Solve Future Crises by Allowing the Nimble to Innovate

Donald Boudreaux, on his Café Hayek blog, quotes a passage from my Openness book, saying that the best way to prepare for unknown future crises is to sustain a society where nimble innovators are allowed to nimbly innovate. Donald posted the quote on Mon., Dec. 6, 2021.

My book is:

Diamond, Arthur M., Jr. Openness to Creative Destruction: Sustaining Innovative Dynamism. New York: Oxford University Press, 2019.

Cafe Hayek Quotes from Openness Book on Happiness

Posted by Arthur Diamond on Friday, April 2, 2021

Don Boudreaux quotes from my Openness to Creative Destruction book on Cafe Hayek, the blog he runs with Russ Roberts.

My book is:

Diamond, Arthur M., Jr. Openness to Creative Destruction: Sustaining Innovative Dynamism. New York: Oxford University Press, 2019.

Infectious Disease Specialist Asks If Chinese Labs Did “Gain of Function” Research on Covid-19

(p. D7) For decades, Dr. Daniel R. Lucey, an infectious disease specialist at Georgetown University, has crisscrossed the globe to study epidemics and their origins. His attention now is on the Covid-19 pandemic, which first came to public notice late last year in Wuhan, China. Its exact beginnings are sufficiently clouded that the World Health Organization has begun a wide inquiry into its roots. The advance team is to leave for China this weekend, and Dr. Lucey has publicly encouraged the health agency to address what he considers eight top questions.

“It’s not a legitimate investigation if the team doesn’t ask them,” Dr. Lucey said in a recent interview. He cited public reports and scientific articles as starting points for his queries, adding that Beijing “has never come out and answered these questions.”

Clear answers, Dr. Lucey said, would cast light on how the deadly pathogen spread so rapidly and, perhaps, how exactly the outbreak began. China has not been forthcoming with information, . . .

. . .

The sixth and seventh questions go to whether the deadly pathogen leapt to humans from a laboratory. Although some intelligence analysts and scientists have entertained that scenario, no direct evidence has come to light suggesting that the coronavirus escaped from one of Wuhan’s labs.

Even so, given the wet market’s downgrading in the investigation, “It is important to address questions about any potential laboratory source of the virus, whether in Wuhan or elsewhere,” Dr. Lucey wrote in his blog post.

To that end, he urges the W.H.O. investigators to look for any signs of “gain of function” research — the deliberate enhancement of pathogens to make them more dangerous. The technique is highly contentious. Critics question its merits and warn that it could lead to catastrophic lab leaks. Proponents see it as a legitimate way to learn how viruses and other infectious organisms might evolve to infect and kill people, and thus help in devising new protections and precautions.

Debate over its wisdom erupted in 2011 after researchers announced success in making the highly lethal H5N1 strain of avian flu easily transmissible through the air between ferrets, at least in the laboratory.

In his blog, Dr. Lucey asks “what, if any,” gain-of-function studies were done on coronaviruses in Wuhan, elsewhere in China, or in collaboration with foreign laboratories.

“If done well scientifically, then this investigation should allay persistent concerns about the origin of this virus,” he wrote. “It could also help set an improved standard for investigating and stopping the awful viruses, and other pathogens, in the decades ahead.”

Finally, Dr. Lucey asks the W.H.O. team to learn more about China’s main influenza research lab, a high-security facility in Harbin, the capital of China’s northernmost province. In May [2020], he notes, a Chinese paper in the journal Science reported that two virus samples from Wuhan were studied there in great detail early this year, including in a variety of animals. It reported that cats and ferrets were highly susceptible to the pathogen; dogs were only mildly susceptible; and pigs, chickens and ducks were not susceptible at all.

For the full story, see:

William J. Broad. “Disease Detective Puts Forth Pointed Questions.” The New York Times (Tuesday, July 14, 2020): D7.

(Note: ellipses, and bracketed year, added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date July 8, 2020, and has the title “8 Questions From a Disease Detective on the Pandemic’s Origins.”)

The blog posting in which Dr. Lucey asked his eight key questions, is:

Lucey, Daniel R. “Covid-19: Covid: Eight Questions for the Who Team Going to China Next Week to Investigate Pandemic Origins.” Science Speaks: Global ID News blog, posted June 30, 2020.

UNO MBA Blog Highlights Diamond’s Openness to Creative Destruction

The blog for the MBA program at UNO’s College of Business ran a nice entry on my Openness to Creative Destruction: Sustaining Innovative Dynamism book.

As of 10/11/19, the URL for the entry was: https://www.unomaha.edu/college-of-business-administration/mba/about-us/mba-blog.php

(My seminars on “Economics of Entrepreneurship” and “Economics of Technology” are electives in the MBA program, the economics masters program, and the undergraduate economics program.)

Gandhi in South Africa Was Willing to “Acknowledge White Supremacy”

(p. C6) At the close of his presidency in 1999, Nelson Mandela praised Mohandas Gandhi for believing that the “destiny” of Indians in South Africa was “inseparable from that of the oppressed African majority.” In other words, Gandhi had fought for the freedom of Africans, setting the pattern for his later effort to liberate India from British rule.
Nothing could be more misleading. Gandhi’s concern for the African majority — “the Kaffirs,” in his phrase — was negligible. During his South African years (1893-1914), argue Ashwin Desai and Goolam Vahed in “The South African Gandhi,” he was far from an “anti-racist, anti-colonial fighter on African soil.” He had found his way to South Africa mainly by the accident of being offered a better job there than he could find in Bombay. He regarded himself as a British subject. He aimed at limited integration of Indians into white society. Their new status would secure Indian rights but would also acknowledge white supremacy. In essence, he wanted to stabilize the Indian community within the stratified system that later became known as apartheid.
. . .
“The South African Gandhi” deals comprehensively with Gandhi’s decisive two decades in South Africa. It complements Perry Anderson’s “The Indian Ideology” (2013), which explains how Gandhi later treated the Dalits, or Untouchables, much as he had dealt with black Africans.
For my taste, the book’s tone is too academic, but the authors use sound evidence and argue their case relentlessly–Gandhi’s vision did not include the majority of the people in South Africa, the Africans themselves.

For the full review, see:
WM. ROGER LOUIS. “Gandhi the Imperialist.” The Wall Street Journal (Sat., Jan 9, 2016): C6.
(Note: ellipsis added.)
(Note: the online version of the review has the date Jan 10, [sic] 2016, and has the title “Gandhi the Imperialist – Book Review.”)

The book under review, is:
Desai, Ashwin, and Goolem Vahed. The South African Gandhi: Stretcher-Bearer of Empire. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2015.

Robert J. Gordon, Purveyor of Doom and Gloom

Those who support the policies that have brought us economic stagnation, endorse Robert J. Gordon who believes that doom and gloom are inevitable. With Gordon to rely on, they do not have to face responsibility for the effects of their policies, or go through the cognitive stress of changing their views.
Contra Gordon, if we adopt policies friendly to innovative entrepreneurship, opportunity and growth will return.

(p. B1) The idea that America’s best days are behind us sits in sharp tension with the high-tech optimism radiating from the offices of the technology start-ups and venture capital firms of Silicon Valley. But it lies at the heart of the current political unrest. And it is about to elbow its way forcefully into the national conversation.

Robert J. Gordon, a professor of economics at Northwestern University who has patiently developed the proposition in a series of research papers over the (p. B9) last few years, has bundled his arguments into an ambitious new book, “The Rise and Fall of American Growth” (Princeton University Press).
The hefty tome, minutely detailed yet dauntingly broad in scope, offers a lively portrayal of the evolution of American living standards since the Civil War. It also adds up to a dispiriting forecast for American prosperity in the decades to come. “This book,” he writes in the introduction, “ends by doubting that the standard of living of today’s youths will double that of their parents, unlike the standard of living of each previous generation of Americans back to the late 19th century.”
. . .
Skepticism is warranted, to be sure. Since the time of Thomas Malthus, eras of depressed expectations like our own have inspired predictions of doom and gloom that were proved wrong once economies turned up a few years down the road.
“For reasons I have never understood, people like to hear that the world is going to hell,” the economic historian Deirdre N. McCloskey of the University of Illinois, Chicago, wrote in an essay about “Capital in the Twenty-First Century,” the blockbuster about income inequality by the French economist Thomas Piketty. “Yet pessimism has consistently been a poor guide to the modern economic world.”
Optimism, though, is also subject to cognitive biases. It’s not just that the income of our optimistic techno-entrepreneurs is growing faster than gross domestic product. A lot of new innovation — the rockets to vacations in orbit, the Apple Watch and Google Glass — also seems custom-designed for them.
“If you are sitting in Silicon Valley, rich and at the frontier of technology,” said Lawrence F. Katz of Harvard, “it is probably true that things are getting better.”
The same can’t always be said for the rest of us.

For the full commentary, see:
Eduardo Porter. “ECONOMIC SCENE; America’s Best Days May Be Behind It.” The New York Times (Weds., JAN. 20, 2016): B1 & B9.
(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date JAN. 19, 2016.)

The Gordon book discussed in the commentary, is:
Gordon, Robert J. The Rise and Fall of American Growth: The U.S. Standard of Living since the Civil War, The Princeton Economic History of the Western World. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2016.