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2020: When The Irrational Became Rationalized

2020: When The Irrational Became Rationalized



2020: When The Irrational Became Rationalized Tyler Durden Wed, 09/02/2020 - 07:20

Authored by Bill Blain via The Morning Porridge,

"I don’t love the idea of being a house cat, but what’s the solution?”

When you are looking for someone to blame remember this: The Market is not stupid. Participants are. 

When Fed heads and economists are warning of more pain still to come, when investors believe the US needs another $1 trillion stimulus, and the FTSE is worth less than Apple… you have to wonder what’s different? Perhaps the main reason stocks remain so insanely high is because there is absolutely nothing else worth chasing returns on… 

Usually markets correct because something happens – like funds stopping redemptions in 2007 triggering a cascade effect that culminated in the collapse of Lehman. Maybe this time it will be an outbreak of un-common sense?

The market is the summation of all the multiple views and perceptions of each and every participant. If these views are stupid, perceptions are false, or participants believe in unicorns and whatever else they desperately want to pin their hopes to – don’t blame what’s going to happen on Mr Market. He/She/It doesn’t care. It only exists to help you realise your mistakes, and turn bad ideas into tangible losses. 

A bubble market is one where the “whatever-you-want-to-believe” forces overcome well-grounded common sense, causing story stocks to head off on ballistic parabolas. (The clue to how it usually ends is in the words ballistic and parabola.) Even the few stocks that reach escape velocity and go into orbit – eventually see that orbit decay. That decays is due to the gravitational forces called obsolescence and competition. Practically no stock ever remains in the top 10 for more than a decade or two. Creative destruction ensures new firms are constantly emerging to meet consumer demand.

At some point even Apple will just be (once more), something that falls from a tree – although it does look like pent-up lockdown frustrations mean the new iPhone (perhaps later this month) will become the most eagerly desired product in consumer history! 

Some story stocks get a boost from events.

The current market darling is Zoom – profits up by 3300% on the back of the pandemic. It’s achieved the remarkable accolade of becoming the verb for video-meetings – which gives it an incredible leg-up versus its many rival video-conferencing apps. Zoom was a cottage industry a year ago – making a $5mm profit. It made $186 mm in the last 3 months – and, yes, $186mm might seem a little insignificant to justify a $125 bln market cap – but relax… its Zoom. It’s so now… But I don’t know what it will be worth tomorrow. 

As far as I can make out the reason Zoom made any profit is companies signing off employee expenses to pay for the pro-version, which you need for a meeting longer than 45 mins. Being a thrifty Scotsman, I wondered about this – and since we already have Teams why pay for another similar video service.. Sure.. there were arguments about quality vs security, and Zoom is easy to use while Teams is frankly a pain in the bottom. 

Zoom is not a bad company. Lucky and in the right place at the right time. If the virus has not accelerated adoption of WFH and video-conferencing, I dare say it would have struggled on not making any decent money for years and either vanish or join so many other tech companies we never really heard of. 

Other Tech firms do have stories to beguile us with – none more so than Tesla. When Elon tweeted his stock-price was too high a few weeks ago… well now we know what he meant. The stock split was a brilliant idea – enabling his legions of Robinhood fanboys to buy into the suddenly much cheaper 5 for 1 price. Brilliant. The fanboys get the opportunity to own less of the firm for more! And to facilitate them, Tesla quietly raised $5 bln via a new stock sale! The market didn’t even blink.

Of course, daring to criticise Telsa is a dangerous thing. Some 25 year-old self-declared Market Genius will post a video rant demonstrating with dodgy charts why Tesla will rule the world and tell the world what an idiot I am. He will focus on my call last year to sell. YEP. I GOT THAT WRONG. As did many short-sellers. As has been said before, the market can remain irrational longer than you can stay solvent. 

Mea Culpa. Tesla is likely to survive. It’s unlikely to implode. They are making good cars that people are buying.  I just wonder what its’ really worth. I still don’t buy the Tesla narrative. 

Reading the through the posts on a recent negative article on Tesla, the author was taking lots of predictable flack, this time about the Tesla Battery Day on September 22nd. All the posts said the same thing – battery day means one thing: the stock is going even higher. 

I’m intrigued – so I tried to find out what could Tesla possibly announce in terms of Battery Tech which will greatly increase profits and push them even further ahead of the competition in terms of Electric Vehicles. 

Turns out there are a lot of possible things for Tesla to brag about on Battery Day. Apparently, Elon is going to do a Steve Jobs on speed presentation that will stun everyone into a buying frenzy. Tesla might be close to being able to lighten batteries and increase their power per kilogram, thus enhancing the range. They may be close to a 1 million mile battery that wont need replacing. They may be planning a Terafactory, 28 times the size and productive capacity of the current giga-factories. They might be doing something clever with silicon annodes. And they might be making enhancements on the cost per battery that will significantly improve the bottom line and margins per car. 

These all sound like great steps forward – but they are improvements rather than invention or innovation. They sound laudable and fascinating tech projects – but will they justify Tesla’s 2% of the total global auto market being worth 40+% of the sector’s total market cap? Global auto profits were $105 bln last year. Let’s say Tesla made $1 bln profits (which it didn’t), which would suggest it would to sell some 20 mm cars to justify its 40% of total market cap. Let’s half that number to account for Tesla’s exceptionalism – like self-driving, the earnings potential of each car as self-driving taxis and other stuff that’s apparently unique to the EV-maker.  

Or you could argue Tesla has 19% (let’s call it 20%) of the EV market, and the EV market will be 40% of total sales.. which is 28 million cars, meaning Tesla still has to massively increase production to 6 mm to start to justify its premium. But let’s not worry about that…  

The reality is you are entitled to believe or think whatever you like about Tesla – the summation of the market is that it’s the most valuable auto-company and is going higher. Jolly good. Enjoy the ride.

I’m going to wait. I suspect Battery Day is yet more Tesla Hype.  

I’ll stick to the perspective that Tesla’s battery secret-sauce is basically evolved 50 year old Lithium Ion tech that’s vulnerable to future alternatives like the hydrogen economy (not just fuel cells) and entirely new battery-tech like Carbon-Ion. I’ll discount the proposed/imagined Tera-factory on the basis it will need about 300% of current lithium supply to reach its production goals. Or that lithium is a mined in terrible conditions, is difficult to recycle and it’s a major threat to the environment, while Carbon-ion is clean, doesn’t require child labour to mine, and is easily recycled, and a clean hydrogen economy is the logical next step in renewable power replacement of fossil fuels.  

And I will remain unconvinced that all the trillions of miles of data that Tesla has acquired from every car its ever built means it is about to make every Tesla a high-earning self-drive taxi-asset for owners, or that it’s about to enable fully autonomous driving.

These things will all come tomorrow, or more likely the day after a tomorrow that never comes. 

Of course, it’s not just equites that are irrational. 

Take the bond market. European bonds are having a blistering September open. I read a report yesterday about tightening secondary spreads and solid demand for new bonds – stronger sentiment and technical factors is apparently driving investors into European bank subordinated paper. Are these people daft? When the crunch comes and companies start defaulting – what will be the first asset class to struggle on the expectation of rising Bank NPLs? 

I will definitely buy bank paper – at some point. That’s after the crunch has happened, prices have cratered, and the moment of maximum fear has been reached as everyone expects multiple Lehman events across the continent. At that point I will buy cheap European bank subordinated paper in the sure and certain knowledge the ECB will be forced into one its oh-so-many “do-whatever-it-takes” moments to avoid the banking crisis that might make Europe’s dismal economic outlook even worse. 

I won’t be buying banks or corporate subordinated paper at today’s levels – not when spreads are this stupidly incredibly tight, and non-reflective of the underlying risk. Not that I would be able to anyway – there simply isn’t a functional secondary bond market anymore. One deal that is worth mentioning is 10.25% on a new Finnair deal – it steps up to 15.25% if it’s not called. It illustrates just how much pandemic ravaged sectors have to pay. Yet near junk (and generally detested by its customers) BBB rated Vodafone can raise 10-year money at 3%. 

Now, I must dash so I can read this prospectus about financing a cheese mining project on the moon. It looks a brilliant idea…. I’m surprised Musk isn’t all over it… 

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Glimpse Of Sanity: Dartmouth Returns Standardized Testing For Admission After Failed Experiment

Glimpse Of Sanity: Dartmouth Returns Standardized Testing For Admission After Failed Experiment

In response to the virus pandemic and nationwide…



Glimpse Of Sanity: Dartmouth Returns Standardized Testing For Admission After Failed Experiment

In response to the virus pandemic and nationwide Black Lives Matter riots in the summer of 2020, some elite colleges and universities shredded testing requirements for admission. Several years later, the test-optional admission has yet to produce the promising results for racial and class-based equity that many woke academic institutions wished.

The failure of test-optional admission policies has forced Dartmouth College to reinstate standardized test scores for admission starting next year. This should never have been eliminated, as merit will always prevail. 

"Nearly four years later, having studied the role of testing in our admissions process as well as its value as a predictor of student success at Dartmouth, we are removing the extended pause and reactivating the standardized testing requirement for undergraduate admission, effective with the Class of 2029," Dartmouth wrote in a press release Monday morning. 

"For Dartmouth, the evidence supporting our reactivation of a required testing policy is clear. Our bottom line is simple: we believe a standardized testing requirement will improve—not detract from—our ability to bring the most promising and diverse students to our campus," the elite college said. 

Who would've thought eliminating standardized tests for admission because a fringe minority said they were instruments of racism and a biased system was ever a good idea? 

Also, it doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure this out. More from Dartmouth, who commissioned the research: 

They also found that test scores represent an especially valuable tool to identify high-achieving applicants from low and middle-income backgrounds; who are first-generation college-bound; as well as students from urban and rural backgrounds.

All the colleges and universities that quickly adopted test-optional admissions in 2020 experienced a surge in applications. Perhaps the push for test-optional was under the guise of woke equality but was nothing more than protecting the bottom line for these institutions. 

A glimpse of sanity returns to woke schools: Admit qualified kids. Next up is corporate America and all tiers of the US government. 

Tyler Durden Mon, 02/05/2024 - 17:20

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From Colombia to Laos: protecting crops through nanotechnology

In a recent breakthrough, DNA sequencing technology has uncovered the culprit behind cassava witches’ broom disease: the fungus genus Ceratobasidium….



In a recent breakthrough, DNA sequencing technology has uncovered the culprit behind cassava witches’ broom disease: the fungus genus Ceratobasidium.

Credit: Alliance of Bioversity and CIAT / A. Galeon

In a recent breakthrough, DNA sequencing technology has uncovered the culprit behind cassava witches’ broom disease: the fungus genus Ceratobasidium.

The cutting-edge nanopore technology used for this discovery was first developed to track the COVID-19 virus in Colombia, but is equally suited to identifying and reducing the spread of plant viruses. The findings, published in Scientific Reports, will help plant pathologists in Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam and Thailand protect farmers’ valued cassava harvest.

“In Southeast Asia, most smallholder farmers rely on cassava: its starch-rich roots form the basis of an industry that supports millions of producers. In the past decade, however, Cassava Witches’ Broom disease has stunted plants, reducing harvests to levels that barely permit affected farmers to make a living,” said Wilmer Cuellar, Senior Scientist at the Alliance of Bioversity and CIAT.

Since 2017, researchers at the Alliance of Bioversity International and CIAT have incorporated nanotechnology into their research, specifically through the Oxford Nanopore DNA/RNA sequencing technology. This advanced tool provides insight into the deeper mysteries of plant life, accurately identifying pathogens such as viruses, bacteria and fungi that affect crops.

“When you find out which pathogen is present in a crop, you can implement an appropriate diagnostic method, search for resistant varieties and integrate that diagnosis into variety selection processes,” said Ana Maria Leiva, Senior Researcher at the Alliance.

Nanotechnology, in essence, is the bridge between what we see and what we can barely imagine. This innovation opens a window into the microscopic world of plant life and pathogens, redefining the way we understand and combat diseases that affect crops.

For an in-depth look at the technology being used in Laos and Colombia, please explore this link.

About the Alliance of Bioversity International and CIAT

The Alliance of Bioversity International and the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) delivers research-based solutions that harness agricultural biodiversity and sustainably transform food systems to improve people’s lives. Alliance solutions address the global crises of malnutrition, climate change, biodiversity loss, and environmental degradation.

With novel partnerships, the Alliance generates evidence and mainstreams innovations to transform food systems and landscapes so that they sustain the planet, drive prosperity, and nourish people in a climate crisis.

The Alliance is part of CGIAR, a global research partnership for a food-secure future.

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Public Health from the People

There are many ways to privately improve public health. Such responses make use of local knowledge, entrepreneurship, and civil society and pursue standard…



There are many ways to privately improve public health. Such responses make use of local knowledge, entrepreneurship, and civil society and pursue standard goals of public health like controlling the spread of infectious diseases. Moreover, private responses improve overall welfare by lowering the total costs of a disease and limiting externalities. If private responses can produce similar outcomes as standard, governmental public health programs—and more—perhaps we should reconsider when and where we call upon governments to improve public health.

Two Kinds of Private Responses

Following Vernon Smith and his distinction between constructivist and ecological rationality, private actors can engage in two general kinds of public health improvements. They can engage in concerted efforts to improve public health, and they can engage in emergent responses through myriad interactions.1 Three stories below—about William Walsh, Martha Claghorn, and Edwin Gould—indicate concerted efforts to improve public health.

Walsh, a Catholic priest and President of the Father Matthew Society in Memphis, Tennessee, used the society to organize a refugee camp outside of the city and helped hundreds of people avoid yellow fever during the 1878 epidemic—one of the worst yellow fever epidemics in the country.2 Shortly after learning mosquitos carried diseases prior to 1901, Claghorn chaired the Civics committee of the Twentieth Century Club in the Richmond Hill area of Long Island and led a community-wide anti-mosquito campaign, which rid the area of potentially infectious mosquitos.3 After realizing that many of his employees were sick with malaria, Gould—president of the St. Louis Southwestern Railway—used his wealth and business firm to finance and develop an anti-mosquito campaign throughout Texas.4

These stories show how individuals recognize a public health problem given their circumstances and use their knowledge and available resources to resolve the problem. More recently, we might all be familiar with private, constructivist responses to Covid-19. We all made plans to avoid others and produce our desired amount of exposure. Many people made facemasks from old clothes or purchased them from facemask producers. Businesses, retailers, restaurants, and many others adapted in various ways to limit exposure for their workers and customers. My favorite example, albeit not relevant for most, is the so-called bubble that was implemented by the NBA, which housed teams, encouraged play, and limited infection. The NBA finished their season and crowned a 2020 champion only because of the privately designed and implemented bubble solution. The key is that the bubble pursued all of those objectives, not just one of them. All of these responses indicate how private interactions among people can minimize their exposure, through negotiation, discussion, and mutually beneficial means.

In addition to privately designed solutions, emergent public health responses are also important, perhaps even more so. Long-term migration and settlement patterns away from infectious diseases, consumption to improve nutrition, hygiene, sanitation, and the development of social norms to encourage preventative behavior are all different kinds of emergent public health responses. Each of these responses—developed through the actions of no one person—are substantial ways to improve public health.

First, consider how common migration operates as a means of lowering prevalence rates. As soon as people realized that living near stagnant bodies of water increased the probability of acquiring diseases like malaria, they were more likely to leave those areas and subsequently avoid them. Places with such features became known as places to avoid; people also developed myths to dissuade visitors and inhabitants.5 Such myths and associations left places like the Roman Campagna desolate for centuries. These kinds of cultural associations are also widespread; for example, many people in North and South Carolina moved to areas with higher elevation and took summer vacations to avoid diseases like malaria. East End and West End, in London, also developed because of the opportunities people had to migrate away from (and towards) several diseases.6

While these migration patterns might develop over decades, movement and migration also help in more acute public health crises. During the 1878 yellow fever epidemic throughout the southern United States, for example, thousands of people fled their cities to avoid infection. They took any means of transportation they could find. While some fled to other, more northern cities, many acquired temporary housing in suburbs, and many formed campsites and refugee camps outside of their city. The refugee camps outside of Memphis—like the one formed by William Walsh—helped hundreds and thousands of people avoid infection throughout the Fall of 1878.

Second, more mundane public health improvements—like improvements in nutrition, hygiene, and sanitation—are also emergent. These improvements arise from the actions of individuals and entrepreneurs, often closely associated with voluntary consumption and markets. According to renowned medical scientist Thomas McKeown, that is, rising incomes encouraged voluntary changes in consumption, which helped improve nutrition, sanitation, and lowered mortality rates.7 These effects were especially pertinent for women and mothers as they often selected more nutritious food and altered household sanitation practices. With advancing ideas about germs, moreover, historian Nancy Tomes argues that private interests advanced the campaign to improve house-hold sanitation and nutrition—full of advice and advertisements in newspapers, magazines, manuals, and books.8 Following Tomes, economic historians Rebecca Stein and Joel Mokyr substantiate these ideas and show that people changed their hygiene, sanitation, house-hold cleaning habits, and diets as they learned more about germs.9 Such developments helped people to provide their desired exposure to germs according to their values.

Obviously, there were concerted public health improvements during this time that also explain falling mortality rates. For example, waterworks were conscious efforts to improve public health and were provided publicly and privately, with similar, positive effects on health.10 The point is that while we might be quick to connect the health improvements associated with a public water system, we should also recognize emergent responses like gradual changes in voluntary consumption.

Finally, social norms or rules that encourage preventative behavior might also be relevant kinds of emergent public health responses. Such rules identify behavior that should or should not be allowed, they are enforced in a decentralized way, and if they follow from the values of individuals in a community.11 If such rules pertain to public health, they can raise the cost of infectious behavior or the benefits of preventative behavior. Covering one’s mouth when sneezing is not only beneficial from a public health perspective, it also helps avoid earning disapproval.

The condom code during the height of the HIV/AIDS epidemic is another example of an emergent public health rule that reduced infectiousness by encouraging safer behavior.12 People who adopted safer sexual practices were seen to be doing the right thing—akin to taking care of a brother. People who refrained from adopting safer sexual practices were admonished. No single person or entity announced the rule; rather, it emerged from the actions and interactions of individuals within various communities to pursue their goals regarding maintaining sexual activity and limiting the spread of disease. Indeed, such norms were more effective in communities where people used their social capital resources to determine which behaviors should be changed and where they can more easily monitor and enforce infractions. This seems like a relevant factor where many gay men and men who have sex with men live in dense urban areas like New York and Los Angeles that foster LGBTQ communities.

Covid-19 provides additional examples where social norms encouraged the use of seemingly appropriate behavior, e.g., social distancing, the use of facemasks, and vaccination. Regardless of any formal rule in place, many people adapted their behavior because of social norms that encouraged social distancing, the use of facemasks, and vaccination. In communities that valued such behaviors, people that wore face masks and vaccinated were praised and were seen as doing the right thing; people that did not were viewed with scorn. Indeed, states and cities that have higher levels of social capital and higher values for public health tend to have higher Covid-19 vaccine uptakes.13

Improving Public Health and More

“Private approaches tend to lower the total costs of diseases and they limit externalities.”

While these private approaches can improve public health, can they do more than typical public health approaches cannot? Private approaches tend to lower the total costs of diseases and they limit externalities. Each aspect of private responses requires additional explanation.

Responding to infectious diseases and disease prevention is doubly challenging because not only do we have to worry about being sick, we also have to consider the costs imposed by our preventative behaviors and the rules we might impose. Thus, the total costs of an infectious disease include 1) the costs related to the disease—the pain and suffering of a disease and the opportunity costs of being sick—and 2) the costs associated with preventative and avoidance behavior. While disease costs are mostly self-explanatory, the costs of avoiding infection warrant more explanation. Self-isolation when you have a cold, for example, entails the loss of potentially valuable social activities; and wearing condoms to prevent sexually transmitted diseases forfeits the pleasures of unprotected sexual activity. Diseases for which vaccines and other medicines are available are less worrisome, perhaps, because these are diseases with lower prevention costs than diseases where those pharmaceutical interventions are not available. Governmental means of prevention also add relevant costs. Many readers might be familiar with the costs imposed by our private and public responses to Covid—from isolation to learning loss, and from sharp decreases in economic activity to increased rates of depression and spousal abuse.14 Long before Covid, moreover, people bemoaned wearing masks during the Great Flu,15 balked at quarantine against yellow fever,16 and protested bathhouse closings with the onset of HIV.17

Figure 1 shows the overall problem: diseases are harmful but our responses to those diseases might also be harmful.

Figure 1. The Excess Burden of Infectious Diseases

This figure follows Bhattacharya, Hyde, and Tu (2013) and Philipson (2000), who refer to the difference between total costs and disease costs as the excess burden of a disease. That is, excess burden depends on how severely we respond to a disease in private and in public. The excess burden associated with the common cold tends to be negligible as we bear the minor inconvenience of a fever, a sore throat perhaps, or a couple days off work; moreover, most people don’t go out of their way to avoid catching a cold. The excess burden of plague, however, is more complicated; not only are the symptoms much worse—and include death—people have more severe reactions. Note too that disease costs rise with prevalence and with worsening symptoms but eventually decline as more severe diseases tend to be less prevalent. Still, no one wants to be infected with a major disease, and severe precautions are likely. We might shun all social interactions, and we might use government to impose strict quarantine measures. As disease severity rises along the horizontal axis, it might be the case that the cure is worse than the disease.

The private responses indicated above all help to lower the total costs of a disease because people choose their responses and they use their local knowledge and available resources to select cheaper methods of prevention. Claghorn used her neighborhood connections and the social capital of her civics association to encourage homeowners to rid their yards of pools of water; as such she lowered the costs of producing mosquito control. Similarly, Gould used the organizational structure of his firm to hire experts in mosquito control and build a sanitation department. These are cheap methods to limit exposure to mosquitos.

Emergent responses also help to lower the total costs of a disease because such responses indicate the variety of choices people face and their ability to select cheaper options. People facing diseases like malaria might be able to move away and, for some, it is cheaper than alternative means of prevention. Many people now are able to limit their exposure to mosquitos with screens, improved dwellings, and air conditioning.18 Consider the variety of ways people can limit their exposure to sexually transmitted diseases like HIV. If some people would rather use condoms to limit HIV transmission, they are better off doing so than if they were to refrain from sexual activity altogether. Similarly, some people would be better off having relatively risky sexual activity if they were in monogamous relationships or if they knew about their partner’s sexual history. That people can choose their own preventative measures indicates lower total costs compared with blunt, one-rule-for-all, governmental public health responses.

Negative and positive externalities of spreadable diseases indicate too much infectious behavior and too little preventative behavior, respectively. Hosting a party is fun, but it also incurs the internal costs of the drinks and appetizers and, more importantly, perhaps the external costs of raising the probability that people get sick. Attending a local cafe can be relaxing, but you have to pay for a cup of coffee and you might also transmit a disease to other coffee drinkers. The same could be said for many other public and social activities that might spread diseases like attending a class or a basketball game, transporting goods and people, and sexual behaviors. Our preventative behaviors from taking a vaccine to covering your mouth and from isolation to engaging in safer sexual practices emits positive externalities. If left unchecked, negative and positive externalities lead to higher rates of infection.

Overall, we should continue to think more critically about delineating how private and public actors can improve public health and overall welfare. More importantly, we should recognize that private actors are more capable than we often realize, especially in light of conscious efforts to improve public health and those efforts that emerge from people’s actions and interactions. These private efforts might be better at advancing some public health goals than public actors do. Individuals, for example, have more access to local knowledge and can discover novel solutions that serve multiple ends—often ends they value—rather than the ends of distant officials. Such cases and possibilities indicate cheaper ways to improve public health.


[1] Smith (2009), Rationality in Economics: Constructivist and Ecological Forms, Cambridge University Press.

[2] For more on Walsh, see Carson (forthcoming), “Prevention Externalities: Private and Public Responses to the 1878 Yellow Fever Epidemic,” Public Choice.

[3] For more on Claghorn, see Carson (2020), “Privately Preventing Malaria in the United States, 1900-1925,” Essays in Economics and Business History.

[4] For more on Gould, see Carson (2016), “Firm-led Malaria Prevention in the United States, 1910-1920,” American Journal of Law and Medicine.

[5] On the connection between malarial diseases, dragons, and dragon-slaying saints, see Horden (1992), “Disease, Dragons, and Saints: the management of epidemics in the dark ages,” in Epidemics and Ideas by Ranger and Slack.

[6] For more on migration and prevalence rates, see Mesnard and Seabright (2016), “Migration and the equilibrium prevalence of infectious disease,” Journal of Demographic Economics.

[7] The American Journal of Public Health published several commentaries on McKeown in 2002:

[8] Tomes (1990), “The Private Side of Public Health: Sanitary Science, Domestic Hygiene, and the Germ Theory, 1870-1990,” Bulletin of the History of Medicine.

[9] Mokyr and Stein (1996), “Science, Health, and Household Technology: The Effect of the Pasteur Revolution on Consumer Demand,” in The Economics of New Goods, NBER.

[10] See Werner Troesken’s work on public and private waterworks in the U.S. around the turn of the 20th century. See Galiani, Gertler, and Shargrodsky (2005), “Water for Life,” Journal of Political Economy.

[11] Brennan et al., (2013), Explaining Norms, Oxford University Press.

[12] For more on the condom code, see Carson (2017), “The Informal Norms of HIV Prevention: The emergence and erosion of the condom code,” Journal of Law, Medicine and Ethics.

[13] Carilli, Carson, and Isaacs (2022), “Jabbing Together? The complementarity between social capital, formal public health rules, and covid-19 vaccine rates in the U.S.,” Vaccine.

[14] Leslie and Wilson, “Sheltering in Place and Domestic Violence: Evidence from Calls for Service During Covid-19.” Journal of Public Economics 189, 104241. Mulligan, “Deaths of Despair and the Incidence of Excess Mortality in 2020,” NBER, Betthauser, Bach-Mortensen, and Engzell, “A systematic review and meta-analysis of the evidence on learning during the Covid-19 Pandemic,” Nature Human Behavior,

[15] On the great influenza epidemic, see CBS News, “During the 1918 Flu pandemic, masks were controversial for ‘many of the same reasons they are today’.” Oct. 30, 2020.

[16] On yellow fever quarantine in Mississippi, see Deanne Nuwer (2009), Plague Among the Magnolias: The 1878 Yellow Fever Epidemic in Mississippi.

[17] On these closures, see Trout (2021), “The Bathhouse Battle of 1984.”

[18] Tusting et al. (2017), “Housing Improvement and Malaria Risk in Sub-Saharan Africa: a multi-country analysis of survey data.” PLOS Medicine.

*Byron Carson is an Associate Professor of Economics and Business at Hampden-Sydney College in Virginia, where he teaches courses on introductory economics, money and banking, health economics, and urban economics. Byron earned his Ph.D. in Economics from George Mason University in 2017, and his research interests include economic epidemiology, public choice, and Austrian economics.

This article was edited by Features Editor Ed Lopez.


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