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The “Would Have Banned” Label

Shared Article from mason.gmu.edu/~rhanson

The "Would Have Banned" Label

Government regulators often ban products they claim to be of especially low quality....

Robin Hanson @ mason.gmu.edu


So imagine a broad new law, perhaps a constitutional amendment, which prohibits regulators from banning any product without substantial use externalities. Instead, imagine a single standard icon, perhaps a skull and crossbones, a dead cat, or a big BAD, which says We regulators would have banned this product, except that’s not constitutional now. Don’t buy it. (Further imagine a small educational campaign to ensure that everyone understands this icon.)

With ideal regulators, this new label should convey as much information as banning would have, and so roughly rational consumers should be no worse off. If regulators are far from ideal, the worst that regulators can do is just waste their funding (since consumers can always ignore them). And in either case, consumer liberty would be expanded.

. . . If consumer irrationality is the real issue here, then I sure wish ban advocates would describe their theory of consumer mistakes in more detail, so we could do some experiments to test those theories. It is also not clear why regulators should be more rational, or that irrational voters would support bans by regulators whose labels they wouldn’t believe.

–Robin Hanson, The Would Have Banned Label
June 19, 1996.

Of course, really laws are the wrong way to go about just about anything, and there’s no good reason why it should be any business of the law to make producers print Banned In The Beltway tags on their products, at least not any more reason than they should be forced to print any other palooka’s opinions about their products. But, is there any solid, non-control-freak argument for thinking that this solution has any defects that would make it less desirable than the current prohibitionist approach to regulating low-quality products? If so, what’s the argument?

11:02AM, August 9, 1945, Nagasaki Japan

Here is a shattered wall clock, with the hands stopped at 11:02 A.M.

Found in a house near Sanno Shinto Shrine in Sakamoto-machi, about one kilometer from the hypocenter. The clock was shattered by the blast, and its hands stopped at 11:02-the moment of the explosion.

The Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Museum

Seventy-three years ago today, at 11:02 in the morning, without warning, Major Charles Sweeney flew a U.S. B-29 bomber over the city of Nagasaki and dropped an atomic bomb. Sweeney was acting on orders from General Curtis LeMay, the head of the XXI Bomber Command, and at the command of Secretary of War Henry L. Stimson, and President Harry S. Truman. A U.S. bomber had already dropped a uranium bomb on Hiroshima only three days before; the atomic fires annihilated 90% of the city and devoured 140,000 lives. On August 9, while the Japanese government was still gathering information about what had happened at Hiroshima, while the Imperial council was still in session and still debating the question of surrender, before any decision was announced, the U.S. Army flew out a second bomber mission, to incinerate a second city.

The thing about Nagasaki is that it wasn’t even supposed to be bombed that day. The intended target on the morning of August 9 was Kokura, but when Sweeney reached Kokura at 9:44am, he couldn’t see his target. He couldn’t see it because the U.S. had firebombed another nearby city, Yawata, the day before: the city was burning, and the smoke hid Kokura from Sweeney’s sight. So he flew on to his secondary target — to Nagasaki. Clouds also hid the target in Nagasaki, but the plane was low on fuel and could not fly on to any other targets. So, at 11:02 in the morning, the plane’s bombadier, Captain Kermit Beahan, dropped a 10,200 pound plutonium bomb (nicknamed Fat Man) over this tourist destination, industrial center and sea-port in southwestern Japan with a population of about 230,000.

The bomb exploded about 500 yards above Nagasaki.

Here is a mushroom cloud, seen from the ground, towering into the sky over a bridge in Nagasaki.
Here is a city street completely reduced to rubble, with fires smoldering in the background and smoke hanging in the air. A single Shinto gateway remains standing over the rubble.

Photo by Yosuke Yamahata

Known as Urakami, the district around the hypocenter (ground zero) area had been populated for centuries by Japanese people of the Roman Catholic faith. At the time of the bombing, between 15,000 and 16,000 Catholics – the majority of the approximately 20,000 people of that faith in Nagasaki and about half of the local population – lived in the Urakami district. It is said that about 10,000 Catholics were killed by the atomic bomb. Although traditionally a rustic isolated suburb, the Urakami district was chosen as the site for munitions factories in the 1920s, after which time the population soared and an industrial zone quickly took shape. The district was also home to the Nagasaki Medical College and a large number of other schools and public buildings. The industrial and school zones of the Urakami district lay to the east of the Urakami River, while the congested residential district of Shiroyama stretched to the hillsides on the west side of the river.

It was over this section of Nagasaki that the second atomic bomb exploded at 11:02 a.m., August 9, 1945. The damages inflicted on Nagasaki by the atomic bombing defy description. The 20 machi or neighborhoods within a one kilometer radius of the atomic bombing were completely destroyed by the heat flash and blast wind generated by the explosion and then reduced to ashes by the subsequent fires. About 80% of houses in the more than 20 neighborhoods between one and two kilometers from the hypocenter collapsed and burned, and when the smoke cleared the entire area was strewn with corpses. This area within two kilometers of the hypocenter is referred to as the hypocenter zone.

The destruction caused by the atomic bomb is analyzed as follows in Nagasaki Shisei Rokujugonenshi Kohen [History of Nagasaki City on the 65th Anniversary of Municipal Incorporation, Volume 2] published in 1959. The area within one kilometer of the hypocenter: Almost all humans and animals died instantly as a result of the explosive force and heat generated by the explosion. Wooden structures, houses and other buildings were pulverized. In the hypocenter area the debris was immediately reduced to ashes, while in other areas raging fires broke out almost simultaneously. Gravestones toppled and broke. Plants and trees of all sizes were snapped off at the stems and left to burn facing away from the hypocenter.

The area within two kilometers: Some humans and animals died instantly and a majority suffered injuries of varying severity as a result of the explosive force and heat generated by the explosion. About 80% of wooden structures, houses and other buildings were destroyed, and the fires spreading from other areas burned most of the debris. Concrete and iron poles remained intact. Plants were partially burned and killed.

The area between three and four kilometers: Some humans and animals suffered injuries of varying severity as a result of debris scattered by the blast, and others suffered burns as a result of radiant heat. Things black in color tended to catch fire. Most houses and other buildings were partially destroyed, and some buildings and wooden poles burned. The remaining wooden telephone poles were scorched on the side facing the hypocenter.

The area between four and eight kilometers: Some humans and animals suffered injuries of varying severity as a result of debris scattered by the blast, and houses were partially destroyed or damaged. The area within 15 kilometers: The impact of the blast was felt clearly, and windows, doors and paper screens were broken. Wall clock found in Sakamoto-machi about 1 km from the hypocenter. The hands stopped at the moment of the explosion: 11:02 a.m.

The injuries inflicted by the atomic bomb resulted from the combined effect of blast wind, heat rays (radiant heat) and radiation and surfaced in an extremely complex pattern of symptoms. The death toll within a distance of one kilometer from the hypocenter was 96.7% among people who suffered burns, 96.9% among people who suffered other external injuries, and 94.1% among people who suffered no apparent injuries. These data show that the deaths occurring immediately after the atomic bombing were due not only to burns and external injuries but also to severe radiation-induced injuries. The late medical effects of atomic bomb exposure include keloid scars, atomic bomb cataracts, leukemia and other cancers and microcephaly (small head syndrome) due to intrauterine exposure. Although aware that the atomic bomb had the power to instantly kill or injure all people within a radius of four kilometers, the authorities were unable to determine the death toll and number of injuries in Nagasaki. Still today there is no accurate data on the number of people who died. A variety of factors contributed to this lack of information, such as the paralysis of administrative functions in the aftermath of the bombing and the inability of the postwar government to initiate a proper investigation. Another obstacle was the enduring nature of disorders related to atomic bomb exposure. A progressive increase can be expected, therefore, at whatever point in time calculations are made. There are countless cases of people who suffered injuries on August 9 and died after fleeing to areas outside Nagasaki city and prefecture, only to be registered as dying of causes other than the atomic bombing. Because of the lack of knowledge about radioactive contamination, meanwhile, many radiation deaths were attributed to diseases. The Nagasaki municipal government officially adopted the figure of more than 70,000 deaths on the basis of information from population surveys and the estimate made by the Nagasaki City Atomic Bomb Records Preservation Committee in July 1950. Said the committee in its report: 73,884 people were killed and 74,909 injured, and 17,358 of the deaths were confirmed by post-mortem examination soon after the atomic bombing.

The Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Museum

About 24 hours before the incineration of Nagasaki, U.S. planes had begun dropping leaflets all over Japan, threatening more destruction like the massacre of Hiroshima two days before. But they named no targets that might be evacuated. Shortly before these leaflets were dropped, Harry Truman also publicly declared his aims: It was to spare the Japanese people from utter destruction that the ultimatum of July 26 was issued at Potsdam. Their leaders promptly rejected that ultimatum. If they do not now accept our terms, they may expect a rain of ruin from the air the likes of which has never been seen on this earth. The leaflets themselves read:

TO THE JAPANESE PEOPLE:

America asks that you take immediate heed of what we say on this leaflet.

We are in possession of the most destructive explosive ever devised by man. A single one of our newly developed atomic bombs is actually the equivalent in explosive power to what 2000 of our giant B-29s can carry on a single mission. This awful fact is one for you to ponder and we solemnly assure you it is grimly accurate.

We have just begun to use this weapon against your homeland. If you still have any doubt, make inquiry as to what happened to Hiroshima when just one atomic bomb fell on that city.

Before using this bomb to destroy every resource of the military by which they are prolonging this useless war, we ask that you now petition the Emperor to end the war. Our president has outlined for you the thirteen consequences of an honorable surrender. We urge that you accept these consequences and begin the work of building a new, better and peace-loving Japan.

You should take steps now to cease military resistance. Otherwise, we shall resolutely employ this bomb and all our other superior weapons to promptly and forcefully end the war.

These leaflets did not reach Nagasaki at all until August 10, the day after it was destroyed.

The purpose of this massacre was to achieve victory through catastrophic bloodshed and terror. LeMay, when asked about his bombing campaigns, stated There are no innocent civilians, so it doesn’t bother me so much to be killing innocent bystanders. (He also mused, later, I suppose if I had lost the war, I would have been tried as a war criminal.) The interim committee deciding to drop the bomb stated, on May 31, 1945, that we could not give the Japanese any warning before the atomic bombing of Hiroshima. Of course, no specific warning was given to the civilians of Nagasaki, either, at any point. The point of the bombing was to kill as many people as possible while wiping two cities off of the face of the earth.

These colossal massacres were only the terrible climax of a half-year long terror-bombing campaign. The final phase of the war began with the Operation Meetinghouse firebombing of Tokyo on the night of March 9-10, 1945, which killed 100,000 civilians over a single night. Then the U.S. government sent its Bomber Command to other cities. U.S. bombers dropped firebombs on Nagoya on March 11, and they attacked Osaka on the night of March 13-14. On the night of March 16-17, they brought about a firestorm that destroyed half of Kobe, and they attacked Nagoya again on the night of March 18-19. In all U.S. bombers destroyed over 60 Japanese cities, and they took the lives of some 800,000-1,000,000 Japanese people, in the course of 6 months of firebombing, of conventional high explosives, and, finally, the two atomic bombs.

Seventy-three years ago today also, in a radio address, President Harry S. Truman said: Having found the bomb, we have used it. . . We wished in this first attack to avoid, insofar as possible, the killing of civilians. . . . We have used it in order to shorten the agony of war.

After the war, Truman defended his decision to annihilate two industrial metropolises with atomic weapons, and to kill a quarter of a million civilians within 72 hours, by claiming that it was the only way to coerce the political goal of an unconditional surrender from the Japanese government, and to reduce the number of U.S. soldiers who might be killed in combat.

Also.

What I’ve Been Reading: Day Labor in Las Vegas

Shared Article from ¡Arriba! Las Vegas Worker Center

Day Labor in Las Vegas: Employer Indiscretions in Sin City

This Report, “Day Labor in Las Vegas, Employer Indiscretions in Sin City,” has some important lessons for national policymakers about the “gig…

Nik Theodore and Bliss Requa-Trautz @ arribalasvegas.org


This Report, “Day Labor in Las Vegas, Employer Indiscretions in Sin City,” has some important lessons for national policymakers about the “gig economy,” but not the one involving apps or platforms. This gig economy is the analog version of workers and employers reaching arrangements and transactions for cash. As legislators and scholars study the issues involved in the future of work, questions persist about the effectiveness of employment regimes for marginalized workers in the new economy.

. . . Of course, there are many facets of the Las Vegas economy that lend themselves to day or casual labor. First the importance of the construction economy and home building in the booming years of the last two decades meant that much work took place in the informal economy with many violations going underreported and unenforced.

. . . This Report also sits at the intersection of dysfunctional politics of immigration. Until the logjams in the federal government are broken, and better solutions in immigration policy are reached, the problems outlined in this report are likely to persist. It is only through the sustained work of civil society groups throughout the country that we are likely to see marginal improvements.

–Nik Theodore & Bliss Requa-Trautz, Day Labor in Las Vegas: Employer Indiscretions in Sin City
January, 2018

The report is based on interviews with day laborers that ¡Arriba! Las Vegas Worker Center conducted at informal-sector hiring sites (for example, commonly used spaces in front of Home Depot). It discusses prevailing wage rates and hours,[1] as well as pervasive problems of wage theft, injuries and unsafe conditions, and intimidation and harassment by Metro police and immigration enforcement. (More than nine-tenths of day-laborers at Las Vegas hiring sites are documented or undocumented immigrants.)

For more about ¡Arriba! Las Vegas Worker Center, see arribalasvegas.org.

  1. [1]The average wage rates in the Vegas Valley are generally pretty good right now, averaging just over $20/hr for day labor and around $25/hr for some specific, high-demand jobs like construction and moving jobs. But this has to be taken with some caution because of the high variation and unpredictability of the number of hours available — your only job for the day may give you a full workday at those wages, or it may only get you two or three hours’ pay.
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