Rx Drug Prices Are Falling, But You’re Aging

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Ask anyone on the street about prescription drug prices, or ask anyone in the press, and you’ll probably hear they are out of control. That contention is false. The conventional wisdom is typified by this exaggerated BS about insulin pricing … actually, you can find a vial of the kind I used for many years for about $25 without much difficulty.

Individual experience differs, of course. Yes, there are new drugs on the market that are exorbitant; there are older drugs still under patent that are pricey too. Those represent a fairly small part of the total market, however, and one on which policymakers should tread lightly if they hope to foster the development of new, life-saving drugs. Newer insulin varieties are not in that class, and those varieties don’t always incorporate meaningful improvements for patients.

Getting Old Is Hell

In fact, prescription drug prices have been declining for a number of years. The real problem is we’re always getting older! In a report from the Progressive Policy Institute, Michael Mandel describes what he calls the prescription drug escalator. Alex Tabarrok has a good summary of the article. The chart at the top of this post, from Mandel, shows that the number of drugs prescribed rises steadily with one’s age. The total bill rises along with age, which may create the perception that you’re paying higher prices. Unsurprisingly, more of each health-care dollar spent out-of-pocket  (OOP) goes to prescribed medications as you age, and more goes to prescription drugs as health declines. As Mandell says, the increases experienced by individuals are a matter of utilization as opposed to pricing..

Generic Dominance

Tabarrok notes that generic drugs account for somewhere between 80-90% of all prescriptions, and generic costs have been falling for some time. He links to one of his earlier posts on generics and to this study by the National Bureau of Economic Research, which states:

“… direct-out-of-pocket CPI for generic prescription drugs decline[d] by about 50% between 2007 and 2016 …”

Average OOP prescription costs peaked in 2006, according to Mandel’s data. Tabarrok quotes Mandell:

May 2019 research report from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality reported that average out-of-pocket spending for prescribed medications, among persons who obtained at least one prescribed medication, declined from $327 in 2009 to $238 by 2016, a decrease of 27 percent. Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics Consumer Expenditure Survey shows that average household spending on prescription drugs fell by 11% between 2013 and 2018.

Moreover, OECD data shows that average out-of-pocket spending on prescribed medicines in the United States ($143 per capita in 2017) is actually lower than countries such as Canada ($144), Korea ($156), Norway ($178), and Switzerland ($215).”

The declines in OOP drug costs came despite a shift in health-care payment responsibilities from insurers to consumers in recent years — OOP costs would have declined much more had the shift not occurred, according to Mandel. As he says, consumers now have more “skin in the game”, and apparently they act on it.

Another basis of the misperception about escalating drug prices has to do with the way they are reported. Mandel says:

List prices are the published prices that manufacturers charge to wholesalers. Net prices reflect the revenues that drug manufacturers receive, net of rebates and discounts to prescription benefit managers, insurance companies, and hospitals.

Studies of list prices invariably show very strong growth. For example the IQVIA Institute for Human Data Science found that the list price of the average brand rose from $364.92 to $657.08 since 2014, an 80% increase. Similarly, a widely cited recent study based on list prices found that from 2008–16, the costs of oral and injectable brand-name drugs increased annually by 9.2 percent and 15.1 percent, respectively. … By contrast, net prices and net pharma revenue have been growing much more slowly, once rebates and discounts are accounted for.” 

The Pricey Segment

There are a variety of circumstances that bear on the pricing of individual drugs. Clearly, non-generic drugs are subject to more upward price pressure and give rise to anecdotes that feed misperceptions about the overall trajectory of drug prices. These are either new drugs or older ones sold under extended patents, which are sometimes granted for even minor changes in a drug’s chemical makeup.

Some new drugs are life-saving breakthroughs targeting rare diseases. The unfortunate truth is that drug development is a very costly enterprise, often stretching well over a decade in the U.S. under the FDA’s approval process. Moreover, U.S. consumers actually subsidize the cost of drugs for European consumers, where drugs are typically subject to price ceilings or are directly negotiated by government. By the time drugs go to market, development is treated as a fixed cost; even the low prices in Europe cover the marginal cost of production, so pharmaceutical manufacturers don’t mind selling there as long as their development overhead is paid by someone. That’s the rub.

Drug development costs are heavily influenced by public policy, often to the detriment of consumers. The FDA’s drug approval process is in dire need of reform, and patent extensions should be severely curtailed. As an advocate of free trade, I also favor a lifting of restrictions on imports of drugs to the U.S.

Conclusion

You’re likely to see more physicians as you age, they’re likely to prescribe more drugs, and you’re likely to pay more for prescriptions OOP. That’s the escalator in action. You can minimize the slope of your personal prescription escalator by taking good care of yourself and using generics when possible, but the slope is often beyond a person’s control. Nevertheless, over the past 13 years in the U.S.,  most of those experiencing higher OOP costs have this escalator, i.e., aging, to thank… it’s drug utilization, not pricing.

A relatively small but important share of the market has experienced price escalation. Newer, highly specialized drugs can carry high price tags. Patents give drug manufacturers considerably more pricing power, and drug companies have sought to maintain “evergreen” patents by manipulating their formulations. U.S. import quotas and restrictive pricing abroad have left consumers in the U.S. holding the bag for a large share of drug development costs. These shortcomings can be addressed via streamlined drug approval, patent reform, and lifting import restrictions.

A critical policy prescription is to liberate market forces and foster competition in the pharmaceuticals industry. Price controls in the U.S. would eliminate all incentives for new breakthroughs, leading progress in many areas of treatment to a stand-still. Price controls merely substitute the arbitrary decisions of politicians and bureaucrats for the market’s ability to balance dynamic consumer needs, medical expertise, and the costs faced by sellers.

 

 

HyperBoondoggle

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The hyperloop: if you think the Delmar Loop Trolley in St. Louis, MO was a boondoggle, just wait till the state starts hemorrhaging cash for the proposed hyperloop test track, and later a possible route connecting St. Louis, Columbia, and Kansas City. The hyperloop would rely on magnetic levitation (maglev) technology that has been used for trains in some parts of the world, though always on relatively short routes. For a hyperloop, however, the maglev system keeps carrier “pods” suspended in a near-vacuum tube extending the length of the route, eliminating friction and air resistance. Proponents say the pods will move at top speeds of 700 miles an hour, traversing the state in about 30 minutes. And they say it will be a very green machine.

Richard Branson’s Virgin Hyperloop One wants to build the 15-mile test track, which is projected to cost $300 – $500 million. That range is centered just a bit higher than the cost of the Loop Trolley on a per-mile basis, and for a project with major technological uncertainties, that leaves me just a bit wary. The 250-mile cross-state route is now pegged at between $7.3 and $10.4 billion, according to the recent report issued by the state’s “Blue-Ribbon Panel on Hyperloop”. It’s likely to cost much more by the time they get around to building it, if they do at all, and if it actually works.

Hyperbole?

My skepticism about hyperloops is based in part on the hucksterism that often characterizes appeals for public funding of large projects, and hyperloop hucksterism has already taken place. For example, in 2013 Elon Musk estimated that a Hyperloop system would cost about $11.5 million per mile. By 2016, the mid-point estimate for a route in the San Francisco Bay Area was over $100 million per mile. A friendlier route in Dubai is expected to cost $52 million per mile. So to be conservative, we saw 5x to 10x higher costs in a matter of three years. But now, Virgin One says it can construct a route in Missouri for less than the per-mile cost of the Dubai line. Well, the state Department of Transportation already owns the rights of way over significant stretches of the route (but not everywhere because the tube must be straighter than the highway).

The hyperbolic claims for hyperloop technology include speed, projected passenger fares, and ridership. According to Innovation Origins, the so-called feasibility study for the Missouri hyperloop did not assess the technology or even address the fact that no working hyperloop has ever been built or proven at full scale over any distance longer than a kilometer or so. The consultants who prepared the “study” merely assumed it would work. No test pod within a vacuum tube has achieved more than a fraction of the promised speed. The tubes were not long enough to achieve top speeds, they say, but that raises another issue: creating near-vacuum conditions in a sizable tube over very long distances. At the Innovation Origin link above, they estimate that the Missouri tube would occupy over 1 million cubic meters of space, which is at least 30 times larger than the most expansive man-made vacuum space now in existence.

The Ride

As for the passenger experience, 30 minutes to traverse the state of Missouri would be impressive, but what about comfort? First, expanding the tube’s circumference and the girth of the pods would have a disproportionate impact on cost, so conditions might either be more cramped than the promotional photos would have you believe, or the number of passenger seats per pod might be reduced. Second, rapid acceleration from zero to 700 mph would subject humans to fairly large G-forces over several minutes. Deceleration at the end of the trip might be even worse. Negotiating even mild curves would also require reduced speed and subsequent re-acceleration to avoid uncomfortably high radial G-forces. All that means the ride could be a bit uncomfortable. That also means the average speed between Kansas City and St. Louis would be significantly less than 700 mph, especially with a stop in Columbia. G-forces might not be much of a concern for freight traffic, unless it’s fresh produce.

Safety

Then there’s the vulnerability of the system. Willis Eschenbach goes into detail on some technical problems that make the hyperloop risky, such as the pressure on the tubes themselves. It would be about 20,000 pounds per square meter of tube surface, all subject to significant thermal expansion and contraction over the course of a day, with large pods racing through joints and rounding curves. Any fault or crack at any point in the tube surface would cause catastrophic deceleration of pods along the entire length of the tube. The integrity of the pressurized pods themselves is also a safety issue. And what about an earthquake? Or a loss of control and fiery pile-up of vehicles traveling on I-70 near the tubes. Or any number of other foolish or intentional sources of damage to the tube along its route?

Throughput

One of Eschenbach’s most interesting critiques has to do with passenger throughput. Musk’s original plan called for 28-passenger pods departing every 30 seconds: 3,300 passengers per hour. That would represent a substantial addition to total cross-state transportation capacity. At full utilization (which of course is unlikely), that would exceed current estimated totals for daily travel between St. Louis, Columbia, and Kansas City. And while that capacity might reduce pressure to expand other modes, such as adding an extra lane to I-70, it would not offer an excuse to eliminate highway, rail, or airport infrastructure, nor would it eliminate the need to maintain it.

Musks’s assumption might be too optimistic, however: for safety, the time between pod departures might have to be longer. than 30 seconds. Eschenbach asserts 80 that seconds would be more reasonable, which would slash capacity by about 60% relative to Musk’s estimate. And that doesn’t account for potential bottlenecks at stops where pods must be depressurized and repressurized. And if substantially heavier freight pods are intermingled with passenger pods, as anticipated, the required intervals between departures might have to be longer.

Economics

Few large transportation projects are self-funding. Typically, user fees fail to cover operating costs, let alone capital costs. The projected fares quoted by proponents of the Missouri hyperloop are low: “cheaper than the price of gas to drive” cross-state. Perhaps we could say about $25, based on that statement. That won’t make much of a dent in the cost of construction.

The hyperloop’s economic viability for freight traffic is questionable as well, though freight traffic seems to be a fallback position among boosters when confronted with the uncertainties of passenger travel via hyperloop. The Blue-Ribbon report says the expected cost of freight via hyperloop might range from $1.40 per mile to $2.80 on the high end, putting the mid-point well above the $1.69 per mile average cost of shipping by truck. Will speed make the hyperloop a competitive alternative for shippers? In fact, freight via hyperloop might be much worse than rail or truck in solving the “last mile” problem. That’s because the speeds that are its presumed advantage also mean fewer terminals are possible. The system would have to rely as heavily on integration with other modes of transportation as any other form of long-distance carriage, and perhaps more.

The last-mile problem eats into hyperloop’s presumed environmental advantages, which are not as clear cut as its enthusiasts would have you believe. Maintaining a vacuum in a gargantuan tube will not be a low-energy proposition, nor will powering the magnetic levitation/propulsion system, with or without a vacuum. Pressurized, climate-controlled pods will require still more power, and that’s to say nothing of the energy required to fabricate one-inch thick steel cylinders, huge magnets, and the rest of the support infrastructure. Reassurances that hyperloop will be powered exclusively by “green” technologies should be taken with a grain of salt. 

Virginia Postrel believes that regulation might be the biggest threat to the success of hyperloop, though she seems a bit optimistic about the actual economics of the technology. Safety will be a major concern for regulators. The technology will be subject to common carrier rules, and there will be other hurdles at the federal, state and local levels. And what of the health effects of prolonged exposure to those powerful magnetic forces? They may be insignificant, but the question will come up and possibly litigated.

Conclusion

A hyperloop cannot be built and operated without a significant and ongoing investment of public funds. The hoped-for public-private partnership needed to build the system would require major investors, and brave investors. Promoters say the project is not unlike efforts to build the railroads in the 19th century, which must have seemed like a daunting task at the time, and one involving huge financial risk. Fair enough, but the railroads stood to benefit in that age from a huge pent-up desire to exploit distant resources. The Missouri hyperloop is not quite comparable in that respect. It might be attractive mainly as a novelty, much like the Loop Trolley. Moreover, it didn’t take long for the railroads to become desperate rent-seekers, unable to profit from their heavily-subsidized investments without further public intervention on their behalf.

The hyperloop is a truly seductive idea. It’s the sort of thing that even small government types find irresistible, but there is little doubt that taxpayers will pay dearly. It’s not clear to me that the project will create meaningful social benefits or address compelling social risks. Therefore, let’s be cautious about making huge public commitments until this technology is farther along in development and the benefits can be estimated with greater certainty.

Yes, The Left Eats Its Own

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Here’s a piece worth reading, published this weekend in The NY Times: “Those People We Tried To Cancel? They’re All Hanging Out Together“, by John McDermott. It provides some great illustrations of caretakers of “woke” culture forming circular firing squads. That’s exactly where social justice warriors have led themselves.

One very sore victim of cancellation is a conservative named David Marcus who, in his life before cancellation, worked in the New York theatre scene for years. Marcus  writes in The Federalist that he found McDermott’s article disgusting because it doesn’t convey the real damage done by this sort of treatment. I’m not sure that’s a fair criticism of the article, though it’s true that McDermott can’t resist taking swipes at a few individuals, including Dave Chappelle and Scarlett Johansson (“provocative or clueless or callous“).

The article adds value, however, in showing that there’s life after intellectual tyranny, speech suppression, and “othering”, especially if you just don’t give a damn about the self-annointed thought police. Many of them will have their own days of reckoning just around the corner. It doesn’t take long in that sort of poisoned environment. Of course, they might go after poor McDermott first!

Buttinskies Get Vapours Over Vapes, Rx Pain Killers

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Every now and then I have to grind my axe against reflexive prohibitionism and the misplaced blame for health issues that runs along with it. This time, my outburst is prompted first by a recent study of opioid deaths, and by developments in the vastly less horrifying vaping scare. Both of these issues are like red meat to the busy-bodies of the world, who just can’t stand to sit by knowing that someone might be doing something into which they might affect an heroic intervention.

Pain Is the Price

Pharmaceutical companies have been settling opioid lawsuits brought against them for failing to provide adequate warnings with opioid painkillers about the potential for addiction, for allegedly distributing quantities in areas with “vulnerable” populations, and for other aggressive marketing tactics. Purdue Pharmaceuticals filed for bankruptcy after agreeing to $12 billion in settlements. Many more cases remain for these companies. Settlements, of course, are not admissions of guilt. Rather, they are the least costly way for these companies to extract themselves from situations in which they have been scapegoated by the grieving families of victims, plaintiffs’ attorneys with instincts for deep pockets, and naive reporting by an uninformed news media.

This week came reports of a new study in Massachusetts that found only a small percentage of opioid deaths in which decedents had been prescribed an opioid. According to the researchers:

The major proximal contributors to opioid-related overdose deaths in Massachusetts during the study period were illicitly made fentanyl and heroin. … The people who died with a prescription opioid like oxycodone in their toxicology screen often don’t have a prescription for it.”  

And as Jacob Sullum notes at the last link, this is in line with a number of other studies:

A 2007 study found that 78 percent of OxyContin users seeking addiction treatment reported that they had never been prescribed the drug for any medical reason. Other studies have found that only a small minority of people treated for pain, ranging from something like 1 percent of post-surgical patients to less than 8 percent of chronic pain patients, become addicted to their medication. A 2015 study of opioid-related deaths in North Carolina found 478 fatalities among 2.2 million residents who were prescribed opioids in 2010, an annual rate of 0.022 percent.”

Most people who become addicted to opioids, and most people who OD, begin their use in pursuit of a high. There are issues over which the pharmaceutical industry can be criticized, but it does not deserve much blame for abuse of the medications it produces. Providing pain medications to health care providers for patients with legitimate needs should not be subject to such severe legal risk. This fraught legal environment has a chilling effect on the willingness of manufacturers to meet those needs, not to mention risk-averse physicians. You, too, are likely to suffer severe pain one day, and your plight will be made worse by these effective prohibitionists.

The Vaping Panic

The dangers of vaping are vastly exaggerated, and the tremendous benefits of vaping for those wishing to quit smoking cigarettes have seemingly been forgotten. Vaping products are far less dangerous than cigarettes, but it matters little to prohibitionists at the federal and state levels. This includes the Trump Administration and such Democrats as Rashida Tlaib and Debbie Wasserman-Shultz, who have jumped on the anti-vaping bandwagon with an opportunistic fervor.

Vaping has increased dramatically among teenagers. Flavored or otherwise, it is likely to have substituted for cigarettes among teens to some extent. Many adult vapers seem to like flavored vaping products as well. As others have noted, a ban on flavored vaping products will make little difference: vapers like the nicotine! And like any form of prohibition, vaping bans will lead to more dangerous varieties of product as buyers turn to the black market for vaping supplies, or simply smoke more cigarettes.

A recent proposal in the House Ways and Means Committee to tax e-cigarettes is also terribly misguided. If we’re going to “nudge” anyone, which in this case is to follow the traditional economic prescription to tax things that harm, then surely we ought to consider where the greater harm lies. Cigarettes are already taxed. Introducing a tax on a relatively new alternative constituting a far lesser harm is sure to have undesirable effects on public health.

Summary

It must be cathartic to identify someone or something to blame for tragedies for which the victims themselves are largely at fault. We know too that the enterprise of bringing legal action against corporate scapegoats is financially rewarding. Unfortunately, those scapegoats can have little confidence in the courts’ ability to reach objective decisions, so they feel compelled to settle with plaintiffs at still great expense. It’s a racket that leads to stunted development of new drugs and under-prescription of painkillers. Tort reform, potentially to include caps on damages and financial risks to plaintiffs attorneys, can mitigate these effects, and it is as important now as ever.

Alarmism over vaping creates risks of a different nature. Vaping is not free of risk, but neither is it a massive threat to public health. It is, in fact, a less harmful alternative than cigarette smoking. Authorities should be cautious in their approach to regulating vapes and e-cigarettes, lest they discourage attractive and safer alternatives to smoking.

Regulation, Crowding Out, and Malformed Capital

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Expanding regulation of the private sector is perhaps the most pernicious manifestation of “crowding out”, a euphemism for the displacement of private activity by government activity. The idea that government “crowds out” private action, or that government budget deficits “crowd out” private investment, has been debated for many years: government borrowing competes with private demand to fund investment projects, bidding interest rates and the cost of capital upward, thus reducing business investment, capital intensity, and the economy’s productive capacity. Taxes certainly discourage capital investment as well. That is the traditional fiscal analysis of the problem.

The more fundamental point is that as government competes for resources and absorbs more resources, whether financed by borrowing or taxation, fewer resources remain available for private activity, particularly if government is less price-sensitive than private-sector buyers.

Is It In the Data?

Is crowding out really an issue? Private net fixed investment spending, which represents the dollar value of additions to the physical stock of private capital (and excludes investments that merely replace worn out capital), has declined relative to GDP over many decades, as the first chart below shows. The second chart shows that meanwhile, the share of GDP dedicated to government spending (at all levels) has grown, but with less consistency: it backtracked in the 1990s, rebounded during the early years of the Bush Administration, and jumped significantly during the Great Recession before settling at roughly the highs of the 1980s and early 1990s. The short term fluctuations in both of these series can be described as cyclical, but there is certainly an inverse association in both the short-term fluctuations and the long-term trends in the two charts. That is suggestive but far from dispositive.

Timothy Taylor noted several years ago that the magnitude of crowding out from budget deficits could be substantial, based on a report from the Congressional Budget Office. That is consistent with many of the short-term and long-term co-movements in the charts above, but the explanation may be incomplete.

Regulatory Crowding Out

Regulatory dislocation is not the mechanism traditionally discussed in the context of crowding out, but it probably exacerbates the phenomenon and changes its complexion. To the extent that growth in government is associated with increased regulation, this form of crowding out discourages private capital formation for wholly different reasons than in the traditional analysis. It also encourages malformation — either non-productive or misallocated capital deployment.

I acknowledge that regulation may be necessary in some areas, and it is reasonable to assert that voters demand regulation of certain activities. However, the regulatory state has assumed such huge proportions that it often seems beyond the reach of higher authorities within the executive branch, not to mention other branches of government. Regulations typically grow well beyond their original legislative mandates, and challenges by parties to regulatory actions are handled in a separate judicial system by administrative law judges employed by the very regulatory agencies under challenge!

Measures of regulation and the regulatory burden have generally increased over the years with few interruptions. As a budgetary matter, regulation itself is costly. Robert Higgs says that not only has regulation been expanding for many years, the growth of government spending and regulation have frequently had common drivers, such as major wars, the Great Depression of the 1930s, and the financial crisis and Great Recession of the 2000s. In all of these cases, the size of government ratcheted upward in tandem with major new regulatory programs, but the regulatory programs never seem to ratchet downward.

While government competes with the private sector for financial capital, its regulatory actions reduce the expected rewards associated with private investment projects. In other words, intrusive regulation may reduce the private demand for financial capital. Assuming there is no change in the taxation of suppliers of financing, we have a “coincidence” between an increase in the demand for capital by government and a decrease in the demand for capital by business owing to regulatory intrusions. The impact on interest rates is ambiguous, but the long-run impact on the economy’s growth is negative, as in the traditional case. In addition, there may be a reallocation of the capital remaining available from more regulated to less regulated firms.

The Costs of Regulation

Regulation imposes all sorts of compliance costs on consumers and businesses, infringing on many erstwhile private areas of decision-making. The Mercatus Center, a think tank on regulatory matters based at George Mason University, issued a 2016 report on “The Cumulative Cost of Regulations“, by Bentley Coffey, Patrick A. McLaughlin, and Pietro Peretto. It concluded in part:

… the effect of government intervention on economic growth is not simply the sum of static costs associated with individual interventions. Instead, the deterrent effect that intervention can have on knowledge growth and accumulation can induce considerable deceleration to an economy’s growth rate. Our results suggest that regulation has been a considerable drag on economic growth in the United States, on the order of 0.8 percentage points per year. Our counterfactual simulation predicts that the economy would have been about 25 percent larger than it was in 2012 if regulations had been frozen at levels observed in 1980. The difference between observed and counterfactually simulated GDP in 2012 is about $4 trillion, or $13,000 per capita.”

In another Mercatus Center post, Tyler Richards discusses the link between declining “business dynamism” and growth in regulation and lobbying activity. Richards measures dynamism by the rate of entry into industries with relatively high profit potential. This is consistent with the notion that regulation diminishes the rewards and demand for private capital, thus crowding out productive investment.

Regulation, Rent Seeking, and Misallocation

Some forms of regulation entail mandates or incentives for more private investment in specific forms of physical capital. Of course, that’s no consolation if those investments happen to be less productive than projects that would have been chosen freely in the pursuit of profit. This often characterizes mandates for alternative energy sources, for example, and mandated investments in worker safety that deliver negligible reductions in workplace injuries. Some forms of regulation attempt to assure a particular rate of return to the regulated firm, but this may encourage non-productive investment by incenting managers to “gold plate” facilities to capture additional cash flows.

Regulations may, of course, benefit the regulated in certain ways, such as burdening weaker competitors. If this makes the economy less competitive by driving weak firms out of existence, surviving firms may have less incentive to invest in their physical capital. But far worse is the incentive created by the regulatory state to invest in political and administrative influence. That’s the thrust of an essay by Wayne Brough in Real Clear Markets: “Political Entrepreneurs Are Crowding Out the Entrepreneurs“. The possibility of garnering regulations favorable to a firm reinforces  the destructive focus on zero-sum outcomes, as I’ve gone to pains to point out on this blog.

Crowding out takes still other forms: the growth of the welfare state and regulatory burdens tend to displace private institutions traditionally seeking to improve the lives of the poor and disenfranchised. It also disrupts incentives to work and to seek help through those private aid organizations. That is a subject addressed by James Whitford in “Crowding Out Compassion“.

Just Stop It!

President Trump has made some progress in slowing the regulatory trend. One example of the Administration’s efforts is the two-year-old Trump executive order demanding that two regulatory rules be eliminated for each new rule. Thus far, many of the discarded regulations had become obsolete for one reason or another, so this is a clean-up long overdue. Other inventive efforts at reform include moving certain agency offices out of the Washington DC area to locales more central to their “constituencies”, which inevitably would mean attrition from the ranks of agency employees and with any luck, less rule-making. The judicial branch may also play a role in defanging the bureaucracy, like this case involving the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau now before the Supreme Court. Unfortunately, tariffs represent taxation of consumers and firms who use foreign goods as inputs, so Trump’s actions on the regulatory front aren’t all positive.

Conclusion

The traditional macroeconomic view of crowding out involves competition for funds between government and private borrowers, higher borrowing costs, and reduced private investment in productive capital. The phenomenon can be couched more broadly in terms of competition for a wide variety of goods and services, including labor, leaving less available for private production and consumption. The growth of the regulatory state provides another piece of the crowding-out puzzle. Regulation imposes significant costs on private parties, including small businesses that can ill-afford compliance. The web of rules and reporting requirements can destroy the return on private capital investment. To the extent that regulation reduces the demand for financing, interest rates might not come under much upward pressure, as the traditional view would hold. But either way, it’s bad news, especially when the regulatory state seems increasingly unaccountable to the normal checks and balances enshrined in our Constitution.

Ideology and the Public School Monopoly

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I toured our local public high school not long ago after some renovations. It’s my old school and my kids attended there as well, though it’s been largely stripped of its old character. Our sweet tour guide, when asked about school security and whether any staff are armed, said no, and then proudly informed us that the temperament of the school was “pretty progressive”, and that sort of thing would not go over well. Later, as I stepped into the new library, I happened to notice a table right up-front intended to showcase several books. The first title I laid eyes on was “Social Justice”, a topic emphasizing all manner of grievances, current and historical, the identification of culpable parties (and their unworthy descendants), and presumed correctives. The latter include reparations, redistribution, control of speech, criminalization, and often shaming. At best, these correctives deliver palliatives to the aggrieved that must be forcibly extracted by the state from others, with little consideration for the predictably disastrous second-order effects they engender.

The prominent display of the social justice book and our tour guide’s attitude regarding security were unsurprising manifestations of the educational emphasis our kids get today: the public schools have become indoctrination camps. Of course, a good class in American history will leave no doubt about the injustices that have occurred in our nation over 250 years. There were many individual victims and many groups were victimized. We could say the same about a good class in European history, or the history of events in any region of the world. However, the social justice doctrine being peddled to our children today assigns blame for victimhood to anyone deemed not to be a victim, as well as the growth and very success of western civilization, including capitalism, this despite the unprecedented comforts available today across the socioeconomic spectrum. It’s as if the SJWs wish to convince our children that all economic gains are of the zero-sum variety.

The politicization of the curriculum in our schools is an extremely dangerous phenomenon. Many schools are banning literature, distorting history, subverting science in favor of politicized orthodoxy, and teaching social justice math“, which I’m sure is heavy on zero-sum word problems. And how about this “Run from the cop” worksheet given to first graders in a Pittsburgh school! Federal and state education authorities are taking an active hand in much of this. For example, a new ethnic studies curriculum for California high schools proposed by the state Department of Education takes a notably anti-Israel perspective. At the federal level, there is the Common Core initiative (and see here) which, in addition to educational inefficacy, is a source of many of the same concerns cited above. President Obama’s school discipline policy, heavy in its emphasis on “disparate impact”, was perhaps even more disastrous (and see here).

Social studies textbooks today are increasingly written by leftist authors who distort U.S. history, present anti-science viewpoints on environmental topics, and promote the divisive tenets of multiculturalism. The U.S. history covered in this prominent textbook is subject to a variety of left-wing biases, but it is not unique in that regard. And it’s not only a matter of bias in favor of collectivist philosophy and leftist interpretations of historical events. For example, it’s way over the top to teach public school children that Christians are bigots.

But God bless the teachers, many of whom are indeed wonderful people, and many of whom are very good at what they do (my daughter being a prime example!). There is little doubt, however, that leftism dominates the faculty in most public schools. John Hinderaker writes of the political activism practiced by the faculty at a high school in Edina, Minnesota, where lessons about “white privilege” are part of the curriculum even in the feeder schools. It’s a travesty that many of our nation’s public school teachers are products of university schools of education with extremely low academic standards relative to other academic divisions within those universities. And these schools of education have been thoroughly politicized. Needless to say, a good many of their graduates are easily cowed by the typical “feel-good”, free-lunch, social justice arguments made by the Left.

In a sense, these civil servants are a local counterpart to the army of federal bureaucrats sometimes known as the “deep state”. They are funded by taxpayers and are often represented by powerful unions. Under-performing teachers are difficult to dismiss, and they are able to exercise great discretion in the messages they deliver to students. As Darleen Click writes, “The ‘woke’ want your children“.

The leftist thrust of public education today descends from a long evolution shaped by “progressive” education reforms, and most reforms receiving attention within today’s education establishment fail to address the single biggest problem: the public school monopoly. That inattention is reinforced by attempts to maintain ideological purity among participants in the debate over school reform. Social studies teachers Mike Margeson and Justin Spears, writing for the Foundation for Economic Education on the motives for establishing public education, say the following about historical reforms:

The objective was to nationalize the youth in a particular mold. … From Luther to Fichte, the idea to use the coercive power of the state to force kids into schools and indoctrinate them was clear. Horace Mann became instrumental in importing this system and helping it spread throughout the United States.”

Breaking the public education monopoly is imperative to improving both the quality and cost of education. That means choice, in all it’s liberating glory. J.D. Tuccille has a great take on this issue: choice is the only way we can assure that our children are taught from a perspective that parents most prefer. Many parents know that they must take an active part in educating their children. That includes their role in selecting the school they believe will be best for their kids, as well as ongoing scrutiny of the school’s performance. A simple by-product of choice is that schools and their faculties might be more circumspect about shading their instruction with their own political agendas.

 

 

Another Flop at the Impeachment Playhouse

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Listen, President Trump drives me crazy. His policy instincts often strike me as dangerous: trade protectionist, inflationist, and cronyist. I’m still suspicious that he might play ball with statists left and right on critical issues, when and if he perceives a political advantage in doing so. And Trump is hopelessly inarticulate and belligerent. Nevertheless, I will almost certainly vote for him in 2020 for several reasons, not least because the feasible alternatives are completely unacceptable. That view is reinforced by the behavior of the Democrat party in their effort to fabricate “high crimes and misdemeanors” on Trump’s part. That effort is not just dishonest, it is foolish, and they have a lot to lose. Their machinations are likely to blow up in their faces.

For one thing, the Democrats don’t seem to have much of a case. This time they are focused on a May 2019 phone conversation that took place between Trump and the recently-elected Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy. The Democrats contend that Trump held up military aid in order to pressure Zelenskiy to investigate the Biden family’s activities in the Ukraine, a charge flatly denied by Zelenskiy. In fact, at the time of the call, the Ukrainians has no idea that military aid had been suspended, a fact first reported by The New York Times.

The Trump Administration released a transcript of the Zelenskiy call, which offers no evidence that a quid pro quo was offered by Trump. Even the text messages released this morning fail to support the claim. Joe Biden’s name came up during the call in connection with potential interference by the Ukraine in the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign. That’s reasonable in light of the events reported to have taken place, and it is certainly within the scope of presidential powers, as were Trump’s efforts to discuss election interference with Australia, the U.K., and other countries.

If you don’t know it already, a successful impeachment in the House of Representatives will not remove Trump from office. It will constitute a referral of charges to the Senate, which is controlled by Republicans, and a conviction requires a two-thirds majority. Ain’t gonna happen.

In the meantime, there really is no formal “impeachment” underway, despite what you think you’ve heard. This is a “proceeding” that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi really had no authority to initiate, and there is no set of rules or procedures guiding the spectacle. An impeachment investigation requires a House vote, but Democrats voted to table a resolution calling for such a vote because they really don’t want one, not yet anyway. Why? Because it would force them to go on record before they’re quite sure they want to, but more importantly it would demand due process for the accused. A House vote for an impeachment investigation would give House Republicans subpoena powers, something Democrats don’t want to take a chance on.

Again, the whole effort by the Democrats will ultimately be futile, and the trial proceedings in the Senate might be very ugly for them as well. It is likely to shed light on several matters that offer unflattering context for the impeachment effort and might well lead to criminal charges against prominent Democrats and their operatives:

These are all troubling questions that should be investigated. We may or may not get to the bottom of it before the impeachment vote in the House, if it ever occurs. Senate Republicans will undoubtedly be interested in pursuing many of these areas of inquiry, and Joe Biden will not come out of this unscathed. There is likely considerable evidence to support claims that he used political influence to gain his son Hunter favor in the Ukraine and China. 

This month, DOJ Inspector General Michael Horowitz is expected to release his report on the origins and conduct of the Russia investigation into Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign. including potential corruption of the FISA process. His report will reflect the findings of two U.S. attorneys conducting separate inquiries into various aspects of the matter. These reports are a potential disaster for Democrats. Perhaps the distraction of impeachment theatre seems desirable to them, but the longer they continue the fruitless effort to “get Trump”, which began well before he was elected, the more incompetent they look. They don’t seem to have noticed that the whole spectacle is strengthening Trump’s base of support.

Which brings me back to Trump’s belligerence, which I briefly decried above. And it’s true, I often wince, but then I often laugh out loud as well. His political opponents and the media are constantly aghast at his every unapologetic response to their attacks. I will readily admit that it’s deeply satisfying to witness him hurling the crap right back at them, right on the schnoz. In the case of the impeachment drama, his base of support and many others in the middle know the Dems richly deserve it.

 

The Leninists Among Us

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I suggested recently that the pursuit of zero-sum gains, and zero-sum thinking generally, is a form of social rot. How timely that Gary Saul Morson has offered this interesting essay on “Leninthink” in the October issue of The New Criterion. It validates my conviction that a zero-sum view of the world invites social brutalism and economic cannibalism. Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov, better known as Vladimir Lenin, was of course the first premier of the Soviet Union after the Bolshevik Revolution in 1917. His philosophy was a practical derivative of Marxism, a real-world implementation of a “dictatorship of the proletariat“. Morson describes Lenin’s view of social relations thusly:

Lenin regarded all interactions as zero-sum.To use the phrase he made famous, the fundamental question is always ‘Who Whom?’—who dominates whom, who does what to whom, ultimately who annihilates whom. To the extent that we gain, you lose. Contrast this view with the one taught in basic microeconomics: whenever there is a non-forced transaction, both sides benefit, or they would not make the exchange. For the seller, the money is worth more than the goods he sells, and for the buyer the goods are worth more than the money. Lenin’s hatred of the market, and his attempts to abolish it entirely during War Communism, derived from the opposite idea, that all buying and selling is necessarily exploitative. When Lenin speaks of ‘profiteering’ or ‘speculation’ (capital crimes), he is referring to every transaction, however small. Peasant ‘bagmen’ selling produce were shot.

Basic books on negotiation teach that you can often do better than split the difference, since people have different concerns. Both sides can come out ahead—but not for the Soviets, whose negotiating stance John F. Kennedy once paraphrased as: what’s mine is mine; and what’s yours is negotiable. For us, the word ‘politics’ means a process of give and take, but for Lenin it’s we take, and you give. From this it follows that one must take maximum advantage of one’s position. If the enemy is weak enough to be destroyed, and one stops simply at one’s initial demands, one is objectively helping the enemy, which makes one a traitor. Of course, one might simply be insane. Long before Brezhnev began incarcerating dissidents in madhouses, Lenin was so appalled that his foreign minister, Boris Chicherin, recommended an unnecessary concession to American loan negotiators, that he pronounced him mad—not metaphorically—and demanded he be forcibly committed. ‘We will be fools if we do not immediately and forcibly send him to a sanatorium.'”

The ruthlessness of Lenin’s mindset was manifested in his unwillingness to engage in rationalizations or even civil debate:

Lenin’s language, no less than his ethics, served as a model, taught in Soviet schools and recommended in books with titles like Lenin’s Language and On Lenin’s Polemical Art. In Lenin’s view, a true revolutionary did not establish the correctness of his beliefs by appealing to evidence or logic, as if there were some standards of truthfulness above social classes. Rather, one engaged in ‘blackening an opponent’s mug so well it takes him ages to get it clean again.’ Nikolay Valentinov, a Bolshevik who knew Lenin well before becoming disillusioned, reports him saying: ‘There is only one answer to revisionism: smash its face in!’

When Mensheviks objected to Lenin’s personal attacks, he replied frankly that his purpose was not to convince but to destroy his opponent. In work after work, Lenin does not offer arguments refuting other Social Democrats but brands them as ‘renegades’ from Marxism. Marxists who disagreed with his naïve epistemology were ‘philosophic scum.’ Object to his brutality and your arguments are ‘moralizing vomit.’ You can see traces of this approach in the advice of Saul Alinsky—who cites Lenin—to ‘pick the target, freeze it, personalize it.'”

This offers a useful perspective on why it’s so difficult to have civil discussions with leftists today. They have inherited versions of Lenin’s polemic style. You’re more likely to be verbally attacked by the Left than to be engaged in a productive exchange of ideas, as I’m constantly reminded by observing the behavior of SJWs on social media. Leftist retribution is swift. Glenn Reynolds has mused, “As the old saying has it, the left looks for heretics and the right looks for converts, and both find what they’re looking for.” That might be too optimistic!

The richest source of zero-sum gains is through the levers of government, which possesses the necessary coercive power to achieve that aim. When coercive power is so ruthlessly exercised, the appearance of loyalty to those in power becomes paramount for survival. This can make it necessary to display an outward acceptance of fanciful claims:

Lenin’s idea that coercion is not a last resort but the first principle of Party action. Changing human nature, producing boundless prosperity, overcoming death itself: all these miracles could be achieved because the Party was the first organization ever to pursue coercion without limits. In one treatise Stalin corrects the widespread notion that the laws of nature are not binding on Bolsheviks, and it is not hard to see how this kind of thinking took root. And, given an essentially mystical faith in coercion, it is not hard to see how imaginative forms of torture became routine in Soviet justice.

Dmitri Volkogonov, the first biographer with access to the secret Lenin archives, concluded that for Lenin violence was a goal in itself. He quotes Lenin in 1908 recommending ‘real, nationwide terror, which invigorates the country and through which the Great French Revolution achieved glory.'”

Morson provides this revealing quote from the madman Lenin himself:

The kulak uprising in [your] 5 districts must be crushed without pity. . . . 1) Hang (and I mean hang so that the people can see) not less than 100 known kulaks, rich men, bloodsuckers. 2) Publish their names. 3) Take all their grain away from them. 4) Identify hostages . . . . Do this so that for hundreds of miles around the people can see, tremble, know and cry . . . . Yours, Lenin. P. S. Find tougher people.”

At least today the Lefties try to dox people first, rather than #2. The hanging might have to come later.

There is a real danger in encouraging such zero-sum notions as redistribution and class warfare. Even today’s preoccupation with identity politics is one of zero-sum emphasis. Furthermore, the concepts of mass victimization and social justice promote a delusion of righteousness, a necessary precondition to the kind of monstrous acts of a Lenin. Anyone truly interested in promoting an atmosphere of social cooperation should recognize the echos of Leninism we see today from Leftists on social media and in the streets. These tyrants must be resisted before we’re all on the wrong side of the ultimate zero sum outcome.

Memes, Satire, and Deception

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Not long ago I wrote about how Snopes.com, the alleged “fact-checking” site, had become so politicized that its staff was rating posts on The Babylon Bee as false. Those posts were plainly written as satire. A related issue came to mind last weekend when I saw a meme on social media attributing the following statement to President Trump: “My crimes can’t be investigated while I’m president“. The meme used quote marks, but there was no link to a source.

It’s well known that Trump’s legal team contends that certain statements and actions he might take are protected by executive privilege and immunity. Given Trump’s frequent clumsy use of the language, I thought there was an outside chance that he DID say something like that! My uncertainty was ironic in the wake of my Snopes post! So I did a quick search and found an article in Vanity Fair headlined: Trump: My crimes can’t be investigated while I’m president, without quote marks. The opinion piece that followed was indeed a characterization of the Trump team’s legal strategy. The headline was obviously sarcasm and of course there was no attribution. Trump did not make any admission of criminal activity, contrary to the meme’s implication.

I knew the poster of the meme, whom I’ll call Dan, to be an individual who regards Trump with contempt, and certainly not the sort of guy who would bother to investigate the veracity of such a claim. Against my better judgement, I decided to tweak him a little. I asked if he could provide a source for the quote. He didn’t respond until late afternoon the next day, and not before one of his pals had attacked me for asking the question.

The crux of their defense was this: “It’s a meme! Don’t you know what a meme is?” There were other choice words from Dan’s pal… insults that is. The idea seems to be that memes can say anything and it’s okay if we say so. After all, they must think, people should know that such a misquote is fine because it illustrates the wrongheadedness of the Trump legal strategy… and Trump… via satire.

Do people know that it’s satire? No link. No source. Quote marks added. It was clearly intended to influence people, and I think it was intended to deceive as well. I’m not a Trump hater — more a critic of leftism having little choice other than Trump — but even I had to check on the quote! I’m pretty sure that lots of Trump haters and many non-haters would be duped. Not too many would bother to check, but at least a few did: I was surprised and delighted that Snopes rated the claim as false on Monday, and in a relatively straightforward way. Well, bully for Snopes!

Okay, the ridiculousness of it all! The idea that Trump would take ownership of alleged crimes, as in “my crimes”, an admission of guilt, is kind of funny, but mostly because it sounds like the kind of sloppy language he might have used. And of course people with a jaded view of Trump’s assertion of presidential powers might find the “quote” apropos. They should have their fun, but many of them know little about executive privilege, which is intended to protect the confidentiality necessary to carry out many presidential duties, or they give it short shrift, at least when a republican is in the White House. Less informed Trump detractors might be ready to accept the quote as fact without question.

What’s the difference between satire of the sort produced by The Babylon Bee and the fake quote? Again, posts from the Bee always link to its site, allowing immediate investigation for those who find the headline plausible. The story at the link always adds additional satire, usually so ridiculous that anyone should get the idea. But in case that’s not enough, the Bee clearly promotes itself as “Your Trusted Source For Christian News Satire“. Yes, the Bee has an edge and it is often political. It is designed to get a laugh, provoke thought, poke fun, and influence people. Some of the humor might be too close to the truth to suit observers on the Left, but perhaps that’s why it annoys them so much. Nevertheless, it is satire and it says so.

Humor has long been used as a political tool, but does good faith require some form of demarcation between purported facts and…  the joke? The problem is that many such distinctions must be understood from context, or at least from experience with the source. Cartoons are readily interpreted as humorous commentary. A comedian’s audience is generally under no misapprehension about the “facts” presented during the set. Parody and satire might or might not be billed as such. Much like a comedy club, the audience is probably uninterested in fact-checks. But what about internet memes? They often lack the context provided by a source. It’s still a relatively new form of commentary and an extremely effective means of spreading messages… and misinformation. People have an irrational tendency to believe things they see in print. Quote marks are meaningful, and they should lend legitimacy to a retelling of someone’s words.

Was the “quote” so outrageous that I should have known it was merely a sarcastic meme? Maybe not when the subject is Trump! Anyway, my real objective was to make sure before taking a little dig at Dan, the poster. I quickly concluded the intent of the meme’s creator involved deceit, and I still think so. It’s all too common, which is too bad, but let the social media user beware!

 

 

 

Doomsayers Batting Zero, Draft Kids To Cause

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Empiricists, take note: The kids were out in the streets on Friday, skipping school to warn us of a climate doomsday fast approaching. Like Greta Thunberg, one of several teenage girls billed as modern-day Cassandras, they just know it. But wait, I think I heard the same thing many years ago… doomsday is nigh! In fact, I’ve heard it over and over through my entire adulthood. And here’s the empirical regularity: “Goose Eggs: No Climate Doomsday Warning Has Come True“. Ever. From the link:

     “Some examples:

    • 1967 — Stanford … expert Paul Erlich predicted “time of famines” in 1975.
    • 1971 — A top NASA expert predicted an “ice age” by 2021.
    • 1988 — It was predicted that the Maldives would be under water by last year.
    • 2008 — Gore said the Arctic would be free of ice by 2013.
    • 2009 — [Prince] Charles said there was just 96 months left to save the world.”

Here are a few other warnings that haven’t panned out:

Within a few years ‘children just aren’t going to know what snow is.’ Snowfall will be ‘a very rare and exciting event.’” — Dr. David Viner, senior research scientist at the climatic research unit (CRU) of the University of East Anglia [March 2000]”

[By] 1995, the greenhouse effect would be desolating the heartlands of North America and Eurasia with horrific drought, causing crop failures and food riots…[By 1996] The Platte River of Nebraska would be dry, while a continent-wide black blizzard of prairie topsoil will stop traffic on interstates, strip paint from houses and shut down computers. — Michael Oppenheimer in 1990″

There have been many others (also see here and here). Oh, but you just wait, they say. This time it’s different  and it won’t be long!. You know, people just love to worry. Even so, what kind of daft world do we inhabit with children and adults completely freaked out about “problems” that don’t approximate reality.

Predictions of a more clinical variety, such as upward temperature trends, have been way off on a consistent basis: much too high, that is. But here’s the key: all of the other calamitous developments said to be in our future are predicated on those temperature forecasts. The warnings are not based on data per se, but on on crappy climate models (and see here), which are simplifications of reality, loosely calibrated to capture a relatively short period of historical records. And the models are crappy because they often rely on one input, CO2 forcings. The modelers have difficulty addressing the empirical sensitivity of temperature to carbon, the net effects of radiative forcing, clouds, and ocean circulation. In many prominent cases they don’t even try. Hey look, we’re all gonna die!

A striking misconception one hears repeatedly is that we experience many more hot days, and they are hotter, hot days than in the past. Sure, extremely hot days are bad, but not as bad as extremely cold days, and probably worse than warm nights. The truth is, however, that nearly all of the warming experienced over the past few decades has been in nighttime lows, not daytime highs. More “seasoned” climate alarmists don’t seem to have any memory of the hot days of their youth, and the kids… well, they just fell off the turnip truck, so they have no idea.

One of the great perversions of climate alarmism is the notion that the private enterprise system must be heavily regulated or even abolished in order to put an end to global warming. Never mind that governments are directly responsible for a major share of environmental degradation. And as private economies flourish, the environmental efficiency of production actually improves. In fact, if one were to stipulate that climate change is a problem, as I will for just this one sentence, vibrant capitalism offers the best path to environmental solutions. There are several basic reasons. One is that economic growth and higher income levels give consumers the wherewithal to demand and pay for costlier “green” products. More fundamentally, economic growth facilitates development and investment in cleaner technologies by business and government.

Miss Thunberg doesn’t understand any of this, of course, but she’s a pretty good little scold:

This is all wrong. I shouldn’t be up here. I should be back in school on the other side of the ocean, yet you come to us young people for hope. How dare you.”

Here’s Arthur Chrenkoff’s take on poor Thunberg and her message:

“[She] should be going to Beijing or Bangalore and staging her protests there instead of, or at least in addition to, Sweden or New York. She should be hounding President Xi and Prime Minister Modi about their shameful emissions. She should be leading throngs of Asian kids out of schools for her Friday student strikes. She should be castigating the industries and the consumers of the developing world for destroying the planet and killing humanity in the process. She should be doing all this if she were serious about the global nature of the problem.”

I especially like this quote from Scott Adams on the “child advocate” phenomenon we’re witnessing:

Adults sometimes like to use children to carry their messages because it makes it hard for the other side to criticize them without seeming like monsters. If adults have encouraged you to panic about climate change without telling you what I am telling you here, they do not have your best interests at heart. They are using you.

Of course, Thunberg is thoroughly propagandized and a useful theatrical tool for the alarmist establishment. She has made all sorts of ridiculous and unquestioned claims before the United Nations and elsewhere (e.g., people are dying from climate change (no); that she can “see” CO2 (okay, her mother said that, but what a hoot!). Don’t think for a second that “we have to listen to the children” is uttered sincerely by any adult climate alarmist. It’s manipulation. I feel sorry for Thunberg not least because she is probably deeply frightened about the climate, but also because she is a tool of a death cult.

You really can’t blame kids for being worried about bogeymen foisted upon them by foolish elders, but you can blame the adults for their own frightened acceptance of chicken-little climate augury. And that’s what the kids are being taught. The schools certainly won’t penalize them for missing classes. In fact, many of their teachers accompanied them to the protests.

The climate scare is part of a larger agenda to dismantle not just capitalism, but a host of innocent individual liberties. Scaring children and making teens into miserable pessimists will groom them as good (if neurotic) environmental soldiers for life. They’ll be fit as compliant subjects of a new, environmental fascist state, never to know the sweet freedom and growth possible without the needless bindings imposed by climate cranks. Children, the protection you’ve been told to demand isn’t necessary or worth it. You’re fighting for goose eggs!