We are developing the social individualist meta-context for the future. From the very serious to the extremely frivolous... lets see what is on the mind of the Samizdata people.

Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

A formula for failure

There is a shortage of baby milk in the US. Few fears are more primal than that of not being able to feed your baby. Parents across America are stressed and angry. (Some people, however, find the situation amusing.) One of the many reasons to like unbridled capitalism is that by reducing scarcity it reduces conflict. Whenever there is a shortage people become angry when they see others getting what they cannot get.

“Texas governor criticises Biden administration for giving baby formula to migrant children”, writes the Independent. There are several things worth discussing there. It would be unconscionable not to give formula to children who need it, but the knowledge that “Uncle Sam will provide” probably is a factor attracting illegal immigrants to the US, including children both accompanied and unaccompanied. The consequences of that can be horrible.

However the thing that struck me most about this story was tucked away as background information:

A recall of formula produced at a Michigan manufacturing facility – along with a Covid-19-fuelled supply chain issues – has made formula difficult for families to find, or subject to purchase limits in stores, after manufacturers shut down and warehouse stocks were recalled but not replaced. US formula is largely monopolised, with stringent regulations on imports; shortages from the recall are compounded by demand among a handful of companies relying on the same fragile supply chain.

President Biden has called on federal agencies to help address the shortages, including easing rules that manufacturers must follow for their products to be eligible under the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children, or WIC, which supports low-income families.

Few dare argue when “stringent regulations on imports” and “rules that manufacturers must follow” are introduced under the cry of “We must protect the children!” Yet now that the children are being protected half to death, these measures seem astonishingly hard to remove.

Update: Eric Boehm of Reason magazine has more detail: America’s Trade and Regulatory Policies Have Contributed to the Baby Formula Shortage

Thanks to strict FDA regulations and oppressive tariffs, America is already largely dependent on only domestic suppliers for infant formula: America exports far more than it imports every year.

That’s exactly the situation the economic nationalist want in all industries—and we’re now seeing exactly how that can go wrong. Cutting off foreign trade and protecting domestic suppliers can make a country more vulnerable to unexpected supply problems, not more resilient.

Samizdata quote of the day

Two years since “two weeks to slow the spread,” life appears to have returned to some kind of normal. With a few indefensible exceptions, most pandemic mandates have been rolled back. The vaccine passes that cropped up across the western world in a wave of faddish illiberalism have largely been abandoned, at least for now, often with little pretext of an apolitical rationale. Lost in the mainstream media’s memory hole, the strict lockdowns that brought the free world to its knees in 2020 seem to many like a distant memory.

All around, artefacts of the psychosis that gripped the global psyche for two years remain. Holdouts of COVID hysteria cling to their N-95 masks, even while alone in their own vehicles, and insist that others do the same. Medical offices demand proof of vaccination and perfunctory COVID checklists upon entry. Airports, ever the bulwarks of security theatre, continue to enforce all the bells and whistles of the biomedical state. Every day, workers and students are forced out of their institutions over noncompliance with vaccine mandates.

A fanatical cult continues to preach the gospel of COVID doom, hoping that some new variant or surge in hospitalizations will again empower them to dictate the lives of their neighbors and silence all who disagree. They peddle the same circular arguments, insisting that more lockdowns and mandates are the key to preventing lockdowns and mandates, bolstered by their faith that although every policy they’ve suggested has failed, this was merely the fickle nature of an ever-changing “science.” Thus, even if they were wrong, it was the right time for them to be wrong, and their opponents, even if right, were right for the wrong reasons.

Michael Senger

Four- and five-year-olds who crawl rather than walk

From an anonymous article in Tuesday’s Guardian called “My pupils have been badly set back by the pandemic. ‘Catch-up’ lessons aren’t what they need”:

In my school, some children are now struggling to articulate what they need or want, answer simple questions or follow short instructions. This has a knock-on effect on their social skills. Those who haven’t had much practice taking turns in conversation or sharing with others find playing and using school resources difficult. Many children have missed out on physical development opportunities; it has been eye-opening to witness four- and five-year-olds choosing to crawl down the corridor into the toilets rather than walk.

I take a fairly forgiving view of the actions that our government and others took when the pandemic hit. As an immediate strategy lockdown may well have been the right thing to do, and even if it wasn’t, it is easy to be wise in hindsight and when it is not you who has to make the decision. Boris & Co. were faced with a type of crisis they had never faced before and a cacophony of conflicting advice, all of which claimed to be expert.

But it was clear quite early on that the slight risk that Covid-19 presented to young children was far outweighed by the harm done to their development by masks and lockdown. That is difficult to forgive.

What comes next?

To reiterate. The mRNA shots don’t stop infection or transmission, we don’t know whether they interfere with the development of durable immunity post-infection, and whether the next variant is deadlier than Omicron is “mostly a matter of luck.”

Politically, none of this matters at the moment. The people who pushed the shots – in other words every Western government and the entire public health establishment and media – have zero incentive to admit that the roulette wheel is still spinning.

Alex Berenson

And not unrelated…

The events of the past two years have been a wake-up call to those of us who naïvely believed our liberties were more or less secure under Western democracy. We discovered that a viral epidemic with an estimated Infection Fatality Rate somewhere in the range of 0.15-0.3% was sufficient for governments to claim the power to lock citizens up in their homes, prohibit citizens from taking walks in the park, tell citizens how many visitors they could have in their homes, shut down religious worship indefinitely, and order mass closures of businesses, all “for our own good.”

If all of this can happen once, it can surely happen again, especially if we are hit by another global crisis, be it global warming, terrorism, a global recession, an energy crisis, or a food shortage.

And if the crisis is not quite severe enough to convince citizens to renounce their liberties, governments can apparently count on the support of an uncritical media to stoke up people’s anxieties and fears, priming them for more “emergency” interventions and ever more illiberal restrictions on their property, life, and mobility.

Governments have restricted a wide range of civil liberties during the pandemic on the basis of unsubstantiated doomsday predictions, highly unorthodox methods of disease control, and hardly any serious consideration of the likely harms such restrictions would inflict on citizens and on our way of life. Future governments could exploit this dangerous precedent in a future crisis, whether real or manufactured, especially if the media jump on board to drum up some public hysteria.

David Thunder

Samizdata quote of the day

I’m not saying that I think the present science establishment is good. It has been utterly poisoned by the interference of government, and the biggest mistake we make is thinking that something like the FDA or the CDC are science establishments, when they are in fact government institutions. It might be populated by people with science degrees, but they are still civil servants before being scientists. (especially the higher up the greasy pole they climb.) And unfortunately the universities have also been largely sucked into the poisonous stream of government funding.

Fraser Orr

Breaking the Chains: a Guide to Nudging You

A superb video-fisking by PANDA of a Covid-propaganda video:

Let the medical heretics speak. You don’t have to believe them, but let them speak.

Most people prefer experts, of course, especially when it comes to health care. As a surgeon myself, I can hardly object to that tendency. But a problem arises when some of those experts exert outsized influence over the opinions of other experts and thereby establish an orthodoxy enforced by a priesthood. If anyone, expert or otherwise, questions the orthodoxy, they commit heresy. The result is groupthink, which undermines the scientific process.

From Against Scientific Gatekeeping, an excellent, measured essay for Reason magazine by Jeffrey A. Singer. He draws on his own experience of changes in medical best practice during his career as a surgeon and also on the lessons of history:

The “germ theory” anticipated by Semmelweis did not take hold until the late 1880s. That helps explain why, in 1854, the public health establishment rebuffed the physician John Snow after he traced a London cholera epidemic to a water pump on Broad Street. Snow correctly suspected that water from the pump carried a pathogen that caused cholera.

Public health officials clung instead to the theory that the disease was carried by a miasma, or “bad air.” The British medical journal The Lancet published a brutal critique of Snow’s theory, and the General Board of Health determined that his idea was “scientifically unsound.” But after another outbreak of cholera in 1866, the public health establishment acknowledged the truth of Snow’s explanation. The incident validated the 19th century classical liberal philosopher Herbert Spencer’s warning that the public health establishment had come to represent entrenched political interests, distorting science and prolonging the cholera problem. “There is an evident inclination on the part of the medical profession to get itself organized after the fashion of the clericy,” he wrote in 1851’s Social Statics. “Surgeons and physicians are vigorously striving to erect a medical establishment akin to our religious one. Little do the public at large know how actively professional publications are agitating for state-appointed overseers of the public health.”

They got their wish.

Samizdata quote of the Vaccine Mandate Exemption

As the restrictive form of a poem sometimes forces a clearer expression of a thought than less demanding prose, so the need to present his belief in the scientific process as a request for religious exemption to the vaccine mandate forced physician Joseph Fraiman to create what Sarah Hoyt called “one of the more interesting pieces of writing i’ve seen in a while.”

Given my faith in the scientific process, I do not claim that this observational data is a good representative of reality; however I also cannot claim with certainty that it is false. Without randomized controlled trial data comparing the rare risk of hospitalization in young healthy participants, there is no way of estimating if the vaccine is more likely to prevent hospitalizations than to cause a serious adverse event. …

The entire concept of the mandate is based on the idea that it is safer for patients and staff to be near vaccinated individuals. This is not based on any experimental evidence; this is classical anti-science ideology. It is offensive to believers in the scientific process that one can claim to be certain regarding the truth of an objective reality, without experimental data to support that view. … those who have faith in the scientific process are concerned that this hubristic certainty of benefit, without experimentation, can easily harm more than benefit. … Now if our hospital system was attempting a cluster randomized trial across its many hospitals, in which hospitals are randomized to mandate or no mandate, I would gladly be a participant in this study and be randomized to a hospital with a vaccine mandate or not. …

… followers of the scientific process believe that experts do not dictate what is true about our objective reality. … To a follower of science who has reached a different conclusion than experts on the potential benefits and harms of the vaccine; in this situation for an employer to mandate the vaccine in question would be the equivalent of forcing an individual of Judeo-Christian faith to pray to a pagan idol to keep their employment.

Would being vaccinated interfere with your sincerely held religious belief or your ability to practice or observe your religion? If so, please describe.

Yes, being vaccinated would interfere with my sincerely held beliefs which is the reason I am requesting the exemption. I believe I should be allowed to finish my scientific evaluation of the meta-analysis of the vaccines, which is still ongoing. If my evaluation determines the harm benefit profile in an individual of my demographics is favorable I will gladly take the vaccine, but not until that point.

The longish text is worth reading in full here (h/t instapundit).

That Fraiman did not get a mere arrogant refusal owes as much, I suspect, to his presentation (both skilled and restrained) as to his factual details – a bureaucrat would have to be fanatical indeed not to realise that, if they just said ‘no’, the writer might prove a persistent and difficult opponent, not so easy to denounce and silence. But of course, like a Judeo-Christian in a Mohammedan country, this believer in the scientific process had to pay the Jizya to those who believe science is a result, proclaimed by ‘experts’ who are not to be doubted, still less mocked.

Your religious exemption has been reviewed and approved. Because of the direct threat posed by individuals who are infected with Covid-19, our accommodation requirement for your needs [my bolding] is to wear a N-95/KN-95 mask (which we will provide) and undergo weekly testing.

What new depravity is this?

“UK supermarkets accused of ‘bombarding’ shoppers with cheap meat”, whispers the Guardian’s Denis Campbell in shock:

Britain’s biggest supermarkets stand accused of “bombarding” shoppers with offers of cheap meat, despite pledging to promote more meat-free diets to improve health and tackle global heating.

They are using money-saving promotions, such as two for the price of one, as a way of “pushing” meat, at odds with moves in the UK and globally for consumers to eat less of it, research found.

Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Asda and Morrisons are each offering scores of deals every week on meat products such as burgers and sausages to drive sales and boost their profits, according to a report from the

Marketing directors of Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Asda and Morrisons? Apparently not. This disturbing news comes from the…

charity Eating Better. It is an umbrella group representing more than 60 organisations including WWF UK, Greenpeace, public health bodies, dietitians, the RSPCA and food charities.

Covid: The lessons must not vanish down the memory hole

I have been struck in my reading of the media, in conversations with people in the City and elsewhere, as to how the topic of COVID-19 has suddenly disappeared from regular conversation. It is true that the UK came out of lockdowns a bit earlier than some other countries. It is true that the embarrassments of the Boris Johnson Downing Street machine meant that Mr Johnson was afraid to reimpose any controls given that no-one would take him seriously. (One reason I am very sad about the passing of the late P J O’Rourke is the sport he would have had the expense of various governments over such hypocrisies). Even so, it is striking how fast Russia’s attack on Ukraine was able, in a flash, to take the bug away. Gone. Kaput. This is a virus that seems to know the news agenda. Amazing.

But we should not forget the past two years or more of lockdowns, of the pettiness, the bullying, the hysteria, the use of fear, the “what we can get away with”, the suspension of civil liberties, the North Korean-style worship of “Our NHS”, and indeed, we shouldn’t overlook the heroism of medical staff who dealt with the crisis particularly in the early months when the full nature of this bug was unknown. We should not forget China’s refusal to enable a clear analysis of what caused this shitshow, or its bullying of those who asked questions, of the biases of the World Health Organisation, the questionable actions and financial involvements of people such as Anthony Fauci in the US and the unease in asking if this bug came from a lab. We should not forget the shenanigans over PPE contracts in the UK, the frauds over loans to businesses, the cowardice and horribleness of the teaching unions and damage to education. We should not forget the stoicism of lorry drivers, supermarket workers, farmers, delivery drivers and logistics workers. We must not forget how parents could see what their children were learning online, and were shocked.

We must not forget these things.

A video on Ivermectin by Dr John Campbell

A friend directed me to this video. Dr John Campbell has been making YouTube videos on medical subjects since 2008. His stance on the various controversies related to the treatment and prevention of Covid-19 might be called “middle of the road”. He certainly has his critics, both mainstream and not, but his moderation and preference for screenshots of peer-reviewed papers over rhetoric has gained him many followers. This twenty-minute video has had nearly 900,000 views in the two days since it was published: “Ivermectin, more evidence”.

Samizdata quote of the day

As I set out in my book A State of Fear: How the UK government weaponised fear during the Covid-19 pandemic masks are a nudge, even described as a ‘signal’ by David Halpern, the director of the UK government’s Behavioural Insights Team. Similarly, Professor Neil Ferguson said that masks remind us ‘we’re not completely out of the woods yet’. They serve as a visible public reminder of the pandemic, turning us back into walking billboards pronouncing danger. My source concurred: ‘Masks are a behavioural psychology policy. We need to stop pretending that it’s about public health. Nudge is a big thing in government.’

Laura Dodsworth