Friday, August 20, 2021

Infecting Ourselves: Slouching Towards Variolation

Infecting Ourselves: Slouching Towards Variolation

If the Covid vaccines are safe, why won’t anyone take financial responsibility for any of the few

and minor problems they (almost certainly won’t) cause? Heck, Hunter Biden could step up

and promise to give one of his $500,000 paintings to any American injured by any of the

vaccines subsidized by American taxpayers. (The very “interesting” paintings must only take

him a few minutes to make, so surely it would be no burden.) 


I’m like many other Americans and people around the world, generally preferring the

broad, effective, and safe immunities that come from natural exposure to electing to get the jab.

This is not due to ignorance but the opposite. I’ve read the literature. Until I know my family

will be safe if a vax, by some miraculous piece of bad luck, kills or maims me, I just do not want

to risk taking one, especially knowing what I know about the nation’s weak any occ disability program.


But, some friends claim, the government will soon force me to submit to the shots. If it comes to that,

I am going to insist that the government execute me … with the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes

Covid-19. Yes, my plea will be disingenuous because the virus in any reasonable dose

is highly unlikely to harm even a pudgy 50-something man in good health. But the broader point is

that I still believe that the proper course of action in March 2020 would have been to continue living

a normal life, just as we did with past pandemics, allowing the vulnerable (we know who they are)

to avoid exposure while the rest of society functions as normal. 


De facto, and depending on how much and to what extent people even became aware of the

presence of a new virus, this could have even included a voluntary variolation strategy,,

i.e., to expose ourselves via living a normal life, that is in order to stimulate a natural immune

response. It is based on the long-settled principle that the best path toward avoiding the

most severe effects of pathogens is permitting the immune system to learn from the mild ones. 


These days, given the widespread disappointment upon the discovery that the vaccines are not

the magic cure they were advertised to be – they mitigate against severe outcomes but don’t

provide universal protection against infection – we are starting to see some admissions that

conscious exposure may become our best bet once again. The fact that the vaccines are not

quite as effective as advertised can be discussed openly in public, apparently, under the

code word “booster.”


But don’t take my word for the potential power of variolation. Last October, in the august

New England Journal of Medicine, Drs Monica Gandhi and George W. Rutherford argued

that the value of masking was not to prevent the spread of the virus but to mitigate its effects.

“Universal masking,” they noted in their Op-ed, “could become a form of ‘variolation’ that would

generate immunity.” The doctors point out that the fact that some people show severe symptoms while

others remain asymptomatic is probably due to the extent of their exposure. The bigger the dose of

the nasties one receives, the more likely one is to end up in hospital or, alas, the morgue.


It isn’t clear to me, however, why so much has to be left to chance by being exposed to the

virus randomly, in the wilds of our social lives. Even with a mask, we know, one might get a massive

hit that leads to complications, or a small hit that leads to mild symptoms and more community

spread. Why not instead deliberately infect people with small amounts of the live virus and quarantine

them for x days afterwards until they can no longer infect others? After all, this is precisely what

old-fashioned inoculation achieved with so many other pathogens. In the early stages of such a

program, volunteers could be carefully studied, with variations in outcomes linked to

variations in their DNA, infection and immunization histories, vitamin levels, and so forth,

and the dosages tweaked accordingly for later waves of volunteers.


So much time and money has been expended since the “novel Coronavirus” emerged that

scientists already could have engaged in reverse “gain of function” (loss of function?) research,

creating variants less deadly and less transmissible than the original SARS-CoV-2 but still capable

of helping people to develop natural immunities against the “deadly” Delta and other variants.

(I assume they are called the awful Alpha, bad Beta, ghoulish Gamma, etc.)


One would think there would be a huge market for live vaccines which, after all, would be

inexpensive, all-natural, organic, and non-GMO (well, the recipient would no longer be a GMO).

Instead, both the Trump and Biden administrations put all of the nation’s Covid eggs in the mRNA

“vaccine” basket, a basket that, despite its cost, apparently needs boosting.


Keep in mind that I am not your doctor so I am not suggesting that you shouldn’t take the current

“vaccines.” You should discuss personal health matters with your physician(s) and decide what to put

into your body, or not, on the basis of that discussion, not what some also-not-your-doctor says on

TV or online, even if they are presented as wearing a proverbial white lab coat.


I am also not a scientist per se, “just” a lowly historian of science, somebody conversant with some of

humanity’s past medical successes and their far more frequent blunders. The former typically

occurred when information about diseases and their treatment flowed freely, data could be trusted to

be as accurate as technologically possible, and hypotheses could be openly proffered and tested.

Epic failures tend to occur when and where dismisinfoganda reigns, as during the Covid pandemic and early cholera outbreaks.


While it is silly to say that X person, behavior, or network kills people when actually it is the virus that

does so, politicians and bureaucrats need to be held to account for lying, even if the lie was allegedly

well-intentioned, because the cost of the falsehood is high in terms of public trust. That point was well

understood at least by the 1850s, when a character from the play “Serious Family” named Abinadab

Sleek became a household term for pious hypocrisy, as in “you saw that old canting Abinadab Sleek was up to every dodge and vice, although he did seem such a sanctified fellow individual in public.” 

Sound at all familiar?

The recent Covid case data tussle between the CDC and Florida’s health department would make old Mr. Sleek proud because it undermines the mission of both institutions while continuing to distract from the real question of how best to help people avoid bad Covid outcomes, even if that means allowing them to opt into infecting themselves, in a medically-controlled manner, with a virus that cannot be avoided forever.

We seem to be gradually coming around to the idea of endemicity – the realization that this pathogen is here to stay and we must adapt to it the same as we have to millions of others that present themselves in the course of regular life over millions of years. We vaccinate when possible, especially for the stable viruses, but for others, we evolved with immune systems that adapt according to a pattern discernible through scientific discovery. 

It was once a mark of the scientifically informed mind to grapple with this truth, embrace it, own it, and live it, with the realization of the counterintuitive truth that exposure and health are not countervailing forces but complementary ones. It is time to take the next logical step and slouch our way toward Variolation.


Tuesday, August 03, 2021

Nasty "Nannies"!

NB: most of my hot takes and searing rakes can still be found on the AIER website aqui: https://www.aier.org/staff/robert-e-wright/.

Nasty "Nannies": A Cautionary Tale


Once upon a time, not so long ago, in a land not so far away, a very large family faced a conundrum about what to do after noticing that their nannies had multiplied in number and grown quite nasty. The solution to the family’s problem, which is ongoing and even growing, is by no means clear but surely something must be done. Maybe you can help?


The first big difficulty is that the family inherited the nannies, most of whom are quite old and/or childless. The head nannies are the oldest and have become scolds. When family members object to their many rules, the nannies retort by asserting that they are following the terms of their ancient employment contract, a determination generally seconded by a small group of the head nannies claimed to be sufficiently independent from the others to render an objective opinion on the matter.


When pressed, the nannies also point out that family members possess the right to choose which faction of nannies is in charge. The nannies who lose leadership roles remain employed but defer, more or less, to the winning nannies until the next selection is made in two, four, or six years, depending on the exact nannyship role in question. 


Traditionally, the nanny leadership selection procedure appeased most family members. Recently, however, the legitimacy of the selection method has been questioned due to rule changes, some of which appear to have violated the ancient employment contract. Also, the selection justification strikes some family members as odd given that today the vast majority of the nannies, including many very powerful ones, are not subject to direct selection.


The nanny leaders hire many subalterns to perform various tasks, few of which seem necessary or even beneficial once the costs are properly accounted for, an exercise that the nannies refuse to undertake in a serious way. Mostly the nannies just make and enforce rules that make a few family members happy or rich while making the rest poor or miserable. 


All told, the nannies take about one in every three dollars earned by family members but they give some of it back in various ways, some of which are very popular and some not so much. The entire complicated exercise appears designed to prevent family members from knowing precisely how much they contribute to the nannies on net. The richest family members of course contribute more but all sorts of claims to the contrary are made to keep the family divided.


Understandably, some family members are not happy with the arrangement and wish to change the terms of the ancient employment contract but other family members fear that even worse arrangements will take their place. Some joke that everything is fine because their nannies are the worst in the world, except for all the others. 


A few family members whisper that maybe the family doesn’t need any nannies at all. Others think they need just a few, like when the family first hired them, and the nannies were more like sentinels. Many family members, though, cannot imagine life without nannies and would gladly give half or two-thirds of other family members’ incomes to have nannies tell them what to do with their lives.


The family members might be able to work this all out themselves but the nannies interfere constantly, in ways large and small. The nannies scold or mock those who question their authority or who have the audacity to claim that they are not following the terms of the employment contract, as amended over the years.


The nannies also claim to have a monopoly on science, a claim that some family members find absurd but others accept because they were educated by the nannies, who fight all attempts to allow non-nannies to educate family members. The nannies are so set on educating all the family members that they donate large sums to private universities in order to better control what the bastions of higher education tell family members about the nannies. One common distortion is to blame the nannies’ bad behaviors on family members.


Most of the nannies think that family members should not have firearms because it is the nannies’ job to safeguard the family. Although the nannies did successfully coordinate the family members’ efforts to thwart outside attacks several times in the past, the nannies also sometimes sent family members off to distant swamps and deserts to die for reasons that some family members thought dubious.


Moreover, some family members wonder where the nannies are when family members kill each other, as too often happens, especially when the nannies coerce them into living in close proximity to each other. The nannies seem to use everything as an excuse to take the family members’ firearms instead of looking into the root causes of murders, many of which are committed using bombs, knives, and blunt objects.


Meanwhile, instead of combatting real ills, some nannies trick family members into joining sundry ludicrous plots against the nannies simply to aggrandize themselves and make it seem as if family members cannot be trusted with their privacy let alone with guns. They also claim that some family members are better than other family members due to the way family members look, or what their ancestors did, or did not, do. Many family members find such claims upsetting and even contrary to the ancient terms of employment but they still let the nannies tell their children such things.


The nannies also routinely interfere with family members’ social media posts, especially regarding the selection process and their own health. They claim that they do not want family members spreading misinformation about the virus, vaccines, therapies, masks and other forms of social distancing, and such. Very few of the nannies have medical training and most family members see non-nanny doctors, however, so it was not clear that the nannies had superior knowledge, information, or understanding of the virus or ways to treat it or to mitigate its transmission. But apparently nannies have to nanny.


It is the utter arrogance of the nannies that troubles many family members the most. Instead of admitting that they cannot control everything and simply providing the best available advice, the nannies pretend to know everything and get defensive and even censorious when family members expose their ignorance, which is legion. ‘Tis feared the nannies might think it possible to run every aspect of the household economy, though ample precedents suggest that the attempt will lead only to poverty, despair, and death, the very things the nannies are supposed to help to prevent.


What is this family to do? Fire most of the nannies? Jettison or reform the ancient employment contract? Split into one or more new households? Or maybe the family members should lower their standards and laud nannies simply for not making things worse? Maybe pay the nannies not to nanny?


No path will prove an easy one but clearly something must change soon if the family is to survive the onslaught of their nasty nannies.


Tuesday, June 29, 2021

Is Britney Spears Enslaved?

 Is Britney Spears Enslaved?

One would think that in this Woke World more people would be asking if Britney Spears is a slave.
Although her income and net worth are enviable, it is no secret that the 39-year-old-American has been
under the thumb of a court-appointed guardian for 13 years. Recently, her plight regained media

attention after she gave an impassioned plea in court asking for her Constitutional rights to be restored.In light of the Paternalist Authoritarian Turn of 2020, I herein approach the question of her enslavement

as rigorously as I can, which means my response is nuanced, detailed, and based on my study of

10,000 years of human slavery across the globe.

    In 2017, Palgrave published my book The Poverty of Slavery, one key aspect of which was not to “define” slavery but rather to measure it. In Chapter 2, “Various Degrees of Liberty,” I developed a twenty point “Freedom Scale” based on official definitions and historical characteristics of enslavement. For context, most modern CEOs score a 20 on the scale, chattel field hands worked in the gang system in the antebellum cotton belt of the U.S. South score a 0, and an everyday working American today scores about a 15. So far as I can ascertain, Ms. Spears scores a 4 on my scale, which is just 1 above the score of chattel slaves workinged on the task system in the rice plantations of antebellum South Carolina.

    Here is my Freedom Scale as published and, in bold typeface, my estimation of how it relates to the situation of Ms. Spears based on media reports. Her score, a 0 or 1, is provided at the end of each criterion, in bold and italic typeface. Note that because this is a Freedom Scale rather than a Slavery Scale, some of the wording may be confusing. Just remember, freedom = good = 1 and unfreedom = bad = 0.

Direct Methods of Control:

1.  Is the laborer paid primarily in cash or other liquid assets (e.g., company stock)? (Payment

entirely in kind or in company scrip can be used to limit worker mobility or otherwise ensure his/her

dependence on the employer.) 1 She is paid a weekly cash allowance of $2,000.00.

2.  Can the laborer own property on the same terms as his or her employer? (Preventing laborers from

owning property serves the same purpose as paying him or her entirely in kind as it prevents the worker

from selling assets when s/he wishes to move to a new employer.) 0 The assets accumulated by virtue of her work, estimated at $60 million, are controlled by her guardian.

3.  Is the laborer free from physical restraints? (Punishment should be termination of employment,

not being beaten.) 1 The restraints, so far as I have ascertained, are entirely paper ones.

4.  Is the laborer free from psychological constraints? (‘Invisible’ or psychological chains can be as

potent as iron ones.) 0 She is clearly emotionally manipulated by her guardian, who is also her father.

5.  Is the laborer not legally required to work? (Vagrancy or compulsory labor laws contain, as a

newspaper put it in 1922, “the essence of slavery” because they reduce each worker’s option to remove

him or herself from the labor force, thereby reducing the attractiveness of strikes, subsistence lifestyles,

or self-employment.) 0 She claims she has been forced to work and of course we have to believe her, not due to some Woke baloney but because we know

that people respond to incentives, and her incentive under conservatorship is not to work.

6.  Is the laborer inalienable (unsalable or otherwise nontransferable to another employer without his

or her consent)? (Sale of labor services is also another characteristic of slavery, though of course not the

only one.) 0 This is a trickier one but my take, given that I am not a lawyer but can still see a clear legal path

for the sale, is that her guardian has complete control over her and if desired could sell her/the

right to benefit from her labor, to another guardian. 

7.  Is the laborer incapable of owing his/her employer significant sums or of being listed as collateral

security for an advance or other loan payable to his/her employer? (When an employer is also a major

creditor to his/her/its workers, the employer possesses too much economic power over them, which

can lead to debt bondage.) 0 She could borrow from her father or anyone whom he might sell her guardianship to.

8.  Has the worker not been subjected to ‘seasoning’ designed to break his/her will to find other

employment? (This is another standard sign of enslavement.) 0 I cannot find anyone who has used that term of art, but her recent court statement strongly

suggests that she was seasoned, though ineffectively.

9.  Does the laborer have freedom of movement in order to search for other employment? (Employers

that prevent laborer movement can effectively stop laborers from moving to employers willing to

offer better terms of employment.) 0 Clearly not.

10.  Can the laborer quit without monetary or other loss? (This question appears key to many.) 0 clearly not. She could presumably buy her freedom from her guardian, per the response to number 6 above,

but likely at the loss of most or all of the assets her labor since age 17 has accumulated.

Working Conditions:

11.  Can the laborer control his/her work schedule? (If not, s/he can be prevented from having a

personal cultural, economic, political, or social life outside of the workplace.) 0 The guardian controls such decisions.

12.  Can the laborer control the total hours s/he works? (Ditto.) 0 The guardian controls such decisions.

13.  Can the laborer control the tempo of his or her work? (If not, s/he can be driven to work at a pace

that injures his/her well-being, as well as his or her ability to have a personal life outside of work.) 0 The guardian controls such decisions.

Personal Life:

14.  Is the laborer not legally dead, socially dead, or otherwise alienated from the formal or dominant

social order? (If dead to society, the laborer has no basis for a personal life outside of work.) 0 Her social life has been curtailed, ostensibly to keep her away from illicit drugs.

15.  Does the laborer not belong to a group that has been dishonored? (Ditto.) 1 Pop music stars are more idolized than dishonored.

16.  Can the laborer determine his/her own name? (If not, his or her identity is controlled by another.) 0 Britney Spears was born Britney Jean Spears but unlike other adult Americans she could not change her name without her guardian’s approval.

17.  Can the laborer determine what to consume and where to buy consumption goods? (Employers

can lower wages into negative territory by selling laborers goods at monopoly rates and can prevent

laborers from purchasing goods that might aid in their resistance.) 1 She shops around with her allowance.

18.  Can the laborer choose his/her place of residence? (If not, a major component of the laborer’s

personal life is outside of his/her control.) 0 She was forced into a long residency in Las Vegas.

19.  Is the laborer able to marry on the same terms as his or her employer? (Ditto.) 0 No, she needs

permission from her guardian.

20. Does the laborer control his or her own children on the same terms as his or her employer? (Ditto.) 0 No, her guardian insists on an IUD and the conservatorship has apparently negatively affected her custody rights negotiations with their father, a fella named Kevin Federline.

    It is important to note that slavery is NOT illegal in the United States, it is simply highly regulated. Specifically, the 13th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution (rat. 1865) commands “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States.” Millions of Americans have been enslaved since 1865. (For details, see the resources provided by the nonprofit Historians Against Slavery, of which I am currently treasurer.)

    A court that presumably followed due process placed Ms. Spears under conservatorship but did NOT convict her of a crime. That means that any among us could be treated similarly, whether called a slave or not. In fact, many elderly persons have already fallen victim to the guardianship system, as detailed by HBO funnyman John Oliver in 2018 and as portrayed in the 2021 comedy thriller I Care a Lot. Both show that the current system creates incentives to bilk the wealthy elderly on paternalistic grounds ultimately rooted in greed. The movie, in fact, should be entitled I Care a Lot (Not!).

    The best solution I can think of would be to turn the guardianship of duly ascertained incompetents over to nonprofit charities that receive no direct remuneration from their wards, or some other private ordering solution a la Ed Stringham’s Private Governance.