« The Weeds

The lab-leak hypothesis

2021-06-02

Matt is joined by Vox's Libby Nelson and Jerusalem Demsas for a conversation about the rising cost of master’s programs, their usefulness in today’s economy, and their role as federally subsidized job training. Matt, Libby, and Jerusalem, explore their varied educational paths and discuss the effectiveness of student loan forgiveness for higher ed. This week’s white paper illuminates the downstream consequences of raising pollution standards for battery recycling in the United States. 

Resources:

"The Lab-Leak Theory" by David Leonhardt (May 27, New York Times)

"The Biological Weapons Convention at a crossroad" by Bonnie Jenkins (Sept. 6, 2017; Brookings)

Midnight in Chernobyl: The Untold Story of the World's Greatest Nuclear Disaster by Adam Higginbotham (Simon & Schuster; 2019)

"The NPT [Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty]: Learning from a Longtermist Success" by Danny Bressler (May 19, Effective Altruism)

White paper: "Strict ID Laws Don't Stop Voters: Evidence from a U.S. Nationwide Panel, 2008–2018," by Enrico Cantoni and Vincent Pons (May 22; The Quarterly Journal of Economics)

"After Dramatic Walkout, a New Fight Looms Over Voting Rights in Texas" by Dave Montgomery and Nick Corasaniti (May 31, New York Times)

Hosts:

Matt Yglesias (@mattyglesias), Slowboring.com

Dara Lind (@DLind), Immigration Reporter, ProPublica

Dylan Matthews (@dylanmatt), Senior Correspondent, Vox

Credits:

Erikk Geannikis, Editor and Producer

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This is an unofficial transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.
Hi, I'm a Emilio, I'm a programme manager, Google right now, lots of people I'm looking for ways to learn new job skills. That's where we created Google career certificates online training programme for fast growing fields like I t, support, project management, data, analytics user experience, design and more. You don't need any prior experience and can be Jobbery in about six months, so put your skills to work. Go to RO dad Google Slash certificates restaurant delivery, apps, have made it possible for many of us to order pretty much anything. We want he with the click of a but but at what cost. I'm amygdala post of the latest season of land of the giants. It's called delivery wars and we're going deep, a third party restaurant delivery. companies like doored ash enumerates have changed the way we eat. All episodes are fallow land of
wherever you get your purchases from Rico Eater, the Vocs media, Pakistan. look. I'm sitting there certainly needs on the box media Potass network. I met replace, he is here. We don't Matthews crop public as DARE Lindh, and we are going to talk today. We got a pretty hot white paper, but we also want to talk first about the delay, bleak hypothesis, she has been in the news. A lot lately has gained sort of more mainstream respectability up to and including the President Joe Biden seems to have ordered some kind,
is renewed inquiry and an emphasis from the american government on the origins of covered did. This is like a big media criticism story. I think a lot of people, myself included, have had like a lot of things to say about the media's original covering of this and what that means and what we can tell from that. But I was willing want to try to talk about like what is at stake here in in concrete terms like. Why does this matter other then? I like, I guess I would like to know, work of a king from it. What's the big deal, I'm curious, but, like I'm curious about a lot of things, I can now what's the origin of the inner european languages, and you know how did a bright locomotive evolve? Are there like stakes here like? Does it matter
to really know where this came from, because I am sceptical about that. So with lives back up resigned, so lab leak, theory has becomes a short hand for a bunch of different things, and then you have written about this at some length mad but serve what's. The hypothesis were considering here, is it specifically the chinese government was working on certain viruses in a lab specifically doing research meant to make them more virulent and they act then we got out is this. I thought this is about an intentional release. What's the universe of loudly theory? So a be served know what we're talking about. Where an end, so I mean look at obviously, if the chinese government deliberately engineered by a weapon that they then released upon the world too. I dont have been that now would be a big deal in foreign policy terms right if we were victims of a delivery.
by a weapons attack by the chinese government, but that doesn't seem to me to be something that anyone really thinks in part, because it I mean it doesn't make sense, they attacked themselves and road and bother to develop of acts hidden offer for the disease. Flowers diversion way out where, as you know, the most, I guess it goes
was a ball sort of like detailed scientific accounts, I've c and are that this virus seems to be derived from a bat corona virus that was perhaps detected in a cave that is very very far away from here on. China says that it is unlikely that it through natural sort of uninjured mediated means arrived issue Han, but it rather samples were taken from there were brought to the war on Institute for virology and the virus than escaped from their through some kind of mishap, and we know that mishaps happen in in laboratories, and this is a real aspect of human
distance. It's also the plot of the stand, which is in an excellent book about a virus destroying humanity. So you know shit happens. I mean you, don't want to say like whoops, you know like no biggie, but at the same time like even if that's not like it seems like the argument that laboratories dealing with incredibly hazardous viruses should be more careful with their shit is like very persuasive, and they persuasiveness of that argument doesn't actually hinge. specific facts here right any de there is kind of a secondary theory that would obviously have massive implications of terror, which is that the virus in the form in which it escaped you know it was not. You know,
We identical to whatever would have existed in the wild and been brought into the lab that could have been you know. Somehow. Genetically modified awaited ultimately made it more virulent deadly and whether that was for purely biological purposes or for purposes of bilateral weaponry that, like the loudly hypothesis itself, doesnt tell us anything about that There are plenty of fervently benign reasons that researchers would want to study infectious diseases, including potential novel corona viruses so there is a certain. extent to which- and you know this is this- gets back into the kind of media criticism strain of it, because the reason This was an initially loaded a year ago back when we knew very,
very little about the virus itself and even less about the you know how it had gone from a and infection in blue hunch. Intervention in the rest of the world was drawn to be kind of american public by China. Hawks with behind is implication if China had done that, it could be that they were doing for various purposes, and it could be candid and it would be another indicate Given that China, despite being an aspirin interest, and little super power does not necessarily have like humanity's best interests at heart, but that's not actually. as as you been saying that's distinct from the question of how it happened. It is, however, relevant to the question of what it means, because we know that there was a oppression of information within China, as the virus was spreading domestically there. That's all that already did a lot to me
the global response to the front of Irish just because it was several weeks in which infection was spreading without any possibility whatsoever about a global community. The question of whether that was an attempt to cover up a human error- or whether it was simply a straight up. You know, we're carrying domestic response where they didn't want to look bad for any reason it doesnt have domestic policy implications. It should shape our understanding of what the relationship between and the rest of the world is, and you know frankly how likely it is that any potential future domestic disaster it happens in China, a country of a billion people is language. To the rest of the world. I am reading midnight internal bore it now and you're a bunch of weeds listeners, far better at least familiar with them, so that anyone influence and a lot of my thinking about this, because so much of the story of the kind of pattern of international trade,
Chernobyl was almost identical in some ways to the pattern of the response to Parana virus. Insofar as it wasn't all known, what had happened. Until it was or it is already escaped beyond any more so in the Chernobyl case, it is clear that was already follow in Sweden a couple of days after the explosion. But you know the instinct by be domestic powers that be judged pretend everything was hunky dory, do both Our own citizens and the rest of the world ended up breaking down, not because is their own. Citizens were able to find out the truth, but because it was something tat they couldn't successfully can too within their borders and therefore representations about something had to be made to the international dimension. So yeah, so the Chernobyl case seems like there. There are a few lessons there one was their national community. Probably can't trust serves nuclear safety report coming out of the USSR. That didn't turn out to be much of a problem:
as evidence that happened shortly after Chernobyl, but I'm search, serious, wet reading a book, yours are met, take away archives as as it says. I really want to know where Burke of it came from their different Paul see responses tailored to different potential causes of the outbreak. If, if the chain of events was that this was about born disease, and the bats transmitted to humans through wet markets. That suggests we should be doing and a crackdown on on live animal markets, at least in certain animals, if it came out of experiments meant to me, corona viruses more virulent. I think that strengthens case that was already strong against funding I just want to make super viruses, but I dont know what to make of serve the the governance persons here that Sir Fissionable case implies a third
things that we learned about the Soviet stay in the international monitoring system that he had to be fixed sure what those kinds of changes would be in the case of covert. If it turns out loudly Castro saw, I think it's less about the matter it was about governance is about the international order right, because one of the things that really has struck me reading with nine Chernobyl is that ye american and other western scientists trying to piece together, you know trying to like work backwards. the data they were receiving about fall out, and what ultimately, they were being provided by soviet, but the soviet government in its effort to leg, just kind of desperately get whatever intellectual firepower. Was that they had a lot of trouble understanding what was going on from the outset, because the reactor model was so different than what had been developed in the West delight in ways that made it susceptible to it
Actually, this kind of melted home that it does seem that there that was a pretty strong arguments for more international cooperation in a furthermore, that international cooperation is mutually beneficial, not just because like Lulla humanity, but because if something, goes wrong and a close political system, and you need to happen outside expertise to fix it. You can't read everybody up quickly on the particular technologies that you ve been order, so that certainly does strongly to the loudly hypothesis because it gets us directly into the question that you were kind of edging into their Dylan about whether we need to ban researching the designed to make diseases more effective and it gets us pretty squarely the question of how
and we distinguish between legitimate biological research and Bio weapons research when being carried out by governments. That may not be representing the true purpose of to the international community, Chernobyl, you no further, it was in fact civilian reactor by so much. history of both the Soviet knew ass. You know nuclear programmes was there, he's time? Technology was kind of siphoned off from a big pipe, funding into weapons technology and the question. How you, gauge and international cooperation on the kind of peace time tat side, not least because it's going to make it easier for you to get global response to crises on the scale of the novel corona virus, while trying to release this view, developed police line between peace time in wartime research is, I think he has something that I dont have good.
Answers to, but it really does get questions about what we think the current, I shall order on research and by a weapons is and whether we think that this threat had been sufficiently. Asked by biological. What the treaties, sanctions regime, and all of that is true, but I think it's worth dwelling a little bit on on the animal markets question, because You know the reason there was initially a strong assumption that that the virus would have would have crossed over from animals is that that just like what we know, you know like that. That's how most new virus outbreaks arise and, of course there are many scientists who view that is still the most likely origin story for this based on what they know. But the the reason that the media landscape was sort of able to say
into action so quickly with you know, explain errors and like vocs at a really good video about the threat of pathogens from live animal markets. The reason that like infrastructure was so good is because all of these points are true right, like wit, whether or not it is like actually true, that Particular virus came from bats to penguins to humans via a particular poorly regulated market in southern China. Like again, I all my information comes for movies. That's the plot of contagion. Right
and the reason that's just like the reason the stand is about a by a weapon leaking from a lab at the recent contagion is about zoonotic virus transfer through animal markets in Asia. Is it like those are both real things that happen, so people use them as plots for different things and in the case of the live animal market, swayed the case for regulating them more stringently is in part that its day and also in part that the activity does not seem to have super high value alleys. It's obviously easy for us, like sitting here in DC, to be like, but even in these markets for, but I think you can even make the case,
you know like in Chinese to chinese officials that, like this is not this not such a good situation. You know the day that the costs of tightening this up are actually really really bow, and the benefits are potentially quite a high I'm. So then it becomes a very short of easy kind of comfortable conversation like there's. No there's, no real reason to think that the chinese government should be like fanatically committed to poorly supervise animal markets that, like you know like exports, could get in. We could have a conference about it like we could address this problem. We should address this problem. Whatever was going on with covered up was the last week is tougher, because there is a community of researchers who believes that this line of research is very valuable ride like day there was a pre pandemic debate about gain a function, research and gain a function. Research was not restricted
because people think there's something important about this and the international relations aspect avenues also much much harder like it would be easy to verify whether or not live animals were being sold in major urban cities in China, its intrinsically very difficult to tell whether a foreign government is doing secret biological research because no, they wouldn't tell you and when you see some of these things, writing. When I look back at the original debate, I rode at great length. I think that a lot of the reporting on what Tom Cotton was saying about this was unfair. The flip side is that you know the stick. He was doing at that point, which was
like, oh, they have this lab there, like they're gonna. Let us in the lab, like we need to ask questions about the lab. Obviously, the chinese government is not good at Let China hawks send american spies into their biological labs so that they can quote him quote like thoroughly investigate the art. Is a bit like that's true, whether their guilty or whether they are innocent right like if the american government secretly released a deadly pathogen into the world, we wouldn't let chinese spies come crawling around our labs and also, if we didn't do that, you know, but they had some like just asking questions plausible sounding theories. We wouldn't so that the international relations aspect of the lab league is just really tricky. It's it's hard to do global governance in an environment where the governments dont trust each other and when they have like totally good reason to not trust each other like it's not it's on some, like big, Miss
understanding that the Chinese do not want foreigners poking around their labs or that foreigners would love to poke around chinese labs like it's a it's a bona fide conflict of interest. This is honest to goodness, where I find myself wondering about, and this is digging deeply into a territory that is more familiar for less media punk gas network broadcast worldly, but late By the same token, by which, of course, chinese government officials would have very good reason, not let Americans buys into their labs, there's like a decent argument for weather They are guilty or innocent of bioengineering. This virus chinese government officials would not particularly to allow international sanctions monitors to check out there by a research labs and, conversely, that the Eu S probably wouldn't be open to a bigger, ailing bilateral transparency argument that allow
international observers to check out. U S, labs did have some relationship to interview s defence policy and put the engaging in Ghana function. Research in a way that could be westernized there. Really. I'm not sure that this does fundamentally boil down to wait. We signed it, of treaties in the twentieth century that were designed to kind of restrain the horrors of weaponry from being developed in any given country. Do we think that those shall we still matter or do we have a paper comply, the regime in which, in fact enough governments think that they can, in a beat the rap thither kind of widespread or, at the very least, that superpowers Engaging in what, in your fairly flagrant disobedience of the existing weapons treaties, we have,
yeah? I'm fairly optimistic about your treaty regimes and by violent means are tough just because, as would serve, nuclear powers has nuclear weapons. There's some overlap between legitimate biomedical research an answer. Weapons not want. My favorite stories in this regard is victors at an off who was the soviets for all ages to helps led the global effort to eradicate smallpox and sows is partly responsible for millions of lives being saved our year Reportedly. One reason he was interested in that was that he knew that if we got to a point in the world where you didn't need to inoculate people against small because it already been eradicated. Then soviet smallpox weapons would be much more powerful and you ll see- reserve, also had a foot in theirs or by weapons alone in programme. So it's deserve incredibly airline, but in general I think the track record of
WMD vile chemical nuclear Hence containment treaties is pretty good. The violations are very whose worthy when North Korea pulls out of the Nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty, like that's a big deal, but enjoy are all the Nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty has worked reasonably well. I think there is a real case day and ass, I find rather persuasive that was also going into what it meant for Post Soviet Eastern Europe that you had all these former constituent republics of the USSR that had nuclear weapons like Kazakhstan. Just like had nuclear weapons lying around Ukraine dead, as they were a part of the Soviet Union. The city new play some of their weapons there and without inevitable that they just gave those weapons up and and told them as part of an international effort to contain the spread of nuclear weapons. But the dead ending, a large part. why they did in large part of why South Africa gave up their nuclear weapons
their developing them ah was discovered. snow regime, its harder with hedge amongst, like it's, it's relatively easy Bali, Kazakhstan, are or even is very easy to get Nelson Mandela to agree to give up apartheid nuclear weapons. But it's obviously be Turkey with China. But now I am. I am a relative optimist on the effectiveness of these regimes and part of what's what's been happening with the biological weapons convention is that it has a budget like the single digit millions a year. It's like it's crazy, how little its funded- and this is something that people in ends or the biosecurity space have been yelling about. Four years is just we have this: our national infrastructure. We have no inspector. It's not like. There's like HANS blacks behind a door waiting to to go unchecked stuff out like they just do not exist, and it would be a role.
Thirdly, easy in sheep's thing: for countries like the: U S and China to invest in and try to improve by that was was along neglected area before of it, and it is not clear that A lesson from covert will be. We need to invest in it. kinds of structures. I'd I'd like listen a break in, and I want to ask a little bit more about gettin function. Research. Do we just sponsored by better help online therapy as we move to the finish line of the pandemic? Let's not forget to give ourselves space Process everything that's gone down. Many of us are still feeling off culture and emotionally out of sorts, so we might notice changes in our relationships. This sounds like you, maybe time to talk to somebody. An online therapy can help, but how
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A cheap and acts like door dash blueberry to grub up have been happy to provide the third party delay industry is now worth more than a hundred billion dollars. But none. The major apps are profitable, with billions invested, rocks are ip owes a pandemic that exploded the growth of industry. Why aren't these companies profit in whose bearing the costs of others convenience? All episodes are follow end of the giants wherever you get your part guests from Rico Eater, the Vocs media pot gas network. So you know what we're talking about treaties and things like tat, and you know you can you can sort of try to find the enforcement?
ways to ban things about, but right now I mean this is not a question of like some scuffle regime may be out there, trying to engineer viruses to become more deadly. This is a welcome and overtly done. Line of research shows tat the. U S, government funds, some Abed scientists quite open, that this is what they are doing and you know there's a way of like framing the case against it. That makes it sound like so insane that it's like will. But why would you give thing people to engineer deadly viruses, but but if it does happen and like down, what's your? Why what? What is the case for this? Why do what
we think this is a worthwhile thing to be spending their time doing. The zoo icing am most familiar with the debate within serve american european scientific sectors, and so there might be serve rationales and arguments for them serves the chinese scientific community about this. There are somewhat different, but in the west this became a car live debate. Around twenty twelve or thereabouts because of OZ and controversies with bird flu that full blisters my age Older will remember in two thousand seven that there is a big bird flu scare bunches of new cases. And what was interesting about bird flu is that it was way less transmissible than the normal flew by. It was way dead where they get a typical, flew service. A small fraction of one percent of of people die this it's more like fifteen twenty percent,
One sector die, and so this guy named Renfrewshire Erasmus University in in Amsterdam and another scientist named Yoshi Coca at risk. Madison- both started working on ways to make bird flu more virulent in mammals and soda specifically there trying to take this incredibly deadline. He's and make it easier to transmit- and they succeeded at figured out a way to make it spread through the air between cigarettes. Were and used as a human model in and these kinds of experiments. So if you talk to Tehran, Fisher and and and you'll see. They will tell you that they are doing this to help develop new vaccines and treatments for viruses that one of the highest impacting You can do is figure out how to respond to future pandemics, come up with treatments and accidents before as yet unevolved diseases of olive and that they are hoping to do that
this fact seen bit seems like a place where we have at least like, I think, genuinely new information that is relevant to understanding and writings. We talked about last. We cried the these science part of developing extremely reliable and are in a vaccine against Sars carve too was done really really quickly ride like so quickly that the end to the point where like, if that had been done, like literally instantaneously, like you just off the shelf, it would have made almost no difference. Ninety eight percent of the time between, like when I got vaccinated and when the sun was done on this had to do with the first regulatory issues and then the manufacturing issues I'd like to
right? I mean there is a huge, ongoing massive death toll all in developing countries because again of manufacturing issue sprite like there's a big problem, read like we should be both trying to address the you too need for more vaccines, but we should be really thinking in terms of the expenditure at. What can we do to speed up? I would say like not the best. science, research, but the like actual part of this, where the billions of vaccine doses are made and somehow delivered to people which you know. If you had asked me two years ago, I would mean like oh yeah, like making vaccines faster. Like you know,
Maybe it doesnt work cost benefit wise, but, like I see what you're talking about their like, that makes sense. Accelerating vaccine science is really good, but now it seems like a vaccine. Science is like actually excellent and its possibly our like vile production or plastic bags, or whatever else is the actual sticking point here. Right woman has there been any you know, as this is kind of become apparent in the real world contacts over the last year and at the same time, as its become clear that on level beyond vaccine production, lack of knowledge about a space civic virus and its inner city g and its potential variation leaves a lot people in the dark for a very long time. Even if we know what kinds, but with this kind of virus generally looks like, has there been any of reopening of this debate, and does it seem that this you know the kind of got sensibly.
This substantially weakens the argument. The gain a functional researches, you know necessary for future pandemic responses. That has that been how, being perceived? That's right, like my perception, my senses that deserve biases and knowledge ass, were heavily in volume. Debate are like working on covered and so that the debate itself has been table to a degree or for the last fifteen months, the light? I note a coward Other was concept. Professor has been working on covered research unless you're about fishy, about, like a lot of the bioethics assumed argue about There have been a million bioethical questions for them to an on and studying and last year, the main detractors of gain a function. Research was this guy named Mark lips, Ich at Harvard Jews become serve in the grate. Jimmy Ology boom of twenty twenty twenty three one, as has become a fairly prominent epidemiologist and so there's of aware degree in which its down hold, I think matters into is one is in,
The event there lively gets through- which I think is still- I want to declare like out on non zero, but not high probability I don't know of any one who puts the probability above fifty percent for it, but but certainly worth into previously were guessing what could go wrong with Ghana, functionary search engines, the game such research has already resulted in a global like pandemic. That should meaningfully increase our confidence that at about idea its own existence, proof of something that had previously only been hypothesized. The other side of it is. It should decrease our relative confidence that this kind of research is very serve as essential or would meaningfully accelerate treatments in there. And then for the reasons that the mat said a we have all these other technologies that allow us to respond pretty rapidly but be late. There's just ordered these scenes of like there weren't they
a function. Researchers coming out of the woodwork in the last year: Saint, hey, I've, I've actually model a disease that looks a lot like subsides. Cove too. Here's. How I how I would approach it now. The innovation defenders will tell you that, that's because they don't think there's been enough. Dana function, research in the covert area, and why Maybe that's that's hard to display of care of actual and urging research has never been tried. Yeah serve. You have gained a function trotzky ism by England Lipsitz has always sad. Is it's not that there's literally no case for you Imagine this being a good idea lights. It's easy to come up with hypotheticals, where this could be beneficial in vaccine. Her treatment production is equally easy to common good scenarios where it kills millions of people, and you have to light and have some kind of real risk assessments, and it's really hard to come up with is plausible likelihood for those two outcomes where that cost benefit analysis comes out, looking fare of all too. This is
the line of inquiry. Tat I mean it's israeli back. I don't know how did this it seems like a dumb point. Biggest pandemic has been really bad and I mean everybody knows it's been really bad, but in some ways I kind of like the M village general and send your structure of the media is too like always talk a lot about whatever bad thing happens to be happening at any. Given you no point I'm and there's always some bad stuff happening in the world, so I think the extent to which this is like, arguably like the worst thing that has happened in multiple generations of human existence, can get a little bit.
Yours raided, you know, like the shitty economy that existed in two thousand, eight eight thousand nine two thousand ten like that, got a lot of press in and it was that it was a big deal. Is a big deal for America, but like in global poverty terms like we were can progress, stand right, like the neediest in the world were in fact getting better off than they were super rapid economic growth in China and India. These kind of like happy stories you could tell twenty twenty. By contrast, I mean you know: America had a sort of effective economic power the response of one of the faster vaccine rollout. Hundreds of thousands of people died was awful but much better off than actually most of the world and it still mad I mean it's on at all clear like where this ends from from a global perspective or when or how much worse, things well being
so you need you reach a clear like us. the high bar for benefits too. I think have even like a small elevation of the risk of a sort of global demagogues this used to always be on people's list of like sizzling? You should talk about more ended, it's kind of amazing I even after living for one. I almost feel like. We don't talk enough about prevented global pandemics like there has not Been a law passed by these has its kung. That is like really focused on pandemic preparedness in like a big way, It hasn't been a major sort of point of debate. I would like anything really going on even as we ve seen just the incredible tall, and I think that this is our possibly the strongest argument for the significance of whether the loudly hypotheses, truest kind of this matter, cognitive thing, because I think
seems to a certain extent that even when People are acknowledging that this is probably the worst thing to visit humanity per last. Several generations there's some. It may well. Sometimes acts of God happen attitude, whether or not you are actually speaking in a theistic way about that are not you know the fact that it did the last really really enormous global pandemic was a little over hundred years ago has, I think, made a lot of people think they are the ones in a century about we just lived through our version of that, and if the lovely hypothesis is true, I mean, leave the what market hypothesis is true, then it is just like. Well sometimes things happen, you know sometimes sometimes the AIDS virus jumps. Humans. Sometimes new versions of things happen, and sometimes those are particularly deadly sometimes they particularly easy to transmit, in very rare cases, their books, this. The idea that viruses would be evolving,
quickly enough jobs are being not been. Diagram centre is linked, not, however, lesion generally works, but if the lovely hypothesis is true, then There are going to be more and more occasions in the absence of banning gain a functional research. There will be more and more occasions in which all it takes is a human error to us. Something like this on the world, and so if that is true, then it is worth thinking about this, not ass a once in a century event, but is potentially the open of a century where this is a much bigger deal than it was in the twentieth century. And how seriously does human Kennedy want to take that risk and to what stead. Are our scientists going to want to give up there I would have to continue to pursue the founders of human knowledge. To what extent are countries where you want to give up their prerogative to develop a scientific and military Germany like those are down? stream of the question of
Do we need to be taking infectious disease, its thinking about infectious disease? More like we think about global warming, where it is getting more urgent over time that this needs to be addressed as a matter of international collective. Well, and I think, before its fibres ways in which covered seems like it's. It's increase the urgency of of serve a global pandemic preparedness strategy and obvious ways but there is also a way in which it is, is polarized and politicize, something that previously could have gone through channels for What if polarized issues Madsen, sometimes jokes about this being secret Congress, but There is a real phenomenon in D c of of issues that aren't polarized non partisan wines, as thoroughly as new like health care or taxes? getting really meaningful changes done during the trip. Here, is the aid increase the cigarette age tat twenty one?
Lloyd Obama years. They completely redid regulations of chemicals and international crime, regime, pandemics and funding for a pinto preparedness in the? U S, if you ask me in my twenty eighteen, I would have said feels like the same kind of thing, that there is not an obvious person valence here it costs money, but it doesn't cost a lot of money in the scheme of the federal budget. It seems like something that should be. The aim proceed on answer out of the spotlights pipes are good civil servants, focusing our initial outside the centre of public debate. You can't really do that anymore, Ovid I have to take it away the luxury of of freeing the says as a good governance issues separate from persons now being lights, and you can see do things once there in that sphere, but it's a lot harder right on the mechanism is completely differently.
To be able to mobilise enough people who believe that this is the most important thing to get it on a partisan agenda I mean. Maybe I up one thing: it's been interesting to me about the lab leak debate is that conservatives seem to me to perceive american politics is consisting of a competition between the Republican Party and the New York Times, and so they see like a starkly polarized ideological debate in which, like some headlines, that they dont like we're in conflict with Tom but, like the position of Joe Biden has always been always been, I think actually somewhat close. The cartons position to an including the new inquiry that he's ordering his remarks as last February ads he ran against tromp, saying that tromp was being to credit,
Sebastian paying and so there is a universe, but I mean I should say I was making fun of conservatives, but I feel like Democrats sometimes do this to like that. Like parties, elected officials feel that, like they are obligated to defend aspects of like Cultural Ferreira, that conservatives attack that are upheld by people who they think are going to vote for them. But, like you know, liberals are not going to turn against Joe Biden if he like shake hands with time. Cotton and they go do like a giant event about the need for a big international crack down on the scientific. Greece
urge and how terrible it was that the media was excessively dismissive of that's like it would just make Biden more popular. You are allowed in the political system to like make deep, polarizing gambits if you want to its just gone a little bit out of fashion, starting with with trample absolutely was like rigidly opposed to ever distancing himself from anyone who he perceived as supporting him, but like that's, not the way, things have traditionally been done. Nothing about this is that close to the like interest group. Horror of any party is right, like they're. No link presses, just don't like really have any like equity is at stake in this whole kind of thing, and I.
You'd think I mean you never know right at me like it's. It's easy to turn anything into just like a partisan should show, but like this could also just be a thing where some politicians, you know just agree that they should go, do something and then they do even in a high profile. Why buttons awfully not the optimistic about you ready for reducing its two two sunny and now you and out the lake. Whether or not- the chinese government is doing anything the various they still wouldn't want people they perceive as representing the other side to see how they work. I mean I agree, I mean I think the substantive problem is challenging. I just do think that, like getting some political consensus in the United States is doable and also just like you would be it would be healthy, would be to gain some distance between elected officials and they're kind of like media proxies that that represent them. So
and you know I mean it's like- is it why bad articles get written and like we who are in the industry are aware. That it's like? Sometimes your job is to like right up some shit that happened on the Sunday shows and your operating under time pressure. and you don't know you don't even us early like all want to do. It is not a story in your area of expertise like these things all go awry in like a million different ways and people doing politics should not like it is. I think we should try to triangulate away from that kind of stuff I'll tell you, when I last thoughts of return to white papers now, just want to say that this is. This is also a sunny white paper that that increases my arm. My faith in the steadiness of american democracy is so we can. We can keep the optimist extreme going. It's delightful. Excellent history never repeats what it does
out in our new podcast now, and then we discuss how today news reminds us of events from the past. For example, on January, six was not the first time there is violence in the capital. Preston Brooks fleets the crap out of Charles suddenly really violently. Beating him with his cane and our foreign policy, often influences popular but a lot of northern as an anti war. People pickup Blue jeans as well, because it's a sign that they are standing against the government. It's gone into be at non, I'm having Cox, Richardson and I'm Joanne Freeman where to historians, authors and good friends who like to get together and talk history on each epoch now and then we'll come through american history, the unsung heroes, backroom deals and civil rights battles that show us how we got to this dramatic moment, new epoch
stropped every Tuesday listen and follow now and then an apple pod casts Spotify or your favorite podcast app. I had a little bit of a different emotional reaction to this white paper than Dylan, but Enrico can Tony envisaged funds. Are they look at the question of do voter idealize reduce fraud? Do they stop people from voting? A political scientists have looked at this before and I think generally find that the answer is no. This is a bigger. More rich research set, which is ass, a newer because more of these laws
in past and they conform with the difference in differences design and a one point. Six billion observations panel dataset love to see that voter Idee laws have no negative effect on registration or turn out overall or for any sub group. They hold to a large number of specifications. They also specifically look at the hypothesis that there's, like voters can were psyched up about voting indicate that that's not true. It is possibly true that political parties respond about Idee laws by increasing their a sort of contact effort on Anonymous. voters, but either way it does not reduce turn out. I mean you can just see the turnout has gone up. These are more sophisticated, Mathematical methods ended, and it also doesn't reduce fried so they end dryly by saying overall, are finding suggest that efforts to improve elections may be better directed at other reforms. See I find this depressing because we have
psych vicious battle ride like constantly going on again like matches in legislatures, but like in that takes domain about this thing, which I quite a lot of scholarship. It's been done this and like it doesn't make a difference, But it's like you would be treated as like the greatest trader to mankind if we were to say like Yahoo, now like if they want to vote Idee law like this just do it so happened right. It's a suppose to fight these laws, but also fight them, armed with the knowledge that they don't make a difference which seems weird to me. when we could be focusing on trying to make it easier for people to get ideas which seems important, because having a photo idea is important for many things in life. So I guess my question about this, and I kings. It lets take away of this paper for me. Isn't so much the do. No offense
generally or even the idea that if there is a mitigating affect its beak, parties are increasing their mobilization efforts. I think you know we had some knowledge in both those directions. It's the rather than theirs. change in either real fraud or perceived. In other words, the very real now being used to promulgate these laws doesn't update when the laws themselves are being passed which not all It raises serious questions about kind of like a dismal Thirdly, how are people in a late hour, people dealing with them the deal, I do people even know that things have changed. You know what is the functions like what serving anyway, but also really what seem to threaten subsequent efforts to save make ideas more. the available, because if these presence of a voter, ideal or doesnt actually address concerns about motor fraud in you're, trying to make ideas more accessible? How is that not going to get polarized
one the exact same lines of your party, trying to increase access is in fact trying to increase fraud yeah there, the finding that it doesn't improve trust kind of sets up Molly about downward cycling, ratchet effects where you'd has a better idea. Law people still prissy very be fraud and accurately that bring then calls for new, serve anti fraud measures and end. You served at a self sustaining cycle of of ever increasing. frictions, which might fear into tears Unlike what idea that does meaningfully reduce access to voting out you're, really bad outcome, I am the interest in this matter, question map brought up about why you can compromise on on stuff that doesn't matter like this that. I think I I agree with him that I would like if there is a bill in Congress that require that anyone billions are elections had to have an idea, and also that
elections. Districts had to be set by independent panel is not by state legislatures like I would take that deal and a heart be- I think part of why you that kind of thing with us, and I have certain meaningless symbolic giveaways doesn't happen. Is that there's there's innocence of reciprocity and so I'm I'm more familiar with serve, how people think strategically lots of stuff like this on the left. I'm imagine there's a similar trust? I would then conservative advocacy organizations by it. I think, if I went to at the burdens on our inside a wind you, after that trade dared say. There's no Republicans your ticket a wee wee, think it's really important for us to keep fighting voter idea was, in which case I would disagree with them, but also There is in a sense the easy get meaningful concessions asking about design, only different issue. Recently, I felt some rather hold reading about people in the gun, world you're angry.
Bout rules about and shoulder socks that you can't have really sure Beller old frightful under served. Nineteen thirty gun laws are, but you can have a pistol that is as small as you want, and so There's this new trend of getting these lights very short barrels, a fifteen style rifles, but they don't have a shoulders they have a breeze to put around your arm, and that makes them install and not not ashore, build rifle end, reading this in reading these these gun aficionados being like this is ridiculous. I should just be able to buy us repel rifle, there's, no reason to think that it would increase gun crime, and we hear that I'm like a task. That seems right like this seems like a thing that Europe you're doing for grown in German and that that won't have an effect on homicide rates, Similarly, if I were to go on behalf of the british campaigner whatever and suggest a trade of unity,
background checks for firm, allowing you to have more observe of these. These serve gun toys. You want nothing would come back and- and this may just be an option- is about the major polarization, but it seems like there's just a lot less space to be making those kinds of deals. Where you give up something relatively causeless, I mean I agree. Level of you know we're. Ok, the Breton Centres, negative, you know, will endorse like totally hypothetical compound, eyes is right, but you know we have various cross. Pressured members of Congress by various yet you know so people who see themselves, as representing conservative jurisdictions, bore often make, I think, like quite costly policy concessions. You know, for the sake of you not trying to maintain their political viability or because
they agree on the merits. Things like that were certain things. I mean like this. This voting rights up the vote already stuff, I think, has reached this kind of teutonic status. You know where it's not that, like, I necessarily expect liberals to be you know I mean who knows things get polarizing. You can't reach a compromise right, but it's like you want people who were friendly to your overall politics to win elections, and that means they might have to say some things that you don't necessarily agree with the or alike, and I would really encourage, people too, if they need to take conservative stances on some issues and defined issues like voter Idee, with a conservative positions overwhelmingly popular, and this very little reason to think that it causes harm, but I see instead like a lot of pressure, and again I mean not just from interest groups but like from media coverage. Try like the passage of new voter idea law, as is routinely
third as a really big deal, and I sort of get it right. It's not in your interest as a writer to be like this thing is now big deal. I know there has had in her box days some like somewhat bitter, beer, hence with I'd. Try to read stories about like this thing that people are mad about is not that big of a deal. It they're more clear and being like be mad, all that I'm guys like be really really mad, but you're. You know that the public is misinformed. I think when you write up voter Idee laws as like, really Dyer forms of election suppression that foretell, you know incredibly nefarious things. It's like a pretty normal to have Idee requirements for various kinds of things and the consequences of
requiring it just don't see him big, and I think it should be treated that way in line with the best factual evidence that is available to us. If you if you get to the point where we were actually making arguments in favour of the maxim the strategy on voter eighty opposition. You you get one of two things right, you get either the argument it is similar to what we were kind of talking about in the four seconds, episode that the reason few take maximum stances on the efforts here idealized is because you'd normative. Agreement- something if you don't we disagree with them to begin with. Then this. Will it will you,
the ammunition to the other side- that it could be that that knowledge could be used for Forbad political purposes, which is an argument for political actor, not for people who, in ITALY, arguably not for the general public, definitely not for people who make a living in early, disseminating fat. But the argument is that in turn, relies on is the voter. Ideals are normative leap, bad, not because it is in practice they suppress wisely votes, but because we, as a polity, ought to oppose. anything that says that something In addition to being a United States, citizen should be necessary in order to exercise their right to the franchise that generally Raising the barriers to voting is bad, regardless of how many people actually on the shores of those new barriers. So the idea had ever joiner to. That is that if you want to have a normative argument, haven't normative argument- and this is often
are these kind of arguments over which You should still be emphasising come down to re either the norm, The argument is good and should be made, or you worry that the public as a whole, I share your ideological. France's on this and therefore trying to find other ways to get what you want. It does seem like it suppresses. or not talking honestly about a wealth of knowledge that as the third idea laws are not essentially suppress it in their own right is like, doesn't seem like the best way, go because someone else is going to bring that knowledge out there if it is in fact, politically useful to the other side at all. I think I think this stuff, you know by like lumping together things that don't seem to matter empirically with other, thing is it: it can create. A very misleading in pressure to people
It is this. Is this your time story about the political fight in in Texas over their sort of corn quote election security package, and they have this info box that they title the battle of a voting rights, and this ought to stop happening and they get a bullet point different states, and so they say in Florida. Measures here include limiting the use of drop boxes, adding more identification requirements for absentee ballots were crying voters, question absentee, bowed reach election, limiting, who could collected, drop off boxes and further empowering partisan observers during the ballot counting process right, and so that stuff is all put sort of flat and on a plane, but like this, no reason to think that requiring that you present idee in order to request an absentee ballot is like a big deal, the requiring of a new request for an absent about each time, whether or not that has a big election impact. It's a big hassle right, like that's one where, if you're saying look just normative, leaving
making it harder to vote. You are like genuinely creating a lot of difficulty in people's lives, potentially for no reason and that's like a story worth discussing separate from kind of partisan sniping, but then last this thing about partisan observers in the ballot counting process like this. Where we get into like you could steal the election right that, like we're not gonna, have you know like fair, independent election administration, which is like a qualitatively different kind of discussion, and it just cut a lump it all in, like one giant sentence no it's it's gonna confuse one group of people. It's also gonna, let another group of people to sort of turn this out that they like. Oh I heard voter Idee stuff was debunked, which you was but there's like others too? That is not debunked right and that, like, I think, should be the subject of much
much much more concern, and I don't know I just like I'm frustrated, because this I mean the paper we're talking about his new, but like the research with this finding is not new and has been with us across multiple cycles and doesn't seem to me to make any difference in terms of how vote These rules are like processed in the press and the political system. I want to stress at the same time that lays the questions on voter Idee laws are really important, open questions like if the reason that haven't seen in effect yet is because there were. Early elections, where parties released voter idealized, like an essential difficulty and therefore wrapped up their contact campaigns the way the ultimately made up for that requires. very, very different response to future road idea: laws from like parties, then action
it didn't matter at all, and this increased contact didn't offset, devote Idee law. Neither of those had any impact whatsoever and beyond that, the question of of more and more attention. She voter idealized was enough to have a mitigating the fact which this paper shows. It wasn't particularly it is pretty substantial in it does raise the kind of weird converse case that I haven't seen any one look at the. If voter Idee laws were now posing a high barrier, but Jim Media message that they were going to make it harder to vote was carried far enough. Did they end up? Discouraging people on the margin because some voters may have thought. Oh, I'm not gonna bother to get a ballot cause. I hear it's really hard and it would be good to know. which one of those is more likely to be the case because Certainly, as far as like political actors are concerned, whether you think that hyping be evacuated Dialogue is the only way,
and will enable rightly state verse- is going to make your life harder, big husband, ideologues don't matter and we're gonna get freaked out like that matters. A great deal did it doesn't I mean, I think symptomatic pointed out, flattening it it matters, but it matters as part of a small part of a much bigger picture, and I think, what's so restrained mean in seem coverage of things like how still ones, and it, though one is that my, serve number one thing in looking at these bills. Is that their we do not have a system of one person, one vote in, in the? U S, Congress and the same in particular, is, is deeply bias towards small states of rural whites against people of color and an MRI and so I want to correct bat and so that the thing that does that is adding Puerto Rico.
And you see, and even that doesn't corrected by us entirely, but its by far the most important thing for that it's a serve its immensely frustrating George, you watching them like going into these knocked Andrea fights of her particular idea. Even if it mattered would be worth like a tenth of a senator dizzy embargo, say had its force honours its just like any orders, magnitude more importance, even by very serve expansive use of of what matters about voter idea and I wish we could have a more focused discussion about that and about defects of germander in the house, rather than throwing all these into a package when they're, really not similar, some are in their scales or their effects. Also to that point rage, One of the things that you did you see here is that you have some rules in place and you have a community of attorneys whose job is to sue things about the rules
exist, and there is no legal February by which a lawsuit is going to get a binding referendum to turn pottery go into a state right. So there's no litigation, there's no litigation for diesel statehood. We had a partisan, gerrymandering litigation, but it lost under a more favourable supreme court. So people who like to do lawsuits has sorted given up on that stuff, where there is a lot of active litigation around small ball election stringent stuff right that people have one lawsuits around, that it is their job as election lawyers to do lots and lots of lawsuits around relatively unimportant election administration stuff, which is fighting. I mean like that. That literally is their jobs. But then you get this kind of capture we're what what they are doing.
Tracts a lot of attention and doing takes that align with what election lawyers are doing becomes like being someone who is supportive of the democracy agenda and stop the Dylan is talking about that is quantitatively much more important and that one reason that it's important is that it's like not subject to litigation like Congress can make Deasey importer Rico States and nobody else can which is like one reason. Why is incredibly important for Congress to do the things that Congress can actually do, but it like falls out
of the agenda, because there's not dislike long pdf about it or you know a set of people who are professionally invested in kind of sweating these things and it's not like it's not their fault, for focusing on the things that are under their control, but it's bad to like to let the tale wag, the dog and, in this sense right that, like what happens in super duper duper duper close elections. You know it matter stripe. Any matter is less than a cute structural biases in the system that, just by like non small amounts like Joe Biden, could have won the popular vote by three points and still lost the presidential election, and you know that would have made all this stuff about, like stealing the election of votes, suppression and all that other kind of thing totally irrelevant. But it's really unfair as really big deal for the american political sense.
and it is like so much more concrete manifestation of like structural bias in american society, then a lot of much smaller, disparate impact, things you, will find out there that just like city dwellers and non white people have their votes like massively deluded legislature. That's what I have to say He said this is gonna, be an optimistic segment. Dylan promised optimum feel bills that seem bad might not be super bad. Is my optimistic red and browse vision ended on that son in Ankara. Ok, I like well thanks everyone after listening.
You know, I recommend our sunny optimism to all your friends and you know get get the world out there. Thanks Dylan for joining us things always to sponsor store producer to not get back on track.
Transcript generated on 2021-08-19.