The whole debate about “helping the poor” creates the illusion that the sole reason for their suffering is mere neglect, even though outright abuse is rampant.
Suppose there’s a debate about the character of a public figure. Supporters will usually marshal a long list of positives. But detractors are more likely to present one horrifying fact. A fact horrifying enough to get onlookers to shake their heads and say, “Unforgivable.” If this rhetorical tactic works, the detractors instantly win the debate. If you’ve done one unforgivable thing, you’re a villain – no matter how else you spent your life.
Suppose you learned that there was a school staffed mainly by right-leaning teachers and administrators. And at this school, an oddly large number of lessons touch upon, or perhaps center on, bad things that have been done by Jews throughout history.
In a few high-profile markets, prices seem to stay far above average cost even though there are tons of competitors. There are thousands of credit card issuers, but the average interest rate is 18.26%. There are over 100,000 real estate brokerage firms, but the default commission remains 6%. Sure, unsecured credit has a high default risk, but high enough to justify an 18.26% rate? And why on Earth would it cost $60,000 to sell a million-dollar home?
The textbook notion of externalities is expansive. Potentially totalitarian, in fact. Suppose, for example, that you dislike seeing Bahais. The very fact that you have these bigoted feelings instantly implies that Bahais “impose a negative externality” on you purely by appearing in your field of view.
If sanctioned regimes are so monstrous, then virtually all of their subjects have a good reason to fear them. In technical terms, this plausibly amounts to a “well-founded fear of persecution” – the essential legal ingredient for meriting asylum.
“Why can’t everything be free?” I’m always delighted whenever a child asks me, because I have an intellectually solid answer even a child can understand. Namely: If everyone had to produce for free, there would be virtually nothing to buy. If everything had a price of zero, consumers would strive to fill their shopping carts […]
If you’re tempted to quip, “Thanks for nothing!,” you underestimate how Kafkaesque this situation really is. This is not a “Thanks for nothing” situation. It is a “Thanks for less than nothing situation.” A situation where government “protection of your rights” makes you wish you didn’t have the rights in the first place.
Government will not accept “No” as your final answer. You can hide, you can weasel, you can even get a lawyer. Still, if you stubbornly and openly refuse to obey the government, it will probably kill you. Act accordingly.
In a sense, Scott Sumner is completely right. If you measure overreaction using the ratio of the reaction to the actual harm, then the Covid response probably doesn’t even make the U.S. “top 100.” After all, many government crusades target “problems” that cause zero harm. Or, like immigration, negative harm. In another sense, however, Scott is completely wrong.