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Ryan McMaken

Articles by Ryan McMaken

The Evidence Keeps Piling up: Lockdowns Don’t Work

1 day ago

Extraordinary measures require extraordinary evidence. Have the advocates for lockdowns made their case? The data suggests they have not.

This Audio Mises Wire is generously sponsored by Christopher Condon. Narrated by Michael Stack.
Original Article: “The Evidence Keeps Piling up: Lockdowns Don’t Work“.

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The Disastrous Legacy of Woodrow Wilson
[unable to retrieve full-text content]Princeton University has made it official: Woodrow Wilson’s name no longer will have any place on campus. The former president, or at least his memory, now is part of cancel culture, which is sweeping the nation. The Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs will replace the former

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It’s Far Too Late to Think Lockdowns Can Make Covid-19 Go Away

3 days ago

In the early days of the coronavirus crisis, the rationale given for lockdowns was that it was necessary to stay at home for “fifteen days to slow the spread.” The idea was that social distancing was necessary so that hospitals and other healthcare resources would not be overwhelmed.
However, by the summer of 2020, whether by design or not, it became common to hear media pundits, politicians, and even some scientists either imply or outright claim that social distancing could permanently flatten the curve or otherwise somehow cause a drastic reduction in overall covid-19 deaths.
For example, The Hill’s Reid Wilson claimed in July: “We know how to stop this virus, it requires social distancing, it requires wearing a mask, and constant hand sanitizers and staying

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Will the Police Crack Down on Lockdown Violators the Second Time Around?

July 5, 2020

It will be very interesting if the police—who did nothing to disperse protests that were obviously in violation of bans on mass gatherings—turn around and arrest business owners and other “violators” of a second round of stay-at-home orders.

This Audio Mises Wire is generously sponsored by Christopher Condon. Narrated by Millian Quinteros.
Original Article: “Will the Police Crack Down on Lockdown Violators the Second Time Around?​“

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A Review of Stephanie Kelton’s The Deficit Myth
The good news is that Stephanie Kelton has written a book on MMT that is very readable and will strike many readers as persuasive and clever. The bad news is that Stephanie Kelton has written a book on MMT

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Some Conservatives Want Americans to Abandon Classical Liberalism. Don’t Listen to Them.

June 22, 2020

Donald Trump’s economic populism, and his break with the established post-war conservative movement, has created an opening for new types of conservatism. Among these is the anti-market wing of the movement characterized by a renewed enthusiasm for trade controls, more spending on welfare programs, and more government regulation in the everyday lives of ordinary Americans.
The economic agenda has been voiced perhaps most enthusiastically by pundit Tucker Carlson and former Trump advisor Steve Bannon. Both have attacked what they apparently see as “excessive” freedom.  This freedom — especially when exercised in the marketplace — has led, they believe, to the decline of the middle class  for consumers and businesses which Bannon and Carlson blame for creating

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The Employment Situation Is Still a Disaster

June 13, 2020

Last Friday, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics released new unemployment data. The report surprised many because it showed a decrease in the unemployment rate, while many observers had expected an increase.
According to the official headline (seasonally adjusted) number, the unemployment rate was 13.3 percent in May. That was down from April’s rate of 14.7 percent. This data point was seized upon by commentators who insist that there will be a “V-shaped” recovery. “The economy is fundamentally in great shape,” this narrative goes, “and everything will bounce back as soon as mandated lockdowns are lifted.”
Those who support this narrative thus concluded that May’s drop in unemployment proved the “V-shaped” recovery was already underway.
But it may yet be much too

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Money Supply Growth in April Ballooned to a New High

May 18, 2020

Fueled by unprecedented quantitative easing, central bank asset purchases, and various stimulus packages, the money supply growth rate ballooned in April to an all-time high. The growth rate has never been higher, with the 1970s as the only period that comes close. It was expected that money supply growth would surge in recent months. This usually happens in the wake of the early months of a recession or financial crisis. The magnitude of the growth rate, however, was unexpected.
During April 2020, year-over-year (YOY) growth in the money supply was at 21.30 percent. That’s up from March’s rate of 11.3 percent, and up from April 2019’s rate of 1.94 percent. Historically, this is a very large surge in growth both month over month and year over year. It is also

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When Governments Switched Their Story from “Flatten the Curve” to “Lockdown until Vaccine”

May 10, 2020

In the early days of the COVID-19 panic—back in mid-March—articles began to appear pushing the idea of “flattening the curve” (the Washington Post ran an article called “Flatten the Curve” on March 14). This idea was premised on spreading out the total number of COVID-19 infections over time, so as to not overburden the healthcare infrastructure. A March 11 article for Statnews, summed it up:
“I think the whole notion of flattening the curve is to slow things down so that this doesn’t hit us like a brick wall,” said Michael Mina, associate medical director of clinical microbiology at Boston’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital. “It’s really all borne out of the risk of our health care infrastructure pulling apart at the seams if the virus spreads too quickly and too

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Police Are Complicit in Politicians’ Disregard for the Rule of Law

May 8, 2020

People of a certain age might remember the old John Birch Society slogan “Support your local police!” The idea here is that your local policeman is a liberty-loving buddy of yours who would only ever support just laws and constitutional mandates. Only those bad guys in the FBI or BATF would ever consider violating your rights.
Now, obviously that has always been a rather naïve fantasy, but the notion certainly has a long history of support among American conservatives. The idea that unionized, well-paid government employees sympathize with the common man instead of with the government that signs the cops’ checks apparently has long made sense (for some reason) to conservatives and many others.
But thanks to the ongoing “state of emergency” and the fact that state

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New York vs Texas: NY Has Nearly 50 Times More COVID-19 Deaths Per Capita

April 28, 2020

As of April 26, there were nearly 55,000 COVID-19 deaths reported in the United States. Of those, more than 22,000 (or about 40 percent) were in the state of New York alone. New Jersey was in second place, with nearly 5,900 COVID-19 deaths reported.
If we combine these two states, we find that a majority of COVID-19 deaths in the United States have come from them alone. Combined, these two states accounted for more than 51 percent (28,213) of all deaths, while all other states combined made up less than 48.5 percent (or 26,567) of deaths.

Share of COVID-19 Deaths in US – Click to enlarge
Measured in terms of deaths per 100,000, New York (114 per 100,000) and New Jersey (66 per 100,000) also had the highest rates. But New York had the worst rate by far.

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The Experts Have No Idea How Many COVID-19 Cases There Are

April 22, 2020

In the early days of the COVID-19 panic—about three weeks ago—it was common to hear both of these phrases often repeated:
“The fatality rate of this virus is very high!”
“There are far more cases of this out there than we know about!”
The strategy of insisting that both these statements are true at the same time has been used by politicians to implement “lockdowns” that have forced business to close and millions to lose their jobs. For instance, on March 12, Ohio Department of Health director Amy Acton insisted that “over 100,000” people are “carrying this virus in Ohio today.” The state began to implement “stay-at-home” lockdown orders that day.
At the time, the World Health Organization (WHO), the media, and others were reporting that 2 to 4 percent of people

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Thanks to Lockdowns, State and Local Tax Revenues Are Plummeting

April 15, 2020

Unlike the federal government, state and local governments in America can’t just create money out of thin air. So when tax revenues go down, that money is simply not available to the state legislatures and city councils anymore. These governments either have to borrow the money or raise taxes and hope the tax hike itself doesn’t cause total revenue to fall.
The tax revenues in these states, cities, and counties are heavily dependent on economy activity. That is, sales must take place for sales tax to be collected. Income must be earned for state income taxes to be collected.
Thanks to government-coerced economic shutdowns—on top of the severe recession currently brewing—tax revenues are plummeting. And many governments are already expecting the hit to be larger

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Why Mexico Is Reluctant to Shut Down Its Economy to Combat COVID-19

April 12, 2020

Mexico’s president Andrés Manuel López Obrador has been reluctant to impose mandatory “social distancing” orders on the Mexican population. According to USNews, López Obrador “has maintained a relaxed public attitude” toward COVID-19, and the Mexican government did not impose a ban on “non-essential” work until March 30, long after health officials in other countries insisted Mexico must do so.
According to Dr. Miguel Betancourt, president of the Mexican Society of Public Health, those measures are “too late” and “should have come weeks earlier.” But, even with legal measures in place, it’s hard to say how many Mexicans can afford to follow them. The Financial Times has described what is likely a common attitude in Mexico:
Salvador Almonte has been doing a

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In March, US Deaths From COVID-19 Totaled Less Than 2 Percent of All Deaths

April 8, 2020

About 2.9 million people die in the United States each year from all causes. Monthly this total ranges from around 220,000 in the summertime to more than 280,000 in winter.
In recent decades, flu season has often peaked sometime from January to March, and this is a major driver in total deaths. The average daily number of deaths from December through March is over eight thousand.
So far, total death data is too preliminary to know if there has been any significant increase in total deaths as a result of COVID-19, and this is an important metric, because it gives us some insight into whether or not COVID-19 is driving total death numbers well above what would otherwise be expected.
Indeed, according to some sources, it is not clear that total deaths have increased

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Financialization: Why the Financial Sector Now Rules the Global Economy

March 18, 2020

To read or watch the news in today’s world is to be confronted with a wide array of stories about financial organization and financial institutions. News about central banks, interest rates, and debt appear to be everywhere.
But it was not always the case that the financial sector and financial institutions were considered so important. Public policy in general was not always designed with a focus toward propping up banks, keeping interest rates low, and ensuring an ever greater flow of cheap and easy loans. Reporting on the minutiae of central banks—with the assumption that these changes directly impact nearly every facet of our lives—wasn’t always the norm.
But that is where we are now.
The change is real and it’s a thing called “financialization.” It has arisen

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Money Supply Growth Climbs to 37-Month High

March 17, 2020

The money supply growth rate rose again in February, climbing to a 37-month high. The last time the growth rate was higher was during February of 2017, when the growth rate was 7.9 percent.
During February 2020, year-over-year (YOY) growth in the money supply was at 7.49 percent. That’s up from January’s rate of 6.32 percent, and up from February 2019’s rate of 3.20 percent. The increase in money supply growth in February represents a sizable reversal of the trend we saw during most of 2019. In August, the growth rate hit a 120-month low, falling to the lowest growth rates we’d seen since 2007. If the trend continues, growth rates will need only a few months to reach the heights reached from 2009 to 2016.
The money supply metric used here—the “true” or

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The CDC’s Budget Is Larger Now Than Under Obama

March 14, 2020

This is how the budget process in Washington begins. Step one: the president submits his budget to Congress. Step two: Congress puts the president’s budget in a drawer somewhere and forgets about it. Step three: Congress passes a budget it likes instead.
This reality, however, has been conveniently ignored in recent weeks. Some pundits and politicians have claimed that Donald Trump “gutted the CDC.”
Trump has been busy “slashing the government agencies” that combat disease control, one headline reads.
Another claims, “the Trump administration has spent the last two years gutting critical positions and programs that…weakened the federal government’s ability to manage a health crisis.”
Well, it’s possible that there is a federal program out there somewhere that

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If China Is the Problem, Can’t We At Least Have Free Trade with Everyone Else?

March 11, 2020

It remains unclear how much the stock market implosion of recent days will affect the larger economy. As David Stockman has noted often, the Wall Street economy is not synonymous with the Main Street economy, contrary to what the advocates of rampant bank bailouts and financialization would have us believe.
Nevertheless, fear of a general crisis has driven Donald Trump to hint that tax cuts should be on the table.
That’s good news, and the first place Trump should start—since he has the authority to unilaterally do so in many cases—is reducing trade barriers.
It is certainly true that Trump’s trade war against China has reduced real wages for Americans, raised the cost of doing business for entrepreneurs, and generally hobbled the US economy. Trump’s protectionism

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The US Constitution Needs an Expiration Date

March 6, 2020

A unique feature of the Swiss Federal Constitution is the fact that the central government’s power to impose direct taxes on citizens expires every decade or so.
In fact, the current taxing authority expires at the end of 2020. Fortunately for the Swiss republic’s central government, voters approved an extension (the “New Financial Regime 2021“) for another fifteen years in a March 2018 election. This was not a big surprise, since voters have approved extensions of this sort several times since 1958, including the most recent reapproval in 2006.
Direct taxation from the Swiss central government is a relatively new thing. Prior to the First World War, the confederation (i.e., central) government was funded primarily through customs duties. Collecting and

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The Fed Slashes Rates as Powell Declares Economy “Strong”

March 3, 2020

The Federal Reserve this morning slashed the target federal funds rate by 0.5 percent today. According to CNBC:
The Federal Reserve moved to an enact an emergency interest rate cut after officials saw the coronavirus having a material impact on the economic outlook, Chairman Jerome Powell said Tuesday.
Powell held a news conference following the central bank’s decision to cut overnight interest rates by half a percentage point. He said the Fed “saw a risk to the economy and chose to act” in a cut announced at 10 am ET.
“The magnitude and persistence of the overall effect on the U.S.
economy remain highly uncertain and the situation remains a fluid one,” he said. “Against this background, the committee judged that the risks to the U.S. outlook have changed

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The US’s “Free Trade” Isn’t Very Free

February 29, 2020

The false notion that the US has eliminated virtually all of its barriers to foreign imports has been repeated more and more in recent years. The claim is made both by advocates for free trade and by critics of free trade. For instance, Patrick Buchanan has claimed only American elites “are beneficiaries to free trade” while implying the US either has free trade, or something close to it. Rather than insulate US companies from global competition, Buchanan insists, the US practices “globalism” and has all but erased the US border when it comes to foreign goods.
Meanwhile, in many articles on tariffs, readers may encounter a graph like this, which suggests trade barriers have almost vanished:
But things are not nearly as free as they seem. Indeed, the idea that

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The EU’s Latest Screw-You to the UK Shows a Big Problem with Trade Agreements

February 27, 2020

All too often, discussion over trade deals focuses almost solely on tariffs.
It’s true that tariffs—i.e., taxes—are always a significant barrier to free exchange at all levels, but there are also plenty of ways to block or lessen trade that are not primarily tariff-based. Recent conflicts over the pending negotiations between the UK and the EU are a reminder of this.
For instance, The Guardian reported yesterday “The EU will demand the right to punish Britain if the government fails to shadow the Brussels rule book in the future….The bloc will demand that the British government apply EU state aid rules in their entirety as they evolve.”
Specifically, EU countries—especially France—want to make sure
that Britain must comply with strict “level playing field”

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The WTO Is Both Irrelevant and Unnecessary

February 25, 2020

The World Trade Organization (WTO) is in a state of crisis. When it comes to trade negotiations among large states like the US, India, and China, the WTO has been shown to be an organization that is largely irrelevant.
Despite grandiose dreams of a global trade organization that would enforce global bureaucrats’ broad vision for multilateral trade agreements, the world looks more and more like it neither wants nor needs an organization like the WTO.
CNBC reports this week that the WTO is in “a reform-or-die moment” as both the US and Chinese governments appear uninterested in taking orders from the WTO.
Back in the 1990s, it seemed like the WTO was a very big deal.
When it was formed in the 1990s, scores of states — rich and poor, large and small — gathered to

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Nationalism as National Liberation: Lessons from the End of the Cold War

February 23, 2020

During the early 1990s, as the world of the old Soviet Bloc was rapidly falling apart, Murray Rothbard saw it all for what it was: a trend of mass decentralization and secession unfolding before the world’s eyes. The old Warsaw Pact states of Poland, Hungary, and others won de facto independence for the first time in decades. Other groups began to demand full blown de jure secession as well.
Rothbard approved of this, and he set to work encouraging the secessionists over the opposition of many foreign policy “experts.”
“Nationalism” versus Powerful States
For example, when it became clear in early 1990 that the Baltic states were preparing to secede from the rapidly fading Soviet state, the Soviets asked the West for help. As the Los Angeles Times noted at the

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Three Reasons Why Decentralization and Secession Lead to More Open Economies

February 17, 2020

When we hear of political movements in favor of decentralization and secession, the word “nationalist” is often used to describe them.
We have seen the word used in both Scottish and Catalonian secession movement, and in the case of Brexit. Sometimes the term is intended to be pejorative. But not always.
When used pejoratively — as was the case with critics of Brexit — the implication is that the separatists seek to exit a larger political entity for the purposes of increasing isolation, throwing up greater barriers to trade, and pursuing a more autarkic economic policy. In other words, we’re supposed to believe that efforts at decentralizing political systems leads to states becoming more oppressive and more protectionist.
But there’s a problem with this claim,

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Small Countries Are Better: They’re Often Richer and Safer Than Big Countries

February 13, 2020

In the wake of the Brexit vote, Scottish nationalists have renewed their calls for a new referendum on Scottish independence. But many remain unconvinced, and many claim Scotland is “too small” to be an independent country. Others claim that Scotland is too poor, since Scotland’s GDP per capita is only 90 percent that of England.
But by no measure is Scotland a “poor” country. It may be poorer than England, but Scotland’s GDP per capita puts it about halfway down the rankings of all Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries. That means it’s similar to France and Japan by this measure.
If Scotland is relatively less well off than many other rich Western nations, there is no reason to assume that this is due to its size. With 5.4

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Brexit: Predictions of Economic Doom Show Why People Ignore “Experts”

February 4, 2020

The headline was unambiguous: ” Brexit Is Done: The U.K. Has Left the European Union .” As of January 31, The European Union (Withdrawal) Act of 2018 has become law and the United Kingdom has begun the withdrawal process from the European Union. The transition process will continue throughout 2020 as the UK and EU governments negotiate the nature of the future relationship between the UK and the EU.
Now that the British exit from the European Union is a legal reality, the economic situation in the UK has been surprisingly sedate.
This will be a surprise for those who believed the assurances of media pundits and economic experts that the UK’s economy would become every more crippled as Brexit edged closer.
Yet, economic turmoil has been sparse. Certainly, markets

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After November Surge, Money Supply Growth Slows in December

January 28, 2020

The money supply growth rate rose in December slowed after a November surge of nearly six percent.
During December 2019, year-over-year growth in the money supply was at 5.53 percent. That’s down from November’s rate of 5.9 percent, but was up from December 2018’s rate of 3.90 percent. The increase in money-supply growth in December continues a sizable reversal of the trend we saw for most of 2019. In August, the growth rate hit a 120-month low, falling to the lowest growth rates we’d seen since 2007. Growth rates are still a long way from reaching the heights reached from 2009 to 2016, however.

YoY Change in money supply, 1998-2019 – Click to enlarge
The money-supply metric used here — the “true” or Rothbard-Salerno money supply measure (TMS) — is

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Why “One Man, One Vote” Doesn’t Work

January 25, 2020

The US Senate is increasingly targeted by left-wing think tanks and legislators for the fact it is based on “voter inequality.” According to critics, the Senate ensures small states are “overrepresented,“and the body favors voters in smaller and more sparsely populated states. In contrast,  reformers  hold up the concept of “one man, one vote” as an ideal and a solution.
“One man, one vote” is not a clearly defined concept, but it is often used to oppose legislative schemes used in federal political systems.  Among these schemes is the US Senate in which  each state is given an equal vote so as to balance out the interests of small states against the interests of large states. Large states, of course, dominate legislatures in population-based representation

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The Majority of Virginia Homicides Come from only Two Metro Areas

January 24, 2020

In most times and places, crime tends to be a highly localized phenomenon. I have covered this for at the national level, pointing out that homicide rates in, say, the Mountain West and New England are far lower than homicide rates in the Great Lakes region or the South. Gun-control laws clearly don’t explain these differences, since many places with rock-bottom homicide rates such as Idaho and Maine also have few controls on private gun ownership.
Thus, discussion of the “US homicide rate” tells us precious little about general trends since US homicide rates are kept relatively high by only a small number of cities. Baltimore city, for example, has a homicide ten times higher than the nation overall, and seventeen times larger than the Baltimore

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US Debt Makes Us Dependent on Petrodollars — and on Saudi Arabia

January 17, 2020

The Iranian regime and the Saudi Arabian regime are longtime enemies, with both vying for control of the Persian Gulf region. Part of the conflict stems from religious differences — differences between Shia and Sunni muslim groups. But much of the conflict stems from mundane desires to establish regional dominance.
For more than forty years, however, Saudi Arabia has had one important ace in the hole in terms of its battle with Iran: the US’s continued support for the Saudi regime.
But why should the US continue to so robustly support this dictatorial regime? Certainly, these close relations can’t be due to any American support for democracy and human rights. The Saudi regime is one of the world’s most illiberal and anti-democratic regimes. Its ruling class has

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