Current Affairs

"Capitalism, Socialism, and Nationalism: Lessons from History"

Essay from noted historian Niall Ferguson. Abstract:

Schumpeter warned that socialism might ultimately prevail over capitalism, for four reasons. Creative disruption is rarely popular. Capitalism itself tends towards oligopoly. Intellectuals are susceptible to socialism. So are many bureaucrats and politicians. Socialism had manifestly failed everywhere it had been tried by the 1980s, apparently proving Schumpeter wrong. But the adverse consequences of the 2008-9 financial crisis, combined with the left-wing bias of much Western education, have led to a revival of interest in socialism among young people. However, what young Americans mean by ‘socialism’ is not the state taking over ownership of the means of production. They merely aspire to policies on healthcare and education that imply a more European system of fiscal redistribution. They fail to grasp that the defining feature of socialism is the violation of property rights. To an extent Schumpeter underestimated, socialism’s greatest weakness is its incompatibility with the rule of law.


"Defining America"

A fine little story by James Lileks.

But the looters and rioters and agent provocateurs, the nihilists, the louts and losers whose hearts and minds are numb to anything but the big boom, the hard jolt — that’s the cohort that some want to define America. After all, those pictures of people posing with heroic defiance as a building goes up in flames — why, it’s iconic! It sums up completely the American glorification of violence!

Eh.

Let this define America . . . 


"How I Ran Afoul of Campus Cancel Culture"

Steven Hayward tells of his experience at UC Berkeley. But the most interesting part of this piece is the discussion of famed Berkeley professor Aaron Wildavsky

I've read a little of Prof. Wildavsky's work and one part, in particular, I think very highly of. He was asked how in the world we as a society should prepare for the all the massive threats we face: plagues and meteor impacts and on and on. He replied--not his exact words, but the sense is accurate--that there's no way we could afford to prepare for them all. He stated we should 1) get educated and 2) get rich, and then take our chances. 

UPDATE: Link added now.


"How Many Covid Deaths Are There, Really?"

Just like with global warming, when politics saturates even what the data actually are, rational discussion and debate are essentially impossible.

. . . this acknowledgement by the Director of the Illinois Department of Public Health:

I just want to be clear in terms of the definition of people dying of COVID. So, the case definition is very simplistic. It means that at the time of death it was a COVID-positive diagnosis. So that means if you were in hospice and had already been given, you know, a few weeks to live and then you were also found to have COVID, that would be counted as a COVID death. It means that if, technically, even if you died of a clear alternate cause but you had COVID at the same time it’s still listed as a COVID death. So, everyone that’s listed as a COVID death doesn’t mean that that was the cause of the death, but they had COVID at the time of death.

Also interesting: "43% of U.S. Coronavirus Deaths Are Linked to Nursing Homes".

In at least 24 states, a majority of deaths are linked to nursing homes.


"In defense of America: ‘Not a failed experiment, but an always improving one’"

Amen to this.

Winston Churchill noted in 1947 that “Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all those others that have been tried.” And what of the world’s oldest democracy, the United States of America? Still the worst country on earth — except for all of the others. 

I didn't know this about Denmark:

If you think there are ethnic and racial tensions in the US and wish we could be more like those happy little Nordic countries, consider that in Denmark, where the population is 87 percent Danish, a right-wing government has passed more than 100 laws targeting immigration including banning the burqa in 2018, confiscating cash and valuables from incoming refugees, officially designating 29 areas as “ghettos” and doubling penalties for crimes committed in those areas, as if to single out the immigrants and ethnic minorities who live there. Imagine President Trump designating Harlem a “ghetto” and proposing doubled prison sentences for crimes committed on 125th Street as opposed to 124th Street and you’re imagining something that has very little chance of being enacted. Yet this is the policy in Denmark.