Verbal Virtuosity and the Wealth of One Nation

A Portrait of David Swenson at Yale University (Driely Schwartz Vieira via New York Times)

Good Morning. Yesterday’s quote was President Biden claiming that Americans making less than $400,000 per year will not have to pay taxes. Today WTO officials ignore long-run incentives; Chauvin moves for a new trial; and we remember David Swenson.

The defense says the former cop was denied due process. The mob says it’s a start.


There is this idea promulgated by the rest of the world that countries who risked nothing to develop vaccines should now be able to knock off the patents currently held by American drug companies Pfizer and Moderna. The Biden Administration evidently agrees and told the World Trade Organization as much, according to WTO US trade representative Katherine Tai. “These extraordinary times and circumstances [sic] of call for extraordinary measures,” she said Wednesday. Discussion has largely centered on the notion that it would be better, in a sense, to get more people vaccinated more quickly. After all, proponents say, fewer people will die under that scenario. Little, if any, attention is paid to the incentives this creates. When a new pandemic hits—and, rest assured, Murphy’s Law still applies—who will want to spend the time and resources developing a new vaccination? If this goes through, the precedent will be that international bureaucrats will swoop in to reap the rewards of your hard work. To wit: many more people of future generations will die so that a few can live today. Whether they will be able to trace their deaths back to the decisionmakers of today remains an unlikely prospect.

Law & The Courts

Serious questions of Due Process continue to plague the case of Minnesota v. Chauvin. Until just recently, the right to due process before the law was a universal ideal. When Derek Chauvin stood trial for murder last month, expedience trumped such a thought. He was denied a motion to move the trial outside of the Twin Cities metroplex despite $500 million in local property damage. He was denied a jury sequestration despite the most widely publicized trial since OJ Simpson. Jurors, on a long weekend before closing arguments, were then subjected to national politicians threatening still more violence if the verdict was anything except “guilty” on all counts. And then there was the issue of jury selection process, where the City of Minneapolis announced a previously unheard of $27 million settlement with the decedent’s family in a civil-rights suit. To top it all off, BLM activist Brandon Mitchell actively represented the so-called “Get Your Knee Off Our Necks” march in Washington, DC, on August 28 and lied about it to get on the jury, which is a misdemeanor offense in Minnesota. He now encourages other activists to do the same, putting some force behind Chauvin’s motion for a new trial.


David Swenson ran the third largest endowment of any American University—over $31 billion—for the past 20 years, trailing only the University of Texas and Harvard. Swenson cared deeply about attracting the best students, noting: “One of the things that I care most deeply about is that notion that anyone who qualifies for admission can afford to go to Yale, and financial aid is a huge part of what that endowment does.” After a 2013 cancer diagnosis, friends and family raised fully $90 million in his name to contribute to the fund. His expertise meant that Yale earned more than even the most decorated hedge-fund managers, investing in everything from mutual funds to timberlands. Dead at 67, R.I.P.

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