Saturday, October 30, 2021

Played by Credentialism

"Back where I come from, we have universities, seats of great learning, where men go to become great thinkers. And when they come out, they think deep thoughts and with no more brains than you have. But they have one thing you haven't got: a diploma."
--Wizard of Oz (The Wizard of Oz)

In a society that values credentials, critical thought and reason will be prone to decline. A person with a degree, license, certification, etc is liable to be believed even if what they say is flat out wrong. Essentially, people outsource their brains to so-called experts. By not thinking for themselves, those people are likely to be played.

Proposition: The higher that a society values credentialism, the more that people will be misled by those with credentials.

Friday, October 29, 2021

Hard Left

A time to build up
A time to break down

--The Byrds

Two things seem increasingly clear about the actions of today's left. One is that they are trying to get away with whatever they can. Regardless of the law, they seek to jam thru their agendas and hope that, somehow, people will let them.

The other is that leftists seem focused on collapsing the system. Economic and social chaos appears to be their goal. It also seems apparent that they believe that they will emerge from the chaos as victors.

Thursday, October 28, 2021

Noble Lies

Col Nathan R. Jessep: You want answers?
Lt Daniel Kaffey: I want the truth!
Col Nathan R. Jessep: You can't handle the truth!

--A Few Good Men

Victor Davis Hanson discusses Plato's notion of the 'noble lie', i.e., belief that it is acceptable for public officials to lie to citizens when it is for the common good, in the context of the myriad examples we have witnessed recently.

We know that, to politicians, honesty is rarely considered best policy. But it is a folly of rationalization to believe that lying is in the public interest. 

Wednesday, October 27, 2021

Original Antigenic Sin

Lt A.T. Waters: For our sins
Sgt Ellis 'Zee' Pettigrew: Hooyah.
--Tears of the Sun

When a virus infects the body, white blood cells called B lymphocytes (a.k.a. B cells) imprint on specific virus proteins (a.k.a. antigens) presented to them. Subsequently, many of those B cells become 'memory B cells,' specializing in producing antibodies to combat those antigens. 

When different viral infections arrive in the future, memory B cells quickly pour forth antibodies that they learned to produce in the original case, essentially hogging areas around antibodies that slower moving naïve B-cells would use utilize to learn about new viral features. Although the immune system continues to adapt, it does so with 'path dependence.' Stated differently, immune system responses are shaped by the early stimuli that B cells encounter.

This is the central notion of original antigenic sin. Original virus infections during childhood govern antibody responses thereafter. 

The concept of original antigenic sin carries important implications. Different age cohorts in a population are likely to have overlapping or layered immunity to different viral strains. For example, children exposed to the swine flu develop immune responses that differ from a childhood cohort exposed to the Hong Kong flu. Consequently, different generations interlock to attenuate the influence of a particular pathogen.

One reason that flu shots lack effectiveness is that they may have limited power to redirect the adult immune systems against novel influenza strains since those immune systems have long since been primed along a different path by childhood infections.

The influence of original antigenic sin on vaccine effectiveness has been contested, however. Opponents point toward studies suggesting that all cause mortalities decline after administration of flu shots. Counter studies suggest that such research is subject to confounding variables that produce spurious relationships between flu shots and effectiveness.

To the extent that the theory of original antigenic sin is valid, it suggests ominous consequences for policies that encourage or require vaccines across large swaths of populations. Instead of layered, population-wide resistance to successive SARS-2 strains that are certain to evolve as the virus adapts to its environment, inoculating the majority of a population with a vaccine designed to combat narrow strains of the virus is likely to attenuate antibody responses to future variants. Most people will have their primary immune responses to SARS-2 conditioned to the spike protein of the vintage 2020 configuration, leaving them less adaptive capacity moving forward.

Vaccinating children would be particularly problematic. The virus is not a threat to them, and as they become naturally infected with future CV19 strains they will help the entire population develop the layered immunity essential to long term resistance to the virus. By narrowly conditioning childhood immune systems to current strains via the shot, these policies risk creating a perpetual pandemic state.

Of course, it is not outside the realm of possibility that this is precisely what some policymakers may have in mind.

Tuesday, October 26, 2021

Collectivist Preference

"Artistic value is achieved collectively by each man subordinating himself to the standard of the majority."
--Ellsworth Toohey (The Fountainhead)

What Buck Sexton observes might be called collectivist preference. Collectivist preference can be seen as a person' penchant for complying with group demands and norms. It can be tied to both social identity theory and to institutional theory.

It would be interesting to measure collectivist preference. In fact, this has almost certainly been done in cultural research, since it is long known that some countries behave more collectivistically than others.

On a scale of 1 (low) to 10 (high), how might collectivist preference be distributed across a population? How might it vary between populations? 

The events over the past 18 months make me wonder whether collectivist preference is stable or does it evolve over time? What factors might influence collectivist preference? 

My sense is that collectivist preference may be more fluid than expected.

Sunday, October 24, 2021

Fear Elicits Compliance

"And the truth is, there is something terribly wrong with this country, isn't there? Cruelty and injustice. Intolerance and oppression. And where once you had the freedom to object, you now have censors and systems of surveillance coercing your conformity and soliciting your submission. How did this happen? Who's to blame? Well, certainly there are those who are more responsible than others, and they will be held accountable. But again, truth be told, if you're looking for the guilty, you need only look into a mirror. I know why you did it. I know your were afraid. Who wouldn't be? War, terror, disease. There were a myriad of problems which conspired to corrupt your reason and rob you of your common sense. Fear got the best of you."
--V (V for Vendetta)

The Nazis were not the first to understand this principle. Authoritarians since the beginning of socialized man have known it.

Fear elicits compliance.

Thursday, October 21, 2021

Defending Shortages

Arthur Castus: What is his punishment for? Answer me!
Ganis: He defied our master, Marius. Most of the food we grow is sent out by sea to be sold. He asked that we keep a little more for ourselves, that's all. My ass has been snappin' at the grass, I'm so hungry!

--King Arthur

Transportation secretary defends widespread shortages, claiming that they are a product of a strong economy. Textbook central planner rationalization. 

The truth is that prolonged shortages occur only when markets are not permitted to freely function. In unhampered markets, increased demand motivates producers to increase prices. Higher prices signal opportunity to producers, who subsequently increase production rates and, in some cases, add capacity so that higher demand is met with more supply. 

Shortages persist if this process is impaired. If prices are not permitted to rise, or if producers are restrained from increasing supply (through, for example, regulations that slow supply chain activities), then demand continues to outstrip supply and shelves go bare. 

Those who defend shortages are typically the people who create them.

Wednesday, October 20, 2021

Specialization and Adaptive Strategies

If I go there will be trouble
If I stay it will be double

--The Clash

Last time we discussed the relationship between specialization and the external environment. Essentially, the higher the degree of uncertainty in the external environment, the lower the appropriate level of specialization. 

How can producers manage the tradeoff between productivity and adaptability inherent in specialized work? Two strategies seem plausible--both involving reduced degrees of specialization (or higher degrees of diversification) as uncertainty increases. 

The first strategy we'll call static diversification. The concept parallels portfolio theory in finance, except that instead of a portfolio of securities, producers deal with a 'task portfolio.' The narrower the task portfolio, the fewer the skills and the more specialized the portfolio.

In certain environments, task portfolios should be very narrow so that producers can reap the productivity benefits of specialization without concern for having to alter the portfolio to cope with environmental change. 

However, in uncertain settings, producers must spread it around, investing in various skills to hedge risk that some skills will be obsoleted by disruptive change. By embracing the adage of not putting all eggs in one basket, producers operate in various lines of work and perhaps in various markets so that they are not dependent on one specific skill set. This variety improves adaptive capacity.

How much static diversification is necessary? Returning to our core proposition that degree of specialization is inversely proportional to level of environmental uncertainty, the more turbulent and uncertain external contexts are, then the more diversified the task portfolio should be.

The second strategy is dynamic diversification. Using this strategy, producers broaden their task portfolios with learning skills that allow them to quickly adapt to changing environments. Ability to sense change, skill in new product and process development, and prowess in organizational change management all constitute 'dynamic capabilities' (Teece et al., 1997) that can be developed or acquired to improve adaptive capacity.

Such dynamic skills may not be directly useful in the production of output for today's market. Instead, they constitute resources that enable timely reconfiguration of production for tomorrow's markets. 

Because payoff associated with dynamic diversification is often delayed--perhaps for extended periods of time, managers may be reluctant to invest in it, preferring instead the immediate and visible fruits of static diversification. On the other hand, due to its potential for quickly shaping new, relevant skills when environments change, dynamic diversification may tie up smaller fractions of an overall task portfolio in diversification--allowing producers to specialize more in the here and now--and reap the associated productivity benefits.

So, if both static and dynamic diversification strategies are both viable approaches for dealing with the productivity/adaptability tradeoffs of specialization in uncertain settings, then which one is more preferable? Perhaps the better way to ask the question is this: Under what situations are static or dynamic diversification preferable?

That, my friends, constitutes an interesting research question--one that scholarship will hopefully help us answer at some point in the future.


Teece, D.J., Pisano, G., & Shuen, A. (1997). Dynamic capabilities and strategic management. Strategic Management Journal, 18(7): 509-533.

Tuesday, October 19, 2021

Jacobson's Ladder

Coming over the airwaves
The man says I'm overdue
Sing along, send some money
Join the chosen few

--Huey Lewis & the News

Those in favor of vaccination mandates believe that a convincing legal precedent exists for vaccination by command. Jacobson v. Massachusetts was a 1905 Supreme Court case that upheld a state law requiring inoculation for smallpox.

However, the central issue in the Jacobson case was whether a state legislature could enact compulsory public health laws. Today's vaccination mandates have not been the products of legislation. Rather, they have been issued by edict and executive order. Under the Guarantee Clause of the Constitution, only laws enacted by state legislature, not by gubernatorial commands, are lawful

Jacobson was also decided before a series of important rulings shaped jurisprudence regarding personal privacy and bodily integrity. 

Privacy doctrine was initially motivated by a dissent. In Olmstead v. United States (1928), the Supreme Court upheld the wiretapping of phone calls without a search warrant since, in the court's view, there was no expectation of privacy on phone calls (recall that back then there were party lines and manually operated switchboards). Justice Louis Brandeis disagreed, arguing that the framers of the Constitution "sought to protect Americans in their beliefs, their thoughts, their emotions and their sensations. They conferred, as against the government, the right to be left alone--the most comprehensive of rights and the right most valued by civilized men."

Brandeis' dissent resonated with a judicial minority until Griswold v. Connecticut (1965), when the Supreme Court recognized personal privacy as a fundamental liberty. Building on Brandeis' rationale, the court invalidated a state law that prohibited the use of contraceptives by married couples, ruling that the decision to use contraceptives was a private matter outside of government reach.

Eight years later, Roe v. Wade drove a stake though Jacobson's heart by upholding the privacy rights of people to decide which medical procedures to undergo (although Roe catastrophically failed to recognize similar rights of unborn children in the womb). 

State courts began to embrace parallel lines of judicial thought. In the case of In re Quinlan (1976), the Supreme Court of New Jersey upheld the right of the parents of Kathleen Ann Quinlan, her legal guardians, to deny their comatose daughter artificial life-sustaining procedures. Following Quinlan, all states have recognized the fundamental right of sick people, directly or through their guardians, to reject medication and medical procedures.

Today, both federal and state courts acknowledge that individuals can decide for themselves what medications to take or what medical procedures are right for them. Decision-makers have a natural, moral, and constitutional right over their bodies. Moreover, these decisions are made in privacy and are none of the government's business.

Those citing Jacobson as a legal basis for mandating vaccines are ignorant of the 20th century jurisprudence that contradicts them.

Snaps to Judge Nap for the history lesson.

Sunday, October 17, 2021

Censored Silence

And in the naked light I saw
Ten thousand people, maybe more
People talking without speaking
People hearing without listening
People writing songs that voices never share
No one dared
Disturb the sound of silence

--Simon & Garfunkel

The VAERS system suggests significant side effect profiles for CV19 vaccines. In the past, the volume and variety of adverse events such as these would be enough to at least temporarily sideline a vaccine until the data could be better understood.

Not so this time. Not only are the media ignoring the problems...

But professional associations and journals are suppressing studies that report negative findings using VAERS data:

To any reasoning mind, this raises more red flags involving CV19 vaccines and motivations behind their promotion.

Saturday, October 16, 2021


Always slipping from my hands
Sand's a time of its own
Take your seaside arms and write the next line
Oh, I want the truth to be known

--Spandau Ballet

The Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS) collects information about possible side effects of vaccines following their administration. VAERS is a passive reporting system, relying on both patients and health care providers to file reports of their experiences. Health care providers are legally required to report adverse events that fall within specified parameters. In addition, vaccine producers are required to report all adverse effects that come to their attention.

Its design exposes VAERS data to inaccuracies. Vaccine side effects might be under-reported if experiences are not submitted. On the other hand, problems could be over-reported if the system if abused. To reduce potential for error, VAERS screens submitted reports before accepting them. Moreover, knowingly filing a false report is a violation of federal law punishable by fine and imprisonment.

Despite its warts, the VAERS system has nonetheless been institutionalized as a mechanism for warning about vaccine efficacy and safety problems. Given concerns about the technological foundations of CV19 vaccines, it should come as no surprise that VAERS data have been the subject of scrutiny.

Current VAERS data indeed suggest significant side effect profiles of CV19 vaccines. Nearly 800,000 adverse effect reports have been recorded. Included in those side effects are nearly 17,000 vaccine-related deaths. Other adverse events related to the vaccines, including hospitalizations, allergic reactions, miscarriages, heart attacks, and paralysis number in the hundreds of thousands. 

While the accuracy of VAERS reports can be questioned due to the information collection limitations, what can't be disputed is that adverse event counts since the advent of CV19 vaccines are many orders of magnitude higher than those obtained from prior reports.

Just as curious has been the response, or lack of response, to recent VAERS data by the media and by medical and public health professionals. We'll discuss this more soon.

Friday, October 15, 2021

Specialization and Uncertainty

Do you remember
When you got your lucky break?
You're looking back now
And it seems like a mistake

--John Waite

In previous missives we discussed the benefits and risks associated with specialized work. Specialization promotes higher productivity through learning by doing and lower switching costs. Fully realizing these benefits requires free trade with other specialists in order to satisfy each producer's spectrum of needs. If trade is restricted, then some needs will go unmet--unless producers diversify into multiple lines of work, thereby reversing in full circle fashion the productivity gains from specialization.

Specialized producers also face elevated risk of obsolescence compared to more diversified producers. Due to technological change, competition, or evolving consumer tastes, particular lines of work may, at some point in time, no longer be necessary. Because specialized work typically requires commitments such as expensive schooling, investment in expensive narrow purpose equipment, and engrained work routines, adapting to changing environments can be difficult.

How can producers manage the risks associated with specialization? 

First, let's note the crucial role that the environment--particularly environmental uncertainty--plays in answering this question. While many conceptualizations of environmental uncertainty have been developed, an important one in our context involves what is called state uncertainty. Specifically, environmental uncertainty can be seen as the extent to which current or future states of the world can be understood or predicted. When events are understood or foreseen with less clarity, then environments are said to be more uncertain.

The central proposition for our purposes can be stated as follows:

Proposition: The higher the level of environmental uncertainty, the lower the appropriate level of specialized work.

If environments are completely certain and predictable, then high levels of specialization are appropriate. There is little risk of change, or at least surprise change, that could not be anticipated in ways that would place specialized producers in vulnerable positions.

As uncertainty increases, however, so does vulnerability. Due to the irreversibility of their production commitments, specialized producers may be incapable of responding to unforeseen events or conditions in a timely manner, thereby threatening their adaptability to changing conditions.

Consequently, degree of specialization should go down as level of environmental uncertainty goes up.

But what implications does the relationship between specialization and uncertainty have on production planning and work design? What strategies are available to producers that allow them to be as productive as possible--while maintaining adaptive capacity essential for coping with uncertainty?

We'll discuss next time.

Thursday, October 14, 2021

Walking Away

Here comes Johnny and he'll tell you a story
Hand me down my walkin' shoes
Here comes Johnny with the power and the glory
Backbeat the talkin' blues

--Dire Straits

In Ayn Rand's classic Atlas Shrugged, protagonist John Galt and producers like him decide to leave the system rather than continuing to operate in oppressive authoritarian environments full of regulations and other restrictions.

As authoritarianism continues to escalate under current political regimes, workers in many industries (e.g., here, here, here) are emulating Galt. They are walking away from workplaces governed by rules, mandates, and ultimatums that they find distasteful.

What happens to an economy if enough workers hit the Galtean silk? Rand crafts a fictional scenario

Bluff in a game of chicken? Temporary or permanent? We may soon find out, as a real life, large scale version of the Galtean walk is playing out before our very eyes.

Wednesday, October 13, 2021


Hundred dollar car note
Two hundred rent
A get a check on Friday
But it's already spent

--Huey Lewis & the News

The Social Security Administration has announced that recipients will receive a 5.9% increase in benefits in 2022. This cost of living adjustment (COLA) amounts to the largest annual increase in almost 40 years.

One reason why government measures of price inflation are absurdly manipulated (i.e., under-reported) is to minimize payouts that are subject to COLAs. If price changes were measured accurately, then the government would be on the hook for $trillions more in COLA payments.

The large benefit increase demonstrates that this administration is having a hard time keeping the lid on the low or 'transitory' inflation narrative. It knows that if it tried to tell millions of retirees that cost of living is not as high as they think it is, then it would be one more reason to vote leftists out of office.

By increasing the COLA to retirees, Democrats hope to buy votes or, more accurately, to bribe voters.

Tuesday, October 12, 2021


Somebody once told me the world is gonna roll me
I ain't the sharpest tool in the shed
She was looking kind of dumb with her finger and her thumb
In the shape of an 'L' on her forehead

--Smash Mouth

Hard not to find a kernel of truth in this observation.

Reasoning minds across the globe have been bothered by what has transpired over the past 18-20 months. Conclusions drawn by policymakers and their lackeys defy logic as well as empirical evidence.

The obvious question: Can these people really be this stupid?

Sunday, October 10, 2021

Sick Out Shutdowns

All my bags are packed
It's time to go
I'm standing here
Outside your door

--John Denver

Reports growing of 'sick outs' in protest of vaccine mandates. Hospitals, education, transportation companies.

This matters most in organizations that provide services. In contrast to the manufacture of tangible goods where production is commonly paced by machinery, the primary factor of production in service operations is generally people. Generally, the more workers in a service operation, the greater the amount of output that can be produced.

We noted this more than a month ago when hospital workers began hitting the silk. Less people mean lower capacity. Lower capacity means less output.

Less output means disruptions and shortages.

Friday, October 8, 2021

Authoritarian Truth

They like to get you in a compromising position
They like to get there and smile in your face
They think they're so cute when they got you in that position
Well I think it's a total disgrace

--John Cougar Mellencamp

In the Road to Serfdom, Hayek wrote that in totalitarian countries, 'truth' is not determined by logic, reason, or the scientific method. Instead, truth is announced by 'authorities'--authorities connected to government.

These announcements are claimed to constitute 'the consensus.'

The citizenry is told to accept the consensus truth...or else.

Hayek understood then what we are coming to understand now.

Thursday, October 7, 2021

Chaos, Collapse, and Control

"I can feel it!"
--Jack Godell (The China Syndrome)

People seem incredulous that leftists truly understand the consequences of the policies that they are enacting or trying to enact. "Don't they understand that they are creating economic and social chaos?" they ask.

Chaos is the natural endpoint to socialism, of course. But why invite it?

My answer is that leftists want chaos. They believe if the system collapses, then they can build back better.

A fair follow-up question is, "How can leftists be so sure that they will be able to gain control of a chaotic situation?"

There would need to be lots of players in the cast, of course. Increasingly, however, I think one cast member is essential. Without this player, the left could not gain control over a collapsing system.

That's why lovers of liberty must keep eyes on China.

Wednesday, October 6, 2021

Decision or Dictatorship?

No more running down the wrong road
Dancing to a different drum
Can't you see what's going on
Deep inside your heart?

--Michael McDonald

The author captures the ideological divide between freedom lovers and totalitarians pretty well near the end of his article. Americans traditionally believe that what individuals freely decide will be good for society.

Totalitarians, however, believe the reverse. Government dictates what is good for society. The well being of individuals then follows.

Where do you come down? How does society progress: through freedom of decision, or via dictatorship?

Tuesday, October 5, 2021

Dollars to Dust

It slips away
And all your money won't another minute buy


The Coinage Act of 1792 established the US dollar as the the standard unit of money in the United States. For nearly a century and a half, the value of the US dollar remained relatively constant.

1800 $1 PCGS F12 CAC

That all changed in 1913 with the passage of the Federal Reserve Act. The act instituted the Federal Reserve as the central bank of the United States. Since the Fed was created, the value of the dollar has consistently declined.

From the above graph, observe that the USD has been so debased that it is impossible to detect just where on the purchasing power scale we are vs 1913. 

Cause and effect. The Fed and inflation. Dollars to dust.  

Monday, October 4, 2021

Deference to Experts

I'll get all my papers
And smile at the sky 
For I know that the hypnotized
Never lie

--The Who

What unquestioning deference to experts looks like.

Reliance on the learned ignoramus leads to being misled and, ultimately, to tyranny.

Don't be duped. God has blessed you with a brain. With it, you can develop functional expertise on any matter.