2 months ago

The source of our prosperity

Our world is more prosperous than ever, or at least was before the economic disruption from COVID-19. The ongoing search for a vaccine or cure illustrates how knowledge is the source of prosperity. For an even more prosperous future, we must ensure that people have the incentive to create and apply knowledge.

Economists and historians have offered explanations for prosperity, or what economic historian Dierdre McCloskey terms “the Great Enrichment.” Rich and poor countries clearly differ in levels of physical capital – the existence of machines, factories, computers, and robots which make labor, our ultimately most limited resource, more productive. When over 90% of humans grew and gathered food, little labor was available for producing clothes, homes or cars, to say nothing of writing books, painting works of art, or composing music.

Investing in physical capital requires saving. Tom Hanks’ character in “Castaway” could not spend a day fashioning a spear to catch fish more effectively unless he had food to eat on that day. Saving is having consumption goods available when desired. Investing also requires secure property rights; a world with too much theft, by either bandits or governments, is destined to by poor.

Yet tools and factories require knowledge. Agricultural labor is estimated to have become at least a thousand times more productive since humans first started planting crops. Some innovations – like shovels, plows and tractors – involve better tools for tasks always done. Drought-resistant seeds and pesticides require applying abstract knowledge from plant biology.

Medical researchers are racing to find a vaccine for COVID-19. The race has likely concluded; we had over 160 candidates at the end of June, with 14 in human trials. I find it highly implausible that none of the 160+ candidates will prove successful. (I knocked on wood after writing these words to avoid jinxing the vaccines.)

This represents enormous knowledge production capacity. SARS-CoV-2 is a new virus, not a variant of influenza for which we could modify the existing vaccine. Researchers needed something brand new. The development of so many candidates so quickly suggests we may be on the cusp of a new golden age of vaccines.

Historically, we have ensured adequate compensation for knowledge production through the patent system. Knowledge has some characteristics making marketing difficult. Chemists can break down a new drug and engineers could reverse-assemble a flying car. Thus, any person who “buys” knowledge can resell it. Patents give the inventor a temporary legal monopoly on use of the knowledge.

The patent system works, as the machines and products of contemporary society prove. The 160-plus candidate SARS-CoV-2 vaccines prove that patents work for medicines. Investors have paid the salaries of scores of teams of medical researchers.

The patent’s monopoly allows the charging of prices to recoup the cost of investment in research (including for products and drugs which never pan out) and reward investors with profits. The chemicals in many drugs are not incredibly expensive; the value resides in the knowledge that these chemicals fight illnesses and save lives. High prices are a feature and not a flaw of the patent system.

Insurance coverage relieves individuals of the burden of high drug prices, yet this just burdens employers, Medicare and Medicaid. Exorbitant prices for life-saving drugs and vaccines also strike many people as morally objectionable price gouging.

This makes price controls for a potential COVID-19 vaccine attractive. In the near term, price controls will likely yield benefits. Once the investment in developing a safe and effective has been made, the vaccine will not be pulled from the market even if the price is set very low. The cost of price controls will be many fewer vaccine candidates for the next new virus to afflict humanity.

An alternative can avoid the monopoly prices of patents while still encouraging knowledge production. The alternative would also, I think, be appropriate for an expedited approval process during a pandemic. But the details will have to wait for next time.

Daniel Sutter is the Charles G. Koch Professor of Economics with the Manuel H. Johnson Center for Political Economy at Troy University and host of Econversations on TrojanVision. The opinions expressed in this column are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the views of Troy University.

24 mins ago

Black pro-life leaders gather in Montgomery, argue the next step for civil rights is ending abortion

MONTGOMERY — A group of black leaders within the pro-life movement came together in Alabama’s capital city on Tuesday where they highlighted what they believe is racial prejudice among America’s abortion providers.

Speakers included Dr. Alveda King, an outspoken opponent of abortion and niece of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. She and the other speakers said their fight to end abortions is the next step in civil rights for African-Americans.

All presenters who were able to make it to Montgomery in person signed the Equality Proclamation, which argues the location of abortion providers and other tactics used by groups like Planned Parenthood are racially discriminatory.

477

The group believes, according to a document they disseminated, that “the targeted practices of Alabama abortion providers are both discriminatory and disproportionately harmful to black mothers and their babies.” The group further believes they have a case based on the 10th Amendment that would force state leaders to take actions against such prejudice.

To that end, the group is filing an emergency petition for a writ of mandamus with the Alabama Supreme Court that seeks to spur action from Governor Kay Ivey and Attorney General Steve Marshall.

King appeared at the event via a recorded video, explaining that her mother has recently come down with COVID-19, which prevented the pro-life advocate from traveling to Alabama.

She noted that 158 years ago President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation.

“Today, 158 years later, history will record that leaders of the Pre-natal nondiscrimination alliance, PRENDA, signed the Equality Proclamation,” King stated.

“My uncle worked for the civil rights of all of God’s children. After all the work he did I think his heart would be broken to see what is happening to unborn children in the United States of America,” she added.

“Denying personhood has always been used to justify killing,” said Walter Hoye II, founder and CEO of Issues4Life Foundation, in an attempt to tie the language of abortion advocates to that of American judges in the 19th century who decided slaves did not count as people.

Amie Beth Shaver spoke on Tuesday and referenced Planned Parenthood founder Margaret Sanger, saying Sanger did not believe in the human rights of all people. After defending Sanger for many years, Planned Parenthood has begun to walk back its ties to her after her beliefs in eugenics are getting more publicity.

The death of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has thrown abortion access back into the American political spotlight in recent days, with many conservatives hoping President Donald Trump will select a jurist who shares the view of most Republican voters that Roe v. Wade was wrongly decided.

Montgomery attorney Sam McClure is the legal representation in Alabama for the pro-life leaders that assembled on Tuesday, and a staunch opponent of abortion himself. Yellowhammer News asked McClure what he thought of Judge Amy Coney Barrett and Judge Barbara Lagoa — the two candidates who observers say are the front runners to be Trump’s selection for the open SCOTUS seat.

McClure did not comment on Lagoa but said that Coney Barrett “has a track record of reverencing the personhood of humans at all stages of development.”

“I think that conviction is important for our country to be a land of justice, and I think it is long overdue, just like Dred Scott was long overdue to be overturned I think Roe v. Wade is long overdue to be overturned,” McClure stated.

Henry Thornton is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can contact him by email: henry@yellowhammernews.com or on Twitter @HenryThornton95

1 hour ago

Trump administration invests more than $2 million in rural Alabama water infrastructure projects

The administration of President Donald J. Trump on Wednesday announced that the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) is investing more than $2 million to modernize rural drinking water and wastewater infrastructure in two rural Alabama communities.

The announcement comes as part of a national $268 million investment across 28 states. USDA is reportedly funding 76 projects total through the Water and Waste Disposal Loan and Grant Program. These investments will help to improve rural water infrastructure for 267,000 residents.

“The opportunity to bring water and wastewater funding to Alabama is such an investment because it brings modern, reliable water and wastewater infrastructure to our rural communities. These types of projects without a doubt improve the daily lives of Alabamians,” USDA Rural Development State Director for Alabama Chris Beeker said in a statement.

Investments in Alabama include the following:

225

The Pintlala Water System, Inc., will use a $2,037,000 loan to expand and improve the existing water system. The project will dig a new deep water well capable of producing 300 gallons per minute operated by a new vertical turbine pump and motor, new water well lines, and a new treatment building with SCADA electrical controls. The project will also replace outdated manual read water meters with the installation of a new Automated Water Reader system. The new upgrades will allow rural residents to have access to safe potable water and reduce water loss. It will also reduce meter read time for employees and should increase water revenue for the rural water system.

The town of Kinston will use a $47,000 loan and a $53,000 grant to provide additional funding for an existing water project. The funds will allow final construction of the project to be completed which includes the addition of a third well and will allow Kinston to be solely dependent on its own water supply. This will increase water revenues and allow rural residents continued access to clean water.

This is merely the latest in a string of similar announcements from USDA Rural Development during Trump’s presidency.

RELATED: USDA’s Chris Beeker: ‘When rural America thrives, all of America thrives’

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

2 hours ago

7 Things: Tuberville up big, high school football takes a few more hits, Democrats powerless to stop Trump’s SCOTUS nominee and more …

7. Debate topics announced

  • Fox News host Chris Wallace will be moderating the upcoming presidential debate in just under one week, and he’s now announced what the topics of the debate will be in six 15-minute segments.
  • The topics will be the Supreme Court, coronavirus pandemic, economy, “race and violence in our cities,” “integrity of the election,” and both former Vice President Joe Biden and President Donald Trump’s records.

6. Another push to exclude illegal immigrants from the Census count

690

  • President Donald Trump has been vocal about excluding illegal immigrants from the 2020 U.S. Census count, and now due to a lower court ruling, the Trump administration is asking that the Supreme Court hear arguments before the end of the year over the case.
  • If the Supreme Court agrees and hears oral arguments on the case in December, there’s enough time for a ruling before the January 10 deadline, but this could potentially be enough time for the new Trump Supreme Court nominee to weigh in on the issue.

5. Tests being sent to HBCUs

  • President Donald Trump’s administration has announced that they are sending 250,000 rapid coronavirus tests to 42 historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs). These are the tests that give results in 15 minutes. This is just the first round of tests being sent out, and Alabama A&M in Huntsville and Alabama State University in Montgomery will be receiving thousands of tests in the first round.
  • A spokesperson for Alabama A&M said that testing has been a big part of returning to school this fall, adding, “This partnership with the federal government, in conjunction with the University’s PCR testing program, will greatly speed up our ability to identify, isolate, and reduce the symptomatic and asymptomatic spread of COVID019 on campus.”

4. Gulf Shores became more popular during the pandemic

  • Recent figures released by Airbnb show that the Gulf Coast in Alabama was a more popular destination than Miami, Florida, from July to August this year. The company has also said that this is a trend being seen around the country, where more people are opting to stay in smaller cities or towns than larger, typical destinations. For example, more people visited Lake Tahoe this year than Las Vegas.
  • Since you can rent up to a whole house, people have also been able to extend their stays in areas, too. The average length of stay has increased by 58%, which could easily be due to the requirement to isolate in many areas upon arrival.

3. Football taking a hit during the pandemic

  • Two Alabama high school football teams have decided to shut down for at least a week due to positive coronavirus cases. Hazel Green is stopping for two weeks with three positive tests, and Wetumpka is stopping football for one week after 12 positive tests. Fifteen players in Hazel Green are quarantined, and aside from the 12 positive cases in Wetumpka, there are eight players quarantining.
  • There are three other high schools that have also canceled football games, with Lee in Huntsville forfeiting their Friday game this week, with only one person associated with the team testing positive and 10 people in quarantine. Jacksonville has had one football player test positive, so they’ve canceled their games for the next two weeks. Mortimer Jordan has also canceled their game this week after at least one positive test.

2. Romney will support voting on a Supreme Court nominee

  • Democrats are now powerless to stop President Trump’s Supreme Court nominee now that U.S. Senator Mitt Romney (R-UT) has voiced support on moving ahead with whoever President Donald Trump decides to nominate for the U.S. Supreme Court to fill the vacant seat left by the late Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
  • Romney said that his decision “is not the result of a subjective test of ‘fairness’” and added that it’s about “fairness of following the law, which in this case is the Constitution and precedent.” He went on to say if the nominee eventually “reaches the Senate floor,” he intends “to vote based upon their qualifications.”

1. Tuberville is up in Alabama

  • New polling data released by the Morning Consult, which is from a survey conducted from 9/11-9/20, shows that former Auburn football coach Tommy Tuberville is leading in Alabama at 52% with U.S. Senator Doug Jones (D-AL) trailing at 34%, which is similar data that’s been released previously.
  • In other Senate elections across the country, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) is leading against Amy McGrath 52% to 37%. In Texas, U.S. Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) is leading by six points with 45% against MJ Hegar with 39%.

3 hours ago

State Rep. Simpson calls for penalty to be raised for contractors working without license during a state of emergency from misdemeanor to felony

It has been a week since Hurricane Sally made landfall in Gulf Shores, and in its wake, it has left a path of destruction in need of repair.

Often after such a storm, a flood of contractors from out of state will make their ways to the affected areas, and sometimes take advantage of those in need of repair work. However, often as is the case with out-of-state contractors, they are not licensed in Alabama. If something goes wrong and a hired contractor cannot complete the work they were hired to do following a storm, the most vulnerable take a hit.

During an interview with Mobile radio’s FM Talk 106.5, State Rep. Matt Simpson (R-Daphne) discussed his bill initially introduced during the 2020 legislative session that would increase the penalty for unlicensed contractors doing work during a state of emergency, which he had discussed with Gov. Kay Ivey and her staff during a recent visit to survey hurricane damage.

389

“One of the things I was able to bring up to Governor Ivey was a bill that I had last session, which was HB194,” he said. “What it did was when the governor declares a state of emergency, it would increase it from a misdemeanor to a felony for those that are working on homes for homebuilding repair and doing those types of contracting works if they are not licensed in Alabama. What we are facing right now is so many people are coming into our area and taking advantage of our citizens and having them to pay these astronomical fees and not doing the work properly, and doing the way they’re going to do. It’s very tough to prove fraud.”

“The difficulty with proving fraud, and I can tell you from being a prosecutor on this stuff, is you have to prove at the time of the offense they intended to commit that fraud,” Simpson continued. “It’s very easy for them to come in and say, ‘No, we lost a worker,’ or, ‘No, we lost materials, and I couldn’t complete the job, and I couldn’t do anything. I didn’t intend to defraud that person. It just happened that way.’ That’s very tough to prove in a felony.”

“Right now, it is a misdemeanor in the state if you work without a license — if you don’t have the proper bonding and licensing through the homebuilders association or the correct agencies,” he added. “What that bill did last year was it would have made it a felony if it occurred during a state of emergency. I brought this up to the governor and Jo Bonner. They were very receptive to it. What I want to do is have that bill, in the event, we have a special session — have that bill included into the call for that special session.”

Simpson’s prior effort during the 2020 regular session with the legislation passed the House by a 97-2 margin but failed to get a vote in the State Senate.

@Jeff_Poor is a graduate of Auburn University and the University of South Alabama, the editor of Breitbart TV, a columnist for Mobile’s Lagniappe Weekly and host of Mobile’s “The Jeff Poor Show” from 9 a.m.-12 p.m. on FM Talk 106.5.

17 hours ago

Three takeaways from Auburn’s 2020 depth chart

At long last, it is game week for the Auburn Tigers. Auburn and Kentucky will kick off this Saturday at 11:00 a.m. on the SEC Network. In advance of the contest, head coach Gus Malzahn released Auburn’s week one depth chart on Tuesday. A number of questions that Auburn fans may have are directly addressed with this new information. However, the news on the depth chart may also raise a few eyebrows in relation to the defensive line and secondary, specifically.

Undoubtedly, players will move up or down the depth chart over the course of the season based on quality of play, injury, COVID-19 protocol or weekly changes to the gameplan. But, the initial depth chart gives fans insight into who some of the impact players for Auburn in 2020 will be.

Let’s take a look at three key takeaways from Auburn’s 2020 depth chart:

814

New-look offensive line
Coming into the season, it was known that Auburn would have a number of new faces on the offensive line after graduating four of the five starters from last year’s group. The new depth chart now gives clarity to who the Tigers expect to make up the unit in 2020.

Nick Brahms is the only returning starter and retains his spot at the center position. The starters at guard are Tashawn Manning and graduate transfer Brandon Council, respectively. As expected, Brodarious Hamm has earned the starting slot at the right tackle position. The only ambiguity in the offensive line position group is at left tackle with Alec Jackson OR Austin Troxell listed as the starter. This indicates that Auburn considers these six players the top options for the five available spots.

It will be critical this season that all six “starters” and the guys listed second or third on the depth chart are ready to perform this year at a position that is often affected by injury and could always have players unavailable due to COVID-19. It was widely known that the success of the offensive line would be key to Auburn having a productive offense this year, we now know the individuals who have earned the first chance to make that happen.

18 true freshmen make an appearance

Although no true freshmen are listed as first-teamers, these young players are littered throughout the Auburn depth chart. Seven newcomers appear on the offensive side of the ball, 10 freshmen made the depth chart on defense and Australian import Oscar Chapman is listed as the potential starter at punter.

This is an impressive showing from the 2020 signing class and may signal great things to come for Auburn. Having quality depth is always important, but this year with a 10-game conference-only schedule, no spring practice and contact tracing procedures that could sideline players by the handful, many of these young men will be called upon in the here and now.

Only time will tell which of these players’ impacts will shape the Tigers’ season this fall, but history tells us that these young athletes will be called upon to deliver in high leverage moments this year. Whether or not they are up to the challenge is likely to determine the outcome of some games and even the season itself.

Surprises on the defensive side of the ball

Kevin Steele’s side of the ball has been one of the most consistent units in college football since his arrival in 2016. He and his staff have developed a clear plan of attack, a successful way of working together and an eye for players that fit the scheme. So, even if there are some shocks, Steele has certainly earned the benefit of the doubt.

One of the surprises is the starting cornerback opposite of Roger McCreary. Last week, Steele indicated that there were up to five players competing for that position, so it is not a complete shock that redshirt freshman Jaylin Simpson earned the starting spot against Kentucky. However, many would have guessed that Marco Domio, who was just signed from junior college, or Nehemiah Pritchett would be the last man standing in the competition. Simpson does not have much experience, but if Steele and company trust him to get the job done, then that is a pretty good endorsement.

The most unforeseen developments on the depth chart occur on the defensive line. Colby Wooden starting at defensive tackle is not something that has been discussed anywhere until today. Kevin Steele spoke highly of Wooden last week in his press conference, but the redshirt freshman who signed as a defensive end last year earning the tackle spot next to Tyrone Truesdell was still pretty shocking.

Another unexpected outcome is that four true freshmen are listed on the defensive line depth chart, including Jeremiah Wright, who signed as an offensive lineman in December. Seeing Zykevious Walker listed at defensive tackle ahead of the two junior college defensive linemen that Rodney Garner signed in January may also catch fans off guard.

Coach Garner and coach Steele have a proven track record of getting defensive linemen ready to play in the SEC, but it may just be that the athletes getting the most opportunities in the trenches this year are a little more green than we are used to seeing.

Bonus takeaway

How about Shaun Shivers? Listed at only 5-7 and 179 lbs, Shivers earned the starting spot at tailback and was named one of the team captains. I am a little bit skeptical that Shivers will be an every-down back, but what an accomplishment for a guy who has been doubted because of his size throughout his entire career.

See the whole depth chart:

Twitter/ @byNathanKing

Zack Shaw is a contributing writer for Yellowhammer News and former walk-on for the Auburn Tigers. You can contact him by email: zack@yellowhammernews.com or on Twitter @z_m_shaw