Recent articles

1. I don’t post on Israel/Palestine because I find the issue to be incredibly boring and unimportant. I also find 90% of the articles on the subject to be either stupid or uninteresting. The only pundit who seems to share my view is Matt Yglesias, who has an excellent post on why he also finds the topic to be grossly over-reported.

2. Here’s

Currently, nearly 48% (about 159.2 million) of the U.S. population has received at least one dose, while 37.8% (about 125.5 million) is fully vaccinated. 

When broken down by demographic group, however, there are clear disparities. For example, among the vaccinated population, 61% are white while just 17% are Hispanic/Latino and 12% are Black.

But here’s what Yahoo doesn’t tell you. Among the vaccinated population, barely 2% are Jewish.

Think about it.

3. This made me smile:

To conduct the audit, Arizona Senate Republicans brought in a private Florida-based company, Cyber Ninjas, whose founder and CEO, Doug Logan, has pushed false claims of fraud in the 2020 election.

Read the whole thing, it’s hilarious

4. I see stories like this almost everyday:

The mysterious London public relations agency sent its pitch simultaneously to social media influencers in France and Germany: Claim that Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine is deadly and that regulators and the mainstream media are covering it up, the message read, and earn thousands of euros in easy money in exchange.

The claim is false. The purported agency, Fazze, has a website and describes itself as an “influencer marketing platform” connecting bloggers and advertisers. But when some of the influencers tried to find out who was running Fazze, the ephemeral trail appeared to lead to Russia.

Wait, I thought China was the big bad enemy?

5. And this:

Two European airlines had to cancel flights to Moscow after Russian authorities failed to approve new routes that avoided Belarus’s airspace in response to Minsk’s interception of a passenger jet. . . . “The Russian reaction is absolutely incomprehensible to us,” Austria’s Foreign Ministry was quoted as saying by Reuters on Thursday.

Incomprehensible? Not to anyone paying attention to Russia.

6. In a recent post, I mentioned that the US was becoming a more puritanical society. I was surprised that this claim was seen as controversial. It might help to take the view of someone from outside of the US:

It won’t be the first time Macron and his government have presented a different read on social campaigns that have taken the U.S. by storm. Although the MeToo movement made some ripples in France, Macron criticized it, saying he didn’t want a “society where every man/woman interaction is suspected of domination,” adding that he didn’t want to live in a “puritanical society.”

What would give Macron the silly idea that the US has gone off the deep end on this issue? Here is the NYT, in a hard hitting story about Bill Gates failing to get the dinner companion he was looking for:

In 2006, for example, he attended a presentation by a female Microsoft employee. Mr. Gates, who at the time was the company’s chairman, left the meeting and immediately emailed the woman to ask her out to dinner, according to two people familiar with the exchange.

“If this makes you uncomfortable, pretend it never happened,” Mr. Gates wrote in an email, according to a person who read it to The New York Times.

The woman was indeed uncomfortable, the two people said. She decided to pretend it had never happened.

No doubt this will have NYT readers clutching their pearls. I kept reading, looking for how her career was derailed after rebuffing Gates. Nothing.

7. A nice summary of the infrastructure debate:

President Biden wanted to spend $2.25 trillion we don’t have on projects we don’t need. Republicans countered by saying they weren’t willing to spend more than $568 billion we don’t have on projects we don’t need. President Biden, desiring to show he was willing to compromise, offered to spend $1.7 trillion we don’t have on projects we don’t need.

Now the latest is that Republicans have agreed to spend “close to $1 trillion” we don’t have on projects we don’t need. Whereas Biden hinted that he would agree to raising taxes on corporations and people who earn more than $400,000 a year to pay for part of his plan, a key provision of the Republican proposal is that taxes won’t be raised on anyone to pay for it, thus absolutely ensuring we won’t have the money to pay for their infrastructure projects we don’t need.

It is easy to say that this is just politics, but I can’t help but feeling that everyone inside the Beltway has gone nuts. 

Yup, fiscal policymaking is reaching a new low almost every year..

8. Today, China became a bit less repressive:

Chinese authorities expand two-child policy to allow each couple to have three children as the country tries to cope with an ageing population

On one level this is good. But even a three child limit is both stupid and immoral. China is trying too boost its birth rate. If the CCP feels it must control every aspect of people’s lives, a 30 child limit would achieve its population goals much better than a 3 child limit.

9. This caught my eye:

The Trump administration tried during the trade war to persuade China to renounce subsidies for its exporters, which include cheap land for factories and huge loans to manufacturers at below-market interest rates. The Biden administration plans extensive subsidies as well, but those are aimed mostly at research and development, a category of subsidies that seldom violates international trade rules.

Isn’t that convenient. “Trade rules” ban the sort of subsidies that China provides, but allow the sort of subsidies that we engage in. Bonus points for any commenter who is able to justify our hypocrisy using economic theory.

10. Back in February 2020, Trump was lavishing praise on the CCP for their handling of Covid. Biden was not so naive:



17 Responses to “Recent articles”

  1. Gravatar of Kevin Erdmann Kevin Erdmann
    31. May 2021 at 11:09

    You saw this, right?
    Next election, I’m going to sprinkle rice flour into the envelope when I send in my ballot, just to screw with them.

  2. Gravatar of Jonathan Miller Jonathan Miller
    31. May 2021 at 12:02

    I will bite on number 9. Research and development is a basic example of a. public good, one which the government must be involved in. Land and loans are examples of goods for which markets generally work and work best.

    Maybe there should be some maximum percentage that a nation should be able to spend on research and development, based on international agreement. I think it is pretty clear that no major nation is spending anything near the level of a reasonable maximum, even if Biden had the ability to spend anything he wants on it.

    I am a physicist/data scientist and not an economist, so my understanding is based primarily on articles/books for the general populace.

    A friend/former colleague who moved to finance argued that instead of our current patent system we should have some auction which the US government (and other governments) could also bid in. There might be some system that is different than ours which would handle research and development (including basic research and development and the research and development in an international context) better than our system.

  3. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    31. May 2021 at 14:54

    Thanks Kevin. There’s one born every minute.

    Jonathan, Sure, but the Chinese could easily produce an “infant industry” model to justify their subsidies. Or “externalities” for solar panel subsidies. It’s probably better if countries just mind their own business, and not worry about what subsidies are being provided in other countries.

  4. Gravatar of mbka mbka
    31. May 2021 at 17:12


    “But here’s what Yahoo doesn’t tell you. Among the vaccinated population, barely 2% are Jewish.” Face palm. It’s so sad, it’s funny.

    On other news… the puritanical US, well, some things never change, although it’s more of a hypocrisy and censorship thing, I haven’t got the impression anyone in the US is actually living these “values”.

    But I do worry every day about censorship and self censorship. On many issues, I haven’t said aloud what I really think in decades. Personal or political. Not in person, not in e-mails, not in text messages, not on the internet. The taboo subjects vary by country – say in the US it’s race and gender these days, in Europe it’s wealth distribution, in China it’s the government. But unless you want to make confrontation a lifestyle choice that dominates your life, I don’t see pretty much any country around where you’re not at risk ending up on the business end of the Salem witch trials. And the world is getting worse on this. I blame instant transmission and unlimited storage of “information”. Nothing you say or do escapes from potentially being recorded and replayed somewhere, sometime. I don’t think my son will ever see a world in his life time where you can honestly say what you think without fear of repression.

  5. Gravatar of Carl Carl
    1. June 2021 at 08:38

    I believe the forces of tolerance will eventually push back the woke and other aggressive evangelists. In an age of immediate information transmission and eternal information persistence that means pushing back using the rules of evidence. State your assumptions, cite your evidence, listen to the opposing case and be willing to concede and change opinions in the face of solid evidence and apologize when you break the rules. Reasonable people will not punish you for what you have said in that way and the modern Jacobins will eventually wear out their welcome and lose their ability to cow enough of the reasonable people.

  6. Gravatar of Christian List Christian List
    1. June 2021 at 09:27

    When broken down by demographic group, however, there are clear disparities. For example, among the vaccinated population, 61% are white while just 17% are Hispanic/Latino and 12% are Black.

    That’s the best unintentional two-sentence summary of identity politics I’ve read so far. These people are so bright, they don’t even realize the baloney they write.

    One can read quite similar sentences when there is “discussion” about income, or wealth, or education. Hooray, the world is going stupid, at least huge parts of journalistic opinion.

  7. Gravatar of Michael Rulle Michael Rulle
    1. June 2021 at 09:57

    Re: vaccinations. I think all news is this bad—you just happened to pick one where the numbers match up almost perfectly–when it should be obvious to the most casual observer—maybe Yahoo is especially dumb—I am surprised they left out the most screwed people of all—the people of the territory Guam.

  8. Gravatar of Michael Rulle Michael Rulle
    1. June 2021 at 10:54

    Well, less spending on what we don’t need is always better than more spending on what we don’t need–I think.

    Don’t know at all if the spending to GDP ratio has meaning—but from 1950 to 2019 it crept up from about 17 to 22%—-which is huge. (Q3 2009 it was 24.6–the GREAT RECESSION). Q3 2020 it was 47% (annualized)—pretty big–about same as 1945. Dropped to 37 Q1.I don’t know where it goes by Dec 21 Q1—but I assume around 30—maybe it goes to 25.

    Why can’t we drop to 17 like in the early 50s? We can—People mock Paul Ryan—but we could do it in 30-50 years with discipline. It’s this high for 2 reasons—we raised SS, Medicaid and Medicare taxes and spent it on other things—then we also raised payouts simultaneously. While many other things (e.g military) matter–the big boy is the ponzi on entitlements.

    We are now maybe entering a new acceleration—–0 rates help—its hard to believe the western world is not somehow doing this on purpose (0 rates I mean).

    We really do not have to do this—but we do. Anyone know why? I don’t.

  9. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    1. June 2021 at 13:12

    mbka, What sort of views on wealth distribution are unacceptable in Europe.

  10. Gravatar of Christian List Christian List
    1. June 2021 at 14:05


    in Europe it’s wealth distribution

    I second Scott’s comment, I’m really curious as well.

    For example, in Germany, there is a Green Party with a party manifesto to the left of the Democrats around Biden. There is a social democratic party that is even more left-wing, not by much but maybe a little.

    And there is an extreme left-wing party, the direct successor party of the SED from the GDR, which basically wants to introduce a GDR 2.0, this time, of course, completely “humane” and “democratic”.

    These are three parties that are very dominant in Germany and they account for about 75-90% of the journalists in the media who have a party preference.

    And nevertheless Germany is still “moderate” in this regard – in comparison to other European countries.

  11. Gravatar of mbka mbka
    1. June 2021 at 17:35

    Scott, Christian,

    “mbka, What sort of views on wealth distribution are unacceptable in Europe.”

    Views such as,
    – unequal income and wealth between people is a natural and unremarkable outcome due to people’s different life preferences, choices, effort, and abilities. (not to mention Scott’s favourite, life cycle effects, which mean that most differences are far smaller than assumed)
    – unequal distribution is not necessarily unjust, inhumane, or objectionable. As a result, it need not necessarily be addressed by policy
    – neither the government nor your fellow citizens necessarily owe you a living
    – even where these differences are due to family background, random chance, and discrimination, every group or individual that loses out in one area likely benefits in another. It doesn’t totally even out but it’s not totally bleak either.
    – a lot of wealthy people really, genuinely, worked hard and were really good at what they were doing, and that’s why they became wealthy


    In Europe any of the above will raise an eyebrow, at least in public. In private, most people will concede a little.

  12. Gravatar of Dzhaughn Dzhaughn
    1. June 2021 at 19:37

    Bonus Point Application:

    (1) 98% of the gains from R&D accrue to consumers. Someone said so. Ask Cowen, he’ll know.
    (2) China freely appropriates US R&D anyway.

    Not that I really disagree with you in principle. I just want bonus points, so I can do an ICO.

  13. Gravatar of Christian List Christian List
    2. June 2021 at 13:34


    Oh, you mean the other way round. Yes, that’s pretty much 100% true, I guess. But you can’t really have that opinion in the US either, at least not in the dominating media or around the liberal elite.

    You might have to watch Faux News for stuff like this, but that’s considered far-right, unserious, and stupid, and maybe even for good reasons.

    Or you have to read libertarian media like, but those are outsider media on the fringe.

    I agree that it is far, far worse in the Europe though.

    I mean, it’s kind of true, the American “Ayn Rand philosophy” can be very silly, it has great weaknesses no question. But it is even more telling that Ayn Rand is not even known in Europe.

    Or that in quite some (or even most) European countries there isn’t even one economics class during your whole school career, because serious economics is considered unimportant, dull or even ultra-right/evil.

  14. Gravatar of mbka mbka
    2. June 2021 at 17:14


    I wouldn’t say wealth is genuinely taboo in the US. At least half the country is perfectly OK with more conservative views. It’s part of the basic values in the US to have that “protestant work ethic” even if you’re a liberal. People believe that your choices make a difference in life. etc. In fact, too much emphasis on “choices” for my taste in the US belief system, as if most people lived rationally and consciously. That said, in Europe I believe wealth is genuinely taboo. I believe most of Europe has the basic values of the French Revolution, with emphasis on Equality-Fraternity. With Marx and Engels possibly even a direct consequence.

    BTW the views I quoted are more in line with what a Hayek would say, than Ayn Rand. But in Europe, wealth is genuinely taboo. I believe even conservative types can’t be caught saying things like that.

    “Or that in quite some (or even most) European countries there isn’t even one economics class during your whole school career, because serious economics is considered unimportant, dull or even ultra-right/evil.”
    That is very true. Besides economics, basic business skills aren’t taught either. I was actually taught economics (French high school, in Africa, don’t ask) but still by age 18 I didn’t know how to write a cheque.

  15. Gravatar of Greg Greg
    2. June 2021 at 18:31

    Trump is a straightforward guy. A lot of times, he says what he thinks. For that, many ordinary people love him and the Deep State and ruling elites hate him. Biden, on the other hand, is part of the Establishment, and by definition, is hypocritical.

    China’s handling of COVID is not flawless, but without a doubt leads the world and sets up as benchmark in many departments by which other countries could be measured against. We’ve only come to know these from hindsight. Otherwise we would still believe in “China is the Real Sick Man of Asia” and “China’s Chernobyl Moment” or other such nonsense. We could argue that some countries could not handle COVID as well as China because certain cultural traits or other excuses like western freedom & democracy etc. But still, China has come up with many best practice in handling COVID. That’s a fact.

  16. Gravatar of Kevin Kevin
    5. June 2021 at 04:20

    Hey Scott!

    I just wanted to provide some perspective on the Bill Gates article. You’re free to think people take this stuff too seriously, but I wanted to paint it differently in case it evokes more empathy.

    That woman put her effort and time into creating and delivering a presentation she knew would be seen and evaluated by the chairman of the company. I’m sure she was hoping to make a positive impression and maybe even advance her career. And at that very vulnerable time, maybe hoping to get some positive feedback on her work, she got a message from the MARRIED chairman of the company asking her out. If I were her, I would be devastated. She wasn’t trying to have an affair, she was giving a work presentation. And you mention you were waiting to hear about retaliatory behavior, but it didn’t materialize. But she didn’t know at the time if it would materialize either. She never knew what strings he might decide to pull or not pull as a result of her decision.

    You don’t have to think that Bill Gates should be removed from public life, or that no one should ever ask out someone they work with to see how that situation would be disappointing and mildly humiliating for that woman.

    Thanks for letting me try to paint it in a different light, even if your view remains the same. I appreciate your open perspective on everything, truly.


  17. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    5. June 2021 at 09:55

    Kevin, Just to be clear, I personally know women who have been sexually harassed, and I think it’s a big problem. Their stories are heartbreaking. But it’s also quite different from what is being suggested here. It’s very disappointing to me that a formerly respectable newspaper like the NYT is engaging in gutter journalism.

    As for Gates’s private life, that’s none of my business so I won’t comment. But given the way that powerful people so often abuse their power, I think we should cut Gates a bit of slack as he doesn’t seem to have acted in the way that Clinton, Trump, Weinstein and so many other men in similar positions of power have behaved throughout history. Surely that counts for something.

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