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Eric Kramer

Articles by Eric Kramer

Ross Douthat tries to gloss DeSantis’ abusive treatment of migrants.  It goes about as well as you would expect.

7 days ago

DeSantis’ decision to send migrants to Martha’s Vineyard on false pretenses was clearly repugnant.  In fact, it seems to have been even worse than it appears:  the organizers apparently tried to trick the migrants into reporting their whereabouts to the wrong authorities, which would have jeopardized their status.

But over on twitter, Ross Douthat tries to put a bit of lipstick on the pig:

This was always the obvious point of the stunt, not to show that NE liberals would mistreat migrants but to provoke a huge mobilization – National Guard! – and imply a contrast w/a liberal WH failing to help border communities dealing w/far larger influx.— Ross Douthat (@DouthatNYT) September 16, 2022The thing is, Douthat is

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Fukuyama on Russia, Ukraine, and the future of democracy

12 days ago

I was planning to make this argument, but Fukuyama says it better than I would have:

Thirdly, a Russian military failure—meaning at minimum the liberation of territories conquered after 24 February 2022—will have enormous political reverberations around the world. Russia and China prior to the war argued that liberal democracies, particularly the United States, were in decline. They argued that their authoritarian systems were better at accomplishing big tasks and acting decisively. What has happened instead is that the Russian model of centralized decision-making, centered around one man, has committed one of the gravest political blunders in recent history. Putin, isolated during the pandemic and out of touch with the reality both of his own

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More disinformation about COVID policy in New Zealand

13 days ago

I have a piece up at Science Based Medicine responding to criticism of New Zealand’s zero COVID policy by Jay Bhattacharya, an author of the Great Barrington Declaration and an uncompromising critic of COVID restrictions.  Here’s the intro:

Bhattacharya’s most compelling argument is that the zero COVID policy led to an increase in non-COVID mortality that substantially offset the COVID deaths the policy averted. If this were true, it would indeed be a powerful criticism of New Zealand’s policy. However, the best available estimates suggest that excess non-COVID mortality in New Zealand was negative  during the pandemic – fewer people died than we would have expected based on historical data. New Zealand’s COVID policy appears to have prevented

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Russia is truly f*cked

15 days ago

I’m not talking about the current military situation or the ongoing destruction of the Russian armed forces; to be clear I hope Russia suffers a crushing defeat at the hands of the Ukrainians.  I’m referring to the damage that the Ukraine war is doing to Russian society.  This damage is immeasurable:  extreme levels of political repression, the mass emigration of talented young people, loss of trade and direct foreign investment, the list goes on and on. 

And then there’s the damage done to their soldiers – tens of thousands of men killed, disabled, traumatized – and the damage these soldiers will do when they return from this brutal war:

This study examines the impact of post–September 11 (post-9/11) combat deployments on crime among veterans.

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Committing to Ukraine

19 days ago

We need to make a long-term commitment to Ukrainian victory.  Jack Watling:

Given that offensive operations to liberate occupied territories are likely to run through 2023 and are dependent upon Western aid, it is important that Ukraine’s international partners stop periodic announcements about specific lists of equipment and instead articulate a longer-term commitment to structural aid out to 2024. The reasons for this are straightforward. Firstly, it would remove the political pressure from the Ukrainian government to expend combat power to make short-term gains at the expense of longer-term prospects. Secondly, it would generate more realistic expectations among Western publics about the duration and impact of the conflict, and therefore reduce

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How should economists criticize Biden’s actions on student loans?

23 days ago

There has been a lot of criticism of Biden’s student loan forgiveness among economists and policy journalists.  And the criticism is not limited to libertarian types, but extends to many economists who clearly care about debt relief, progressivity, and improving the quality and accessibility of higher education but who are nonetheless very critical of the substance of the policy.

I find it hard to know what to think.  On the one hand, the policy really does seem to have lots of serious flaws.  It’s mostly a one-time fix that leaves underlying problems unaddressed, and may even make some problems worse.  It may be struck down in court in a way that blocks even very targeted efforts to address the most abusive debt problems (I’m just speculating

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Here’s how Democrats can leverage abortion and Social Security in 2022

August 23, 2022

Data for Progress has new polling showing that Social Security is very popular, and that Social Security messaging helps Democrats in a generic ballot poll.    

The DFP polling comes on the heels of recent comments from Republican politicians about cutting, sunsetting, or privatizing Social Security.

So in theory Social Security looks like a good issue for Democrats, and they may bring a messaging bill up for a vote this fall. 

The problem is that Republicans have been making statements like this quietly for years, without paying a noticeable political price.  In fact, David Weakliem recently looked at historical polling on which party is most trusted to handle Social Security, and the Democrats have been ahead for almost 40 years – but only

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Are abortion atrocities crowding out culture war outrage?

August 18, 2022

I haven’t heard much recently about the horrors of cancel culture or efforts to teach critical race theory to 5 year olds, or about the latest trans panic or “don’t say gay” law, or about defund the police or abolish ICE.

Maybe it’s just me.  But there are reasons to suspect it’s real, and that abortion is pushing other culture war issues aside.  There are several ways this could happen.

Republican state legislators may be too busy restricting abortion rights to spend time on “don’t say gay” bills or banning critical race theory.  A legislator can only accomplish so much! 

Another possibility is that the media is just reporting less on social issues other than abortion.  What do you think outrages people more, and generates more clicks:  a

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COVID and the case for non-pharmaceutical interventions

August 15, 2022

The use of non-pharmaceutical interventions has been a source of persistent controversy during the COVID pandemic.  Opposition to NPIs was the motivating impulse behind The Great Barrington Declaration (GBD), which called for an immediate end all “lockdowns” and the use of “focused protection” to “protect the vulnerable”.  The GBD was trumpeted by the American Institute for Economic Research, a previously little-known organization that “educates people on the value of personal freedom, free enterprise, property rights, limited government and sound money”, and then amplified through new and existing libertarian think tanks and blogs. 

Here I want to examine three arguments used by opponents of lockdowns that have the potential to lead us astray as

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Ivermectin, redux

July 31, 2022

The conceit of the article on ivermectin by Hooper and Henderson I discussed in my prior post is that medical authorities – mostly the FDA, but also Merck, the maker of ivermectin – are wrongly denying that ivermectin is an effective treatment for COVID. 

They raise some issues that are worth discussing.  For example, they talk about the lack of incentive for companies to do clinical trials on existing, off-patent drugs, and about the way FDA uses statistical significance in its decision making. 

These are subjects that are worth debating when we think about reform, but raising reasonable issues can be a cover for bad faith argument.  To illustrate, here is a methodological issue they ignore:  it makes no sense to make treatment decisions for

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Libertarians and medical misinformation:  the case of ivermectin

July 29, 2022

A 73-year-old woman died of COVID because she got caught up in conspiracy theories and medical misinformation.  NPR has the details:

When Stephanie caught COVID-19 just before Thanksgiving of last year, her daughter Laurie suggested that she get help.“She was really not feeling well, and I was like, ‘Just go to the doctor,’” Laurie recalls.But Stephanie, who was 75 at the time, didn’t go. A few years before, she had been sucked into a world of online conspiracy theories — far-fetched ideas like one claiming John F. Kennedy Jr. is still alive. With the pandemic, it got worse. She became deeply distrustful of the medical system.. . .COVID cases and hospitalizations are once again on the rise, thanks to a new omicron subvariant. Vaccines and certain

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The uses and limits of bipartisanship

July 19, 2022

Many Democrats seem to view bipartisanship as a trap for naïve centrists.  This view is understandable given the way Republicans play political hardball.  But the right response to hardball is to use bipartisanship strategically, the way Republicans do, not to eschew it altogether.

There are several advantages to pursuing bipartisan agreements.  First, many people hate political conflict in Washington.  They want bipartisanship.  And rightly or wrongly Democrats ran on it, and campaign promises matter. 

Second, bipartisanship is sometimes a path to modest legislative victories.  To be sure, many victories achieved through bipartisanship will be modest and disappointing.  I doubt the recently passed gun control legislation will accomplish much.

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The dark underside of modern libertarianism, redux

July 13, 2022

In a previous post, I pointed out that Jeffrey Tucker, the founder of the libertarian Brownstone Institute, has a personal history on race related issues that . . . raises some awkward questions.  I concluded as follows:

I have no idea what the truth is here or what Tucker’s views on race are.  But the willingness of at least some libertarians to make common cause with racists is deeply troubling.  Racism is not only wrong, it undermines support for democratic government.  Fanning the flames of racial animosity is a threat to all of us. 

A couple of days ago, Tucker started complaining publicly about the treatment of slavery at Monticello. 

Fox brings on a guest who was a recent visitor to Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello, to complain about his

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On abortion, women and Democrats can win, the big questions are how and when

July 12, 2022

If any more evidence is needed that the Democrats are, much, much more in step with the public on abortion than Republicans, two items. 

First, more evidence that people have serious reservations about government meddling in the most personal of decisions:

🚨 NEW @NavigatorSurvey national surveyPosition on abortion?– Pro-Choice: 60%– Pro-life: 33% Decision about abortion should be…– Left to a women and her doctor: 79%– Left to politicians and gov’t: 11%— Jesse Ferguson (@JesseFFerguson) July 8, 2022And this:

House Republicans are weighing what kind of national-level abortion ban legislation to pursue if they win the House majority next year, with a 15-week ban or further on the table.But even as they cheer the

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State of the mid-terms

July 11, 2022

[unable to retrieve full-text content]A month ago the upcoming election seemed likely to go very badly for the Democrats, with a large loss of seats in the House, and an uphill battle to hold the Senate as well.  Today things look somewhat brighter for the Democrats, for several reasons: The Republican nominating process has produced some pretty weak general […]
The post State of the mid-terms appeared first on Angry Bear.

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Is classical liberalism anti-democratic?  Spoiler alert:  yes.

July 9, 2022

As we have discussed, classical liberals and libertarians have an uneasy relationship with democracy.  The reason is obvious – classical liberals support unregulated or lightly regulated capitalism, and this is not a popular position with voters. 

Of course, it could be that classical liberals support both capitalism and democracy, and reluctantly prioritize their commitment to democracy over their commitment to limited government.  Yet as democracy has come under threat from the economically conservative Republican party, classical liberals have generally refrained from defending democracy and criticizing Republicans. 

But maybe some classical liberals are willing to take a clear stand in favor of democracy.

Classical liberal economist

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An abortion polling Rorschach test

July 1, 2022

What does this make you think?

[email protected] and I looked at public opinion on abortion in today’s @monkeycageblog. We find that a majority of the public in about 40 states support legal abortion rights. (1/2)— Chris Warshaw (@cwarshaw) June 25, 2022Option 1:  This is a moral outrage!

Option 2:  We need to figure out how to win elections!

Politics is not a morality play, folks!  If you think this is an outrage, spend your time figuring out how to win elections.  And winning elections may require messaging that does not focus on moral outrage, especially not outrage aimed at Republicans in general (rather than extremists within the Republican party, including on the Court).

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How should Democrats fight Dobbs?

June 30, 2022

The Democrats seem to be a bit uncertain about how to respond to the Dobbs ruling overturning Roe.  This isn’t surprising.  They face enormous pressure from their voters to “do something”, but there is, in fact, little they can do that will materially improve the situation of pregnant women in the short term.  Despite the moral urgency of the situation, they are forced to (mostly) play a long game, hardly an enviable position to be in.  Let’s take a deeper look.

Progressives are upset

As Paul Waldman notes, progressives are upset:

Not surprisingly, liberals were contemptuous at how ineffectual their party’s leaders looked at this moment of crisis.In Congress itself, progressive members are exasperated with the White House for not having a

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Moralistic political thinking

June 30, 2022

I have a post up at Science-Based Medicine about the pitfalls and dangers of moralistic political thinking. The focus is on COVID, but the lessons are much more broadly relevant. Here’s the lede:

The American policy response to COVID left a great deal to be desired. Figuring out what went wrong and how to do better next time should be at the top of our list going forward. But getting reform right will be difficult if we succumb to the temptation to substitute the false clarity of moral outrage for the murkiness and ambiguity of careful policy analysis.Vinay Prasad has an essay up on his substack and at the Brownstone Institute that illustrates the challenges here. I do not think all of his criticisms of COVID policy are wrong. But I do think he

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Can Congress protect abortion rights?  Yes, here’s how.

June 28, 2022

Kevin Drum raises the question:

In the aftermath of the Dobbs decision, some conservatives are talking about passing a national ban on abortion. But I don’t think they can do that.

Drum goes on to explain that the federal government is a government of enumerated powers, and that it is not obvious that any of the recognized powers of Congress would allow it to ban abortion nationwide.  He recognizes that the Court could make up a new doctrine and uphold a national ban, but thinks that would be a bridge too far:

. . . Still, there are limits, even for these folks. They just signed onto a huge decision that, in every possible way, supports the idea that abortion is strictly a state issue, not a federal one. They’d have a hard time changing that

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Is Putin waiting for Trump?

June 27, 2022

So suggests Noah Smith:

What Russia is really banking on in this war is a Trump return to power.— Noah Smith 🐇🇺🇦 (@Noahpinion) June 27, 2022My view is that Putin is banking on congressional Republicans. 

At this point is seems clear that the Ukrainian army is better than the Russian army (more motivated, better trained and led) and that NATO weapons are better than Russian weapons.  If the current coalition in support of Ukraine holds together, a Trump victory in 2024 would be too late to salvage a Russian victory in Ukraine. 

Putin hopes congressional Republicans will take a populist/isolationist turn and refuse to extend military and economic aid to Ukraine.

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On Roe, offer to compromise with Republicans, and vilify the conservative justices

June 25, 2022

It’s hard to focus as I struggle through my second round of Covid, but a few thoughts on Roe.


Josh Marshall has been advocating loudly for the Democrats to run this year on a pledge to restore Roe.  Maybe this is their best strategy.  But they should consider a compromise along the lines I suggested earlier – 15 weeks of unrestricted access, and then abortion available when things go awry (fetal defects, threat to health of the pregnant woman, etc.).  Democrats need to expand their coalition; turning out more voters in blue states won’t do the trick.  This means taking a deep breath and trying to work out a compromise that most voters can accept, and as I discussed previously second trimester abortions are in fact quite controversial

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The fog of war and international relations in Ukraine

June 17, 2022

Understanding the situation in Ukraine and how it will likely evolve in the future is impossible for me, partly due the inherent complexity and unpredictability of war and international relations, and partly because the main players have such strong incentives to strategically misrepresent their actions and intentions.  Are the Ukrainians really getting killed by Russian artillery fire in unsustainable numbers, or are the Ukrainians putting pressure on Biden and the Europeans to step up arms deliveries?  Is the U.S. committed to supplying the Ukrainians with needed weapons as rapidly as training and logistics permit, or are we slow-walking arms deliveries?  Are we willing to leave the end-game negotiations entirely to the Ukrainians, or are we

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Vaccines?  Focused protection?  Not if you ask the fine libertarians at the Brownstone Institute.

June 16, 2022

Pre-COVID, who would have thought that a significant part of the libertarian thought collective would go anti-vax?  Not me.  But I stand corrected.  From a recent blog post at the illustrious Brownstone Institute:

The people whose directives you are following talk a lot about “pseudoscience,” always accusing those of us who disagree with their directives of pushing it. But you know what pseudoscience actually is? It’s putting forth a premise that cannot be disproven.For example: “my COVID would have been worse without my vaccine.” “More grandmas would have died if we would not have locked down, worn masks and taken vaccines.” These two assertions can actually be easily refuted (look at the nations that did not lock down, and the health of the

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Performative moralism is just bawling upon paper, not political strategy

June 9, 2022

A small but influential faction of the Democratic left seems to be committed to the idea that the way out of our political difficulties is to persuade Democratic voters that they should be very angry at Democratic politicians.  This is insane on every level. 

For example, Ben Burgis in Jacobin argues (as far as I can tell) that the fact that Democrats are not “waging war” against the filibuster shows that they are “hypocrites” and do not “give a shit” about abortion rights.  Let’s take a look.

Now that we know what the court is planning, the next question is what the Democrats will do with this information. So far, all that seems to be in the works is a symbolic vote intended to put everyone on the record and lay the groundwork for making

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On student loans, why not challenge Repubicans?

June 7, 2022

The WSJ reports that President Biden is delaying his decision on student loan forgiveness:

President Biden is likely to decide later this summer whether to partially forgive student-loan debt for millions of borrowers, according to administration officials and others familiar with the matter, after the president said more than a month ago that he would weigh in on the issue in the next couple of weeks.The officials said Mr. Biden is likely to announce his plans in July or August, closer to when the pandemic-related pause in federal student loan payments is scheduled to lapse, as the president and his senior advisers continue to weigh the political and economic fallout of any such move. The Biden administration earlier this year extended the pause,

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Biden should talk about Ukraine and Russia all the time

June 1, 2022

It’s good politics, and right on the merits.

He should frame the war as a fight against fascism, a fight against looming genocide, a fight to preserve freedom in Europe and democracy in America.  He should make it clear that the Ukrainians need to do the fighting, but that we will support them with weapons and sanctions.  He should acknowledge that it will require a modest sacrifice from Americans, but that we have never shied away when justice is on the line.

A Ukrainian victory – something that involves, at a minimum, no gain of territory for Russia, reparations, and real security guarantees for Ukraine – is clearly in our national interest.  Yes, the threat of nuclear escalation is real, but an unchastened Russia is also a very serious

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Parts of the Democratic left are threatening to burn down the house because they don’t get to sleep in the master bedroom

June 1, 2022

They should reconsider.

In my prior post, I noted that some progressives seem to be blaming their fellow Democrats for not doing more to protect abortion rights.  This “blame the Democrats” strategy may generate clicks, but it’s hard to see what else it will accomplish, other than demotivating Democratic voters.

Unfortunately, the “blame the Democrats” strategy is very popular in some quarters of the progressive left.  It recently reached its fullest expression – the perfect earthly embodiment of its true Platonic Form – in a recent article by David Sirota in Jacobin.  Sirota attributes consummate bad faith to Biden and the Democrats, ignores the real challenges of governing in a two-party political system with polarized voters and multiple veto

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Abortion politics after Roe:  persuasion and compromise

May 24, 2022

The end of Roe

The era of judicial protection for abortion rights appears to ending.  The Supreme Court is poised to uphold a Mississippi statute that prohibits most abortions after 15 weeks, and it is likely to do this by overruling Roe entirely.  When this happens, many states will enforce draconian laws limiting access to abortion.  There is a real possibility that Republicans will seek a national ban on abortion the next time they gain unified control of the federal government.

Democrats are unlikely to win a quick victory in the coming abortion wars, but they may be able to win a war of attrition – if they play their cards right and get a few lucky breaks. 

There is good reason to think that Democrats can win the battle for public

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Oh no!  Vaccination is ineffective, and deaths in Australia are surging!

May 20, 2022

Let’s check back in on the authoritarian hell hole of Australia.

Donald Boudreaux is still tirelessly working to educate people about the dangers of lockdowns and the wisdom of the Great Barrington Declaration strategy of “focused protection”.  Today he quotes this paragraph from an essay by Gigi Foster posted at – hold your breath! – the Brownstone Institute:

Many of those spared death in 2020 or 2021 from COVID are succumbing now in 2022 as our borders re-open, meaning that enduring the horror of lockdowns “saved” only a couple of years of life for a large fraction of Australia’s eventual COVID victims.Australia is now experiencing far more COVID deaths and infections than when lockdowns and other draconian restrictions were being imposed,

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