Media

The Potholes on Memory Lane

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I recently ran across this while doing some research for another column, and I suppose I must have mentioned this before, but I am very entertained by the fact that Slate has an article headlined “Never Trumpers for Trump: How Trump’s conservative critics became wingmen for the president’s supporters,” and it is about . . . me.

“Never Trumpers for Trump” is precisely correct, except for the “Never Trumper” part and the “for Trump” part.

 

Science & Tech

We Are Slowly but Steadily Unraveling the Genetics of This Pandemic

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(WestEnd61/Getty Images)

Today, a team led by scientists at Scripps Research announced they had discovered a common feature found in many of the human antibodies that neutralize SARS-CoV-2:

The scientists, whose study appears July 13 in Science, reviewed data on nearly 300 anti-SARS-CoV-2 antibodies that their labs and others have found in convalescent COVID-19 patients over the past few months. They noted that a subset of these antibodies is particularly powerful at neutralizing the virus — and these potent antibodies are all encoded, in part, by the same antibody gene, IGHV3-53.

Genes are likely to play a factor in which antibodies are most effective against the virus, just as genes probably play a factor in who can fight off the virus easily and who succumb to it rapidly.

You probably heard about the New Jersey family that lost four members in rapid succession, including one who had no discernable previous health issues, or the elderly Louisiana woman and her three sons all dying within a week or so, or the three members of a family dying in rapid succession in Florida. Genetics were probably not the only reason these families were struck so severely, but if one parent had genes that made them particularly vulnerable to this particular strain of SARS-CoV-2, they may have passed along those genes to their children.

Yet there are people more than 100 years old — sometimes overweight or obese, smokers, and non-exercisers who catch the virus and manage to pull through. They’re blessed with genetics that makes their immune systems and white blood cells work effectively, even if their health is not ideal otherwise.

At the beginning of June, teams of medical researchers in Germany, Spain, and Italy found “variations at two spots in the human genome are associated with an increased risk of respiratory failure in patients with Covid-19. . . . One of these spots includes the gene that determines blood types. Having Type A blood was linked to a 50 percent increase in the likelihood that a patient would need to get oxygen or to go on a ventilator.”

The other spot on the genome is six genes on Chromosome 3; earlier this month, additional research determined that this stretch of DNA was passed along from Neanderthals 60,000 years ago. The thinking is, the more this particular gene or genes are in a person’s genetic code, the more vulnerable they are to SARS-CoV-2.

From a layman’s perspective, genetics is weird and pretty darn unfair; science has determined that some small populations of human beings have near-immunity to anthrax and malaria. Some people might be unnerved at this sort of research, looking for connections between genes and vulnerability to diseases, as it could feed into notions that some people are genetically “superior,” and represent a step down the road to eugenics. But recognizing the reality of genetic differences does not inherently require one to think of other human beings as “lesser” in any way. Look hard enough at anybody’s genome and you’ll probably find some gene that puts them at a disadvantage in one circumstance or another.

If we’re going to beat this virus, we have to understand it as thoroughly as possible — including clues as to who might be more vulnerable to it and why.

Science & Tech

Evaluating Fauci’s Record

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Dr. Anthony Fauci attends the daily coronavirus task force briefing at the White House, April 13, 2020. (Leah Millis/Reuters)

The White House is getting a lot of heat by pointing out that Dr. Anthony Fauci, the country’s top infectious-disease official, has a spottier record on predicting the course of pandemics than the media would have you believe. “White House officials now want to rein in Fauci by cherry-picking instances in which they can take Fauci out of context to use the uncertainties of the pandemic against him,” noted the Washington Post.

I understand that “cherry-picking” issues over the course of someone’s career can lead to a distorted picture. But one problem with coverage of Fauci is that the coverage has rarely offered any context beyond glowing profiles of the 79-year-old career civil servant and his behind-the-scenes clashes with Trump officials.

Dr. Fauci was challenged a bit on Sunday’s Meet the Press when the top U.S. coronavirus-testing official, Admiral Brett Giroir, said Fauci is “not 100 percent right” because his calls for now reinstituting lockdowns in some states come from “a very narrow public-health point of view.” Giroir argued that as an epidemiologist Fauci “admits that (he doesn’t) have the whole national interest in mind.”

It’s well-known in scientific circles that many specialists don’t look at the big picture. Dr. Malcolm Kendrick is a physician and author of Doctoring Data: How to Sort Out Medical Advice from Medical Nonsense. He recently told Spiked magazine that:

Epidemiologists would rather overestimate a threat by 100 times than underestimate it by 10 percent. These models will always hugely overestimate risk. Everyone has to say things will be really serious because they would look terrible if they said things would be all right and they were not. If they are proved wrong, they can say it was just as well to warn people because it could have been terrible even though it did not end up being so. This approach is taken without any cognizance of the damage that the advice they have given has caused.

That blind spot may explain Fauci’s recent comment that something resembling normal life in the U.S. won’t return for “a year or so.” “I would hope to get to some degree of real normality within a year or so. But I don’t think it’s this winter or fall,” Fauci told Britain’s Telegraph earlier this month.

I know Dr. Fauci’s calm approach and communications skills are viewed in very positive terms. But such dire predictions make it important to note his prediction record. Michael Fumento, a science writer who has reported on infectious diseases for 35 years, argues that Fauci has spent “his professional career warning of nightmare scenarios, many which never materialized.”

Fauci also supported the nationwide lockdown, which, Fumento argues, “resulted in less panic, caused no recessions, much less the possibility of a worldwide depression. Running their courses without months-long quarantines of the healthy, those pandemics didn’t trigger rises in alcohol and other drug abuse, domestic violence, depression and suicide.”

Fauci himself finally acknowledged to CNBC on May 22 that lockdowns could cause “irreparable damage” if imposed for too long. It’s clear that ship had already sailed by then. But we’ll see how Fauci does with his prediction that returning to something resembling normal life will take a year.

Culture

The Spate of Shootings Continues 

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It was another dispiriting weekend of violence in our cities. And the people who have made Black Lives Matter a quasi-religious mantra won’t deign to notice, let alone learn the names of the victims or make them a cause.

U.S.

Trump Masks Up

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Trump wore a mask at Walter Reed medical center over the weekend. One hopes it’s a sign of an approaching cease-fire in the war over masks. There’s debate about the precise efficacy of masks, but they are a much less cumbersome and harmful intervention than lockdowns, as Governor Abbott of Texas has now been emphasizing.

In general, Trump has been hurt by downplaying the virus at the outset, and then repeating the same mistake during this resurgence. It may be too late to recover his political footing on this crisis, but wishing it away is obviously not going to work.

U.S.

My Coronavirus Mistakes

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I’ve been thinking about the things I’ve gotten wrong during the course of this virus:

—When Trump first extended the shutdown guidance, the White House cited an estimate of 100,000–240,000 deaths that I found incredible. But here we are, sadly, right in that range.

—I thought we’d get a seasonality break, because that’s what many experts said, and it tracked with what happens with the flu. But we have the highest number of confirmed cases here in the middle of summer.

—I believed we were on the same trajectory as Western Europe, with cases in inexorable decline.

—Finally, I thought conditions in New York made it particularly susceptible to a large-scale outbreak — the subway system, density, etc. — in a way that the rest of the country wasn’t. But Florida, Texas, and Arizona now have large outbreaks of their own. The spike in cases in these places hasn’t yet produced anything like the deaths we saw in New York and New Jersey, and perhaps it never will (it’s a younger cohort getting infected), but it is alarming.

Sports

Farewell to the Redskins 

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It was inevitable that in this environment, with considerable commercial pressure, that the Redskins would have to cave. I still stand by what I wrote here years ago. The name is obviously an anachronism, but a harmless one. It doesn’t actually hurt anyone, or promote racism, or make anyone take a dim view of Native Americans. The team could have kept the name Redskins for the next 100 years, and nothing in our national life would be any different. The name, the burgundy and gold, the fight song, the logo — all of that made for a vibrant team tradition that united all Redskins fans and was an adornment to the league. But we’re no longer making any allowances for such things, as the woke bulldozer flattens all before it.

Politics & Policy

We Need More than a Defense of Religious Free Exercise

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A demonstrators holds a large cross outside the Supreme Court as the court rules on two cases concerning religious liberty in Washington, D.C., July 8, 2020. (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

Writing at Public Discourse, Ryan Anderson makes a compelling case that, even as we celebrate a few welcome wins for religious liberty at the Supreme Court, we still need to address the substantive questions at the heart of our culture-war debates.

It’s an important point, and one I considered in a post right after the Court’s incomprehensible ruling in Bostock last month. That decision, I argued, illustrated why it’s a problem that religious Americans too often have retreated into defending religious-freedom rights rather than defending our beliefs themselves. Religious liberty is a fundamental right worth protecting, of course, but fighting for the right to practice one’s faith is not the same as making the case for why doing so, especially in the realm of sexual ethics, is not bigotry or discrimination, as many on the Left increasingly maintain.

Take, for example, the case of the Christian baker Jack Phillips. Arguing that he has a First Amendment right not to be forced to use his artistic expression to celebrate a same-sex wedding is one thing, and it’s all well and good as far as it goes. But defending the rationality of his belief in marriage as, by its very nature, a union between one man and one woman is another, equally important effort. Although there is obvious value in a legal defense that relies on the First Amendment, religious Americans outside the courtroom should’ve focused far more than they did on arguing not only that Phillips has a right to free exercise and free expression but also that his belief in traditional marriage isn’t bigoted and that it isn’t discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation to decline to celebrate a same-sex wedding ceremony.

It isn’t difficult to see why focusing on the latter arguments would be preferable, not only for religious Americans but also for Americans who hold similar beliefs about marriage, gender, and sexuality but who are not religious. Relying on free-exercise arguments excludes those Americans and seems to concede that religious liberty is nothing more than a cover for bigotry or, as the social-justice Left puts it, “license to discriminate.” Ryan makes this point ably in his new article:

Religious liberty, after all, doesn’t protect people who aren’t religious but reject progressive gender ideology. It doesn’t protect other goods and interests threatened by progressive gender ideology. And it doesn’t respond on the merits to the underlying disputed questions of truth. We need a more holistic response in terms of legislation and litigation to protect all people and all the various goods and interests at stake. We need to contend about the truth of the matter.

While religious Americans might be able to achieve small victories around the edges by relying on the First Amendment to protect us within our small spheres, we will continue losing the cultural battle in the long run if we decline to defend our beliefs on their own terms.

Consider the Supreme Court ruling last week in Little Sisters of the Poor v. Pennsylvania et al. While the Court ruled in favor of the Trump administration’s authority to grant religious and conscience exemptions to the HHS contraception mandate, it sidestepped both the religious-freedom debate and the debate over the supposed right to subsidized birth control. In short, the Court’s majority punted, almost entirely ignoring the substantive questions involved in a legal fight that has stretched on for nearly a decade.

So while we might celebrate what amounts to a short-term win for the Little Sisters — or, more accurately, a near miss — the Court’s decision really wasn’t a significant victory in any important sense, as our own Andy McCarthy pointed out last week. For one thing, the Court failed to address whether the government has a compelling interest in subsidizing contraception or requiring employers to do so; there are excellent arguments that it does not, arguments that have nothing to do with religion or religious freedom. It also failed to address, as Justices Alito and Gorsuch pointed out in their concurrence, whether religious and moral exemptions are required by the Constitution and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, rather than merely permissible if any given administration chooses to enact them.

The result is that the Little Sisters are forced back to the appeals court to defend themselves once again, where they are all but guaranteed to lose. And, going forward, these charitable nuns and countless religious groups like them will continue to be subject to the whims of each successive presidential administration. Joe Biden, it should be noted, already has promised to remove the religious exemptions currently in place to protect them. Meanwhile, non-religious Americans will have no hope of avoiding what is, at its root, a baseless policy requiring everyone to ratify the false notion that contraception is necessary health care.

There is no evading the fact that we live in a climate increasingly hostile to religious beliefs and traditional moral values, nowhere more so than in the realm of sex and gender. We do ourselves no favors by making arguments that appear to ask for special treatment on the grounds of religion rather than offering a vigorous defense of our beliefs on their own terms.

Science & Tech

The Ideological Corruption of Science

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Research scientist Dan Galperin works on Purified Recombinant Zika Enveloped Protein in his laboratory at the Protein Sciences Inc. headquarters in Meriden, Conn., in 2016. (Mike Segar/Reuters)

Why don’t many people “trust the science” anymore? Perhaps because science, as an institution, has fallen prey to the same ideological infection that has invaded and corrupted many other institutions. But it is too rarely discussed, which is why a Sunday Wall Street Journal column by theoretical physicist Lawrence Krauss is so important.

Krauss highlights how our various moral panics over real and less provable inequalities have transformed labs and schools into thought prisons where research is stifled and heterodox views are punished. From “The Ideological Corruption of Science”:

Actual censorship is also occurring. A distinguished chemist in Canada argued in favor of merit-based science and against hiring practices that aim at equality of outcome if they result “in discrimination against the most meritorious candidates.” For that he was censured by his university provost, his published review article on research and education in organic synthesis was removed from the journal website, and two editors involved in accepting it were suspended.

An Italian scientist at the international laboratory CERN, home to the Large Hadron Collider, had his scheduled seminar on statistical imbalances between the sexes in physics canceled and his position at the laboratory revoked because he suggested that apparent inequities might not be directly due to sexism. A group of linguistics students initiated a public petition asking that the psychologist Steven Pinker be stripped of his position as a Linguistics Society of America Fellow for such offenses as tweeting a New York Times article they disapproved of.

Bench scientists and others in the sector are paralyzed with fear and possible career loss if they don’t toe the line.

As ideological encroachment corrupts scientific institutions, one might wonder why more scientists aren’t defending the hard sciences from this intrusion. The answer is that many academics are afraid, and for good reason. They are hesitant to disagree with scientific leadership groups, and they see what has happened to scientists who do. They see how researchers lose funding if they can’t justify how their research programs will explicitly combat claimed systemic racism or sexism, a requirement for scientific proposals now being applied by granting agencies.

This authoritarian atmosphere stifles free scientific inquiry, the essential hallmark of the scientific method, and threatens the objectivity so essential to the sector’s success.

Such corruption has real world consequences. Not only the stifling of scientific advances that Krauss worries about, but a loss of trust by the people in what “the scientists” tell us. If you doubt me, just look at what has been happening in the current pandemic crisis.

Sports

Hail to the . . . [to Be Determined] . . . Hail, Victory . . .

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The era of the “Washington Redskins” is coming to an end*, as the team will announce the “Redskins” team name will be retired and a new name will be selected.

Former cornerback Fred Smoot has been enthusiastically promoting the option of the “Washington Redwolves” and sharing mock logo designs.

Team owner Daniel Snyder is one of the most widely disliked figures in Washington, primarily because of the team’s lack of success and the perception of his meddling in team decisions, particularly in his earlier years of ownership. A cynic might contend that this gives Snyder some new praise for his seemingly “woke” decision, while also garnering Snyder enormous new revenue from merchandise featuring the new name and presumably new logo as well. (There are ways to keep the helmet logo, if the team wished.)

*Yes, I hear you D.C.-area fans, groaning that the era of the Redskins came to an end in May 1999, when Snyder bought the team.

Education

Student-Housing Policy Adds to Uncertainty

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COVID-19 has lots of students uncertain about their educational futures. Their anxieties are being increased with regard to housing concerns. If they enroll for the fall and there has to be another shutdown, will they get their money back?

That’s a question facing UNC students. Nicole Divers explains the problems in today’s Martin Center article. 

She writes:

For students who rely on university housing, particularly those with loans or impoverished students, no refunds could mean a loss of more than $1,400While Western Carolina and UNC-Greensboro will let students opt out of their housing contracts before August, their no-refund policy means students need to find off-campus housing fast or risk paying for housing they can’t use.

Housing uncertainties are especially serious for international students and those from other states.

Divers concludes:

After the abrupt shift to remote learning, reopening campus is a welcome relief for many students. However, the no-refund housing policy, compounded with the indecision over instruction methods, leaves many students in a state of turmoil as they scramble to make last-minute plans. Universities should be doing everything in their power to encourage students to enroll in fall classes. So far, they seem more focused on ensuring payments over pupils.

Science & Tech

CDC Updates COVID-19 Fatality Rate ‘Best Estimate’

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Back in May, I noted that the CDC was providing a very low “best estimate” of the COVID-19 fatality rate to modelers. Its “case fatality rate” was 0.4 percent; it also thought that 35 percent of infections were asymptomatic, which implied an infection-fatality rate of just 0.26 percent. This was far lower than most other estimates at the time, and the agency ignored requests for an explanation from me and other journalists.

Well, they’ve updated the site: They now put the infection-fatality rate at 0.65 percent, which is much more in line with other sources, if fortunately below the 1 percent rate many estimated months ago.

They fixed it just in time for new evidence to throw off the calculations again!

National Review

Saturday Night with Bill Buckley

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A screenshot of William F. Buckley Jr. discussing his book Happy Days Were Here Again on C-SPAN, September 24, 1993. (C-SPAN)

Our late founder rules tonight (July 11) on C-SPAN2, which marks its Summer Series program by rebroadcasting nearly six straight hours of discussions of select books and one in-depth interview on Bill’s overall body of work. Here’s the lineup (times are Eastern):

8:01 p.m.: A 1993 interview with Brian Lamb of Happy Days Were Here Again: Reflections of a Libertarian Journalist, a collection of then-recent columns.

8:59 p.m.: A 1996 interview with his editor at Random House, Sam Vaughn, of The Right Word: About the Uses and Abuses of Language, and about Vocabulary; about Usages, Style and Speaking; Fiction, Diction, Dictionaries; with Reviews and Interviews; and More.

9:49 p.m.: A 1997 speech at the Women’s National Republican Club on his then-new book, Nearer My God: An Autobiography of Faith.

10:43 p.m.: A 2000 interview with Brian Lamb that includes WFB taking over two hours of viewer questions.

Of course, if you are otherwise engaged tonight, you can always search the old Book TV archives to catch these and other (plentiful!) WFB appearances on the various C-SPAN channels.

NRI Marketing

Final Call for Applications for NR Institute Regional Fellows in Dallas, San Francisco, and Chicago

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National Review founder William F. Buckley Jr.

Procrastinators have been warned: National Review Institute has announced the last call for applications for its Fall 2020 Regional Fellowship Programs in Dallas, San Francisco, and Chicago. We urge you to apply.

“You?” Who is this you who should apply? Glad you asked: The ideal applicant for the program — which helps participants develop a deeper understanding of the foundations of conservative thought — will be a mid-career professional (ages 35–50ish), with an interest, but not professional experience, in policy or journalism. Past fellows have represented diverse industries and professions ranging from oil and gas, finance, real estate, medicine, sporting industries, law enforcement, education, nonprofits, and the arts.

The program takes place over eight moderated dinner discussions. The 2020 class will run from September to November. Moderators include popular NR writers and leading academics at local universities. The rewards of participating are plentiful and will last a lifetime. The deadline to apply is July 15 — which is coming at us like a freight train — so we encourage interested conservatives, libertarians, and the curious to apply right now. Because yes, in a few days, it will indeed be too late.

You’ll find more information about the program here. What if you don’t live in one of the three program cities, but know folks who do and who might be NRI fellow material: Go ahead and please share with them this link. Many thanks.

Markets

Panic on ESG Street

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A Wall Street sign outside the New York Stock Exchange in New York City. (Carlo Allegri/Reuters)

The sub-headline in a Financial Times story on the anguished reaction of some asset managers to the Trump administration’s belated (if modest) efforts to protect the threat to pensioners’ investment returns represented by “socially responsible” investing (SRI) shows where the paper’s sympathies lie (not that there was any doubt about that):

Funds say Department of Labor rule would hamper ability to incorporate ethical principles into pension portfolios.

“Ethical” sounds so much nicer than ideological.

The Financial Times

Late last month, the Department of Labor proposed a new rule that would require private pension administrators to prove that they are not sacrificing financial returns if they put money in ESG-oriented investments. [ESG-oriented funds, amongst other considerations, look at how a company measures up against somewhat variably defined environmental, social and governance standards]

“Private employer-sponsored retirement plans are not vehicles for furthering social goals or policy objectives that are not in the financial interest of the plan,” said Eugene Scalia, the labour secretary.

Quite.

The Financial Times:

Critics argue that, instead of protecting retirees from decisions that prioritise politics over returns, the rule may put them at greater risk by hindering their ability to fully analyse the companies in which they invest.

In fact, there’s nothing in the rule to stop asset management companies doing the “full” analysis they need (the only question is the use to which they put that analysis), but some cynics might say that the objection to a rule that places some limitation to the degree to which certain ERISA-eligible funds can be managed on SRI principles might owe just a little something to the fees that “full” analysis can bring.

The authors of the DOL’s commentary on the proposed rules note:

ESG funds often come with higher fees, because additional investigation and monitoring are necessary to assess an investment from an ESG perspective.

Convenient.

The Financial Times:

“The Department of Labor, under the current leadership, is sceptical of sustainable investing and that is bad for retirement investors,” said Aron Szapiro, head of policy research for Morningstar, the fund ratings firm.

I wonder.

The Financial Times:

The new rule does not prohibit sustainability analysis outright, but it restricts defined contribution pension plans from offering ESG funds  as default investments — which is where many users end up, having not made an active decision on selection. It also requires fiduciaries to provide evidence that ESG-oriented investments have been chosen solely on “objective risk-return criteria.”

Mr Szapiro said: “There is no need for regulations on avoiding investments that are chosen principally to create some alternative benefit; it’s very clear you can’t do that and everyone knows that.” The strict requirements are intended to dissuade investors from “sniffing around anything that looks like ESG,” he added.

I’d pay attention to that word “principally”, something of a red herring. Mr. Szapiro is quite right that “everyone knows” that an investment structured like that wouldn’t fly. The question, rather, revolves around investment strategies where the supposed ‘alternative benefits’ reduce financial return from what it might otherwise have been.

The Financial Times:

US regulators are operating on an outdated perception of ESG, “which assumes that investors must give up performance in order to invest responsibly,” said Brendan McCarthy, head of defined contribution investments at Nuveen, a Chicago-based asset manager.

Nuveen and Morningstar are drafting critical responses to the proposal. The UN Principles for Responsible Investing, which has signed up nearly 2,300 investment managers, has also come out against the rule.

Ah, the UN. Reassuring.

The Financial Times:

“A lot of what we do with policy and regulatory work is just to bring the facts. And in this case, we will be bringing a lot of facts,” said Amy O’Brien, Nuveen’s global head of responsible investing.

Fiduciaries looking to make the case that ESG analysis can lead to outperformance can cite a growing body of research.

Last year, Bank of America found that companies with high ESG scores generally saw lower future earnings volatility, particularly within the energy, materials, utilities and communications services sectors. The bank also found that 90 per cent of S&P 500 companies that went bankrupt between 2005 and 2015 were among the bottom cohort of ESG performers.

But the outperformance of companies with high ESG scores is a complicated question. Back in May, Bloomberg’s John Authers looked at this issue, and noted this (my emphasis added):

It is possible that ESG is undermining itself — or at least that the E and the S are in conflict with each other. Vincent Deluard, of INTL FCStone Inc., suggests that ESG funds are people-unfriendly. Tech and pharma companies tend to look good by ESG criteria, but they tend to be virtual as well as virtuous. These are the kind of companies that need relatively few workers and which churn out hefty profit margins. When Deluard looked at how the big ETFs’ portfolios varied from the Russell 3000, the results were spectacular. They are full of very profitable companies with very few employees… A further look at companies’ market cap per employee showed that investing in the current stock market darlings who are making their shareholders rich is a very inefficient way to invest in boosting employment. They include hot names like Netflix Inc., Nvidia Corp., MasterCard Inc. and Facebook Inc….

The problem, Deluard suggests, is that ESG investing, intentionally or otherwise, rewards exactly the corporate behavior that is creating alarm. Companies with few buildings, few formal employees and a light carbon footprint tend to show up well on ESG screens. But allocating capital to them leads to a deepening of inequality, and intensifying the problem of under-unemployment. On the face of it, they aren’t the companies that should be receiving capital if employment is to recover swiftly. If investors want to behave with the interests of “stakeholders” rather than “shareholders” in mind, and that is surely central to the ESG philosophy, then their current approach is directly counter-productive. No good turn goes unpunished.

Oh.

What’s more, there’s some evidence that E, S and the generally uncontroversial G (governance) may affect performance in different ways:

Writing recently for the IFC Review, Julian Morris:

A 2016 paper from group of researchers from the European Parliament and Bournemouth Business School sought to look more deeply at the relationship, using disaggregated data from Bloomberg’s ESG Disclosure form for the S&P 500 for the period 2007 to 2011. The researchers found that the relationship between ESG and financial performance in general was indeed U-shaped. However, they found that the environmental and social components were linearly negatively related to performance. It was only the governance component that drove the U-shape relationship. This governance-dominated U-shape relationship between ESG and financial performance has since been confirmed in other studies.

In other words, if it’s financial performance you are after, focus on the ‘G.’

And as I noted in the same post in which I quoted Mr. Morris, the Financial Times (to its credit) had picked up on some comments by the SEC about ESG:

Jay Clayton, chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission, said any analysis that combined separate environmental, social and governance metrics into a single ESG rating would be “imprecise”.

“I have not seen circumstances where combining an analysis of E, S and G together, across a broad range of companies, for example with a ‘rating’ or ‘score’, particularly a single rating or score, would facilitate meaningful investment analysis that was not significantly over-inclusive and imprecise,” said Mr Clayton…

The concerns expressed by Mr Clayton over combining E, S and G scores have previously been described as “aggregate confusion” by academics. One example of this is the electric car maker Tesla. The business, which scores highly on environmental metrics, has often been criticised for its record on workers’ rights. As a result, different ratings providers give it wildly different scores.

“Full” analysis can be like that.

The Department of Labor should stick with its proposed new rule.

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Fade In: The Runway Magazine team is busily trying to arrange things for the next fashion shoot. Miranda Priestly, the imperious and impatient and withering editor in chief, sorts through the various items from the racks of couture garments. The underlings stand by, terrified. Off to the side, Miranda’s ... Read More

The Devil Wears Prada: CDC Edition

Fade In: The Runway Magazine team is busily trying to arrange things for the next fashion shoot. Miranda Priestly, the imperious and impatient and withering editor in chief, sorts through the various items from the racks of couture garments. The underlings stand by, terrified. Off to the side, Miranda’s ... Read More

Saturday Night with Bill Buckley

Our late founder rules tonight (July 11) on C-SPAN2, which marks its Summer Series program by rebroadcasting nearly six straight hours of discussions of select books and one in-depth interview on Bill’s overall body of work. Here’s the lineup (times are Eastern): 8:01 p.m.: A 1993 interview with Brian Lamb ... Read More

Saturday Night with Bill Buckley

Our late founder rules tonight (July 11) on C-SPAN2, which marks its Summer Series program by rebroadcasting nearly six straight hours of discussions of select books and one in-depth interview on Bill’s overall body of work. Here’s the lineup (times are Eastern): 8:01 p.m.: A 1993 interview with Brian Lamb ... Read More