Paternalists versus doers (pandemic edition)

Chalk up another victory for markets and free enterprise! The polemical Nassim Nicholas Taleb (or NNT of “Black Swan” fame) recently wrote up and posted this excellent essay identifying six errors in reasoning about face masks. Among the usual suspects are “paternalistic bureaucrats” and Ivy League-educated public-health experts, both of whom at first implored the general public to NOT use masks–yeah, the same nitwits who are now making unprincipled exceptions based on your politics. As NNT explains, these bureaucrats and experts lied to us (NNT’s words, not mine) because they failed to see the power of people to respond to incentives, or in the eloquent words of NNT: “they did not get the inventiveness and industriousness of people who do not need a government to produce masks for them: they can rapidly convert about anything into well-functioning protective face covering appendages, say rags into which one can stitch coffee filters…. Nor did bureaucrats heed the notion of markets and the existence of opportunists who can supply people with what they want.” Also, via Marginal Revolution, here is another spectacular example of government failure.

Photo credit: F. E. Guerra-Pujol

About F. E. Guerra-Pujol

When I’m not blogging, I am a business law professor at the University of Central Florida.
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