The socialists vs. the conservatives

The conservatives:

Larry Summers, the former US treasury secretary who has reportedly advised President-elect Joe Biden, thinks $2,000 stimulus checks would be a “pretty serious mistake” that could overheat the US economy. . . .

He said he was “not even sure I’m so enthusiastic about the $600 checks,” let alone $2,000 ones.

And the socialists:

On Tuesday morning, David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler, two Georgia Republican senators facing difficult run-off races next week that could determine control of the upper chamber, backed Mr Trump’s push for $2,000 payments, squeezing Mr McConnell further on the issue.

Mr Perdue said in a tweet: “@realdonaldtrump is right — I support this push for $2,000 in direct relief for the American people.”

When asked if she supported the $2,000 payments, Ms Loeffler told Fox News: “I’ve stood by the president 100 per cent of the time. I’m proud to do that. And I’ve said absolutely, we need to get relief to Americans now and I will support that.”

And AOC:

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York clapped back at a GOP congressman who opposed direct payments of $2,000 in coronavirus relief to most Americans, parodying his reason for opposing them.

The new face of the Republican Party:

I don’t think $2000/person will overheat the economy, but it’s a waste of money and hence I’m with conservatives like Larry Summers.

PS. China spent a trillion dollars and got a brand new 36,000km high speed rail network. We’ll give people a trillion dollars that they’ll spend on stuff made in China, delivered by Amazon. To each their own.



42 Responses to “The socialists vs. the conservatives”

  1. Gravatar of Christian List Christian List
    29. December 2020 at 14:57


    I thought you were against gigantomaniacal government construction projects where it is kind of impossible to determine actual needs.

    I also thought you were in favor of thousands of individual spending decisions.

    If these people think they’re getting the most value for “their” buck from Amazon and China, then let them. The funny thing is: We don’t really know for sure, how would we, but they are probably right: they get the most value from Amazon and China. The only problem I see is that it’s not really their bucks.

    Not that I’m in favor of the $2,000 or this rail project. I have no particular opinion on either, both sound like a waste of money. I just don’t get why you picked these specific examples and created this dichotomy. AOC would build a 36,000km high speed rail network on top of the $2,000 and so much more.

  2. Gravatar of Dale Doback Dale Doback
    29. December 2020 at 15:12

    It was suggested to me that direct payments are the most efficient way of providing relief to those in need as the infrastructure and bureaucracy to provide some sort of targeted relief doesn’t exist and would be slow and costly to setup. I have no idea if that’s actually true.

  3. Gravatar of Paul Kolsut Paul Kolsut
    29. December 2020 at 16:34

    Hi Scott,

    Would you mind telling your prediction for the next 5, 10 years for USA if you have any. I am an immigrant (legal 😉 ) and I came to US 16 years ago and I thought that debt was at manageable level, between 50%-60% debt ratio to GDP. I am from a former communist country, Poland. When I came to US I was amazed how everything works here and how rich the country is. I started reading Milton Friedman, Henry Hazlitt etc. basically anything that was about freedom and free markets. I was always leaning Republic since they “believed” in small government and red states most of the time were doing much better than blue states so my view is that Republicans did a much better job than Democrats. After all the wars in Afghanistan, Iraq etc., deficit spending and all the spending that is happening now I am starting to worry about the future. I think Democrats are more honest because at least they do not hide their big government big spending ideas while Republicans are still believing that Republican party is the party of small government. Is it possible for you to make predication where we are heading, what might happen and how is your outlook for the future is it more optimistic or pessimistic. What will happen to the debt we are already at 136% debt to GDP ratio and who knows where it will be in the next 15 minutes ;). Should I keep my other passport ready 🙂 in case stuff happens. I just want to let you know that I really like reading your articles and I think you are a very knowledgeable person. Thank you.

  4. Gravatar of Benjamin Cole Benjamin Cole
    29. December 2020 at 16:37

    Larry Sumner’s recent op-ed that a $2,000 stimulus check could lead to “overheating” is particularly strange and about 40 years out of date.

    With globalization, the idea of overheating in manufactured-good prices is exotic, and labor hasn’t had any leverage in developed nations for a couple generations.

    So why no meaningful inflation in the developed economies since about 1980?

    You have to read Michael Pettis’ “Trade Wars are Class Wars” and then you get partway to the general answer.

    Developed nations have been defined since 1980 by declining labor shares of income, relative to GDP.

    In every advanced nation, if ever labor develops some leverage, then jobs will be offshored or immigrants brought in. From the perspective of the multinationals, globalization works. Nations such as Germany and China have successfully competed by decreasing labor share of income, and boosting investment and returns to business.

    Alongside of this have been continuous improvements in manufacturing processes. Workers produce double what they did in the 1980s.

    We see the results; there are gluts of anything you can think of in terms of manufactured products, and even of commodities. Oil is a rare exception, but oil output is controlled by a cartel and seld-destructive petro-nation despots, thugs and cretins, and yet still there tends to be oil gluts.

    If the $2,000 stimulus checks were mailed out, you might see some inflation in housing rents, but the places where rents have been soaring in the past 20 years (largely due to property zoning that benefits the property-owning class) are emptying of population presently. That is, rents are not going up on the West Coast/NYC. A one-time $2,000 stimulus check is unlikely alter present residential rental picture much.

    Once again, it appears the conventional macroeconomics profession is frozen into the 1970s and cannot change. “Accelerating Inflation caused by rising wages and consumer demand” is ever the top concern, and Keynesians and monetarists take turns howling at one another on how to stop inflation.

    Similarly outdated are arguments that a macroeconomic policy is socialist or conservative.

    For that matter, Washington takes about $10,000 from every household every year to finance the globalist National Security apparatus. Now they might get back to households $2000? Horrors! Is giving back $2,000 of own money a libertarian, conservative or socialist gesture?

    Whether monetarist or Keynesian, macroeconomists have sacralized their models.

    The real issue, that of declining living standards for the employee-classes in developed nations—well, that’s not a polite topic of conversation.

    As Matt Taibbi says, multinationals pay a lot to have white papers written, or prefaces for annual reports (Jeffrey Sachs, anyone?), or to hear a speech from a favored academic.

  5. Gravatar of Michael Sandifer Michael Sandifer
    29. December 2020 at 16:50

    It’s probably true that most recipients of the $600-2000 checks would not need the money for pandemic relief, but for those of us who support UBIs or negative income taxes, I want to see the checks go out anyway.

  6. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    29. December 2020 at 16:50

    Christian, You said:

    “I thought you were against gigantomaniacal government construction projects where it is kind of impossible to determine actual needs.”

    I am.

    You said:

    “I also thought you were in favor of thousands of individual spending decisions.”

    I am, as long as people are spending their own money and not my money. If they are spending my money, I want it spent on something useful to me. Of course the US is incapable of building high speed rail, but that’s another issue.

    Paul, I’m not able to make predictions of things like business cycles, but my sense is that the deficits will eventually lead to higher taxes.

  7. Gravatar of David S David S
    29. December 2020 at 16:57

    Scott is enjoying being ideologically homeless and the freedom he has to make fun of everyone. AOC is politically powerless, although she has better perspective on what it’s like to live a hand to mouth existence—Summers, not so much.

    When Sonny and Kelly are in the Senate again they will be loyal foot soldiers for McConnell.

  8. Gravatar of Benjamin Cole Benjamin Cole
    29. December 2020 at 17:13

    “I am, as long as people are spending their own money and not my money. If they are spending my money, I want it spent on something useful to me. Of course the US is incapable of building high speed rail, but that’s another issue.”–Scott Sumner


    Scott Sumner as the statist martinet?

    So, Washington taxes about $10,000 away from 130 million households every year to pay for the $1.3 trillion global security complex (DoD, VA, black budget, DHS, and pro-rated interest on the national debt).

    Then this year only, they might give back to the typical household $2,000 of the money they previously confiscated.

    Scott Sumner calls that $2,000 a give-away of “my money.”

    I understand the globalists identify with the Washington establishment. One and the same, usually.

    But Scott Sumner takes it a little far, no?

    Verily, I might spend my money on myself, and not on the globalist state apparatus.

  9. Gravatar of Michael Sandifer Michael Sandifer
    29. December 2020 at 17:45

    David S.

    AOC seems very influential among progressives, but progressives are a minority in the Democratic Party. She’s far from powerless, but certainly isn’t in the center of power in Washington.

    I wish progressives would understand the apparent message in the recent election. It’s telling that Biden outperformed the rest of the party in some key House and Senate races. They need to stay away from the extremist language too many of them recklessly toss around.

  10. Gravatar of Thomas Hutcheson Thomas Hutcheson
    29. December 2020 at 18:55

    If $2000 checks are taxable and income-capped, they’re just a near zero deadweight-loss clumsy transfer. [No, Larry, it will not heat much less “overheat” the economy.]

    The difference is whether the Fed buys brand new ST federal debt or existing long tern debt. Now if the alternative were to fund more generous and longer lasting unemployment insurance, compensating S&LG for lost tax revenues, or school to mitigate transmission, that would be a different matter.

  11. Gravatar of xu xu
    29. December 2020 at 21:28

    If democrat apparatchiks didn’t shut down their economies, and force medical tyranny in an effort to collapse the dollar and weaken the United States (for their totalitarian takeover) we wouldn’t need to pump trillions into the economy.

  12. Gravatar of henry henry
    29. December 2020 at 22:18

    In April, I told everyone to invest in SGD instead of USD. Had you done so, you would be up 10%.

    Now that the libtards want to reduce the value of the dollar even more by printing another 3+ trillion. If you want to see another 10% increase, move your dollar into SGD.

    All HK businesses going to Singapore too. SGD will be on par with dollar in the next 2-3 years – a whopping 25% return.

  13. Gravatar of jayne jayne
    29. December 2020 at 22:31

    This is theft. And this type of nasty pork is just another reason why Trump must invoke the insurrection act. It’s time to arrest corrupt, nasty, journalists – and corrupt, nasty, special interests.

    These cocksucking apparatchiks are bankrupting the nation.

    And the BLM Marxists collected over 10B in donations from corporate enterprise, in which they prepare to be our new masters. How wonderful. We will go from idiots, to mega idiots, to broke in a matter of five years. And no, snowflakes. They are not idiots because they are black. They are idiots because they are — well, idiots. Have you seen these people on t.v.? Not the brightest bulbs in the shed, okay.

    Is everyone ready to work on the plantation? At least as a white skinned female I can play the sympathy card. White skinned males are screwed. Good Luck.

  14. Gravatar of harry harry
    29. December 2020 at 22:55

    Most admired man, yet loses to Joe Biden?
    I don’t think so!
    He should have also won the Nobel Peace Prize for what he accomplished in the middle east.
    Instead of Hussain “loser” Obama, who started wars in the middle east using his CIA, Trump actually did something positive.

    Yet, somehow Obama wins the Nobel Peace Prize? The guy was a mega loser of epic proportion, who nearly destroyed the country because he was incompetent.

    Trump 2020! January 6th. Stay Tuned.

  15. Gravatar of bob bob
    30. December 2020 at 00:01

    Sumner promoted jobs loss and outsourcing.
    Sumner wants a totalitarian govt.
    Sumner wants to turn everyone gay, like they did to the frogs.

    Don’t be gay. Be straight.
    Get Sumner before its too late. file lawsuits.
    And we need to see flight logs. He might have been on the plane with John Roberts. Is there any Sumner on the logs?
    The economists are trying to turn us all into borgs.

    Save yourselves before its too late

  16. Gravatar of Michael Sandifer Michael Sandifer
    30. December 2020 at 05:58

    Does Scott get his payoffs directly from the CCP, or from Soros and Gates? Is he a Free Mason?

    Enquiring “minds” want to know.

  17. Gravatar of Tacticus Tacticus
    30. December 2020 at 07:19

    ‘Free Mason’ lol

    I’m definitely sceptical, as an economist, about $600 checks, and very wary of $2,000 ones; as a major investor in Amazon, however, I say go for it! In fact, the Treasury should just send out Amazon gift cards.

  18. Gravatar of derek derek
    30. December 2020 at 07:35

    The best rationale I have seen for the round of checks is that many people whose employment has been affected by the pandemic may not have access to unemployment. This group would include consultants without formal employer relationships, people laid off with poor timing, or new entrants to the job markets. Thus, there is a group of people for whom this aid is actually pretty needed, and of course the unemployment boosters are horribly unfair for low-wage essential workers who have been making less than their unemployed counterparts despite being the ones keeping things running. (This is the reason why I have no problem with essential workers getting a high priority on vaccines; grandma can just stay home for a few more months.)

    Maybe it is too hard to figure out which part of the working population needs the checks and which doesn’t, and it is probably true that many people’s earning potential took a hit in 2020 even if they remain employed due to corporate austerity measures. Still, it seems like we are sending checks even to retired people, whose income (should be tied to stock market) is doing just fine; this part seems incredibly wasteful.

  19. Gravatar of Ewan Ewan
    30. December 2020 at 07:43

    I have a few questions I would appreciate your thoughts on. I haven’t visited the site for a while, so apologies if you have dealt with them before.

    What do you think of the performance of the private sector in the UK in the national effort to eliminate Covid? (I don’t mean the billions of public funds given to cronies of the government. I mean Serco et al.)

    Does the sharp rise in the wealth of a few in the middle of a pandemic and drastic reduction in the income of many raise any questions for you on the way the political economy works in the US?

    Is there a case for public funds to individuals for the sake of public health – if those who test positive are required to isolate, they and their families still have to eat. Many poor people face a choice: isolate or feed the children.

    Is there a case for income support in a national emergency where people are required not to work. I understand many in the US live from paycheck to paycheck (as in the UK). When government orders people to do this or that, it is meant to be for the general good. Is it not plausible that the corollary is that we, through the government, should help those disadvantaged by what the government requires of them?

    And a couple of questions on your last two posts:

    In what way is Russia a threat to the US. The Russians have had the audacity to have our military bases come ever closer to their borders, but do you think they have ever for a second thought of attacking the US, as opposed to making sure they can defend themselves?

    What is the definition of “rogue state” that makes Iran one, but not the US and UK? Was Iraq a rogue state when we were encouraging it to invade Iran (and deploy chemical weapons) i.e. long after the oil shock? Did Iraq cease to be rogue once we (illegally but in accordance with our “rule-based” way of doing things) left it devastated?

  20. Gravatar of Postkey Postkey
    30. December 2020 at 08:58

    ” . . . we are already at 136% debt to GDP ratio . . ”

    The ‘debt’ is the least of your ‘worries’?

    “ . . . our best estimate is that the net energy
    33:33 per barrel available for the global
    33:36 economy was about eight percent
    33:38 and that in over the next few years it
    33:42 will go down to zero percent
    33:44 uh best estimate at the moment is that
    33:46 actually the
    33:47 per average barrel of sweet crude
    33:51 uh we had the zero percent around 2022
    33:56 but there are ways and means of
    33:58 extending that so to be on the safe side
    34:00 here on our diagram
    34:02 we say that zero percent is definitely
    34:05 around 2030 . . .
    34:43 need net energy from oil and [if] it goes
    34:46 down to zero
    34:48 uh well we have collapsed not just
    34:50 collapse of the oil industry
    34:52 we have collapsed globally of the global
    34:54 industrial civilization this is what we
    34:56 are looking at at the moment . . . “

  21. Gravatar of BC BC
    30. December 2020 at 09:08

    Hilarious reading some commenters’ attempts to describe sending out $2000 checks to everyone as some sort of small government move. Interesting that the two parties pushing for the $2000 checks — Trump and Congressional Democrats — are the ones who lost the most recent election and have no mandate. Finally, at a time when our tradition of accepting electoral outcomes is under threat, I’m not sure why left-wing Dems of all people are pushing the Trump agenda, treating him not as a lame duck but acting as though he won an electoral mandate. Biden won, Trump lost, and Dems should accept that.

  22. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    30. December 2020 at 09:45

    Ewan, I’m not qualified to discuss the UK company you mentioned.

    On wealth inequality, I’ve come to the view that our intellectual property laws are too strict, and need to be weakened. Perhaps copyrights should expire after 5 or 10 years. I favor wage subsidies to redistribute income. Deregulating healthcare would also boost incomes of lower class Americans.

    My general view on “stimulus” is that we should engage in relief, not stimulus. The $2000 checks are an extremely inefficient way to do relief. Yes, a targeted program would miss some people, but at a minimum we should follow Mankiw’s suggestion to claw back the $2000 for any family with an income in 2020 above some threshold, say $50,000.

    You asked:

    “Is there a case for public funds to individuals for the sake of public health – if those who test positive are required to isolate, they and their families still have to eat. Many poor people face a choice: isolate or feed the children.”

    Yes. I haven’t given the issue much thought, so I can’t give you anything more specific. There may be logistical problems in putting together such a program in a short period of time. And we do have unemployment comp. But yes, our current regime is imperfect.

    One piece of evidence that the solutions are not easy is that similar problems occur in countries such as Italy, despite their government spending more than 50% of GDP. Targeting aid to the right people is HARD. It’s not just a problem of “neoliberalism”.

    Russia has far more nukes than any other country, and thus is by far the most likely source of an accidental nuclear war with the US. In addition, it invaded the Ukraine which raises the question of whether it might invade a NATO country like Estonia. While Estonia itself is of minor importance, a Russian invasion could trigger a broader war. Remember that WWI started small.

    I’m actually not hawkish on Iran, and indeed support the Obama nuclear deal. I also opposed the US support for Iraq in the the 1980 war. Iran’s government is bad, but Saddam Hussein was even worse, and he started the war. And I certainly would not defend US policy in the Middle East. So I don’t think we are far apart on Iran.

  23. Gravatar of Postkey Postkey
    30. December 2020 at 10:21

    Russia did not invade Ukraine.
    “What about Russia’s territorial designs on Ukraine? The evidence doesn’t add up. All the fear-mongering of a Russian military intervention has clearly been misleading and deceptive. Russia has withdrawn its military forces from the Ukraine border. It counsels moderation to the autonomy movements and says it won’t supply them militarily. It is engaged in talks with a regime in Kyiv waging war along Russia’s own border. Hardly the conduct of an aggressor.”

    “For all Vladimir Putin’s military adventures, the Russian economy is now shrinking — far too small to pose a real threat to the West”

  24. Gravatar of mira mira
    30. December 2020 at 10:40

    > I don’t think $2000/person will overheat the economy, but it’s a waste of money and hence I’m with conservatives like Larry Summers.

    I’m curious how you square this position with your professed utilitarianism. Given diminishing marginal utility of the dollar, it seems like a $2k transfer would be welfare enhancing, esp. when interest rates are so low.

    Or do you just think it’ll be generally non-impactful due to monetary offset?

  25. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    30. December 2020 at 14:31

    Mira, If there were no deadweight cost to redistributing income then I’d be 100% in favor of doing so. Even with the deadweight costs, I favor sensible programs like subsidies to wages for low wage workers. Giving $2000 to people making $150,000/year is not sensible.

  26. Gravatar of anon85 anon85
    30. December 2020 at 22:03

    Scott, suppose the goal is to give the poor $2,000 each. Suppose there are two ways of doing so:

    1. Tax everyone at a flat rate and give the poor $2,000 each.

    2. Tax everyone at a higher flat rate and give *everyone* $2,000 each.

    Is it obvious that (1) creates less deadweight loss than (2)? On the one hand, (1) clearly involves lower taxes. On the other hand, (1) creates a welfare cliff, while (2) doesn’t: under (1), everyone on the boundary of being poor is incentivized to work less (so as to qualify for the $2,000). Such disincentives to work are not present in (2), though that comes at the cost of higher taxes.

    It is far from obvious to me that (1) is more efficient. In fact, I think I recall reading some optimal tax theory literature which suggested that (2) is in general more efficient. If you believe (1) is better, can you explain why?

  27. Gravatar of Ewan Ewan
    31. December 2020 at 02:40

    Thank you for the helpful answers.

    The UK government has preferred the private sector to the public health system for “test and trace”. It has been an unmitigated disaster. The public sector would have been so much more efficient (as its performance where it is allowed to operate indicates). The failure of test and trace has cost lives.

    I would have thought parking first strike missiles up close to Russia and making continual belligerent noises and supporting jihadists on its southern flank (see the second Chechnya war) etc. etc. is way more likely to trigger war. Russian military doctrine has always been defensive. (It only started to deploy serious forces in its western territories once Clinton, Bush, Obama started their expansion of NATO to its borders.) Russia did not invade Ukraine. If I were Crimean, I would agree with the 90%+ who are mightily relieved to escape the putsch in Kiev (see what Ukraine does to those in the east, in Odessa; there are genuine neo-Nazis with significant power.)

    What is bad about Iran from the perspective of other nations?

  28. Gravatar of Ewan Ewan
    31. December 2020 at 03:39

    I’m sorry to come back to the same question yet again, but I don’t know what people mean when they talk darkly of the Russian threat.

    Why on earth would Russia want to lumber itself with any of the Baltic states? Why Ukraine? It could not afford to clean up the mess the Ukrainians have made (latterly with our help).

    If the concern, wholly justified, is the risk of nuclear war (the US for example is writing first use into its military doctrine) – then stop reneging on nuclear disarmament treaties.

    There are so many ways we could go about treating other states as partners (as Russian diplomats now ironically call their Western counterparts). Where interests differ, negotiate, don’t threaten to devastate yet another country.

    What President Eisenhower warned of has come to pass in spades. It surely distorts the economy to no good purpose and at the expense of the people government is meant to serve – and all for global domination that is no longer possible.

  29. Gravatar of Tim Worstall Tim Worstall
    31. December 2020 at 07:37

    “The UK government has preferred the private sector to the public health system for “test and trace”. It has been an unmitigated disaster. The public sector would have been so much more efficient (as its performance where it is allowed to operate indicates). The failure of test and trace has cost lives.”

    I keep seeing this being repeated. Owen Jones, Paul Heaton and such like. And I know of no actual evidence that it was or is true. Who has done test and trace well – now, answer again, who has done it well when the coronavirus was already widespread in the population.

    Further, has doing that well made any difference to anything very much?

    OK, perhaps Germany is a useful exemplar. But Germany doesn’t have the centralised NHS, it used near every lab in the country, public and private. Perhaps the US is a good example of somewhere that did it centrally. You know, everyone had to use the CDC test which CDC had managed to infect themselves?

    That UK test and trace wasn’t good I agree. But how about an example of where it did work on a wide population basis?

  30. Gravatar of foosion foosion
    31. December 2020 at 08:30

    Give $2,000 to everyone. Get it back through taxes from those with higher income (or whatever other criteria you can list on a tax form).

  31. Gravatar of Ewan Ewan
    31. December 2020 at 09:47

    Tim Worstall
    You’ve seen no actual evidence of what?

    The private sector test and trace did not meet the targets set (has still not met…). The public health version did (admittedly confined to the bits the private sector didn’t want). Scotland has done better than England, with the government playing a larger role.

    Does test, trace, and (crucially) isolate work? If done properly, then almost by definition. The antipodes and east Asia, from Vietnam to Taiwan, have implemented it effectively (with the vital addition of quarantine at borders).

    China has a fairly large population.

    I don’t think there is any doubt that it can be done well and done badly. We in Europe and the Americas have done badly. Others, with all sorts of different political set-ups, have done much better.

    It remains to be seen whether anyone can cope with the new variants we incompetents have encouraged to evolve.

  32. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    31. December 2020 at 11:09

    anon85, I don’t favor either. I favor “tax everyone at a progressive rate and give wage subsidies to low income workers.”

    Ewan, You said:

    “Russian military doctrine has always been defensive.”

    Define “defensive”. Was the 1956 crackdown in Hungary defensive? Or 1968 in Czechoslovakia? Or 1979 in Afghanistan? Or the Georgia invasion? The Ukraine?

    You said:

    “Why Ukraine?”

    You do know that Russia invaded the Ukraine and annexed part of their territory, don’t you? Or does the existence of ethnic Russians there make it all OK, as with Hitler and the Czech Sudetenland?

    You said:

    “then stop reneging on nuclear disarmament treaties.”

    I’ve criticized the Trump administration for doing so. Don’t take my comments on Russia as a defense of the US; we are also a rogue state, just not quite as evil as Russia.

    I don’t know enough about the UK to comment, but I can say that zero percent of the US health care system is free market, and I doubt the UK is any different. Check out my recent Econlog post.

  33. Gravatar of Christian List Christian List
    31. December 2020 at 19:38


    Thank you for your answers, much appreciated.


    Your dichotomy seems rather artificial. The vast majority of laboratories in Germany are privately run, except in hospitals. Germany has simply thrown a lot of money at the labs. I think it is no different in the UK.

    Of course this central control can lead to absurd misincentives. Since April/May there is an antigen rapid test in South Korea, Roche has quickly imported this test to Europe, but it wasn’t really used until November, because one can still earn so much more money on the PCR test. A PCR test makes 120-150€ in revenue, with the rapid tests the laboratories are bypassed and we GPs get only our costs reimbursed at best, so there is still a huge lobby against the rapid tests. This helds up testing (and tracing) more than anything.

  34. Gravatar of Ewan Ewan
    1. January 2021 at 05:02

    I did say Russian doctrine, not Soviet, But, in a twisted Cold War way, the subjugation of Eastern Europe was indeed defensive, prompted by the long history of invasion from the west, by the hostility of erstwhile partners (extending to plans for military attack, not just the guerrilla-style subversion that continued into the 1950s), and the shattered state of the Soviet Union after it defeated Germany. Afghanistan was a blundering-in to secure the secular government against the heroic jihadis the US backed as freedom fighters (remember their visit to the White House?) On Georgia, you are possibly misinformed – Georgia launched an unprovoked attack on Russian peacekeepers. Even the investigation commissioned by the EU was forced to find as much. On Ukraine, Russia has not invaded it and does not want to be burdened with its deadweight. On Crimea, I am not clear on the international law and Ukraine’s sovereign rights over the right to self-determination of the people – but Crimea rejoining Russia was accomplished with much greater respect for the population’s wishes than the West wresting Kosovo from Serbia (where ethnic cleansing of Serbs continues). Opinion polls (Ukrainian and international) continue to show 90%+ approval for rejoining Russia – hardly surprising given the intentions of the Kiev government towards Crimea and the collapse of Ukraine into a failed state, impoverished and hopeless).

    You really must explain why you call Russia a rogue state, and why you call it evil.

    Christian List
    I do not mean to say either private or public is best. Best practice is best, whoever observes it. I was rather suggesting that the UK’s (I suspect doctrinaire and not just corrupt) presumption that handing billions to private companies is efficient is a rash experiment. The public health officials who have proved more efficient in test and trace are local. Had funds and responsibilities been given to local authorities, existing public health and healthcare networks could arguably (the evidence indicates) have done the job much better. And the job is crucial in eliminating the virus. We in Scotland came close to eliminating it in the autumn, but made the elementary blunder (partly, I suspect, political pressure) of not imposing quarantine – resulting in a second wave of infection from elsewhere (mainly stupid Scottish tourists!), and now from the British variant from Kent.

  35. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    1. January 2021 at 09:56

    Ewan, You said:

    “But, in a twisted Cold War way, the subjugation of Eastern Europe was indeed defensive, prompted by the long history of invasion from the west,”

    When we are this far apart, discussion is useless. And Russia did not invade Ukraine? Really? Be serious.

    Let me explain international law. A country doesn’t get to annex a portion of another country, without the permission of that other country. The fact that ethnic Germans lived in the Sudetenland is utterly beside the point. International law exists for good reasons. Suppose the Hungarians in northern Romania wanted to join Hungary?

    And again, I’m not going to defend the US. Our crimes are beside the point.

  36. Gravatar of Ewan Ewan
    1. January 2021 at 14:35

    Again you are eliding the Soviet Union and the Russian Federation.

    I do not know what the final determination on international law would be. It is clear that Crimea was part of Ukraine with Russian military forces there only with Ukraine’s permission. I suspect that you are right and that international courts would find for Ukraine. Were it the US and NATO, the international courts might possibly bow to our claims of humanitarian intervention – the Ukraine was threatening Crimeans with the same treatment as it continues to deal out to Ukrainians in the east. It is also clear that the UN Charter protects the rights of a people to self-determination – Crimean as well as Scottish or Catalan or any other. International law is further obscured by the Court of International Justice’s rather flaky judgement on Kosovo. So, feel free to explain international law to me.

    Russia did not invade Ukraine. What makes you think otherwise?

    US crimes are very much to the point. You asserted that Russia is a threat to the US, which presumably the US must counter – with bases on Russia’s borders, with sanctions etc. The usual. You asserted that Russia is evil. Take a body count since the fall of the Soviet Union, tally up the countries devastated, the people displaced and starved and left to cope with radiation sickness, the murder squads trained and deployed, the elections subverted… Perhaps you see the impertinence of the US talking of others as a threat?

    Again, why do you call Russia evil?

  37. Gravatar of Ewan Ewan
    1. January 2021 at 15:03

    …and if we are going to make moral judgements about history: the body count at the end of the Evil Empire’s oppressive and authoritarian rule in Eastern Europe was a very, very small fraction of the body count, still rising, of the US campaign to defend freedom and democracy in Central and South America. Stalin’s brutal notion of military defence at the expense of the freedom of generations of Europeans seems almost benign in comparison to US devotion to liberty and its self-proclaimed Munroe Doctrine. (The US might not have annexed the equivalent of Crimea but would certainly have invaded it, subverted it, imposed civilian-killing sanctions, whatever, until it got its way. And the US is not averse to annexation when undertaken by its friends…) Again, I do not understand why you think US behaviour irrelevant to your claims and judgements about who is a threat to whom and who is evil and who is not.

  38. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    2. January 2021 at 09:22

    Ewan, Sorry, I’ve found that debating Noam Chomsky types is pointless. If you can’t see the world as it is, nothing I say will help.

  39. Gravatar of Ewan Ewan
    3. January 2021 at 04:13

    Tell me what I have pointed out that is false.

    Tell me how it is you manage to see the world as it is.

    “Chomsky-types”! You do know that this is usually deployed to slip-slide away from addressing the substance of the debate? With unearned lofty contempt. It ranks with “conspiracy theorist” as the intellectual cop-out of choice among those happy to condemn motes and condone beams. Not the sort of thing I look for from someone of your intellectual calibre. (Why else would I read what you have to say? It is not just for the film reviews, though very welcome.)

    The post-War era when the US could unilaterally declare itself world policeman, with all its prosperity for many and tragic consequences for many more, is now past. The rest of the world is moving on. It risks everyone’s safety for the US to persist in its delusions (Russia threat. Russia evil. Good men must act. Etc etc.)

    What new settlement can we hope to achieve that is not just a return to Westphalia? How does a global economy work when there are markedly different versions of capitalism?

    I would have appreciated a substantive response somewhere along the way. But hey-ho.

    Why DO you call Russia “evil”? (Do remember that Russia is no more the Soviet Union than Germany the Third Reich.)

  40. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    3. January 2021 at 10:10

    Ewan, I meant the Russian government is evil. Putin’s goal is basically to destabilize the rest of the world, with the goal of making Russia more powerful as a result. He’d like to weaken NATO, destroy the EU, destabilize the Middle East, recreate the Soviet Union, etc. Everything he does is aimed at achieving those ends. Russia’s actions are not “defensive”, as no one is going to invade Russia. This is not 1941.

    Sure, he’ll likely fail, and things will be fine in the long run, as they always are in the long run. But in the short run Russia is the biggest threat to world peace.

    I think your mostly valid criticisms of US policy have blinded you to the fundamental difference between the US and Russia. We are mostly well meaning fools (pre-Trump), whereas Putin is evil.

  41. Gravatar of Postkey Postkey
    4. January 2021 at 01:19

    “In its usual fashion The Times buried the really important – but politically awkward – story deep in the paper. On the right-hand column of six on page 11 on 13 November it was reported that the NHS Test and Trace system – for which the government has chucked billions at the private sector – reached only 60.4% of ‘close contacts of people who test positive for coronavirus’ in the week ending 4 November. But ‘local health protection teams’ – on which the government has spent very little if anything – contacted 99.1% of targets . . .12 “
    The View from the Bridge (Winter 2020) (

  42. Gravatar of Postkey Postkey
    4. January 2021 at 01:23

    “I think your mostly valid criticisms of US policy have blinded you to the fundamental difference between the US and Russia. We are mostly well meaning fools (pre-Trump), whereas Putin is evil.”


    S.B.S. certainly ‘drank the Kool-Aid’?

Leave a Reply