Category: Current Affairs

The labor market ran hot, real wages fell

You may remember that I’ve been predicting that repeatedly, while much of “Twitter economics” was suggesting that “running the labor market hot” would boost real wages, I was claiming it was far more likely that rising employment would be correlated with falling real wages.  (Try here.)  This did not represent any great insight on my part, rather I was simply refusing to make the mood affiliation move of denying the tradeoff, and I had read Keynes’s General Theory.  Here is the latest:

Companies big and small are raising wages to attract workers and hold onto employees as the economy revs back into gear.

But those fatter paychecks aren’t going as far, thanks to rising inflation.

In fact, compensation is now lower than it was in December 2019, when adjusted for inflation, according to an analysis by Jason Furman, an economics professor at Harvard University.

The Employment Cost Index — which measures wages and salaries, along with health, retirement and other benefits — fell in the last quarter and is 2% below its pre-pandemic trend, when taking inflation into account. (Wages and salaries are growing at a faster pace than benefits.)

Score one for Keynesian economics > Twitter economics.

Or maybe they didn’t run the labor market hot enough.

VTEKL.

Don’t judge Covid conditions by the current rate of Covid growth

These days when I go to Twitter I see so many claims that current caseload or hospitalization numbers (in some not all regions) are approaching their peaks from the third wave last winter.

But don’t be misled by that rhetoric — speed of growth is not at this stage of the pandemic a good metric for evaluation.  Obviously, speedy Covid growth is bad news compared to having no Covid at all, but relative to actual constraints inference here is difficult.  Even the growth of hospitalizations, much less the growth in cases, is a misleading signal for how well we are doing.

First, there is a diehard core of individuals who just won’t get vaccinated.  That is highly unfortunate, but possibly it is better if those individuals get Covid sooner rather than later, at least provided they are not so numerous as to overwhelm the hospital system all at once.  The Covid case is in essence their preferred form of vaccination.  Stupid, yes, but later is not necessarily better.

A second possibility is that we will see waves of Delta Covid, rising rapidly and then declining rapidly.  That seemed to happen in the most badly afflicted parts of India, and maybe has been happening in England and the Netherlands, noting that the English numbers have begun a recent (minor?) uptick again, so we cannot be sure of the dynamics.  The general point stands that it is better to get a given amount of Covid over with more quickly rather than less quickly, again subject to the constraint that you do not overwhelm your hospital system.  Circa August 2021, we are no longer in the older position of “waiting for the vaccines to arrive.”

A third possibility is that Delta really is extremely contagious and that non-pharmaceutical interventions just aren’t going to succeed in checking it.  (Oddly, few elites are willing to mention this possibility.  Though they are willing to tell us how terrible it is, which it is!)  Yes, boosters may help out, but most of the “cavalry” — vaccines in this case — already has arrived, at least for those willing to take them.  OK, so if most people are going to be hit by this thing, and vaccinations do make that event much safer than before, again you want to get that process over with more quickly rather than less quickly.  And to the extent vaccine protection decays (an unknown variable but a real worry), speed really is of the essence here.  Again, all subject to the “don’t overwhelm your hospital system” caveat.

Clearly there are scenarios where the rapid case growth is a bad thing, even taking relevant constraints into account.  For instance, vaccinating younger individuals might be a relevant “cavalry” still to arrive, and maybe it can arrive before most of our young people are exposed to Covid.  Or maybe most of the unvaccinated are pretty “elastic” in their status, and a high but not too high case and hospitalization growth will scare them enough to bring them over to the vaccinated side of the ledger.  Those really are possibilities.

But rapid growth per se — even on the hospitalization side of the ledger — has to be used with care as an indicator of where we stand.  Generating a lot of Covid cases and hospitalizations in a short period of time is a very tricky signal, again relative to the constraints we face.  You need to define your counterfactual very carefully, and recognize that the mood affiliations you were promoting earlier in the pandemic may or may not make sense now.

The American Academy of Pediatrics Tells the FDA to Speed Up and Stop Endangering Patients

The American Academy of Pediatrics has written a stunning letter to the FDA:

We understand that the FDA has recently worked with Pfizer and Moderna to double the number of children ages 5-11 years included in clinical trials of their COVID-19 vaccines. While we appreciate this prudent step to gather more safety data, we urge FDA to carefully consider the impact of this decision on the timeline for authorizing a vaccine for this age group. In our view, the rise of the Delta variant changes the risk-benefit analysis for authorizing vaccines in children. The FDA should strongly consider authorizing these vaccines for children ages 5-11 years based on data from the initial enrolled cohort, which are already available, while continuing to follow safety data from the expanded cohort in the post-market setting. This approach would not slow down the time to authorization of these critically needed vaccines in the 5–11-year age group.

In addition, as FDA continues to evaluate clinical trial requirements for children under 5 years, we similarly urge FDA to carefully consider the impact of its regulatory decisions on further delays in the availability of vaccines for this age group. Based on scientific data currently available on COVID-19 vaccines, as well as on 70 years of vaccinology knowledge in the pediatric population, the Academy believes that clinical trials in these children can be safely conducted with a 2-month safety follow-up for participants. Assuming that the 2-month safety data does not raise any new safety concerns and that immunogenicity data are supportive of use, we believe that this is sufficient for authorization in this and any other age group. Waiting on a 6-month follow-up will significantly hinder the ability to reduce the spread of the hyper infectious COVID-19 Delta variant among this age group, since it would add 4 additional months before an authorization decision can be considered. Based on the evidence from the over 340 million doses of COVID-19 doses administered to adults and adolescents aged 12-17,as well as among adults 18 and older, there is no biological plausibility for serious adverse immunological or inflammatory events to occur more than two months after COVID-19 vaccine administration.

In my many years of writing about the FDA, I can’t recall a single instance in which a major medical organization told the FDA to use a smaller trial and speed up the process because FDA delay was endangering the safety of their patients. Wow.

The invisible graveyard is invisible no more.

Immigration encouragement as the new form of hybrid warfare?

Baltic officials say his [Lukashenko’s] latest tactic is to offer migrants from Iraq, Syria or several African countries a package that includes passage to the Lithuanian border. More than 4,000 migrants have crossed into Lithuania this year alone, more than 50 times the number that entered last year.

Rinkevics said this was “a very clear case of hybrid warfare” by deliberately using migration to target the EU and Lithuania. “The migrants are actually being used as the weapon. The longer we live in this 21st century, the scarier it becomes. Things that we couldn’t imagine that could be used, they are being used,” he said.

Here is the full FT piece, unsettling throughout.

Words of wisdom (from Ross Douthat)

Which is part of how a figure like Orban becomes appealing to American conservatives. It’s not just his anti-immigration stance or his moral traditionalism. It’s that his interventions in Hungarian cultural life, the attacks on liberal academic centers and the spending on conservative ideological projects, are seen as examples of how political power might curb progressivism’s influence.

Some version of this impulse is actually correct. It would be a good thing if American conservatives had more of a sense of how to weaken the influence of Silicon Valley or the Ivy League, and more cultural projects in which they wanted to invest both private energy and public money.

But the way this impulse has swiftly led conservatives to tolerate corruption, whether in their long-distance Hungarian romance or their marriage to Donald Trump, suggests a fundamental danger for cultural outsiders. When you have demand for an alternative to an oppressive-seeming ideological establishment, but relatively little capacity to build one, the easiest path often leads not toward renaissance, but grift.

Here is more from the NYT, mostly about Hungary.  I think the same is true for Covid policy, by the way.  It is hard for people — of any persuasion — to admit they have utterly lost ideological battles, whether they are right or wrong.  So if Covid fraudsters “hold out straws to clutch,” there will be a fair numbers of takers, most of all from those who have been losing the debates.  (“Ah, but now we will fight on the ivermectin front…”)  But it is better to be more realistic.  Unfortunately, “We’ve lost this one, we need to go back to the drawing board and start over” is one of the hardest things for people to say to themselves.

Iceland and Covid

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As you may know, Iceland is one of the most fully vaccinated countries in the world:

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All via Eric Topol.  No, I am not arguing we should give up or stop looking for policy and most of all biomedical improvements.  All the more reason to do so!  But…this does indicate we will need to find some way of living with such case numbers, without falling apart and pulling the plug on economic activity.

David Beckworth on Powell and the Fed

My colleague David Beckworth has a new NYT piece, here is one bit from it:

Jerome Powell’s political skills also helped bring about a truly historic change at the Federal Reserve in 2020. Under his guidance, the Fed became the first central bank to adopt a “makeup” policy, which requires it to correct for past misses in its inflation target. Central banks actually see a mild amount of inflation as a sign of a healthy, growing modern economy. Inflation, for example, typically runs below its target during recessions and therefore needs to temporarily run above 2 percent afterward to make up for the shortfall. This, in fact, is what the Fed has been attempting over the past year by maintaining its low interest rate target and large-scale asset purchases. This new framework allows the economy to run hot after a recession and make up for lost ground. It means a quicker return to full employment and a more rapid restoration of incomes.

There is much more at the link.

The Most Important Act of the Last Two Decades?

A good case can be made that Project Bioshield is the most important piece of legislation passed in the last twenty years. Passed under President Bush in 2004, Project Bioshield’s primary goal was to create advance market commitments to purchase countermeasures for chemical, biological, radiological or nuclear agents (CBRN). Several billion dollars have been spent in this area promoting anthrax and smallpox vaccines and various antitoxins for botulism and nuclear threats. The record on these advance market commitments is mixed with some notable failures.

The second thing the act did is to reduce some paperwork requirements on purchases and research funding. Those seem fine although the simplified procedure is itself too complex and the amounts such simplified procedures apply to are too small, e.g.

The Project Bioshield Act authorizes the HHS Secretary to use an expedited award process for grants, contracts, and cooperative agreements related to CBRN countermeasure R&D Activity, if the Secretary deems a pressing need for an expedited award exists. The authority is limited to awards of $1.5 million or less.

The third aspect of the act was not considered a big deal at the time but is the one that has proved to be the most important. Project Bioshield created the Emergency Use Authorization (EUA). In other words, prior to 2004 the FDA had no clear legislative authority to authorize an unapproved vaccine, drug or device. Without Project Bioshield and the EUA procedure the FDA might have eventually found some way to authorize vaccines before full approval. Britain, for example, used a temporary authorization procedure. Or the FDA might have sped up full approval but given the FDA’s lethargic record it’s easy to imagine that this would have taken months longer than the EUA process. As a result, the EUA procedure created by Project Bioshield probably saved 100,000 or more lives.

Important Addendum: It’s also worth mentioning that the EUA procedure doesn’t just apply to approvals it also allows changes in dosage and labeling. Susan Sherman, the senior attorney with the HHS Office of the General Counsel, noted in 2009 that a drug that had been approved for individual health in a non-emergency might have to be used very differently for public health in an emergency and that the EUA process could be used to adjust to these differences:

“You can change the labeling. You can change the information. You can change the dosage. You can give it to populations for which wasn’t approved.” She continued, “In some sense we had to match up in practice a public health response where you might not have the precise labeling that your physician would prescribe to you. There are a lot of variables that are necessary for the public health responders that don’t necessarily match what the approved drug would look like if you just went to your physician and got it because you had that illness.

In other words, the EUA process was made to allow for procedures such as fractional dosing. It’s too late for fractional dosing in the United States (but we should use it for boosters) but fractional dosing remains a vital tool to deal with the global shortage of vaccines.

“My favorite things Hungary” — my revisionist take

Way back in 2011, when I was visiting Hungary, I did a post in typical MR style: My Favorite Things Hungary.  I had no particular political point in mind, and indeed the current disputes over Hungary did not quite exist back then.  Nonetheless, if you survey the list, just about every one of my favorites listed ended up leaving Hungary.  The one exception, as far as I can tell, is film director Béla Tarr, but he is a critic of both nationalism and Orban.

All the rest left Hungary.

And while I cannot give you exact numbers, a large number of them were Jews or half-Jewish, hardly examples of Christian nationalism.

You should note that Hungary has a longstanding tradition of flirting with fascism and indeed going beyond mere flirting, for instance as exemplified by the Horthy government of the interwar years.

Once you get past all the polemics and name calling (not to mention the reality), here is the lesson I draw from the current debate over how parts of the Right are embracing Hungary.  It is genuinely the case that liberal societies often draw upon less liberal societies for a good deal of their cultural vitality, most notably the United States recruiting various creators from Central Europe — including Hungary — during the 20th century.  (Or the blues drawing some of its depth from the history of slavery.)  That point should be appreciated, even though we all should recognize it is not worth Hungary’s history, including its feudal and conquered past, for being able to say your country produced Bartok and Solti.

The current Hungary, sadly, has nothing remotely like the Hungarian cultural blossoming that ran from Liszt through Ligeti.  Instead it is giving us an empty huff and puff of rhetoric, “owning the Libs,” having “the right enemies,” gender role polemics, and so on.  It is not producing great buildings like the Budapest of times past, and it is not developing a significant Christian tradition of the sort that might have marked the 19th century Hungarian Church (however you might feel about that, I can tell you it is not my thing, though I can appreciate the liberal elements in it).

These days we have a U.S. television show host visiting Hungary and serving up thin polemics which are then debated on Twitter.  There is only a thin veneer of culture behind the whole thing, and a lot of unearned borrowing against earlier Hungarian creative traditions.

Don’t fall for it.  If you wish to respect Hungarian culture, listen to Bartok’s “Out of Doors” [Im Freien], or Liszt’s Transcendental Etudes.  What is there now is the straggling remnant of a cultural destruction led by both fascists and communists.  Current commentators can spin the current situation all they want, but it hasn’t worked out for the better, and Hungary is lucky to be in the EU at all.

Even American cultural borrowing from Central European traditions peaked some time ago.  George Szell brought Beethoven to the Cleveland Orchestra in 1946, and it was adored and financially supported by conservative Midwestern businessmen, as it should have been.  Szell passed away in 1970.  Ligeti himself stretches improbably late into Hungary’s cultural golden run.

If you think the current right-wing Hungary fandom is going to restore or revitalize either Hungarian or American culture, there is a bridge I would like to sell you, the Széchenyi Chain Bridge in fact…

The median voter theorem is underrated

That is the theme of my latest Bloomberg column, here is one excerpt:

More broadly, it is striking how many policies of the Biden administration reflect ideas or proposals from the Trump administration. Biden’s “Buy America” plan could be a Trump administration protectionist initiative. The Trump administration spent $2 trillion on coronavirus relief; the Biden administration proposed and spent $1.9 trillion. Trump wanted to pull U.S. troops out of Afghanistan; Biden actually did. Biden has left many of Trump’s anti-China policies, such as the tariffs, in place. Biden also has continued rapid deportation programs for immigrants.

All of these policies are broadly aimed at the center. It is no accident that Biden, even though his “honeymoon” period is ending, has remained broadly popular in the polls.

There are still areas in which Republicans and Democrats differ greatly, of course. On Covid-19, they have divergent attitudes and safety practices. Still, the Biden administration has not seriously considered either a nationwide vaccination mandate or governmental vaccine passports, as neither would be especially popular with voters.

Then there are cultural issues, where the median voter theorem most definitely does not hold. What seems to have happened is that Americans have picked one area in which they can let off steam and express their mutual mistrust — and in turn that has allowed a kind of consensus to form around many actual government policies. Perhaps what the median voter theorem misses is that individuals have a deeply irrational side and need to treat some political debates more like a mixed martial arts competition than as a forum for getting things done.

The median voter theorem tends to be unpopular in an increasingly left-leaning academic environment. It has a decidedly anti-utopian quality, as it insists that policy is not going to deviate too far from the views of the ordinary American. It implies that many projects of left-wing progressives are pipe dreams, at least until major shifts in public opinion set in. It dismisses the common progressive attitude that current voters would welcome major left-wing reforms and are only waiting for a heroic politician to stare down the special interest groups that oppose them.

To be clear, there is no presumption that the median voter actually wants the right thing. As an economist, I am particularly frustrated by how frequently American voters fail to appreciate the benefits of international trade and migration, or how they tend to believe that government programs financed by borrowing represent a free lunch. They also put disproportionate weight on low gasoline prices, to cite yet another example from a long list of mistaken views.

Still, as a practical matter, the median voter probably represents a kind of protection against the worst excesses and arrogances of the human spirit. Failed politicians do tend to get voted out of office. Crazy views, regardless of how popular they may be, tend to get sanded down by the political process.

The upshot, for the U.S. at least, is that the reality of American life is very different from the one that pundits regularly describe.

True.

The great psychometric test continues

Australia has deployed hundreds of soldiers to Sydney to help enforce a Covid lockdown.

A Delta outbreak which began in June has produced nearly 3,000 infections and led to nine deaths.

Australian Defence Force soldiers will undergo training on the weekend before beginning unarmed patrols on Monday.

But many have questioned whether the military intervention is necessary, calling it heavy-handed.

The lockdown – in place until at least 28 August – bars people from leaving their home except for essential exercise, shopping, caregiving and other reasons.

Despite five weeks of lockdown, infections in the nation’s largest city continue to spread. Officials recorded 170 new cases on Friday.

Soldiers will join police in virus hotspots to ensure people are following the rules, which include a 10km (6.2 miles) travel limit.

State Police Minister David Elliott said it would help because a small minority of Sydneysiders thought “the rules didn’t apply to them”.

Here is the full story — never wish I had moved there for pandemic!

Welcome to the Club

Ashish Jha, dean of the School of Public Health at Brown University, has had it with the FDA:

Nearly all public-health authorities in the country are urging people to get vaccines. We see the incredible results that the vaccines have had and how many lives they’re saving, and still the F.D.A. has not offered full, permanent approval of the vaccine. President Biden suggested it might take several more months. How do you understand that, or how can that be defended, if it can be?

I find it incredibly puzzling what exactly the F.D.A. is doing. The F.D.A. says that it typically takes them six months or sometimes as much as a year to fully approve a new product. And, generally, we appreciate that. There are two components to that. One is that they want to see a large amount of data, and they want to go through that carefully, and I think that’s essential. Then the second is that there’s a process, which can take a while. This is a global emergency, and while all of us want to make sure that the F.D.A. does its job, most of us also feel that just operating on standard procedures may not be the right thing to do here, and that there are things that can be sped up. Just as with the development of vaccines, we didn’t cut any corners. We did all the steps, but we did it much, much faster. The F.D.A. has to go much, much faster.

The other thing about the data—the amount of data that the vaccines have generated, the number of people who’ve been vaccinated, and the scrutiny that the data has received. I mean, my goodness, this data has been scrutinized and looked over more than—

I’d imagine it’s more than any data in modern history, right?

Any therapy, any vaccine ever. These are the most highly scrutinized medical products we have ever had, and I don’t understand what the F.D.A. is doing.

I’m pleased that Jha and others like Eric Topol are becoming frustrated with FDA delay. But take it from an OG, the FDA is doing what it has always done. What has changed isn’t the FDA but that more people are paying attention now that they have something personal at stake.

I am reminded of this story from 2016:

Mary Pazdur had exhausted the usual drugs for ovarian cancer, and with her tumors growing and her condition deteriorating, her last hope seemed to be an experimental compound that had yet to be approved by federal regulators.

So she appealed to the Food and Drug Administration, whose oncology chief for the last 16 years, Dr. Richard Pazdur, has been a man denounced by many cancer patient advocates as a slow, obstructionist bureaucrat.

He was also Mary’s husband.

…When asked specifically how his wife’s illness had changed his work at the F.D.A., Dr. Pazdur said he was intent on making decisions more quickly.

“I have a much greater sense of urgency these days,” Dr. Pazdur, 63, said in an interview. “I have been on a jihad to streamline the review process and get things out the door faster. I have evolved from regulator to regulator-advocate.”

I do hope that when the pandemic is over we don’t forget that for patients with life-threatening diseases it’s always been an emergency.

Hat tip: John Chilton.

Richard Hanania on safety craziness

There are other complications too; some people are just low IQ, and maybe their dumb beliefs aren’t their fault. But if you believe in personal responsibility at all as a guide to policy, for reasons of utilitarianism or justice, you have to assess blame at some point. Incentivizing people to get free vaccinations is not the same as incentivizing those with IQs of 100 to be astrophysicists, or poor people to buy Teslas; this is clearly in the realm of possible, and mostly involves overcoming motivated reasoning and laziness. COVID-19 rates of infection vary across time, likely because people change their behavior depending on how much spread there is in their community, and there is nothing to indicate that the unvaccinated are incapable of considering costs and benefits at all when it comes to the decision over whether to get vaccinated. This means that private sector mandates are therefore an unalloyed good, as I’ve pointed out before, and Republicans should be ashamed of themselves for standing in their way, as they have in certain states.

…Unfortunately, we live under a government, and particularly a public health community, that can’t do cost-benefit analysis, and doesn’t have the stomach for personal responsibility either. So we’re going to have an entire generation robbed of a normal childhood, and perhaps other restrictions too that will remain permanent. The question is how we will deal with COVID-19 now that we know it will never go away

Here is his Substack link, recommended.

My excellent Conversation with Niall Ferguson

Here is the audio, video, and transcript.  Here is part of the CWT summary:

Niall joined Tyler to discuss the difference between English and Scottish pessimism, his surprise encounter with Sean Connery, what James Bond and Doctor Who have in common, how religion fosters the cultural imagination to produce doomsday scenarios, which side of the Glorious Revolution he would have been on, the extraordinary historical trajectory of Scotland from the 17th century through the 18th century, why historians seem to have an excessive occupation with leadership, what he learned from R.G. Collingwood and A.J.P. Taylor, why American bands could never quite get punk music right, Tocqueville’s insights on liberalism, the unfortunate iconoclasm of John Maynard Keynes, the dystopian novel he finds most plausible, what he learned about right and left populism on his latest trip to Latin America, the importance of intellectual succession and building institutions, what he’ll do next, and more.

Here is one excerpt:

COWEN: If you had been alive at the time and the Glorious Revolution were going on, which side would you have been rooting for and why? Speaking of counterfactuals.

FERGUSON: I think everybody should ask themselves that question each morning. Whig or Tory? Are you a Jacobite?

COWEN: Do you want Dutch people coming over to run your country? That’s another part of it, right? I would have been quite worried. Nothing against Dutch people, but you might think, “Well, they don’t have a stable ruling coalition, so they’re going to be all the more tyrannical.”

FERGUSON: Yes. I wrote about the Dutch takeover in Empire. It’s bizarre that the British Isles just get taken over by a Dutch monarch at the behest of a faction mainly motivated by religious prejudice and hostility to Roman Catholicism. At the time, I would have been a Whig on religious grounds. I’m from the ardently Protestant Lowlands of Scotland. I’m like all people from that part of the world, drawn to the romanticism of the Jacobites but also repelled by what it would have been like in practice.

If you want to understand all this, by the way, you have to read Walter Scott, which I hadn’t done for years and years. I’d never really read Scott because I was told he was boring. Then during the pandemic, I started reading the Waverley novels, and it’s all there: all the fundamental dilemmas that were raised, not just by the Glorious Revolution, but prior to that by the Civil War of the 17th century, and that were raised again in the 1745 Jacobite rising.

Scott’s brilliant at explaining something that I don’t think is properly understood, and that is that Scotland had the most extraordinary historical trajectory. It went from being Afghanistan in the 17th century — it was basically Afghanistan. You had violent warring clans in the north, in the mountainous parts of the country, and a theocracy of extreme Calvinist zealots in the Lowlands. This was a deeply dysfunctional, very violent place with much higher levels of homicide than England. Really, it was a barbaric place.

And something very strange happened. That was that in the course of — beginning really from the late 17th century — in the course of the 18th century, Scotland became the most dynamic tiger economy in the world. Also, it became the cradle of the enlightenment, had really all the best ideas of Western civilization, all at once in a really short space of time with a really small number of people, all sitting around in Glasgow and Edinburgh.

I still don’t think a book has been written that properly explains that. You certainly wouldn’t have put a bet on Scotland behaving that way by the late 18th century, if all you knew about it was Scotland in the mid-17th century. If you look at it that way, then you kind of have to be a Whig. You have to recognize that the institutions that came from England, including the Dutch institutions that were imported in the Glorious Revolution, really helped Scotland get out of its Afghan predicament.

Recommended, interesting throughout.  And again, here is Niall’s new book Doom: The Politics of Catastrophe.

The Farrago of International Travel Restrictions

International travel restrictions are a farrago built on fear, statistical confusion, and out-dated information. The US, for example, is still requiring a virus test to enter the US but not proof of vaccination. In other words, a fully vaccinated citizen can now fly to Canada (with Canadian requirements) but if they want back in they need to have had a virus test. Ridiculous.

Even more ridiculous, Chinese, European and British citizens are still not allowed into the United States. Why? China, for example, has almost no COVID cases–thus there is no reason to restrict Chinese citizens from traveling to the United States. Indeed, President Trump rescinded these restrictions at the end of his term but Biden reinstated them immediately. Why?  Travel is now banned from many countries with low COVID and high vaccination rates while allowed from many countries with high COVID rates and low vaccination rates.  There is no rhyme or reason to the travel bans and restrictions.

I propose we eliminate the farrago with a simple rule. Anyone vaccinated with a full dose of any WHO approved vaccine should be allowed to visit the United States without restriction. People on twitter responded “but even a vaccinated person could still be a carrier!” No kidding. So what? We cannot eliminate all risk. The logic of allowing vaccinated travelers into the United States is simple–a fully vaccinated visitor is safer than the average US citizen. Thus, allowing more vaccinated people into the United States is not especially risky and is having beneficial effects on the economy.

“Vaccine passports” became politically charged but what we have now is a bizarre combination of “testing passports” and “no passports.” In contrast, a vaccination requirement for travel is simpler, cheaper, more convenient and more effective than a test and it creates greater freedom than no passport at all. A vaccine requirement is no more difficult to enforce than a testing requirement. Indeed, the United States has in the past required vaccination prior to arrival so this would hardly be unprecedented. For special cases, a test could be allowed in lieu of a vaccine, especially if it was followed up with an airport vaccination but vaccination should be the primary requirement.

To recap: Anyone vaccinated with a full dose of any WHO approved vaccine should be allowed to visit the United States without restriction.

Addendum: A mix and match from any two WHO approved vaccines counts as a full dose!