« Ideas, interests and capital | Main | The economics-politics divide »

July 29, 2020


Marc Mulholland

Very good. "I don't think the anser ..." should be "answer".


Thanks Marc - correction made.

Ralph Musgrave

“Rightists are not always fastidious about following evidence”?? Strikes me the left is much worse at ignoring evidence when it doesn’t suit. One example is the hundreds of articles which have appeared in the Guardian over the years which accuse various people of “xenophobia” (hatred of foreigners), “racism”, “fascism” etc etc, without so much as the beginnings of an attempt to actually produce evidence that hatred of foreigners etc is involved. For example many people want immigration restricted because they want to preserve their country’s way of life, traditions etc rather than because they hate foreigners.

And academics, who tend to be left of centre, are not too keen on empirical evidence that contradicts the rules of political correctness. See:




Camilla Long @camillalong

There is zero clear evidence on the effectiveness of masks. The government has said we don't need to wear them. Now we're told we must. And so the shops fall silent, our high streets die. All this is devastating for human relations. Column on mask Nazism


4:40 AM · Jul 19, 2020


July 29, 2020


Cases   ( 301,455)
Deaths   ( 45,961)

Notice the remarkable ratio of deaths to coronavirus cases of 15.2%.


July 29, 2020

Coronavirus (Deaths per million)

Belgium ( 848)
UK ( 677)
Spain ( 608)
Italy ( 581)

Sweden ( 567)
US ( 463)
France ( 463)
Netherlands ( 359)

Ireland ( 357)
Canada ( 236)
Switzerland ( 228)
Luxembourg ( 182)

Portugal ( 169)
Germany ( 110)
Denmark ( 106)
Austria ( 79)

Finland ( 59)
Norway ( 47)
Greece ( 19)

Davis X. Machina

To quote the possibly pseudonymous Crooked Timber commenter Frank Wilhoit:

"Conservatism consists of exactly one proposition, to wit:

There must be in-groups whom the law protectes but does not bind, alongside out-groups whom the law binds but does not protect.

There is nothing more or else to it, and there never has been, in any place or time."

Wearing a mask is as good as tatooing on your forehead which group you belong to. And refusing to wear one is to show your membership among the telling, instead of among the told.

Robert Mitchell

"Mask-wearing shows that the fulfilment of our preferences is not compossible, to use Leibnitz's word. My preference not to wear them (being a speccy four-eyes they steam up my glasses) conflicts with the shop-worker's preference to feel safer."

Give the shop-worker a basic income so they can quit if they don't feel safe. Compossibility restored.

All that is required to restore compossibility to any situation is a little imagination ...


Thought you may enjoy this. Effective mask test using ether! Amusing too. And I'd say a a 'compossible libertarian'. Forget lasers and high speed cameras. And Torys.


James Charles

“A May 2020 evidence review cited by The Lancet – a review of dozens of scientific studies – found:
‘The preponderance of evidence indicates that mask wearing reduces the transmissibility per contact by reducing transmission of infected droplets in both laboratory and clinical contexts. Public mask wearing is most effective at stopping spread of the virus when compliance is high. The decreased transmissibility could substantially reduce the death toll and economic impact while the cost of the intervention is low. Thus 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. We recommend that public officials and governments strongly encourage the use of widespread face masks in public, including the use of appropriate regulation.’”

James Charles

It amuses me when 'people' think that the Guardian is 'left-wing'!


As with all things Covid, there are studies that show face coverings have a massive effect, and studies showing they have no effect at all.

So, I'm wearing a mask. It may have a positive effect, isn't really that much of a discomfort, and if I have to choose a libertarian hill to die on, it won't be this one.



July 12, 2020

Face Masks Against COVID-19: An Evidence Review


The science around the use of masks by the general public to impede COVID-19 transmission is advancing rapidly. Policymakers need guidance on how masks should be used by the general population to combat the COVID-19 pandemic. Here, we synthesize the relevant literature to inform multiple areas: 1) transmission characteristics of COVID-19, 2) filtering characteristics and efficacy of masks, 3) estimated population impacts of widespread community mask use, and 4) sociological considerations for policies concerning mask-wearing....



June 14, 2020

The Masks Masquerade
By Nassim Nicholas Taleb

Incompetence and Errors in Reasoning Around Face Covering

SIX ERRORS: 1) missing the compounding effects of masks, 2) missing the nonlinearity of the probability of infection to viral exposures, 3) missing absence of evidence (of benefits of mask wearing) for evidence of absence (of benefits of mask wearing), 4) missing the point that people do not need governments to produce facial covering: they can make their own, 5) missing the compounding effects of statistical signals, 6) ignoring the Non-Aggression Principle by pseudolibertarians (masks are also to protect others from you; it’s a multiplicative process: every person you infect will infect others).

In fact masks (and faceshields) supplemented with constraints of superspreader events can save us trillions of dollars in future lockdowns (and lawsuits) and be potentially sufficient (under adequate compliance) to stem the pandemic. Bureaucrats do not like simple solutions....


July 29, 2020



Cases   ( 4,568,037)
Deaths   ( 153,840)


Cases   ( 301,455)
Deaths   ( 45,961)


Cases   ( 208,811)
Deaths   ( 9,212)


Cases   ( 185,196)
Deaths   ( 30,238)


Cases   ( 115,431)
Deaths   ( 8,917)

Notice the ratios of deaths to coronavirus cases of 15.2% and 16.3% for the United Kingdom and France respectively.


There is a highly contagious virus out there, sometimes lethal for some people, mostly not, and to stand even a chance of stopping it spreading, assuming that is possible at all, then we must stay in our houses when ordered to, destroy our economies and livelihoods, end social life as we know it by imposing impossible rules, including the requirement to wear face masks in social settings, etc. Imagine hearing this advice and rather than thinking, well, that's that then, we'd better carry on living, take our chances and just be as careful as we can, instead concluding that we should indeed destroy our economies, enforce mask-wearing, shut children and teenagers in the house, etc, because that's what The Science says! The world has gone mad. You'd need a very expensive education and a blog to think otherwise. For the rest of us, we understand that there are worse things than death.


July 30, 2020



Cases   ( 302,301)
Deaths   ( 45,999)

Notice the ratios of deaths to coronavirus cases of 15.2%.

[ I really, really prefer life.

Duh. ]


Interestingly and importantly, the rate of saving as a share of disposable income in the United States rose to a remarkable 27.5% these last 3 months. I take this as a measure of how frightened people collectively have been, no matter the political positioning. So wearing masks is the simplest of ways to assuage the fear and I, at least, will go near no person who is not wearing a mask.

Yes, I prefer life.


I am wondering what is happening that our blogger has written an entire post on conflicts of interests :-).

«prove Corey Robin right, that Conservatism stands for no more that the protection of privilege.»

I think that C Robin defines it as the reaction against emancipation from hierarchies, a subtly different concept, much more strongly related to identity politics.

But both that and "protection of privilege" seem off to me, as there are other types of privilege that matter to other political positions, and conservativism does not merely "protect".

For me the most precise description is that conservativism as in "toryism" is about furthering (not merely protecting) the interest of incumbents, and since there are several types of incumbency, whose relative weights vary with time and place, that is why conservativism is protean and largely non-ideological, or that adopts whatever ideology furthers the interests of the currently most important incumbents.

That thing about "incumbency" is the biggest difference with the whigs.


Some people value their liberty more highly than their personal safety and are generally on the right of the political spectrum reflecting their more masculine conservative attitude to such matters, some people value their personal safety more highly than their liberty and are generally on the left of the political spectrum reflecting their more feminine materialist attitude. In the present pandemic government restrictions force all people to conform to the latter view which naturally causes resentment from those of the former.

People who value their personal safety over liberty are easily stripped of it, to defend the liberty of all requires those who are not so fearful to sometimes risk their personal safety in order to do so. How quickly we forget.


So long as defending your liberty doesn't mean you can dump your trash in my back yard I won't object. e.g. Insisting on your right to enter supermarkets and trains mask free. ;)


This whole mask nonsense has IMO separated principled libertarians, who have on the whole grudgingly supported the adoption of masks as an intervention that will make us freer in the long run, from online dickheads who use "libertarianism" as intellectual cover for being a dickhead.

James Charles

The 'left-wing' Guardian is mentioned here: https://www.medialens.org/2020/racism-sexism-classism-the-necessary-incoherence-of-mainstream-ethical-debate/

"Racism, Sexism, Classism – The Necessary Incoherence Of ‘Mainstream’ Ethical Debate"


«doesn't mean you can dump your trash in my back yard I won't object. e.g. Insisting on your right to enter supermarkets and trains mask free»

This is a good point about dumping his virus into somebody else's face.

The "pure libertarian" answer is easy to imagine: there are already laws that make infecting someone wilfully or recklessly (and I think also negligently) illegal, and if someone exercising their property rights over their own body to go without a mask ends up infringing your property rights over your body by infecting you and you die, you can always sue or prosecute them, and this will deter other people doing the same.

What is intolerable for a "pure libertarian": preventive measure that infringe her property rights "just in case" they may end up infringing someone else's property rights. because in her view she takes personal responsibility and there are courts to punish her actual violations (if any happen) of other people's property rights *after the fact*, so there is no need for before the fact restrictions about things that *may* happen. The same argument would apply to home development of plague bacteria without suitable precautions.
"Fiat libertas, ruat caelum".

My usual answer to "pure libertarians" cuts across such prevarication and it is that most countries are voluntary-membership clubs, and as long as exiting from them is in fact possible (even if there are exit fees), their rules are freely agreed contractual rules, and as such don't infringe property rights. Just as a shop may require all customers to wear a mask, or else not enter it, the UK citizens club may require mask wearing, or else go somewhere else.

If a "pure libertarian" finds membership of the UK residents club intolerable because of that, no one is preventing her from seeking membership in a more congenial citizens club, for example I doubt that South Sudan has imposed mask wearing.


«Just as a shop may require all customers to wear a mask, or else not enter it, the UK citizens club may require mask wearing, or else go somewhere else.»

Note that this argument cannot be objected to from a "pure libertarian" point of view centred on individual property rights and taking personal responsibility, include as to which citizenship club to join.

An argument that someone did not seek membership voluntarily when a minor is silly because her parents chose it voluntarily for her.
An argument that someone has the right to membership to a citizenship club to which all his ancestors and family belong, and that cannot be effectively taken way by arbitrary rule changes is either ridiculous or a tory one about inherited birthrights.
An argument that one cannot afford membership of another club is also silly, because affordability does not mean that she has the right to enter and shop at any store she wants either.
etc. etc.

From a "pure libertarian" point of view any person or corporate person can say to customers or employees: if you don't like the rules here, including mask wearing, that's the door.


«Some people value their liberty more highly than their personal safety»

But we are actually discussing something quite different, people who value their liberty to infect others with a potentially deadly disease more highly than the personal safety of other people.

Davis X. Machina

But we are actually discussing something quite different, people who value their liberty to infect others with a potentially deadly disease more highly than the personal safety of other people.

Category error. Assumes 'other people' are actually people. I am the only 'people'.

The truth

Again most people's assumptions on this issue are completely idiotic, including the the author.

Statistically the virus is less dangerous to people under 40 than the flu. But then exponentially more dangerous for those 65 plus.

It is in the public interest that a large proportion of those under 65 get covid-19 asap.

Masks should be banned except when intersecting with the old.

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