The Trump Loss and the Role of Libertarians

Estimated Reading Time: 5 minutes

As the after-action reports filter in for the most recent Presidential election, for those who lost (which at this writing is still undetermined), high on the list must be the treachery of the mainstream media, the big tech companies and voter fraud.

Not getting sufficient attention yet is the role played by the Libertarian Party and its associated think tanks and publications.

Although final numbers are not yet available in all key swing states, it would appear that the Libertarians have delivered to the nation, the most pro-socialist, big government group of Democrats, ever to walk the earth. It would appear that Trump lost PA, GA, WI, and perhaps AZ because of the Libertarian vote.

Critically, it also likely forced the run-off race for the Senate in Georgia (the Purdue race.) It is the U.S. Senate that must prevent the loudly declared leftist agenda of the Democrats with a Biden Presidency.

It stretches the word irony that a small party that proclaims its dedication to liberty and limited government would willingly deliver such a result. It should cause these merry mischief makers to reflect carefully on what they have done.

And who was the Libertarian candidate? Can you name her? Did you know it was a her? Was she even on your political radar?

Libertarians are supposedly socially liberal and fiscal conservatives. They are supposed to believe in liberty and advance its prospects. But they have been drifting to the left for some time. Libertarians of recent vintage believe in open borders, drug legalization, personal sexual liberty and generally are agnostic or atheists as it relates to the function and role of religion. We say “recent vintage” because many earlier Libertarians endorsed more traditional, religious based morality. If not, they tended to be followers of Ayn Rand, who developed a fairly strong morality based on reason. Neither type of earlier Libertarian endorsed situational ethics.

To have a limited government, people must largely control themselves via some internalized moral system. They must be responsible for their own lives and their own support, except in the gravest failures. And even then, private charity and local support should come before federal intervention and largess. Thus, the attack on morality and the family must necessarily make big government more likely. Do Libertarians understand that?

In theory, open borders promoting the free flow of capital and people, would be ideal. However, when you have that coupled with the welfare state and identity politics which destroys the functioning of the “melting pot”, it falls dangerously short of ideal in terms of sustaining and protecting liberty.

But most Libertarians oppose constant foreign wars, excessive paper money creation, judges that legislate from the bench and the Administrative State. They favor school choice, believe in religious liberty, oppose national healthcare, believe in capitalism usually to an extreme and oppose identity politics because they believe in treating people as individuals as opposed to racial categories. The also strongly support the Second Amendment and federalism with its dispersion of power so important to the American founding. In most ways, they share common ground with Conservatives.

Personally, I like Libertarians. They often produce stimulating arguments and challenging views that make one think and reflect on first principles, like non-aggression, peaceful commerce and social harmony. But when if comes to practical politics, Libertarians are unrealistic and naïve to the point of foolishness. Also, they tend to see little connection between cultural trends and those of politics (it is often said that “politics is downstream from culture”.)

It is hard to see why a Libertarian could vote for a Joe Biden and Kamala Harris.

You might say, they did not and they might believe that. But in a close election, not voting for the Republican means Democrat victory. Get it?

Some might argue it is a sophisticated way of creating divided government. We doubt such careful calculation is in the equation. More likely, it is their own sense of self-importance and their joy in teasing the major parties that pay insufficient attention to them. But the record of Libertarians often electing Democrats is pretty clear. Besides divided government is paralyzed government, which does not work well in crisis. If you want the government to shrink, would you not want to elect or influence the party mostly likely to shrink it?

Likewise, dealing with the Chinese threat to liberty requires greater unification of the parties.

It would seem electing Libertarian leaning candidates within an existing party would be time better spent than sabotaging the party pushing for a smaller, less intrusive government.  The Republican party is often a leaking vessel carrying the ideas of liberty. Isn’t that good enough reason for Libertarians to be within the Republican party, fighting to hold the party of less government accountable for failing the cause rather than helping elect the party of massive government and decreased liberty?

Instead, Libertarians may be responsible for costing Trump the election and put the forces of limited government in a position where recovery could be difficult if not impossible. Trump after all, was NOT an establishment Republican.

While Trump no doubt rankled them for his positions on immigration, abortion, his personality quirks and lack of fiscal conservatism, he was the candidate that started to deregulate, nominated strict constructionist judges, defended the Second Amendment, the First Amendment, promoted school choice, opposed national healthcare, attempted to scale down our endless foreign wars and protected religious liberty. He also endorsed prison reform, enterprise zones, cut tremendous amounts of regulation and cut taxes. He even attempted to appoint Judy Shelton, a pro-gold standard economist to the Federal Reserve.

He was moving his party in a more limited government direction, not perfectly, but substantially.

Whatever his failings, he clearly was better than the weak and confused Biden who already is being besieged by left-wing elements demanding payback for their loyalty.

Trump himself, is the victim of “deep state” machinations that should be opposed by all friends of limited government. Do Libertarians really like the CIA and FBI interfering in elections?

Do Libertarians think the Democrats will deliver fiscal conservatism and sound money?

On some key Libertarian social issues, Trump was largely silent on pot. He largely respected federalism through the Covid pandemic and let the states do their thing, giving us at least a range of public policy choices valuable to future research for what works.

But is pot legalization really more important than the Bill of Rights?  Even if one supports legalization, the priorities are all wrong.

In terms of sexual issues, Trump moved to decriminalize homosexual behavior in foreign countries.

On abortion, Trump is pro-life. Libertarians themselves differ on abortion but all would agree it should not be subsidized by the state. If Roe is overturned, the states will determine abortion policy which should not be offensive to Libertarians.

Neither candidate ran on fiscal conservatism, but the Democrats have openly embraced socialism, free college education, the Green New Deal, racial reparations, Modern Monetary Theory, climate change regulation, harsh Covid lockdown – all of which would make Trump the relative fiscal conservative.

So, if our calculations are right, Trump supported due process for males on college campus, opposed the violence of Antifa and Black Lives Matter, opposed the teaching of critical race theory, reduced foreign wars, reduced our dependence on international organizations, reduced the regulatory state, defended the Bill of Rights. And Libertarians voted against him because of WHAT?  Immigration policy? Marijuana legalization? Failure to balance the budget? His tweets?

With a huge expensive state, how can you balance the budget?  Smaller government means smaller budgets. By defeating Trump, now what are the chances of balancing the budget?

If our analysis of Libertarians is correct, they will rightfully go down as one of the most foolish political movements ever to pretend they support liberty.

In politics, you never get all that you want. The choices are basically who on balance moves the country in the direction you seek. Perfection is not part of the political equation and, frankly, is not part of the human condition. This advice is applicable to Conservatives as well, who often find the Republican Party just as frustrating.

If Libertarians felt their “independence” of either major party signals their moral purity on key issues, they have succeeded in putting in power the least likely party to advance liberty.

That, my friends, is a poor calculation. It is virtue signaling of the worst kind. It is making a moral statement that not just has little meaning. Rather, it actually succeeds in getting the opposite of what your supposed virtue supports.

It goes beyond being childish and ventures into the self-destructive. Pay attention to me, it seems to say, or I will burn down the house.

What is the solution?

Perhaps serious self-examination by Libertarians is in order. As far as Republicans are concerned, the GOP needs to reach out to fellow liberty lovers and make them feel more welcome within the party.

 

Lockdown Despotism and the “Control Panel” Delusion: Why the Biden-Harris COVID-19 plan is so ominous.

Estimated Reading Time: 6 minutes

Joe Biden and Kamala Harris recently updated their “plan to beat COVID-19.” One passage is worth examining for the dangerous mentality it betrays:

“Social distancing is not a light switch. It is a dial. President-elect Biden will direct the CDC [Centers for Disease Control] to provide specific evidence-based guidance for how to turn the dial up or down relative to the level of risk and degree of viral spread in a community, including when to open or close certain businesses, bars, restaurants, and other spaces; when to open or close schools, and what steps they need to take to make classrooms and facilities safe; appropriate restrictions on size of gatherings; when to issue stay-at-home restrictions.”

The passage brings to mind a warning given to America long ago.

The warning was delivered in 1835 by Alexis de Tocqueville, the famous French observer and admirer of the young republic. In his classic book Democracy in America, de Tocqueville included a chapter called, “What Sort Of Despotism Democratic Nations Have To Fear,” in which he warned the American people of:

“…an immense and tutelary power, which takes upon itself alone to secure their gratifications, and to watch over their fate. That power is absolute, minute, regular, provident, and mild. It would be like the authority of a parent, if, like that authority, its object was to prepare men for manhood; but it seeks on the contrary to keep them in perpetual childhood…”

Does the Biden/Harris “plan to beat COVID-19” represent the kind of despotic power that de Tocqueville warned us about? Let’s see.

Is the power “absolute”? Well not yet, at least, since it refers to CDC “guidance” as opposed to federal mandates. But governors and mayors have proven to be quite deferential to the CDC, so its “guidance” has translated into state and local-level mandates before and likely will again.

Is the power “immense”? Clearly. It covers the opening and closing, not only of restaurants and bars, but of all businesses. Thus, it claims sway over the country’s entire in-person economy and commercial life, regardless of private property and self-ownership.

The plan covers, not only businesses, but all spaces: that is, everything about the coming and going of Americans, again irrespective of individual rights.

The plan also encompasses all gatherings wherever they may occur, thus violating “the right of the people peaceably to assemble,” as enshrined in the First Amendment.

The plan entails “stay-at-home restrictions,” meaning the power to imprison at will Americans in their own homes, violating the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments, according to which neither the federal government nor any state is allowed to “deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.”

So, yes, the plan is very immense, both in its scope and impact.

Is the power “minute”? Yes, the plan expressly distinguishes itself for promising much more “specific” guidance. That is what the “dial” metaphor is all about. Rather than a lockdown “light switch” to turn society off and on, the plan promises to use the CDC as a social distancing “dial” to scientifically fine-tune social proximity on a community-by-community basis.

Not only that, but within each community, it reserves the discretion to open or close certain businesses and spaces. We have already seen such discretion in action throughout the period of lockdowns, as certain political protests and celebrations have been allowed and even encouraged by officials even as they shutter nearby businesses and prohibit private gatherings, including funerals, marriages, parties, concerts, games, festivals, and religious services.

de Tocqueville famously observed that the strength of America rested in its vibrant civil society, consisting of a rich proliferation of non-governmental associations and institutions. That, and not merely “voting,” is what he meant by American democracy. He wrote:

“The political associations that exist in the United States form only a detail in the midst of the immense picture that the sum of associations presents there.

Americans of all ages, all conditions, all minds constantly unite. Not only do they have commercial and industrial associations in which all take part, but they also have a thousand other kinds: religious, moral, grave, futile, very general and very particular, immense and very small; Americans use associations to give fêtes, to found seminaries, to build inns, to raise churches, to distribute books, to send missionaries to the antipodes…”

What we seem to be seeing in the lockdowns is the state using its “minute” and “discretionary” power to cripple all physical manifestations of civil society other than its own.

Is the power “tutelary,” as in denoting the relationship between guardian and dependant?

Incredibly so, although it only accelerates something that has been long underway. The public has been so spooked by the government and media’s alarmist and distorted claims about the disease, that they have offered up a childlike deference to officialdom, abjectly following its lead, even after its “guidance” has often proved to be vacillating and wrong.

As de Tocqueville warned, the state has taken upon itself sole responsibility for our “fate.” And the public has eagerly acquiesced to this government tutelage, abdicating the responsibilities of free adults and letting our “guardians” keep us in “perpetual childhood.”

de Tocqueville wasn’t the only European to warn America of an all-encompassing, kindly despotism “for our own good.” Ludwig von Mises warned of central planners who, in the name of giving us everything we want, would take away everything we have—even everything we are.

As Mises wrote:

“Planning other people’s actions means to prevent them from planning for themselves, means to deprive them of their essentially human quality, means enslaving them.

The great crisis of our civilization is the outcome of this enthusiasm for all-round planning. There have always been people prepared to restrict their fellow citizens’ right and power to choose their own conduct. (…) What is new and characterizes our age is that the advocates of uniformity and conformity are raising their claims on behalf of science.”

Indeed, in its plan to beat COVID-19,” the Biden-Harris team boasts that their administration will “listen to science” and that the CDC’s “dialing” up and down of lockdowns throughout the country will be “evidence-based.”

This deference to “science” is meant to sound humble, but it is used to justify the extreme arrogance of the social engineer. As Mises wrote:

“It is customary nowadays to speak of “social engineering.” Like planning, this term is a synonym for dictatorship and totalitarian tyranny. The idea is to treat human beings in the same way in which the engineer treats the stuff out of which he builds his bridges, roads, and machines. The social engineer’s will is to be substituted for the will of the various people he plans to use for the construction of his Utopia. Mankind is to be divided into two classes: the almighty dictator, on the one hand, and the underlings who are to be reduced to the status of mere pawns in his plans and cogs in his machinery, on the other. If this were feasible, then of course the social engineer would not have to bother about understanding other people’s actions. He would be free to deal with them as technology deals with lumber and iron.”

However, such a grandiose undertaking is not feasible. As Mises and F.A. Hayek demonstrated, society is far too complex to be centrally planned.

Central planners, no matter how informed they are by “the science,” cannot access or process anywhere near the amount of knowledge that would be required to balance all the myriad trade-offs that are relevant to any decision impacting millions upon millions of unique individuals.

This inescapable fact makes no exception for central planners charged with “public health.” To shut down a business, to lock down a community, to isolate a human being, etc., has manifold unintended consequences that ripple like waves in a pond. Central planners cannot anticipate such ramifications, especially because so many of them involve human valuation and choice.

The Biden-Harris “dial” is pitched as an improvement on the “light switch” approach to lockdowns. But it doesn’t matter how many switches, dials, buttons, meters, and gauges that central planners cram onto their “control panel.” It’s all hubris and folly, because human beings are not and can never be cogs in a machine. And the more we let them treat us so, the more human lives will get crushed and torn asunder in the social engineer’s infernal contraptions.

As Mises and Hayek explained, the only way that human beings can navigate the sea of complexity that is life in society, including such multifaceted concerns as public health and pandemics, is through free cooperation among planning individuals (including individual scientific experts who earn the voluntary trust of others). Mises made an important distinction:

“The alternative is not plan or no plan. The question is: whose planning? Should each member of society plan for himself or should the paternal government alone plan for all? The issue is not automatism versus conscious action; it is spontaneous action of each individual versus the exclusive action of the government. It is freedom versus government omnipotence.”

To save our freedom, livelihoods, and long-term health from omnipotent government, we must defy the central planners and social engineers, scoff at their “scientific” switches and dials, and reclaim our responsibilities as a free and courageous people.

Dan Sanchez is the Director of Content at the Foundation for Economic Education (FEE) and the editor-in chief of FEE.org.

This column  from Foundation for Economic Freedom  (FEE) is republished with permission. ©All rights reserved. The opinions expressed may not necessarily reflect the views of The Prickly Pear or of the sponsors.

Lockdowns Haven’t Brought down Covid Mortality. But They Have Killed Millions of Jobs.

Estimated Reading Time: 4 minutes
During the early onset of covid-19 in the spring, government officials across the political spectrum widely agreed that government intervention and forced closure of many businesses was necessary to protect public health. This approach has clearly failed in the United States as it led to widespread economic devastation, including millions of jobs lost, bankruptcies, and extremely severe losses in profitability. Nor have states with strict lockdowns succeeded in bringing about fewer covid deaths per million than states that were less strict.

Consequently, a few months into the pandemic, some governors weighed the competing economic costs with covid-19 containment and slowly reopened their economies. Of course, these governors did not mandate businesses reopen; however, they provided businesses the option to reopen.

Hysteria ensued as many viewed easing restrictions as akin to mass murder. The Atlantic famously dubbed  Georgia Governor Brian Kemp’s easing of restrictions as “human sacrifice” and referred to Georgians as being in a “case study in pandemic exceptionalism.” Instead, we should view the lockdowns as a case study in the failure of heavy-handed approaches in containing a highly infectious virus.

Now that we are nine months into this pandemic, there is a clearer picture of how state government approaches varied widely. It is clear that “reopened” economies are faring much better overall than less “reopened” economies. “Fueled by broader, faster economic reopenings following the initial coronavirus rash, conservative-leaning red states are by and large far outpacing liberal-leaning blue states in terms of putting people back to work,” writes Carrie Sheffield. This follows logically especially when considering that human beings learn to adapt very quickly. Now, we have learned much more about treating this virus and about who is most at risk from infection.

Not Everyone Can #StayHome

Even so, many proponents of lockdowns still contend that every covid infection is a failure of public policy. But this position is largely a luxury of white-collar workers who can afford to work from home. Lockdowns have been described as “the worst assault on the working class in half a century.” Martin Kulldorff, a biostatistician, says, “the blue-collar class is ‘out there working, including high-risk people in their 60s.” Kulldorff’s colleague Jay Bhattacharya notes that one reason “minority populations have had higher mortality in the U.S. from the epidemic is because they don’t often have the option…to stay at home.” In effect, top-down lockdown policies are “regressive” and reflect a “monomania,” says Dr. Bhattacharya. With this in mind, it is easy to see why more affluent Americans tend to view restrictive measures as the appropriate response.

For many Americans, prolonged periods of time without gainful employment, income, or social interaction are not only impossible but potentially deadly. Martin Kulldorff notes that covid-19 restrictions do not consider broader public health issues and create collateral damage; among the collateral damage is a “worsening incidence of cardiovascular disease and cancer and an alarming decline in immunization.” Dr. Bhattacharya correctly notes that society will be “counting the health harms from these lockdowns for a very long time.”

Mixed Messages

Bhattacharya emphasized the politicization of these restrictions: “When Black Lives Matter protests broke out in the spring, ‘1,300 epidemiologists signed a letter saying that the gatherings were consistent with good public health practice,’” while those same epidemiologists argued that “we should essentially quarantine in place.” Such a contradiction defies logic and undercuts arguments about the lethality of this virus. If this novel virus truly were as devastating to the broader public as advertised, then political leaders supporting mass protests and riots during a pandemic seem to be ill founded. This contradiction has been cited in countless lawsuits challenging the validity and constitutionality of covid-19 restrictions.

Separately, these often heavy-handed restrictions have targeted constitutionally protected rights like the freedom of religion. Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito criticized the Nevada governor’s restrictions saying, “that Nevada would discriminate in favor of the powerful gaming industry and its employees may not come as a surprise…We have a duty to defend the Constitution, and even a public health emergency does not absolve us of that responsibility.” This scathing criticism, however, did not gain the support of the Supreme Court as a 5–4 majority deferred to the governor’s “responsibility to protect the public in a pandemic.”

The Worst State and Local Offenders

Such deference may be politically beneficial for the Supreme Court, but it presents a much more significant problem for basic freedoms. For one, many of these covid restrictions have been issued by state governors or administrative agencies rather than through democratic means. Michigan governor Gretchen Whitmer has been targeted for her continued sidestepping of democratic channels and for her top-down approach.

These covid restrictions are somewhat meaningless without ample enforcement and resources, so many major American cities have created task forces for enforcing these covid restrictions. For example, Los Angeles mayor Eric Garcetti has threatened to shut off public utilities for those who host massive house parties. Garcetti wants to treat private gatherings similarly to the bars and nightclubs he has forced closed. Not only is this ridiculous, but it is also authoritarian; there have been few checks on his ability to weaponize public utilities this way. The New York City Sheriff’s Office recently “busted a party of more than 200 people who were flouting coronavirus restrictions.” Their crime? Deputies found around two hundred maskless individuals “dancing, drinking and smoking hookah inside.” In typical government fashion, the owner of the venue was “slapped with five summonses…for violation of emergency orders, unlicensed sale of alcohol and unlicensed warehousing of alcohol.” What would we do without the government?

California governor Gavin Newsom has long been a part of this effort to restrict freedoms under the guise of public health. Governor Newsom and the California Department of Public Health released new “safety” guidelines for all private gatherings during the Thanksgiving holiday. According to Newsweek, “all gatherings must include no more than three households, including hosts and guests, and must be held outdoors, lasting for two hours or less.” Given Newsom’s interventionist tendencies, it is likely that these restrictions will be enforced. How will the government determine how many households are at a Thanksgiving meal and who will enforce the two-hour window? These are questions that journalists should ask.

Meanwhile, the varying levels of economic recovery between red states and blue states demonstrate how top-down policy can be a failure. Strict lockdowns have devastated millions of families’ incomes while failing to bring success in suppressing covid mortality. This failed experiment must be brought to an end.

Mitchell Nemeth is a Risk Management and Compliance professional in Atlanta, Georgia. He holds a Master in the Study of Law from the University of Georgia Law School, and he has a BBA in Finance from the University of Georgia. His work has been featured at the Foundation for Economic Education, RealClearMarkets, Merion West, and Medium.

This column, published 11/12/20, from Mises Wire (at Mises Institute) is republished with permission. ©All rights reserved. The opinions expressed may not necessarily reflect the views of The Prickly Pear or of the sponsors.

The Arizona Corporation Commission “Regulates” Our Climate Thirty Years into the Future

Estimated Reading Time: 3 minutes

On October 29, almost out of the public eye, the Arizona Corporation Commission (ACC) gave final approval to a dreadful regulation, mandating all energy in the state be produced with zero carbon emissions by 2050. Arizona has its own mini-Green New Deal!

The consequences will be devastating to Arizona’s economic competitiveness. A mere 15% mandate imposed in 2007 had a $1 billion impact on ratepayers and that was low-hanging fruit. Voters in 2018 soundly defeated a ballot proposition similar to the Commission’s.

The absurdity of legislating (by regulation) 30 years into the future was apparently lost on the three commissioners (two Republicans) who voted for the measure. Policymakers in 2050 will be elected to enact their own current priorities, not ones from 30 years ago. Attempts to gain credit for future emissions reductions without bearing the economic consequences are mere virtue signals on the cheap.

To be slightly fair, Commissioners are relentlessly targeted by environmental activists, known for their cult-like hysteria. Wildly impractical, poverty-inducing and ineffective solutions are common in today’s climate politics.

Hysteria production was the obvious goal of Greta Thunberg, the Swedish teenager who wowed the UN and the Davos Economic Forum, sternly warning that we have only 12 years to avoid turning our planet into an uninhabitable hellhole.

Several prominent scientists and no less an expert than AOC herself confirmed her claim. Al Gore and others have made a handsome living proclaiming alarmist deadlines, most of which have already passed.

Fear of the End of Days isn’t the only driver of environmental radicalism. It’s also another social justice movement. Global Climate Strike, known for organizing massive demonstrations worldwide, demands that we “ensure a rapid energy revolution with equity, reparations and climate justice at its heart”.

These self-appointed experts aren’t searching for the most feasible ways to limit carbon emissions. They demand instead “non-corporate solutions that recognize the traditional knowledge, practices and resilience of indigenous people”.

Climate change thus conceived incorporates rejecting capitalism and technological innovation while implementing a wish list including, among other items, minimum wages, forgiveness of international debts and “access to nature for all”.

But the mother of all proposals to zero out carbon emissions is the federal Green New Deal. As outlined in a report produced by congressional Democrats, it would “mobilize every aspect of American society on a scale not seen since World War II.“

Every building in America would be upgraded or replaced for “state of the art energy efficiency”. High speed rail would replace air travel. The report proclaims nothing less than “a massive mobilization of all our resources into renewable energies.”

The GND would completely transform how we produce and consume energy, harvest crops, drive cars and manufacture goods. But all this coercive transforming would not come cheap.

The net cost of the GND is difficult to pinpoint, but credible estimates are in the 50 to 90 trillion range, an unimaginable sum many times our total GDP. But don’t worry. According to the report, “the investments will be paid for with public money appropriated by Congress”. Isn’t that nice?

But here’s the clincher. Even a fully implemented GND would have only a negligible effect on the earth’s climate. Using the methodology developed by the UN Climate Panel, eliminating all U.S. carbon emissions would make the globe only 0.138°C cooler by 2100. If the entire developed world also went to zero, the effect would only be 0.278°C by 2100. For this we would devastate our way of life?

Even some prominent left-wing intellectuals realize that this is laughingstock material. As Peter Franzén put it in the New Yorker, “to prepare for the coming climate apocalypse, we need to admit that we can’t prevent it “.

Each dollar we waste on pipe dreams is one less dollar we have to spend on what humans always do in the face of threatening change: adapt accordingly. Climate change is a problem and anthropogenic warming is real but the wisdom of the crowd is also correct: we have other equally vexing, expensive problems to deal with.

We can get through this if we use human intelligence to stay calm and thoughtful – not like the Arizona Corporation Commission.

 

Thomas C. Patterson, MD is a retired Emergency Medicine physician, Arizona state Senator and Arizona Senate Majority Leader in the ’90s. He is a former Chairman, Goldwater Institute.

 

Why Do Dead People Vote for Democrats?

Estimated Reading Time: 2 minutes

As controversy swirls around the latest Presidential election results, we need to ask ourselves some basic questions.

Why do dead people overwhelmingly vote for Democrats?

Historians widely agree that the election of 1960, the state of Illinois was delivered to the Democrats by the Daley political machine in Chicago. That resulted in the defeat of Republican Richard Nixon and the election of Democrat John F. Kennedy. Robert Dallek, who wrote definitive biographies of both JFK and LBJ, concluded that Daley “probably stole Illinois from Nixon”. However, some suggest Kennedy would have won without it.

Nevertheless, Nixon considered contesting the election, but given the tense situation in the Cold War, decided against doing so.

There is considerable speculation that the dead may again be pivotal in our most recent election. Voting by dead people and voter fraud has a long tradition in America, especially among Democrats.

You would think these events alone would perk up the interest in the dead by political scientists and pollsters. But no, this group remains largely marginalized and ignored.

Some have speculated it is because the dead are notorious for not responding to pollsters.  That may be true but their participation is still important to our democratic process.

We think it more likely Democrats simply have a better ground game. Either way, it is a grave problem that needs to be explored.

Democrats simply have more experience at mobilizing the dead. And the dead, are vulnerable so to speak. No one contacts them very often. If Democrats contacted you every two years and said they needed your vote, how would you respond?

Not only are they seeking your vote, they might let you vote multiple times and even fill out the ballots for you. From this perspective, it is understandable why the dead might vote for Democrats. All of us respond, or would try to, when we are made to feel important. That is especially so if one feels ignored for a long time.

Make no bones about it, the Democrats simply are better at reaching out to the dead and getting their vote.

Republicans cannot hope to be competitive unless they develop a better outreach to the deceased community. They must learn to dig deeper to uncover more voters. Failure to develop a competitive strategy could be a deadweight on the GOP for years to come.

 

Inconceivable! – The “Election” of Joseph Biden

Estimated Reading Time: 4 minutes

The last week has seen some of the most bizarre behavior I have ever witnessed by our country. Yes, we had an election, complete with the usual vitriol, slanders and innuendos. Yes, we had the usual partisan lines drawn. Yes, we had the usual swamp dwellers climb out from the swamp and try to sway the masses to their candidate. None of this is unusual, so why is the current result of the election inconceivable? This happens in every election process. What made this election so different?

Let us just review the state of AZ. This is a proud state that remains rooted in its western independence, so much so that approximately 1/3 of all voters here are registered independent. They believe in the Second Amendment. They believe in the First Amendment too. So, what was different about this election? Let’s begin with the results as stated by the Secretary of State, Katie Hobbs: Biden received 1,643,488 votes and Trump received 1,626,536 votes. What is so unusual about that? On it’s face, there is nothing unusual about it. Underneath the numbers, a lot of this defies any reasonable test of logic.

Let’s begin with the anecdotal evidence. The Trump campaign made nine, yes nine, campaign trips to the Grand Canyon state. Every visit was overflowing with supporters, not just at capacity but people lined up for hours to get into these events. The enthusiasm was palpable around these events, there was never an empty seat or even room to add another person without running into trouble with the fire marshals. Let’s contrast this with the one, yes, one event that the Biden team held in Phoenix – if you took away the media, the Secret Service detail and his staffers, would have been empty! Virtually no one came. I get that this is a Covid-19 campaign environment, social distancing is considered important by certain doctors and that some members of the public are reluctant to come out of their homes. But it defies logic to think that a voter response like that would be the foundation for the highest voter turnout ever. Yet that is exactly what we are expected to believe. Inconceivable!

Here is a Presidential candidate who virtually never left his basement in Delaware. He managed to get through two debates, although each required almost a full week of rest and preparation just to be able to stand upright and maintain coherence for 90 minutes. He then would retire for ‘a few’ days in order to recuperate. It begs the question, at age 78, can he even handle the intense and consuming demands of POTUS? His cognitive gaps are staggering and blatant, his numerous gaffes in public speaking are horrific and he rarely seems fully aware of where his or who he is with. This is the compelling rhetorician who was able to de-rail the Trump train? Inconceivable!

A quick look at the numbers: 2008 was an historic vote. We had the first African American candidate on the ballot and we had just gone through eight years under George W. Bush which culminated in the Great Recession. It was not a big surprise that the country was looking forward to a new path forward, yet even in one of the biggest turnouts in American election history, Obama was only able to garner 44.9% of the AZ voters to his cause for his 2008 campaign to victory; granted this was against a local favorite. In 2012, Mr. Obama again was riding his populist wave and achieved another term in the White House but his success in AZ waned further to 44.1% of the vote, this time against Mitt Romney. Let’s try the Hilary Clinton campaign in 2016, surely this would be a record breaker! Not exactly, she was only able to get 46% of the vote as voter apathy hit an all-time high in the new millennium with voter participation declining to 70% of the voting population. All three elections from 2008 forward were solid red for the Republican party. So, what was different in 2020?

First, we had Covid-19. Second, we had to shut down our entire economy for a quarter. Third we had to figure out how to re-start the economy under some bizarre and illogical regulations. Social distancing, masking, working from home, the death of the fitness industry – all new circumstances we all have had to adjust to. Oh, yes, and we had a Presidential election for the leader of the free world. One candidate: highly visible, highly energized, and crisscrossing the USA in order to gain support. Another candidate who was rarely seen outside of his basement. At this juncture, we are asked to believe that Mr. Biden won this election of the people of the United States. Inconceivable!

Mr. Biden’s compelling campaign strategy of never leaving his house, never holding a press conference and never issuing a campaign platform or speech was enough carry him in this predominantly Red state. Remember, this is the same candidate who was unable to fill an elevator with his supporters on the campaign trail. He chose as his VP, the most Socialist member of the Senate. His son and brother are embroiled in pay-to-play schemes in China, Ukraine and Russia. His campaign strategy was to hide from the press, the people and any scrutiny. The strategy that we are expected to believe generated the highest voter turnout total in AZ history: 77.6% of the electorate, more than Barack Obama and more than Hilary Clinton. How (without being inconceivable)?

We may never know as our Democrat Secretary of State Katie Hobbs who oversaw the process is doing her best to avoid scrutiny during the process. There are serious allegations of fraud in FL, GA, TX, MI, NV, PA and AZ from two software programs that have manipulated votes around the country (called The Hammer and Scorecard) as whistleblower Dennis Montgomery, their architect who built the program for the 2009 Obama intelligence agencies, maintains. At the very least, this level of fraud requires that the governor demand a recount of this election. The very foundation of our Republic is at stake. Two final thoughts: “sunlight is this best disinfectant” and democracy dies in darkness. Let us shed some sunlight and dispel the darkness. The doubts over this election process are just too great to ignore. They are indeed inconceivable.

Purple People Without a Political Party: A purple person recounts a lifetime of living among the red and blue

Estimated Reading Time: 6 minutes

TUCSON – As the nation has divided into red and blue (Republican and Democrat), purple people like myself no longer have a political party.

Most of us are classical liberals or distant cousins to today’s libertarians.

Purple had become our color because we had preferred a blend of red and blue policies at the national level. But we no longer prefer the blend because of what the two parties have become.

A long time ago, the Democrat Party was attractive to purple people because it stood for civil liberties, working stiffs, the poor and balanced budgets. And the Republican Party was attractive because it stood for prosperity, low taxes and balanced budgets.

Both parties then proceeded to tarnish themselves with foolish wars (Vietnam, Afghanistan, Iraq and the War on Drugs), huge deficits, a big government isolated in the out-of-touch Imperial City of Washington, the financialization of the economy, the screwing of working stiffs, and a failure to address the root problems among the black underclass, choosing instead to pander to middle- and upper-class blacks, who were doing well without the paternalism and tokenism of half-baked diversity programs.

Democrats went on to embrace globalism, racial and identity politics and socialism while taking money from Wall Street and Silicon Valley and snookering poor minorities. Republicans went on to embrace globalism and corporatism while forgetting Main Street.

Trump saw a political opening and stepped in with his nationalism and his populist appeals to working stiffs. In some ways he was like Teddy Roosevelt and the Bull Moose Party. Unlike the old Bull Moose Party, however, Trump succeeded in winning the presidency; but like the Bull Moose Party, his movement could end in the dustbin of history, due to demographic trends and corresponding changes in American values, especially among miseducated millennials and their offspring.

Democrats and Republicans have become eaters of purple people, in the political sense. They should adopt the hit song of 1958, “The Purple People Eater,” as their theme song.

Although Democrats and Republicans have forsaken purple people at the national level, many reddish cities and states are better for them at the local level, including those run by Democrats who govern with a reddish tint. Reddish locales are also better for people of all political colors, skin colors and socioeconomic classes.

To that point, two respected demographic researchers have developed an Upward Mobility Index for the nation’s 107 largest metropolitan areas—those with populations of 500,000 or more in 2018. The index weighs the factors that lead to upward mobility and entry into the middle class for the three largest ethnic and racial minorities: African-Americans, Latinos and Asians.

The Upward Mobility Index shows that cities with bluish policies—affirmative action, programs for racial redress, strict labor and environmental laws—help nonwhites far less than reddish cities with low housing costs, friendly business conditions and reasonable tax rates.

That finding matches my own research and my own experience in living in red and blue locales.

I began life in the working-class neighborhood of my hometown of blue St. Louis, then later moved to the blue barrio of San Antonio, then served in the blue/red Army, then moved to blue Chicago to start my business career, then moved to the red metropolis of Phoenix, then moved to blue New Jersey, then moved back to the red metropolis of Phoenix, and finally, for family reasons, then moved in retirement to the deep blue of the Tucson metropolis, where Democrats have had a political monopoly for decades in the City of Tucson and the surrounding Pima County.

Now I find myself living in a blue state, due to Arizona turning from red to blue in the 2020 election and voting in favor of a class-resentment proposition that will increase taxes on the so-called wealthy and cause the state to lose its primary competitive advantage. As a result, fewer Californians escaping the Golden State will move to Arizona. They will keep driving until they reach Texas, where they will try to turn that state blue.

To see what life is like among the blue and red, below is a synopsis of life in each of the places I’ve lived.

City of St. Louis

The Democrat machine of the City of St. Louis brought corruption, bloated government, decline and crime to what had been one of the nation’s largest and most prosperous cities in the early twentieth century. During its heyday, the city wanted nothing to do with the surrounding reddish county, even to the extent of establishing its own county-level courts and services. Now it’s dependent on the county for life support.

Personal anecdote: When the city was well into its decline, one of my college jobs was working for a former city mayor whose shady company specialized in helping taverns in renewing their liquor license. The job required getting the signatures of a majority of property owners within a 200-foot radius of a drinking establishment, which was often in a slum. I quit after seeing the sordidness of the process and learning that most slumlords lived in leafy liberal enclaves.

San Antonio

This city was an impoverished, crime-ridden economic backwater when I lived there. It later became wealthier by means of reddish economic policies and the annexation of much of the surrounding reddish Bexar County. It also had the benefit of being located in reddish, low-tax Texas.

Personal anecdote: I would be awakened in the barrio to the sound of gunfire, got caught in the middle of a gunfight one night and had my car stolen once and my wheels stolen twice.

Chicago

It’s difficult to top Chicago and Cook County in corruption, high taxes, crime, and bloated government. This is such common knowledge that nothing else needs to be said.

Personal anecdote: Chicago was so corrupt that when I was buying a house there, my real estate attorney asked for $200 to bribe a county clerk to expedite the title recording.

New Jersey

On second thought, the Garden State may top Chicago in corruption, taxes and bloated government.

Life in the Garden State came with potholed county and state roads, piles of trash and litter along roadsides, and sleazy Italian mobsters who gave Italians a bad name by controlling the garbage industry, other industries and politicians. The state was so disgusting and misgoverned that an overpass on the major east-west artery of Interstate 78 burned down and was closed for months when a 40-foot-tall pile of illegally-dumped trash started on fire.

Personal anecdote: Taxes in New Jersey were so high that my wife and I paid annual property taxes of $14,000 (in today’s dollars) on our 2,200 sq. ft. house in the suburb of Basking Ridge. By contrast, we paid $3,500 in property taxes on our former 3,700 sq. ft. house in the Phoenix suburb of Scottsdale.

Metro Phoenix

When my wife and I first moved decades ago to a blue-collar neighborhood in bluish Phoenix, the city was still somewhat of a cowboy town, with a smattering of resorts and retirement communities. It was not unusual to see guys in cowboy hats and boots with six-shooters and holsters on their hips. But the metropolis was clean, well-managed, had visionary leadership and bipartisan elections and oozed optimism and promise.

When we moved to Scottsdale years later, that suburb had grown from a sleepy bedroom community to a thriving, hip place to live, work and play, thanks to the visionary leadership of former mayor Herb Drinkwater, whose party affiliation was unknown to residents and didn’t matter to them.

Anecdote: Scottsdale government was so forward-looking and efficient that the city invented and implemented a new way of picking up trash, a way that reduced the number of employees per truck to one: the driver. Under the system, homeowners rolled a trash bin to the curb on pickup days, where the bin was picked up and emptied by a lift operated by the driver of the trash truck. The system is now widespread, but at the time it was the opposite of the prevailing union featherbedding in Chicago and New Jersey.

Tucson

The dark-blue City of Tucson and surrounding blue Pima County are examples of what decades of one-party government and partisan elections can do to a city and county.

The city has a poverty rate twice the national average, a rate of property crimes near the top nationally, below-average test scores, poorly maintained roads and parks and widespread shabbiness.

The surrounding unincorporated county is wealthier, but streets are in such disrepair that if I were to describe them accurately, you’d think I was lying. Parks are in similar condition and too many commercial and public properties are poorly maintained. Roads are so littered that my wife and I come home from our daily walks with bags that we’ve filled with the detritus from residents who have become accepting of bad government and desensitized to the consequences.

In spite of being the home of the University of Arizona, which is a major research university, the metropolis as a whole is an economic backwater shunned by large corporations as a headquarters location. As such, ambitious college graduates tend to move elsewhere for opportunities, especially to such cities as Phoenix, Denver and Dallas. And even though big companies are now letting their headquarters’ employees work from anywhere due to the coronavirus, Tucson doesn’t seem to be on their radar, in spite of its favorable climate, pretty natural setting and nearby outdoor attractions.

Meanwhile, local politicians engage in hollow virtue-signaling about the poor, climate change, and other progressive pieties. For instance, the mayor of Tucson wants to plant thousands of trees to counteract global warming – this in a city without abundant water that already does a lousy job of maintaining existing vegetation.

Personal anecdote: When my wife and I moved from well-run Scottsdale to badly-run metro Tucson, we ended up paying 50% more for the combined total of property taxes, water, sewer, trash pick-up, and fire service – although our house here has the same assessed value as our former house.

In conclusion, regardless of what color they are, people generally do better in reddish cities, including purple people.

Questions for Starbucks About Its New Diversity Policy

Estimated Reading Time: 3 minutes

Starbucks recently announced that it is tying pay to the accomplishment of diversity goals. Specifically, its goals are to have at least 30% of its U.S. corporate employees and 40% of its U.S. retail and manufacturing employees to be people of color defined as black people, other people of color and indigenous people. It will track them across 14 job levels.

The company reported that its workforce is currently 53.5% white, 10.5% Hispanic/Latino, 8% black, 5.5% Asian, 4.7% multiracial, and 1.3% other.

Starbucks is following the corporate herd. Other big corporations have announced similar goals, and some have even gone so far as to pledge that 40% of their management positions will be filled by selected races/ethnicities. In some cases, companies have used the catchall term “minorities” in stating their diversity goals.

Although I don’t patronize Starbucks, I have no doubt that the chain knows more about the coffee business than I do. But I doubt that it knows as much as I do about equal opportunity, affirmative action, diversity, and racial sensitivity training. Over my career I was at the leading edge of such initiatives and also had expertise in federal and state anti-discrimination laws and in designing compensation programs. I’ve also had a lifetime interest in the history of race in America and the reasons why there are socioeconomic differences between races and ethnic groups.

Based on that experience, I have the following questions for Starbucks and the rest of the herd:

  1. How do you define white, black, Hispanic/Latino, and Asian?  Do you define them based on physical traits, surnames, ancestral country, or something else?
  2. In what category do you put Egyptians? Palestinians? Turks? Persians? Arabs? Sicilians? Afghans? Pakistanis? Mongolians?
  3. Do you believe that all Asians think alike, see the world the same way, and have identical cultures, whether they’re Japanese, Korean, Han Chinese, Vietnamese, Filipino, Cambodians, Thais, Indonesians, or Malays?  If not, why do you lump them together in the name of diversity?  Do you see the contradiction in this?
  4. Do you have a similar belief about the 100 or so ethnicities/nationalities on the European continent and the Middle East? Do you believe that all of these peoples think alike, see the world the same way, have the same culture, and come from privilege?
  5. How do you determine whether someone is a person of color? Since my Italian skin is darker than the skin of many Hispanics and certainly darker than my Swedish/Scots-Irish wife, am I a person of color? What about the offspring of a Greek and a Korean?  Is that individual a person of color or an Asian or both?
  6. What is your definition of “minority?” Does it include Iranian Americans, who comprise less than one percent of the population?
  7. If you define minority in terms of people lacking in political and economic power, do you consider East Indians to be minorities? How about the fact that most emigrants from India are from an upper caste, or the fact that the Patel clan is the largest owner of independent motels and hotels in America, or the fact that a disproportionate percent of Indians hold high-paid jobs in Silicon Valley, or the fact that 70% of Indian immigrants have college degrees (versus about 7% of Mexican immigrants)?
  8. Does it cross your mind – your mind of pigeon-holes – that it might be demotivating for an employee of yours who is a poor Scots-Irish descendant of coal miners in West Virginia to be told that his opportunities are now limited because of being in the wrong pigeonhole? And do you understand how divisive this is corporately and nationally?
  9. If your objective relative to African Americans is to make up for past injustices and address the horrible problems in many black communities, do you realize how complex those problems are, what the root causes of the problems are, and how little the problems will improve by what you are doing?
  10. Why are you not sued for brazenly violating Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which forbids making hiring and promotion decisions based on race and ethnicity, among other provisions?  Are you aware that courts and the EEOC have determined that affirmative action is legal in terms of reaching out to historically overlooked communities and increasing the applicant pool; but that it is not legal to set numerical targets for favoring some races/ethnicities and discriminating against others in hiring and promotions?

In closing, you might be interested to know why this Italian doesn’t patronize Starbucks.

First, Starbucks’ founder got the idea for the business on a visit to Italy and watching Italians stop for a quick shot of expresso on their way to work but the high-calorie milkshakes masquerading as coffee at Starbucks are unlike what is consumed in Italy.

Second, being the son of a tile setter and the grandson of an Italian immigrant who worked as a coal miner, I learned that the way to make it to the middle-class was to save money, live below one’s means, and invest in one’s future.  By making coffee at home and not buying a coffee and pastry at Starbucks, I’ve saved at least five dollars a day. If invested, that comes to about $145,000 in 30 years.

 

Diversity Lands on Mars

Estimated Reading Time: 4 minutes

The diversity movement has broken free of all earthly bounds

It was recently announced that 40% of management positions on Mars will be filled by minorities.

No, not the red planet, but my former employer, the privately-held Mars, Inc., a conglomerate with an estimated $37 billion in revenue and 130,000 employees.

The announcement is an example of how the diversity movement has become untethered from reality and is now being propelled across the ether by platitudes, virtue-signaling, group-think, double standards, and racial stereotypes.

The announcement was made almost simultaneously with the company changing the name of its Uncle Ben’s Rice to Ben’s Rice, after the Houston-based rice division had been accused of racial insensitivity for the former name and the accompanying caricature of a black man as venerable Uncle Ben. The accusation must’ve shocked the family owners, because they had always avoided politics and prided themselves on their progressive employment practices, high pay for plant workers, and concerns for all stakeholders.

No good deed goes unpunished in today’s hypersensitive America.

To digress for a moment, here’s why I’m qualified to speak about diversity and Mars:

In 1992, the Wall Street Journal published a long commentary of mine that touted the management philosophy of Mars, based on my experience working there as an executive in the 1980s. The article was subsequently used as a case study in business schools.

One of my responsibilities at the company was diversity, although it wasn’t called that at the time, because this was prior to the term being coined in 1990 by R. Roosevelt Thomas, Jr., in his landmark article in the Harvard Business Review. It was called equal employment opportunity or affirmative action and was often accompanied with sensitivity training and with the firing of managers and workers for prejudicial behavior—all of which I oversaw.

Mars was known for its marketing prowess and for high productivity and efficiency, a deserved reputation that was due in large part to its recruiting at some of the best business schools and engineering schools around the world, as well as its practice of rotating managers between divisions and countries in order to spread best practices across the organization. For example, when I worked at the headquarters of its U.S. confectionery division, the vice president of manufacturing was Dutch, the vice president of R&D was British, the division president was British, and the vice president of human resources had come from Mars’ pet food division.

The company’s divisional offices were always connected to a plant. Although one of the company’s first U.S. plants/offices was in Chicago, and although one of its first European plants/offices was in Slough, the working-class part of metro London, it preferred to locate its newer plants/offices in semi-rural locations in the States and Europe. The thinking was that the work ethic was better than in cities, and that cities had too many constraints in terms of limited space, poor truck access, and neighbors who might object to the noise and odors of 24/7 operations.

This is why, a half-century ago, the company moved the headquarters of its U.S. confectionery business, as well as the adjoining plant that made M&Ms, from Newark, NJ, to Hackettstown, NJ, in the northwestern part of the state near the Pennsylvania border.

It was of course more difficult to attract blacks and Hispanics in Hackettstown than in Newark. The same for semi-rural locations in the Netherlands and Germany. But these limitations were more than compensated for by its operations in diverse parts of Tennessee, Mississippi, and Texas.

Cultural dynamics changed within the company when the family retired from day-to-day operations. The dynamics further changed with Mars’ purchase of Chicago-based Wrigley in 2008 for $23 billion. It became more “professionally” managed, which is a euphemism for being managed in accord with conventional American business practices—practices that have resulted in manufacturing workers in other industries being treated like widgets and seeing their jobs shipped to Mexico and China.

It is Mars’ prerogative to change its longstanding management development policies and plant/office locations to advance diversity—and to send a potentially divisive message to its workforce that preferences will be given to some employees over others until 40% of managers are minorities. But there are two troubling societal aspects to this.

The first is legal. Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act unequivocally states that employment decisions should not be based on race or ethnicity. Although it’s legal to eliminate racial and ethnic barriers to employment and promotion and to reach out to previously overlooked groups, it is legally questionable to favor some groups over others in order to meet some arbitrary racial mix—not that the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission cares about discrimination masquerading as diversity.

The second troubling aspect is the ambiguous meaning of “minority.” Most people would say they know what it means, but do they really?

They would say that in the context of diversity, “minority” refers to those races that are in the minority in America in terms of numbers, such as African Americans, Asians and non-white Latinos. Not only are there business benefits to this racial form of diversity, the thinking goes, but it’s a way of redressing past discrimination and achieving social justice for historically disadvantaged people.

 

A PhD dissertation could be written on the fallacies in this thinking, but since PhD dissertations put people to sleep, let’s look at the biggest fallacy.

The biggest fallacy of the current zeitgeist on diversity is that it is based on stereotypes. The underlying assumption is that all individuals within an official governmental racial category are the same in terms values, beliefs, outlooks, and socioeconomic circumstance. As such, all whites are seen as coming from privilege, even though many are impoverished, unlike, let’s say, college-educated emigrants from an upper-caste in India, or Latinos from the Spanish aristocracy of Mexico. Moreover, all whites are seen as being in the majority, even though there are over 100 unique ethnic minority groups within the so-called white race, such as Italian Americans, who are only six percent of the population, or Iranian Americans, who are only a tenth of a percent of the population.

Memo to stereotypers: A coal miner’s daughter in West Virginia didn’t grow up with the privileges and perspectives of a Mars daughter. Likewise, this grandson of a coal miner didn’t grow up with the privileges and perspectives of a descendant of a Boston blueblood family that became wealthy from the cotton trade. For you to believe otherwise suggests a political agenda or reflects appalling ignorance.

Japan, South Korea and China are manufacturing powerhouses and big markets for Mars and other American companies. But, ironically, they are not very diverse in terms of race, although China has some degree of ethnic diversity. Time will tell if diversity will prove to be a competitive advantage for U.S.-based companies. But even if it doesn’t, diversity should be pursued for other reasons, as long as it’s done legally and includes ethnic and socioeconomic diversity.

The only group that should be excluded from diversity considerations are aliens from the planet Mars.

IMPRIMIS: A Sensible and Compassionate Anti-COVID Strategy

Estimated Reading Time: 4 minutes

The following is adapted from a panel presentation on October 9, 2020, in Omaha, Nebraska, at a Hillsdale College Free Market Forum.

My goal today is, first, to present the facts about how deadly COVID-19 actually is; second, to present the facts about who is at risk from COVID; third, to present some facts about how deadly the widespread lockdowns have been; and fourth, to recommend a shift in public policy.

1. The COVID-19 Fatality Rate

In discussing the deadliness of COVID, we need to distinguish COVID casesfrom COVID infections. A lot of fear and confusion has resulted from failing to understand the difference.

We have heard much this year about the “case fatality rate” of COVID. In early March, the case fatality rate in the U.S. was roughly three percent—nearly three out of every hundred people who were identified as “cases” of COVID in early March died from it. Compare that to today, when the fatality rate of COVID is known to be less than one half of one percent.

In other words, when the World Health Organization said back in early March that three percent of people who get COVID die from it, they were wrong by at least one order of magnitude. The COVID fatality rate is much closer to 0.2 or 0.3 percent. The reason for the highly inaccurate early estimates is simple: in early March, we were not identifying most of the people who had been infected by COVID.

“Case fatality rate” is computed by dividing the number of deaths by the total number of confirmed cases. But to obtain an accurate COVID fatality rate, the number in the denominator should be the number of people who have been infected—the number of people who have actually had the disease—rather than the number of confirmed cases.

In March, only the small fraction of infected people who got sick and went to the hospital were identified as cases. But the majority of people who are infected by COVID have very mild symptoms or no symptoms at all. These people weren’t identified in the early days, which resulted in a highly misleading fatality rate. And that is what drove public policy. Even worse, it continues to sow fear and panic, because the perception of too many people about COVID is frozen in the misleading data from March.

So how do we get an accurate fatality rate? To use a technical term, we test for seroprevalence—in other words, we test to find out how many people have evidence in their bloodstream of having had COVID.

This is easy with some viruses. Anyone who has had chickenpox, for instance, still has that virus living in them—it stays in the body forever. COVID, on the other hand, like other coronaviruses, doesn’t stay in the body. Someone who is infected with COVID and then clears it will be immune from it, but it won’t still be living in them.

What we need to test for, then, are antibodies or other evidence that someone has had COVID. And even antibodies fade over time, so testing for them still results in an underestimate of total infections.

Seroprevalence is what I worked on in the early days of the epidemic. In April, I ran a series of studies, using antibody tests, to see how many people in California’s Santa Clara County, where I live, had been infected. At the time, there were about 1,000 COVID cases that had been identified in the county, but our antibody tests found that 50,000 people had been infected—i.e., there were 50 times more infections than identified cases. This was enormously important, because it meant that the fatality rate was not three percent, but closer to 0.2 percent; not three in 100, but two in 1,000.

When it came out, this Santa Clara study was controversial. But science is like that, and the way science tests controversial studies is to see if they can be replicated. And indeed, there are now 82 similar seroprevalence studies from around the world, and the median result of these 82 studies is a fatality rate of about 0.2 percent—exactly what we found in Santa Clara County.

In some places, of course, the fatality rate was higher: in New York City it was more like 0.5 percent. In other places it was lower: the rate in Idaho was 0.13 percent. What this variation shows is that the fatality rate is not simply a function of how deadly a virus is. It is also a function of who gets infected and of the quality of the health care system. In the early days of the virus, our health care systems managed COVID poorly. Part of this was due to ignorance: we pursued very aggressive treatments, for instance, such as the use of ventilators, that in retrospect might have been counterproductive. And part of it was due to negligence: in some places, we needlessly allowed a lot of people in nursing homes to get infected.

But the bottom line is that the COVID fatality rate is in the neighborhood of 0.2 percent.

Continue reading at:  https://imprimis.hillsdale.edu/sensible-compassionate-anti-covid-strategy


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Jay Bhattacharya is a Professor of Medicine at Stanford University, where he received both an M.D. and a Ph.D. in economics. He is also a research associate at the National Bureau of Economics Research, a senior fellow at the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research and at the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies, and director of the Stanford Center on the Demography and Economics of Health and Aging. A co-author of the Great Barrington Declaration, his research has been published in economics, statistics, legal, medical, public health, and health policy journals.

 

Reprinted by permission from Imprimis, a publication of Hillsdale College. ©All rights reserved. The opinions expressed may not necessarily reflect the views of The Prickly Pear or of the sponsors.