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The Choice Isn’t Between Capitalism or Socialism

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Americans are once again interested in debating economic systems. The 2016 presidential candidacy of Bernie Sanders, a self-described socialist, reignited a debate about capitalism and socialism that some believed had died with the Soviet Union. Younger Americans are now divided on which system they like best:

Unfortunately, the debate over what these terms actually mean has become hopelessly muddled.  Without a Soviet bloc to provide an official alternative to capitalism, people cast about for examples that fit their desired narrative. Self-appointed defenders of capitalism will point to the economic failures of the USSR, China and North Korea, or to the more recent economic disaster in Venezuela as proof positive of socialism’s defects

Socialism’s champions tend to rebut these charges by pointing to the successes of the Scandinavian countries. Sanders himself regularly praises Denmark, and occasionally Sweden, as examples of what he would like to achieve in the U.S., while others prefer Norway. But American socialists have, on occasion, received pushback from residents of those countries — in 2015, Danish Prime Minister Lars Rasmussen stated bluntly that Denmark was a market economy rather than a socialist one.

So is Sanders right, or is Rasmussen? Are the Scandinavian countries socialist or capitalist? The truth, unfortunately, is much more nuanced and complex. There will never be a clear, simple definition of socialism or capitalism, because there are multiple ways that a government can try to intervene in markets.

Markets aren’t perfect. They generate unequal outcomes, and often unfair ones, and they are subject to numerous inefficiencies. Governments can try to remedy these problems in a number of ways. They can provide services directly, as with the U.K.’s National Health Service. They can own businesses, as China does with state-owned enterprises. They can write regulations to restrain or promote various forms of market activity. They can sanction and empower various institutions like unions that counter the power of business. And they can use taxes and spending to redistribute income and wealth.

But governments don’t have to do all of these things at once. In Scandinavia, for example, there are a lot of government-provided services, a lot of redistribution and strong unions, but a relatively light regulatory touch otherwise. In a recent report, J.P. Morgan Asset Management researcher Michael Cembalest breaks down the Nordic model using various indicators from the World Bank and the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development. As he notes, the Nordic countries (in which he includes the Netherlands) generally have fewer capital controls and trade barriers than the U.S. They also score quite highly on indexes of property rights and business freedom:

These indicators are compiled by the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank that might have reason to want to give high rankings to rich countries in order to make business freedom look more attractive. But rankings from the OECD confirm the general picture of Scandinavia as a lightly regulated place. Interestingly, the indicators also show higher direct state control of industry in the U.S.:

Labor markets are a different matter, however; Scandinavian countries generally make it harder to fire workers than the U.S. does. Unions and collective bargaining are also stronger. Interestingly, though, Cembalest finds that labor in Nordic countries claims a slightly smaller share of national income than in the U.S., suggesting that the impact of pro-business policies in those countries might outweigh the impact of labor protections when measured in purely monetary terms.

The Scandinavian countries, of course, have much higher taxes and spend more on social services:

Whether these various policy differences are large enough to constitute different systems is open to debate. Some economists consider them all merely different varieties of capitalism. The picture is complicated by the fact that countries change their policies over time. For example, in the 1970s, Sweden had a very large amount of redistribution, but since the late 1990s its fiscal system has become much less progressive. American socialists like Bernie Sanders may be pining for a much more interventionist Scandinavian model like that of the mid-20th century that has since changed dramatically.

The spirited online debates about socialism and capitalism are, therefore, mostly useless. They ignore and obscure the multiple dimensions of policy, as well as changes over time, and thus make it harder rather than easier to think about concrete ways to fix the problems in the U.S. system. It would be helpful to have a new consensus terminology to describe the economic systems that various industrialized countries — the U.S., France, Japan, China, and the countries of Scandinavia — have developed over the last three decades. But one thing is for certain — the dichotomy of socialism versus capitalism, inherited from the ideological battles of the past two centuries, is badly out of date.

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6 fully vaccinated people who attended an outdoor wedding caught the Delta variant, but people with Pfizer and Moderna shots survived, study says

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Six fully vaccinated people who attended an outdoor wedding in Texas in April came down with COVID-19, a new study says – a small outbreak that underscores how effective US-authorized vaccines are against even variants of the virus.Though the vaccines made by Pfizer and Moderna may not knock out every COVID-19 case, especially now that the more infectious Delta variant dominates across the US, they are very good at preventing death from COVID-19.

The preprint study from Baylor College of Medicine found that only one person who’d gotten an Indian-made vaccine, Covaxin, died after attending the 92-person wedding near Houston.

The wedding took place in a “large, open-air tent” before the Delta variant was circulating widely in the US. Guests were required to be fully vaccinated at the event, though that policy operated on the honor system.

The study’s authors said they suspect the Delta variant was introduced at the wedding by two people who had traveled from India and tested negative before their flight but developed symptoms in the US. All the COVID-19 patients said they’d had close encounters with those two people during the wedding, according to the study.

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5,946 Fatalities Reported Related to COVID-19 Vaccination

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(Precision Vaccinations)

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) confirmed on July 7, 2021, the Vaccine Adverse Events Reporting System (VAERS) had received 5,946 reports of death among people who received a COVID-19 vaccine.

However, a review of available clinical information, including death certificates, autopsy, and medical records, has not established a causal link to COVID-19 vaccines, says the CDC’s website.

This CDC data indicates a vaccine fatality rate of about (0.0018%) since over 331 million vaccinations have been completed in the USA since December 2020.

The U.S. FDA requires healthcare providers to report any death after a COVID-19 vaccination to VAERS, even if it’s unclear whether the vaccine was the cause. Reports of adverse events to VAERS following vaccination, including deaths, do not necessarily mean that a vaccine caused a health problem.

VAERS is co-sponsored by the CDC, and the FDA, agencies of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

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Selected Adverse Events Reported after COVID-19 Vaccination

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What You Need to Know

  • COVID-19 vaccines are safe and effective.
  • Millions of people in the United States have received COVID-19 vaccines under the most intense safety monitoring in U.S. history.
  • CDC recommends everyone 12 years and older get vaccinated as soon as possible to help protect against COVID-19 and the related, potentially severe complications that can occur.
  • CDC, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and other federal agencies are monitoring the safety of COVID-19 vaccines.
  • Adverse events described on this page have been reported to the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS)external icon.
  • VAERS accepts reports of any adverse event following any vaccination.
  • Reports of adverse events to VAERS following vaccination, including deaths, do not necessarily mean that a vaccine caused a health problem.

For public awareness and in the interest of transparency, CDC is providing timely updates on the following serious adverse events of interest:

  • Anaphylaxis after COVID-19 vaccination is rare and has occurred in approximately 2 to 5 people per million vaccinated in the United StatesSevere allergic reactions, including anaphylaxis, can occur after any vaccination. If this occurs, vaccination providers can effectively and immediately treat the reaction. Learn more about COVID-19 vaccines and allergic reactions, including anaphylaxis.
  • Thrombosis with thrombocytopenia syndrome (TTS) after Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen (J&J/Janssen) COVID-19 vaccination is rare. As of July 12, 2021, more than 12.8 million doses of the J&J/Janssen COVID-19 Vaccine have been given in the United States. CDC and FDA identified 38 confirmed reports of people who got the J&J/Janssen COVID-19 Vaccine and later developed TTS. Women younger than 50 years old especially should be aware of the rare but increased risk of this adverse event. There are other COVID-19 vaccine options available for which this risk has not been seen. Learn more about J&J/Janssen COVID-19 Vaccine and TTS.
    • To date, two confirmed cases of TTS following mRNA COVID-19 vaccination (Moderna) have been reported to VAERS after more than 321 million doses of mRNA COVID-19 vaccines administered in the United States. Based on available data, there is not an increased risk for TTS after mRNA COVID-19 vaccination.
  • CDC and FDA are monitoring reports of Guillain-Barré Syndrome (GBS) in people who have received the J&J/Janssen COVID-19 Vaccine. GBS is a rare disorder where the body’s immune system damages nerve cells, causing muscle weakness and sometimes paralysis. Most people fully recover from GBS, but some have permanent nerve damage. After 12.8 million J&J/Janssen COVID-19 Vaccine doses administered, there have been around 100 preliminary reports of GBS identified in VAERS. These cases have largely been reported about 2 weeks after vaccination and mostly in men, many 50 years and older. CDC will continue to monitor for and evaluate reports of GBS occurring after COVID-19 vaccination and will share more information as it becomes available.
  • Myocarditis and pericarditis after COVID-19 vaccination are rare. As of July 12, 2021, VAERS has received 1,047 reports of myocarditis or pericarditis among people ages 30 and younger who received a COVID-19 vaccine. Most cases have been reported after mRNA COVID-19 vaccination (Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna), particularly in male adolescents and young adults. Through follow-up, including medical record reviews, CDC and FDA have confirmed 633 reports of myocarditis or pericarditis. CDC and its partners are investigating these reports to assess whether there is a relationship to COVID-19 vaccination. Learn more about COVID-19 vaccines and myocarditis.
  • Reports of death after COVID-19 vaccination are rare. More than 334 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines were administered in the United States from December 14, 2020, through July 12, 2021. During this time, VAERS received 6,079 reports of death (0.0018%) among people who received a COVID-19 vaccine. FDA requires healthcare providers to report any death after COVID-19 vaccination to VAERS, even if it’s unclear whether the vaccine was the cause. Reports of adverse events to VAERS following vaccination, including deaths, do not necessarily mean that a vaccine caused a health problem. A review of available clinical information, including death certificates, autopsy, and medical records, has not established a causal link to COVID-19 vaccines. However, recent reports indicate a plausible causal relationship between the J&J/Janssen COVID-19 Vaccine and TTS, a rare and serious adverse event—blood clots with low platelets—which has caused deaths.
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