Martin Sanchez for Unsplash

European Union officials announced today that 70 per cent of the adults in the E.U. have now been fully vaccinated, confirming what’s been clear for a while now: after a very slow start, Europe has done a much better job of vaccinating its people than the U.S. has. (Just 63.4% of American adults are fully vaccinated, and Europe has also vaccinated a higher percentage of its total population.)

While the U.S. managed to vaccinate a big chunk of its population (including a big chunk of senior citizens, who are most vulnerable to Covid) in the first half of the year…

Congress Keeps Giving Presidents Too Much Power. Time to Take Some of It Back.

Ant Rozetsky for Unsplash

A few days ago, a newsletter called The Daily Shot, which specializes in graphical representations of macroeconomic trends, published a fascinating graph showing that the price of steel in the US was almost $1000 more a tonne than steel prices in Europe, and more than double the price of steel in Asia.

Some of this difference can probably be attributed to supply-chain issues. But a big chunk of it is the result of one of the worst policy moves of the Trump era, one that the Biden administration has, dubiously, chosen to keep in place: putting tariffs on imported steel…

Florida avoided the worst of the Covid pandemic for more than a year. So what happened this summer?

Jorge Vasconez for Unsplash

The current story of the pandemic in the United State is, with few exceptions, pretty straightforward: while cases are rising most everywhere, hospitalizations and deaths (which are the things we should be most concerned about and paying real attention to) have skyrocketed in states with relatively low vaccination rates, and have remained mostly under control in states with high ones. And this was a predictable outcome, given that we know the Covid vaccines provide good protection against infection but exceptional protection against serious illness and death.

This weekend’s big New York Times story on why Florida has been slammed by…

The Covid-19 vaccines work. So why are we planning to give fully vaccinated people a third dose?

Third doses of the mRNA Covid-19 vaccines are on their way.

Israel has already been vaccinating people with third doses for almost a month, and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authorized a third dose for immunocompromised people a couple of weeks ago. U.S. health officials said last week that they wanted third doses to be available to all Americans age 16 and older eight months after they became fully vaccinated (which would be sometime in September for people who got vaccinated first). And on Wednesday, Pfizer started the application process to get FDA authorization for that third dose.


Unvaccinated people are at greater risk of getting sick, and of getting others sick as well. Why isn’t that risk reflected in their insurance premiums?

John Cameron for Unsplash

This was the month when Americans who have been vaccinated against the coronavirus lost their patience with the almost 100 million eligible Americans who have not been. Covid cases, hospitalizations, and deaths are rising again — this time mostly in red states with large unvaccinated populations. And after a couple months that felt something like normal, restrictions, including mask requirements for indoor spaces and all schools, are being re-imposed. …

Covid vaccines are incredibly effective. The media’s overhyping of new research from the CDC is making people think otherwise.

Roger Stames, Sr. for Unsplash

When the CDC changed its guidance on masking earlier this week — recommending, among other things, that even vaccinated people start wearing masks in indoor public spaces in areas of substantial to high Covid transmission — it cited “unpublished data” as a reason for its decision. The next day, the internal CDC document that seems to have prompted the shift was published — by the Washington Post. And when major news media got a look at, the message they sent vaccinated people was pretty simple: “Panic!”

This reaction was not justified by the actual data in the CDC document. It…

The twisties, the yips, and why sometimes willpower isn’t enough

Photo: Alex Smith / Unsplash

Simone Biles’ unexpected withdrawal Tuesday from the Olympics gymnastics team final (which was followed by the announcement that she won’t be participating in the individual all-around competition either) prompted a predictable barrage of criticism from conservative pundits calling Biles “soft” and “weak,” and labeling her decision a sign of selfishness and the decline of toughness in American culture.

This was, on the face of it, patently absurd, given that Biles is the greatest gymnast in history, and has pushed the sport’s limits by doing ever more dazzling — and dangerous — skills. But it was especially ridiculous in this case…

Public persuasion campaigns can’t move the needle as much as the private sector requiring employees to be vaccinated

JASON REDMOND/AFP via Getty Images

Over the past few weeks, the number of Covid cases, hospitalizations and deaths has risen sharply in the United States, particularly in states with low vaccination rates. While the vaccines do not offer perfect protection against being infected with Covid , they significantly reduce your chances of getting infected and, more important, they shrink your chances of being hospitalized, let alone dying, from Covid to almost nothing. That’s why, in the U.S., more than 90% — and perhaps as many as 99% — of Covid deaths over the past few months have been among unvaccinated people.

Despite this, a surprisingly…

NYC’s Ranked Choice Voting debacle only helps Republican politicians cast doubt on the legitimacy of American elections

This is a story about deciding not to write a story, and what that tells us about the challenge of getting people to care about election processes at a time when they’re under attack in states across America.

This was originally going to be a piece about the complete mess the New York City Board of Elections has made of the Democratic primary for mayor. The primary, which was held last Tuesday, was supposed to be a showcase for Ranked Choice Voting, an electoral system that allows voters to rank the candidates in a race rather than voting for just…

The Senate is already un-democratic. The filibuster makes it more so.

Harold Mendoza for Unsplash

In a different world, Congressional debate over the last month would have been focused on issues and on policymaking: arguments over things like whether Congress needs to pass new voting-rights legislation, and if so, whether it should look like HR1, the sweeping bill passed by the House, or like West Virginia senator Joe Manchin’s voting-rights bill. Instead, the focus of attention has been not on policy, but on process, and in particular on one element of that process: the filibuster.

That simple fact expresses the fundamental irony of the filibuster as it functions today — its supporters, including most notably…

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.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store