A tirade against mask-wearing reveals how people like Carlson have emptied popular conservatism of substance

Screenshot from Tucker Carlson’s show on Fox, 4/26/21

H.L. Mencken famously defined Puritanism as “the haunting fear that someone, somewhere, may be happy.” With the Covid-19 pandemic entering (we hope) its final stages in the U.S., hardcore conservatism seems increasingly to be defined by the haunting fear that someone, somewhere, may still be worried about Covid.

That, at least, is what’s suggested by this week’s bizarre attacks from people like Tucker Carlson on anyone who might consider wearing a mask outside (or having their children wear a mask outside). …


The J&J vaccine is especially useful for marginalized populations. Did that make it easier to suspend its use?

Mohammad Shahhosseini for Unsplash

In the wake of regulators’ lifting the suspension of the J&J vaccine (which I wrote about recently), states across the country have quickly resumed giving people the shot. This is obviously good news, particularly given that the pace of vaccination in the U.S. has been slowing of late. But it also points to the fact that J&J’s shot is not just a bit player in the U.S.’s vaccination campaign. Instead, it’s filling a role that the mRNA vaccines are not, allowing public-health officials to reach underserved populations that otherwise might be hard to vaccinate. …


Americans in states across the country started getting vaccinated with the Johnson & Johnson/Janssen Covid vaccine again yesterday, after regulators ended a suspension of the vaccine that had lasted almost two weeks. The FDA and the CDC decided to halt the use of the J&J vaccine on April 13 over concerns about a rare blood-clotting disorder that had been found in six people who had received it, one of whom had died. (AstraZeneca’s Covid vaccine, which is in wide use in the U.K. and Europe, has also been linked to blood clots). …


Republicans are attacking big companies for pushing a progressive social agenda. Is this anything more than political game-playing?

Photo by visuals for Unsplash

After a chorus of Fortune 500 companies criticized Georgia’s new law imposing new voting-rights restrictions, and Major League Baseball pulled this year’s All-Star Game out of Atlanta, a chorus of Republicans responded by inveighing against what’s often called “woke capitalism” — big companies flexing their muscles in defense of progressive social causes. Donald Trump called on his followers to boycott a laundry list of companies that had come out against the Georgia law: “Major League Baseball, Coca-Cola, Delta Airlines, JPMorgan Chase, ViacomCBS, Citigroup, Cisco, UPS and Merck.” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell warned corporations to stop behaving like a “woke…


Money Talks

Welcome to the new tragedy of the commons

Illustration: Julia Moburg/Medium; source: Getty Images

In the 1950s, the Grand Banks off the coast of Newfoundland was, as it had been for centuries, one of the richest fisheries in the world, home to a massive and endlessly replenished population of cod. The fishery provided food for people across North America, and jobs to tens of thousands of fishermen and fish plant workers. But new technology — radar, sonar, electronic navigation systems, and massive drift nets — was allowing trawlers to fish for longer, and to take more fish with every trip. The result was that cod were being pulled from the ocean faster than they…


If Top Shot wants to appeal to collectors instead of speculators, it should take a page from NFL Films

NBA Top Shot home page

Prices at NBA Top Shot, where you can buy and sell non-fungible tokens (NFTs) of NBA highlights, have cratered in the past couple of weeks, part of what appears to be a broader sell-off in risky assets of many kinds, including high-flying tech stocks and cryptoassets.

This isn’t exactly shocking, given that, as I wrote a few weeks ago in Marker, the market for NFTs appears to be dominated already by speculators, rather than collectors, which means that when prices start to fall, there’s no source of fundamental demand to keep them up. But the decline in Top Shot prices…


Louis DeJoy unveiled his 10-year plan to cut hours and raise prices, all in the name of profitability

Photo: Matthew Rader/Unsplash

Postmaster General Louis DeJoy presented his much-awaited—or, rather, much-dreaded—10-year reorganization plan at a news conference yesterday and it was pretty much what people expected it would be. DeJoy wants to cut hours, shut down some post offices, raise stamp prices, and lengthen the amount of time it takes first-class mail to be delivered, all in the interest of saving the U.S. Postal Service money.

I’ll leave it to others to debate the specific details of DeJoy’s plan. What I think is most important to understand is that this plan is that it only makes sense if you believe the post…


Here’s why vaccination rates in most European countries are only about a third of what they are in the U.S.

A vial of AstraZeneca’s vaccine at a vaccination center in Dresden, Germany. Photo: Robert Michael/Getty Images

Even as the number of daily deaths from Covid-19 in the United States has fallen to levels we haven’t seen in months, continental Europe is now in the middle of a third wave of Covid infections, with a number of countries, including France, imposing new shutdowns in order to try to control the virus. This may be, in part, because Europe’s rollout of Covid vaccines has also been far slower than that of the U.S. and the U.K, and now it’s facing a new issue: Dramatically increased skepticism among many Europeans about the AstraZeneca vaccine.

This is a serious problem…


What one NBA highlight tells us about the NFT bubble

R.J. Barrett’s NFT on Top Shot. Screenshot: Top Shot

The speculative frenzy surrounding NFTs (non-fungible tokens) has only gotten more frenzied since I wrote about it for Marker last week, with an NFT of an artwork by digital artist Beeple being auctioned off by Christie’s for more than $69 million. But incomprehensible as that sale was, the Beeple piece at least has the virtue of being unique — the person who bought it knows that it’s the only one in existence. …


In both business and politics, leaders tend to overestimate how much they have in common with their audience

Photo: Simon Launay/Unsplash

Perhaps the most basic political fact about the Covid relief bill Congress just passed —and that I wrote about a couple of days ago — is that its provisions are, for the most part, widely popular and largely uncontroversial. As a result, it’s a great example of Democrats doing something that seems politically obvious, but which they’ve often struggled to do: focusing on policies that are popular with voters, and avoiding policies that aren’t.

One of the main voices in recent years emphasizing the need for Democrats to pursue this strategy has been David Shor, who’s head of data science…

James Surowiecki

I’m the author of The Wisdom of Crowds. I’ve been a business columnist for Slate and The New Yorker and written for a wide range of other publications.

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