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My weekly reading for April 28, 2024



My weekly reading for April 28, 2024

by Ted Galen Carpenter,, April 23, 2024.


Despite such spectacular policy mistakes, drug fighters in the United States and other countries are sticking to hardline strategies and refusing to face an uncomfortable economic truth. Governments cannot dictate whether people use mind-altering substances. Such vices have been part of human culture throughout history. Governments can only determine whether reputable companies or violent criminal gangs are the suppliers. A prohibition strategy guarantees that the latter will be the case – with all the attendant violence and corruption. The continued bloody battle between rival cartels to control the lucrative smuggling routes into the United States only confirm that historical pattern.

And a nice last line:

Ecuador is just the latest evidence. Prohibition is like expecting long-term victory in a game of Wack-a-Mole.

I’m a bit picky about language. I would have said, “Ecuador is just the latest evidence.”

by Timothy Taylor, Conversable economistApril 24, 2024.


Since the passage of the Merchant Marine Act of 1920, commonly known as the Jones Act, the United States has pursued an industrial policy aimed at stimulating the domestic shipbuilding industry. Whatever the arguments for the bill’s passage a century ago, it has been a disaster for the U.S. maritime industry over time and continues to impose significant costs on other parts of the U.S. economy. Colin Grabow reviews the arguments in “Protectionism on Steroids: The Scandal of the Jones Act” (Milken Institute ReviewSecond quarter 2024, pp. 44-53).


2) The higher cost of Jones Act compliant US shipping obviously comes at a high cost to places like Hawaii, Alaska and Puerto Rico. Strange consequences arise, and Grabow gives a number of examples. Puerto Rico gets its liquefied natural gas from Nigeria because there are no Jones Act-compliant U.S. ships to transport natural gas within the United States. American lumber producers complain that they are at a disadvantage compared to Canadian companies because American lumber producers must use more expensive Jones Act ships to ship their products to U.S. destinations, while Canadian lumber producers can use cheaper international shipping companies.

by Marc Joffe. Cato at Liberty, April 25, 2024.


Like mom and apple pie, the public library seems so intrinsically good that it should not be criticized. But like any institution that consumes millions of tax dollars, public libraries should not be free from oversight. And the facts are that community libraries have largely outlived their usefulness and no longer provide value for the public money spent on them.

Take the situation in Northern California, for example. This fiscal year, four Bay Area counties (Alameda, Contra Costa, San Mateo and Santa Clara) are spending a combined $270 million to operate their library systems, with some cities contributing extra to fund extended hours. Contra Costa County is spending $20 million in state and county funds to build a new building library in Bay Pointand El Cerrito voters could see a sales tax measure on the November ballot, some of which will go to building a new library as part of a transit-oriented development near a Bay Area Rapid Transit station.

The historical functions of the public library, namely lending physical books and allowing users to view reference works, are being made obsolete by digital technology. An increasing proportion of adults are consuming ebooks and audiobooks in addition to or instead of printed books, with younger adults more likely to use these alternative formats.

by Erec Smith, Boston sphereApril 19, 2024.

Unlike traditional racism – the belief that certain races are somehow inherently inferior to others – prescriptive racism dictates how a person should behave. That is, an identity type is prescribed to a group of people, and any individual who circumvents that prescription is considered inauthentic or even defective. President Biden exhibited prescriptive racism when he said, “If you’re having trouble figuring out whether you’re for me or Trump, you’re not black,” a statement that implicitly dictates how black voters should think.

“Prescriptive racism” is probably a new term to most readers, but it’s not exactly a new concept. It has a historical analogy: the concept of “arrogant nigger”, a black person who dared to act as an equal of whites. One of the most famous uses of this term is attributed to Lyndon B Johnson, who apparently said, “These niggers are getting pretty haughty these days and that’s a problem for us since they now have something they never had before: the political pull to support their haughtiness.” Clearly, “haughtiness” was meant to describe people of color who exercised “agentic” power—that is, they were competent and had no need for the heroism of a white man. These “uppity” black people forgot their script lines, so to speak.