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Milton Friedman on free enterprise
The GameStop saga has led many commentators to point out that “free market” might not be quite the right word for what happens on Wall Street. (As the old saying goes, it’s more like “heads I win, tails you lose”). Among the various suspicious events are: the Robinhood trading platform restricted trading of GameStop shares due to “market volatility”; Discord shut down the r/WallStreetBets server on grounds of “hate speech”; Facebook banned the Robinhood Stock Traders group for “violating community standards”; and Janet Yellen – Biden’s pick for Secretary of the Treasury – reportedly received $810,000 in “speaking fees” from the hedge fund at the centre of the scandal.
All this reminded me of a quote from the libertarian economist Milton Friedman:
The two greatest enemies of the free enterprise system, in my opinion, have been on the one hand my fellow intellectuals, and on the other the big businessmen – for opposite reasons … The intellectual is all in favour of freedom for himself, and all opposed to it for everybody else. The businessman is very different … Almost every businessman is in favour of free enterprise for everybody else, but special privilege and special government protection for himself.
Image: Joseph Nickolls, View of the Stocks Market London, before 1738
The “100,000 deaths” figure
Yesterday, I wrote a short piece for The Critic arguing that the “100,000 deaths” figure is slightly misleading. Here’s an excerpt:
There’s a more significant reason why “100,000 excess deaths” is slightly misleading. Excess deaths measures the change in mortality. It tells you how many more deaths there were in a given time period than you were expecting based on previous years. In other words, it tells you how much mortality has changed, relative to where it was before. This is useful when trying to assess the pandemic’s overall impact; but it is less helpful when trying to convey the current level of mortality.
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