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You can’t handle the truth!!

Summary:
OK, some of you can, but many of you cannot:1. The truth that masks work has been confirmed in another major scientific mega-study: In this narrative review, we develop an analytical framework to examine mask usage, synthesizing the relevant literature to inform multiple areas: population impact, transmission characteristics, source control, wearer protection, sociological considerations, and implementation considerations. A primary route of transmission of COVID-19 is via respiratory particles, and it is known to be transmissible from presymptomatic, paucisymptomatic, and asymptomatic individuals. Reducing disease spread requires two things: limiting contacts of infected individuals via physical distancing and other measures and reducing the transmission probability per

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OK, some of you can, but many of you cannot:

1. The truth that masks work has been confirmed in another major scientific mega-study:

In this narrative review, we develop an analytical framework to examine mask usage, synthesizing the relevant literature to inform multiple areas: population impact, transmission characteristics, source control, wearer protection, sociological considerations, and implementation considerations. A primary route of transmission of COVID-19 is via respiratory particles, and it is known to be transmissible from presymptomatic, paucisymptomatic, and asymptomatic individuals. Reducing disease spread requires two things: limiting contacts of infected individuals via physical distancing and other measures and reducing the transmission probability per contact. The preponderance of evidence indicates that mask wearing reduces transmissibility per contact by reducing transmission of infected respiratory particles in both laboratory and clinical contexts. Public mask wearing is most effective at reducing spread of the virus when compliance is high. Given the current shortages of medical masks, we recommend the adoption of public cloth mask wearing, as an effective form of source control, in conjunction with existing hygiene, distancing, and contact tracing strategies.

Or maybe you think doctors have been wearing masks for 100 years because they feel comfy.

2. Covid denialism: There’s a school of thought that Covid deaths are greatly exaggerated. These claims are false, as we have lots of other data from various sources that back up the Covid fatality figures. Proponents of this fallacy suffer from innumeracy.

3. Stop the steal: Those who deny Biden’s win also suffer from innumeracy. A close look at county-by-county results shows that there was no widespread voter fraud, as Biden won because he did unusually well in lots of Republican controlled, well-educated suburban countries, not because he did unusually well in heavily black and Hispanic areas.

4. Climate denialism: It perfectly OK to question the policy preferences of environmentalists, but the truth of global warming is pretty firmly established by data from a wide range of sources.

5. Inflation truthers: No, true inflation is not running at 8%. If that were so then Trump would have presided over one of the worst depressions in world history, even before Covid hit in 2020. Wage growth is only around 3%/year. Does anyone think 2017-19 were years of catastrophic depression in the US? More innumeracy.

6. China denialists: While you can certainly question the exact figures, it’s not true that the Chinese government lies when they claim rapid economic growth over 40 years, as we have data from lots of non-Chinese sources that confirm this fact. If Western companies that do business with China lied about their (soaring) sales in China, then their executives could go to prison for accounting fraud. Why would they take that risk? I’ve been to China 8 times since 1994—the incredible growth is obvious to anyone with two eyes. Similarly, there is no evidence that China failed to control Covid after early missteps.

Why are so many people unable to handle the truth? The common theme here is that people believe what they want to believe. I have no problem with people being delusional, what I object to is their insistence that others share their delusions, as a way of showing “loyalty to the cause”.

Thus Trump doesn’t just insist that the election was stolen. He insists others knowingly and falsely claim that the election was stolen. Unless you are willing to lie for Trump, you are not sufficiently loyal.

Thus commenters don’t just insist that China is lying about rapid economic growth and Covid success, they insist that I share in their lies. If I fail to share their wild conspiracy theories, it shows that I am insufficiently loyal to the anti-communist cause. “He said something good about China, he must be a secret CCP supporter!”

In fact, there is no one in the blogosphere who is more anti-communist than I am. But my anti-communism comes from a mix of realism, pragmatism and utilitarianism. I understand that China’s rapid economic growth came from moving away from central control and toward the increased use of private markets. I don’t feel a need to signal loyalty to any particular tribe of anti-communist fanatics—I have confidence in my own reasons for being an anti-communist.

HT: Razib Khan

PS. You probably notice that the list of deluded denialists on top is dominated by those on the right. Of course the left is not entirely free of these sorts of delusions. Some progressives deny that building more houses will increase housing affordability. Some environmentalists deny that nuclear power plants (and yes even Chernobyl) are good for the environment. Some progressive education advocates deny that charter schools have improved education. Some left-wingers deny that gender and racial differences in earnings almost entirely reflect productivity differences, not discrimination. Some progressives deny that BLM riots help to elective conservative politicians. In any tribe, there will always be some people who deny truths that they find unpalatable.

PPS. Every day brings more evidence that America is a banana republic. This isn’t the country I grew up in (although there are some parallels with polarization and violence in the Jim Crow southern states):

You can’t handle the truth!!

How about a non-binding secret ballot, after the official vote?


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Scott Sumner
Scott B. Sumner is Research Fellow at the Independent Institute, the Director of the Program on Monetary Policy at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University and an economist who teaches at Bentley University in Waltham, Massachusetts. His economics blog, The Money Illusion, popularized the idea of nominal GDP targeting, which says that the Fed should target nominal GDP—i.e., real GDP growth plus the rate of inflation—to better "induce the correct level of business investment".

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