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Showing posts from April, 2020

COVID-19 Exposes TSET’s Uselessness: Let’s Get Rid of It

After more than a month of COVID-19 house arrest , Oklahoma is reopening. However, the government-created economic disaster that shutdown orders have caused will be studied by epidemiologists, economists, and other social scientists for decades to come. In the meantime, we have to deal with the consequences as they occur, everything from a lack of toilet paper on store shelves (hopefully, that’s over) and hair that’s grown too long to what will undoubtedly be a host of bankruptcies. In the meantime, there is a timely question that truly ought to be answered in Oklahoma. Where has TSET (Tobacco Settlement Endowment Trust) been in this time of crisis? Recall that TSET was created as a quasi-independent government by constitutional amendment as part of the 46-state tobacco settlement wherein tobacco companies agreed to pay states as reimbursement for the Medicaid costs of treating tobacco users for tobacco-induced illnesses. Instead of using the money to reduce taxes for Oklahom

Liability In the Time of Covid: When Should Businesses Be Sued for the Spread of Infectious Disease?

When businesses reopen, what liability should they face related to the spread of Covid? Can businesses who remained open during the pandemic, or those who were open before the lockdowns began, be held liable if their customers caught the virus within the businesses’ walls? If so, what would a customer-plaintiff need to prove?   Defending even a meritless lawsuit can be prohibitively expensive. For this reason, it is important to define ahead of time what harms can lead to successful lawsuits. Limitations on causes of action can reduce unwarranted suits by kicking them out of the legal system earlier in the process. So what should businesses be liable for? There are two distinct categories of business liability that might arise from Covid. The first is products liability. The second is liability for infection spread within a business.   Products Liability First, any willful fraud perpetrated in relation to Covid should be severely punished. This would include selling f

More on Why Oklahoma Should Have Already Fully Opened

Governor Stitt has declared that some businesses can open on Friday. By May 1, all enterprises in the state will be able to operate more or less normally. Eventually, at some unspecified date, Oklahoma will be fully operating again. But the question remains, and must be asked, “Was the shutdown and extreme social distancing even necessary?” For several reasons, the answer is a clear and unequivocal “No.” Let’s start with this little gem from a blog by an Oklahoma State University academic. “Harvard University epidemiologists determined that continuing extreme social distancing measures into the summer months could actually result in more COVID-19 deaths than a ‘do nothing from the beginning’ alternative.” Now, it might sound like this only confirms the decision to open up now and not extend the shutdown into the summer. But in fact, the Harvard study has a lot more to say about how this epidemic has been handled than might immediately be obvious. The Harvard study recom

Introducing a New Plan for Public Education: Put Educational Practitioners (Teachers) in Charge

The author, Kent Grusendorf, served as a member of the Texas House of Representatives for 20 years (1987-2007), all but two as a member of Public Education Committee, which he chaired for four years (2003-2007). His prior elected experience was as a member of the Texas State Board of Education for three years (1982-1984). In addition to this blog, Grusendorf is author of an 1889 Institute report also based on his forthcoming book. Saving Public Education: Setting Teachers Free to Teach is the title of my forthcoming book, which explores a potentially new professional opportunity for teachers. Most teachers are in the profession because they love to teach. However, far too many leave the profession due to lack of respect, excessive external pressures, and general frustration. Many teachers stay in the profession, but yearn for greater freedom to just do what they love: Teach. Much of that frustration comes from mandates, and a lack of professional freedom. Well Intentioned,

If Data Is Supposed to Be Our Guide, the Great Coronavirus Shutdown of 2020 Should End

According to the most widely cited model projecting the course of the coronavirus outbreak, today is supposed to be Oklahoma’s peak in daily deaths. Now is a good time to go back to the beginning of the Great Coronavirus Shutdown of 2020, review the goal of our policy, and assess our current status. If our policy should be “data-driven,” as we are constantly told, then let’s actually look at the data and determine our next policy steps accordingly. Spoiler alert: according to the terms set out by those advocating for the shutdown policy, the policy’s continuance is no longer justified. The stated goal of the shutdown policy was to “flatten the curve” so as to prevent hospitals from becoming overwhelmed with COVID patients. The fear was that the virus would spread so fast that at its peak, the number of cases would exceed the overall capacity of the healthcare system. If that peak could be stretched out over a longer period of time, lives would be saved. This concept was il

Shut Downs Likely to Result in More COVID-19 Deaths than if Nothing Were Done

More people will die as a result of COVID-19 because we closed the schools than would have if we’d kept the schools open or if we’d brought the kids back to school in summer. That is part of the message from Knut M. Wittkowski, who headed the Department of Biostatistics, Epidemiology, and Research Design at The Rockefeller University in New York, when he was interviewed around April 6. ( The Rockefeller University is a private graduate college focusing on biological and medical sciences, providing doctoral and postdoctoral education and with which 36 Nobel laureates have been affiliated.) In effect, the same message was given by experts cited by 1889 Institute in a March 24 statement decrying the plan to turn out public schools for the year. Dr. Wittkowski explains in detail that “herd immunity” is critical, indeed absolutely essential, to end a respiratory disease pandemic. Herd immunity occurs when at least 80 percent of a population has been exposed to the disease and

What if Legislators Were Licensed? Well, Just to Make a Point...

1889 Institute, as a general matter, objects to occupational licensing. We have written about it more than any other subject. The scant benefits simply do not outweigh the enormous costs to consumers and entrepreneurs, and  the  burdens that disproportionately impact the poor.   It must be noted that the remainder of this post is a work of satire. This should be obvious to anyone who has read even one of our papers, but each of the proposals below has an analogous provision in Oklahoma licensing laws. To those supportive of government-created cartels, these proposals might sound almost reasonable.  A material threat to the public safety and welfare has for too long gone entirely unregulated, unrestrained and unchecked. This menace has the power to corrode not only mere industries, but to corrupt the entire state economy. It’s no overstatement to say that the practitioners of this perilous profession hold the power to destroy democracy as we know it. After all, it’s been said