Twigs and branches

by John Quiggin on August 14, 2021

Another open thread, where you can comment on any topic. Moderation and standard rules still apply. Lengthy side discussions on other posts will be diverted here. Enjoy!

{ 22 comments }

1

MisterMr 08.14.21 at 7:21 am

So I’m on holiday on the beach, and it’s hot, it’s freaking hot.

It seems that it’s the hottest summer on record.

It seems that a lot of places are on fire.

This is a problem.

2

nastywoman 08.14.21 at 9:21 am

@1
‘This is a problem’.

YES!
This is the worst problem we ALL have right now –
(besides fighting the Anti-Vaxxers)

So we are trying to make sure that the Right-Wing Racist Science Denying Idiots –
of this world –
won’t be able anymore from stopping US fighting the Climate Crisis!

3

nastywoman 08.14.21 at 9:30 am

AND how about a US comedian telling US

Jimmy Kimmel
@jimmykimmel
11h
“there are “zero ICU beds left for children” At what point does reason prevail? Texas hospitals are facing a COVID-19 disaster. Gov. Abbott must act.

A ‘COMEDIAN’!

4

Ray Vinmad 08.14.21 at 12:17 pm

I agree with you, MisterMr.

Just putting in a request for Crooked Timber to discuss crytocurrency.

This is related to climate change since mining crypto apparently uses the same amount of fossil fuel as the nation of Indonesia.

I wonder why governments do not regulate crypto more given that their currency seems tied to their sovereignty/power.

Also–haven’t we already seen what a disaster it is to allow technologies to get an enormous foothold without prior regulation? Once they have deep roots they are almost impossible to regulate.

But perhaps crypto has already been discussed by CT! It just seems like you the dream team of commenters to take it on. But perhaps it is an intimidating subject given the technological aspects. I do not think anyone should be scared off by technological developments that affect one’s life though.

5

Seekonk 08.14.21 at 3:16 pm

It looks like the endgame in Afghanistan will resemble the settlement that Russia reached with the fundies in Chechnya, where the Kadyrov family was in effect granted an hereditary emirate in return for giving up terrorism and extra-territorial proselytization.

The US campaign in Afghanistan has been a success for one important stakeholder in addition to the Taliban. It has generated countless billions in profits for the military industrial complex.

6

John Quiggin 08.15.21 at 2:19 am

Ray @4 If you search on Bitcoin, you’ll find a string of posts, mostly by me, denouncing it as a waste of energy and general scam.

7

John Quiggin 08.15.21 at 2:22 am

@Seekonk Thanks for this. I was wondering how things had turned out in Chechnya, which seemed like a somewhat comparable case.

8

Chetan Murthy 08.15.21 at 7:52 am

Seekonk: The Taliban in Afghanistan are a creature of the Pakistani ISI. They’re the ones calling the shots, not the US. And they are not US allies. They may pretend to be, for the purpose of sucking down US subsidies, but they really aren’t our allies. The US has no control over what happens in Afghanistan.

9

Fake Dave 08.15.21 at 10:47 am

I think it’s pretty early to say what Afghanistan’s future will look like aside from the obvious death-knell of the current government. It’s doubtful the Taliban can truly rule all the diverse provinces of Afghanistan or that the outside world will let them consolidatetheir rule unmolested. Years of bloody civil war seems likely. Whatever peace they build will be the false calm of a population living in terror like Asad’s Syria and their government is likely to be equally marked by paranoia, brutality, and false bravado.

The years-long attempts to negotiate a settlement with the Taliban now look like a sham that the last three US administrations were complicit in propping up because they wanted the credit for ending an unpopular war. We can’t blame Trump for the Biden administration’s decision to continue his withdrawal despite a massive Taliban offensive, however. Trump’s diplomacy was lousy, to be sure, but Democrats will have to reckon with their role in utterly abandoning a country that was supposed to be under our protection these last twenty years.

I’m a pacifist and never supported foreign military adventures, but I feel nothing but disgust for the way this withdrawal has been handled. I suspect a lot of peacenicks feel the same way even if they are still struggling to express it. The conservatives and gleeful warmongers, on the other hand, will be happy to let Democrats and the peace movement take the blame for losing a war we never wanted in the first place. They somehow blame us for losing Vietnam under Nixon. This time they might even have a point.

10

roger gathmann 08.15.21 at 4:31 pm

Hey, afganistan anyone? Im wondering what rational choice international relations peeps are learning from this war. Is it a mistake, say, to allow an airlift of your supposed enemy’s high command to secure territory outside of the country you are supposedly taking over whilst financing their patrons, or was that an oopsy? More seriously, twenty years of a mistake that anybody with eyes could already see,in November 2001 – has American credibility been damaged? Cause that American credibility – it is the greatest thing ever that we all should bow down to every day. A lot of people say, this is Biden’s disaster – surely we coulda spent another trillion for five more years? I’m wondering what the thumbsuckers say.

11

LFC 08.15.21 at 7:05 pm

@ Seekonk

1) It wd be more accurate to refer to the U.S. and NATO campaign in Afghanistan.

2) The Chechnya comparison may be premature, since we don’t know yet whether the Taliban, shd they take power, will adhere to their promises re al-Qaeda etc.

3) another “stakeholder” who benefited, perhaps temporarily, from the U.S./NATO campaign was Afghan women and girls.

12

Bob 08.16.21 at 3:39 am

John @6. I share your views on Bitcoin. But what are your views on why it is taking so long for the house of cards to collapse? Someone (Keynes?) said something to the effect that the market can remain irrational longer than you (the short seller) can remain solvent. So is this just normal for bubbles? Is this like the guys in “The Big Short,” who bet against US real estate before the crash, and almost went broke when their (correct) view took far longer than they expected to materialize?

13

MisterMr 08.16.21 at 5:28 am

@Bob 12

I propose that Bitcoin is like gold: fundamentally useless, however as people have more money they want to save than the market wants to invest in new productive capital goods, various stores of value are used, like gold, bitcoin or Picasso paintings.

14

john burke 08.16.21 at 6:23 am

First class accommodations on the Costa Brava or in the Algarve will surely be found for Mr. Ghani and entourage. Hotelkeepers however would be well-advised to count the silver before the party checks out.

15

John Quiggin 08.16.21 at 7:07 am

@12 The Keynes quote is apocryphal, but accurate. Bubbles and Ponzis can last for a long time

@13 Gold is useful, its properties make it ideal for jewellery (also a bunch of industrial uses, but that’s secondary). The fact that it’s used as a store of value makes it scarcer and therefore more valuable, but the price reflects the use value. Compare silver, which is no longer part of the monetary system but remains valuable. In this context, the fact that jewellery or Picasso paintings are useful in the sense of being essential to survival is entirely irrelevant. Jumping ahead to another question: fiat money is valuable if and only if there is a government that will accept it as payment for taxes.

16

J-D 08.16.21 at 8:50 am

Gold is useful, its properties make it ideal for jewellery (also a bunch of industrial uses, but that’s secondary).

It’s useful, therefore, as long as and to the extent that people want jewellery. Of course, people do want jewellery, even though I am not one of them. Anything that people do actually want is useful, even if it’s not essential.

Jumping ahead to another question: fiat money is valuable if and only if there is a government that will accept it as payment for taxes.

Banknotes issued by the Confederate States of America being an interesting example; also the currencies issued during the Second World War by the Slovak Republic and the Independent State of Croatia.

17

Peter T 08.16.21 at 10:02 am

“fiat money is valuable if and only if there is a government that will accept it as payment for taxes.”
The money supply does (and always has) included issues by commercial banks and other private enterprises. Money is valuable (as is gold) if there is someone who will accept it as payment. If a government will not accept it but lots of others do, it remains valuable. The banknotes issued by the individual confederate states became worthless, but those issued by banks in these states retained their value (so long as the banks remained solvent – which I suppose many did not).

18

MisterMr 08.16.21 at 1:22 pm

@ John Quiggin 15

How can you prove (or simply deduce) that the price of gold depends on its utility? Real question: the relationship between price and use value is super dubious, se the water-diamond paradox.
I think it is much more logical to believe that people use gold for jewels because it is expensive so they can show off, that is the use as store of value is precedent to the “utility”.

Also neither silver, nor gold, nor bitcoins nor Picasso paintings are really a form of money: money is an option as a store of value but speculative goods are another.
Up to 2008 houses were clearly used as store of value/ speculative good.

The difference between money and stuff like bitcoins is that money is used as a unit of measure of prices (taxes are one example, but also wages, debt etc).
Think to the problem for someone who has contracted a debt denominated in bitcoins, or for my employer if my wage was legally determined in bitcoins: they would go bankrupt the first time bitcoins have a big jump of value.

So what prevents bitcoins from becoming an actual form of money is that their value can go up a lot, not that they might lose value, although bitcoin enthusiasts generally see things from the point of view of the creditor so they don’t see the problem.

If we compare bitcoins with the old gold standard, what broke the gold standard was deflation, that means that the value of gold went up, not down (as gold was the notional unit of measure).

19

notGoodenough 08.16.21 at 4:36 pm

I am having trouble submitting this – perhaps it is a question of size. Once again!

Part 1 of 3

Sadly, I did not see GG’s comment on the “Zywicki vs Wade” thread until after comments closed. With apologies to everyone for raising the topic here again, but as I believe it made several unreasonable comments with respect to my stated position, I will respond here:

GG @ 53, link to this comment ref [1]

Firstly, I will reiterate again just how frustrating I find it that you argue that this is a matter of autonomy without discussing exactly what that autonomy is in this specific case.

Here, for the sake of this discussion, is the burden we are discussing – taken from Zywicki’s WSJ opinion piece:

“But now my employer, a state institution, is requiring Covid vaccines. In my case, vaccination is unnecessary and potentially risky. My only other options are to teach remotely or to seek a medical exemption that would require me to wear a mask, remain socially distanced from faculty or students during, say, office hours, and submit to weekly testing.”[2]

So, just to be clear here (since you repeatedly fall back to generalities rather than discussing the actual situation):

To the best of my knowledge, Zywicki is not required to have a vaccine.

To the best of my knowledge, Zywicki is not required to have a vaccine or risk his job.

Instead, to the best of my knowledge, Zywicki (according to him, as the University has not commented) is required to have a vaccine, or instead “teach remotely or to seek a medical exemption that would require wearing a mask, remaining socially distanced from faculty or students during, say, office hours, and submitting to weekly testing”.

Now it is by no means clear to me that that this is in fact the case (it is possible, for example, that Zywicki might be overstating the requirements for in-person teaching absent a vaccine), but I will take Zywicki at his word here and assume that the burden is as he describes.

Certainly, one can argue that “remote teaching” or “wearing a mask/etc. while teaching in-person” are non-trivial burdens to have to put up with. One can argue these may well make his job more difficult, and perhaps even impact his teaching ability. One may, if one wishes to, even argue to what extent these restrictions may be justifiable and what measures would best balance burden vs benefit.

But, if you wish to argue that his autonomy is being violated and his dignity abridged, I think you have to make it clear that this is with respect to Zywicki’s desire to not be fully vaccinated and to avoid both remote teaching and the burdens associated with in-person teaching.

Given your constant analogies to abortion bans and forced medical procedures, it seems to me that you are being incredibly careless with respect to what this vaccine mandate is, hence some of my remarks (see next comment).

“I had to stop and think awhile about this objection, but I’m going to hold my ground because I think that in some ways this is the heart of the issue. I treat it as axiomatic that a preference for bodily autonomy is the (defeasible) default choice for such situations. I’m a little surprised I’m having to raise that here at CT; isn’t that basically the crux of the (moral) argument underpinning the right to abortion?”

Here, again, is what I said: “to oppose a vaccine mandate must surely require calculation that the burdens outweigh the benefits to society”.

Here, again, is the degree to which autonomy is being abridged: “vaccinate, or teach remotely or seek a medical exemption, wear a mask, etc.”.

I do not accept your implication that the position you take is predicated on an axiomatic preference for “bodily autonomy”, because the degree of autonomy being abridged here is the autonomy “to not be vaccinated, and additionally not have to teach remotely or seek a medical exemption, wear a mask, etc.”. I would not classify this as “bodily autonomy”, but rather “how you may behave when interacting with others due to personal choices”.

If you wish to argue that your position needs no justification as it is an axiomatic preference for “bodily autonomy”, then I will now expect you to explain exactly how “vaccinate, or teach remotely or seek a medical exemption, wear a mask, etc.” is a breach of bodily autonomy in the way you imply – i.e. comparable to “an abortion ban”.

It seems to me you are trying to conflate two very different things – namely “bodily autonomy” (e.g. the right to not get a vaccination) with “consequences resulting from how you choose to exercise autonomy” (e.g. upon deciding not to get a vaccination, to face restrictions such as having to teach remotely or wear a mask).

Because, to reiterate, the discussion was about the vaccine mandate – and as far as I can tell, Zywicki would still have “bodily autonomy” (he would not be required to vaccinate), but there would be consequences (he would have to teach remotely or seek a medical exemption, wear a mask, etc.). If you believe that this is not a reasonable framing, and that the vaccine mandate breaches “bodily autonomy” in a way which is comparable to “an abortion ban” or “forced medical procedures”, as you appear to be claiming, then I certainly do think you have to justify that.

20

notGoodenough 08.16.21 at 5:38 pm

GG @ 53 [Ref 1], I originally had a much longer comment which I have been unable to post. Rather than go through point-by-point again, I will try to summarise my objections to your remarks in a much briefer way.

Point 1

We (as in you and I specifically) were discussing the “vaccine mandate”. Here, as you seem to be reluctant to acknowledge this, is the actual burden being imposed (according to Zywicki’s WSJ opinion piece [Ref 2]):

“But now my employer, a state institution, is requiring Covid vaccines. In my case, vaccination is unnecessary and potentially risky. My only other options are to teach remotely or to seek a medical exemption that would require me to wear a mask, remain socially distanced from faculty or students during, say, office hours, and submit to weekly testing.”

To the best of my knowledge, Zywicki is not required to have a vaccine, nor is he in danger of losing his job should he refuse a vaccine. Instead, Zywicki (according to him, as the University has not commented) is required to have a vaccine, or instead “teach remotely or to seek a medical exemption that would require wearing a mask, remaining socially distanced from faculty or students during, say, office hours, and submitting to weekly testing”.

Everything I have argued previously is predicated on this basis – namely, we are discussing “restrictions in behaviour absent a vaccine”, and not “forcible vaccination”. I have made that repeatedly clear – both by explicitly stating this repeatedly in my previous comment [Ref 3] and this one, and by implying it due to the analogies I employed. Please note this for future discussion.

Point 2

Given Point 1, I strongly object to your framing this as a question of “bodily autonomy”. Again, we are talking (as I noted in my previous comment [Ref 3]) about autonomy with respect to vaccination andentering spaces without restrictions on his behaviour. That second part is key here – please stop ignoring it.

To me, this is not about “autonomy with respect to vaccination” at all – but rather autonomy and subsequent consequences for that choice (i.e. “vaccination, or teach remotely or seek a medical exemption, wear a mask, etc.”).

I don’t view this as “bodily autonomy” (Zywicki has the freedom to vaccinate or not) but rather a question about what the consequences resulting from that choice may reasonably be (in this case, having to teach remotely or seek a medical exemption, wear a mask, etc.). If you do think that this vaccine mandate is a question of bodily autonomy, I think you have to make that case rather than merely assert it.

Point 3

I strongly object to your assertion that my position is comparable to Buck v. Bell. What I am arguing with respect to is the vaccine mandate as outlined by Zwyicki himself – “voluntary vaccination, but absence of vaccination will require you to teach remotely or seek a medical exemption, wear a mask, etc.”

So, please justify why you think “it is reasonable for the Government to have input on what behaviours you can safely undertake, when interacting with others in your place of work, should you refuse a vaccine in the middle of a pandemic” is a reiteration of “it is reasonable for the Government to mandate the forcible sterilisation of people”.

Personally, I would say that “vaccinate, or face restrictions in how you can interact with others (such as having to wear a mask and socially distance)” is much more comparable to “don’t drink more than this amount of alcohol, or you cannot drive a vehicle”. And I feel that a Government (provided it is basing this on the current expert consensus) should indeed weigh in on that sort of question – though perhaps you do not (you appear reluctant to clarify your position regarding what you believe the Government’s ability to restrict behaviours based on actions should be).

Point 4

You say “I draw the line at giving society/government/public health authorities the power to compel medical procedures, because that power has historically lead to abuses. I was hoping that the wise heads here could talk me out of that position in the case of vaccination”

Given your previous remarks to me – comparing the vaccine mandate to “abortion ban”, “forced medication”, and “forced sterilisation”, I take this as your implying my position is in favour of “compelling vaccination”.

This is, in my opinion, very disingenuous. Again, we are discussing the vaccine mandate you object to, which is described by Zwyicki as being required to get a vaccination or else face the burden of having “to teach remotely or to seek a medical exemption that would require me to wear a mask, remain socially distanced from faculty or students during, say, office hours, and submit to weekly testing.”

Again, here’s a quote from my previous comment [3] making my position clear:

“After all, let us be clear here, we are not talking about forcible vaccinations – we are talking about (within the context of a global pandemic) providing a clear mandate for someone who has no wish to be vaccinated to be refused entry or services on their premises by those who wish to do so.”

I realise it is tiresome to have to keep making this point, but you seem to be trying to argue against a position I do not hold – so I want to be very clear about what it is you and I have been discussing.

Point 5

I now fully expect you to acknowledge that my discussion with you has been with respect to a “vaccine mandate” and not “forcible vaccination”.

I also expect you to either justify your comments with respect to this, or to retract them.

So, to be clear, I expect you to make the case that “get a vaccination, or else have to teach remotely or seek a medical exemption, wear a mask, etc.” is reasonably comparable to “forced sterilisation” and “an abortion ban”. If you are not prepared to justify these arguments you have made, I expect you to retract your comments and offer me a formal apology for trying to attribute to me a position I explicitly stated I do not hold (and which I find personally repugnant).

If any future response does not include either i) a justification for the comparisons you make to my actual positions with respect to the actual vaccine mandate or ii) a retraction and apology for misrepresentation, I will assume you are a dishonest interlocutor and treat you as such.

Normally I try to be milder in my responses, but when someone asserts my position is comparable to forcible sterilisation and abortion bans, my patience and goodwill is somewhat depleted.

References

[1] https://crookedtimber.org/2021/08/06/zywicki-vs-wade/#comment-812453

[2] https://www.wsj.com/articles/vaccine-mandate-natural-immunity-lawsuit-covid-19-coronavirus-11628281507 “Why I’m Suing Over My Employer’s Vaccine Mandate” Todd Zywicki

[3] https://crookedtimber.org/2021/08/06/zywicki-vs-wade/#comment-812391

21

Tm 08.18.21 at 12:06 pm

If you happen to have any Catholic friends or relatives who are vaccine skeptics:

Pope Francis Encourages Covid Vaccines in Media Campaign
“Getting the vaccines that are authorized by the respective authorities is an act of love,” the pope says in a video from the Ad Council.
https://www.nytimes.com/2021/08/17/business/media/pope-covid-vaccine-ad.html

The ad is really good: https://youtu.be/JWf3Ji11EaU

Also show them this: https://www.cbsnews.com/news/raymond-leo-cardinal-burke-catholic-ventilator-covid-19-misinformation/

22

Tm 08.18.21 at 12:38 pm

notgoodenough 20: imho you are as usual wasting too many words taking a position seriously that never was meant to be discussed seriously.

It is conceivable that a few of those who object to Covid vaccine mandates really care about individual autonomy but the vast majority demonstrably do not. A few examples suffice to make that point.

1) The correlation between ant-abortion and anti-vaccine politics clearly proves that a large part of the movement have an extremely selective understanding of bodily autonomy.
2) Most US states already do have various vaccine mandates and yet several Republican governors and legislatures have banned specifically any requirement of the Covid vaccine, while leaving all other mandates in place.
3) Ted Cruz introduced a Senate bill that would specifically only ban the Covid vaccine mandates while leaving all other vaccine mandates in place.
4) Texas threatens to shut down businesses if they decide to only serve vaccinated clients, thereby violating the (to Republicans)I most sacred right in the universe, that of businesses to make their own business decisions without government intervention.
The Florida govenrment likewise threatens cruise operators for trying to maintain public safety on their ships, while Florida hospitals are in crisis mode.

https://www.lawyersgunsmoneyblog.com/2021/08/anti-vaxx-authoritarianism
https://www.wfla.com/community/health/coronavirus/its-beyond-bizarre-norwegian-cruise-ceo-blasts-floridas-appeal-of-vaccine-passport-ruling/
https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2021/08/17/us/covid-delta-hospitalizations.html

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