A Libertarian Case for Trump

(p. A15) If we pull the lever for Mr. Trump in . . . swing states, we may get a slightly more libertarian president . . .

Some Libertarians find Mr. Trump unacceptable on grounds of principle. True, he is no libertarian, but Mr. Biden—the wokester, the socialist, the interventionist—is much further from us on the political-economic spectrum than Mr. Trump.

Others are put off by Mr. Trump’s obnoxious behavior. He engages in name-calling. He puts ketchup on filet mignon.

Mr. Trump grew up in Queens. I’m roughly his contemporary and come from Brooklyn. I assure you that everyone in New York City is personally unbearable (except Staten Islanders). It is a geographical-genetic disposition. Ignore it. This act of his is mostly tongue-in-cheek. New Yorkers actually have contests to see who is the most insufferable. Prizes are given out.

The Libertarian Party typically attracts 1% to 3% of the electorate. But when opinion polls ask respondents if they support low taxes, free enterprise, and an end to victimless crimes, some 20% to 25% say yes. Libertarians, loosely defined in this manner, can have an effect on the coming election.

For the full commentary, see:

Walter E. Block. “Libertarians Should Vote For Trump.” The Wall Street Journal (Wednesday, May 29, 2024): A15.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date May 28, 2024, and has the same title as the print version.)

Neuroscientists Confirm Folk Medicine Claims of Lavender’s Healing Powers

(p. D2) Lavender has purported healing powers for reducing stress and anxiety. But are these effects more than just folk medicine?

Yes, said Hideki Kashiwadani, a physiologist and neuroscientist at Kagoshima University in Japan — at least in mice.

. . .

In a study published Tuesday [Oct. 23, 2018 [sic]] in the journal Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience, he and his colleagues found that sniffing linalool, an alcohol component of lavender odor, was kind of like popping a Valium. It worked on the same parts of a mouse’s brain, but without all the dizzying side effects.

. . .

Their findings add to a growing body of research demonstrating anxiety-reducing qualities of lavender odors and suggest a new mechanism for how they work in the body.

For the full story see:

JoAnna Klein. “Purple Reigns: Folk Wisdom Hails Lavender’s Powers. Now Researchers Are Pinning Down Why.” The New York Times (Tuesday, October 30, 2018 [sic]): D2.

(Note: ellipses and bracketed date added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date Oct. 23, 2018 [sic], and has the title “Lavender’s Soothing Scent Could Be More Than Just Folk Medicine.” Where there is a small difference in wording between the versions, the passages quoted above follow the online version.)

The article co-authored by Kashiwadani and mentioned above is:

Harada, Hiroki, Hideki Kashiwadani, Yuichi Kanmura, and Tomoyuki Kuwaki. “Linalool Odor-Induced Anxiolytic Effects in Mice.” Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience 12 (Oct. 23, 2018).

Prime Minister Robert Peel Lost His Job for Supporting Repeal of the Corn Laws, but Advanced Britain’s Middle-Class

(p. C11) Simon Heffer’s “High Minds” is a deep, droll and lucid exploration of Britain’s intellectual and political life from 1837, when the young Queen Victoria ascended the throne of a chaotic, semifeudal society, to 1880, by which time Victoria was a widow and the Empress of India, and the British, apart from those at the very top and bottom of society, had bootstrapped themselves into sobriety and “respectability.”

. . .

The “crucial step” in the middle-class advance, Mr. Heffer writes, was the repeal of the Corn Laws in 1846. Opening the ports to foreign grain pacified the workers by lowering the price of bread. It hobbled the aristocracy by cutting the value of land, their biggest asset. And it geared economic policy to the commercial classes. A “long-term realignment” in politics followed. Repeal was secured by a Tory prime minister, Robert Peel, in alliance with free-market Whigs. It cost Peel his job but, over the next two decades, the Whigs turned into the Liberals, the party of middle-class reform.

For the full review, see:

Dominic Green. “Laying Stone on Stone.” The Wall Street Journal (Saturday, April 23, 2022 [sic]): C10.

(Note: ellipsis added.)

(Note: the online version of the review has the date April 22, 2022 [sic], and has the title “‘High Minds’ Review: The Victorian Pursuit of Perfection.”)

The book under review is:

Heffer, Simon. High Minds: The Victorians and the Birth of Modern Britain. New York: Pegasus Books, 2022.

Shark Tank Shows Capitalism as a “Bootstrap Meritocracy”

(p. 24) . . . my favorite TV show is “Shark Tank.”  . . .  The premise of the tank is that small-business owners get an audience with investors — the “sharks,” a crew of millionaires and billionaires that includes Mark Cuban, Daymond John and Lori Greiner, the “queen of QVC” — in the hope of provoking a bidding war for a stake in the company. Sometimes the sharks dismiss the ideas outright, and they often do so cruelly, but in a satisfying, detailed way. You start to feel as if you could write your own business plan after watching a few episodes.

. . .

(p. 25) The show dramatizes a romantic vision of our economy, depicting it as a bootstrap meritocracy.

. . .

Part of the show’s appeal is that it’s an equal-opportunity forum — you don’t have to know a Silicon Valley V.C. or even a banker to get your audience with the sharks.

. . .

I was so politically assertive as a kid because I wanted someone to respect my opinion, to value me. I wanted to be taken seriously. I think most kids feel this way, dismissed outright for being small. In the tank, no one is dismissed — the sharks start every segment with furrowed brows, ready to take notes and hear out pitches, no matter how preposterous. They begin the process with a clean slate every time. Somewhere deep down, I want all these deals to work, I want the enthusiasm that sharks feel to be genuine and I want the contestants to walk away with business plans ready to be set into motion. Even if “Shark Tank” is propaganda — the selling and marketing of the American dream — the fantasy feels real.

For the full commentary, see:

Jaime Lowe. “Letter of Recommendation: ‘Shark Tank’.” The New York Times Magazine (Sunday, October 1, 2017 [sic]): 24-25.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date Sept. 28, 2017 [sic], and has the same title as the print version.)

The Applause at Davos for Milei’s Defense of Free Market Capitalism “Was More Than Polite”

(p. A17) There were no marches for Adam Smith or posters of Milton Friedman at Davos this year, but the applause for the combative defense of free markets by Argentina’s new libertarian President Javier Milei was more than polite. Citing the contrast between ages of stagnation and the miracle of accelerating progress in the modern era, Mr. Milei reminded his audience that “far from being the cause of our problems, free-trade capitalism as an economic system is the only instrument we have to end hunger, poverty and extreme poverty across our planet.”

His words resonated because, as one heard in panel after panel, the empirical foundations of the fashionable statist view appear to be crumbling. For now at least, the China miracle seems to be over. Beijing isn’t only suffering one economic shock after another. Its worst problems—demographic decline, a property bubble, overinvestment in manufacturing, and fear of arbitrary state actions against both foreign and domestic businesses—are the result of government planning gone wrong. As China doubles down on repression, its economic problems get worse.

Fifteen years after the financial crisis, meanwhile, tightly regulated Europe has fallen behind the U.S. Using chained 2015 dollars to minimize the effect of currency fluctuations, total European Union gross domestic product in 2008 was 81% that of the U.S. In 2022 it was 73%, hardly an argument for the European way.

For the full commentary, see:

Walter Russell Mead. “GLOBAL VIEW; Davos Turns Gently to the Right.” The Wall Street Journal (Tuesday, Jan. 23, 2024): A17.

(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date January 22, 2024, and has the same title as the print version.)

Covid Mandates and Firms Restricting Employee Speech Led Democrat to Invest in Tucker Carlson Media Venture

(p. A18) Five years ago, Omeed Malik was a self-described “run-of-the-mill corporate Democrat,” with a seat on the Council on Foreign Relations, a summer house in the Hamptons, and stints at Bank of America and white-shoe law firm Weil, Gotshal under his belt.

Then Covid happened. Chafing under government mandates he found illogical and corporate limits on speech that felt to him like censorship, he moved from Manhattan to Florida and began hanging out with Republican donors. He discovered a business opportunity in a so-called parallel economy of conservative-friendly companies.

Now, he is one of their financiers. Malik this year launched 1789 Capital, which aims to capitalize on the opportunities that it sees left open by the “wokeness” of more traditional sources of capital.

Its first fund, with a modest $150 million, made its initial investment Monday [Oct. 16, 2023], leading a $15 million seed round with other private investors into Tucker Carlson and Neil Patel’s new media company.

For the full story, see:

Keach Hagey. “1789 Invests in Carlson’s Media Firm.” The Wall Street Journal (Wednesday, Oct. 18, 2023): B1-B2.

(Note: bracketed date added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date October 17, 2023, and has the title “Tucker Carlson’s Media Company Secures Investment Led by ‘Anti-Woke’ Firm.”)

As Freedom Left Hong Kong, So Did Hundreds of Billions of Dollars and 100,000 Citizens

(p. B1) This summer, when Hong Kong’s stock market rout seemed to have no end in sight, the city’s financial chief, Paul Chan, jumped into action, creating a task force to inject confidence into a market that was being pummeled by global investors wary of China.

Hong Kong cut taxes on trading, and Mr. Chan went on a roadshow to Europe and the United States, promising measures to “let investors feel optimistic about the outlook.” Investors were anything but sanguine, however, and the city’s stock exchange is among the world’s worst-performing stock markets this year.

. . .

Hundreds of billions of dollars flowed out this year as money managers and pension funds reduced their holdings in Hong Kong, which has long been a gateway for foreign investors wanting to put money into mainland China. The outflows were largely driven by an economic downturn in China and mounting pressure on American investors to sell their (p. B3) exposure to Chinese companies.

. . .

A former British colony, Hong Kong was handed back to China in 1997 with a pledge that it would maintain a high degree of self-governance under a policy called “one country, two systems.” For two decades, this allowed Hong Kong to define itself as unique and distinct from the rest of China, while offering financial access to the world’s second largest economy.

But after citywide protests in 2019, Beijing imposed the national security law, which has silenced political debate and stifled civic activity.

More than 100,000 residents have left Hong Kong over the last few years, in part because of the security law and tough pandemic restrictions. Many young Hong Kong professionals who are still there have expressed a desire to leave, making it a challenge to recruit the talent that has helped the city function as a financial center.

Once a major hub for Wall Street banks, Hong Kong had a drought of initial public offerings this year. Companies raised the lowest amount of money since 2001, resulting in layoffs at financial institutions citywide.

Many international companies have stopped hiring for new positions in Hong Kong. With less money coming into the exchange and fewer transactions, dozens of brokerages have also closed.

For the full story, see:

Alexandra Stevenson. “Hong Kong Stock Market Ends in Loss For 4th Year.” The New York Times (Saturday, December 30, 2023): B1 & B3.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date Dec. 29, 2023, and has the title “Hong Kong Stocks Plunge to Losses for 4th Straight Year.”)

“People’s Experience with the D.M.V.” Teaches Them “the Government Is Plodding, Slow”

(p. B1) The film “Leave the World Behind” centers on the idea of mistrust and how easy it is for humans to lose empathy for one another when faced with a crisis. It is at once unnerving, misanthropic and bleak, and, perhaps somewhat surprisingly, it’s produced by Barack and Michelle Obama’s production company, Higher Ground.

. . .

(p. B5) While Mr. Obama was no stranger to Hollywood — since his early days of campaigning for the presidency he found a welcoming audience among the show business elite — he has found that working in this business has taken some getting used to.

“It’s ironic that the private sector is made out to be this hyper-efficient thing, and the government is plodding, slow,” he said. “I think part of it is ideological and part of it is people’s experience with the D.M.V.”

For the full story, see:

Nicole Sperling. “Reimagining Storytelling, Obama Style.” The New York Times (Friday, December 8, 2023): B1 & B5.

(Note: ellipsis added.)

(Note: the online version of the story was updated Dec. 7, 2023, and has the title “Obamas’ Vision for Hollywood Company: ‘This Isn’t Like Masterpiece Theatre’.”)

If You Are Pained to Wait Over Two Years for Socialist Surgery in Britain, Seek Timely Free Market Surgery in Lithuania

(p. 4) For David Haselgrove, it was a battle each day to get out of bed, then another struggle to put on his socks. Stairs were often impossible, and the pain made him tetchy and difficult to live with.

But when he sought medical help for his arthritis, Mr. Haselgrove was told the wait for a specialist consultation was more than two years. It might be another two years before surgery.

“If I wasn’t the person I am, I would have been losing the will to live because the pain takes over your life,” said Mr. Haselgrove, 71, who is now fully mobile after a successful hip replacement.

His recovery has nothing to do with Britain’s National Health Service.

Instead, Mr. Haselgrove, who ran several small businesses during his working life, flew to a clinic in Lithuania to have surgery, becoming one of a growing number of Britons who have dipped into their own pockets to pay for procedures to which they are entitled free on the N.H.S.

. . .

Investment in buildings and equipment, including in vital diagnostic tools such as CT and M.R.I. scanners, has significantly lagged medical systems in other advanced economies, according to the King’s Fund, a health-focused think tank.

That contributed to a backlog of 4.6 million procedures even before the pandemic, a number that swelled to six million as planned procedures made way for emergency care during the Covid crisis. The line for treatment has only grown since. It is now about 7.7 million procedures, representing about a 10th of the population. Thousands have waited more than two years, often in pain.

Little wonder, then, that many Britons who can afford to pay to cut the line are doing so, while some of more limited means are dipping into savings or taking on debt. Yet that trend, some critics say, could undermine a health care system that has been a bedrock of British life for three-quarters of a century.

Private medical insurance is costly in Britain, and taxable when offered as a benefit by employers, so the shift is most visible when people pay for operations and other medical help out of pocket.

According to the Private Healthcare Information Network, which publishes data on the sector, there were about 50,000 “self-pay” medical admissions in a typical quarter before the pandemic. That figure is now steadily substantially higher; in the first quarter of this year, it was 71,000, close to a record.

That does not include patients who go overseas, like Mr. Haselgrove. At 7,000 euros, about $7,500, a hip replacement at the Nord Clinic in Lithuania was significantly cheaper than it would have been in a private hospital in Britain.

. . .

Britain is chronically short of health workers, with over 100,000 N.H.S. positions vacant.

. . .

. . . the deepest risk of the rise in self-pay patients, according to Chris Thomas, principal health fellow at the Institute for Public Policy Research, a progressive think tank, is not to the health service’s operations, but to its political underpinnings.

The British health system, he said, is built around the idea of “universalizing the best” — creating a system “as good for a rich person” as for a poor one, Mr. Thomas said.

If wealthier people increasingly opt out, Mr. Thomas said, the N.H.S. will become a second-class system for those who cannot afford to do so, resulting in “a slow erosion of support.”

For the full story, see:

Stephen Castle. “Long Wait Lists Threaten U.K. Promise of Free Care.” The New York Times, First Section (Sunday, December 10, 2023): 4.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date Dec. 9, 2023, and has the title “Britons Love the N.H.S. Some Will Also Pay to Avoid It.”)

“I Do What I Want; You Don’t Like It, Don’t Buy It”

(p. 27) Terry Castro, a New York-based jewelry designer whose knack for blending the fantastical with the elegant propelled him from selling on the sidewalks of New York to adorning celebrities like Rihanna and Steven Tyler, died on July 18 [2022] at his home in Istanbul.

. . .

Mr. Castro, who worked under the single name Castro, considered himself a “creator of dreams.”

. . .

Passionate and at times confrontational, Mr. Castro considered himself a rebel within the industry.

“I do what I want; you don’t like it, don’t buy it,” he said in a 2012 interview with The Black Nouveau, a style blog. Recounting his scattered efforts to “go commercial,” he concluded that the income was not worth the creative price paid.

For the full obituary, see:

Alex Williams. “Terry Castro, 50, Rebel Who Created Exquisite Jewelry.” The New York Times, First Section (Sunday, August 7, 2022): 27.

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

(Note: the online version of the obituary has the date Aug. 4, 2022, and has the title “Terry Castro, a Proud Outsider in the Jewelry World, Dies at 50.”)

Communists Renege on “Implicit Bargain” to Give Chinese “Stability and Comfort” in Exchange for Lost Freedom

(p. 1) After violently crushing pro-democracy demonstrations at Tiananmen Square in 1989, Beijing struck an implicit bargain: In exchange for limitations on political freedoms, the (p. 9) people would get stability and comfort.

But now the stability and comfort have dwindled, even as the limitations have grown.

. . .

Atop a hill in Shenzhen’s Lianhuashan Park stands a 20-foot bronze statue of Deng Xiaoping. Mr. Deng, the leader who pioneered China’s embrace of market forces after Mao’s death, watches over the city that is a living reminder of the country’s ability to change direction. Mr. Deng is shown in midstride, to honor his credo that opening should only accelerate.

Chen Chengzhi, 80, a retired government cadre who hikes to that statue every day for exercise, credits Mr. Deng with changing his life. Mr. Chen moved to Shenzhen in the 1980s, soon after Mr. Deng allowed economic experimentation here. The city then had just a few hundred thousand people, but Mr. Chen, who had endured famine and the Cultural Revolution, believed in Mr. Deng’s vision.

“At the end of the day, all good things in China are related to Shenzhen,” Mr. Chen said on one of his daily walks, adding that he cheered when China’s premier, Li Keqiang, visited the statue in August and pledged that China would continue opening to the world.

If it doesn’t do so, Mr. Chen said, “China will hit a dead end.”

But Mr. Li is retiring, even as the Xi Jinping era of rising state control stretches on.

For now, Mr. Chen continues climbing the hill — looking over the city that he helped build, that he believes in still.

For the full story, see:

Vivian Wang. “Covid Crackdowns Shake Chinese People’s Faith in Progress.” The New York Times, First Section (Sunday, December 4, 2022): 1 & 9.

(Note: ellipsis added.)

(Note: the online version of the story also has the date December 4, 2022, and has the title “The Chinese Dream, Denied.” The online version says that the title of the print version was “Beijing’s Bargain With Its People Is Shaken” but my National Edition of the print version had the title “Covid Crackdowns Shake Chinese People’s Faith in Progress.”)