully and looked at it much closer,” Andersen said. “Based on data and analysis I’ve done over the last decade on many other viruses, I’ve convinced myself that actually the data points to this particular market.”

Worobey said he too thought the lab leak was possible, but the epidemiological preponderance of cases linked to the market is “not a mirage.”

“It’s a real thing,” he said. “It’s just not plausible that this virus was introduced any other way than through the wildlife trade.”

In my view, this interpretation is far more embarrassing to the Chinese government than a lab leak, which is why the CCP continues to cover-up evidence that the pandemic began at one of China’s animal markets.

2. Ben Southwood makes a very good point:

The BLM protests of 2020 (and subsequent “defund the police” movement), will end up worsening global warming. On the other hand, I don’t want to suggest that the woke are anywhere near as bad as the environmentalists, who continue to oppose low carbon nuclear, hydro, wind, solar and geothermal power.

3. And speaking of the woke, Wesley Yang provides a platform for a left wing teacher who reports on the state of our public schools. It’s even worse than you thought:

I’ve had liberal friends of mine dispute (to my face!) straightforward accounts of what my colleagues have said. They’ll tell me school districts could never embrace such obviously unworkable policies; what else can I do except shrug my shoulders and say, “I’m sorry, but yes, they can?” They’ll tell me I sound like one of those right-wing grifter types; what else can I do except sigh and tell them the grifters have a point?

This is where I have to stop and make one thing very clear: I’m a leftist. Like, a big one. I hate capitalism, I support abortion on demand, and I unironically use phrases like “systems of oppression” and “the dominant culture.” The last big paper I put together for my undergraduate degree was on critical race theory, for the love of God! I’m not the sort of person who can be easily dismissed as a conservative crank. But plenty of my fellow leftists are still willing to try, on the grounds that anyone who thinks there might be any problem with DEI policies must necessarily be a slack-jawed MAGA troll.

Read the whole thing. Still think I’m crazy for wanting to abolish the public schools?

4. It’s weird how politics evolves. When I was young, I used to praise Houston’s no-zoning policies. Progressives would roll their eyes at my fanatical libertarianism. Now it’s increasingly the conservatives who defend zoning, while progressives like Matt Yglesias want to abolish the practice. Here’s M. Nolan Grey:

Far from the doomsday predictions made by the zoning pushers in bygone eras, unzoned Houston works just fine. Between 1970 and 2020, the city nearly doubled in population from 1.2 to 2.3 million, assuming the title of America’s fourth-largest city. Attracting a blend of working- and middle-class Americans and international migrants seeking opportunity, Houston is now our nation’s most diverse city.

Thanks in part to a lack of zoning, Houston builds housing at nearly three times the per capita rate of cities like New York City and San Jose. It isn’t all just sprawl either: In 2019, Houston built roughly the same number of apartments as Los Angeles, despite the latter being nearly twice as large. This ongoing supernova of housing construction has helped to keep Houston one of the most affordable big cities in the U.S., offering new arrivals modest rents and accessible home prices even amid seemingly endless demand.

Most people are tribal, and conform to their tribe. I try to stick with my principles. Zoning is bad whether it’s being pushed by progressives or conservatives.

It’s also bad for politicians to tell teachers what to teach, whether they are forcing them to teach woke stuff or banning them from teaching woke stuff.

5. Might the UK consider NGDP targeting?

But Truss has the whiff of market monetarism about her. She has proposed a review of the Bank of England’s mandate. If the Bank didn’t have an inflation target, what would it have? Rather than targeting inflation, market monetarism involves targeting income. This is called a “nominal GDP target” — the Bank would be looking not just at inflation, but inflation and growth. It is the overall size of the economy that matters, not just the inflation rate. That is likely what Truss is looking for from her review of the Bank. In the Channel 4 debate, she pointed to Japan’s central bank as a model, which switched to nominal GDP targeting in 2015. (Economists like Scott Sumner recommend using market indicators to set interest rates; it’s not clear whether Truss supports that.)

Just to be clear, I favor NGDP level targeting, with the level targeting part of the policy being much more important than the NGDP part of the regime.

BTW, I don’t know enough about UK politics to have an opinion on the race for PM. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve come to view the zeitgeist as being much more important than personalities. (And yes, that also applies to Trump. I’m far more worried about Trumpism than I am about Trump.)

6. Penn Jillette is one of my favorite people. Reason is one of my favorite magazines. So what could be better than a 2-hour Reason magazine interview of Penn Jillette? (By Nick Gillespie.)

(Things I have in common with Jillette: Born in 1955, tall, obsessed with Bob Dylan, libertarian, atheist, annoyed with the recent right wing drift of libertarianism. Differences: Jillette is really talented.)

7. Here’s Razib Khan, who self-identifies as conservative:

8. Putin must be smiling as he contemplates our stupidity:

The U.S. is considering sanctions that would target a United Arab Emirates-based businessman and a network of companies suspected of helping export Iran’s oil, part of a broader effort to escalate diplomatic pressure on Tehran as U.S. officials push to reach a deal on Iran’s nuclear program.

Why not just send a check directly to Putin?

9. File this under “Politics is downstream of (Anglo-Saxon) culture”. Here’s the FT on the new Conservative Party:

But Tories want the fairy tale. For many, the test is no longer what you have done but whether you believe. There is no place for questioning. Approbation comes by faith alone. . . .

Doubt is such a heresy that both candidates must now deny any link between Brexit and delays at Channel ports, or its role in the labour shortages and weak pound which are exacerbating inflation.

It would be like a Republican who spent early 2016 calling Trump a fraud, suddenly become a true believer and spouting theories about a stolen election because the GOP base demanded it.



49 Responses to “Random observations”

  1. Gravatar of Brandon Berg Brandon Berg
    31. July 2022 at 18:59

    “It’s bad for politicians to tell teachers what to teach” doesn’t strike me as a tenable principle. What if teachers want to teach creationism? Astrology? Flat Earth theory? National Socialism?

    Teachers are paid to teach the curriculum. They have the same free speech rights as the rest of us on their own time, but they don’t have the right to abuse their positions to preach a pseudoscientific ideology to a captive audience, whether that be creationism or CRT.

  2. Gravatar of John Papola John Papola
    31. July 2022 at 19:07

    You’re definitely right about the so-called “environmentalists”. Their opposition to all forms of energy production, including the allegedly “green” variety (which only comprises 3% of global energy despite decades of government subsidies) is pretty much proof that what they REALLY want is simply fewer people living worse or ideally not at all. They are anti-humanists who should be entirely ignored. The whole of this “movement” has revealed itself to ignorant social signaling narcissism among its masses, trumpeting the talking points of a core vanguard who seem like the very definition of genocidal evil.

    You can’t look at the full picture of affordable energy and its benefits, including the massive reduction in climate-related deaths over the past 100 years, and not come away with one conclusion: the ONLY moral position is one that unleashes as much cheap energy as possible, which happens to overwhelmingly involve fossil fuels for generations to come. Almost every effort aimed at curtailing energy production is a contributor to human misery and death.

    Being mealy-mouthed and “middle ground” on this issue, especially given the actual environmental movement positions, is untenable. The solution to “climate change” is cheaper more abudnant energy, even if it causes more climate change.

  3. Gravatar of AJ AJ
    31. July 2022 at 19:33

    I’m uneducated on British politics as well, but seeing a western country adopt (some form of) market monetarism would be nice

  4. Gravatar of MichaelM MichaelM
    31. July 2022 at 20:19


    The whole ‘the party screwed up’ thought is really starting to get under my skin. The party didn’t screw up. The party has almost no say in who its candidates are. It is entirely subject to the whims of a primary electorate whose composition it also has no say over. Anyone can join a political party in America, there are no membership dues or requirements of any kind.

    The ‘party’ didn’t screw up, it has fought desperately with what few tools it has left after McCain-Feingold and failed.

  5. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    31. July 2022 at 21:51

    Brandon, This is why we should abolish public schools. But if we are stupid enough to have them, then let the teachers and school administrators decide what to teach.

    John, “Being mealy-mouthed and “middle ground””

    That’s me! I favor a low carbon future, with lots of wind, solar, and nuclear. We should cut back on coal and oil.

  6. Gravatar of bill bill
    1. August 2022 at 04:23

    We should lift all restrictions on Iranian oil.

  7. Gravatar of Tom M Tom M
    1. August 2022 at 06:18

    Total agree on public schools. Rather than spend all this money “educating” young minds, give parents vouchers to provide for school choice.

    If you want your kid to be brought up in some DEI/CRT school, that’s completely find. If you want your kid to have a more religious upbringing. Great!

    If you want to focus on math or engineering, or a trade for your child, that’s fine as well.

  8. Gravatar of Monday assorted links – Marginal REVOLUTION Monday assorted links - Marginal REVOLUTION
    1. August 2022 at 08:17

    […] 2. Sumner splat. […]

  9. Gravatar of Patrick Tehan Patrick Tehan
    1. August 2022 at 08:26

    Quoting Andersen and taking him at face value is funny

  10. Gravatar of John Thacker John Thacker
    1. August 2022 at 08:50

    I don’t quite understand how the first link is supposed to convince anyone of the origins. It does quite definitively show that the first known (and probably first overall) location that caused widespread transmission of the virus to many people was the market. But surely even people who believed in a lab leak agreed with that already?

    It doesn’t really answer the question of how it got to the market, not that I think that’s easy to answer – what animal pathway did it take? Why no evidence of it in any of the rural towns closer to the habitats of the bats instead of in Wuhan?

    Someone convinced that it was brought back by someone who sampled a bat to bring to WIV would surely argue that that person then came in contact with the wet market and that led to spreading.

    Certainly anyone who did think that the lab research made the jump more likely would *also* think that the existence of the wet markets made transmission and spread more likely.

    100% convincing that the wet market was a danger and caused a massive amount of spread, and would be worth shutting down or regulating regardless of anything else. Hard to call it definitive about how it got to the market in the first place.

  11. Gravatar of Nick Nick
    1. August 2022 at 08:50

    People like Andersen and Worobey are committed opponents of the lab-leak theory, and have been for a very long time. For them to suggest that they’ve changed their minds as a result of gathering information for their recent paper doesn’t fill you with confidence about their general trustworthiness.

    The paper doesn’t really move the dial much on COVID origins, and doesn’t claim to do so, contrary to the misleading impression of its contents its authors try to sell to the media. Jury still out…

  12. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    1. August 2022 at 08:56

    John, You said:

    But surely even people who believed in a lab leak agreed with that already?”

    Nope, the lab leakers were denying the link with the market. Back around 2021, one of the major LLers said the link had been disproved.

    Nick, “The paper doesn’t really move the dial much”

    You don’t even know that they are discussing two different papers? Do your homeowrk.

    “People like Andersen and Worobey are committed opponents of the lab-leak theory, and have been for a very long time.”

    Nice try. Worobey signed the letter complaining that the WHO investigation was inadequate.

  13. Gravatar of John Thacker John Thacker
    1. August 2022 at 09:03

    “Brandon, This is why we should abolish public schools. But if we are stupid enough to have them, then let the teachers and school administrators decide what to teach. ”

    Teachers and administrators are two different things. And once you admit administrators, why not the school board?

    I too support school choice. But trying to answer this 100% procedurally in the context of the public schools a dodge. Say just “let teachers decide” and you end up in the reducto ad absurdum of “we can’t fire the Nazi or young earth creationist teacher or stop him from teaching what he wants.” Say just “oh, then no tenure, let the administrators decide” opens up the possibility of censorship by the administrator. Or push it up to another level, the school board. Or then the parents and voters. Quis custodiet ipos custodes?

    Ultimately in the democracy it’s the people, though I understand wanting to have some level of sand in the gears and procedural safeguards so that voters don’t automatically get what they want as soon as they want it, and so that it’s mostly left up to “the experts” unless there’s massive backlash. But that’s what we do have, and things muddle along. Sometimes 10% more democracy, sometimes 10% less. But it’s a mixed system that boiling down to quick “let X decide” doesn’t reflect reality nor anyone’s ideals or practice.

    Almost none of us are truly consistent on this on every possible issue and viewpoint.

  14. Gravatar of John Thacker John Thacker
    1. August 2022 at 09:20

    Consider the FDA. I look at other countries and see that the FDA kills a lot of people on net by blocking useful sunscreens, delaying vaccines and other drugs, and in general focusing on being much more concerned with political blowback for a negative effect from one thing that they let through than the entire invisible graveyard.

    But even if I think reducing the powers of the FDA, or requiring reciprocity, or something would help, and if I think that other countries get the balance better, it doesn’t really help me answer the question of whether I would prefer slightly more democracy or less. I think that in the current pandemic, both the Trump and Biden Administrations have been on the correct side of trying to get the FDA and its advisors to approve things faster. Just trusting the administrators and FDA employees would (and has) resulted in a lot more deaths than otherwise.

    The contrary argument is, of course, that more democracy would in the long run lead to even more stupid decisions because of backlash. Yes, overruling them now might save tens or hundreds of thousands of lives now versus the status quo FDA, but it might unleash terrible forces.

    When it’s that many lives at stake, no answer seems great. And so we muddle through, with the Executive Branch political leadership correctly pushing on the FDA, though not enough.

  15. Gravatar of Christian List Christian List
    1. August 2022 at 09:47

    Scott, I agree 100% on the schools.

    Meanwhile, on political candidates, I think it’s a problem of the political system that often arises when there are political parties: Competence hardly matters in these systems anymore, in the end it’s all about installing unthreatening, obedient henchmen. In countries like Italy or Germany, this is even more extreme, because most people get into office via party lists and there are no senators but simple parliamentarians only, mostly backbenchers to no end.

    I still don’t understand your Covid theory. Hardly anyone recognizes why a natural emergence in wild animals should be more embarrassing for CCP China than an artificial creation in a lab. Obviously the opposite is true.

    It is also still not clear why the game market theory should contradict the lab theory: The most plausible lableak theory, from the very beginning of the pandemic, was that a low-level employee of the laboratory who should have burned the test animal carcasses did not do so, but instead conducted an illegal sale on the wildlife market as a lucrative side income.

  16. Gravatar of Webb Webb
    1. August 2022 at 09:59

    “The BLM protests of 2020 (and subsequent “defund the police” movement), will end up worsening global warming.”

    I can see how this would impact cities like Philadelphia, Baltimore, and Chicago, which were only starting to staunch the bleeding of population loss. Big industry hubs like NYC and SF, based on market prices for housing, are back to pre-pandemic levels. But really, the explosion of sprawling Sunbelt Cities started in the 90s and continued at a rapid pace despite crime rates dropping in the major NE and midwest cities. Americans decided they wanted to live in Charlotte, Phoenix, and Jacksonville even as crime bottomed out in many of the traditional urban bases. People just want a big house in the suburbs.

    Like certainly increasing crime rates are detrimental to urban renewal and may have long term negative impacts. But the bigger trend is the growth of sprawl in the south and southeast, and it seems clear that this will continue regardless of how safe NYC and DC are.

  17. Gravatar of Christian List Christian List
    1. August 2022 at 10:07

    The North may become much more attractive again quite quickly once climate change fully kicks in.

  18. Gravatar of Larry Larry
    1. August 2022 at 10:18

    “Still think I’m crazy for wanting to abolish the public schools?”

    I don’t think you are crazy but I do think public schools are a valuable institution. In fact I think they are one of bedrock institutions of America and I hate the thought that they will disappear. It’s not as if charter schools are so great. If you search around you will discover lots of money stolen by charter schools.

    I remember growing up in public schools in a small town in New Jersey. I got a good education. We studied calculus in high school. But what I remember best is the feeling of community that the public school nurtured which charter schools will not.

    I knew I would happily go to war if the small neighboring town decided to invade my town.

    I think ending public schools is bad because it will also destroy local communities.

    Perhaps fixing public schools is a better idea than destroying them and providing unearned profits to the charter school industry.

  19. Gravatar of Christian List Christian List
    1. August 2022 at 10:33

    Who’s to say that schools don’t naturally establish themselves about in your way at the local level? Who wants to commute for hours every day and who wants to go to a boarding school? Few.

    I see your community aspect, and there may be something to it. But if there are going to be public schools, then give them as much freedom on as many levels as you possibly can.

    I think American schools are already quite advanced in that respect. I was at an American high school in NJ for a few months and the degree of freedom seemed to be already much greater in the US compared to (central) Europe in most relevant aspects.

  20. Gravatar of sean sean
    1. August 2022 at 10:46

    I can’t see how that piece moves the needle of lab leak. I agree with others that I thought everyone agreed the first mass infection event was from the market. I have no idea if that came from animal or human for the introduction to the market. Anderson seems to be the only one ever commenting; do we not have other experts?

    While I like Houston. Their neighborhoods suck. Libertarianism isn’t that great for organize complex long-term neighborhood building and as far as I could tell Houston doesn’t have a no-car neighborhood. Studies have shown fully walkable community people are in the minority but its still an underserviced customer as fully walkable communities sell at higher prices than pure car communities. Zoning probably has a place, but no zoning is better than California zoning.

  21. Gravatar of Webb Webb
    1. August 2022 at 12:31

    @Christian List – I don’t disagree! But I do think there are many places where suburbanization could occur in northern states without a revival of the former industrial strongholds. Look at how Columbus, OH has thrived while Cleveland and Cincinnati continue to lose population. There’s plenty of space for new sprawl throughout the midwest and west; there’s just no guarantee that a northward shift in population movement would benefit Detroit, St Louis, etc.

    Again, overall my point being it’s hard to see BLM protests/”defund the police” as making a huge dent in urbanization trends and climate change. Of course the crime spike will convince a lot of people to leave the urban core, but people would rather live in Austin over Phildelphia either way.

  22. Gravatar of Mark Z Mark Z
    1. August 2022 at 12:49

    “ It’s also bad for politicians to tell teachers what to teach, whether they are forcing them to teach woke stuff or banning them from teaching woke stuff.”
    Yeah! And also why do we let politicians tell teachers what religions they can indoctrinate kids with? If taxpayer-funded public schoolteachers or local schoolboards want to teach kids required by law to attend their schools their preferred religion, what business is it of higher governments?

    Seriously, who conceived of this idea that libertarianism requires us to let agents of local government do whatever they want to citizens that are *coerced* into dealing with them? Of course state governments can (and sometimes should) regulate what teachers teach. They’re already required to regulate what teachers teach by the 1st amendment when it comes to religion. They regulate how police officers police and no one would argue that that is illiberal. Just to reiterate, public school teachers are government employees engaged in a *coercive* activity, not a voluntary market transaction; there’s nothing liberal about letting them carry it out however they please.

  23. Gravatar of Dzhaughn Dzhaughn
    1. August 2022 at 13:21

    The Jillette movie on Vermeer really bugged me.”He. Painted. A. Vermeer!” No. The Glass Man in Amelie did not produce Renoirs, either. It makes me so mad.

    Teller was the talented one. But then we probably wouldn’t hear a word he says if it weren’t for Jillette.

  24. Gravatar of Hoosier Hoosier
    1. August 2022 at 13:25

    But isn’t Houston super ugly? Not saying its not worth it cause people need homes, I completely get it, but it’s unfortunate we can’t have both aesthetically appealing places to live which are also affordable.

  25. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    1. August 2022 at 13:58

    John, I’m not saying that state legislatures lack the legal authority to tell teachers what to teach. I’m saying it’s a really bad idea.

    And saying something like “what if they teach X” is no response. What if the state mandates bad teaching? Decentralized decisions are usually best; that’s why I favor private schools. If we must have public schools, make them as similar to private schools as possible.

    Christian, It’s very simple. Other developed countries have labs and lab leaks. Other developed countries don’t have these animal markets, which are cruel. You can’t blame China for an accident. You can blame the CCP for intentionally allowing these markets.

    Webb, It’s not a big factor, but at the margin it matters.

    Larry, Um, charter schools are public schools. So I agree that they are bad.

    Sean, Walkable neighborhoods are mostly illegal under zoning rules. Without zoning we’d have far more walkable neighborhoods.

    The lab leakers were saying that the first known cases were not from the market. Now we know they were. It’s like when they said certain virus characteristics looked “manmade”, and then those same characteristics were also found in a virus in Laos.

    Mark, So can I assume you want the federal government (say Biden) to overrule states on what to teach, if states are making bad choices (in Biden’s view)? The more decentralized the decision the better—preferably all decisions should be made by private schools.

    I love how conservatives oppose cancel culture, until it’s something THEY want to cancel.

    Dzhaughn, Yeah, that film was a misstep.

    Hoosier, Almost all of the beautiful neighborhoods in America were built before zoning. It would be illegal today to build many of our nicest neighborhoods.

  26. Gravatar of Mark Z Mark Z
    1. August 2022 at 14:31

    No, I want political neutrality in schools, as much as is possible (and don’t tell me it’s not possible; if it’s possible for religion, it’s possible for politics).

    Stop it with this ‘cancellation’ canard. Refusing to force taxpayers to pay the government to propagate an ideology while also forcing them to send their kids to receive said ideology is no more ‘cancellation’ of that ideology than the 1st amendment is ‘cancellation’ of Christianity because it bars proselytization by public officials while doing their jobs.

  27. Gravatar of Kaleberg Kaleberg
    1. August 2022 at 15:30

    So, instead of defund the police, it’s defund the schools. I guess the money saved by defunding the schools could go to the police departments.

    Also, what is the environmental cost of not having strict gun control? What about the environmental cost of having drugs be illegal? What about racial discrimination in employment? There are all sorts of drivers for crime in the cities, and by discouraging urban living, they increase environmental costs.

  28. Gravatar of steve steve
    1. August 2022 at 15:33

    Crime was much higher in the 90s and people were willing to live in the city. BLM, really only an issue for a few months, will be tiny factor in people leaving cities. Crime will be a factor for some but that will be outweighed by the ability to work remote, housing costs, job availability, schools and even taxes. Besides which, people clearly have no idea how to assess crime rates. Chicago gets all of the attention and they rarely make top ten for violent crime and never for property crime. If only Obama had come from St Louis or New Orleans or Baltimore then we could focus on the really high crime cities.


  29. Gravatar of Matthias Matthias
    1. August 2022 at 16:40

    Scott, you are right that American zoning makes walkable neighbourhoods illegal.

    Alas, that’s not the only culprit. Silly regulations like minimum parking requirements are to blame as well. Houston might not have zoning, but they still have minimum parking requirements.

    (The author of the book The High Price of Free Parking has some funny quips along the line of how even nominally anti-communist Americans want parking to be provided to everyone according to their needs, and not their ability to pay.)

  30. Gravatar of ChrisA ChrisA
    2. August 2022 at 04:17

    Why do people think Houston is specially ugly? Looks to me basically identical to all other US cities bar New York and Chicago outside of a small high rise area.. Possibly because Houston is a great place to live but a terrible place to visit for vacation?

    On the final link in the OP on Brexit causing delays at Dover, as I understand the recent delays are due to lack of French staff manning the passport control booths at Dover, there was always passport control there even before Brexit as UK was never part of the Schengen zone. So hard to see why Brexit is to blame, unless you take the position that the French were undermanning passport control as a form of petty revenge, which rather reflects badly on them and suggests perhaps they are not good people to be in some kind of political union with, vindicating the Brexit idea. I think the real truth though is probably just bureaucratic failure, the French not being fully aware of the surge in holiday traffic due to school breaks. Currently as I write there are no delays which suggests the latter idea.

    The FT are generally not reliable on Brexit issues, perhaps because their big business sponsors liked the corporatism of the EU and fear loss of subsidies and protectionism resulting from Brexit, a needless fear as the UK establishment is as bad as the EU in this regard.

  31. Gravatar of derek derek
    2. August 2022 at 05:28

    Re: shifting attitudes on zoning, I think this is less tribal than you claim. High cost cities are overwhelmingly liberal/progressive, so we have lots of liberals feeling lots of pain from housing costs, either an inability to afford rising rents, an inability to move to high cost cities, or, even for homeowners, brutal calculations on levering up into a nicer house in the same city. These guys are all pretty desperate for more housing supply. In the suburbs, are self-described liberal homeowners no longer sensitive to the impact of a bunch of nearby multi-family or lower value housing on their own home’s value? I think that they are and still vote with their wallets even though educated Democrats certainly like to tell themselves they are in line with current thinking on optimal economic policy.

    As far as rising Republican opposition, I think you may be right on this one as driven primarily by tribalism, though I would note that preserving existing zoning laws is somewhat philospohically in line with the idea that conservatism seeks to preserve what is good about the status quo and be cautious about changing traditions (especially those traditions rooted in Christianity/~1950s); a lot of this is just that conservatism has soundly beaten Millsian liberalism as the dominant Republican ideology.

  32. Gravatar of Bob Bob
    2. August 2022 at 06:24

    Fun in zoning + public schools: It’s hard to avoid the fact that a lot of US sprawl, and specifically zoning with requirements that make it very difficult for people of different economic situations to live near each other, is down to school districts. Not just racial segregation, but economic segregation, is what we got. Would R1 be the most common zone in metropolitan areas if the penalty for a more integrated neighborhood was lower? It is not completely implausible that the US’ weak attempts at school desegregation just gave the country even more segregation.

    I for one am not against zoning in general, it’s just that the US zones make so little sense. Being able to walk to a store or ten should be a plus, and this is easily achieved anywhere else in the world, even in rural areas. But that’s because the idea of a zone with a ratio of habitable area vs lot area of 0.4 just doesn’t happen anywhere else. And it’s not as if zoning itself is the only source of this: Houston might not have zoning, but an assortment of different techniques are used so that the same ratios are achieved either way. “If you don’t want a HOC, buy a house in a place without it”, they say, when all available housing stock is in a HOC.

  33. Gravatar of George George
    2. August 2022 at 06:39

    This whole post is predicated ON TRUSTING FAKE NEWS/CCP LIES.

    It is already open source that Gain of Function was applied on naturally occurring corona bat virus to make it more contagious among humans, at the Wuhan laboratory. The ‘wet market’ narrative IS the cover up.



    First they came for the Trump supporters, but I did not speak out because I wasn’t a Trump supporter.

    Then they came for the children, but I still did not speak out because I wasn’t a child.

    Then they came for the senior economists who dared speak contrary to the White House’s attempt to redefine the technical definition of recession as two consecutive quarters of negative GDP, but will I speak out now or still carry water for the global cult’s interests?


  34. Gravatar of George George
    2. August 2022 at 06:54

    POOF goes the false theory that “Economist’s consensus” is the source that drives political narratives on the economy.

    The Biden White House is knowingly and intentionally gaslighting the public.

    2020 election was stolen. Watch ‘2000 Mules’. They caught them using geotracking tech, the same tech the FBI used to target and arrest old ladies at the Capitol on Jan 6.
    With only a 5% sampling of the total number of mules conducting multiple ballot box dropoffs, they mathematically proved the mules illegal trafficking of ballots was enough to prove Biden lost.

  35. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    2. August 2022 at 10:36

    Chris, The Brexit supporters are delusional if they don’t think Brexit has hurt the UK economy. It has, just as I predicted.

    Bob, You said:

    “Houston might not have zoning, but an assortment of different techniques are used so that the same ratios are achieved either way. “If you don’t want a HOC, buy a house in a place without it”, they say, when all available housing stock is in a HOC.”

    This is a complete myth, but widely believed. Consider:

    “Yet, the similarities end there, and Houston’s system of deed restrictions is a significant improvement over zoning. For starters, deed restrictions only cover an estimated quarter of the city, largely in areas with low-rise, detached, single-family housing. Industrial areas, commercial corridors, mixed-use and multifamily neighborhoods, urban vacant lots, and yet-to-be-developed greenfields are virtually never subject to their provisions. This means that roughly three-quarters of Houston—including its more dynamic sections—are largely free to grow without anything even resembling zoning holding them back.”

    George, I don’t know what’s more ridiculous, your attempt to claim a recession is two negative quarters or your attempt to promote the nonsense in 2000 Mules.

    I’ve been a macroeconomist my entire life. I don’t need some ignorant commenter telling me what a recession is.

  36. Gravatar of George George
    2. August 2022 at 11:01

    “George, I don’t know what’s more ridiculous, your attempt to claim a recession is two negative quarters or your attempt to promote the nonsense in 2000 Mules.”

    I know! It’s YOUR ‘ridiculous’ reactions the truths you don’t like. That is what is MOST ‘ridiculous’.

    Here is UK Treasury’s published definition:
    Here is Canada:
    Here is NYT 1978:
    Germany’s Bundesbank:
    Even rapist pedophile Bill Clinton, informed by ‘top elite macroeconomists’ said it is two consecutive quarters of negative GDP:

    Oh but all these are all wrong, it’s the new WH’s redefinition that matters now.

    And I bet you never even watched 2000 Mules but just relied on proven dishonest sources to inform about the content. Watch the movie and THEN provide exactly how it’s ‘nonsense’, in your own words, please and thanks.

    ‘I’ve been a macroeconomist my entire life. I don’t need some ignorant commenter telling me what a recession is.’
    Ignorant because inconsistent with your beliefs, lest you would need to accept your beliefs as ignorant.

  37. Gravatar of Christian List Christian List
    2. August 2022 at 11:08

    Scott, other developed countries have extreme forms of factory farming. Hard to say what is really more horrific. Hundreds of thousands of farm animals in a confined space, kept industrially, or a simple wild animal market with thousands of years of tradition where wild animals are not kept industrially? I find it arrogant and inappropriate to make a one-sided moral judgment here.

    I also don’t see this discussion really happening in regards to Covid, except by you. You’re also using an artificial dichotomy between “good” developed countries and “evil savages” that seems richly artificial to me.

    The other absurd claim is that CCP China cannot be held responsible for an “accident”. So apparently you can’t hold the USSR responsible for Chernobyl, Putin for mismanagement of the Kursk disaster, Russia for MH17/MAS17, and CCP China for wildlife markets. Of course we can, and we must.

    In the case of a lableak, the governmental responsibility is actually extreme, because such critical research is not done without permission from the absolute top authorities. In addition, the research was extremely controversial and questionable even long before Covid. In addition, there were SARS leaks in China long before Covid. Add to that the fact that there were illegal carcass sales from labs in China before Covid. And yet, the security measures were not massively tightened and not more was tried to prevent a lableak. They should have stopped research altogether after the first SARS leaks at the very latest. It was a gigantic chain of mistakes, not just one mistake. That’s just unforgivable.

  38. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    2. August 2022 at 11:49

    Christian, You said:

    “In the case of a lableak, the governmental responsibility is actually extreme, because such critical research is not done without permission from the absolute top authorities.”

    That’s not true. The US had a temporary ban on this sort of research (2014-17), which was widely ignored. The political leadership in the US and China probably has no idea what sort of biomedical research is being done. They are busy with other things.

    We do similar research here, and we also have lab leaks.

    I’m not saying gain of function shouldn’t be banned, I’ve suggested that in other posts. But China’s certainly not the only country doing that sort of research.

    George. LOL, lots of foreign countries. Do you not know that the NBER provides the accepted US definition? I guess not.

    And check out who made the 2000 Mules film. Know who he is?

  39. Gravatar of anon/portly anon/portly
    3. August 2022 at 09:03

    I don’t know much about “2000 Mules,” except a vague idea it has to do with people dropping off ballots, but obviously there are “2000” of these mules because there isn’t 1 mule. I.e. there isn’t one verified mule case to point to (to then suggest there could be more), so therefore there are [some impressive sounding number] mules.

    This of course follows the pattern where after the election the Trumpy folk couldn’t come up with *one* “affidavit,” i.e. one verifiable instance of vote fraud to point to, therefore … “affidavits!”

    Obviously George isn’t bothered by the fact that watching a movie is not the same thing as verifying the data and actually having access to and understanding the math….

  40. Gravatar of anon/portly anon/portly
    3. August 2022 at 09:20

    The Penn Jillette pod was great – great recommendation.

    Left out a Jillette/Sumner commonality: enthusiasm for cinema. It was in a feature about Jillette that I first encountered the idea – Jillette expressed it in a somewhat over-the-top fashion – that when you go a film, the trailers (collectively) are generally better than the film.

    Another possible one: skepticism? (Jillette I think still has ties to the “skeptical community” – his hero/mentor James Randi was perhaps our foremost Public Skeptic).

    How great would it be if Jillette and Sumner teamed up? I’m thinking of something like a cross between “Free to Choose” and “Bullshit.” I bet if you sat Jillette down and had him read 100 carefully selected Sumner blog posts, he’d get this idea immediately.

  41. Gravatar of anon/portly anon/portly
    3. August 2022 at 09:35

    Two notes on the Jillette pod:

    1. I guess Jillette’s “not at the checkers level” – referring to the question of whether there is a deeper level (or layers) to Trump than what we can see from his public persona, i..e is Trump sometimes “playing three dimensional chess” – is the definitive answer? Jillette also, iirc, uses the phrase “impulsive baby.” I guess there is no hope for the guy….

    2. The Bill Maher “where’s the nut … oh, I’m the nut” story was not only funny but really impressive.

  42. Gravatar of anon/portly anon/portly
    3. August 2022 at 09:41


  43. Gravatar of Christian List Christian List
    3. August 2022 at 11:09

    The US had a temporary ban on this sort of research (2014-17), which was widely ignored.

    Scott, let’s assume your thesis is correct and the ban has been ignored. Then it’s a similar situation wit the wet markets. Western media claim wet markets have long been a thorn in the side of the Chinese authorities, but not even Mao managed to ban them completely. And why should they have be banned? Because Scott Sumner and other Westerners found them “uncivilized”, “savage”, and “cruel”?

    However, I don’t think the research ban was ignored. Inner-American research must have complied with this ban, otherwise it would have been highly illegal research. If they have done this research, for example in Wuhan, funded by American authorities, then they have exploited loopholes in the ban.

    In general, I sometimes miss the consistency and coherence in your arguments: so the detailed regulation and non-regulation of wet markets is the fault of the Chinese authorities, according to your argument. Let’s say I follow you so far. But then the dangerous non-regulation of the few virus laboratories in China, that have been built by Chinese authorities and are under the under the thumb of the Chinese authorities are not their responsibility? I don’t see much logic in that. Sorry.

    The opposite solution would probably be better: monitor and regulate these very few high-risk labs — and let the poor people have their “cruel” wet markets.

  44. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    3. August 2022 at 12:04

    anon/portly, The film was made by Dinesh D’Souza. Check out his “colorful” career.

    Christian, You are wrong, the restrictions were easy to evade. But it’s all a moot point as the ban was lifted in 2017.

    “under the thumb”

    LOL, do you know anything about how politics works? Do you think Xi and Trump even knew what gain-of-function is?

  45. Gravatar of Christian List Christian List
    4. August 2022 at 04:32

    Scott, I did not write that Xi and Trump should regulate that personally. But if you want the Chinese authorities to regulate all wetmarkets in China, then it is not too much to expect from the Chinese authorities to regulate the very few virus labs they have built themselves.

    Especially since the virus laboratory in Wuhan is a quasi-state institution, where there are certainly masses of bureaucrats and political snitches running around, who seem to have done everything but meaningful work.

  46. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    4. August 2022 at 11:55

    “then it is not too much to expect from the Chinese authorities to regulate the very few virus labs they have built themselves.”

    I never said it was. Ditto for the USA.

    Go back and reread what I actually wrote, instead of implying I said something that I never said. I’ve always been pro-regulation of gain of function.

  47. Gravatar of Sara Sara
    5. August 2022 at 12:43


    You are still wrong on RU. It has to be delusional 1960’s brainwashing, because nothing else could possibly explain your vehement hatred for the red bear. Zelensky just got exposed by Amnesty international for what we’ve been trying to tell you since day one. The guy is a corrupt thug, and he has been not only using human shields, but he’s also the leader of the donbass shellings. This guy leveled an entire town after Russian troops left, just to try and get the international community on his side. He is disgusting in every way imaginable.

    The U.S. wrongly sided with him, because they spent 5B to orchestrate the 2014 coup and thought it was in their foreign interest to support that thugged out party. And then the U.S. told the world that Russia was “making up stories” and that it was a “false flag”, which of course was followed, by many of the largest countries, with the question “where is the evidence of a false flag”. To this day, no evidence has been provided. India, Brazil, China, and Argentina are still waiting for NATO to provide this so-called “evidence”. Even a reuters journalist asked for it. The response: “its classified”. That means “we have nothing”. I suspect, like the old Soviet union, we will continue to get “excuses”.

  48. Gravatar of Ricardo Ricardo
    5. August 2022 at 13:14

    2000 mules was eye-opening.
    Of course, only for those interested in the truth. The folks who enjoy one sided politicial propaganda shows, and partisan analysis like the one pelosi starred in, wont be fans.

    Of course a recession is two quarters of negative growth, but the democrats are in office… so you know…you can just make stuff up and fact check people soviet style using overwhelming propaganda to shut them down. Disagreeing with the state now means you are wrong, and that you probably need “reeducation”.

  49. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    5. August 2022 at 13:27

    Ricardo, Do you know who Dinesh D’Souza is?

    And did you see the July jobs figures?

    There comes a point where trolling just makes the troll look ridiculous.

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