Archives for category: Public Policy

Typhoid Mary has loomed over the last year in the form of a suspicion: could SARS-CoV-2 be spread by asymptomatic carriers, like Mary Mallon was for typhoid?

A lot rests on this fear. Most of the lockdown policies, for example. 

Why should healthy people keep a six-foot distance from other healthy people, or wear masks, if there are few or no people spreading the disease while not knowing they are infected?

The whole extreme mitigation craze began a year and a month ago with the “Fifteen Days to Flatten the Curve” ploy. The curve to be flattened was of dire cases necessitating hospitalization. The policy was to prevent hospital over-crowding. That didn’t happen, but the measures were kept. 

And fears of asymptomatic spreading of the virus helped fuel the idea that we — “as a society” — could fend off the worst casualty rates until a “vaccine” could be developed. Now we have a few vaccines, and it has been like pulling teeth to get the CDC to allow the vaccinated some freedom of association.

You probably have heard about studies alleging prevalence of asymptomatic spread of COVID. Most of these studies seem pretty iffy to me, and the best study almost conclusively indicates no such epidemiology — “no positive tests amongst 1,174 close contacts with asymptomatic cases.”

Now, Mary Mallon, the original asymptomatic superspreader, spread typhoid by handling food that she prepared for others. After years of back-and-forth, she was basically imprisoned for 27 years. In America, you might think that a taking of her liberty for the public good would have instituted a system for her compensation. But that was not really done.

Just so, this last year: the liberty taken away from the productive many for the benefit, chiefly, of immune-compromised few, was not handled as a free society would.

Will there be progress?

Not so long as the big issues are ignored. Evaded.

Big issues like just compensation and the actual science of the spread of disease. Were there a case for quarantining people, preventing them from engaging in commerce, the ones who lost incomes from such quarantine should surely be compensated according to the Takings Clause of the Constitution. But almost no one mentions that.

The takings problem is especially interesting in the COVID case because the most at-risk population are retirees who barely lose monetarily, if at all, from “the lockdowns,” while those who lose most — workers and business owners — have the least to gain. This suggests to me that the only halfway reasonable takings/compensation method to manage a quarantine would be to require those who are not monetarily affected by the lockdown orders to compensate those who are monetarily affected in a direct manner. By this I mean the funds to compensate the most negatively impacted should come from those least impacted on a weekly basis, skipping states’ general funds entirely. The least impacted would write checks to a fund that would distribute to those most affected.

Note what this method would do: give immediate incentive to those who benefit most from the lockdowns to oppose the lockdowns when their benefit/cost changes. As it is, in the current lockdown regime, there is not incentive for those who benefit to let up on the request to be benefitted at others’ expense. The state lockdowns compensated for by federal subsidy amounts to an incentive to forever let some benefit at others’ expense. It is the kind of scenario that the Constitution was designed to prevent.

The lockdowns have been just one of many poorly thought-out, irresponsibility-maximizing programs introduced during the panic.

And as for Mary: what should have been done? Well, negotiate with the woman. Pay her off. If her freedom to earn a living was in conflict with others’ health, than the healthy should have paid her off not to work. They would have hired her to “socially distance” — rather than lock her up. Indeed, this kind of policy would not even require a state to manage.

This model should have become the norm. And because it did not, we have lockdowns today that abridge freedoms and benefit some at the uncompensated-for expense of others. Anathema!

And because no one has to pay the direct cost of these policies, the whole pandemic has been one ideological contest sans responsibility. The system actually discourages rational reconsideration of the data. People just choose what they want to believe to fit their situation and their free-floating “values.” A responsibilitarian society would not serve anyone’s free-floating values. Only cost-conscious values would count.

In a free society there would exist strong incentives to look at the effectiveness of masks and other mitigation measures rationally, not in a cultic manner.

twv

Pfizer. Always seemed like a good swear word to me.

Contra Geert Vanden Bossche — who I wrote about a few weeks ago — Dr. Michael Yeadon (pictured above), a former Pfizer Vice President and Chief Scientist for Allergy & Respiratory, sees no possibility of the much-talked-about but not well-understood possibility of “immune escape” in the current pandemic and subsequent mass vaccination response. Yet he notes that all the talk of “variants” by official experts amounts to the same, and this is worrisome.

Suspicious. In the extreme.

And is only one of the lies being told to us.

By folks in government.

And the press.

But here is Dr. Yeadon:

[I]n the last year I have realized that my government and its advisers are lying in the faces of the British people about everything to do with this coronavirus. Absolutely everything. It’s a fallacy this idea of asymptomatic transmission and that you don’t have symptoms, but you are a source of a virus. That lockdowns work, that masks have a protective value obviously for you or someone else, and that variants are scary things and we even need to close international borders in case some of these nasty foreign variants get in.

Or, by the way, on top of the current list of gene-based vaccines that we have miraculously made, there will be some ‘top-up’ vaccines to cope with the immune escape variants.

Everything I have told you, every single one of those things is demonstrably false. But our entire national policy is based on these all being broadly right, but they are all wrong.

“EXCLUSIVE – Former Pfizer VP: ‘Your government is lying to you in a way that could lead to your death,” by Christina Valenzuela, April 18, 2021.

So of course his mind clicks to a possible explanation: an induced mass depopulation event.

My mind went there, too. Is he right? Is this suspicion on target?

I do not know. But when I read mainstream take-downs on Yeadon, like the one by Reuters, I am not inclined to think he is completely off base. There is a lot of assertion and counter-assertion in such take-downs, but no real arguments against his position.

“The ex-Pfizer scientist who became an anti-vax hero,” by Steve Stecklow and Andrew Macaskill, Reuters.

The Reuters piece would be more convincing if it actually dealt with Yeadon’s main contentions, helpfully listed by Christina Valenzuela:

Arguing against his actual positions might be convincing. But the criticisms of Yeadon I have seen so far strike me as ranging from clever propaganda to sub-intellectual journalistic garbage.

twv

The Brazen Serpent (Numbers 21:9), Artist: Tissot; Photographer: John Parnell. ©The Jewish Museum

The current vaccination craze presents some puzzles.

Those who insist that we must have a regulatory body like the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), even if it adds great expense to drugs and prohibits many useful treatments with calculable loss of life, are the same folks who also believe that the population of the whole world should be injected with experimental gene therapy while pretending that only good can result.

Though the new therapeutics has been studied for 20 years, the studies are by no means exhaustive.

Libertarians are beset with the inverse problem: a fast-tracked pseudo-vaccine has reached the masses, and because normal FDA procedures were bypassed (by Trump), it can look like a triumph of pharmaceutical capitalism over regulatory dirigisme. But note: the drug was indeed pushed by politicians and bureaucrats, is heavily tax-subsidized, and demand for it has been whipped up by a massive panic orchestrated as a psy-op by our managerial elites, not a few of them inhabiting the corridors of power in that sector we call “the Deep State.” The explicit goal for many people inside and outside of government is to inject all of humanity with this peculiar treatment. This is nothing like a free market. It is a government operation, and the product being pushed has consequences we cannot know. But we do know that it has unknown consequences.

“Don’t put all your eggs in one basket” is a common-sense cautionary maxim.

”Don’t inoculate the whole world with an experimental gene therapy” would be that wisdom translated into the contemporary situation.

At base, here, are issues that get to the heart of medical intervention. Public goods problems abound, at this level, and they do not suggest the advisability of a uniform policy. Indeed, uniformity of policy is a very dangerous course to take. It is inherently fragile, not antifragile — and as I write this, I am more than aware that the coiner of that term, antifragility, has been a huge pusher of the COVID panic. I believe he has been profoundly wrong, because he has only conceived of the danger in one dimension. Which is a strange thing in itself, since Nassim Nicholas Taleb’s genius has been to broaden our conception of threats and menaces. In his reaction to the pandemic, Taleb has become the thing he despises, a fragilista.

But then, fragilistas have been generally ascendent. When confronted with a menace, it is hard for most people — driven by fear and with their imaginations limited enough to prevent them from considering the sheer variety and enormity of possible threats — to resist the promise of a panacea, even if said panacea makes our species and our civilization weaker. And in this case could open us up to much worse diseases with far graver consequences.

Fragilistism is the mind contagion against which our welfare-state, social-engineer dominated civilization has proven to possess few antibodies.

Pity. It has been an astounding civilization, for all its horrors.

twv

In answering a question on Quora, Dennis Pratt explained a common problem that has infected today’s “climate change” debate: the motte-bailey argumentation method. I was going to just quote a snippet of his answer, to set up my reply, but have decided that, instead, I will quote the whole thing, and then follow with my response to it:

Why is the climate change denier movement so passionate?

One reason is that climate alarmists use a particularly frustrating fallacy to push their solutions. And so, our points are rarely addressed, and our “passion” is frustration at a sophistic trick.

Conflating Implementation with Problem Identification
In order to solve a problem, we need at least these four steps:

1. Correctly identify that a problem exists and what its extent is.

2. Correctly identify the causes of the problem, and their relative contributions.

3. Correctly identify the “best” solution, which usually is the most effective with the least cost.

4. Implement that best solution well.

Our frustration comes when the alarmists start arguing #2, #3, and #4. When we push back, the alarmists will justify, say, their solutions, by appealing to (a small part of) #1.

“You are ‘denying’ that there is a problem at all.”

“No, we may have disagreements with your certainty at many points of these steps, but the least of our disagreements will be with historic data on warming; we were just now arguing our biggest disagreement with you — against implementing your totalitarian, civilization-destroying solution! Why did you just change the subject back to historic warming data?”

A “bailey” is an enclosed area lightly defended where most of the people hang out day-to-day. A “motte” is a hill with a castle atop it, behind the bailey. Upon attack, the people retreat from the bailey to the motte, which is much more fortified and much easier to defend, but it is sufficiently restrictive that it is not where the people want to be day-to-day.

The worst use of this fallacy is when alarmists cry out for international governmental control of the world economy to ‘save’ us from global warming. As you can see from the steps I’ve outlined above, which are necessary to well solve a problem, the alarmists are demanding an implementation of a particular solution — they are operating at step #4. That would be they hanging out in their “bailey”.

We anti-alarmists, seeing the alarmists at the end of the problem solution process, will object for a myriad of reasons. We might object because we think that their solution (e.g., Paris):

* will not be implemented well (#4),

* will not solve the actual problem (#3),

* causes more problems than it solves (#3),

* is far inferior to better solutions (#3),

* solves a less important cause (#3)

* misidentifies the most important causes (#2),

* exaggerates the size of the problem (#1)

* uses Monte Carlo simulations as though they were crystal balls (#1)

* uses economic forecasts of the future world economy as though they were crystal balls (#1)

* etc.

Upon hearing our concerns, the alarmists retreat from the bailey to their motte. They stop arguing for their proposed one-world-totalitarian solution <0559>, and instead fall back to their well-defended fortress.

“Are you denying that the temperature has increased over the last century!!! Oh, my!! How can you be so unscientific!!!!”

Oh, man, is that irritating!

{To see this demonstrated, the humor in this parable <0302> is derived from the warrior’s repeatedly falling back to pointing out the paw print (his motte) every time his totalitarian solution (his bailey) is challenged by the old man: <0302>}

The Motte-and-Bailey Fallacy is so effective because it conflates the outrageous (a one world totalitarian government enslaving all human action) with the easily defended (temperatures have increased a bit in the past). It is so frustrating because were we to agree that the motte is well defended (i.e., temperatures may have increased in the past), the alarmists would cheerfully return to their bailey, happily pronouncing that “all scientists agree” with some outrageous totalitarian solution. <0535>

Asking for intellectual honesty from alarmists is not possible: this fallacy has been so effective that there is no reason for them to discontinue using it.

The solution is to call them on it.

If there is any “overwhelming agreement of scientists”, it is only on some minimal aspects of Step #1.

Our passion is not against historical data, but against, for example, the refusal to talk about the destruction of humanity that would occur were we to implement many alarmists’ solutions (e.g., Step #4). <1355>

Though I agree that the motte/bailey gambit is vexingly annoying coming from the alarmists, my passion is largely aroused by the historical data that alarmists ignore, and even lie about.

But I go further. Most alarmists know nothing about their subject, or merely repeat a few pet theories and ignore the critical literature. I go further yet. Many researchers claiming to be “climate scientists” know very little about long cycles of climate. Indeed, their lack of understanding of climate cycles is astounding, and I hazard that many of these researchers are not competent in their field.

That is a daring thing for a non-scientist to say, I know, but we should remember a few things:

  1. There is a huge replicability problem in modern academic research, making most putative science junk science.
  2. The peer review system has been compromised in many disciplines, so we should be very suspicious, and the mere citing of a peer-reviewed paper does not provide the authority we might expect.
  3. And it gets worse, since the whole research area is funded in the billions and billions of dollars to promote a specific flavor of conclusion. This is a not unsubtle process, but not too difficult to see. Indeed, it looks an awful lot like the implementation on a global scale of the technique the Bush Administration used to get false reports about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq in the early 2000s.
  4. The whole consensus angle has been shown to be a fraud. There is not nearly as much agreement among ostensible climate scientists as commonly made out. The “97 percent” claim is bunk.
  5. Most of the reporting on “the science” is propaganda, and lying propaganda at that. Claims about “hottest summers” and “warmest winters” abound, but almost all are against the evidence, leaving out whole decades in the past that were warmer than recent, for example, with much more impressive records, etc. Tony Heller has made an online career demonstrating the concerted fraud that has been going on. And why folks who have read The Grapes of Wrath or endured any educational film strip (remember those?) about the Great Depression should not remember how hot it was in those days, and not be able to figure out that recent temperatures have been nowhere near as hot as it was for several years in the 1930s, and not just in America, is beyond me. Are educated people really this stupid? Can one convince a college grad of any damn fool thing, so long as it feeds his (or her, or zher) sense of self-righteousness?

I could go on. Though I am annoyed by the motte/bailey biz you mention, in a sense I understand and almost forgive the alarmists. They are doing what ideologues almost always do. People have great difficulty separating matters of fact from value. And politicians are known liars and opportunists; journalists hacks and propagandists — so of course they transmit the idiocies. This is known.

But when scientists behave like incompetents and worse — propagandists and liars — I get my dander up.

Climate alarmism is a cult. It works like an End Time Cult. We should be studying social psychology (see Festinger et al.) and roll our eyes when “scientists” say obviously idiotic and non-factual things.

twv

Meme overkill: isn’t the truth rather different? This “meme” found on Gab.com suggests untruths.

Vaccination never works 100% of the time, on an individual basis. The more people who get vaccinated, though, the less likely a contagion will spread into an epidemic. The contagion has trouble spreading when most potential hosts block the spread with their own immune system’s antibodies. It is a matter of the modal potential host: if the modal possible victim of a virus is immune, the virus has trouble spreading, unable to quickly multiply in society. That is the idea of herd immunity.

It is the same as people who have encountered the disease in the wild, and develop antibodies from actually getting and fighting off the contagion: a disease even in a pandemic slows down its rate of spread and then wanes the more people develop antibodies. Even in the worst pandemics not everyone gets infected. Because the herd immunity threshold eventually gets reached.

Vaccination is an attempt to spur antibody growth without actual infection and the risks associated with suffering through the disease. As a mass program, vaccination often makes sense.

The actual incentives to the individual run this: I take the vaccine and hope it works, but others being vaccinated provides extra protection, but . . . others being infected and surviving is BETTER YET.

That is, me getting vaccinated and others suffering through the disease is the best egoistic strategy.

Extrapolate this out and vaccination would seem the most rational social action.

IF WE CAN TRUST THE VACCINE.

That is one big IF. And lack of trust of vaccine producers (merited or unmerited) throws a huge monkey wrench into our calculations of advantage.

Regarding the current “pandemic,” the disease is deadly only to a small set of the population — that set of people who suffer from co-morbidities such as diabetes and Vitamin D deficiency. Those who are healthy tend to do very well.

If healthy people were even a teensy altruistic, and not sniveling poltroons, they would valiantly risk the disease and let those in jeopardy cower in sequestration, waiting for a vaccine.

Meme engineers out to change human behavior use many techniques. The technique used in the visual meme at top is a cautionary case. It suggests something not true: that what is relevant is that “work” versus “not work.” There are degrees. The desire for others to be vaccinated is not irrational, contrary to the innuendo of the meme.

But there are even more rational strategies.

The most rational one is honesty. Not because dishonesty doesn’t “work” but because honesty encourages rationality generally. It works better.

Right now, we could use a lot more rationality. We are ruled by people whose strategy is to increase fear-based reaction and mass compliance to authoritarian demands. And we are surrounded by cowards who, so fearful, cannot accept new information or wait to make up their minds when actual contexts become clear.

These people have succumbed to the meme of servility. Which is worse than SARS-CoV-2 and its co sequent disease, COVID-19. Our civilization can survive even worse plagues, and has. But can we survive mass servility?

twv

Why is not more made of the fact that the supposed Trump economy is really just a chimera based on a loan against the future that serves the rich very well, while mortgaging the middle class’s future and especially that of their children?

…as answered on Quora….

Is that a fact or a theory?

I am not saying it is not true. But the likelihood of a default on the debt is very high, so who ultimately pays may be a bit of an open question. The incidence of the burden shall shift.

Why is not more made of this, though? Great question.

The answer is easy: it is not just about the “Trump economy.”

Economic policy madness is a truly bipartisan effort. The recent and quite unhinged “stimulus” bills that Trump signed ran through the House of Representatives under control of the Democrats, as well as through the GOP majority Senate.

Fiscal irresponsibility is the basic position of both major parties.

Any attempt to characterize this as a mere partisan or personal failure is a nonstarter. The truth of our predicament is that our rush into the future is chaotic and crazy and by consensus. Confronting the truth of government today? Americans simply cannot handle the truth.

Which is perhaps the real reason our politics is so . . . mad. The double bind we have collectively embraced must have some effect. The effect is a kind of schizophrenia. All Americans are implicated. All. And thus politics is basically the drivel of madmen.

SARS-CoV-2

Last week I published another episode of the LocoFoco Netcast, but forgot to link to it here. So, a little late. . . .

LocoFoco Netcast #11.

The podcast version is on SoundCloud, findable with the domain name LocoFoco.net:

Sure, Twitter, Facebook & Alphabet behave badly. But instead of the recent executive order taking away a legal privilege, which perhaps should go through Congress, President Trump could’ve forbade all federal agencies from using social media that violate, in an ideological manner, free speech principles. 

And then started posting to Gab. 

No legal issues. 

Consequences? 

Huge.

Emile Phaneuf joins Timothy Virkkala for this, the fourth episode of the LocoFoco Netcast. The conversation covers what we can make of the COVID-19 menace in the context of the totalitarian threat. Can we survive and be free?

This podcast is available on Google, Spotify and iTunes, and is hosted by SoundCloud at LocoFoco.net. It is available in video on the LocoFoco channel:

LocoFoco Netcast No. 4

To interact with the LocoFoco team, go to LocoFoco.us. Timothy Wirkman Virkkala’s handle on Twitter, Gab, Minds, Facebook and the Liberdon instance of Mastodon is @wirkman; his blog is wirkman.com.

Limited, controlled immigration, was the traditional policy of the Progressive Era. It was advanced during the ramp-up of the administrative state in the early days of Progressivism’s triumph, during the administrations of TR and Woodrow Wilson, and lingered in very strong forms through the recent presidencies of Bill Clinton and Barack Obama.

“Open immigration” in its modern context is the policy of radicals who flout the technocratic/managerial state’s modus operandi the better to achieve the revolutionary methods of the Cloward-Piven strategy — leveraging a central feature of the modern administrative state, anarcho-tyranny, as a way to sow chaos and effect the establishment of a socialist state.

The free migration concept that many of my friends support (and which I too, prefer, and wish were on the table) has almost nothing to do, in practice, with what the current batch of Democrats running for the presidency espouse. Those who pretend that it does — like, apparently, folks at Reason and Cato — are basically playing at being the Left’s bitches. Or, as I put it back in January, eagerly take part in “the cucking of the libertarian mind”:

Trendy libertarians so want to be thought of as “on the left” that they let leftists push policy into what Sam Francis aptly called anarcho-tyranny, where government increasingly lets criminal and dependent elements dominate public life while directing the heavy hand of the State onto people who are basically peaceful, who are not subsidized, who earn their keep and don’t steal, murder, and grift their way through life. That heavy hand is the increasing burden of the regulations progressives love.

Racism, Cuckery and the Wall,” January 14, 2019, Wirkman Comment.

As I have stated many times before, the free-market approach to migration depends on nixing the welfare state — or at least making its benefits off-limit for immigrants, especially illegal ones.* Libertarians have much to offer the debate over immigration, but what they offer is Diversity Without Jeopardy — which is when the Commons is limited and fighting over the resources is not allowed to dominate the political realm.

twv

On the bookshelf nearest at hand.

* The political feasibility of limiting access of welfare-state freebies is almost zero, though, as anyone who has thought about the progress of Barack “You Lie” Obama’s promise of No Obamacare for Illegals to today’s Democratic presidential hopefuls’ near-unanimous insistence on giving free healthcare to all comers. And when you throw in the biggest welfare program of all, public schools, the whole idea becomes fanciful.