Availability Bias

“I doubt our press has any such higher purpose. It has become so besotted with availability bias—a social science term for the need to conform to accepted tropes—that it no longer has a nose for a real story. Instead it relies on leaks, and even whole “narratives,” dropped in its lap by manipulators who assure reporters they are on the side of the angels. “

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Morality vs Moralism

“Morality is about right and wrong. Morality’s insincere cousin is moralism, which grabs virtue off the shelf as needed. About every 20 or 30 years, the progressives come up with another moralized argument to delegitimize their opponents.”

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Kavanaugh’s Revenge

Joe Biden is entitled to due process and the presumption of innocence.  So was Bret Kavanaugh. If Biden is to be presumed innocent without a hearing, then a lot of people and most of the media owe Kavanaugh an apology. It takes a galling arrogance to believe that such moralizing would never come back to haunt you, possibly at the worst time.

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The Market for Experts

In a complex society we must depend on experts; but we also depend on the proper functions of markets where experts compete. The problem is not lack of respect for expertise, but the understanding of the proper role of experts, and the false confidence in expertise in areas of our existence that defy expertise. Scientific reasoning does not apply to areas of humanity that requires moral judgment and social and economic tradeoffs, where there is not a single truth to be unveiled. Without a competition of ideas, progress and improvement are stifled.

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Lunatic Mimes

“If the page is written but we imagine it is blank, then we will act from ignorance, and live our lives without a knowledge of the truth, although the truth is there for us to know. But worse yet, if the page is blank and we imagine it is written, then we will enslave ourselves to our own fantasies, and live like mad men or lunatic mimes, running into walls which are not really there.”

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The Despotism of Illusory Knowledge

“Certainty, as we have seen throughout our tale, is a dangerous powerful force. If it proves true, then it can establish necessary limits on human action. But if it proves false, is it so often does, then it can create unnecessary barriers – imaginary cages in which we are needlessly trapped. “

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We Have Run Out of Other People’s Money

Economist Greg George, PhD, noted in this environment that the problem with the states in the most critical condition before the Covid shock is not that they are too big to fail but that they are too big to save. We are being forced to face limits we have long ignored.

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Covid Thoughts 2020 04 25

New data indicates that the disease arrived here much earlier than we thought, has already spread to many more people than we thought, and based on the estimated cases as compared to diagnosed cases the mortality is much less than we thought.

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Get the Whole Story

If your initial reaction to a post or an article is outrage, pause and ask if you have the whole story. A piece of the truth can be more misleading than all of a lie. I can mislead more by what I leave out than in what I disclose.

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Covid Thoughts 2020 04 18

Shuttering large swaths of the economy is a huge unquantifiable cost we would only consider in such a dire health care scenario.  It appears that new information reflects a significant overestimation of the mortality.  When we referred to the mortality, we compared the number of deaths to the number of DIAGNOSED cases and compared that rate to the last flu which measures the number of deaths to the number of ESTIMATED cases, understanding that many who have the flu that never see a doctor. 

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A Permanent War Footing

The left learned to respect the power of government during their control of the economy during WWI and WWII and sought to use that same power to further the cause of social justice, but wars end and the country returns to a different footing.  The battles of social justice go on forever and becomes a permanent war footing with a similar economic outcome. 

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Progressive Tension

While the Progressives sought to extend the restraints of political power to economic power, Hayek sought to bring political power to recognize economic realities. This new era of conservatism reaffirmed the genius of the founders of our constitution that dispersed power was best suited for the dispersed knowledge that generated our dynamic economy.

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Sacrificing Liberal Values

Democracy is a means to an end, not the end itself.  That is why the founders constrained it with federalism, checks and balances and strategically staggered terms. The objective should be the upholding of liberal values particularly those in the Bill of Rights.  Modern liberalism (as opposed to the classical liberal tradition now called conservatism) has become illiberal advocating the restraint of free speech and unlimited central power, identity politics and political correctness.  

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The Opposite of Stock Repurchases

While we need to be concerned about the financial condition of essential industries, we should not lose sight of the need to be concerned with the financial condition of the nation they want to bail them out.

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Thoughts on Buybacks

When CEO bonuses were paid in 2008 after the bailouts America was justifiably outraged and it is reasonable to include conditions to avoid this outcome again.  It is equally outrageous and irresponsible to load this bill with unrelated political swag and enforce long term changes in corporate governance and other purely political agendas in order to address a very short-term set of problems.

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Covid-19 Saves the World

In the meantime, we will achieve long sought goals of dramatically reducing our carbon footprint, inequality, and even DUI’s and simultaneously realize they were far less important than we thought.  We will also hopefully learn to appreciate institutions, forces, and fellow citizens and workers we took for granted and even criticized a few months ago that are now critical to our survival.

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Financial Risk and Political Risk

We will never know if we overreacted. If the threat turns out to be less than predicted, we will assume our actions were merited and responsible. It could be a dry run for a contagion that is far more lethal. Our agencies and professionals will always error on the side of overestimating an unknown threat to public health. Outrage and fear are hard risks to mitigate.

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An Addiction to Low Interest Rates

It seems that this can go on indefinitely because we cannot envision the central banks losing control of interest rates, but absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. Believers in Modern Monetary Theory mistake this trend for a true principle. Central banks will remain active in controlling interest rates because the debt is so large that any spike in interest rates would be disastrous. We are stimulating a zombie economy reliant on low interest rates provided by a central government even more dependent on low interest rates.

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True Power

We have taken a detour on Hayek’s Road to Serfdom; we have managed to cede more power to the central government while retaining much of the individualism of the Constitution.  This is a unique outcome in political evolution attributed to the genius of the Constitution itself combined with a unique American political culture that shrouds it. At its best progressivism expanded the promise of political equality into the economic sphere, assuring equal economic opportunity if not results; at its worst it was seduced by the false confidence of the historicists shared by its technocratic sisters in Europe.

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Long Term Effect of the Kung Flu

The Corona virus may succeed in realigning the balance of trade better than any of Trump’s tariffs or negotiations.  The Chinese market is still so large that it cannot be ignored, but it also can no longer be depended on to be a consistent and secure source of supply of critical components for American manufactured goods.

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