Links – 06/21/2017

  • The Wall Street Journal published a long piece arguing that rural America has become the new inner city. The article doesn’t really talk about politics, but the political implications, especially with respect to the rise of Trump, are pretty obvious.
  • Michael Clemens recently co-wrote a paper with Jennifer Hunt in which he claims to have found a flaw in George Borjas’s paper on the Mariel Boatlift that invalidates his conclusion. George Borjas replied on his blog, where he defends his conclusion. Borjas’s paper had previously been criticized by Giovanni Peri and Vasil Yasenov. If you want to get a sense of where the debate stood before Clemens and Hunt’s recent, I recommend this summary by Jason Richwine, which I already mentioned a few months ago.
  • Speaking of Richwine, he wrote a good piece for the Center for Immigration Studies on the study that claims to have shown that refugees pay more in taxes than they receive in benefits, which unsurprisingly has been widely touted in the media. As he says, when something looks too good to be true, that’s probably because it’s not. When I have more time, I plan to publish a long post on the literature about the fiscal impact of immigration, which is a great example of how you can take data that say one thing and make them say the opposite with a little bit of work.
  • Robert VerBruggen reviews John Pfaff’s latest book on mass incarceration. Unlike Michelle Alexander’s book, whose main claim can be refuted in exactly 5 minutes, Pfaff makes the case against mass incarceration without ignoring the data. However, this conclusion is attacked by Barry Latzer, who published a book on crime recently, in City Journal.
  • As this article in The Atlantic explains, paleontologist Doug Erwin doesn’t think we are in the midst of the sixth mass extinction, which he thinks is just a sensational claim. However, if you think he says that because he doesn’t think we have to worry about the environment, then you should read the piece because that’s not at all what he is saying.

7 thoughts

  1. The Erwin debate is just a debate about semantics. Erwin is probably right about the correct use of the term “mass extinction” but there’s not substantive debate there.

    1. I’m not sure that’s true. He points out that the extent to which ecological diversity was reduced during the previous mass extinctions dwarfs anything we are seeing so far. This makes it pretty misleading to call what is currently happening the “sixth mass extinction”, since it suggests that ecological diversity is currently being reduced in the same way it was during the previous mass extinctions, which so far it definitely isn’t. I for one didn’t know it was so misleading to call what is currently going on the “sixth mass extinction” and, after reading that piece, I have a better idea of how what is currently happening compares with past events. Of course, as he explains, previous mass extinctions took place over very long periods of time, so perhaps we’ll get there after we get past a tipping point. But I still think it’s a pretty substantive point.

    1. The story behind why this piece was published in a German newspaper is also really interesting:

      “Hersh had also offered the article to the London Review of Books. The editors accepted it, paid for it, and prepared a fact checked article for publication, but decided against doing so, as they told Hersh, because of concerns that the magazine would vulnerable to criticism for seeming to take the view of the Syrian and Russian governments when it came to the April 4th bombing in Khan Sheikhoun. Hersh had met a few times with Stefan Aust when he was editor of Der Spiegel and followed his career. According to Hersh, he knew Aust to be someone who was unafraid of the consequences of publishing stories that, when verified and checked, he knew to be true. It was a natural move to send the story, as edited, to him.”

      Apparently Hersh’s typical outlet–The London Review of Books–wouldn’t publish the piece (even after it had been fact checked) “because of concerns that the magazine would vulnerable to criticism for seeming to take the view of the Syrian and Russian governments when it came to the April 4th bombing in Khan Sheikhoun.” If that doesn’t show how crazy Russian hysteria in the Western media has gotten…. Hersh left the New Yorker for LRB five years ago because he wrote embarrassing things about Obama. Now he’s been forced to go to a German outlet because he is exposing media lies about Russia. So much for freedom of the press.

      1. Thanks, I read the article, but I didn’t know about the backstory. I have been sitting on the follow-up to my post about the attack in Khan Sheikhoun for weeks and I really need to finish it. I already have 7,000 words, but it probably needs another 3,000 and I haven’t touched it since April. I will force myself to finish it soon though, especially as Trump is threatening more intervention again…

        1. There is also now an interview with Hersh about his article:

          Sadly, I doubt Hersh will even get much a platform even on the mainstream “alternative” news media, like Democracy Now. They used have him on at least a few times a year. Now, they’re retweeting WaPo’s bullshit on Russia ( and the White House’s bullshit on Syria (

          Its amazing how Hersh’s piece has yet to even be linked to by any major American press organization (or even re-tweeted by a leading journalist), despite the widespread articles today discussing the reliability of the White House’s claims about chemical weapons.


          1. Yes, Democracy Now is often good on foreign policy, but on Syria they have been bad for a long time. And they are pushing the Trump/Russia bullshit because they hate Trump and, like most American leftists, they don’t understand that the same people who are trying to fuck Trump would also try to fuck them if they somehow managed to get someone elected.

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